On Jan. 28, 1918, 15 Mexican boys and men from a small Texas border town were rousted in the middle of the night, led to a bluff and shot to death at close range.
The Texas Rangers, local ranchers and soldiers who rounded up the group said they went to question the residents of Porvenir, a ranching and farming community on the far southwestern edge of the state, because they believed they were involved in an earlier raid on nearby Brite Ranch. They claimed the 15 had died in a shootout.
Evidence later showed the victims were unarmed. Pressure by survivors of the massacre led to investigations by the Mexican and U.S. governments, which, despite assertions by the Texas Rangers and ranchers that their actions were justified, found them responsible for killing 15 unarmed people. Company B of the Texas Rangers was disbanded, with some members being fired or transferred, and their captain, James Monroe Fox, being forced to resign.
No one was ever charged with the murders, though, and the families were never compensated. The story was largely forgotten. But in recent years, historians have been re-examining the massacre and pushing for an understanding of what happened and acknowledgment of the culpability of those involved.
A report of an archaeological excavation in which investigators found military cartridge casings and military bullets, in addition to civilian rounds, was published online in September in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology. The authors said it opened up the possibility that the U.S. Army was more involved in the massacre than previously believed. The Army said it didn’t have a response but may comment this week.
Monica Muñoz Martinez, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied racial violence along the Texas-Mexico border, said that at the time of the Porvenir massacre, state-sanctioned violence against Mexicans was encouraged and celebrated by lawmakers and the English-language press.
“You can’t lose sight of the humanity of the people who were massacred and the failure of the judicial court system to hold the people who participated in the massacre, the Texas Rangers and named civilians, accountable,” Ms. Martinez said.