Stories from the Barrio

A History of Mexican Fort Worth

978-0-87565-290-0 Paperback
0 x 0 x 0
240 pp. 60 b&w photos., 1 map.
Pub Date: 05/25/2004
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Stories from the Barrio offers a new look at the history of Fort Worth. In his search to discover the roots of the Hispanic community, Carlos E. Cuéllar was surprised to discover the lack of historical documentation of the rise of the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the city. “People of Mexican descent have traditionally been considered an invisible people, largely undocumented, as if unworthy of notice,” he writes. But the history of this forgotten people—from the stories of early Mexicanos escaping hardships and terrors of the Mexican Revolution, to the attempts of second generation Mexican Americans to assimilate, to the political voice and freedoms secured by the Chicano generation—belies any thought of unworthiness.

Sprinkled among analyses of census data, city directory entries, and newspaper articles are fascinating interviews with surviving relatives of the first Mexicanos, recording their early history in Fort Worth. Cuéllar traces patterns of migration and explores early areas of settlement—the barrios near the major sources of employment: meatpacking plants along the Chisholm Trail. He considers the skills these pioneers brought to the new land, their emigration ordeals, their struggle to make a living, and the pressures and joys of settlement.

Second generation Mexican Americans experienced a clash of cultures between traditional Mexican mores and increasingly commercial American values. For some this conflict was so profound that they rejected their heritage and language, later to regret these efforts to assimilate so completely. Cuéllar follows the rise of an entrepreneurial class among Mexican Americans through interviews with leading Hispanic business owners of Fort Worth. Those who served their country in World War II came home determined to change the landscape of the city, only to be met with racism.

Children of Mexican Americans openly flouted prevailing conventions and became part of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Chicanos promulgated pride in heritage, language, and culture and were responsible for social change that, for the first time, acknowledged that Fort Worth culture was not only white Anglo. Cuéllar examines the struggle of Hispanic individuals aspiring to public office: how people of Mexican descent came to serve on the school board, on the City Council, and in other heretofore white bastions of power and influence.

Fort Worth Hispanics have struggled to make their communities, and their larger world, better. Cuéllar’s Stories from the Barrio is the first attempt to examine the process, the people, and their history, thus paving the way for further research into Fort Worth’s diverse past, as well as that of many other cities.

Published by Texas Christian University Press