Reign of racial terror in Texas targeting Latinos not widely known, historians say

La Matanza or massacre targeted Latinos a century ago

SAN ANTONIO – A reign of racial terror known as La Matanza, or massacre, is believed to have killed thousands of Latinos in Texas between 1910 and 1920. Yet, historians said it’s not widely known.

“There are adults now that don’t know the story, let alone children,” said Norma Longoria Rodriguez, a retired teacher whose grandfather and great-grandfather were among those killed in 1915, when La Matanza was at its worst.

Rodriguez said as a little girl, she was told they were mistaken for bandits, who, at the time, would cross into Texas from Mexico to steal horses and cattle.

She would learn the truth as a young woman when she asked her father why the gravestones for her grandfather, Antonio Longoria, and great-grandfather Jesus Bazan, had different dates if they’d died the same day.

“He got real mad and said ‘They did. They were killed by Texas Rangers,’” Rodriguez said.

But she said it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. They were murdered.

Longoria, a former sheriff’s deputy, school board member and teacher, and his father-in-law had just told the Texas Rangers that bandits had raided their Hidalgo County ranch.

Yet as they rode away on their horses, Rodriguez said the Texas Rangers “shot them dead, in the back from the Model-T that they were in.”

Rodriguez said the Rangers then ordered that their bodies not be buried but left to rot as a warning to others.

Eventually, they were buried by the side of the road where they fell, and where a Texas Historical Marker now stands.

Rodriguez said she hoped her grandfather and great-grandfather died quickly, given others were lynched, burned alive and tortured.

In addition to a documentary, the history of La Matanza is depicted in a traveling exhibit at Our Lady of the Lake University through the end of March. The exhibit is part of “Refusing to Forget,” an award-winning effort to document the lives of the men, women and children who were killed.

It’s believed a 12-year-old boy, who in 1929 was apparently lynched in Helotes, may have been one of the innocent victims, even after La Matanza.

“Being an American citizen, gender and age, did not protect people from violence,” said Dr. Monica Munoz Martinez, associate professor of history at UT Austin. “People could be killed with impunity.”

Christopher Carmona, Ph.D., associate professor of Mexican-American Studies at OLLU, said it’s important to understand, horrific as it was, “The history of civil rights begins here.”

In response to the killings and injustices, Carmona said the League of United Latin American Citizens was formed. LULAC went on to become the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization.

Carmona said the question then was, “How do we start to protect ourselves against state-sponsored violence.”

As of now, the Texas Rangers have not responded to a request for a statement.

About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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