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José Tomás Canales (1877-1975), civil rights leader, a great-uncle of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, inducted into LULAC Hall of Fame - José Tomás Canales - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, addresses participants during the 25th Annual League of United Latin America Citizens’ (LULAC) Legislative Awards Gala, held at the Hamilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 17, 2022. The South Texas lawmaker participated in the induction of one of his great-uncles, JoséTomásCanales, into the LULAC Hall of Fame. José TomásCanales, a founder of LULAC, was a prominent civil rights leader who led the 1919 investigation into the Texas Rangers for their actions during the 1910s, in particular the massacre of 15 unarmed ethnic Mexican men and boys.



José Tomás Canales (1877-1975), civil rights leader, a great-uncle of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, inducted into LULAC Hall of Fame

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José Tomás Canales (1877-1975), a pioneer civil rights leader and a great-uncle of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, was inducted into the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Hall of Fame during ceremonies held in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 17, 2022.

A great-uncle is the brother of a great-grandparent. A great-grandparent is the mother or father of one’s grandparent.

LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.

Rep. Terry Canales will be donating the LULAC award to J.T Canales Elementary in Brownsville, named in honor of José Tomás Canales, who made Brownsville his home for many years.

José Tomás Canales, an attorney, a state representative from Cameron County (1905-1911 and 1917-1921), and a fearless champion for Mexican-American rights, gained fame on many fronts, including for leading a legislative investigation in 1919 into the Texas Rangers for their actions during the 1910s, in particular the massacre of 15 unarmed ethnic Mexican men and boys.

“José Tomás Canales was a prominent Texas-born civil rights leader who has not received the historical attention he deserves. The sad truth is that Texas history books have simply left out many of our state’s Mexican-American civil rights leaders, stealing the opportunity of our youth to learn of this turbulent history of Texas Latinos,” Rep. Terry Canales said.

His great-uncle “faced countless threats of violence, including death threats, and greatly endangered himself and his family by speaking out about the persecution of Mexican-Americans. José Tomás Canales is a true Mexican-American hero, but the history books have largely forgotten him, along with the victims of these terrible crimes and the family members of these victims,” added Rep. Terry Canales, who serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation.

For his part, Rep. Terry Canales has been a champion on a wide variety of issues which benefit all Texans, ranging from infrastructure development to criminal justice reform to the people’s right to know about the activities of their local, regional and state governments.

Rep. Terry Canales’ own efforts on civil rights in Texas include his role in fighting for the creation of an official Mexican-American studies class in Texas high schools. In addition, he has helped raise awareness for La Matanza, a period of time between 1910 and 1920 when ethnic Mexicans living on the Texas-Mexico border were targets of state-sanctioned violence.–1920

Rep. Terry Canales also has worked with a panel of professors from across the country who organized into a group called Refusing To Forget.

“History sanitized is not real history, but today we hold the pen,” the Edinburg state legislator said, emphasizing the importance of documenting the roles and contributions of Hispanic leaders in Texas and the United States. “The stories being told by organizations like the Refusing To Forget project are an important part of a much larger story about the continual struggle of Texas Latinos, who have been fighting for equal rights since the foundation of this state,” Rep. Terry Canales continued.

In February 2014, a group of professors met at the National Association of Chicano Chicana Studies Tejas Foco in San Antonio to discuss strategies for commemorating the centennial of the period of widespread, state sanctioned anti-Mexican violence on the Texas-Mexico border (1910-20).

In collaboration with Texas residents who have conducted research and maintained invaluable archives, Refusing to Forget is a multifaceted project that seeks to incite public conversations through efforts such as:

• Museum and online exhibits,
• Historical marker unveilings,
• Lectures, and
• Curricular materials for public school teachers.

Its team has worked with state institutions like The Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Texas Historical Commission. They have been published in national news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC News, as well as local outlets like The San Antonio Express-News, Austin-American Statesman, and The Houston Chronicle.

Visit In the Press to read more about the project and see other publications where they have been quoted.

Alonso S. Perales (1898-1960)

In addition to José Tomás Canales, a fellow South Texan – Alonso S. Perales – was one of six dignitaries inducted into the LULAC Hall of Fame for 2022.

Perales was a Mexican American lawyer, diplomat, and civil rights activist based in Texas.

Along with José Tomás Canales, Perales was a founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens and served as the second president, helping write its constitution. Perales also served as a diplomat in the Eisenhower administration.

1919 Canales Investigation

Much has been published throughout the state and nation about José Tomás Canales’ involvement in pursuing the truth about abuses and crimes by the Texas Rangers against Mexican-Americans, including the following highlights maintained by the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

The Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum, located in Waco, is the official historical center of the Texas Rangers, by appointment of the State of Texas.

That organization’s account of the 1919 Canales investigation follows:

By the turn of the 20th century, there was talk of abolishing the Rangers. The frontier had been tamed, and the Rangers seemed little more than a relic of earlier, more colorful times. Then came the Mexican Revolution. From 1910-1920, Mexico endured the misery of violence and civil war, and the border country of Texas was soon swept into the maelstrom.

Raids and cattle theft had been a sporadic problem along the Mexican border for decades, but in 1915, revolutionaries began to target symbols of American oppression for destruction, including farms, irrigation systems, and railroad lines. Local law enforcement could not cope with the escalating lawlessness. The Texas governor dispatched the Texas Rangers to restore order and chase the revolutionaries back to the Mexican side of the line. (The unrest spanned the terms of three governors: Oscar Colquitt, James E. “Pa” Ferguson, and William Hobby.)

Unfortunately, these Rangers wrote a black chapter in the history of their organization. Not content to police the area, they engaged in heavy-handed bullying of the Tejano population and worse. Hundreds of murders were committed on both side of the border and millions of dollars in property was destroyed.)

Some shocking atrocities were perpetrated against civilians on both sides.

In 1918, Texas state representative José Tomás Canales of Brownsville launched an investigation into the conduct of the Texas Rangers during the border wars and filed nineteen charges of misconduct against the Rangers. The following year, the Texas legislature formed a joint House-Senate committee to look into Canales’ charges. They heard testimony for two weeks.

José Tomás Canales introduced legislation, House Bill 5, which would, among other measures, limit the number of Texas Rangers to 24 officers, increase pay and professionalism (with requirements for age and prior service). It also called for Rangers to hand over prisoners to local authorities immediately, rather than detain them.

The hearings absolved the Rangers of wrongdoing although it supported findings that there were “gross violation of both civil and criminal laws.” As a result of the investigation the Texas Rangers were reduced in force. Higher recruiting standards were put in place, and the pay of Rangers was increased to attract and retain higher-quality officers. Finally, procedures were implemented to better hear complaints from citizens about misconduct.

The entire transcript of the 1919 Ranger investigation (almost 1500 pages) is now available in PDF format.

Volume 1 (638 pages, 111 Mb)
Volume 2 (460 pages, 85.2 Mb)
Volume 3 (400 pages, 92.5 Mb)

Texas House of Representatives in 2019 honors José TomásCanales

In 2019, the House Resolution 140, authored by Rep. Terry Canales, the Texas House of Representatives paid tribute to José Tomás Canales, providing a summary of his life, and honoring the 100th anniversary of the legislative investigation named after him.

A resolution is a formal expression of recognition, opinion, or decision, other than a proposed law, that may be offered for approval to one or both chambers of the legislature by a member of the House of Representatives or Senate.

As the author 0f House Resolution 140, Rep. Terry Canales is the legislator who filed the measure and guided it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).

House Resolution 140, passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, January 31, 2019, follows:

WHEREAS, The life and achievements of the Honorable José Tomás Canales, a former state representative and civil rights trailblazer, are being honored on the 100th anniversary of his landmark 1919 investigation of the Texas Rangers; and

WHEREAS, Born into a prominent Nueces County ranching family in 1877, José Tomás Canales earned his law degree from the University of Michigan; from 1900 to 1903, he practiced in Corpus Christi and
Laredo before settling in Brownsville, where he spent the next two decades as a lawyer and a public official; and

WHEREAS, In addition to serving as superintendent of the Cameron County public schools and as a county judge, Mr. (José Tomás) Canales spent five terms as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, holding office from 1905 to 1911 and from 1917 to 1921; the only Hispanic state representative at the time, he provided an important voice for the diverse populations living in the Lower Rio Grande Valley; and

WHEREAS, One of Representative (José Tomás) Canales’ most notable accomplishments was his 1919 investigation into the Texas Rangers for their actions during the 1910s, in particular the massacre of 15 unarmed ethnic Mexican men and boys; the Canales Investigation, as it became known, shined a light on the excessive violence carried out by the Rangers against residents of Mexican descent, which resulted in as many as 5,000 deaths between 1914 and 1919; though he faced opposition and death threats for his efforts, Representative (José Tomás) Canales outlined numerous instances of misconduct by members of the law enforcement agency, and the investigation ultimately resulted in the force being reorganized and reduced in number; and

WHEREAS, Representative (José Tomás) Canales decided not to seek reelection in 1920 and retired from state office, but he remained active in Hispanic civil rights initiatives; he was integral to the founding of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and he served as Brownsville city attorney and chaired the Texas Council on Human Rights; a lifelong believer in the importance of accessible, high quality education, he wrote numerous articles and books about Mexican American history and the development of South Texas; he passed away in Brownsville on March 30, 1976, at the age of 99; and

WHEREAS, (José Tomás) Canales was a pioneering figure in the struggle for social justice in the Lone Star State, and his vision and leadership remain a continuing source of inspiration; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 86th Texas Legislature hereby pay tribute to the legacy of José Tomás Canales and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Canales Investigation.

More information on José Tomás Canales and the world in which he lived is available online at:

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

José Tomás Canales was very active and influential in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). He was present during LULAC’s founding meeting in 1929 and contributed to writing its constitution. He also served as president in 1932.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum

An exhibit about life and death on the border from 1910-1920.

J.T. Canales Estate Collection: Texas A&M University- South Texas Archives

Hispanics in Government: The Tejano Struggle for Representationé_Tomás_Canales


José Silva of McAllen and Nataly Jepson of Dallas are the first two individuals to be accepted into Fellowship Program being sponsored by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce.

The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, located in Buda, Texas, is a nonprofit 501 (c) 6 organization founded in 1975 to promote business leadership, create economic opportunities and provide legislative advocacy for the Hispanic business community in Texas.

In general, fellowships are monetary awards that are given to scholars to help provide funding for their education. Usually, fellowships:

• Are short-term opportunities that last anywhere from a few months to a few years.
• Focus on the fellow’s professional field of study.
• Are sponsored by an organization with an interest in advancing the field.

Since its incorporation, the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, has grown into the most active state Hispanic association in the country which focuses on Legislative Advocacy, Procurement Programs, Training and Development of its members and Hispanic businesses in Texas, according to its website.

With a membership of more than 15,000 business, it is the leading advocate for over 700,000 Hispanic owned businesses in Texas.

Both Silva and Jepson graduated from Texas State University in mid-May 2022 and started their fellowships with the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce prior to their graduation ceremonies.

Silva studied Applied Sociology with a concentration on Latino/a studies, and he will be attending The University of Texas in Austin in Fall 2022 to start a master’s degree.

Jepsen has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Diversity Studies.

“We are thrilled to have two extraordinary graduates who believe in TAMACC’s mission and have a passion to serve the Hispanic community,” said Pauline E. Anton, President, Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce.

A biographical sketch of Silva and Jepson follows:

José Silva

José Silva was born and raised in McAllen. Like many immigrant families, his family made a living as migrant workers who traveled all over the U.S. picking fruits and vegetables. His family’s hard work and Silva’s bicultural upbringing along the Texas and Mexico border instilled in José a thirst for knowledge and a desire to be of service to others.

Silva graduated in May 2022 from Texas State University in San Marcos, where he studied Applied Sociology with a concentration on Latino/a studies. In his time at Texas State University, Silva was involved with numerous student organizations and led several research projects focused on the Latino community.

One of his most notable experiences as an undergraduate was interning in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen.

Silva is affiliated with various policy and scholar groups such as the Public Policy and International Affairs, Junior Summer Institute, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and the Terry Foundation.

Silva plans to apply his skills and experiences to the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce’s mission and programs of work that benefit the Latino business community.

Nataly Jepsen

Nataly Jepsen is a native of Dallas.

She considers herself a lifelong learner and a naturally curious individual who likes to really understand the world around her.

Jepsen graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Diversity Studies.

Jepsen has always believed in the power of service, especially to the people that need it most. During the past few years, she has volunteered with the Early Travis High School Spanish Department, where she helped high school students with their Spanish classes.

Jepsen has also volunteered for the Habitat for Humanity Foundation, an organization that builds and gives homes to families in need.

Jepsen is an outspoken advocate for the Hispanic Community and is dedicated to giving a voice to those that need it most. Recognizing the importance of Hispanic business and entrepreneurship in Texas and the economy, Jepsen is appreciative to have the opportunity to work with an organization like the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce.

More information about the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce is available online at:


Curtis Smith contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (

Titans of the Texas Legislature

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