In 1910, Antonio Rodríguez, a 20-year-old Mexican, was accused of killing Effie Greer Henderson at her ranch home near Rocksprings, close to the jagged southern slopes of the Edwards Plateau. A posse took him to the Rocksprings jail, but two days after the killing, a mob yanked him from his cell and burned him alive at the stake.
His extrajudicial execution — one of many documented during the political violence along the border from 1910 to 1920 — caused an international diplomatic incident. Riots raged in Mexico City and along the Texas-Mexico border, just as Mexico was tilting toward a revolution that would send up to 1 million war refugees northward.
In the U.S., federal and state authorities responded by militarizing the border and, in the process, encouraged widespread vigilantism, upsetting the isolated communities of Tejanos and Anglos in the region.
Nevertheless, when Brown University professor Monica Muñoz Martinez and her team of historians with the Refusing to Forget project proposed placing a Texas historical marker in Rocksprings — through the state’s “Undertold” marker program — the application received resistance.
Communities, especially smaller ones, rarely seek to commemorate the darkest chapters in their histories.
“The reality is that there were thousands of acts of state-sanctioned racial violence in Texas,” Muñoz Martinez says. “In the case of mob violence, specifically, Texans also have a gruesome reputation.”
Such extreme violence against African-Americans was carefully documented as early as 1919. The NAACP has detailed 335 Texas lynching deaths by then. More recently, scholars have added to the list almost 250 lynchings of ethnic Mexicans in Texas from 1850 to 1930.
A good number of those took place between 1910 and 1920, the most harrowing part of “Life and Death on the Border,” an exhibition at the Bullock Texas History Museum that runs through April 3.
“We tried to avoid focusing on victimization,” says John Morán González, a University of Texas professor of English and lead organizer of the show. “But the impact of this event upon South Texas cannot be overestimated. As a result of the last armed insurrection of Tejanos against state authorities and the disproportionate collective punishment of the Tejano community by the Texas Rangers and vigilante posses, the racial polarization between Anglo and Tejano was cemented for decades to come.” …