Spanish-language newspapers in Texas numbered 150 in the nineteenth century and more than 300 in the twentieth. These newspapers have been important to Mexican Americans by providing them with news, documenting their struggles to attain justice, and preserving their bicultural heritage and their continuing relationship to Mexico and the Hispanic world beyond. Spanish-language newspapers first reached Texans in 1813, when the Gutiérrez-McGee expedition fought to liberate the province of Texas from Spain. The masthead of the expedition's propaganda organ, the Gaceta de Texas, indicated publication in Nacogdoches, Texas, but the paper had to be printed in Louisiana due to dissention among the filibusters. The earliest paper known with certainty to have been published in Texas was Nacogdoches Mexican Advocate (1829). One side of this publication was printed in Spanish, the other in English. From the end of the Mexican War (1848) until well into Reconstruction (1866–77), English-language journalists founding papers in South Texas employed the bilingual format employed during the Mexican campaign. Continuous Spanish-language news coverage in the state dates from this period. La Estrella de Corpus Christi, or the Corpus Christi Star (1848–49), began the postwar trend. The Brownsville El Centinela (1849) became the bilingual Centinela del Río Grande, or Rio Grande Sentinel, within two months of its founding. La Bandera Americana (the American Flag), El Río Bravo (the Rio Bravo), and La Bandera (the Fort Brown Flag) followed.
Spanish-language newspapers were produced in Brownsville and San Antonio in 1855. Their objectives and target readership contrasted sharply: El Rayo Federal and El Noticioso del Bravo of Brownsville were published to exhort Mexicans to overthrow Antonio López de Santa Anna. Their editors were influential Federalists exiled by that dictator. San Antonio's first Spanish-language newspaper, El Bejareño (1855–56), was launched to defend Tejano interests when such leaders as the Navarros and Seguíns became alarmed over the growing number and power of white settlers. The cofounders of El Bejareño, a Frenchman, Xavier B. DeBray, and an Englishman, Alfred E. Lewis, provided strong and effective leadership to that constituency. They instructed readers on democracy and American history, provided translations of United States laws, and fought to defeat the anti-Catholic, anti-alien American (Know-Nothing) party, whose adherents wanted to deny Mexican Americans their right to vote. This era of San Antonio papers ended with El Ranchero (1856) and El Correo (1858). Spanish-language newspapers continued in Brownsville, however, until a paper shortage curtailed printing early in the Civil War.
Bilingual, Spanish-language, and even one trilingual periodical appeared during Reconstruction. All-Spanish newspapers prevailed thereafter. The trilingual paper, in Spanish, English, and French, the only one known to have been published in Texas, was the Brownsville El Correo del Río Grande/Rio Grande Courier/Le Courier de Rio Grande (1860–67). Overall, eleven newspapers emerged during Reconstruction. The number of Spanish-language papers grew to forty-five in the 1880s and eighty-six in the 1890s. Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande valley also generated their first Spanish-language newspapers during Reconstruction. Austin, Carrizo Springs, Eagle Pass, El Paso, Laredo, Palito Blanco, Roma, and San Diego began Spanish-language newspapers during the 1880s. Alice, Beeville, Del Rio, Floresville, Hidalgo, Lampasas, Lockhart, Mission, San Angelo, and San Marcos followed in the 1890s. Nowhere, however, was westward expansion and the increase in newspaper production by Hispanics more dramatically illustrated than in El Paso. Twenty-two of the eighty-six Spanish newspapers produced in Texas between 1890 and 1900 were based in that border city. San Antonio and Laredo each had eleven during that decade, while Brownsville trailed with eight.
Severe censorship and persecution during Porfirio Díaz's thirty-year rule in Mexico (1877–80, 1884–1911) forced editors and political figures to flee the country. Many moved during the Mexican Revolution to Texas, where they established numerous partisan organs both for and against Díaz. Ignacio Martínez, Adolfo Duclós Salinas, Catarino E. Garza, Jesús Tovar Recio, Camilo Arriaga, and Ricardo Flores Magón were some of the most prominent exiled editors. They forcefully denounced tyranny in the widely read El Mundo and Generación and advocated freedom of the press in Mexico. The most notable Spanish-language paper of the first half of the twentieth century, La Prensa (1913–63), which began publication during the Mexican Revolution, was considered the voice of the elite exiled conservative intellectuals. It was founded by Ignacio E. Lozano and employed some of the most famous writers of Latin America. La Prensa carried abundant cultural material as well as news.
More recently, Mexican Americans have founded Spanish-language and bilingual newspapers calling for greater social and economic equity for themselves. For example, some papers advocating such new political alliances as the Raza Unida party sprang up around the state during the Chicano movement of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. San Antonio, with sixty-seven papers, was the leading publishing center during this period. El Paso followed with thirty-four, Laredo twenty-seven, Brownsville with twenty-three, and Houston with fifteen. The Dallas El Sol de Texas (1966-), is today the largest Spanish weekly in the United States and has ranked in the top ten in circulation among Spanish-language newspapers currently published in the nation. At least forty-eight Texas communities produced Spanish-language newsprint between 1900 and the 1990s. Although Spanish-language radio and television now offer alternative sources of news to the growing Hispanic population, Spanish-language newspapers continue to flourish.