The term Tejano, derived from the Spanish adjective tejano or (feminine) tejana (and written in Spanish with a lower-case t), denotes a Texan of Mexican descent, thus a Mexican Texan or a Texas Mexican. The term received greater currency at the end of the twentieth century than previously with subsequent changes in nuance and usage. It encompasses cultural manifestations in language, literature, art, music, and cuisine. As an adjective, Tex-Mex is a recently coined term related to, but not synonymous with, Tejano. Broader terms used at different times or for different segments of this ethnic group are Hispanic American, Latin American, Mexican, Mexican American, and Chicano. As early as 1824, Miguel Ramos Arispe, author of the (Mexican) Constitution of 1824, referred to the citizens of Texas as Tejanos in correspondence with the town council of Bexar.
After the Mexican War of Independence and the establishment of a federal government, the term Coahuiltejano denoted the citizens of the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas. Hispanics in Texas identified themselves simply as Tejanos as early as January 1833, when leaders at Goliad used the term.
The term Méjico-Tejano appeared in print in 1855, when the San Antonio newspaper El Bejareño reported a letter by José Antonio Navarro read at the second meeting of the Spanish-speaking members of the Bexar County Democratic party. Throughout the nineteenth century, Mexican (mexicano) was the term generally used in popular reference for a Mexican national or a Mexican American. As the boundaries of Texas changed to include the Nueces Strip, Laredo, and El Paso, so too did the term Tejano come to include the Hispanic and Mexican residents of those areas. Historians have applied the term specifically, perhaps anachronistically, to those Mexican Texans in Spanish Texas, to distinguish them from residents of other regions, and in Texas from the end of the Spanish era in 1821 to Texas Independence in 1836, in contradistinction to the Texian or Anglo-American residents of that time and of the Republic of Texas.
Increasingly, Tejano, as a term denoting regional identity, referred to Mexican Texans of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and to the Hispanic Texans of the Spanish era. The term occurred with greater frequency in speech and written forms as the political activity of the ethnic group became pronounced, particularly following the Chicano movement of the mid-1960s. Tejano is now widely enough used that it is considered a naturalized item in the Texas lexicon.
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Robert A. Calvert and Arnoldo De León, The History of Texas (Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 1990). Arnoldo De León, Apuntes Tejanos (2 vols., (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1978). Arnoldo De León, "Texas Mexicans: Twentieth-Century Interpretation," in Texas through Time: Evolving Interpretations, ed. Walter L. Buenger and Robert A. Calvert (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Dictionary of Mexican American History (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981). Gerald E. Poyo and Gilberto M. Hinojosa, eds., Tejano Origins in Eighteenth-Century San Antonio (San Antonio: Institute of Texan Cultures, 1991). San Antonio Ledger, July 14, 1855. Andres A. Tijerina, Tejanos and Texas under the Mexican Flag, 1821–1836 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994). David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).
Activism and Social Reform
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Adán Benavides Jr.,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 1, 1996
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 24, 2017
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: