Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, addressing participants at the Friday, October 6, 2017 groundbreaking ceremony that took place near Edinburg Lake, a 63-mile drainage improvement system that will benefit Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties. “For more than 30 years, Rio Grande Valley leaders have worked to lay the foundations for this massive 150 foot-wide drainage system which will run from Hargill to the Laguna Madre,” said the House District 40 lawmaker. “This project will help redirect a significant amount of the stormwater safely away from many of our communities that suffer from flooding while helping protect our homes and businesses, as well as the continued economic development of flood-prone areas in both Hidalgo and Willacy counties.”
Photograph By ALEX RÍOS
Almost 100 years after Rep. José Tomás Canales, a Brownsville Democrat, politically battled the Texas Rangers for murdering scores of innocent South Texans because they were Mexican American, the State of Texas on Saturday, October 14, 2017 will officially acknowledge, with a permanent public display, that dark period in the state’s history and recognize the descendants of those victims affected by that brutality, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced. The unveiling of the state historical marker will take place at 10 a.m. at the Saturday, October 14, 2017 gathering, which will be held at the Southbound Exit 16, Parking/Rest Area between San Benito and Los Fresnos exits. The gathering is open to the public. Canales is a grand nephew of José Tomás Canales, who, as the only Mexican American in the Texas Legislature in 1919, filed legislation to stop that illegal state police violence. “In Texas, there has been a long and continued effort to minimize the struggle of ethnic minorities’ quest for civil rights,” Canales said. “The stories told by these historians in this historical marker and their many published works are an important part of a larger story about the continued struggle of Texas Latinos, who have been fighting for equal rights since the founding of this state.” The Refusing to Forget Project has organized four days of presentations and panel discussions as part of “Resilience en el Valle: Remember the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915” that will lead to the Saturday, October 14, 2017 dedication of the state marker. “The approval and erection of this marker is as close as the government of the State of Texas has gotten to acknowledging its role in the horrific anti-Mexican violence of the 1910s,” said historian Benjamin Johnson, author of the bookRevolution in Texas. “We at Refusing to Forget are pleased that these events are finally getting some of the public recognition that they deserve.”
Texas to recognize thousands of South Texas descendants of Mexican Americans murdered by Texas Rangers during Matanza (Massacre) of 1915 that took place in the Valley, says Rep. Canales
Almost 100 years after Rep. José Tomás Canales, a Brownsville Democrat, politically battled the Texas Rangers for murdering scores of innocent South Texans because they were Mexican American, the State of Texas on Saturday, October 14, 2017 will officially acknowledge, with a permanent public display, that dark period in the state’s history and recognize the descendants of those victims affected by that brutality, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.
The unveiling of the state historical marker will take place at 10 a.m. at a gathering on Saturday, October 14, 2017, which will be held at the Southbound Exit 16, Parking/Rest Area between San Benito and Los Fresnos exits. The gathering is open to the public.
Canales is a grand nephew of José Tomás Canales, who, as the only Mexican American in the Texas Legislature in 1919, filed legislation to stop that illegal state police violence. A grand uncle is an uncle of one’s father or mother.
Canales is a great nephew of José Tomás Canales, who, as the only Mexican American in the Texas Legislature in 1919, filed legislation to stop that illegal state police violence.
“Rep José Thomás Canales (JT Canales) in 1919 filed legislation to address this border violence by dramatically restructuring the Texas Rangers, who were at the time, one of the largest perpetrators of these executions of Mexican-Americans along the Texas-Mexico border, according to Curtis Smith, Terry Canales’ Chief-of-Staff at the Texas Capitol.
“This little known time in Texas history involved state-sanctioned law enforcement using racial violence against Hispanics to the benefit of Anglo society in what turned into a massive land and power transfer in South Texas,” said Smith.
Rep. Terry Canales, the House District 40 lawmaker who represents central Hidalgo County in the Texas Legislature, along with Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, will be among the public figures and renowned Texas historians who will participate in the launch of the milestone, which is part of “Resilience en el Valle: Remember the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915”.
“In Texas, there has been a long and continued effort to minimize the struggle of ethnic minorities’ quest for civil rights,” Canales said. “The stories told by these historians in this historical marker and their many published works are an important part of a larger story about the continued struggle of Texas Latinos, who have been fighting for equal rights since the founding of this state.”
During the Spring of 2017, Texas Republican lawmakers passed Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law by Gov. Gregg Abbott, also a Republican.
SB 4, the so-called “Sanctuary Cities” measure, as reported by the Texas Tribune, “allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and seeks to punish local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration ‘detainers’ — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Punishment could come in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.”
Canales and many other critics of SB 4 condemned the measure “as one of the most discriminatory bills in Texas history.”
Towards the end of a 12-hour debate on SB 4 in the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, Canales invoked the memory of his grand uncle, who served as state representative from 1905 to 1910, and from 1917 to 1920.
“I reminded the good people of Texas that almost 100 years ago, citizens of the Lone Star State in the Valley faced discrimination so extreme that it cost hundreds of people their lives, and Rep. José Thomás Canales, my grand uncle, with the support of the Texas Legislature, took action to put a stop to such atrocities in the name of the law,” Rep. Terry Canales recalled. “It is shocking to me that a century later, we are still having to fight laws that are prejudiced against any Texan.”
The Refusing to Forget Project
The Refusing to Forget Project organized four days of presentations and panel discussions as part of “Resilience en el Valle: Remember the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915” that will lead to theSaturday, October 14, 2017 dedication of the state marker.
Major supporters for the presentations and panel discussions include Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, El Hueso De Fraile Coffee Music & Tea of Brownsville, Latino/a & Mexican American Studies at Texas A&M University, South Texas College, The University of Texas at Austin Center for Mexican American Studies, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Mexican American Studies, and University Library UTRGV.
“Resilience en el Valle: Remember the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915”, is helping shed light on the bloodshed at the hands of the Texas Rangers, which The Refusing to Forget Project believes “was a critical moment in Valley history, even if often forgotten today. At that time, Texas Rangers (more commonly known as ‘Los Rinches’, killed an estimated 1,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans with no semblance of due process.” (http://www.refusingtoforget.org)
“Especially today, in 2017, where the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education continues to remove truth from our students’ textbooks, such as the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915, this very important and dark part of our state’s history must be told,” Canales said. “It will demonstrate how far Mexican Americans, which represent almost 40 percent of the state’s population, have come as a political, cultural, and economic power in Texas, and that we will continue to overcome and fight against all prejudice and discrimination against us, or against any other Texan because of the race, color, creed, or sexual orientation. For those and many other reasons, I believe this history is more important than ever.”
Key role of Brownsville Democrat State Rep. José Thomás Canales a century ago
The role of Canales’ grand uncle is not just personal, but also a major legislative matter of public interest.
José Thomás Canales “stood out as the only prominent local Democrat to call for an end to Texas Ranger and vigilante oppression of the Hispanic population of the lower Rio Grande Valley,” according to the Texas Historical State Association. “His most dramatic maneuver came on January 31, 1918, when he filed nineteen charges against the Texas Rangers and demanded a legislative investigation and the reorganization of the force.” (https://tshaonline.org/
“Rep. José Thomás Canales faced numerous threats of violence and greatly endangered himself and his family to speak out against these tragedies,” said Smith, who has been working with Rep. Terry Canales and the group of historians for about four years on seeking an official State of Texas acknowledgement of the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915 “because these Texas legislative hearings (in 1919) reflected so poorly on the state, copies of the hearing transcript were not made accessible to the public until the 1970s,” Smith noted.
In February 2013, a group of professors met at a National Association of Chicano and Chicana Studies conference in San Antonio to discuss strategies for raising awareness and commemorating the centennial of a period of widespread, state sanctioned anti-Mexican violence on the Texas-Mexico border from 1910 to 20, Smith recalled.
“They decided upon a multi-faceted approach, which includes historical markers, a traveling history exhibit and more,” Smith continued. “They call their group ‘Refusing To Forget’, a name which demonstrated that organization’s focus on bringing awareness to a forgotten period of Texas history.”
Forgotten history acknowledged in 2016 by Bob Bullock State History Museum in Austin
In 2016, this part of history was for the first time acknowledged by the State of Texas through an exhibit at the Bob Bullock State History Museum in Austin called “Life and Death on the Border, 1912 to 1920”.
This highly successful exhibit was a test run for an exhibit the historians hope to bring throughout the border areas. They are actively fundraising to bring the exhibit to the Rio Grande Valley.
“The approval and erection of this marker is as close as the government of the State of Texas has gotten to acknowledging its role in the horrific anti-Mexican violence of the 1910s,” said historian Benjamin Johnson, author of the book Revolution in Texas. “We at Refusing to Forget are pleased that these events are finally getting some of the public recognition that they deserve.”
The members of Refusing to Forget are:
• Dr. Trinidad Gonzáles, Professor of History, South Texas College;
• Dr. John Morán González, Professor of English and Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin;
• Dr. Sonia Hernández, Associate Professor of History and Director of Latina/o & Mexican American Studies, Texas A&M University;
• Dr. Benjamin Johnson, Associate Professor of History, Loyola University, Chicago; and
• Dr. Mónica Muñoz Martínez, Stanley J. Bernstein ’65 P’02 Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University.
Official inscription on the state marker
The inscription on the marker, which represents official state history, follows:
“In the late 19th century and the early 20th century, racial tensions near the United States-Mexico border and the Lower Rio Grande Valley erupted into violence. The change from ranching to commercial agricultural and a shift in racial hierarchies led to the increased discrimination against Mexican Americans and Mexicans in the region. In addition, economic problems and the Mexican Revolution increased the immigrant population to Texas. This influx along with the rise in Anglo immigration to South Texas increased racial tensions. Law enforcement and vigilante groups used violence and intimidation to quell, and at times respond to, a growing movement referred to as “La Revolución de Texas”. Some Mexicans and Mexican Americans envisioned this movement as a fight against discrimination, while some in law enforcement perceived it as a threat to new Anglo migrations in the area. The section of highway between San Benito and Brownsville was the site of countless killings of prisoners without due process. One of the first victims was Rodolfo Muñiz, who was lynched in this road on July 29, 1915, while in custody of local law enforcement. It is estimated that hundreds, possibly thousands of Mexican Americans and Mexicans were killed. Out of fear, many families fled Brownsville to Matamoros. A contemporary newspaper editorial referred to this period as the Matanza (Massacre) of 1915. In 1919, the Texas Legislature conducted a formal investigation into state and local law enforcement practices. The Texas Rangers were reorganized as a result. Memories of the Matanza continue through scattered records and oral tradition, reflecting difficulties in recounting this violent yet pivotal time in Texas history.
Similar effort undertaken by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, a decade ago
Legislative efforts to have the state provide a marker or memorial be erected to those killed goes back at least a decade by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, but the Texas Legislature failed to act on his measure, according to Arnoldo De León, who edited the book, “War Along The Border – The Mexican Revolution and Tejano Communities”.
In 2005, Peña helped draw attention to the “both the triumphs and the tragedies of the Lone Star State’s past” as it related to actions by the Texas Rangers in the Valley in 1915 with his filing and passing of House Resolution 2140, which states:
“WHEREAS, Texans are well known for the deep affection they feel for their homeland, and it is this bond that inspires our desire to fully understand its history, and in doing so to look squarely at both the triumphs and the tragedies of the Lone Star State’s past; and
“WHEREAS, In 1915, a group of banditos raided the McAllen Ranch in Hidalgo County; responding to the incident, Texas Rangers arrived and claimed to have eliminated the perpetrators, but among the dead were Jesús Bazán and Antonio Longoria, Tejanos with familial land grant claims that dated back to Spanish dominion over the territory; and
WHEREAS, The Rangers’ account of their actions were later called into question by a young cowboy who witnessed the killings, Roland Warnock; and
WHEREAS, This incident has attracted new attention with the release of Border Bandits, a documentary directed and produced by Kirby Warnock, the grandson of the late Roland Warnock; and
WHEREAS, Using audiotape of his grandfather’s account of the event to incorporate first-person narration into the historical documentary, Mr. Warnock has created an engaging film that is also an important addition to the annals of Texas history; and
WHEREAS, Border Bandits was aired on Texas PBS stations in May 2005 and has been screened at numerous film festivals throughout Texas and in California; it has been favorably reviewed by numerous area film critics and has received coverage in The New York Times; and
WHEREAS, Representative Aaron Peña has justly recognized Kirby Warnock by introducing this resolution in his behalf during the Regular Session of the 79th Texas Legislature; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 79th Texas Legislature hereby congratulate Kirby Warnock on the release of his documentary Border Bandits and commend him for transforming this important yet difficult story into a compelling work of art for the benefit of all Texans and audiences everywhere; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Mr. Warnock as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.
In addition to the unveiling of the state historical marker at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 14, 2017 in San Benito, the following events were scheduled to help lead to and commemorate theMatanza (Massacre) of 1915.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at Brownsville
PlainsCapital Gran Salon, 2nd Floor
Student Union Building
12:30 p.m. to 1:50 p.m.
“Writing from an Unremembered Past: 3 Authors Discuss Writing About a Traumatic History”.
Scheduled panelists: Guadalupe García McCall, Alfredo Cisneros and Christopher Carmona.
1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Library Harvest Days
Scheduled: Community members invited to bring their photographs, letters, and stories
2 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.
“Historical and Literary Examinations of the Law”
Scheduled panelists: Carolina Monsiváis (University of Texas at El Paso), Alberto Rodríguez (Texas A&M University at Kingsville) and Noreen Rivera (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley).
3:30 p.m to 4:50 p.m.
Featured: Donna High School Mexican American Studies Students, organized by Juan Carmona
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Refuse to Forget Closing Reception and Dinner
Scheduled: Corridos performed by Rosa and Joe Pérez and musical entertainment by Marimba Reyna del Valle
Friday, October 13, 2017
El Hueso de Fraile in Brownsville
Scheduled: Poets and writers performing their responses to La Matanza (Massacre) of 1915.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
South Texas College in McAllen
Scheduled: Dr. Benjamin Johnson discussing the relevance of La Matanza (Massacre) of 1915 for the present moment. Johnson is an Associate Professor of History, Loyola University, Chicago.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts
Scheduled: Artists to display their responses to La Matanza (Massacre) of 1915.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Mission Historial Museum
Scheduled: Dr. Trinidad Gonzáles to discuss the events of La Matanza (Massacre) of 1915.
Gonzáles is a Professor of History, South Texas College.
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.