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Fall 2005 · Vol. 34 No. 2 · pp. 145–58 

Race, Gender, and Mennonite Brethren Religious Identity Along the Texas-Mexico Border, Part 1

Felipe Hinojosa

Severely ill and kneeling in front of a Catholic altar, Marta Espinoza decided that los Santos that she had previously prayed to could no longer do anything for her. “These things are dead,” shouted Marta, “and they cannot help me anymore.” She later confessed to a local priest that she had been a Roman Catholic all her life, but had found little help in its doctrines and principles. She added “now I am going to get me a Bible and read it and find out for myself God’s plan of salvation for my soul and how to get rid of burdens. And this will be my last confession to a Roman Catholic Priest.” 1

Small “everyday forms of resistance” reflect the variety of ways in which community members, without open rebellion, resisted MB religious encroachment.

Originally from a small rural community in the west end of the Rio Grande Valley (Abram, Texas), Marta joined the Mennonite Brethren church in 1942 after meeting the lone missionary couple assigned to the region: Harry and Sarah Neufeld. Marta’s experience and “confession” says much about the complex religious lives of Mexican Americans. In essence, Marta rejected her old religious affiliation and in the process of conversion recreated her identity.

This is increasingly the experience of many Mexican Americans who are growing up in Protestant/Pentecostal homes or converting from Roman Catholicism and, in the process, challenging the very notions of what it means to be Mexican in the United States. 2 Charting the intersections between identity, race, and gender within Mexican-American Protestant communities remains a daunting task. However, there is a tremendous need to fill the gaps in the historiography of this particular “subculture.” 3

For the purposes of this essay, I will use the data from Mennonite Brethren (MB) missionary projects in south Texas among Mexican-Americans between 1937 and 1971. 4 Throughout the middle part of the twentieth century, Mennonite Brethren missionaries remained prominent figures in Protestant circles in south Texas. They helped, for example, to establish the Rio Grande Bible Institute in Edinburg, Texas, founded eight congregations and a school (El Faro in Sullivan City), and were well-known in the community as “los Menonitas.” 5 Today, however, the Mennonite Brethren church is relegated to several relatively small congregations sprinkled throughout Hidalgo and Starr counties. Nevertheless, the continued existence, however small, of the Mexican-American MB church in south Texas, says much about its enduring commitment.

With an eye toward understanding the complexities of Mexican American Protestantism in south Texas, this essay is divided into three sections. 6 The first section briefly introduces the reader to the history of the Mennonite Brethren church and its evolution and growth in the United States. The second section focuses on the beginnings of the MB church in south Texas. MB missionaries were no different than secular society in their ethnocentric and racist attitudes toward non-White ethnic groups. The MB entered south Texas with little understanding of Mexican culture, claiming that “heathenism is present” among them. 7 This translated into specifc formulations about Mexican-American masculinity, femininity, and racial identity.

Lastly, I discuss the complex intersections of race and gender which greatly influenced the manner in which Mexican-Americans themselves viewed both cultural and religious conversion. Mexican-American converts had radically different notions of both race and gender within the Protestant church, believing to a great degree that social parity was indeed possible in the “Christian church.” In this sense, we cannot view Mexican-American converts (to Protestantism) as mere victims or cultural “sellouts,” but instead as active agents in creating and recreating distinct social and religious worlds. Rather than viewing Mexican-American Protestants as “apolitical” or “submissive,” I argue that we need to see them as active agents in creating an alternative social space, as challenging national borders, and as articulating a specific ideology of “oppositional politics.” 8


The missionary activity initiated by the MB church in south Texas began later than most other Protestant denominations. Protestant missionary work in the Southwest dates back to the middle part of the nineteenth century when old school Presbyterians sent missionaries to work among Mexican people. The Baptists and Southern Methodists initiated missionary work among Mexicans in Texas in the 1850s, but that work slowly ended as the Civil War approached and many missionaries returned home. During this time the Methodist Episcopal church sent missionaries to New Mexico and south Texas while the Presbyterian Church USA dispatched missionaries to parts of New Mexico and Colorado in the 1870s. 9

Protestant missionaries, of varying denominations, carried with them notions of their own cultural and religious superiority as they attempted to convert Mexican Catholics. Many believed they were agents of change against Mexican superstitions, ignorance, and spiritual blindness. 10 Most of the early missionary endeavors in south Texas and the rest of the Southwest ended before the start of the Civil War and did not begin again until the latter part of the nineteenth century. 11 The MB church, however, did not arrive in south Texas until 1937. In mission strategy and paternalism, they resembled many of the early mission strategies of the nineteenth century. The MB church held similar notions of race and gender, while also heavily influenced by the movement of theological fundamentalism during the mid-1920s. 12

Birthed out of the social and theological waves of Anabaptism, Lutheran Pietism, and Evangelicalism in nineteenth-century Russia, the MB church is a complex mosaic that defies easy categorization. 13 However, when many of the new faithful began immigrating to the United States in the latter part of the nineteenth century (around the 1870s), the MB church slowly began assimilating its theology to fit mainline denominational traditions. 14 In other words, the very complexity that made this faith tradition unique fizzled away in the face of increased Americanization.

The mid-1930s, especially, represented the era in which the MB church in essence became “White.” First, acculturation patterns began to speed up. Mennonite historian James Juhnke calls 1935 the “critical year” of language transition in MB communities. 15 By 1935 most MB families began to transition from German/Russian to English in the home. While it took longer for churches to make the complete transition, some historians have noted that the onset of World War II helped accelerate the transition in the church, as members did not want to be associated with Hitler’s Germany. 16 Furthermore, in 1935 the Zionsbote (the German language MB newspaper) received approval from the Southern District Conference (SDC) to print at least two pages in English. This eventually led to the introduction of the Christian Leader (the English language MB newspaper). 17 By 1937 the minutes taken at SDC sessions were written almost entirely in English, slowly phasing out the German language from formal sessions. 18 As assimilation patterns accelerated, social mobility began to improve as well, and political associations became increasingly conservative. Evangelists like D. L. Moody and C. I. Scofield, who advocated a fundamentalist theology, heavily influenced MB theology during this period. 19 These shifts brought the MB into the social mainstream as ethnic loyalties became increasingly peripheral.

Lastly, home missions were launched for the first time in a region outside the Midwest, which had established mission work among Native Americans since 1896. 20 In 1935 A. J. Becker, an MB missionary at the Post Oak Indian Mission in Oklahoma, argued that the Conference should invest funds in a mission to Mexicans in that area. Fifty dollars were subsequently given to the Mexican mission and the same amount was given in 1936 as the need continued. 21 The mission in Oklahoma served primarily Native Americans, but there were also Mexicans and African Americans who lived among them and were taken in by many of the local tribes. 22 From the work in Oklahoma grew an interest in missions to Mexicans in other regions of the country. The work among the Native American and Mexican population provided the confidence the MB needed to venture to other areas with other ethnic groups. 23

Thus, the process of missions itself contributed to centering MB White identity (with its need to “save the lost”) while objectifying non-White ethnic groups and characterizing them as “heathen.” 24 As European immigrants to America, the MB did face early marginalization as “ethnics.” However, they quickly adjusted to American culture and began aligning themselves with “Whiteness.” After eight years in south Texas, Harry Neufeld, identifying himself Anglo-American, wrote:

A very direct hindrance to a thorough missionary work among the Latin American race in the United States and especially here on the border is the lack of a clean, united, and holy example of the Anglo-American Protestant life. 25

No longer solely German or Russian, Neufeld’s identity had changed in order to incorporate “Anglo-American” values necessary for missionary projects along the border. Thus, the ethnic Anabaptist missionaries that entered south Texas became “Anglo-American Protestants” in order to differentiate themselves from a “Latin American race” which they saw as unholy and in need of both social and religious salvation.


Since its inception in 1910, the annual SDC of the MB church served largely as a gathering place for the membership to discuss Conference business, home and foreign missions, and to gather for worship services. 26 At their annual meeting in 1936, the Home Mission Committee of the SDC recommended that “a work among the Mexicans” be initiated in south Texas and allocated five hundred dollars to begin the work. The recommendation to do mission work came from MB people who had settled in Premont, Texas, in 1927. Specifically P. E. Penner and H. W. Lohrenz who, at the 1936 conference, called attention to the possibilities of mission work among Mexicans in both Oklahoma and Texas. H. W. Lohrenz served as secretary of the Foreign Missions Committee and, interestingly enough, argued that missionaries in Texas and Oklahoma should work at employing local people to do the work of planting churches. 27 The committee also recommended that Harry Neufeld, an MB evangelist at the time, take up the work and become the first extension worker to south Texas. 28

In 1937 Harry and his wife Sarah Neufeld reported that they had surveyed the entire Texas-Mexico border for an appropriate location to establish the new mission. 29 Upon arriving in Edinburg, the Neufelds stopped at the parsonage of the First Baptist Church where they asked the local Anglo pastor to tell them about the Rio Grande Valley and whether any Mexicans lived in Edinburg. 30 The pastor responded by stating that he was happy they had come to help in “this great work. But if you people have decided to go to the border towns and villages, let me tell you one thing: you will appear to those people as foreign devils.” 31

The survey of the border, or the “hunt” as Neufeld called it, went from the middle part of the Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg to the southeast in Brownsville and as far northwest as El Paso. In his writings, Neufeld stated that the reason he chose to evangelize the villages in the western half of the Rio Grande Valley was that “up till that time [this area] had never been truly evangelized or brought to a knowledge of the true salvation of Christ Jesus.” 32 Neufeld’s statement was not entirely accurate, however. Methodists had indeed begun a mission by this point in the small village of Garciasville and had been active in Rio Grande City and Roma since the latter part of the nineteenth century. 33 Mexican Methodists also lived in Los Ebanos before the Neufelds arrived. Indeed, it was a Methodist, Miguel Carrizales, who allowed Neufeld to use an old storage space to hold his first evangelical meetings. 34

The decision to establish the mission in Los Ebanos probably had more to do with the receptiveness of local people, regardless of the fact that Neufeld could not speak a word of Spanish. One of the first Mexican-American missionaries to work alongside Neufeld, Ricardo Peña, recalled that “Brother Neufeld felt that after going to all the surrounding villages, the most receptive place was Los Ebanos.” 35 Apparently, the allure of a White man and woman performing with a guitar, singing church hymns, and drawing on a chalkboard as a way to communicate their message, appealed to some in this area. The only Anglos in the area lived in Sullivan City, just to the north, where oil wells developed in the mid-1930s. However, interaction between Anglos and Mexicans remained limited here, making the Neufeld visit an oddity and curiosity that many in Los Ebanos could not resist. 36


Five months after being in Los Ebanos, Neufeld reported that seventeen people attended the first Sunday school program and that, on the second week, forty-nine people attended despite what he called, “a people over whom the enemy rules with all his strength.” 37 The reception that Neufeld received from the Catholic community was mixed. Many people, including the Catholic church, tried to run Neufeld out of the town. Several times the local priest tried to disrupt the meetings that Neufeld conducted by yelling that, “All the Catholics that are there, get out of there and come this way. You don’t belong there.” 38 Moreover, the resistance toward Neufeld that came from young Mexican-Americans in Los Ebanos, though creative and intentionally nonviolent, carried a message. Some carried firecrackers with them to the meetings and popped them while Neufeld strung his “Hawaiian” guitar, making him have to stop in frustration. In another case, someone apparently encouraged children to start playing baseball in a field adjacent to where Neufeld preached in order to encourage the new followers to play baseball instead of attending the meeting.

The Catholic church also put on several processions involving almost the entire community, right at the time Neufeld began his evangelical services. With pictures of the Virgen de Guadalupe and of a patron saint paraded out in front, followers chanted prayers and sang hymns passing directly in front of the location of the evangelical services. The Catholic church, fearing they would lose membership to the missionaries, told people in Los Ebanos that they should “drive out the missionary and his family, that [missionaries] were of the devil and had the doctrine of the devil.” 39

These small “everyday forms of resistance” reflect the variety of ways in which community members, without open rebellion, resisted MB religious encroachment. These small vignettes of resistance reveal that Mexican-Americans in Los Ebanos and surrounding villages were neither passive victims of MB evangelism nor did they present wide-ranging opposition. Instead, they responded in diverse ways that solidified both their cultural and religious autonomy. In other words, both religious and cultural symbols (patron saints, the Bible) represented the contested terrain which both groups (Anglos and Mexican-Americans) fought to maintain.

On a broad scale, the resistance that Neufeld received from the community in Los Ebanos had much to do with an earnest distrust that Mexicans had for Anglos in the area. The lack of healthy interaction between Anglos and Mexicans, primarily because of the historical precedents and the rural nature of the town, contributed to mutual suspicion between the two ethnic groups. Moreover, the tense and oppressive history of the Texas-Mexico border region created a marginal existence for Mexican-Americans who lost much of their land to Anglo colonization in the years following the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. 40

Although tensions between Mexicanos and MB missionaries never reached the point of violence, at least not physical violence, the context of White racism made the Neufelds work extra hard to prove their intentions benign. What Neufeld considered resistance to what he called “the truth,” instead embodied a movement to resist, in “everyday forms,” yet another cultural and religious infringement by Anglo Americans. 41 This is a critical point in understanding Mexican-American resistance beyond the obvious “flash points.” A more nuanced approach is able to identify the resistance in everyday forms such as “acting,” “playing baseball,” and “popping fireworks.” 42


Despite opposition, Neufeld reported that by 1940 twenty-seven Mexican-Americans had been converted and baptized. Baptisms for the newly converted were held in the Rio Grande River, and communities from both sides of the river, mostly Mexican Methodists from the village of Diaz-Ordaz, Tamaulipas, gathered to witness the event which for many signaled a cultural and religious dislocation. Among one of the first to be baptized was Ricardo Peña. Peña began working with Neufeld while still a student at La Joya high school, providing help with translation and community outreach. In 1947, Peña was appointed the first full-time Mexican-American missionary in south Texas, a significant step for MB missions. 43 But being a “full-time” missionary did not come with the same authority and decision-making power for Peña as it did for Neufeld and the newly-arrived MB missionaries, the Henry Thomas and Ruben Wedel families.

Peña also did not receive the same financial package. 44 The three MB missionary couples each received a stipend of $1,440 dollars a year ($120 a month) plus housing expenses. They received a combined total of $600 for traveling expenses, a $300 vacation allowance, and a $300 allowance for their children. This compares to the $900 dollars that Peña was being paid a year ($75 a month) with no extras for vacation, housing, or children. 45 On a number of occasions MB missionaries justified this imbalance by explaining to Peña that he was paid less because “beans, rice, and tortillas are low-cost foods as compared to the American foods that are necessary to the missionary.” 46 To make ends meet, Peña did odd jobs during the day and worked at church development mostly in the evenings.

By 1942, church buildings had been constructed in the adjacent villages of Chihuahua and Los Ebanos. The Los Ebanos building was built with lumber from a rough shack used by the U.S. army during the Tejano revolt of 1915. Above the front door of the church, painted on boards riddled with bullet holes from the revolt, it read “La Iglesia del Señor de los Hermanos Menonitas” (The Church of God of the Mennonite Brethren). 47


The onset of World War II created a stressful situation for MB missionaries. In spite of continued church growth, Neufeld reported to the 1945 annual SDC meeting that the previous year had been the most difficult for them. Apparently he became quite pessimistic and worried over how the church could continue to grow with the new “gross indifference that is taking hold of the people towards the true gospel.” 48

Neufeld argued that many families had regressed into

hopeless worship of idols in the form of saints or the Virgin Mary for fear of the loss of their boys overseas—and for others the war has brought some prosperity they could not take, and pleasure has become the byword.

Many had returned to “the dance, the bingo, the lottery, the dice, horse race, and what not.” 49


  1. Harry Neufeld, Eight Years Among Latin Americans (Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1947), 22. Since Harry Neufeld documented this conversion story, it is very probable that parts of it are exaggerated. However, I chose to use it because it is consistent with many of the conversion stories I heard throughout the interview process.
  2. For the purposes of this essay, I use Mexican-Americans and Mexicanos interchangeably when talking about the Mexican-origin population in the United States without regard to citizenship. I do so primarily because these terms best reflect how these communities identified themselves. I use Anglo or White interchangeably to talk about the MB missionaries.
  3. Much of the new work that is emerging on Mexican-American Protestantism centers on identity, race, and gender. Scholars argue that Protestantism did not erase Mexican-American culture as much as it “coalesced” with the existing culture. In the process, identity and culture are both recreated to form a religious identity. This is a growing field of inquiry. See the work of Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican-American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); Paul Barton, “In Both Worlds: A History of Hispanic Protestantism in the U.S. Southwest” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Methodist University, 1999); Francisco García-Treto and R. Douglas Brackenridge, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican-Americans in the Southwest (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 1974); Juan Martínez, “Origins and Development of Protestantism Among Latinos in the Southwestern United States, 1836-1900” (Ph.D. diss., Fuller Theological Seminary, 1996); Alfredo Náñez, History of the Rio Grande Conference of the United Methodist Church (Bridwell Library: Southern Methodist University, 1980), LRGV Special Collections; Gastón Espinosa, “Borderland Religion: Los Angeles and the Origins of the Latino Pentecostal Movement in the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico, 1900-1945” (Ph.D. diss., University of California Santa Barbara, 1999); and Arlene M. Sánchez Walsh, Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).
  4. According to studies done by Miriam Warner (1985), John H. Redekop (1987), and Juan Martínez (1988), Mennonite Brethren are an ethno-religious minority in the U.S. with Germanic and Russian roots. The fusion of ethnicity and religion defines the unique experience of the Mennonite Brethren church, which had its origins in 1860 Russia. Mennonite Brethren are part of the Anabaptist tradition, with roots in the Radical Reformation of the Sixteenth century and today consider themselves “Evangelical-Anabaptists.” In seeking to understand and identify Mennonites, several problems arise. For example, Mennonites do not easily fit under the Protestant rubric. In their theology of nonresistance, pacifism, and nonparticipation in governmental entities, they differ from their Protestant counterparts. See Miriam Warner, “Mennonite Brethren: The Maintenance of Continuity in a Religious Ethnic Group” (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1985); John H. Redekop, A People Apart: Ethnicity and the Mennonite Brethren (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred, 1987); Juan Francisco Martínez, “Ministry Among United States Hispanics by an Ethno-Religious Minority: A Mennonite Brethren Case Study” (Th.M. Thesis, School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1988); and Cornelius J. Dyck, An Introduction to Mennonite History, 3d ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1993).
  5. Ricardo Peña, interview by author, tape recording, Mission, Texas, 15 July 2003.
  6. By Protestant (or Pentecostal) I indicate non-Catholic religious affiliation. I mean Protestant in the broad sense, which is inclusive of Christian (non-Catholic groups) who practice and emphasize faith healing, lively and animated worship, and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. In this sense, Protestantism (or Pentecostalism) is not limited to traditional mainline groups (Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists), but is inclusive of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, and other “Protestant” groups. In other words, there is not a “Protestant church” or a “Pentecostal church,” but Protestantisms and Pentecostalisms that fluctuate and are a part of the religious mosaic of Mexican/Mexican-American identity in the United States and Mexico. Moreover, I do not assume that religious affiliations are fixed identities, but that people’s choices regarding where they choose to congregate have much to do with community, culture, and theological perspective to a lesser extent. In other words, becoming Protestant or Pentecostal does not necessarily mean a strict departure from a community or even from Catholicism.
  7. Southern District Conference Minutes, October 12-15, 1940, Enid, Oklahoma (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  8. In this essay I take a “constructivist” approach in analyzing and understanding Mexican-American Protestants as opposed to the “culturalist” approach. A constructivist approach takes a “bottom-up” approach which views culture as being shaped and reshaped by individual and communal experiences. “People construct their identity in an unessentialist and strategic way, depending on the context, and using elements from multiple selves.” Conversely, a culturalist perspective takes a “top-down” approach to understanding culture. In other words, culture is viewed “as a more or less fixed and autonomous complex of ideas and actions shared by members of a human group and through which they are socialized.” For more on “constructivist” and “culturalist” approaches with regards to religion, see André Droogers, “Globalisation and Pentecostal Success,” in Between Babel and Pentecost, ed. Corten and Marshall-Fratani (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001), 41-61.
  9. Juan Martínez, “Origins and Development of Protestantism,” 156-60; Náñez, History; W. A. Park, “Protestant Work in Starr County,” unpublished paper submitted to Pan American College course listing History 6300, LRGV Special Collections.
  10. Paul Barton, “In Both Worlds.”
  11. One exception is the surge of Pentecostalism which did not occur in the Southwest until the early twentieth century. This upsurge radically challenged paternalistic missionary strategies and ushered in a new era in Protestant/Pentecostal missionary activity.
  12. The fundamentalist movement advocated for a literal reading of the Bible and rejected any notion of Darwinian social theory. Fundamentalists believed in creationism and preached a message of development and modernization.
  13. At the very core of MB theology is Anabaptism (which emphasizes new birth through baptism), a communal faith, and a literal understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Lutheran Pietism, introduced to the MB by Eduard Wüest, emphasized personal conversion and commitment to God. The evangelical influence stresses the need to make disciples through foreign missions, church polity, and organization.
  14. Richard G. Kyle, From Sect to Denomination: Church Types and Their Implications for Mennonite Brethren History (Hillsboro, KS: Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, 1985); Orlando Harms, Conference in Pilgrimage: The Story of the Southern District Mennonite Brethren Conference and Its Churches (Hillsboro, KS: Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, 1992), 64.
  15. Richard Kyle, From Sect to Denomination.
  16. Peggy Goertzen, interview with author, written notes, 10 December 2003, Hillsboro, Kansas.
  17. William J. Johnson, Approved Recommendations and Resolutions of the Southern District Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives, 1989), 291.
  18. SDC Minutes, Oct. 23-26, 1937, Hillsboro, Kansas.
  19. Harms, 64.
  20. Marvin Kroeker, Comanches and Mennonites on the Oklahoma Plains (Winnipeg, MB: Kindred Productions, 1997), 13.
  21. Harms, 67.
  22. Kroeker, 49.
  23. Ibid.
  24. SDC Minutes, October 12-15, 1940, Enid, Oklahoma (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  25. Neufeld, Eight Years, 97.
  26. Harms, 43.
  27. SDC Minutes, Oct. 24-28, 1936 (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  28. SDC Minutes, Oct. 24-28, 1936.
  29. SDC Minutes, Oct. 23-26, 1937, Hillsboro, Kansas (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  30. Neufeld, Eight Years, 10-11.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid., 11-16.
  33. SDC Minutes, Oct. 22-25, 1938, Corn, Oklahoma (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives); Nañez, History, 49-54.
  34. Anna Esau, What God Has Done: The Story of the Latin American Mennonite Brethren Conference (Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1987), 13-18.
  35. Ricardo Peña interview, 15 July 2003.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Harry Neufeld, article published in Zionsbote, 25 May 1938, translated from German by Tina Hartman.
  38. Ricardo Peña interview, 15 July 2003.
  39. Neufeld, Eight Years, 78-79.
  40. Arnoldo De León, The Tejano Community, 1836-1900 (Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press, 1982), 77-78.
  41. As historian Arnoldo De León argued, “[South Texas] was a place where Tejanos could move about as Mexicans instead of Americans, if they had to—Anglo hegemony meant that Tejanos had to contend with Americanisms and that they could not at all times carry on as Mexicans” (De León, 77); For an excellent review of the historical context of racial violence in south Texas, see Benjamin H. Johnson, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003).
  42. James C. Scott argued that large movements of resistance (protests, marches, organized rebellion) are rare and only represent “flashes in the pan” in the larger scheme of “everyday” forms of resistance. In other words, understanding resistance requires that scholars move beyond the obvious in order to understand the “wars of maneuver” that make up the core of marginalized people’s experience as they survive, cope, and live in oppressive situations. See James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).
  43. Ricardo Peña interview, 15 July 2003; SDC Minutes, Oct. 24-29, 1947, Fairview, Oklahoma (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  44. Ricardo Peña interview, 15 July 2003.
  45. SDC Minutes, Oct. 25-29, 1947, Fairview, Oklahoma (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  46. Ricardo Peña interview, 15 July 2003; idem, interview with author, tape recording, 8 January 2004, Mission, Texas.
  47. “Boards Riddled by Bullets in Army-Bandit Fights Go into Construction of New Los Ebanos Church,” article published in the Christian Leader; exact date of publication and author unknown (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  48. SDC Minutes, Oct. 20-24, 1945, Buhler, Kansas (Hillsboro, Kansas, Center for MB Studies archives).
  49. Ibid.
Felipe Hinojosa is a doctoral student in U.S. History at the University of Houston, Houston, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Maribel, and baby, Samuel. His research interests include race/ethnicity, gender, Chicana/o history, and Latino religious history. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, California, in 1999, and a master’s degree in history at the University of Texas Pan American, Edinburg, Texas, in 2004.
This article is the first of two parts, to be concluded in the spring 2006 issue of Direction. This work represents part of the author’s master’s thesis which was completed in 2004 at the University of Texas Pan American.

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