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SEPTEMBER 17, 2010 Crossing the Snake by David Montejano Y TWO MAJOR WORKS-ANGLOS and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1936-1986 and its sequel, Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981resonate with questions that grew up with me. Behind both works is my desire to under stand the rise and fall of segregation in San Antonio and South Texas. To a child in 1950s San Antonio, the segregation of Anglo, black and Mexican seemed like a natural division. I grew up in a West Side neighborhood in the Edgewood School District, one of the poorest in the state and later famous for its successful legal challenge of state education finance. My neighborhood was a poor, working-class enclave bracketed by poorer neighborhoods on three sides. Like much of the West Side, my barrio experienced annual floods and periodic gang violence. Menchaca Courts, a public housing project and base for the local youth gang, was a few blocks away. As adolescents, my brother and sister and I had a few run-ins consisting of rockthrowing and verbal insults with the young pachucos of Menchaca Courts. On the fourth side, across a wide thoroughfare, was the middle-class, Anglo North Side. The avenue was Culebra, meaning “snake,” an appropriate name for the line between Anglo and Mexican. I recall as much tension crossing Culebra and walking through the white neighborhood as when walking by Menchaca Courts. My working-class neighborhood afforded views of economic contrast: a checkered pattern within the neighborhood as many families struggled to make ends meet, obvious poverty close byand across the asphalt boundary of Culebra, what seemed like affluence. In a curious way, my writing reflects this neighborhood perspective. Some 20 years ago, with Anglos and Mexicans, I addressed the racial boundary represented by Culebra Avenue. I wanted to unlock the mystery of segregation. Neither sociology nor history had much to say about this mystery back then. At the time, Texas history was dominated by the likes of Walter Prescott Webb and J. Frank Dobie. If Mexicans showed up in history texts, they usually made cameo appearances as bandits, criminals or immigrants. The absence of serious treatment had fostered a popular amnesia about the Southwest and its long Mexican presence. There was no sense of contradiction in “remembering the Alamo” and portraying Mexicans as immigrants. Prominent scholarssee Peter Skerry, Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority, or Samuel Huntington, Who Are We?have even questioned whether Mexicans THE TEXAS OBSERVER ; 19