Presidio County Historical Commission to dedicate official Porvenir Massacre marker

PRESIDIO COUNTY- At the coda of much debate and the culmination of a process surrounded in and steeped among 100 years of (political) controversy, a historical marker commemorating the 1918 Porvenir Massacre and its victims will be unveiled during a dedication at Presidio County Courthouse on Friday November 30.

The Texas Historical Commission sent the order for the 27”x42” Official Texas Historical Marker to the foundry on Tuesday, September 18 – after a prolonged delay- and the marker is expected to be installed along US 90, northwest of Marfa, near Chispa road and Means Ranch Road picnic area in Presidio County.

As one of the most visible programs of the Texas Historical Commission (THC), historical markers commemorate diverse topics in Texas history, including: the history and architecture of notable homes, commercial and public buildings, religious congregations, military sites, etc; events that changed the course of local and state history; and individuals who have made lasting contributions to our state, community organizations and businesses. Beginning in 2006, the THC began collecting a state-mandated $100 marker application fee “to establish an account to offer funding incentives for special or priority markers”. Under the moniker of Undertold Stories, the funds are intended to address “historical gaps, promote diversity of topics, and proactively document significant underrepresented subjects or untold stories.” This program is responsible for assisting county historical commissions and sponsors of chosen topics by providing funding for the foundry cost of a historical marker, or completing the research necessary to submit a qualified application.

Porvenir was a remote village on the banks of the Rio Grande in Presidio County and despite its proximity to Mexico and the revolution raging within Mexico’s borders, was a peaceful settlement where 140 people of Mexican descent worked as farmers and raised livestock. Porvenir, however, existed in proximity to ensuing violence and turmoil that had permeated border regions in nearby areas of the state, and among the regions where there were near-constant reports of raids and brutality perpetrated by revolutionary troops or “bandits”.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, in November of 1917 Texas 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. According to a commemorative article in El Paso Times earlier this year, when raiders (believed to be supporters of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa) waged a deadly attack on the nearby Brite Ranch in Presidio County on December 25, 1917, law enforcement looked toward Porvenir in their search for the perpetrators. Several weeks later, in January of 1918, Company B of the Rangers (from Marfa) – including eight men under Fox; Troop G, Eighth U.S Cavalry, from Camp Evetts; and a crew of local ranchers arrived at the ranch of Manuel Moralez in Porvenir. While there was no evidence linking the villagers of Porvenir to the raid, 15 unarmed and able-bodied men of Mexican descent (residing in Texas) between the ages of 16 and 72 were separated from the women, children and elderly; and executed in the middle of the night in a misplaced act of retaliation. Family members and friends fled in fear across the Rio Grande and buried the dead at Pilares in Mexico.

“Men were dragged from their beds, and, without having been given time to dress, were led away in their night clothes to the edge of the settlement, where they were shot to death by the posse,” reads an El Paso Morning Times article published on February 8, 1918, almost two weeks after the massacre. “The bodies of the men were found the next day where they had fallen, riddled with bullets.”

Exactly what occurred is relatively unclear, severely muddled and of two-sided account; though the massacre remains as one of the most “serious acts of Ranger misconduct”, cited in the Texas Ranger investigation of 1919, which was organized by state legislator José T. Canales who filed charges with the Texas Legislature against the Texas Rangers for the oppression and murder of hundreds of Hispanics along the Rio Grande.

The father of Felipa Mendez Castañeda, whose husband was killed, and whom owned a newspaper in Pilares, Chihuahua also promoted the investigation, in part, alongside nine Porvenir widows who filed affidavits.

The grand jury of Presidio County took no action for the killings, but on June 4, 1918, Governor William P. Hobby and adjutant General James A. Harley disbanded Company B of the Texas Rangers and dismissed fived Rangers for their actions and forced Captain J.M Fox to resign.

As for Porvenir, 42 children survived the 15 men killed and about 120 residents abandoned their homes and fled to Mexico, and the community, as previously known, ceased to exist for several years.

The long awaited Porvenir Massacre Marker Dedication will take place on Friday, November 30 from 2 – 3pm at the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa.

Porvenir schoolteacher Henry Warren, a schoolmaster who lived near Porvenir, Texas, documented the list of victims. He wrote an account of the 1918 massacre after being notified by a 13-year old student of his, Juan Flores, and returning to the scene to record names and details. Because of him, the massacre is known, said Arlinda Valencia to the El Paso Times, a descendant of one of the victims.

Manuel Moralez, 47, who possessed a deed to 1,600 acres. His sixth child was born that night; Román Nieves, 48, who possessed a deed to 320 acres; Longino Flores, 44, father of Juan Flores; Alberto García, 35; Eutimio Gonzales, 37; Macedonio Huertas, 30; Tiburcio Jaques, 50; Ambrosio Hernández, 21; Antonio Castañeda, 72; Pedro Herrera, 25; Viviano Herrera, 23; Severiano Herrera, 15; Pedro Jiménez, 25; Serapio Jiménez, 25; Juan Jiménez, 16.