Back to top

The Mexican American Experience in Texas

The Mexican American Experience in Texas
Citizenship, Segregation, and the Struggle for Equality

A historical overview of Mexican Americans’ social and economic experiences in Texas, told through the lens of their fight for civil rights, from the Spanish period to the present.

Series: The Texas Bookshelf

January 2022
Add to cart
432 pages | 6 x 9 |

For hundreds of years, Mexican Americans in Texas have fought against political oppression and exclusion—in courtrooms, in schools, at the ballot box, and beyond. Through a detailed exploration of this long battle for equality, this book illuminates critical moments of both struggle and triumph in the Mexican American experience.

Martha Menchaca begins with the Spanish settlement of Texas, exploring how Mexican Americans’ racial heritage limited their incorporation into society after the territory’s annexation. She then illustrates their political struggles in the nineteenth century as they tried to assert their legal rights of citizenship and retain possession of their land, and goes on to explore their fight, in the twentieth century, against educational segregation, jury exclusion, and housing covenants. It was only in 1967, she shows, that the collective pressure placed on the state government by Mexican American and African American activists led to the beginning of desegregation. Menchaca concludes with a look at the crucial roles that Mexican Americans have played in national politics, education, philanthropy, and culture, while acknowledging the important work remaining to be done in the struggle for equality.

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Pobladores and the Casta System
  • 2. New Racial Structures: Citizenship and Land Conflicts
  • 3. Violence and Segregation, 1877–1927
  • 4. Challenging Segregation, 1927–1948
  • 5. The Path to Desegregation, 1948–1962
  • 6. Institutional Desegregation, Social Movement Pressures, and the Chicano Movement
  • 7. Mexican American Social Mobility and Immigration
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendixes
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index

Martha Menchaca is a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans and Naturalizing Mexican Immigrants: A Texas History.


"Martha Menchaca has done what no one has to date. In concise, cogent prose and analysis, she seamlessly synthesizes the vast historical literatures spanning the Spanish colonial period, Mexican era, and US conquest and incorporation, up through the present. Focusing on Texas Mexicans’ contributions to creating a more just world, The Mexican American Experience in Texas provides a fresh, foundational narrative that places Texas Mexicans at the center of Texas’s future."
Raúl Coronado, University of California, Berkeley, author of A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture

"The Mexican American Experience in Texas is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Texas history. With impeccable research and fluid, accessible, and powerful writing, Martha Menchaca weaves together the experiences of African, Indian, and European people as they meet, fight, and settle together. Laws regarding enslavement form a crucial thread in her exploration of colonization and the making of Texas as we know it today. Indeed, legislating color was as essential to the formation of Texas’s boundaries across the centuries as it is today in relation to creating congressional districts and controlling the movement of US citizens. This book demonstrates that Latinx and Afro-Latinx citizens never stopped fighting for the rights of all Texans."
Margaret E. Dorsey, University of Richmond, coauthor of Fencing in Democracy: Border Walls, Necrocitizenship and the Security State