The Church in the Barrio

Mexican American Ethno-Catholicism in Houston

By Roberto R. Treviño

328 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 21 illus., 3 tables, 4 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5667-3
    Published: February 2006
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7731-9
    Published: December 2006
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7796-3
    Published: December 2006

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2006 T. R. Fehrenbach Book Award, Texas Historical Commission

In a story that spans from the founding of immigrant parishes in the early twentieth century to the rise of the Chicano civil rights movement in the early 1970s, Roberto R. Treviño discusses how an intertwining of ethnic identity and Catholic faith equipped Mexican Americans in Houston to overcome adversity and find a place for themselves in the Bayou City.

Houston's native-born and immigrant Mexicans alike found solidarity and sustenance in their Catholicism, a distinctive style that evolved from the blending of the religious sensibilities and practices of Spanish Christians and New World indigenous peoples. Employing church records, newspapers, family letters, mementos, and oral histories, Treviño reconstructs the history of several predominately Mexican American parishes in Houston. He explores Mexican American Catholic life from the most private and mundane, such as home altar worship and everyday speech and behavior, to the most public and dramatic, such as neighborhood processions and civil rights marches. He demonstrates how Mexican Americans' religious faith helped to mold and preserve their identity, structured family and community relationships as well as institutions, provided both spiritual and material sustenance, and girded their long quest for social justice.

About the Author

Roberto R. Treviño is associate professor of history and assistant director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington.
For more information about Roberto R. Treviño, visit the Author Page.


"Comprehensive . . . lucid and interesting . . . accessible to scholars and lay people alike. . . . It does all that a good work of scholarship should. It deserves examination from those who are interested in the ways in which minorities adapt to majorities and alter majorities in the process"--Canadian Journal of History

"Provides a welcome addition to literature on Mexican Americans and it takes a magnificent stride toward explaining the significance of religion in their lives. . . . Adds information critical to understanding the West's longstanding relationship with Mexico."--Western Historical Society

"An illuminating departure from most studies found in Chicano/a history."--Journal of Southern History

"Provides an excellent schematic for understanding the role of the Catholic Church in the Mexican American community in Houston."--Catholic Historical Review

"Makes a welcome contribution to Chicano history with [its] fine study of Catholic religious belief, practice, and institution building among Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Houston."--Journal of American History

"A well-researched study of religion as practiced by Mexican Americans, a form of religion he terms 'ethno-Catholicism'. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice