Confronting the Unknown: Tejanas in the Transformation of Spanish and Mexican Texas, 1735-1836
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Confronting the Unknown: Tejanas in the Transformation of Spanish and Mexican Texas, 1735-1836 sheds light on Tejana legal and social roles in this tumultuous period. Despite great strides in the field of Borderlands history in recent years the field surprisingly lacks studies on women in early Texas. My goal is to help fill that void by illustrating women’s roles during the construction of and transition between empire to republic. Past studies place women in an overall narrative that includes them as a minor element to colonial life in Texas. My study places women at the center of the narrative, uncovering the major contributions they made to the Spanish and Mexican frontier. In addition, I argue that Tejanas exerted a great deal of agency on the edge of Spanish and Mexican society. Using court records I show that Tejanas were active participants in the legal sphere of colonial life. These sources reveal that Tejanas exercised more economic and political freedom under Spanish and Mexican control then they did under the Republic of Texas. They owned property, sued in court, and petitioned the government for land grants under the Spanish and Mexican governments. Among these legal rights, land grants in particular allowed Tejanas to aid in the establishment of a permanent presence on the frontier and thus aided the Spanish and Mexican government in imperial expansion. Because of these rights, Tejanas became strong matriarchs in a patriarchal dominated society. Their position in society, however, changed dramatically when they became Texas citizens. As Anglo Americans immigrated into Texas in large numbers, Tejanas appeared less in courts and conformed to the accepted Anglo American legal codes that had been practiced in the United States that were unwelcoming to women. Anglo American racist attitudes ultimately took a toll on the previous social hierarchy, forcing Tejanos and Tejanas into second-class citizenship. Despite these circumstances, Tejanas persisted and contributed greatly to the development of Texas.
Spanish and Mexican periods
Court records in early Texas
Rincones, Cassandra (2015). Confronting the Unknown: Tejanas in the Transformation of Spanish and Mexican Texas, 1735-1836. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from