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Fronteras: 'History That's Been Written Doesn't Include Everyone' — The History Of The RGV

Hateful language directed at people of color has a long, dirty history in the U.S. and along the border.

Mexicans and Mexican Texans living along the border in the 1800s were frequently described as greasers, monsters, demons, bandits, and criminals -- not just by Anglo Americans newly settled on the border but also by journalists who were telling faraway readers about the supposed lawlessness and backwardness of the borderlands. Just being Mexican could get you killed. That’s a fear many Hispanics have today, especially after the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso.

Map of the twin cities along the lower Rio Grande, circa 1850s. Map adapted by William L. Nelson.

Historian Omar Valerio-Jiménez writes about how these stereotypes impacted the residents of the Texas Rio Grande Valley during Spanish colonization, Mexican independence, Texas independence and U.S. statehood. His book is “River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands.”

Valerio-Jiménez is a native of the border, born in Matamoros, across from Brownsville. He is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

Valerio-Jiménez joins us to talk about how anti-Mexican rhetoric directly affected his family’s immigration story, why the Rio Grande created so many “twin cities” along the border and how the river was a convenient barrier to cross when certain American or Mexican laws weren’t to the liking of 19th century residents of the Valley.


Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1.

Lauren Terrazas can be reached by email at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren