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Fronteras: Confronting — and learning from — the history of anti-Mexican violence in U.S. borderlands

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Monica Muñoz Martinez and her ‘responsibility’ to fill historical gaps

Violence against people of color and immigrants has been present in the U.S. since colonial times.

Public historian and recent MacArthur Fellow, Monica Muñoz Martinez, believes the U.S. must reckon with its painful past and learn the lessons of history if further acts of violence are to be averted.

Martinez’s research on racial violence along the Texas-Mexico border compels her to pass along not just the country’s uncomfortable past, but lessons about historical figures who’ve otherwise been erased or relegated to a footnote in history.

She said this gap in history is apparent in her classroom at the University of Texas at Austin when she welcomes new students each semester who are often learning about this history for the first time. Martinez sees it as her responsibility to expand on historical narratives.

“When historians don't take that role, other groups are stepping in to try to control how people understand the past and even going to the extent of passing laws to try to control how students, what students learn about the past,” said Martinez. “And so this is really, I think, a wakeup call for historians to participate in informing the public about our history.”

Martinez is cofounder of Refusing to Forget, a nonprofit that calls for public attention and commemoration of the history of state-sanctioned violence against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans on the border. She and two other members from the organization will take part in the Reverberations of Racial Violence on Nov. 15 hosted by the Mexican American Civil Rights Institute.

This is part two of a two-part conversation. Part one can be listened to and read here.

TPR's Literary Moments: Carmen Tafolla

Texas Public Radio recently collaborated with Nowhere Bookshop for a celebration of the Latino experience. Literary Moments featured works by local writers, poets and storytellers.

Carmen Tafolla is an award-winning writer, educator and former Texas Poet Laureate. She is president of the Texas Institute of Letters and the author of more than 30 books. She shares “Where My Father Built his House,” a selection from her 2019 collection “New & Selected Poems.”

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren