History

  • Abilene Barrios
  • Barrio Los Sancudos: In the early 1910s Hispanics began to settle in Abilene in pursue of jobs, to get away from the impoverished Old Mexico or from Pancho Villa's Revolution. The area of Abilene where they settled was between North 2nd and North 7th Streets and N. Treadaway and Bois D'Arc Street. The area became known as "El Barrio Los Sancudos" after the pesky insects that breed in the nearby creek.
  • Barrio de La Culebra: As the Hispanic population in Abilene began to grow and the old barrio began to push eastward, a new barrio was formed in the Goodlow area, located southeast of Abilene. This area was later uprooted due to frequent flooding in the area.
  • Barrio del Penjamo: In the 1950's this barrio srpung up in the Sears Park area. The barrio was named after a popular song at the time and an outdoor club owned by Manuel Ramirez. The club was actually a slab of concrete behind his home where he held dances.
  • Barrio de Los Sapos: Hispanics living in the city's northern Impart area resided in this barrio, whose name means "neighborhood of the frogs". The area flooded often and frogs were found in the resident's backyards. The Impact area was later incorporated to Impact, Texas.
  • There were other pockets of Hispanics living in other areas of the city but these smaller areas had no known names. All of the barrios, exept for "La Culebra", still exist and Hispanics, including the family members from the original Hispanic settlers in Abilene, have integrated into all sections of Abilene.
  • Based on Hispanics in Abilene by Abilene Reporter News. adapted for HispanicAbilene.com.
            • Sam Houston School
            • From its earliest days, education for Mexican Americans in Texas has varied from none at all to apparent equality. The Republic of Texas in 1839 and 1840 established laws governing a system of schools. As these institutions took shape, Mexican American students often were segregated, encountering racial, social and economic discrimination, ideological differences and political tensions. Private and parochial schools, in addition to the public schools attended by Anglos, served Mexican Americans in Abilene until the turn of the 20th century. By 1910 a public school was established specifically for Mexican American children in grades one through six. An "Americanization" school opened in 1920; it was relocated to 541 North 8th Street in 1936 and remained in operation until 1948. Facilities for Mexican American children in Texas cities like Abilene often were inferior to those maintained for Anglos; equipment and materials were substandard. Some Mexican American students in Abilene attended the Anglo schools closest to their homes. Sam Houston School opened in 1949 and served Mexican American students until 1979. Mexican American students from this neighborhood attended integrated elementary schools. Attitudes and philosophy began to change in the late 20th century as Abilenians of Mexican American descent achieved higher levels of education and became active participants in community life, and other Abilenians became aware of the vital importance of Texas' diverse heritage. Sam Houston School became a district-wide student achievement center in 1979. (1999)
            • Hispanic Baby Boomers
            • On the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the era of the Baby Boomers (those persons born between 1946-1964) it is also an opportunity to reflect on Hispanics growing up in West Texas in the late 40s, 50s through the mid 1960s. Hispanic baby boomers were truly exposed to the beginning of the bi-cultural society that we know today.
              Before getting into the experiences of the Hispanic baby boomers during the time mentioned, I would like to briefly explain the conditions of the Hispanics prior to the end of World War II in West Texas. The parents of the baby boomers were mainly unskilled to semi-skilled workers with little or no education. Most lived in the rural communities where they labored in the fields along with their parents to make a living. Those that lived in the cities also worked in unskilled labor jobs for minimal salaries. Like all cities of the time, they lived in designated "barrios" that consisted of self built or relocated homes without most indoor facilities. In the barrios, they lived in a close society influenced by the Mexican traditions of their parents. Outside of the perimeters of the city barrios, they experienced a different society. They lived in a semi-segregated environment. Services were limited to the Mexican-Americans. Within the barrios sprang up mom and pop restaurants, barber shops and general stores. Public schools were available, but due to the need of helping to provide at home, for the most part, most of the Hispanic baby boomers' parents only attended the elementary grades. There was not much focus from their parents to pursue an education. At the start of World War II, up to 1945, those men old enough to join the military, went off to fight the war.
              At the end of WWII, the Hispanic men returned home to the same semi-segregated environment. Those that took advantage of the G. I. educational benefits, still found that social attitudes toward minorities would keep them from advanced opportunities. They hoped that their sons and daughters would help to tear down the barriers that existed.
              The Hispanic baby boomers inherited the Mexican culture in their homes, but also with the introduction of a new home appliance called television, the bi-cultural influence now began to enter the Hispanics homes more than ever before. With exclusive English speaking programming and very little or no Hispanic radio stations, Hispanic baby boomers began to speak the English language at a much younger age. By the 1950's, when they began to enter grade schools, the English language was not much of a barrier, but sitting next to Anglos in the same class room, still reminded them that they were in the minority and that their culture at home was different.
              With the rock 'n roll era, the music had a tremendous influence on the Hispanic baby boomers. Supervised and unsupervised weekend party gatherings sprang up in the homes.
              The parents of the baby boomers began to be more permissive. Peer groups also influenced the gatherings at drive-in soda shops and drive-in movies. By the 1960s, the Hispanic baby boomers had begun to have a more multi-culture influence at home. Although parents still struggled to have the necessities at home, the school environment took on more emphasis. Rather than dropping out to help their parents at an early age, they continued their education on to the 9th or 10th grade of high school. By the mid 1960s, Hispanics graduating from high school began to show an increase.
              Reasons for these Hispanic students dropping out of high school had changed. They now dropped out to pursue unskilled jobs, to provide for their own young families or simply because they did not have much interest in finishing school. Finishing school was not a priority at home because their parents did not comprehend the importance of an education. Those that did finish high school probably had parents who reasoned that their sons and daughters needed a more promising future. Hispanic baby boomers still needed to help provide at home, but their parents also focused on education to get them out of the cycle of proverty.
              The Hispanic baby boomers that went on to higher education to earn their certifications, licenses, and college degrees were influenced at home with strong family values. They were for the most part, first generation college graduates in their families. These Hispanics would develop into role models for the sons and daughters of the Hispanic baby boomers.
              By the 1970s , Hispanics would start to influence the American culture. National fast food chains would spring up nationwide selling Mexican food. More Hispanic entertainers became prominent with their cross-over Latin music. In addition, Tex-Mex bands and conjuntos that played the dance halls in West Texas would include pop music, much to the delight of Hispanic baby boomers. Mexican celebrations, such as 16 de Septiembre and Cinco de Mayo, became promotional marketing days for business merchants.
              With more and more Hispanics registering to vote in the southwest, they would elect hispanic mayors, city and county officials and representatives to the U.S. Congress in larger numbers. Hispanics as a group could no longer be ignored as a powerful political force.
              As the Hispanic baby boomers reached middle age, they have found a different world from the one their parents entered at the same age. Hispanic grandparents now have to speak more English at home if they want to communicate with their English-speaking grandchildren. The Hispanic baby boomers have been ready to watch their children play baseball, soccer, or basketball. They have been willing to visit with little Johnny's teachers about their progress at school. Their influence has had an impact that has brought more of the melting pot into their homes. They know that their sons and daughters have an equal opportunity to take advantage of the American dream. if they are willing to work for it. They strive to keep family values, the Mexican culture, and traditions at the top of their priority list.

            • by Mike P. Hernandez, July 1996. Revised April 2001. Contributing Editor Ms. Lydia Ortiz, Retired School Teacher