Porvenir massacre (1918)

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The Porvenir massacre was an incident on January 28, 1918 outside the village of Porvenir in Presidio County, Texas in which Texas Rangers, U.S. Cavalry soldiers, and local ranchers killed 15 Mexican villagers.[1] The Texas Rangers Company B was sent to the area to stop banditry after the Brite Ranch raid. Despite having no evidence that the Porvenir villagers were involved in recent thefts or the killings of ranchers, the Rangers separated fifteen men and boys from the rest of the village and shot them on a nearby hill.[1]

Background[edit]

As the Mexican Revolution had an increasing impact on Americans living near the border, anti-Mexican sentiment became more prevalent in the 1910s. As Pancho Villa's Villistas led raids into the United States, most notably in the Battle of Columbus in 1916, federal, state, and local authorities took greater action to stop raids in the border region. Many Texas Rangers, including Company B, were ordered to secure the areas near the border and to stop raids by bandits, Villistas, and Anglos trying to provoke conflict with Mexico.

Another factor that increased anti-Mexican sentiment was the emergence of the Plan de San Diego in 1915. The Plan de San Diego was a manifesto made by two Texas Mexicans in an attempt to create an uprising against Anglo settlers in the lands acquired after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Although unsuccessful, this plan spurred fears of more violence in the border states in addition to banditry and the encroaching Mexican civil war.[2]

The nearby Brite Ranch Raid occurred shortly before the Porvenir Massacre, on Christmas Day, December 25, 1917, in Presidio County. The mail hack driver was hung in the store, where his throat was slit. His two Mexican passengers were shot and killed, and the ranch foreman was injured. The bandits stole thousands of dollars of horses and good from the store before they fled towards Mexico. The U.S. Cavalry responded by chasing the suspected Villistas into Mexico. [3]

Incident[edit]

On January 26, 1918, Texas Rangers Company B under the command of Captain J.M. Fox entered and searched the homes of villagers in Porvenir after suspecting involvement in the Brite Ranch Raid a month before. During the search, the Rangers found only two weapons: a pistol belonging to an Anglo man in the village, and a Winchester rifle belonging to a Tejano villager. Both weapons were confiscated, and three Tejano men were arrested and taken and detained at the Ranger camp. The men were released the next day. Shortly after two of the men returned to Porvenir, the Rangers reentered the village in the early hours of January 28, taking everyone out of their homes. In addition to the ten Rangers, eight U.S. Army Cavalry and four local Anglo ranchers were present at the village.[4]

Fifteen men and boys, all ethnic Mexicans, were separated from the women, children, and Anglos in the village. The Texas Rangers and ranchers then led the men and boys outside the village to a nearby hill, allegedly leaving the U.S. Army Cavalry soldiers closer to the village. Shortly after, the fifteen men and boys were shot and killed.[4]

The bodies of the men and boys were left where they were shot. The next day, the son of one of the men killed, 13-year old Juan Flores, went with Anglo schoolteacher Henry Warren and discovered the massacre. The remaining 140 villagers then abandoned Porvenir and many moved across the border to Pilares, Chihuahua, where they buried the deceased.[5] The uninhabited village was razed by U.S. Army soldiers in the days following the massacre.

Victims[edit]

The list of victims was documented by Porvenir schoolteacher Henry Warren.[4]

  1. Manuel Moralez, 47, who possessed a deed to 1,600 acres. Sixth child was born that night.
  2. Román Nieves, 48, who possessed a deed to 320 acres
  3. Longino Flores, 44, father of Juan Flores
  4. Alberto García, 35
  5. Eutimio Gonzales, 37
  6. Macedonio Huertas, 30
  7. Tiburcio Jaques, 50
  8. Ambrosio Hernández, 21
  9. Antonio Castanedo, 72
  10. Pedro Herrera, 25
  11. Viviano Herrera, 23
  12. Severiano Herrera, 15
  13. Pedro Jiménez, 25
  14. Serapio Jiménez, 25
  15. Juan Jiménez, 16

The fifteen men killed were survived by forty-two children.[5][4]

Aftermath[edit]

The incident was not reported to Ranger command for nearly a month. Captain Fox of the Rangers reported that the 15 Mexican villagers ambushed the Rangers, and that stolen property from the Brite Ranch was found on the bodies of the villagers.[6] Captain Anderson of the U.S. Cavalry and Henry Warren gave a differing account of the massacre, stating the Rangers and ranchers had executed the men, and that the U.S. Cavalry was not involved in the killings.[7]

It is largely unknown whether retaliatory action against Anglos by Mexicans occurred following the Porvenir Massacre. One instance of possible retaliation was the Neville Ranch Raid. On March 25, just two months after the Porvenir Massacre, a rancher and a female Mexican servant were killed by raiders at nearby Neville Ranch. The servant was raped, shot, and mutilated. As not much was stolen during the raid, it was suspected that the Neville Ranch killings were retaliation by Villistas for the Porvenir Massacre.[8]

Investigations[edit]

An investigation was launched by the Texas Rangers Command and headed by Captain William M Hanson.[7] The investigation used affidavits from several widows of the victims, all having Henry Warren as their attorney. Along with a statement from Warren claiming the dead were all farmers, and none bandits, the investigation concluded that Company B was to be tried for the killings. None of the Rangers were found guilty by a grand jury, but five were dismissed by Texas Governor William P. Hobby and the rest, including Captain Fox, were reassigned.[7] Company B was disbanded. The investigation concluded that the U.S. Cavalry were not directly involved in the killings.

The Porvenir Ranger investigation was concluded in June 1918, shortly before Texas State Senator Jose T. Canales launched a broader investigation into misconduct by the Rangers throughout Texas. The 1919 investigation concluded that the Texas Rangers had committed many atrocities and extrajudicial killings, particularly of ethnic Mexicans.[9][10] Charges were filed against many Rangers and the department was downsized heavily.[9] Additionally, Canales required administrative changes within the Texas Ranger Division, including much stricter recruitment criteria and higher pay for qualifying Rangers. The investigation largely ended the mass violence by law enforcement against Mexicans and instituted a new level of professionalism within the Rangers.[9]

Archaeological Investigation[edit]

In 2015 archaeological research at the site of the killings turned up bullets and casings likely to have been fired by U.S. Cavalry standard-issue weapons.[5] In 2002, Juan Flores identified the site where his father and 14 others were killed. One of the team's archaeologists, David Keller, stated "I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the artifactual distribution, the types of artifacts, all strongly conform to the hypothesis that this was the site of the Porvenir Massacre of 1918. The findings also strongly implicate the U.S. Cavalry."[5]

Onscreen Adaptations[edit]

Texas-based film writer-director-producer Andrew Shapter is producing and directing Porvenir, Texas, a documentary film dramatizing the massacre and featuring new and archival footage of interviews and archaeological digs.[11][12] Shapter will begin production as director of Porvenir, a feature-length narrative film also about the massacre, after Porvenir, Texas airs on PBS.[13][11][14]

Historical Marker[edit]

Through the Texas Historical Commission's Undertold Stories Maker Program, a marker placed 27 miles west of Marfa on Highway 90 recognizes the Porvenir Massacre.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Carrigan, William D.; Webb, Clive (2013). Forgotten Dead, Mob Violence Against Mexicans in The United States, 1848-1928. Oxford University Press. p. 63.
  2. ^ Carrigan, William D.; Webb, Clive (2013). Forgotten Dead, Mob Violence Against Mexicans in The United States, 1848-1928. Oxford University Press. p. 84.
  3. ^ World War history: daily records and comments as appeared in American and foreign newspapers, -1926. (New York, NY) 23 Dec. 1917, p. 97. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2004540423/1917-12-23/ed-1/.
  4. ^ a b c d Warren, Henry, "The Porvenir Massacre" in Testimonio: a Documentary History of the Mexican American Struggle for Civil Rights. Rosales, Francisco A. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press, 2000
  5. ^ a b c d Justice, Glenn (2017-04-21). "PORVENIR MASSACRE ARCHAEOLOGY MOST REVEALING". Glenn's Texas History Blog.
  6. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Cynthia E. Orozco, "Porvenir Massacre," accessed April 21, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jcp02.
  7. ^ a b c Harris, Charles H.; Sadler, Louis R. (2007). The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade, 1910-1920. University of New Mexico Press. p. 354.
  8. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Julia Cauble Smith, "Neville Ranch Raid," accessed April 21, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qyn02.
  9. ^ a b c "1919 Ranger Investigation". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  10. ^ Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the Investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/treasures/images/law/1919rangerVolume1.pdf (Accessed 4/2017).
  11. ^ a b "Rebroadcast: Andrew Shapter Revisits the Porvenir Massacre in Documentary and Feature-Length Film". KRTS 93.5 FM Marfa Public Radio. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  12. ^ "porvenirtexas". porvenirtexas. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  13. ^ "Porvenir Movie". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  14. ^ "Descendants reunite in San Antonio, Austin on Porvenir massacre's 100th anniversary". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  15. ^ "THC places historical marker for Porvenir Massacre in Presidio County". www.newswest9.com.com. Retrieved 2018-12-03.