The history of systemic mistreatment, lynchings, segregation, and mass deportations of Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants is a forgotten one in the United States of American. This history, sadly, isn’t being taught nor talked about like it should be due to the black-white binary, respectfully.
Often times, the history of Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants is placed under the rug as a history that’s important, but not as important as the history between Whites and African-Americans. And I get it–not one group has experienced the pain and exploitation as my African-American brothers and sisters, and this must be acknowledged and brought to light often.
However, what’s often overlooked–and shouldn’t be anymore, is that lynchers targeted many other racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, including my people—Mexicans-Americans and Mexican Immigrants.
Many are largely unaware that Mexicans were frequently the targets of lynch mobs, from the mid-19th century until well into the 20th century, second only to African-Americans in the scale and scope of the crimes.
One case, largely overlooked or ignored, is that of seven Mexican shepherds hanged by white vigilantes near Corpus Christi, Texas, in late November 1873. The mob was probably trying to intimidate the shepherds’ employer into selling his land. None of the killers were arrested.
From 1848 to 1928, mobs murdered thousands of Mexicans, though surviving records allowed us to clearly document only about 547 cases—some committed at the hands of Texas Rangers. These lynchings occurred not only in the southwestern states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas but also in states far from the border, like Nebraska and Wyoming.
As I’ve dug deeper into this study, what’s import to note is the fact that if Anglo mobs killed African-Americans for alleged offenses that challenged white supremacy, Anglo mobs also lynched Mexican-Americans and Mexican-Immigrants to police citizenship and sovereignty. And although Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants were “white by law” since 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted citizenship to the Mexican inhabitants of the newly acquired territory, Anglos viewed Mexicans as “greasers” and “wetbacks” undeserving of equal rights.
Juan Crow Laws
In Texas, when Anglos were unable to impose Jim Crow policies on Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants legally, a less formal “Juan Crow” pattern of prejudice emerged. In 1893 and 1905, Texas passed a series of English-only laws that paved the way for the segregation of Mexicans in public schools. However, segregation extended past public school—Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants experienced segregation in restaurants, water fountains, buses, deportations, and bathrooms.
For example, my abuelita (grandma) told me that when she was younger, Mexicans were often sitting next to African-Americans in buses, and sharing the same bathrooms and water fountains. My abuelita (grandma) also told me while Anglos were screaming the terrible “N” word to African-Americans, they were also screaming “Beaner”, “wetback”, and “Alien” to Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants in Texas. Sadly, Mexicans and African-Americans faced a lot of the same discrimination.
While “Jim Crow” existed to segregate and dehumanize African-Americans, “Juan Crow” existed to segregate and dehumanize Mexicans. Signs like these below were displayed at various restaurants and other pubic accommodations under a system known as “Juan Crow” laws.
There’s a lot more I’m reading on the discrimination Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants have faced. Sadly, however, this discrimination continues today through the dehumanization of Immigrants and Migrants, primarily through terrible policies, separation of families, racism, and xenophobia.
We must begin to read the history of Mexican-Americans and Mexican Immigrants in the United States. My people’s history is a forgotten one and it shouldn’t be. Our history has been overlooked and put under the rug. We must shine a light on this history because it will help us not repeat the past as we are seeing today.