Saturday, February 4, 2023

The wild face of the heroic Texas Rangers

At that time of day it was his turn to take a nap.

Captain Henry Ransom, in charge of D Company of the Texas Rangers, had returned to camp. His pose was unaffected.

It was September 1915 in South Texas. Jesús Bazan and his son-in-law, Antonio Longoria, faced a dilemma. Armed criminals entered his property, the Guadalupe Ranch, and stole his horses.

to do?

If they had reported the theft, the gang would have hunted them down. And if not, an assailant was caught in possession of stolen horses, then the family could be accused of collaborating with criminals.

Weighing the risks, Bazan and Longoria decided to report to the Rangers, who were stationed while patrolling the area. After an uneventful conversation with Ransom, the two visitors mounted their horses and headed for home.

Mexican Migrants From Ciudad Juárez Cross The Rio Grande In The Direction Of El Paso (Texas) On December 19

Mexican migrants from Ciudad Juárez cross the Rio Grande in the direction of El Paso (Texas) on December 19

john moore

They had barely traveled 300 meters when the captain and two civilians, William Stirling and Paul West, pulled up in a Ford car – Model T – and chased the riders. As the vehicle approached, one of the occupants fired from behind. Bazan and Longoria bit the dust.

back to camp, and before siester Ransom warned witnesses not to move the bodies or bury them. He wanted to scare them there, on the dirt road. Already in October, and troubled by that image, some of Longoria’s friends disobeyed the order and proceeded to bury two of the victims.

Academics and activists explain the other side of the myth: Murders and lynchings in the border region

Some refer to that period as the “Bandit Wars”. Others speak of “the Massacre”, an indiscriminate phase in which Mexicans were massacred, whether they were Texans by birth or those who came from the other side of the Rio Grande, always suspect because of their appearance.

Ransom, the judge and enforcer of what was called the Escape Law, noted their movements during those weeks on patrol, but never mentioned the incident, as if it did not exist or was just another anecdote, The Pit. Another pair of dacoits.

The murder of Bazan and Longoria (what else to call it?) is well documented in the book Injustice never leaves you (anti-Mexican violence in Texas) By historian Monica Muñoz Martinez, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. His extensive work analyzes the tragic decade from 1910 to 1920, a critical period in which many Mexicans on both sides of the border saw the loss of agricultural land they owned in Texas.

Mexican Braceros Work On A Hacienda In Texas Near The Mexican Border In An Image Taken In 1919.

Mexican braceros work on a hacienda in Texas near the Mexican border in an image taken in 1919.

Bateman Archive

If legal avenues failed, violence became a quick way out. The author recalls a proverb: “Don’t buy a husband, buy a widow.”

The Rangers played an important role in this mission of paving the way for dialogue with the widows. The author states in his work, “They killed ethnic Mexican citizens despite being at a location close to the crime, regardless of the evidence of the crime.” It was a way to facilitate the sale of land and the expansion of the wealth of white Americans.

Muñoz Martínez, activist and relative of the victims of this institutionalized terror, is one of the founders and members of Refusal to Forget (RTF, Refusal to Forget), a non-profit organization, along with other academics such as John Morán González. Award for his educational work, which has been proposed to highlight the violence committed by the Rangers, now revered in the great popular culture of the United States. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the creation of this police force, which began manning the border between the United States and Mexico and which became a myth thanks to the romantic vision of novels and films about the Old West.

The founder was Stephen F. Austin, the first Anglo-Saxon leader to arrive in the area. He organized a group of men, baptized as rangers (watchman) to guard the settlers and their property.

Once Texas declared its independence in 1836, that force focused on developing white settlements.

Stephen F. Austin was the founder of the body of ‘White Hats’ which was admired in Hollywood and in the books.

Its transformation into a myth is particularly credited to historian Walter Prescott Webb, the main speaker in his books of alleged exploits. According to Webb, a ranger was, more than merely brave, a “complete absence of fear”.

With the classic print of the Silver Star on his chest, the pistol bouncing on his waist, and the white Stetson hat – the most relevant element and the one that gave him a sense of uniformity – these guys were the good guys in the film who fought against the bad.

Its standardized description is related to protection and justice. But this is not the case with everyone. There is a hidden face, that of the Wild West, which they also put into practice. And this is what RTF seeks to highlight with its initiative by focusing on the thousands of Americans who were killed, shot in the back or executed without trial because of sanctioned excesses and brutality by collective regimes.

“We didn’t want this bicentennial to be a kind of commemoration of the masculinity of the Texas Rangers without critically examining the accuracy of that image,” responded Moran Gonzalez, professor of literature at the University of Texas.

“We ask that the story be told accurately, that the narrative is not simply the vision of Hollywood heroes, but that it includes incredibly troubling and problematic aspects,” he stressed.

His colleague Muñoz Martínez cited two other essential dates for his claims.

In Rocksprings, on November 2, 1910, Effie Greer Henderson, a 40-year-old white woman, was found dead on her front porch. two shots. Antonio Rodríguez was arrested the next day.

The sheriff throws him in jail, but that night, without hindrance, a mob drags him out of his cell. They tied it to a mesquite tree, surrounded it with dry pine branches, doused it with kerosene, lit it on fire, and burned Rodriguez alive. He could never defend himself and there was no evidence that he had killed the woman.

Professor John Moran Gonzalez states that they acted as a “colonial force or militia”.

The morning of January 28, 1918. Company B of the Rangers killed fifteen men ranging in age from 16 to 64 at Porvenir. Their fault was none other than the desperation of the gau rakshaks to find an alleged dacoit who had betrayed them.

Moran Gonzalez points out that these three incidents (1910, 1915 and 1918) are the ones that have been best documented, despite the absence of official records, based on recollections of relatives of victims and witnesses. But there are many others who are lost in the fear of speaking up. It stresses that criminals and officials were reluctant to leave records, so there are no death certificates.

As a context, this professor recalls the signing in 1848 of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo by which the United States and Mexico sealed peace and which meant the ceding of New Mexico, Colorado, California and parts of Texas to Washington. Had to include.

Affected Mexicans were offered American citizenship, but as Moran Gonzalez points out, they were considered without the ability to participate in the process of democratic government.

There was another thing. White immigrants to the Midwest yearned for their land, which had become barren due to the introduction of irrigation. “The Rangers were a kind of colonial police force or militia. They worked in the service of this kind of white supremacist project and were Mexican inferiors because they were mestizos,” he says.

“Ranger violence spurred land turnover from Texan ranchers to Anglo farmers”.

“The Rangers were part of the transformation process, their violence hastening the rotation of land from Texan ranchers to Anglo farmers,” he insisted.

Its echo keeps echoing. “What happened a century ago is very much a question of police brutality and police reform today,” he says.

From an organization that has never apologized, it is answered that today’s Rangers are not old fashioned, that they have evolved. “That’s partially true,” Moran Gonzalez answers. “But it’s disrespectful to modern Rangers,” he says, “to disapprove of any connection with historical people because they’re still interested in promoting Ranger mythology. It’s still a successful brand.” .

In his book, Muñoz Martínez collects evidence of “divine retribution”. Years after Antonio Rodriguez was burned alive, Rocksprings was hit by a devastating tornado. There were 72 deceased. It is said that one of these was the one who first threw a match on a human funeral pyre.

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