Porvenir Massacre Of 1918: A Harrowing Night Of Racial Murder By Local Texans, US Military

By | September 4, 2020

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(Texas Department of Public Safety)

On January 28, 1918, a group of Texas Rangers, U.S. Cavalry soldiers, and local ranchers descended on the village of Porvenir in Presidio County, Texas to avenge a series of cattle raids along the Mexico-Texas border. Under the cover of night, this band of armed vigilantes marched residents out of their homes before murdering 15 unarmed Mexican men and boys with no proof that anyone from Porvenir had anything to do with the crimes. No one knew about this heinous massacre for weeks, and when the gruesome execution finally came to light, the dead were described as "thieves, informers, spies, and murderers." Their story stuck for almost 100 years, but the truth is a much more upsetting affair.

A Christmas Raid

With the Mexican Revolution winding down, strong anti-Mexican sentiment gripped places like Texas and New Mexico by 1918, leading to near constant clashing between neighbors. People living on the border were especially touchy following Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico two years earlier, but the act that lit the fuse of the Porvenir Massacre occurred on Christmas Day 1917. Nearly 45 bandits descended on the Brite Ranch in Presidio County, killing three Americans in their tussle with the 8th Cavalry. No one ever conclusively connected the bandits to anyone in Presidio County, but the Cavalry decided that they had to be locals.

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(Robert Runyon Photograph Collection/Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, via The University of Texas at Austin)

The Porvenir Massacre

Two days before the massacre, Captain James Monroe Fox led Texas Rangers Company B into Porvenir to search for anyone connected to the Brite Ranch raid. They found three weapons but nothing suggesting involvement from anyone living in the community, and three men were detained for a day before they were cut loose and allowed to return home.

In the early hours of January 28, 1918, the rangers returned to the community along with eight members of the U.S. Army Cavalry and four local ranchers. The group dragged everyone out of their homes before separating a group of 15 Mexican men and boys from their families, marching them to a nearby hill, and executing all of them. Two were teenagers, one was in his seventies, and at least two were well-to-do landowners who had no reason to take up banditry.