Joining the American Mainstream:
Texas's Mexican Americans During World War I
CAROLE E. CHRISTIAN*
WORLD WAR I REPRESENTED A CRUCIAL STAGE IN THE ASSIMILATION
Wof Hispanics into the political and social life of Texas and of the
nation. Significant segments of the Mexican American community in
Texas and other southwestern states first began to feel they were part
of the United States during World War I as a result of their participa-
tion in civilian and military activities. In reality, World War I greatly
accelerated assimilation of Texas Hispanics into the American main-
stream. Americanizing influences had an increasing impact on Mexican
Texans and Mexican immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twen-
tieth centuries.' World War I marked the first concerted effort by
American government and Anglo society to promote the involvement
of Hispanics in national life. While many Spanish-speaking Texans re-
mained basically untouched or only marginally affected by American
military and civilian war-related activities, wider sectors of Texas's His-
panic population were exposed to assimilating influences than ever be-
fore. These Mexican residents of Texas and native-born Mexican
Americans, or Texas's Mexicans, as they were then called, made a sig-
nificant and many-faceted contribution to the state and national activi-
ties in support of the U.S. war effort.
* Carole E. Christian is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American diplomatic history at Texas
A&M University. For the past two years, she has written articles for the Handbook of Texas and is
currently writing her dissertation on U.S.-Mexican relations during the William McKinley and
Theodore Roosevelt administrations.
'Arnoldo De Le6n, The Tegano Community, x836-19oo (Albuquerque: University of New
Mexico Press, 1982), 78-79, 202-206; Mario T. Garcia, Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El
Paso, I88o-1920 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 81, 119, 171, 212. I also received
confirmation of this gradual assimilation process from reading the early twentieth-century
Texas Spanish-language press.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed March 7, 2014.