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Fronteras Extra: Anti-Mexican Violence In West Texas

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Robert Runyon/Courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
Texas Rangers posed for photographs with the bodies of three of the raiders killed in an attack on the King Ranch in the summer of 1915

On Jan. 28, 1918, 15 men and boys, ages 15 to 72, living in the West Texas border town of Porvenir were taken to a nearby hill in the middle of the night and shot and killed. It was a massacre carried out by a company of Texas Rangers, U.S. Cavalry soldiers, and area ranchers.

We spoke with Monica Muñoz Martinez, assistant professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, and an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.

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Monica Muñoz Martinez

Martinez is a co-founding member of Refusing to Forget, a collaborative project that aims to memorialize the period of violence against ethnic Mexicans that took place in Texas between 1910-1920. Martinez is also the author of the book ‘The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas."

One of those instances of anti-Mexican violence took place in 1918 in the small West Texas border village of Porvenir. A historical marker was scheduled to be unveiled in El Paso, about 175 miles northwest of the site of the massacre that claimed the lives of 15 men and boys. It was placed on hold after objections from the Presidio County Historical Commission.

MORE |Listen to the full episode of Fronteras: Massacre In A West Texas Border Town

But despite not having a marker to unveil, the ceremony went on as scheduled.

Martinez said that during the ceremony, she met one of the descendants of the Porvenir victims, a 19-year-old student named Seth.

“If we had had a marker unveiling, his experience with this history would be different. He would say, ‘this was a tragedy, and finally all the work of generations of my family have paid off because we finally are finally acknowledging this tragedy.’ Instead, he had to end his speech (saying) that he was committed to be the next generation to try to make this history public and to try to seek public acknowledgment,” Martinez said.

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Martinez said Texas cultural institutions must work to make these little-known instances of violence against ethnic Mexicans more widely known. She said schools in Texas must work hard “to regain the trust of racial and ethnic minorities in Texas who for generations have seen themselves as the antagonists in Texas history. … When we erase these histories of racial violence, we not only erase the tragedies, we not only erase how power allowed these tragedies to occur, but we also forget heroes. … We have people who fought for civil rights,” Martinez said.

Martinez said that violence against ethnic Mexicans 100 years ago is reflected in the border crisis of today. “That’s a part of our Texas history that new generations need to know to inspire them to be advocates for social justice and for change,” she said.

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1. 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.