The Mexican Protective League (La Liga Protectora Mexicana) was founded in 1917 by Manuel C. Gonzales, who persuaded his employers, attorneys A. M. Love and B. F. Patterson, to establish the organization in order to advise Mexican Texans on their legal rights. Gonzales fought for his people, he stated, against "the iniquitous exploitation of which they have always been victims." He saw legal aid and community organizing as means of redressing their grievances. Between 1915 and 1930 Mexican Americans established protective leagues in the Southwest and the Midwest. Tejanos obtained legal aid by pooling their resources. League members each paid one dollar for the first year and five dollars annually thereafter. By 1920 the league claimed more than 500 members. Most were San Antonio laborers, but farmworkers throughout South Texas also joined. The league provided legal advice and representation in litigation. Every year from 1917 to 1921 the organization advised hundreds of individuals on issues ranging from alien residents' rights to workers' compensation to legal due process. Two members from Mercedes were detained by police agents while driving from Brownsville to Mercedes, for example, and the league sent a representative who persuaded the authorities to release them. The association suggested to farmworkers that, before signing any land-tenure contract, they send copies of the draft to the league, which would suggest modifications to protect the tenants' rights. In addition, the league lobbied the state legislature, as in 1918, when the organization called for a law prohibiting any law-enforcement official from accompanying a property owner who visited a tenant, unless the owner had a court order. Two years later the league sought legislation protecting tenants' shares of their crops. The association also published a bilingual handbook of landlord-tenant, workers' compensation, and penal laws and a weekly legal-aid advice column in the San Antonio newspaper El Imparcial de Texas. In the column the league endorsed 1920 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joseph W. Bailey because of his criticism of the Ku Klux Klan. Ultimately, Bailey lost the runoff to Pat Neff.
In 1920 the league became the Mexican Instructive League (La Liga Instructiva Mexicana), an enterprise solely devoted to preparing customers for the citizenship test. Gonzales quit in protest and went on to pioneer a series of Mexican-American civic groups and through them participated in the founding of the League of United Latin American Citizens in 1929.
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Mario T. Garcia, Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930–1960 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). James P. McBride, "The Liga Protectora Latina: A Mexican-American Benevolent Society in Arizona," Journal of the West 14 (October 1975). 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).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Julie Leininger Pycior,
“Mexican Protective League,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 14, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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