- JOIN | SUPPORT TSHA
PORVENIR MASSACRE. The Porvenir Massacre was one of a series of clashes between Mexican-descent men and the Texas Rangers set off by the Mexican Revolution and accompanying events. The massacre was one of the most serious acts of ranger misconduct cited in the Texas Ranger investigation of 1919, organized by state legislator José T. Canales. In November 1917 ranger captain J. M. Fox noted that a few cattle and horses had been stolen and that he suspected "Mexican bandits" from the Carrancistas and Villistas near Presidio County. On December 25, 1917, Mexicans perpetrated the Brite Ranch Raid, in which several Mexicans and Anglos were killed, horses were stolen, and the ranch store was robbed. Several weeks later, on about January 28, Company B of the rangers-which included eight men under Fox; Troop G, Eighth U.S. Cavalry, from Camp Evetts, under Capt. Henry H. Anderson; and local ranchers Buck Pool, John Pool, Tom Snider, and Raymond Fitzgerald-arrived at the ranch of Manuel Morales in Porvenir. Reports conflict as to the actual date of their arrival. When the party left Porvenir, fifteen men of Mexican origin had been killed, all of whom evidently resided in Texas. Family members and friends fled across the Rio Grande and buried the dead at Pilares in Mexico.
Exactly what occurred is unclear. Although most of the Anglo participants as well as historian Walter Prescott Webb found "Mexicans" responsible for what happened, Henry Warren, Captain Anderson, and Porvenir residents of Mexican descent provided a different account of the incident. Not until February 18 did Fox explain to the adjutant general what had occurred. He claimed that the Mexicans were marched to the edge of town and that comrades of the Mexicans fired at the rangers, who then returned fire. He said the Mexicans had been found with pocket knives, soap, and shoes belonging to the Brite Ranch. He also claimed that one dead man had "sent word" some nine months earlier that a raid would be made on "Texas Gringos" and that looting and burning would also occur. Anderson, however, called some official versions of the story "white-washed" and claimed that he, his sergeant, the twelve men he sent out with the rangers, and the widows and family members could testify to the truth.
According to Webb, agreement was unanimous among the rangers and ranchers on the "culpability of the Mexicans." Webb noted that in a preliminary visit by rangers and federal agents to Pilares and Porvenir, "Mexicans" were found wearing Hamilton Brown shoes from the Brite Ranch. In corroboration of Fox's version, Col. George T. Langhorne and the rangers said the ranger party was fired upon from the brush while gathering evidence, allegedly by the "Mexicans," and that the Anglos fired back. Raymond Fitzgerald told Webb that some Porvenir residents were "thieves, informers, spies, and murderers." Webb based his assessment of the incident on the testimony of Anglos, however, ignoring the affidavits by Mexican-descent women in Canales's investigation. Henry Warren, whose father-in-law, Tiburcio Jáquez, was killed in the incident, wrote a different version of the event in an undated manuscript written after June 1918. He sought to explain what he called a "massacre" and the "wholesale destruction of these Mexicans." He blamed the rangers. According to him, the investigating party searched the homes for arms that might have been used in the Brite Ranch Raid and found one pistol that belonged to an Anglo male. Subsequently, after the army troops departed, rangers arrested and killed fifteen men. Several elderly Mexican men were spared, as were all women and children. John J. Bailey, an Anglo living in the village on the ranch, was also spared. Warren claimed he saw the bodies on January 29. He made a list of the deceased, including their names, ages, spouses, and children, and noted that the rangers' actions had orphaned forty-two children. Warren sought to explain the incident by suggesting that rancher Tom Snider had stolen and sold horses belonging to Porvenir residents, told the rangers that the "Mexican bandits" who conducted the Brite Ranch raid were in Porvenir, and thus had planned the killings so his own crime would not be reported.
The role of the United States Cavalry is unclear. Press reports stated that the army had nothing to do with the affair and that "a number of Mexicans sought and received protection from the military." Captain Anderson's official report stated that he sent twelve men with the rangers. But they waited below the ranch, Anderson said, "not knowing that the Rangers and ranchmen were going to murder the men." However, recent archaeological investigations conducted at the massacre site between 2002 and 2015 have uncovered a significant number of bullet fragments and cartridge casings from standard-issue U.S. Army ammunition and have cast doubt on whether or not the military was directly involved in the shootings. Apparently, the cavalry's role and requests by officials of the Mexican government led to a federal investigation. The father of Felipa Mendez Castañeda, whose husband was killed, owned a newspaper in Pilares, Chihuahua; he asked the Mexican government for assistance, and Mexican ambassador Ygnacio Bonilla asked for an investigation. Of nine Porvenir widows who filed affidavits, five claimed that the civilians had masks on their faces. Felipa Mendez Castañeda noted that three days before the massacre, three masked Anglos had come to her house. Anderson stated that three days before the massacre, the rangers went to a house, found arms, and arrested three "Mexicans" who were thereafter released. Librada Montoya Jáquez and Juana Bonilla Flores said they saw soldiers outside their doors. The grand jury of Presidio took no action for the killings. On June 4, 1918, Governor William P. Hobby disbanded Company B of the Texas Rangers and dismissed five rangers for their actions. Eulalia Gonzales Sánchez gave Warren power of attorney and sought to recover damages for the murder of her husband. In 1919 Canales highlighted the Porvenir Massacre in the investigation of the rangers. About 140 Porvenir residents abandoned their homes and fled to Mexico, and the community ceased to exist for several years.
Glenn Justice, Revolution on the Rio Grande (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1992). Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and House in the Investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force, 36th Legislature, Regular Session, Legislative Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin. Henry Warren Papers, Archives of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University. Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982). San Antonio Express-News, April 3, 2016.
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Cynthia E. Orozco, "Porvenir Massacre," accessed April 27, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jcp02.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 11, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.