Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mexican lynching’s In Memoriam: Juan Bonilla Flores !

Josepha, 1851

Part of the Anglo fear of Mexicans, as with Negroes, was based on the alleged sexual prowess of the darker-skinned people. The "greaser" women were supposedly corrupting the white men. In the mining country of central California, a prostitute named Josepha was hanged by an angry mob after a passion death occurred in which she was involved.

The historian H.H. Bancroft lists an extraordinary number of Mexicans who were whipped or lynched to death during the 1850s.

William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb’s “The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928," has different figures. Between 1848 and 1928, according to Carrigan and Webb, mobs lynched at least 597 Mexicans. This does not include many incidents of other forms mob violence. This is considerable, considering that the Mexican population was small in comparison to the Black population.



This is really depressing stuff, but it needs to be known more widely acknowledged as part of our history.

From: Carlos Munoz, Jr. [mailto:cmjr@berkeley.edu

In Memoriam: Juan Bonilla Flores



Born: June 25, 1905

Died: March 25, 2007

Many assume that only African-Americans were greatly victimized by

lynching as tragic American phenomenon. Juan Bonilla Flores, a kind,

gentle and wise man late of Odessa, but once of his cherished Porvenir,

Texas - would have proved the lie to such thinking.

He was only a boy a few months shy of thirteen when his entire childhood

was wrenched away during a single horror-filled night in January, 1918.

U.S. Cavalry soldiers came to his village in that terrible moment of

history, and local white ranchers, and Texas Rangers. All were complicit

or were perpetrators in the mass lynching that came to be known as The

Porvenir Massacre and claimed the lives of fifteen men and teenaged

boys, including Longino Flores, Juan Bonilla's beloved father. The poor

villagers of Porvenir were tejanos -- Mexicans living in Texas but

trying to be Americans.

Throughout his long life, Mr. Flores was haunted by memories of his

father and the others murdered by so many gunshots that their mutilated

bodies were virtually unrecognizable. But until he reached his nineties,

most details of what had happened were barely uttered, and the snippets

he did reveal in his nightmares were considered dark fantasies by his

children and descendants.

 Finally, it was time to tell the truth, no matter how painful.

 I met him once he'd reached age 97, in 2002.  By then, he'd "come out"

to his children and descendants as the last survivor of Porvenir's

tragedy. I was touched by his sense of humor and civility, but mostly by

his courage.  He agreed to be interviewed for American Lynching: A

Documentary Feature and to share his horrific story with the world while

my film crew and I learned how the long ago events in Porvenir had in

fact impacted the entire Flores family in simple but incalculable ways.

I will miss this gentle human being greatly. Most of all, I lament the

bitter truth that we could not complete our production before he died

this year at age 101.

 Gode Davis

Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr.

Professor Emeritus

Department of Ethnic Studies



"Life is struggle and struggle is life,

but be mindful that Victory is in the Struggle"

 - Carlos Muñoz, Jr.


Rough Draft Crocodile Tears: Lynchings of Mexicans

ByRodolfo F. Acuna

The U.S. Senate just the other day issued an apology for its history of inaction on lynchings. It acknowledged decades of obstruction. The Senate heard testimony from more than 150 descendants of lynching victims. More than 200 anti-lynching bills had been introduced, three passed the House and seven U.S. presidents lobbied for such laws. Tellingly, Congress has never apologized for slavery.

It has been documented that a total of 4,742 Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968, Of these 3,452 were African Americans.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) sponsored the bill after she read James Allen’s "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America." Beyond irony some right wing radio hosts have been hailing this action, comparing it to today’s use of the filibuster by Democrats to prevent the life appointment of right wing judges.

Related to this action, I have received several interesting calls from reporters this week. A Los Angeles Times writer called me about information on El Clamor Publico, a Spanish-language newspaper published in Los Angeles from 1855-1859. It is the 150 anniversary of the paper and the Times wanted to acknowledge its existence.

On June 15, I received an Email from Armando Miguelez, one of the foremost experts on 19th Century Spanish language newspapers. Armando commented on an article published by the Washington Post, pointing to the irony of the Senate’s actions. He observed that in a four-year period in the El Clamor Publico alone, he counted 80 linchamientos of Mexicans, Chileans, Peruvians, Indians and Blacks in California. It is doubtful whether the Allen book included this source and the figures do not include those of Spanish-language newspapers in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. For example, the files at Tuskegee Institute, considered the most comprehensive count of lynching victims, lists the lynching of fifty Mexicans in the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.

William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb’s “The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 too 1928," has different figures. Between 1848 and 1928, according to Carrigan and Webb, mobs lynched at least 597 Mexicans. This does not include many incidents of other forms mob violence. This is considerable, considering that the Mexican population was small in comparison to the Black population.

Webb and Carrigan described how on November 16, 1928, four masked men broke into a hospital in Farmington, New Mexico. They seized Rafael Benavides who was dying of gunshot wounds and hanged him from a locust tree. Benavides was the last known lynching; not the last victim of mob violence.

As mentioned, many of the lynchings of Mexicans have been lost in the pages of Spanish-language newspapers such as El Clamor Publico. Its publisher, Francisco Ramirez espoused the return to Mexico movement. According to Ramirez, Mexicans could not find justice in the United States. On May 10, 1856, Ramírez wrote “California has fallen into the hands of the ambitious sons of North America who will not stop until they have satisfied their passions, by driving the first occupants of the land out of the country, vilifying their religion and disfiguring their customs.”

The Clamor described how Texans from El Monte threw hot tar on Diego Navarro’s family home and broke into the house, dragged him out, and executed him, along with two other Mexicans whom they accused of being members of a rebel gang.There was also the case of the Berreyesa family’s who’s problems began with Bear Flaggers. They assassinaed an elder Berreyesa and his two nephews in 1848. In July 1854 a band of Euroamericans dragged Encarnacion Berreyesa from his house while his wife and children looked on, and suspended him from a tree. When Berreyesa did not confess to the killings, vigilantes left him half dead and hanged Berreyesa’s brother Nemesio.

The most flagrant act of vigilantism was at Downieville in 1851. A kangaroo court convicted a Mexican woman called Juanita who was pregnant and lynched her as 2000 miners looked on. She was the first woman hanged in California. Popular lore rationalized that Juanita was a prostitute (inferring that the lynching was lamentable but, after all, Juanita was antisocial). Years later her husband sued but was ignored by the courts.

Beyond the acknowledgment that these incidents happened, history has its lessons. For example, there is a difference between a senate filibuster to prevent the appointment of a racist judge and a filibuster to prevent the passage of a law to prosecute lynching.There is also historical context. You would think that people would think about consequences such as unjust wars. Clark Clifford and Robert McNamarra have admitted that the Vietnam War was wrong. Fifty years from now, will it make a difference if Congress admits that Americans were wrong for the U.S. imperial wars in the Middle East?

The lynchings were wrong then, and today the hatred and the terrorism of minutemen on the border draw from American root. Racism and violence at anytime or anywhere.

Dr. Christine Marin,  Professor Emeritus .

Grant Consultant. Chicana/o Research Collection & Archives.

Department of Archives & Special Collections.

Hayden Library.   Arizona State University.

PO Box 871006.    Tempe, AZ. 85287-1006.  (mail)

300 E. Orange Mall.  Tempe,  AZ.  85281. (delivered packages)


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