By Texas State Representative Terry Canales
“It would be more convenient for people to forget that there was wide-spread state-sanctioned violence against Mexican-Americans, but we must refuse to forget.”
I grew up hearing stories from my family about the violence perpetrated by the State of Texas against Hispanics along the Texas/Mexico border. Yet, few people in South Texas seemed to know anything about this dark story in Texas history. The “Refusing to Forget” project is part of an important effort to raise awareness of the forgotten history of border violence along the Texas/Mexico border from 1910-1920.
In 1919, my great uncle, José Tomás Canales, the only Mexican-American legislator at the time, filed legislation to dramatically restructure the Texas Rangers who at the time were one of the largest perpetrators of random executions of Mexican-Americans along the Texas-Mexico border. He faced numerous threats of violence and greatly endangered himself to speak out about these tragedies. In the resulting legislative hearings, there was repeated testimony of violent acts perpetrating on Mexican Americans. Over 3 weeks of hearings, more than 90 witnesses testified. Because the hearings’ content reflected so poorly on the state, copies of the hearing transcript were not made accessible to the public until the 1970’s.
Here in Texas, there has been a long and continued effort to minimize the struggle of women and ethnic minorities for equal and civil rights. The stories told in this exhibit are an important part of a larger story about the continual struggle of Texas Latinos, who have been fighting for equal rights since the foundation of this state. The group of historians behind this project have done an excellent job of holistically covering this period.
In a time where the Texas State Education Board continues to remove inconvenient history from our textbooks, I believe this story is more important than ever. History sanitized is not real history. It would be more convenient for people to forget that there was wide-spread state sanctioned violence against Mexican-Americans, but we must refuse to forget.
– State Representatives Terry Canales