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Mexican Americans and Religion

Roberto Treviño Overview Entry

Geographic isolation and social subordination profoundly affected the religious life of Mexican Americans in Texas. Over time, Tejanos crafted a religiosity deeply rooted in their history that mirrored their ethnic identity and expressed their quest for self-determination.

Catholicism. Spanish explorers laid claim to Texas in 1519, soon after they came to the New World. Except for temporary measures to thwart French encroachment, however, Spain's interest in colonizing Texas remained dormant until the eighteenth century. In 1716, Spain undertook permanent colonization by building presidio and mission complexes in strategic areas around which pueblos grew. That same year, the Spanish founded six missions, a garrison, and the town of Nacogdoches in East Texas. Numerous other settlements followed, including San Antonio in South Texas (1718), Goliad on the Gulf Coast (1721), and Laredo in South Texas (1755). Franciscans accompanied Spanish military expeditions to minister to soldiers and colonists and to try to convert the Indians. Despite the missionaries' determined efforts, few Indians were won to Christianity, and the missions led a precarious existence. Still, the seeds of Catholicism had been planted. In the early nineteenth century, these scattered missions became the first Tejano parishes. These were meager beginnings. Only two parishes existed in the eighteenth century, at San Antonio and Goliad, as demographic decline marked the last years of the Spanish Empire in Texas. In 1800 fewer than 5,000 colonists clustered around San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches. The Mexican War of Independence from Spain (1810–21) took a further toll, and by 1821 only two Franciscan friars and some 2,500 Mexicans remained in Texas.

The break with Spain in 1821 left Mexico in ecclesiastical disarray. Several bishops loyally returned to Spain, following the lead of the archbishop of Mexico. The remaining prelates died in office and were not replaced because the Vatican hoped to restore Mexico to Spain. By mid-1829, there was not a single bishop in Mexico. Moreover, anti-Spanish sentiment after Mexican independence led to the expulsion of Spanish priests. A serious shortage of clergy thus plagued all of Mexico, but it was most acute in far-flung provinces like Texas. By the time Americans wrested it from Mexico in 1836, all of Texas was served by only two priests. Under these conditions, a tradition of religious self-reliance began to take root among Tejanos. When the Republic of Texas was formed in 1836, Texas Catholics were technically under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Diocese of Monterrey, Mexico. In 1838, Vatican officials, noting the increased Catholic population of Texas and anticipating jurisdictional difficulties with Mexico, instructed a French cleric, Father John Timon, to assess the condition of the church in Texas. Based on Timon's report, the pope designated the Texas republic as a prefecture apostolic (missionary territory) in 1840 and put it under the care of Timon and the Vincentian Fathers. In 1842, Texas was elevated to the higher ecclesiastical status of vicariate apostolic under another Frenchman, Father Jean Marie Odin, who used his increased authority to launch a vigorous expansion of the church in Texas. In 1847, Texas became the Diocese of Galveston, with Odin as bishop. Two years later, Odin imported a small group of French missionaries, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to evangelize the numerous Mexicans of South Texas.

The task of bringing institutional Catholicism to a widely dispersed population posed difficult problems. For one thing, the Diocese of Galveston was an enormous territory comprising the entire state. Also, a perennial shortage of clergy plagued the church, while the population continually increased. Church officials failed to establish seminaries and to develop a native Mexican-American clergy. Instead, they relied primarily on European and American priests to minister to Tejanos until well into the twentieth century. These problems were complicated by ethnic antagonism. The crusade to evangelize Texas after 1840 was carried out through an institution steeped in European values and traditions. It was led for most of the nineteenth century by Frenchmen and, later, by Spaniards and Anglo-Americans. During the nineteenth century, European clergy ministered in foreign languages to Tejanos, who had strikingly different religious and cultural traditions. This did not augur well for the spiritual and social needs of a mestizo people recently conquered in war and socially subordinated. Not only did most of the churchmen speak no Spanish; many denigrated Texas Mexicans and their religious traditions. Some were openly hostile and compared their missionary efforts to evangelizing savages. Many clerics, particularly high-level officials, preferred to minister to "civilized" people, that is, Anglo-Americans and European immigrants. These parishioners could finance the work of the church and were culturally similar to the clergy. Hence, some church leaders curried favor with the more affluent members of the dominant society and neglected needy Mexican Americans. In contrast, many priests and nuns who worked among the Tejano poor sacrificed greatly on their behalf. Two factions consequently developed within the church-those who favored Anglo-Americans and European immigrants and those who advocated better treatment of Texas Mexicans. The church thus mirrored the attitudes and social relations of society. Like the majority of Anglo-Texans, many Church officials considered Tejanos to be social pariahs. Compared to more affluent Texans, Mexican Americans had few redeeming traits and no countervailing power to attract the favor of the church. Thus, in the view of many clerics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Tejano Catholics remained little more than an obligation of and a burden to the Catholic Church-the "Mexican problem."

In the face of institutional prejudice and neglect, Mexican Texans tempered their loyalty to the church and interpreted Catholicism in their own terms. Though their financial support was minimal for priests who did not speak their language and for an institution that provided few services, Tejanos nonetheless possessed a deep religiosity. They held an unbounded reverence for the Virgin Mary and the saints, and they often expressed great respect for individual priests and nuns. Tejanos followed the basic tenets of Catholicism and fervently observed traditional holy days. But to the dismay of church officials, Texas Mexicans often ignored some religious proscriptions, such as marrying outside the church, and they developed unsanctioned traditions, such as altarcitos (home altars). In the eyes of some churchmen, Tejanos were not good "Mass-and-sacraments" Catholics. Priests criticized their sporadic church attendance. While they chafed at Tejano indifference toward some of the sacraments, church officials often noted how scrupulously Tejanos attended to others, especially baptism and confirmation. Reports claimed that Mexican Americans were theologically ignorant but displayed great religious faith. Though Tejanos typically viewed themselves as "muy católicos" (very good Catholics), church leaders generally saw them as spiritually deficient. Linguistic and cultural barriers exacerbated the differences between European and Mexican Catholicism. Not surprisingly, this led to a social distance between Tejanos and the institutional church. Texas Mexicans held tenaciously to their own brand of Catholicism, which they had forged for their particular needs. Specifically, Tejanos used their Catholicism to palliate their social subordination and affirm their cultural identity. The geographic isolation that characterized them from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries gave rise to a home-centered religiosity, in which Mexican Americans defined for themselves what religion meant in their lives. They selectively took from the church that which helped them make sense of their lives as a generally poor and oppressed people and which proclaimed their identity. Neither dependent on the church nor passive about their lot in life, Tejanos insisted on being Catholics on their own terms, and they used their unique sense of religiosity to sustain and even celebrate their existence.

The French clerical dominance ended in the late nineteenth century. As the century ended, priests from Spain largely replaced the French in missionary work among Texas Mexicans. Claretians, Basilians, and Holy Cross Fathers joined the Oblates in the pastoral care of Mexican Americans as the twentieth century unfolded. This was a mixed blessing, however, for many Spanish clerics proved as condescending toward Tejanos as their predecessors. Despite a shared language, Spaniards and Tejanos were oceans apart. Mexican Americans criticized Spanish priests for being aloof and failing to understand their spiritual and material needs. Nonetheless, the church began to focus more on Mexican Americans. Other developments augmented the work of Spanish priests. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 prompted massive immigration to Texas. The dramatically increased numbers of Texas Mexicans captured the attention of the Catholic Church. As their communities burgeoned, Tejanos raised money to build their own churches, and they elicited increasing church services. Refugee nuns and priests expanded Tejano parochial schools and other pastoral services carried on by long-established orders, such as the Sisters of Divine Providence. In 1930, the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence, an order composed exclusively of Mexican-American women, was founded to meet the needs of Mexicans in Houston. Through their own efforts and by their sheer presence, Tejanos compelled the Church to expand its ministry during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Catholic Church Extension Society and the American Board of Catholic Missions financed much of this expansion. These and other mission-aid organizations allocated money for "Mexican work" during the first half of the twentieth century. The church's increased funding for Tejanos was an improvement over the past, but it was clearly a lower priority than its Anglo ministry. Moreover, institutional segregation rendered Tejano Catholics a separate church far into the twentieth century.

Thus, as the century progressed, the cultural chasm between Tejanos and the Church remained. But so did the religious independence and self-sufficiency Mexican Americans had developed throughout their history. Sustained by this religious self-determination, Tejanos steadily pushed the church to recognize the legitimacy of their faith and to meet their spiritual and material needs better during the latter twentieth century. Before the 1930s, most clerics made little distinction between Mexican immigrants and native-born Tejanos. To them both groups were downtrodden foreigners-poor, uneducated, laboring masses in dire need of spiritual and material uplift. A growing awareness of differences between natives and immigrants, however, began to emerge among the church hierarchy in the 1930s. Officials noted the increasing literature about and interest in Mexican-origin people as their numbers swelled in the United States. Clerics recognized class and citizenship distinctions as Tejanos asserted their civil rights through organizations that underscored American citizenship, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the American G.I. Forum. By the post-World War II era, Church officials clearly had a more sophisticated understanding of Tejanos than the monolithic image of the early twentieth century. Furthermore, after the 1940s, some clerics showed greater appreciation for Mexican Catholicism. Some defended uniquely Mexican customs, such as the fervent devotion to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, and others described Mexican Catholicism as a vibrant faith. Most significantly, some clergy connected the Mexicans' alleged religious shortcomings to economic deprivation, arguing that migratory labor had destroyed their religious ties, practices, and education. To be sure, these changing attitudes coexisted with traditional negative stereotypes about Tejanos and their religious deficiencies. Nonetheless, these shifting perceptions foreshadowed important future developments. By the 1950s, at least some clergy understood the twin challenge of the so-called "Mexican problem": if she was to save the Tejanos' souls, the church had to address not only their spiritual needs but their temporal needs as well.

Between 1910 and the 1960s, the Catholic Church responded to the material needs of Mexican Americans in a variety of ways, generally, to improve their material well-being through acts of individual charity. Catholic social action usually took the form of job referrals, emergency relief, and other personal intervention by nuns and priests on behalf of parishioners. Clerics occasionally diverged from their traditional roles and engaged in more radical social action, such as labor organizing, but these were exceptions; as a rule, the church avoided direct involvement in social issues until the late twentieth century. Though individual charity supplemented the Tejano community's long tradition of self-help, over time Mexican Americans pressured the church into a more direct and effective social ministry. In the mid-1940s, the church began to institutionalize social action. In 1945 the Bishops' Committee for the Spanish-Speaking (BCSS), the precursor of institutional Catholic social action, was formed. Firmly controlled by the progressive archbishop of San Antonio, Robert E. Lucey, the BCSS sought the cooperation of southwestern prelates for concerted spiritual and material assistance for Mexicans and Mexican Americans. The Bishops' Committee had limited success, however, because it served mainly as Lucey's personal vehicle for farmworker advocacy. As such, it failed to touch the lives of most Tejanos, though it did bring limited social services to urban areas. By focusing on the needs of Mexican Americans, however, it set an important precedent for future institutional efforts. In the decades that followed, the Church moved haltingly toward more systematic support of social justice for Tejanos.

By the late 1960s, Tejanos were increasingly challenging the church. Like other institutions, the church in Texas was rocked by the tumultuous civil-rights era. Militants in South Texas painted a statue of the Virgin Mary brown, and Chicano journalists fiercely attacked the church as an oppressive and racist institution. "El movimiento," the Chicano civil-rights movement, unleashed vociferous demands for more church involvement in social change. The church reacted to many demands in traditional ways, but the unprecedented internal and external pressures for reform forced innovations as well. As individual priests and nuns initiated efforts for equality, the church gave varying degrees of support and followed the vanguard. The Chicano movement in Texas was sparked by "la marcha," a dramatic protest march staged by striking farmworkers from the Rio Grande valley to the Capitol in Austin during the summer of 1966. Although it began as a unionizing effort, the protest quickly assumed the broader purpose of social justice for all Tejanos. This pivotal event was led by a Mexican-American priest, Father Antonio Gonzales of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Houston, with Rev. James Novarro and labor organizer Eugene Nelson. Although the struggle to gain a minimum-wage law for Tejanos and better working conditions for the Valley strikers failed, Father Gonzales played a crucial role in raising political and ethnic consciousness among Mexican Americans, and he reinforced the budding Chicano movement in Texas. Meanwhile, other Tejano religious leaders arose. Father Patricio Flores of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston became the first Mexican-American bishop in the Catholic Church in 1970. Flores had long been an outspoken critic of the church's failure toward Tejanos when he and some fifty other priests met in San Antonio in October 1969 and formed a militant national priests' organization, Padres Asociados para Derechos Religiosos, Educativos y Sociales (PADRES). Fathers Flores, Ralph Ruiz, Virgilio Elizondo, Raymundo Peña, and other Tejanos became the most vocal activist clergy in PADRES. They marched, picketed, preached, and otherwise used their ministry to bring the church into the quest for social justice and to develop a more relevant pastoral ministry for Mexican Americans. Among women, Las Hermanas (Sisters) arose as an organization dedicated to promoting social change, cultural pride, and Mexican-American leadership. Two activist nuns, sisters Gregoria Ortega and Gloria Gallardo, co-founded Las Hermanas in Houston in April 1971. The organization strove to bring the needs of Mexican Americans more aggressively to the attention of the church hierarchy and pressed for revolutionary change within the church and in society at large. Soon embroiled in social issues, Las Hermanas rallied, boycotted, promoted feminist causes, and pressured the church to address social inequities that affected Mexican Americans.

One of the ways the church responded to the plight of Tejanos was by continuing the tradition of charity. During the 1960s the church expanded its long-standing social services to the poor, but it also initiated projects for Tejanos and increased funding for social services. It expanded older medical facilities for the indigent and instituted educational programs and a variety of family-support services. Church officials also tried to systematize and equalize the funding of poorer parishes. In the ecumenical spirit of the times, the Galveston-Houston diocese financed large-scale interdenominational housing projects and programs aimed at grass-roots community development. Much of the seed money for self-help projects came from the church's new anti-poverty agency, the Campaign for Human Development, which was established in 1969. The CHD, a response to Chicano activism, tried to attack the causes of poverty and equipped the poor to bring about social change. The most successful of its programs was the Communities Organized for Public Service. Ernie Cortés, a community organizer, started COPS in San Antonio with the support of Archbishop Francis J. Furey in 1973. Heavily involved in local politics, COPS brought San Antonio's Mexican-American community significant political power and expanded government services by cultivating religious and lay leadership in the barrios. The CHD also provided crucial early funding for PADRES in 1971, and in 1977 it provided a grant for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to combat Hispanic disfranchisement. In the 1970s and 1980s, the church also financed other self-help groups such as the United Neighborhoods Organization, the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, and Valley Interfaith in South Texas. Moreover, church officials increasingly sided with Tejano workers in labor disputes. Significantly, this advocacy went beyond the largely rhetorical support of the past and was clearly a response to pressure from lay and religious activists. Bishop John L. Morkovsky of the Galveston-Houston diocese personally encouraged Father Antonio Gonzales's role in the Texas farmworkers' strike of 1966. He allowed his subordinates, particularly Gonzales and Father John McCarthy, wide latitude in using church structures and influence to support the strike. Archbishop Lucey offered similar support, at least initially. Morkovsky, Lucey, and several other influential churchmen also publicly announced their support for the strikers. In a similar vein, Bishop Sidney M. Metzger of El Paso and Father Jesse Muñoz played important roles in the successful strike against Farah Incorporated in 1972 (see FARAH STRIKE).

Church support of this type had its limits, however. Archbishop Lucey, pressured into withdrawing his activist priests from the Rio Grande valley in 1967, eventually censured several of his subordinates for publicly disagreeing with his actions. Similarly, Bishop Morkovsky twice reprimanded Father Gonzales for some of the priest's later political activities. Nonetheless, the church lent its considerable influence to Tejano causes during the 1960s and 1970s and, as the 1980s brought new issues, it continued this trend. Most notably, Catholic officials often sympathized with undocumented immigrants who flooded into Texas and the Southwest in the 1970s and 1980s. With some exceptions, churchmen defended the illegal aliens and supported the "Sanctuary Movement" that arose to help the displaced masses of Latin America. Bishop Flores was an outspoken advocate of humane treatment of immigrants, and Bishop John Fitzpatrick of Brownsville staunchly supported Casa Oscar Romero, which succored hundreds of refugees. Likewise, Bishop Raymundo Peña of El Paso facilitated the establishment of Annunciation House, a refugee center begun by layman Rubén García.

Clerical activism also bore fruit on the pastoral level, as the climate of change engendered advances in how the church met the spiritual needs of Tejanos. The foremost achievement in this regard was the foundation of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio in 1971. Under the capable leadership of its principal founder, Father Virgilio Elizondo, and with the crucial support of archbishops Furey and Flores, MACC developed into a unique training and research institution that supported the church's ministry to Tejanos and Hispanics throughout the nation. Its boldest endeavor was the promotion of liberation theology, a revolutionary Latin-American movement seeking the liberation of oppressed masses. On the national level, the church initiated a series of consultative meetings ("encuentros") in 1972, 1977, and 1985, in which Tejanos played important roles. As the encuentros developed, grassroots input allowed for greater airing of grievances, the development of lay leadership, and eventually the formulation of a national pastoral plan for Hispanics. Other less controversial but important pastoral reforms included the institutionalization, in varying degrees, of the Cursillo movement, the Movimiento Familiar Cristiano, the Charismatic Movement, and Marriage Encounter. These all became effective and popular evangelizing tools because they incorporated Tejano cultural values and religious expression. Indeed, after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Catholic Church emphasized the importance of cultural relevance. Increasingly, church services reflected a sensitivity to the Tejano way of being Catholic. After the 1960s, the liberal reforms of Vatican II combined with Mexican-American demands to make liturgical innovations, such as the Mariachi Mass and Spanish-language services, commonplace by the 1990s.

However, the movement was still incomplete. Resistance to Tejano expressions of religiosity remained, as did efforts to bring their religious practices in line with those of the majority of American Catholics. Although some priests still frowned on Mexican-American customs, Tejanos clung tenaciously to them because they were an intimate part of their individual and collective identity. Mexican Americans spent what seemed to be inordinate sums on quinceañeras (young women's coming-of-age rituals) and baptism parties, and they traveled to Mexico to confirm children without religious instruction. In doing so, they melded religious and social customs and asserted their religious autonomy. But equally important, these occasions reinforced crucial kin and community networks through compadrazgo ("godparentage") relationships, a custom that united and sustained entire communities by lifelong reciprocity in such matters as sharing the financial burdens of quinceañeras and baptisms. Similarly, Mexican-American women drew both spiritual strength and social empowerment from their altarcitos. As keepers of religion and the home, they stood at the very core of community life and exerted vital influences. They propagated the community by transmitting vital cultural values and religious beliefs and providing the emotional support families and communities need to survive in an often hostile environment. These aspects of women's lives were both confining and liberating. Through the immemorial tradition of home altars, Mexican-American women interpreted Catholicism in the 1990s in a way that validated their self-worth, resisted subordination, and enhanced their standing in the family and the community.

Protestantism. Despite the historical predominance of Catholicism, some Tejanos adopted Protestant faiths. Since the early nineteenth century, a small but stable portion of the Texas-Mexican population has belonged to the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches. In the twentieth century, other religions gained adherents as well. As with their Catholic brethren, religion for these Mexican Americans reflected their identity and self-determination. Protestantism came to Texas with the first American settlers Mexico allowed into the state in 1821. Although these immigrants were required to adopt Catholicism as Mexican citizens, Mexico tolerated their Protestantism, and by 1833 Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists had established churches. While Texas remained part of Mexico, Protestant missionary activity was largely restricted to the growing American population, though some individuals such as Presbyterian minister Sumner Bacon and Methodist layman David Ayers distributed Bibles among the Mexicans. After Texas won its independence, the proselytizing of Tejanos still remained minimal, as the Protestant churches saw Texas only as a springboard to convert the so-called "semi-heathen, semi-Catholics" of Mexico itself. Ethnocentrism and paternalism characterized Protestant missionary activity in Texas. After the Mexican War ended, Anglo missionaries continued to see their work among Tejanos as only incidental to exporting what they considered "pure Christianity" to the interior of Mexico and South America. Missionaries such as Presbyterian Melinda Rankin, who centered her activity in southmost Texas (Brownsville), aimed their efforts at Mexico and not the Mexicans of Texas. Protestant institutions, like the Catholic Church, generally neglected Tejanos until the Mexican presence in Texas burgeoned in the early twentieth century.

In the meantime, Mexican Americans themselves pioneered Tejano Protestantism. Alejo Hernández, a former Catholic seminarian from Mexico, was converted to Protestantism in 1869 and two years later was licensed by the Methodist Church as the first Mexican minister in Texas. The 1870s and 1880s saw the formation of a small group of Tejano Methodist and Presbyterian ministers, among the most prominent being José Policarpo Rodríguez, José María Botello, and Santiago Tafolla. Though late in starting, Baptists also made inroads after the 1880s. The Mexican Revolution and the attendant growth of the Tejano community shifted the attention of American Protestant churches from missionary activity in Mexico to evangelization of Mexican Americans in Texas. As Tejano Protestantism took root and grew, the Anglo-Protestant establishment retained control over its development by forming fiscally dependent structures such as the Texas-Mexican Presbytery (1908), the Baptist-Mexican Convention (1910), and the (Methodist) Texas-Mexican Mission (1914), and by undertraining and underpaying Mexican-American pastors. Anglos also exerted control through church schools that concentrated on assimilating Mexican-American students into Anglo society and by "Houses of Neighborliness" and other community centers that mixed evangelization and social services. Dependency on Anglo patronage relegated Tejanos to a status of second-class Christians, a trait that they shared with their Catholic counterparts and similarly resisted. Mexican-American Protestants tried to forge their own socioreligious destiny in different ways. In the early 1900s, several Tejano churches tried but failed to form an interdenominational Protestant church independent of Anglo control. Some Mexican-Americans favored separate church structures as a form of cultural preservation, but others later argued for dismantling them to gain inclusion into mainstream denominational life.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Tejano Protestants, like Tejano Catholics, rebelled against their subordinate status in the churches. Baptist minister James Novarro of Houston was one of three leaders of the pivotal march on the Capitol in 1966. The same year, Alfonso Rodríguez and Jorge Lara-Braud formed the Hispanic American Institute in Austin to try to move the Presbyterian Church toward a more effective pastoral and social ministry for Tejanos. But like Catholic activists, Protestant reformers met with limited success. Reverend Novarro was removed from his church for his political activities, and Lara-Braud and his associate Benjamín Canales left the Hispanic American Institute after years of activism elicited only hollow rhetoric from the Presbyterian Church. With time, however, the Protestant churches responded to Tejano activism, and slowly some reforms were achieved. In the 1970s and 1980s, Protestant churches began institutional projects to supplement individual attempts by various congregations to alleviate the social and economic problems of the border region. In addition, the mainline denominations began forming institutional structures and programs that attacked gender barriers. In 1979, Rebecca Reyes became the first Mexican-American woman ordained as a Presbyterian minister. By the early 1980s, a Third World Women's Coordinating Committee and other social-action programs were in place, and Mexican Americans had gained important administrative positions among the various Protestant churches. As in the case of Catholic Tejanos, Mexican-American Protestants continued to struggle for religious and social self-determination in the 1990s.

As the twentieth century waned, religion remained an integral part of Mexican-American life. Despite the perennial concern about declension, the Tejano community was still overwhelmingly Catholic in the 1990s, and the basic contours of Tejano Catholicism had changed little over time. Mexican-American Catholicism continued to be home-centered, loosely tied to institutional practices and strongly based on folk traditions. Other faiths had indeed made inroads over time-mainline Protestantism historically and, more recently, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals, and other sects. In the 1970s, researchers added the notion of a crypto-Judaic past, suggesting the existence of a clandestine Mexican-American Jewish community. Notwithstanding these developments, a clear pattern of historical continuity and similarity characterized the religious life of Mexican Americans of all faiths as the century drew to a close. For Catholic and Protestant Tejanos alike, religion had been and remained a struggle for and an expression of self-determination, and it continued to be as entwined with their chosen way of life in the late twentieth century as it had been during the formative Spanish and Mexican eras.


Robert Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. García-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican Americans in the Southwest (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974; 2d ed. 1987). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Carlos E. Cortés, ed., Church Views of the Mexican American (New York: Arno Press, 1974). Arnoldo De León, The Tejano Community, 1836–1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982). Virgilio P. Elizondo, Galilean Journey: The Mexican-American Promise (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1983). Robert O. González and Michael J. La Velle, The Hispanic Catholic in the United States (New York: Northeast Catholic Pastoral Center for Hispanics, 1985). David C. Harrison, A Survey of the Educational and Administrative Policies of the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches among Mexican-American People in Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1952). Ada María Isasi-Díaz and Yolanda Tarango, Hispanic Women: Prophetic Voice in the Church (New York: Harper and row, 1988). José Roberto Juárez, "La Iglesia Católica y el Chicano en Sud Texas, 1836–1911," Aztlán 4 (Fall 1973). Carlos Larralde, Chicano Jews in South Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1978). Frederick C. Luebke, ed., Ethnicity on the Great Plains (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980). Martin McMurtrey, Mariachi Bishop: The Life Story of Patrick Flores (San Antonio: Corona, 1987). Silvia Novo-Peña and Father Roberto Flores, Interiors: Secular Aspects of Religion (Houston: D. H. White, 1982). Martha Remy, Protestant Churches and Mexican Americans in South Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1971). Juan Romero, "Charism and Power: An Essay on the History of PADRES," U.S. Catholic Historian 9 (Spring 1990). Moises Sandoval, ed., Fronteras: A History of the Latin American Church in the USA since 1513 (San Antonio: Mexican American Cultural Center, 1983). Richard G. Santos, "Chicanos of Jewish Descent in Texas," Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 15 (July 1983). Kay Frances Turner, Mexican American Home Altars: The Art of Relationship (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1990). Julia Nott Waugh, The Silver Cradle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1955).


  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Religion

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

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

Roberto Treviño, “Mexican Americans and Religion,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 14, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995
April 8, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: