Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Department of History Guest: Monica Martinez, Brown University
Between 1910 and 1920, an era of state-sanctioned racial violence descended upon the U.S.-Mexico border. Texas Rangers, local ranchers, and U.S. soldiers terrorized ethnic Mexican communities, under the guise of community policing. They enjoyed a culture of impunity, in which, despite state investigations, no one was ever prosecuted. This period left generations of Texans with a deep sense of injustice, and representations of this period in popular culture still celebrate police violence against ethnic Mexicans. Yet families fought back, demanding justice for atrocities against Mexican-American communities.
Guest Monica Martínez of Brown University joins us today to discuss what happened on the Texas border a hundred years ago. She also reveals the striking similarities of the period to the Trump administration’s November 2018 decision to send military troops to the border.
In the early part of the 20th century, Texas became more integrated into the United States with the arrival of the railroad. With easier connections to the country, its population began to shift away from reflecting its origins as a breakaway part of Mexico toward a more Anglo demographic, one less inclined to adapt to existing Texican culture and more inclined to view it through a lens of white racial superiority. Between 1915 and 1920, an undeclared war broke out that featured some of the worst racial violence in American history; an outbreak that’s become known as the Borderlands War.
Guest John Moran Gonzales from UT’s Department of English and Center for Mexican American Studies has curated an exhibition on the Borderlands War called “Life and Death on the Border, 1910-1920,” and tells us about this little known episode in Mexican-American history.