Originally Published 06/15/17
By Guadalupe Garcia McCall
A Traveling Exhibit as Testimony
The moment I clicked on the mouse and went to the Refusing to Forget Project page, I knew I had stumbled onto a very important place, a place that not only validated but bore witness to everything I knew and believed, everything I had researched and questioned as I searched for evidence and truth about the Matanza to back up the events in my work-in-progress, a young adult novel set in 1915 on the borderlands of South Texas. Finding the project page on Facebook and pouring over their postings afforded me more than an education, it afforded me the courage to continue to write, to speak about the injustices of the past because, in so many ways, they relate to our future, the future of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in this, our beloved country, Los Estados Unidos.
From the postings on the Refusing to Forget page, I learned about Life and Death on the Border, the special exhibit that was for a brief time on display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Before it was gone, I took a trip to Austin and walked around reading every marker and taking pictures of every artifact: a wedding dress for my bride, Dulceña, a saddle for my protagonist, Joaquín, a Ranger jacket, pistols, rifles, reatas, boots, all sitting in clear glass enclosures. Beside them, postcards of Rangers on their horses with their Mexican victims laying prone on the ground, and, at the center of it all, the sealed writings, giant books documenting the Canales hearings that exposed the crimes of the Rangers who killed our people.
These things filled my heart with sadness and rage and tears, but they also gave me hope. Every snapshot I took was my evidence, my journey as a witness, as a protector of truth. They are part of the evidence I show to students when I talk about my book, Shame the Stars, at school visits. Invariably, after every presentation, they want to know where the exhibit is now, where they can go see it for themselves. I tell them it is stored away for now, waiting for the funding to resume its journey across this land, waiting to once again tell its story to the world. Students and teachers alike ask me to keep them posted, to let them know when it has settled somewhere, when it finds a home, because “it needs to be taken out of storage, it needs to be on display, it needs to inform.”
“I know,” I tell them. “I know.”
Guadalupe Garcia McCall is the author of three novels, most recently Shame the Stars. She was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila and grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas (the setting of her novel Under the Mesquite). She lives in Somerset, Texas.