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R. Douglas Brackenridge

MEXICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANS. Presbyterian missionary efforts among the Mexican-American population of Texas in the nineteenth century were motivated primarily by a desire to "Americanize" and assimilate the Spanish-speaking into the culture of the newly arrived American immigrants and influenced by a strong anti-Catholic prejudice. As early as 1830, a few missionaries individually distributed Spanish tracts and Bibles and opened small schools to promote the cause of Protestant Christianity. Before the Civil War only four Presbyterians, Sumner Bacon, William C. Blair, John McCullough, and Melinda Rankin, engaged in this informal missionary activity. The initial formal missionary work was conducted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) in the 1870s. The first Mexican Presbyterian congregation in the territorial bounds of Texas was organized in Brownsville in 1877. This congregation maintained its ties with the Presbytery of Tamaulipas in Mexico, however, and is now affiliated with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. The first organization that had no formal connection with Mexico resulted from the ministry of José María Botello, whose evangelistic preaching was instrumental in the formation of the San Marcos Mexican Presbyterian Church (now Memorial Presbyterian Church) on November 2, 1887. In 1892 the Presbytery of Western Texas appointed Walter S. Scott as "evangelist to the Mexican people." His work, along with that of Henry B. Pratt and Robert D. Campbell, ushered in an era of rapid development of small churches located primarily in Southwest Texas. By 1902, 618 Mexican-American Presbyterians had eleven organized churches and Sunday schools.

In 1908 the Synod of Texas established the Texas-Mexican Presbytery, which included seventeen churches with an average membership of twenty-three communicants. This judicatory served as the focal point of missionary work among Mexican Americans in Texas until its dissolution in 1955, when the Mexican-American congregations were integrated into existing presbyteries. In the early twentieth century the Synod of Texas also sponsored the Texas Mexican Industrial Institute for boys in Kingsville (1912) and the Presbyterian School for Mexican Girls in Taft (1924). The two schools merged in 1956 to form the Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville. In addition, the synod supported a Spanish department for Mexican-American students at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 1921 until 1954, when the theological program became fully integrated. After the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Northern) entered the missionary field in Texas by establishing churches in San Antonio, El Paso, and San Angelo. It opened several institutions called the House of Neighborly Service, in which resident social workers taught English, personal hygiene, and various domestic skills. Workers utilized these contacts to form small congregations, primarily in large urban centers. In the 1980s in the Synod of the Sun of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) there were thirty-six Hispanic congregations with more than 2,500 members and twenty-six Hispanic pastors.


Robert Douglas Brackenridge and Francisco O. García-Treto, Iglesia Presbiteriana: A History of Presbyterians and Mexican Americans in the Southwest (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974; 2d ed. 1987).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, R. Douglas Brackenridge, "MEXICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANS," accessed August 06, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ipmty.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on June 26, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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