There’s a rich, but often unexplored, piece of Texas history along the state’s southern and southwestern corridors. Settlers arrived in the Rio Grande Valley hundreds of years ago, and the people of color — who called the region home long before the newcomers — became targets of racism. The discrimination these populations endured is still having an effect on minority communities today.
Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez explores this piece of Texas history in the book “River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands.”
In the mid-18th century, the Spanish arrived in Nuevo Santander, or what is now known as the Rio Grande Valley and Tamaulipas region. Prior to European contact, at least 49 distinct indigenous groups populated the region and many are still feeling the repercussions from this early conquest today.
Valerio-Jiménez, associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said his interest was first piqued when he learned about the Plan de San Diego. The plan, which ultimately failed, was an attempt to “free” southwestern states — including Texas, New Mexico and Arizona – from United States control. It was a result of years of discrimation and anti-Mexican violence.
Acts of violence fueled by anti-immigrant sentiments are still being felt today. Most recently, when a 21-year-old white man drove over 600 miles from North Texas to the border city of El Paso and killed 22 people who he described as “invaders.”
Valerio-Jiménez said the real invasion began hundreds of years ago when the Spaniards settled the Southwest, and Anglo Americans began pushing into Texas.