In this presidential election cycle, we’ve been hearing ignorant allegations of Mexico “not sending their best” to the United States. However, if we go back 100 years in history, we see a time where tables were turned.
When Texas was part of Mexico in the early 19th century, it was heavily populated and transformed by impoverished white newcomers. At the time, a different set of recent arrivals were also trying to swim across the Rio Grande for a better life – Africans who had escaped slavery.
According to JSTOR, when Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821, the government wanted to tailor what type of people came into the country. They wanted people who would assimilate seamlessly into the environment, those who were Spanish-speaking and Roman Catholic.
While they originally wanted Irish-Catholic people to come over, in hopes of bonding over religion, many came from the U.S. and kept their Protestant traditions. A complaint of Mexican officials was that Mexican officials came without passports and were uneducated.
As many southerners migrated west, they brought their enslaved Africans with them. However, the slaves knew better. Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829 and took the chance to escape south of the border to find freedom. The number of colonists in Texas from 1820 to 1820 multiplied immensely, from 4,000 to 20,000.
In a time where Mexican immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, are under attack by a hostile political climate, it’s crucial to resurface these histories. These ideas about immigration and colonialism repeat themselves throughout history, each time shifting itself within cultures. You can read more about this history in JSTOR.