Mexican Texan refers to Texans of Mexican descent. Texas has a long history of Mexican settlement and influence dating back to when it was part of Mexico before 1836. Today, over 11 million Texans identify as being of Mexican origin, making up over 30% of the state’s population. This makes Mexican Texans a major cultural and demographic group in the state.
Quick Facts on Mexican Texans
- Over 11 million Texans claim Mexican ancestry, making up over 30% of the state’s population.
- The majority live in South Texas and major cities like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and El Paso which have large Mexican-American communities.
- Spanish is commonly spoken by Mexican Texans.
- Mexican Texans have influenced Texan culture in food, music, art, and language.
- Politically, Mexican Texans lean Democratic while non-Hispanic White Texans lean Republican.
History of Mexicans in Texas
Texas was part of Mexico from 1821 to 1836. As a result, Mexicans have been settling in Texas since it was part of New Spain and Mexico. Here is a brief overview of the history:
Spanish and Mexican settlement (1500s-1820s)
The first Spanish explorers arrived in Texas in the 1500s, establishing settlements and missions across South and Central Texas. Thousands of Spanish-Mexican settlers and ranchers followed over the next centuries. By 1821 when Mexico gained independence from Spain, about 4,000 Spanish-Mexicans lived in Texas.
Mexican Texas (1821-1836)
Texas was part of Mexico from 1821 to 1836. During this time, American settlers began moving to Texas in large numbers with empresario grants from the Mexican government. By 1830, over 20,000 Anglos lived in Texas compared to 7,800 Spanish-Mexicans. This growing American presence led to tensions with Mexican authorities.
Texas Revolution and Republic (1836-1845)
In 1836, American settlers in Texas rebelled against Mexican rule, defeating Mexican forces and establishing the Republic of Texas. Many Mexican Texans were displaced or fled the unrest during this turbulent period.
U.S. Statehood and Beyond (1845-present)
When Texas joined the United States in 1845, Mexicans became American citizens in the new state. However, without US citizenship, Mexicans faced discrimination and barriers to civil rights for decades. Mexican immigration rose again in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to meet labor needs, especially in agriculture and ranching.
Mexican Texan Demographics
Today, Mexican Texans are the largest Hispanic group in Texas, accounting for over 75% of all Hispanics in the state. Here are some key facts on the demographics:
- Total population: Over 11 million Texans identify as Mexican American alone or in combination with other races.
- Share of state population: Mexican Texans comprise 32% of Texas’ total population.
- Major areas of settlement: Most live in South Texas, the Gulf Coast, and major cities like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso, McAllen, and Laredo. These regions have some of the highest concentrations of Mexican Americans in the United States.
- Immigration trends: About 25% of Mexican Texans are immigrants while 75% are native-born Americans. Immigration from Mexico to Texas continues but has declined in recent decades.
- Language: 29% of Mexican Texans speak Spanish at home while 71% speak predominantly English.
- Religion: 83% identify as Catholic, higher than the national Mexican American average of 70%.
- Education: On average, Mexican Texans have lower levels of educational attainment than non-Hispanic Whites. Only 21% of adult Mexican Texans hold a bachelor’s degree compared to 48% of non-Hispanic Whites.
- Income: The median income for Mexican Texan households is $49,000 compared to $70,000 for non-Hispanic White households.
This table summarizes key statistics on Mexican Texans compared to non-Hispanic Whites:
|Median Household Income
|Percent with Bachelor’s Degree
|Percent Speaking Spanish at Home
Cultural and Political Influence
Though a minority, Mexican Texans have influenced wider Texas culture through food, music, language, and culture. Politically, Mexican Texans tend to vote Democratic while White Texans vote Republican. However, the community’s influence is sometimes limited by discrimination and underrepresentation in government. Ongoing immigration and integration shape Mexican Texan identity today.
Mexican Texan Culture and Traditions
Mexican Texans have preserved many elements of traditional Mexican and Mexican American culture while adapting to life in Texas. Here are some highlights:
Tex-Mex cuisine, a fusion of Texas and Mexican flavors, is popularized by Mexican Texans across the state. Key dishes include tacos, queso, fajitas, chili con carne, and flour tortillas. Many restaurants serve authentic Mexican food too like tortas, menudo, tamales, and street corn.
Music and Arts
Various Mexican music styles are part of the culture like norteño, Tejano, mariachi, and corridos. The arts scene features Mexican themes, techniques, and materials like muralism, pottery, embroidery, and paper flowers.
Major holidays like Cinco de Mayo, 16 de Septiembre (Independence Day), Semana Santa (Easter Week) and Day of the Dead are big cultural celebrations. Annual fiestas and parades occur in cities and towns across South and West Texas.
While English predominates, Spanish phrases and slang are infused into the local Spanish dialect. Code-switching between English and Spanish is common. Some communities along the border are predominantly Spanish-speaking.
Most practice Roman Catholicism but about 15% adhere to Protestant denominations. Many parishes serve Mexican American communities and conduct masses in Spanish. Home altars, saints, and religious medallions are common in homes.
Mutual aid societies, business associations, youth clubs, and labor unions catering to Mexican Texans have supported the community. More recently, a growing middle-class, increased socioeconomic mobility, and high intermarriage rates are shifting Mexican Texan identity.
Mexican Influence on Texas
Mexican and Mexican American culture have shaped Texas in many ways over three centuries. Here are some key areas of influence:
The blending of native Mexican ingredients and cooking with European and Southern styles created Tex-Mex food which is now popular worldwide. Common dishes like tacos, fajitas, queso, and margaritas originate from Texas’ Mexican American community.
Texas has its own styles of Mexican music like Tejano which often incorporates country music elements. Norteño, mariachi, and corrido are other examples. Selena Quintanilla brought Tejano music into the American mainstream in the 1990s.
From the Spanish missions of San Antonio to the hacienda-style homes of South Texas, Mexican architecture has shaped the built environment. Decorative elements include tiles, fountains, courtyards, and wood trim around windows and doors.
Spanish place names and words are woven into Texas’ linguistic fabric, especially in South and West Texas where Spanish was historically spoken. English also adopted loan words like lasso, rodeo, and bronco from Mexican Spanish.
Historically, Mexican migrant labor propelled agricultural development in the state. Today, Mexican Americans are a vital part of the workforce and business community across all sectors of the economy.
The millions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans living in Texas significantly affect the state’s demographics from politics to education to health. The growth of the Mexican-origin population also contributes to Texas’ multicultural character.
Notable Mexican Texans
Many famous Texans have Mexican roots including political leaders, artists, athletes, and pop culture icons. Here are twelve notable Mexican Texans:
- Henry Cisneros – Former San Antonio mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Julian Castro – Former mayor of San Antonio and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Joaquin Castro – U.S. Representative from Texas 20th District
- Eddie Guerrero – Professional WWE wrestler
- Nina Altomare – Figure skating Olympian with Mexican mother
- Oscar de la Hoya – Champion boxer from East L.A. now promoting boxing in Texas
- Eva Longoria – Actor famous for Desperate Housewives TV show
- Selena Quintanilla – Queen of Tejano music
- Lynda Carter – Actress best known as Wonder Woman, from Mexican mother
- Danny Trejo – Actor known for tough guy roles like Machete
- Cheech Marin – Half of comedy duo Cheech and Chong
- Cesar Martinez – Painter known for Chicano movement style
This list shows the diversity of contributions Mexican Texans have made to the Lone Star State and beyond in politics, sports, film, music, and culture.
In summary, Mexican Texans represent a distinct cultural group and vital part of Texas history and society. The long legacy of Mexican settlement and immigration, especially in South Texas, forged a regional culture that blends both Mexican and American traditions. This is seen in Tex-Mex cuisine, Tejano music, Catholic faith, and the Spanish language that still thrives across the state. Mexican Texans number over 11 million strong today and exercise increasing economic and political clout. The community continues to shape regional identity as both proudly Texan and proudly Mexican.