Fortunately for me, Mississippi’s most prominent Mexican activist in the 1920s-30s had an unusual name: Rafael Landrove. Because his name was unusual, I was able to learn lots about his background from genealogical records, which I recount in Chapter 2. I found his U.S. records on ancestry.com but for the Mexican records I had to travel to his hometown of Lampazos de Naranjo, in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Other records were available at the state archives in Monterrey.
While I learned a lot about the Landrove family from various birth records, I did not think to look for his parents’ marriage record. In the past few days, ancestry.com has launched a new database of Mexican genealogical records, and its use has been free over the weekend through tomorrow (Nov. 2); if this had been available years ago, I would not have had to travel to Lampazos or Monterrey at all.
I argue in Chapter 2 that Landrove was class-conscious above all and sought to deliberately distance himself from the racially denigrated “Mexican” category by falsely telling a Census enumerator his parents were Cuban. Now, the new Ancestry site popped up Landrove’s parents’ marriage record which yields new and intriguing insights into his outlook and background. The marriage record shows that Rafael’s father Rafael Landrove, age 29 at marriage, was born in Barcelona, Spain and was the son of a doctor who continued to reside there. Mother Petra, age 15 at marriage, had a very different background: she hailed from Lampazos where her father was a day laborer.
While the Landrove siblings’ frustration with the unfulfilled promises of late Porfirian Mexico were typical for their generation, one wonders if their financial struggles might have felt still more bitter in light of the family’s elite background on their father’s side. For Rafael the son, crossing the border to Texas and advocating for Mexicans’ rights in Mississippi may then have felt like a series of attempts to reclaim lost economic and social ground.
Of course, none of this explains why Landrove told the Census enumerator his parents were Cuban — was Spanish parentage not enough to de-Mexicanize himself?