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Special Collections & University Archives: Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans (1915 - 1920)

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Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans (1915 - 1920)

Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans

Important Research Note

While UTRGV Special Collections & Archives is tasked with access and preservation of our collections, we do not approve, endorse, or support the attitudes, prejudices, or behaviors, which may be expressed among these materials. We recognize some materials may contain offensive and racist language and imagery, especially in depictions of Mexican and Mexican-American people. However, this research guide attempts to avoid perpetuating damaging stereotypes and tropes, systemic inequity, and ethnic and racial violence by promoting the researcher's candid evaluation and interrogation of the historical record.


gerund or present participle: lynching; noun: lynching

  1. (of a mob) kill (someone), especially by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial.

From Oxford Languages and Google

Ethnic Mexican

During the early 1900s, the borderlands region was fluid with respect to to geophysical location and geopolitical identity. The term “ethnic Mexicans” is used by many historians to reflect this fluidity and to identify people of Mexican descent including both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Background: Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans

The purpose of this research guide is to provide general historical information on the documented lynchings of ethnic Mexicans in Texas as well as address various other factors related to ethic violence including, racial discrimination, agriculture industry, and migration in the Rio Grande Valley. It focuses on the period of 1915 - 1920. (See also Texas Rangers Research Guide.)

Summary: Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans

The first recorded cases of the lynching of ethnic Mexicans in the U.S. emerged during the late 1840s and continued through the 1930s. Although the exact number of lynchings remains largely unknown, historians estimate that roughly 5,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans were killed during this period. The majority of cases are found within the border regions of Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. According to Michael Barnes of the Austin American Statesman, "the NAACP has detailed 335 Texas lynching deaths by 1919. More recently, scholars have added to the list almost 250 lynchings of ethnic Mexicans in Texas from 1850 to 1930."

The history of lynching of ethnic Mexicans living in the Rio Grande Valley (also called "Tejanos") is tied to broader historical context, including the Mexican Revolution, border raids and violence, Anglo-American migration to South Texas, and the agricultural revolution. The completion of the Brownsville railroad in the early twentieth century created an influx of Anglo-American migrants to the region driven by promises of economic capital in the agricultural industry. During this period, the Valley transitioned from a predominantly Hispanic cattle ranching culture into an agricultural production industry dominated by Anglos seeking more land acquisitions. Rebecca Onion for writes, "Between 1900 and 1910, more than 187,000 acres of land transferred from Tejano to Anglo hands, in just two Texas counties (Cameron and Hidalgo). Many who lost their land ended up working on it, paid, not well, by its new owners." Changing social, economic, and political circumstances exposed deep racial inequalities, escalating at times to threats, violence, and lynching.

In 1915, South Texas experienced its bloodiest year of racial violence against ethnic Mexicans perpetrated by Texas Rangers, United States Army, federal law enforcement officers, and local vigilante groups. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations investigated "Mexican Affairs" and their 1920 report documents specific violent incidents among "bandits" as well as victims in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. And, often the victims were unknown or unreported/underreported, and those that were reported were rarely, if ever, investigated. For example, page 1245 of the report Investigation into Mexican Affairs cites, "During that day [September 123, 1915] the soldiers arrested five Mexicans living at the ranch. They were taken to San Benito, turned over to the deputy sheriff, and placed in jail. That night at about 9:30 the deputy sheriffs took three of them out of jail and started on the Harlingen Road. Next morning these three Mexicans were found dead, having been executed.

However, reform came in 1919 when Texas Representative J.T. Canales of Brownsville led a formal investigation into the criminal activities of the Texas Rangers in the Rio Grande Valley at the state capital.

The escalating violence resulted in a wave of migration called, "The Great Exodus," whereby Hispanic people native to the borderlands moved to Mexico. The wealthy and poor alike packed what they could carry and abandoned their homes, ranches, and heritage to escape persecution. Others held their ground and some radicalized in response, answering violence with violence. The Plan of San Diego called for the reclamation of borderland states through the eradication of all Anglo adult males.

Archival and Digital Collections

Brent Campney's research collection on race relations in South Texas

The Brent Campney Collection consists of research files accumulated during Dr. Campney's research into race relations in South Texas, particularly the Rio Grande Valley, during the 19th and 20th Centuries. The collection has a series of folders dealing with (in most cases) long forgotten episodes of racism and violence in South Texas and are intended to 1) inform interested scholars that these incidents occurred and; 2) provide a starting point for their own research into the incidents.

Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria Marker Dedication Ceremony

Texas Historical Marker for Bazan and Longoria Murders

The born-digital collection consists of images and recordings of the Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria marker dedication ceremony. This marker commemorates the double murder of Jesus Bazán and his son-in-law, Antonio Longoria, on September 27, 1915 along a dirt road near their ranch outside of Edinburg.

Note: This collection is born-digital but must be accessed (viewed) at Special Collections.

Rio Grande Valley Oral Histories

John Randall Peavey (Parts 1-9), 1981. Peavey reflects on his life history spanning the early family history and 1905-1915 period through his Sheriff's campaign of 1946. This interview was conducted by Hubert J. Miller in between December 22-23, 1981.

Delia Ramirez Alaniz Oral History, 1987. Delia Ramirez Alaniz talks about life as a child: family, education, religion, and funerals in Havanna, Texas. She also talks about marriage and land grants. Additionally, she talks about how one of her teachers stated a Tabasco school on fire, how Texas Rangers killed a Mexican, Patricio Perez and Senovia Perez, A.Y. Baker of Edinburg, how Juan Cortina is a relative, Clay Henry Davis, Josefa De La Garza Perez, land title for Fort Ringold, Porciones 70, 71, 72, 78, 80, 81, 88, 104, the history of Havana, Matias Tijerina, the Walkers, and how the Great Depression wasn't felt in the ranches. Interview conducted in Spanish by Ruben Alaniz in 1987.

Journal of South Texas

Founded in 1954 “to encourage and to aid in the development of local historical societies and to discover, collect, preserve, and publish historical records and data relating to South Texas, and with special emphasis on the Tamaulipan background and the colony of Nuevo Santander.”


The author seeks "to recognize the gendered effects of lynching," asking questions like "What of the women who watched as their husbands and sons were taken away to accomplish what I have termed 'disappearance lynchings'? What of those made to watch as their husbands, brothers, fathers, and son were lynched? What of the women who stayed near through the entire public ritual, and stayed close as the bodies lay—waiting for the safety of retrieval and burial? What of the women who in fear for their own lives, would ask for the bodies of their family members to give them a proper burial?"

External Resources

Research Compiled by Samantha Bustillos

Samantha Bustillos earned a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS-Anthropology) at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (2021).  Ms. Bustillos earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Anthropology at UTRGV in 2019. She worked at UTRGV Special Collections as an intern and later student assistant while earning her degrees. Samantha is a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar and UTRGV Engaged Scholar. As an Engaged Scholar, she conducted and presented her research findings on biracial families in the Rio Grande Valley during the U.S. Civil War at UTRGV ES2 Symposium in 2019. Samantha also served as a docent for the Community Historical Archeology Project with Schools (CHAPS) in collaboration on the traveling exhibit "War and Peace on the Rio Grande." She is now employed with UTRGV University Library as a Library Assistant I.


The research guides compiled by UTRGV staff and students are intended to assist patrons who are embarking upon new research endeavors. Our goal is to expand their knowledge of the types of resources available on a given topic, including books, archival materials, and websites. In so doing, our compilers have taken care to include collections, digital items, and resources that may be accessed not only through UTRGV but also via other institutions, repositories, and websites.

We wholeheartedly respect the research interests of others. Therefore, please contact us if you wish to submit a resource for consideration, or if you have a question about or an issue with a specific cited resource.

Books from Our Catalog

Databases for Primary & Secondary Sources: Mexican American Civil Rights

Timeline of Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans

Timeline of Lynching of Ethnic Mexicans in the RGV

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