UPDATE: AUGUST 24, 2018
Descendants of the victims of a Texas massacre and scholars across the country called on the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to proceed with longstanding plans to erect a monument commemorating the 1918 Porvenir Massacre.
The THC approved an application for a Texas Historical Marker in 2015. Its staff subsequently worked with historical experts to develop the marker’s text. The THC commissioners approved the staff’s language on July 27, 2018, and ordered the marker cast to be ready for a September 1 unveiling ceremony. Under political pressure from the Presidio County Historical Commission (PCHC), the THC halted the casting of the long-sought marker days before the scheduled unveiling.
“Once again the descendants lost to the power of the Presidio County political dynasty that our own ancestors lost their lives to,” said Arlinda Valencia. Valencia’s great-grandfather, Longino Flores, was one of fifteen men and boys executed en masse in Porvenir, Texas, by Texas Rangers and local residents. The subsequent outcry resulted in investigations by the U.S. Army, the dismissal of Company B of the Rangers, and was featured in extensive hearings in the Texas legislature the following year.
Descendants of the slain and of witnesses to the atrocity have kept memories alive for generations. Reflecting on what the delay of the marker means to her family, Benita Albarado, granddaughter of Longino Flores said, “We feel emotionally drained after putting so much effort into this cause. This has been a let-down for the descendants who were looking forward to this event.”
Scholars across the country expressed concern about the THC’s actions. “The marker drafted by the THC is accurate and easily verifiable in records and testimony. Descendants have waited 100 years for the state to acknowledge this injustice against the victims,” said Dr. Monica Muñoz Martínez, a professor at Brown University and author of a book about the massacre. “It is not right to make them wait any longer.”
In the early morning of January 24, 1918, state officers from Company B of the Texas Rangers entered Porvenir, a rural ranching community situated in west Texas. They woke members of the community from their beds, ordered them out of their homes, and searched for weapons. Outside, the Rangers stood guard pointing pistols and rifles at the frightened families. Without asking any questions they arrested Juan Mendez, Román Niéves, Nutemio González and Manuel Fierro. The Rangers then ordered the frightened families to return home and departed with the four men in custody. For two days Mendez, Niéves, González, and Fierro were led through the mountains, interrogated, and threatened with death. On January 26, the Rangers released their prisoners only to return again days later.
At approximately 2:00 a.m. on January 28, 1918, Company B of the Texas Rangers, soldiers from the Eighth US Cavalry Regiment, and four local ranchmen—Buck Poole, John Poole, Tom Snyder, and Raymond Fitzgerald—surrounded the residents of Porvenir. They again woke families from their beds as they had days before, but on this night, the posse separated fifteen able-bodied men and boys from the women, children, and elderly men. Without conducting interviews, the posse proceeded to execute the fifteen unarmed prisoners, who ranged in age from sixteen to sixty-four years old. The dead included Antonio Castañeda, Longino Flores, Alberto García, Eutimio González, Ambrosio Hernández, Pedro Herrera, Severiano Herrera, Vivian Herrera, Macedonio Huerta, Tiburcio Jáquez, Juan Jiménez, Pedro Jiménez, Serapio Jiménez Manuel Moralez, and Román Niéves.
Nutemio González and Manuel Fierro were not in Porvenir when the Rangers returned and the posse did not execute the elderly Juan Mendez, presumably because of his age, but they carried out the threats they had made on Román Niéves.
In the months following the massacre, Texas courts failed to prosecute the assailants that participated in the massacre. This brutality of the massacre inspired the 1919 state congressional investigation into frequent abuse at the hands of the Texas Rangers known as the Canales investigation. The hearings included statements from witnesses of the massacre and written statements from Rangers that confirmed their participation. As a result, Texas Ranger captain James Monroe Fox was forced to resign and five officers were fired. Company B of the Rangers was also disbanded. Despite the statements from witnesses and Rangers themselves, no assailants were ever prosecuted.
The survivors sought justice through international tribunals. With the help of Mexican diplomats, Concepción Carrasco de González, Jesus García, Victoria Jiménez de García, Librada M. Jáquez, Eulalia González, Juana Bonilla Flores, Rita Jáquez, Severiano Moralez, Alejandra Niéves, Francisca Moralez, Pablo Jiménez, and Luis Jiménez filed claims through the US-Mexico General Claims Commission of 1923. They charged the United States with the wrongful deaths of residents, denial of justice for surviving relatives, unlawful use of rearms, and international delinquency on the part of the government. In the days, months, years, and decades following the massacre, survivors and witnesses shared accounts of the massacre to ensure that the tragedy would never be forgotten.
On September 1, 2018, 10:00 a.m. at the Magoffin House in El Paso, Texas descendants of the fifteen victims, historians, elected officials, clergy, and members of the public were set to gather for the unveiling of a state historical marker acknowledging this tragedy in Texas history. After the unveiling ceremony, the marker would have been installed in Presidio County.