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COMISION HONORIFICA MEXICANA

COMISIÓN HONORÍFICA MEXICANA. Chapters of the Comisión Honorífica Mexicana were organized by the Mexican Consulate throughout Texas and the United States in 1920–21 for the purpose of mutual aid, protection, and charity. Local chapters acted as the consul's official representative to Mexican-descent communities and to such United States authorities as school officials during at least the 1920s and 1930s. One source indicates that they may have continued to have a role in Mexican-American education for a while after World War II. They served as a liaison, helped maintain loyalty to Mexico, and resembled sociedades mutualistas. The Mexican Consulate organized the comisiones in response to a call for assistance from Mexican immigrants when the 1920–21 recession hit. The Mexican government responded by forming three new consulates in the United States and organized comisiones honoríficas for men. They may have assisted with repatriation efforts in the early 1920s. The comisiones were often in rural towns, where they were especially important. They functioned under the jurisdiction of the regional consulate office closest to them. A large comisión in San Antonio and numerous other comisiones in area towns made up Division One, which included chapters in East, Central, and South Texas and Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; by 1927 Division One also had 163 chapters and 203 groups of Cruz Azul Mexicana, a charitable women's organization. The comisiones admitted all men of Mexican-descent, regardless of citizenship, although United States citizens were unable to vote because of the group's affiliation with the Mexican consulate and, thus, the government of Mexico. The associations were composed of "respected members of the community," apparently including members of the working class, although workers were fewer than in the sociedades mutualistas. The Dallas chapter had twelve prominent men, and the Gonzales chapter in rural Texas was composed of five members. The Mexican consul was typically honorary president. The commissions held conventions annually, usually in San Antonio. In 1923 twenty-seven groups and twelve groups of Cruz Azul attended. At this meeting members discussed segregated schools, unity among Mexicanos, the need for a Mexican industrial school, and a fund for the "defense of those compatriots that have litigation in American tribunals."

The comisiones aided the consul in maintaining communication with coloniaqv residents. When a local issue was of importance to the consul, the commission kept him informed about it. The groups assisted in legal matters, immigration matters, labor complaints, social welfare, and issues of racial discrimination affecting the Mexican-descent community. They helped the consul register Mexican immigrants, fill out documents, and file complaints and claims against employers and administrators, especially as related to contracts and wages. In 1923 in San Antonio the groups promoted and distributed sample labor contracts because of complaints of labor exploitation. Since they sought to protect the Mexican-descent community, by custom they did not inform immigration officials of the status or whereabouts of undocumented workers. The comisiones provided services to Mexican-descent residents and immigrants in Texas. They offered help to persons of Mexican descent in almshouses, jails, hospitals, schools, factories, and fields, places where prejudice might be felt. In 1927 in Florence, members organized a fund drive to help bury Benito de la Cruz, a farmworker fatally injured during work. They also often sponsored educational conferences to celebrate Mexican holidays (fiestas patriasqv). According to one scholar, comisiones were the most important organizations in facilitating the repatriation movement to Mexico during the Great Depression, especially from rural Texas. They provided information about opportunities in the homeland, helped organize repatriation groups, and raised funds for transportation. In 1931 the Maxwell comisión honorífica arranged for the resettlement of thirty-six families to the Don Martín colony. The Austin chapter helped destitute families with transportation to the border in 1931 and 1932. The Houston chapter and the Cruz Azul raised money for fifty families being repatriated in 1931. The Kenedy and Kyle chapters appointed committees to visit the Eighteenth of March colony and Matamoros settlements in Mexico in 1939 to study land, housing, and employment conditions. Little is known of the comisiones after 1940.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Francisco E. Balderrama, In Defense of La Raza: The Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and the Mexican Community, 1929 to 1936 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982). Dictionary of Mexican American History (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981). Manuel Gamio, Mexican Immigration to the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1930; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1969). R. Reynolds McKay, Texas Mexican Repatriation during the Great Depression (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 1982). Julie Leininger Pycior, La Raza Organizes: Mexican American Life in San Antonio, 1915–1930, as Reflected in Mutualista Activities (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1979). Mark Reisler, By the Sweat of Their Brow: Mexican Immigrant Labor in the United States, 1900–1940 (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1976). Emilio Zamora, Mexican Labor Activity in South Texas, 1900–1920 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1983).

Cynthia E. Orozco

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Cynthia E. Orozco, "COMISION HONORIFICA MEXICANA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pqc01), accessed September 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.