REMEMBER THE ALAMO/THE SOUTH SHALL RISE AGAIN
My novels come from my experience growing up in the Texas Panhandle in the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s. This was during and after World War II, during and after the Korean War, before the Civil Rights Movement, and before Vietnam.
When I was growing up, there were two underlying cultural influences in Texas: the Alamo and Appomattox—the memory of the War with Mexico, and the memory of the War Between the States (the American Civil War).
“Mexicans” were suspect, if not quite the enemy. And “Mexican” meant anyone who spoke Spanish and had any recognizable Indian trait. “Colored People,” on the other hand, were more than suspect—they were always seen as a threat to the Southern Way of Life, which in effect meant white superiority and white rule.
And so my town, Amarillo, had three parts to it: “Mexican Town,” “Colored Town,” and the rest of town, where the white people like me lived. Segregation was absolute—and natural … like breathing air or looking up at the sky.
The very thought of my having a personal friend from the other side of the tracks was unthinkable. And the thought of my having a girlfriend who was not white—was inconceivable. I was not aware that intermarriage between whites and persons of another race was indeed unlawful. No matter! … It was inconceivable. … And segregation was designed to make it impossible for me to come into personal contact with a “Mexican” girl or a “Colored” girl.
I was brought up to “Remember the Alamo!” That is, to remember what “Mexicans” are capable of, if they are not always watched carefully and are not kept over in their part of town. And I was brought up in the firm belief that “The South Shall Rise Again!” That is, the Klan was needed to make sure that “Colored Folks” always remembered their place, which was on the other side of town and in the kinds of work assigned to them, which was whatever white people considered beneath them.
Then I committed the culturally unpardonable: I fell in love with a woman who was not of my race … who was “Mexican.” How that happened, I still can’t explain. But it did. And as a result, I had to go into exile—emigrate … leave … go to California. And never come back.
So the romance stories in my novels come from my experience growing up in the Texas Panhandle during that strange era—when the world was still culturally and legally divided up into White, “Mexican,” and “Colored.”