As a native South Texan I grew up pretty much knowing the history of South Texas with all its blood and gore.

Felix Alvarado



What I knew about South Texas seemed to be out of sync with what I saw in North Texas.  There seemed to be something different about the history of the Mexican-American in North Texas.  Something was missing.  Somehow, the dots were not connecting.  South Texas had a vaquero culture.  There was no vaquero culture in North Texas.  The two most prevalent reasons cited for the presence of Mexicans in North Texas were the Mexican Revolution and agriculture, specifically picking cotton.  To me, neither one of these assertions was credible.

Books that told of the Mexican-American experience in North Texas told of the exploits of a few individuals that got a piece of the American Pie but they did not tell the story of the many others that contributed to the success of the few.  These tales were also after the fact.  None told the story of how Mexicans got to North Texas.  These stories were in a way modern novels.


The story of how Mexicans came to North Texas began to unravel at Garza’s Barbershop on Singleton Blvd in West Dallas.  Little parts of the puzzle started to come together.  The first day I visited Garza’s Barbershop there was a lot of chatter about life on Singleton Blvd back in the 40’s and 50’s.  It was a rough place.  Bonnie and Clyde were the two most notorious citizens of Singleton Blvd.  Shootings, knifings and beatings enough to make a blockbuster mobster movie.  This was the Wild West gone completely wild.  Must have kept the police busy actually the police would not get involved.  These stories were told with a lot of pride.  As if those telling the stories were reliving the past right in front of them in living color.  In here amid the glamor of Bonnie and Clyde was the birth of the barrio in Dallas. 

Henry, the barbershop owner referred me to two gentlemen that had stories to tell.  One was Tony Gonzalez a WWII veteran and the other one was Henry Martinez a descendent of one of the cement workers in Cement City.  

The gentlemen did not disappoint.  Tony Gonzalez was a WWII veteran.  He was a point man with the 3d Infantry Division in Germany in the latter stages of the war.  This was the Audie Murphy division.  As the lead man he was the first to go into combat and the first one to go into any place.  As point man he was the first to enter the Jewish concentration camps.  We read about the holocaust, he lived it.  His trophy case includes an ancient M1 a reminder of a bygone era.  Somehow we credit generals too much for winning wars.  At over 90 years of age he maintains himself well physically and mentally.  He is a source of pride to us Mexican-Americans.  

Henry Martinez provided the spark that was needed to uncover the untold history of the arrival of Mexicans to North Texas and it began with the story of Cement City.  By documenting the story of the arrival of his family from Mexico he removed conjecture as a motive.  Many of the details have been lost to history and the only documentation left is what he posted in a historical marker and a stone monument on Cockrell Hill Road in Oak Cliff.  I recall seeing the stone marker at the entrance to Singleton from Loop 12.  I also recall the statute of Ignacio Zaragoza, the Tejano general hero of the Cinco de Mayo, and asked myself how it got there.  The United Farm Worker’s eagle stands as a testament to thousands of Mexicans that came to North Texas and planted their roots in their new homeland.  North Texas became their new “casita.”

The journey started at Garza’s Barbershop.  The journey took me to Bridgeport, Thurber, Strawn, Lyra and several other places.  Several times.  I was driven to uncover our Mexican roots.  In the forthcoming book I will tell the history of the first Mexican-Americans in North Texas. They truly took giant steps.

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