From South Texas to the Nation

The Exploitation of Mexican Labor in the Twentieth Century

By John Weber

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 5 halftones, 4 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4557-5
    Published: August 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2523-2
    Published: October 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2524-9
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4860-4
    Published: August 2015

David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2015 Weber-Clements Prize, Western History Association

In the early years of the twentieth century, newcomer farmers and migrant Mexicans forged a new world in South Texas. In just a decade, this vast region, previously considered too isolated and desolate for large-scale agriculture, became one of the United States' most lucrative farming regions and one of its worst places to work. By encouraging mass migration from Mexico, paying low wages, selectively enforcing immigration restrictions, toppling older political arrangements, and periodically immobilizing the workforce, growers created a system of labor controls unique in its levels of exploitation.

Ethnic Mexican residents of South Texas fought back by organizing and by leaving, migrating to destinations around the United States where employers eagerly hired them--and continued to exploit them. In From South Texas to the Nation, John Weber reinterprets the United States' record on human and labor rights. This important book illuminates the way in which South Texas pioneered the low-wage, insecure, migration-dependent labor system on which so many industries continue to depend.

Published with support provided by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas

About the Author

John Weber is associate professor of history at Old Dominion University.
For more information about John Weber, visit the Author Page.


"Texas finally finds its Victor Hugo and John Steinbeck--in the halls of the academy."--Texas Monthly

“Contributes to understanding the histories of labor and racial relations in Texas, the Mexican American world, and the US.”--Choice

“Turns a penetrating historical eye on the cultural heritage of South Texas.”--Austin American-Statesman

“Unquestionably deserves a wide readership. . . . Weber’s analysis [is] useful and perhaps indispensable.”--Texas Books in Review

“To understand, from a historical perspective, why comprehensive immigration reform is a dishonest possibility, From South Texas to the Nation is a must read.”--Western Historical Quarterly

“[An] innovative and much-needed examination of south Texas norms. . . . Essential reading for anyone interested in the study of work and workers in the United States, guest worker programs, Chicano history, immigrant and Mexican American rights, and the study of Mexican American culture in the borderlands.”—Journal of American History