The Visual and Verbal Representation of Mexico: A Content Analysis of United States Geography Textbooks




Nagel, Paul B.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The major hypothesis of this study was that since the Battle of the Alamo and the Mexican-American War, Mexico and Mexicans have either been marginalized or presented in a distorted or biased fashion in textbooks. One objective of this study was to investigate a quantitative measure of changes in authors' bias over time in the depiction of Mexico and Mexicans. Specifically, a longitudinal examination of how Mexico has been represented verbally and visually over the last 164 years focused on eight specific time periods. These time periods represent specific major events or sets of major events in either Mexican or United States history, or the era in which these events occurred. The eight periods represent a change either within Mexico or the United States or a change in Mexico and United States relations. The results of the verbal and visual representation of Mexico and Mexicans in secondary US geography textbooks over the course of 164 years revealed several different trends. The results of the verbal analysis revealed a general increase in the total number of pages, paragraphs, lines, and words over time. The analysis of the visual results showed a general increase in the number of maps, physical features presented and the number of illustrations over time. The trend is reversed in the case of cities, with more cities depicted on maps during the first few periods and declining thereafter. The representation of Mexico and Mexicans in United States geography textbooks shifted from overt biases to more subtle biases. The nature of this bias changed over time, as might have been expected in light of Duckitt's theory of prejudice. Since 1970, levels of prejudice have decreased and most biased terms have been eliminated, but bias in illustrations and other aspects of textbook presentation persist. The biased terms about Mexico and Mexicans appeared and disappeared over time within the 26 textbooks. These terms included: "half-breed," ''mixed blood," ''mulatto' " ''primitive" "savages" "crude" "ignorance" "lazy" ''peon" and ''wetbacks." These terms, as Ravitch 2003 noted, were present in textbooks prior to the 1970s and confirm that textbook authors had biases against Mexico and Mexicans.



textbook bias, content analysis, geography textbooks, study of geography


Nagel, P.B. (2003). The visual and verbal representation of Mexico: a content analysis of United States geography textbooks (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI