The Origins of the Parr Machine
In Duval County, Texas
B Y THE START OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL
machines dominated the counties forming the southern tip of
Texas. All of these organizations conformed to the same pattern of
operation. While manipulating the vote of the Mexican-American
majority and indulging in varying degrees of graft, the bosses and
their cohorts served the interests of their diverse constituencies. In
the courts and the state legislature, lawyer-politicians defended the
ambiguous and sometimes suspect land claims of the local ranchers.
The politicos held land taxes to a minimum and lobbied for the de-
ployment of Texas Rangers to maintain order and to intimidate the
Mexican masses, who had shown signs of rebelliousness against Anglo
domination during an earlier era. The bosses catered to the needs of
land speculators, developers, bankers, and merchants by promoting
the extension of railroad lines to this remote section of the state. For
the Mexican-American laborers, the South Texas politicians offered
paternalistic services, which were modeled after the feudalistic obliga-
tions of Mexican patrones to their peones. In return for relief during
hard times and the financing of weddings, funerals, and other special
occasions, lower-class Mexicans submitted to the political control of
the bosses. Anglo politicians also reached an accommodation with the
well-to-do Mexican families who were able to retain their lands and
businesses in the face of the American onslaught after the Civil War.
These politicians and their rancher allies frequently became, in the
words of O. Douglas Weeks, "Mexicanized." They intermarried with
the Mexican gentry, learned the Spanish language, and joined the
*Evan Anders is assistant professor at the University of Texas, Arlington.
10. Douglas Weeks, "The Texas-Mexican and the Politics of South Texas," American
Political Science Review, XXIV (Aug., 1930), 6xo, 617, 618. For a full discussion of the
operation of the political machines of South Texas, see Evan Anders, "Bosses under Siege:
The Politics of South Texas during the Progressive Era" (Ph.D. diss., The University of
Texas, Austin, 1978). Also consult Evan Anders, "Boss Rule and Constituent Interests:
South Texas Politics During the Progressive Era," Southwestern Historical Quarterly,
LXXXIV (Jan., 1981), 269-292.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed July 12, 2014.