By Samuel David Garcia and Ricco Miguel Garcia, J.D.
My grandparents, like a lot of Hispanics who were around decades ago, remember the Texas Rangers as a group that was overtly discriminatory and at times mortally violent towards Hispanics. Although their mission was to keep Texans safe, the Texas Rangers often times were implicated in the brutal killings of innocent Hispanic Texans across the state in the early 1900s.
There are instances that demonstrated the Ranger’s violence like the Porvenir Massacre, in which 15 unarmed Hispanic men were taken out of their homes and shot by a posse of Texas Rangers, local law enforcement, and U.S. Army soldiers, and an eyewitness account from a national guardsman of famed Ranger A.Y. Baker “killing three guys, three Mexican fellows in cold blood… that’s the kind of man A.Y. Baker was. He was killing Mexicans on sight.” However, these are tragedies that are known, and many smaller incidents like the killing of Paulino Serda by a group of Texas Rangers are still trickling in to this day.
Currently, there is a group of Texans via an organization called “MAS” leading a fight to both tell stories like these in Texas public schools and the stories of the notable Mexican Americans who contributed to the building of Texas. And the reason for including these stories is simple—to know where we are going, we must first know where we came from.
On April 11, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) will consider and take a vote on the approval of Mexican American Studies (MAS) in Texas public schools, something long overdue for a state where a majority of the public school children are Hispanic. However, the inclusion of this history has been met with serious pushback from critics who claim that it may incite racial divisiveness—but this is far from the truth.
As it stands, the Bullock Museum in Austin already has a display called Life and Death on the Border 1910-1920, which acknowledges that the violence Mexican-Americans faced in that decade was “some of the worst racial violence in United States history.” The addition of this exhibit was an important and meaningful step in the right direction for Texas, but it is time for the next step to be taken and for a MAS specific course to be offered to our children.
Although these killings were horrific, they are an important part of the state’s history because they give us powerful insight into how conditions used to be for Hispanics in Texas, why Hispanic relations in Texas are the way they are now, and where they need to go in the future. So as we strive to make Texas a more inclusive home for everyone, let’s show the youth of Texas just how far race relations have come and inspire them to continue fighting by remembering the many Hispanics who lost their lives early on in our state’s history.
Samuel David Garcia
Harvard Law Class of 2019
UT Austin BBA 2016
Ricco Miguel Garcia, J.D.
Escamilla & Poneck LLP
Samuel and Ricco are guest contributors at Neta.