Episode 381: Martha Menchaca, Texas in the Spanish Empire

Book Cover of The Mexican American Experience in Texas; Citizenship, Segregation and the Struggle for Equality by Martha Menchaca The vast and varied landscapes of Texas loom large in our American imaginations. As does Texas culture with its BBQ, cowboys, and larger-than-life personality. But before Texas was a place that embraced ranching, space flight, and country music, Texas was a place with rich and vibrant Indigenous traditions, and with Spanish and Mexican cultures and traditions.

Martha Menchaca, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin, is a scholar of Texas history and United States-Mexican culture. She joins us to explore the Spanish and Mexican origins of Texas with details from her book, The Mexican American Experience in Texas: Citizenship, Segregation, and the Struggle for Equality.

Feature Image: “Mission Espada Church”, NPS Photo

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

Headshot of Martha MenchacaMartha Menchaca, is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin. She’s a specialist in the history of Texas and U.S./Mexican culture. She’s also the author of numerous books on these topics, including her most recent book, The Mexican American Experience in Texas: Citizenship, Segregation, and the Struggle for Equality.

During our investigation of early Texas, Martha reveals details about the fall of the Mexica (or Aztec) Empire in 1521 and how the fall of this empire enabled the Spanish to begin their colonization of North America; Information about the strong Indigenous resistance the Spanish faced and how it took them more than 70 years to establish colonies in what is today northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest; And the Spanish settlement of Texas and how the establishment of Texas as a colony fit within the larger goals and contexts of the Spanish Empire, the history of Mexico, and the history of the United States.

What You’ll Discover

• Mexican Americans’ social and economic experiences in Texas
• The Indigenous city of Tenochtitlán
• Early Spanish and North American interest in Mexico
• Apache, Pueblo, and Comanche communities
• Impact of Spanish legal system during colonial era in Mexico
• Early Mexican caste system
• Mexico Independence
• Settlement of the Independent Republic of Texas
• Slavery in Mexico and Texas
• Texas joining the United States as the 28th state

Links to People, Places, and Publications

Martha Menchaca
• Martha Menchaca,  The Mexican American Experience in Texas: Citizenship, Segregation, and the Struggle for Equality
Texas State Library and Archives

Sponsor Links

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Complementary Episodes

Episode 037: Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution
Episode 115: Andrew Torget, The Early American History of Texas
Episode 178, Karoline Cook, Muslims & Moriscos in Colonial Spanish America
Episode 241: Molly Warsh, Pearls & the Nature of the Spanish Empire
Episode 334, Brandon Bayne, Missions and Mission Building in New Spain
Episode 358: Charles Tingley, St Augustine and Early Florida
Episode 371: Estevan Rael-Gálvez, An Archive of Indigenous Slavery

Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Texans had decided to abolish slavery and remain part of Mexico? How might the histories of Texas, Mexico, and the United States be different today?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions

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