Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. David E. Vassberg
Dr. Porter A. Stratton
Dr. Hubert J. Miller
The development of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and its citrus industry is a popular subject in the area. It is a topic local authors write about. Furthermore, it is not unusual for Valley newspapers and magazines to occasionally mention the greatness of the area and its citrus business.
Most of what is written, however, is used to propagandize the area and the citrus industry. Moreover, little, if anything, is mentioned about the Mexican and Mexican-American and his contribution, with the exception of the Laguna Seca ranch, the Vela family, and a few affluent individuals.
Even when one reads of the death of a long-time resident in the obituary column, Anglos are typically mentioned as "pioneers" while Mexicans or Mexican—Americans are referred to as merely "retired farm laborers." This type of informing or reporting does not provide much motivation for Mexican-Americans to engage in local research. The few who wish to look into this subject further find the information available extremely unbalanced. One of the reasons I chose to write on this subject was that I felt that some of the data that had previously been presented on this topic had to be corrected. The Mexican’s and Mexican-American’s contribution to the success of this area has to be emphasized.
As of this writing there are still many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living who contributed greatly to the development of the Valley during the period 1910-1930. I have made an attempt to contact a number of them, especially Tamaulipecos, and to report on their points of view and their efforts. My interest on the subject was further stimulated by the death of a Valley resident named Genaro Cano, Sr. in late 1980, at the age of ninety-six. His obituary in the Harlingen Valley Morning Star stated only his date and place of birth, and the number of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. There was no mention of how he and his children had contributed to the development of the Valley and the citrus industry. A few days later, the local paper carried the news, prominently displayed on the front page, of the death of an Anglo resident of the Valley. His contributions to the development of the area were publicized in great detail, and he was eulogized as a "pioneer." As a young man, I often heard stories of how and why people had come to the Valley during the period under consideration. I was also shown many citrus orchards where the Canos and many other Mexicans and Mexican-Americans had worked. Thus, as I read the obituary column I wondered why no mention of Genaro’s contribution had appeared in the Harlingen paper, because I knew that the information had been provided to the funeral director. I have no quarrel with those who write about Anglo-American Valley "pioneers." But I would like to point out that the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who helped develop the Valley through back-breaking jobs were also "pioneers." It is my hope that as attitudes change, and as more information becomes available, writing and reporting about the area will give due credit to all who had a hand in the dramatic development of the Valley in the early 1900’s. I offer this thesis as a contribution toward that end. In writing about this subject I have tried to remain as impartial and unbiased as possible, even though Genaro Cano, Sr. was my grandfather.
Pan American University