A Borderlands Town in Transition: Laredo, z755-z870. By Gilberto
Miguel Hinojosa. (College Station, Tex.: Texas A8cM University
Press, 1983. Pp. xviii+148. Preface, acknowledgments, illustra-
tions, appendix, glossary, bibliography, index. $10.95.)
The growth of one small town on the Texas-Mexican border from
a settlement of three families in 1755 to a thriving community of over
2,oo000 inhabitants in 1870 is the focus of Gilberto Miguel Hinojosa's
demographic and socioeconomic history. Drawing on material in the
Laredo Archives at St. Mary's University as well as Laredo and Webb
County records and other sources, he traces the growth of prerailroad
Laredo through the Spanish, Mexican, American, and Confederate
By choosing to study one settlement over that period, Hinojosa
is able to show the changing face of a whole population passing
through each of the major periods of upheaval that affected the South-
west: the Indian menace of the Spanish period, the Mexican War of
Independence, the westward movement of Americans culminating in
the annexation of Texas, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.
The backbone of Hinojosa's study is his careful examination of the
census records for Laredo from 1757 to 1870. Because of the small
numbers he is dealing with (no more than 2,053 inhabitants), Hinojosa
is able to do a meticulous analysis of population shifts, family living
patterns, educational level, economic level, and occupational status and
to relate these patterns to ethnic and racial backgrounds. He finds that
although population statistics tended to remain stable, the actual popu-
lation was far more dynamic. Thus, of the 1,306 persons counted in
186o, only 186 had been counted in 1850.
His most interesting conclusions relate to the interplay of caste and
ethnicity in the power structure of Laredo. He chronicles the way
wealth, political power, and political office shifted among Anglo-
Americans, Europeans, and Mexican Americans: the mexicanos re-
sisting the sort of takeover by the americanos that towns like Browns-
ville had experienced, the Europeans quietly gaining prominence and
blending with mexicanos more readily than americanos did.
Hinojosa makes it clear that Laredo was at the mercy of outside
events and forces throughout its history. And yet what emerges from
this thoughtful and informative book is a portrait of an almost heroic
tenacity that withstood war, depression, invasion, Indian raids, and
ethnic conflict to prosper in that "hot and dusty chaparral region"
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/. Accessed April 21, 2015.