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José Antonio Navarro: In Search of the American-Dream in Nineteenth-Century Texas

Book Cover Image
David McDonald (Author)
Foreword by Arnoldo De León


The first biography to appear in more than a generation on the most influential Tejano leader of the nineteenth century, José Antonio Navarro: In Search of the American Dream in Nineteenth-Century Texas fills one of the most glaring gaps in the current historical literature on Texas. The product of a lifetime of research by author David McDonald, this volume is sure to stand as the definitive treatment of Navarro’s life for decades to come. McDonald corrects many long-standing misconceptions concerning Navarro and fleshes out the details of his life in a way no author has done before.

Born in San Antonio in 1795, José Antonio Navarro lived through a tumultuous era in Texas history that saw the transitions of Texas from a Spanish colony to a Mexican state, an independent republic, an American state, a Confederate state, and an American state once again. More than just bearing witness to these events, however, José Antonio Navarro helped shape them. He served in the legislatures of Coahuila y Texas, the Republic of Texas, and the state of Texas. He was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence and a steadfast defender of the rights of all Tejanos and people of Mexican descent in Texas, ensuring at both the 1836 Consultation that created the Texas Republic and the 1845 drafting of the state constitution after annexation that political rights would not be restricted solely to those with white skin and pure European ancestry.

José Antonio Navarro: In Search of the American Dream in Nineteenth-Century Texas is more than just a political biography, however. Navarro and his family worked hard to improve their lives on the Texas frontier, starting with his father, an immigrant from the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Navarro himself was not only an influential politician, but a successful businessman and rancher. This pattern of improvement continued into the next generation of the family when Navarro’s son Ángel entered Harvard College to study law. José Antonio Navarro was an early friend of Stephen F. Austin, sharing a vision of Texas with the famed empresario in which both Tejanos and Anglos could thrive. Navarro believed that Texas was a place where peoples of all colors and backgrounds should be able to realize the American Dream.

This book has been awarded a citation by the Publications Awards Committee of the San Antonio Conservation Society (2013).

Number Two in the Watson Caufield and Mary Maxwell Arnold Republic of Texas Series
Published with the generous assistance of the Friends of Casa Navarro


David McDonald is a self-employed historian from San Antonio. He worked for twenty-three years as manager and park historian for the Casa Navarro State Historic Site. He translated and co-edited (with Timothy Matovina) Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: The Historical Writings of José Antonio Navarro. He has given numerous presentations on Navarro for various audiences, was a consultant for PBS’s American Experience, has given workshops on Spanish paleography, has publications on Refugio Mission and La Bahía demography, and investigated Spanish archives for the Texas Antiquities Committee’s ground-breaking 1554 shipwrecks project, serving as its chief translator.

Arnoldo De León is C. J. "Red" Davidson Professor of History at Angelo State University. He is the author of Racial Frontiers: Africans, Chinese, and Mexicans in Western America, 1848-1890, and Ethnicity in the Sunbelt: A History of Mexican Americans in Houston, Texas.