The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928


From: Journal of Social History
Volume 37, Number 2, Winter 2003
pp. 411-438 | 10.1353/jsh.2003.0169


The lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent has been largely overlooked by historians of American mob violence. This essay offers the first attempt to construct a systematic set of data on the subject. The authors contend that between 1848 and 1928, mobs lynched at least 597 Mexicans. Traditional interpretations of western violence cannot account for this phenomenon. The actual causes of mob violence against Mexicans were several-fold: race and the legacy of Anglo American expansion, economic competition, and diplomatic tensions between Mexico and the United States. Throughout this era, Mexicans formulated numerous means of resistance against Anglo mobs. These included armed self-defense, public protest, the establishment of mutual defense organizations, and appeals for aid to the Mexican government. The central aim of this essay is to broaden the scholarly discourse on lynching by moving beyond the traditional limitations of the black/white paradigm. Placing the experience of Mexicans into the history of lynching expands our understanding of the causes of mob violence and the ways in which individuals and groups sought to resist lynching and vigilantism. The essay is based on numerous archival sources in both Spanish and English. These include diaries, letters, memoirs, folk culture, newspapers, government documents, and diplomatic correspondence.

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