Theses and Dissertations - UTB/UTPA

A Study of Mexican American Education in The Mercedes Independent School District, 1908–2008: Opportunities or Obstacles?

Beatrice De Leon Edwards, University of Texas-Pan American

Copyright 2011 Beatrice de León Edwards. All Rights Reserved.


This study investigates the educational history of the Mercedes Independent School District of deep south Texas during the twentieth century with a focus on the opportunities and challenges encountered by Mexican American schoolchildren who were served by the district. The methodology selected is qualitative research wherein the researcher is the primary instrument collecting the experiences of participants with direct or indirect knowledge of the school district. Also examined are archival documents such as high school yearbooks, graduate pictures, school board minutes, maps, and newspaper articles. The demographics of the school district have changed from an all-Anglo school district at its inception to an all-Mexican American school district in one hundred years. Limited integration was practiced at one elementary school partially based on residential and socioeconomic factors, and total segregation of Mexican American students was practiced at two other elementary schools for at least fifty years. Students were integrated in junior high and high school since the early 1920s. A growing middle class of educated Mexican Americans gradually secured city and school district political positions, and earlier segregation practices in the elementary schools ended with single-line integrated campuses in the 1973-1974 school year. The school district today continues to struggle with multiple challenges to student success such as continuing poverty, the influx of unschooled and often undocumented immigrant children in the region, and the increasingly rigorous state standards for graduation. Emerging themes include the political solidification of a Mexican American educated middle class initially formed from prominent families which was key to the final dissolution of the remnants of segregation in the Mercedes school system that persisted into the 1970s; the initial acceptance of the status quo on the part of many community members who did not feel that true segregation existed in the Mercedes school system; the willingness of many Mexican American parents to do all in their power to secure the best educational opportunities for their children; and the absence of ethnic or racial confrontations in the community during and after the transition period when city and school political positions changed over from Anglo to Mexican American control.