You are on page 1of 2

Can a Mexican be a Texan hero? A story from American Experience.

In March of 1836 a Mexican army of 4,000 men advanced on the old mission in San Antonio known as the Alamo. Inside almost 200 US volunteers huddled awaiting an attack. Most had come to help wrestle the territory of Texas from Mexico. Among the men defending the Alamo was a small group of Tejanos. The irony is that the Alamo is seen as a strictly Anglo-Texan versus Mexican dynamic, when in reality Tejanos initiated the independence movement and developed the principles of independence against the Mexican government. 150 miles from the Alamo a group of prominent Texans was gathering to sign a declaration of independence. Among them was an ambitious merchant and idealistic politician who had been pushing for Texas independence for much of his life. No one had more to gain or to lose from the fight for Texas than Jose Antonio Navarro. Navarro was the leader of the Tejanos, who had settled the Mexican frontier of Texas. For generations Tejanos had fought for economic freedom and independence. The one constant that one finds in Tejano politics and the one constant that you see in a man like Jose Antonio Navarro is this important idea of local rule that only the people on the ground in San Antonio know whats best. So rule has to be local. Navarro commited himself from his earliest days to the future of Texas and the Tejano people. He remained a relentless advocate of economic progress for Texas and modeled his plans for development on the American South and its most profitable crop cotton. Creating a flourishing commercial cotton economy means that you have to have improved roads, eventually railroads, improved port facilities and he really sees Texas becoming another Louisiana with Galveston, perhaps, as its leading port and Galveston some day becoming a city and sea port and financial center to rival New Orleans. Navarro knew that with cotton came slavery. For many Tejanos slavery was an economic issue, not a moral one. They sometimes looked upon slavery like Americans like Thomas Jefferson did as a necessary evil. That it was simply impractical not to expect that slavery would part a part of the development of an area like Texas, which shared a physical geography with the antebellum South of the United States. Anti-slavery feelings, however, were taking hold in Mexico city. Determined to attract cotton planters from the United States, Navarro slipped a bill through the state legislature that circumvented federal anti-slavery laws. When Navarro enables slavery, he makes a crucial link between Texas and the southern United States. Concerned about the high number of US immigrants in Texas, the Mexican government enacted legislation intended to seal the border. If the law goes into full operation and all immigration from the United States is cut off, then Navarros plans for the creation of a flourishing cotton economy and all of the good things that that would bring will be dashed because Mexico is not going to be able to bring Texas into the world market economy.

In February of 1836 Jose Antonio Navarro left San Antonio and headed east to a place called Washington on the Brazos. Texas leaders were gathering to declare independence. He is a law maker, legislator in the Mexican federation and here he is turning on that nation by signing that declaration of independence to create a new country. Thats a big risk. Witnesses reported that as Navarro prepared to sign the Texas declaration of independence, his hands were shaking.