‘Hispanic invasion’: A white nationalist version of Texas that never existed

This map was ordered by President James K. Polk to accompany his annual message to Congress in December 1848. Principal draftsman Ephraim Gilman, of the U.S. General Land Office, created the map to show all of the existing states, territories, proposed territories, and the area of the Mexican Cession in the southwest acquired by the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war with Mexico.

The alleged El Paso gunman has the history all wrong in his alleged “manifesto.”

by Gillian Brockell

Shortly before the alleged El Paso gunman attacked a shopping center Saturday, authorities believe he posted a so-called manifesto to the website 8chan. It rails against a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” embracing a white nationalist version of Texas that has never existed.

Neither “Hispanics” nor Mexicans have ever invaded an all-white Texas; when white American settlers arrived in the 1820s, Mexicans of Mestizo and Criollo Spanish descent were already there. And though the American settlers were initially invited by the Mexican government, by the time of the Texas Revolution in 1835, they were flooding into the region illegally.

This is a history that the suspected shooter, who attended grade school in a suburb north of Dallas, would have been exposed to, because Texas history is a required subject in Texas schools.

“Texas students are taught in fourth and seventh grade that Hispanics, specifically Mexicans, have been an enormous part of the state’s history, to include the fact that much of Texas was actually considered Mexico at one point,” said Kollette Steiger, a longtime Texas teacher certified in Texas social studies.

And lest one think this “multicultural” aspect of Texas history is a recent change in the curriculum, Steiger says she was taught this when she was a student in Texas schools more than 30 years ago.

Spanish explorers first traveled through what is now Texas in the 16th century. It wasn’t unoccupied land — explorers encountered numerous Native American societies, including the Karankawa, Caddo, Apache and Comanche, according to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. Texas derives its name from the Caddo word “taysha” — meaning “ally” or “friend.”

Though Texans had settled what is now East and Central Texas, the nascent country also claimed land in what is now South, West and North Texas, plus parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. Mexico continued to dispute these claims when, 10 years later, the United States annexed Texas, spurring the U.S.-Mexican War.

The United States won the war — and the Rio Grande border — in 1848, but that didn’t suddenly turn Texas into an all-white state. Many Tejanos had fought for Texas independence alongside Texians. Some, like Tejano veteran Juan Seguin, were later falsely accused of being traitors and forced into exile. Others continued to live in the place their families had called home for generations.

As both the El Paso shooter and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) recently noted, the Hispanic population in Texas is growing much faster than the white population. But that isn’t necessarily because of an “invasion” — a word used by both the El Paso shooter and President Trump to describe immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Yes, the economy in Texas is booming, attracting workers from across both state and national boundaries. But according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 70 percent of Hispanic Texas residents were born in the United States.

Many of them, particularly in Duval County and the city of San Antonio, are descended from Tejanos, whose roots in Texas are as deep as the ubiquitous mesquite.

Gillian Brockell is a staff writer for The Washington Post’s history section. 

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