Class and Consensus: Twentieth-Century Mexican
American Ideology in Victoria, Texas
We have five degrees in our family. .... If you educate your kids ... [you] don't
have anything to apologize for.-Manuel Villafranca, Victoria businessman and
IN MARCH 1947 A GROUP OF JANITORS, CARPENTERS, DOMESTIC SERVANTS,
and other workers met in the Parish Hall of Our Lady of Sorrows
Catholic Church. Our Lady of Sorrows was the Mexican American
Catholic parish in Victoria, Texas, a small town in the southeastern
portion of the state almost equidistant between Houston to the north-
east, Corpus Christi to the south, San Antonio to the northwest, and
Austin to the north.' Founded by Mexican empresario Martin de Le6n
and his wife, Patricia de la Garza de Le6n, in 1824, Victoria fell under
Anglo Texan dominance immediately after the Texas Revolution.
From that point forward, Mexican Americans were relegated to a sub-
ordinate status and experienced overt discrimination and marginaliza-
tion. It was this climate of oppression that led these workers in 1947 to
join forces in an attempt to seek the equality of full citizenship. At that
fateful meeting these individuals formed a new organization designed
to protect and promote the interests of Mexican Americans in the city
and through which members could assert their rights as first-class
This collective sense of self was not an isolated phenomenon. Since
World War I Mexican Americans throughout the southwestern United
States had increasingly come to see themselves primarily as American
*Anthony Quiroz is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
I would hke to thank Robert Wooster, Alan Lessoff, Patrick Carroll, and Kim Nielsen for their
help with very rough earlier drafts of this piece. I would also like to sincerely thank Myrna
Santiago and Dionicio Vald6s for their insightful comments on the version of this paper I pre-
sented at the North American Labor History Conference in Detroit, Michigan, in October 1999.
' At the time, Victoria's population was under 40,000, but today it has grown steadily to well
VOL. CVI, NO. 1 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY JULY, 2002
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed April 21, 2015.