Photo by Max Sulik on Unsplash


If you are an American of Mexican descent and were born in West Texas in the early part of the 1950’s, here’s a few things we might have in common. 

By Abel Cruz 

We might have lived in substandard housing supplied by the white farmer while our parents and older siblings worked his land, a barrio, a labor camp, or in a neighborhood mostly segregated from the white or Anglo parts of town. Most of us were labeled as being “Mexicanos” and “pobres”.


Many of our parents had immigrated from Mexico, but not all. Many had been born in this country and were migrant agricultural workers who moved from town to town, state to state during the summer months or harvest season, eventually settling down in one of those towns and looking for more stable work in construction, manual labor jobs, or perhaps in a cotton gin, or cotton compress.


Here’s a few more similarities: If your parents were no longer migrating, you were enrolled in the first grade sometime around the late 50’s. Shortly after starting public school, some names were changed from Jorge to George, from Juan to John, from Maria to Mary, Alberto to Albert, and so on. The first time we spoke Spanish, the teacher took notice and admonished us, told us that we were in America now, implying that we were not born here, and we should speak English only. The fact that we were born in America was one of those facts that was never mentioned or reinforced by the teachers.   

As we got older, many of us continued working in the fields in the summer, chopping away at those weeds with our “azadon”, before the weeds suffocated the cotton plants. And the white farmer, “el viejo” as we all called him, was always lurking, making sure we kept chopping and moving, chopping, and moving…


We listened to Tejano and Norteno music and drank water from the communal water jug tied to the “troqueros” pickup truck. The cotton rows were called “surcos”, and on some days, the heat along with the endless rows of cotton plants was unbearable. But we did what we had to do in order to survive. 


By virtue of being born a different skin color with a Spanish surname, we were tagged as Mexicans, wetbacks, illegals, illegal aliens, greasers, beaners, etc. That is a strong indication that we were seen as anything but what we really were, which is American.  

Prior to our entry into the American public school system though, we hadn’t really noticed that we were different because we all looked like each other in the barrios or wherever we lived. At home, we called each other by our given name or nickname, mixing Spanish with the little English we were starting to learn either from our older siblings or neighborhood kids. We spoke “chuco”, slang words that we picked up from the older “batos”. 


So, you’re probably wondering why this matters? Aside from our personal history and experiences, which are invaluable and part of who we are, our social, cultural, and chronological history may be just as important.


The social and cultural history we share is what I call our common bonds. Those shared bonds are how we are viewed and treated by the larger society we live in. And they also form our attitudes and beliefs when it comes to our work life, our civic life, and at times even determine whether we succeed or fail in certain areas of our lives. 

Starting this week, it’s my pleasure to announce that I will be writing a monthly column for Hola Texas called “Our Common Bonds”. 


My mission will be to inform and enlighten readers about our history, both from a historical event, and social perspective. But also, how that history has shaped who we are as Mexican Americans, or Chicanos, if you prefer that label, as I do. 

I plan to explore and write about historical events like the Mexican American War which began in 1846, the Treaty of Hidalgo, its implications and broken promises, the American political ploy called Manifest Destiny, in which God was used by American politicians and President James K. Polk, to steal land from Native Americans and Mexico.


And also, about our recent history like the Chicano Movement and the Raza Unida era. I’ll also write about our real history, our customs, and our traditions.  

History can be boring sometimes, but I’ll do my best to keep you engaged and hopefully we’ll all learn some things that we didn’t know before and how they can still add value to our present lives. I sincerely hope you’ll join me. 

Hasta la proxima!

Our Common Bonds is a monthly opinion and commentary column written by Abel Cruz. He is a freelance writer, and the opinions expressed in his column are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Hola Texas, its Publisher, Advertisers, or anyone else associated with Hola Texas. 

The writer can be contacted via email at


(We all have a personal history growing up Hola invites to share your story with us)

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