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188 Up to the time the Mexican revolution started there was never a more friendly people on earth than the Mexicans on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and the Americans on the American side. . .But since the revolution against Diaz there have been turbulent conditions and complications from a political standpoint.—A Brownsville resident I think it was German intrigue that they were hoping to keep up strife between the United States and Mexico, hoping to start the war right there. I think it was the Rangers who started it up.—Virginia Yeager, San Diego It wasn’t the Rangers altogether; it was deputy sheriffs and sheriffs and border guards and the immigration agents and the Department of Justice. I don’t think the Rangers were any worse than the lawyers.—Kleberg County Sheriff J. B. Scarborough1 In 1917 Frank Cushman Pierce published a book entitled A History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In its closing chapter he catalogued fifty-two incidents of violence in the Valley in a forty-six week period in 1916. There were nearly the same number recorded again in 1917 and once more the following year. These incidents were far and above CHAPTER 14 The Canales Investigation The Canales Investigation 189 ★ the ordinary crimes that authorities investigated in any region. The assaults were related to a growing restlessness brought on by a combination of factors, including a migration of Midwest Anglo farmers into the area, after effects of the Mexican revolution, and German intrigue related to World War I.2 The Texas Rangers had been divided into two subgroups during this time—the “regular” officers and men who patrolled the state as they had for three decades; and the “special” Rangers who, as generally no more than politically-appointed gunslingers, meted out their own brand of justice outside the bounds of law. The evidence grew by 1918 that at least dozens of Mexican Americans, and perhaps as many as several hundred, had been summarily executed on no more evidence of guilt than the color of their skin. On January 28, 1918, a company of “special” Rangers commanded by J. Monroe Fox marched fifteen Mexicans out into the scrub brush of south Texas and executed them. The fifteen had been rounded up after a brutal raid at the nearby Brite Ranch on Christmas Day a month earlier. During the night of October 5, 1918, Ranger John Edds was awakened in his cot by a man in his custody named Lisandro Munoz, so startling Edds that he grabbed for his rifle. The Mexican did, too, and in the ensuing scuffle Munoz was killed. But rumor spread quickly that Edds had murdered Munoz in cold blood rather than take the time to return him to the authorities. Other stories surfaced naming Rangers William M. Hanson, J. J. Sanders, R. L. Ransom, John Bloxom, Jr., and others as perpetrators of like atrocities. These rinche pinche, cara de cinche [those lousy, stinking Rangers, they’ll grab you by the tail] seemed to be systematically eliminating what they perceived to be a problem in the borderlands and with the impunity of those considered untouchable by virtue of gubernatorial appointment and Ranger badge. Their activities were staining the reputation of the Ranger force, but most chose to look the other way rather than confront the sordid situation.3 Elected to the state house in 1917 out of Cameron and Willacy counties, State Representative José Tomas Canales of the Brownsville area took on this challenge and began an investigation of the stories Chapter Fourteen 190 ★ he had heard from his constituents over the previous several years, including his own eyewitness accounts when he had personally led scouting patrols in the Valley. In late 1918 Canales levied nineteen charges against the Texas Ranger Force for gross and malicious misconduct , and proposed a bill that would dramatically downsize and constrict the law enforcement agency. The Canales Investigation brought dozens of witnesses to the stand in January and February, 1919, and, along with the federal investigation that followed under Senator Albert Fall, resulted in the reorganization of the Rangers, though not its elimination. New Mexico Senator Albert Fall met from September of 1919 through the following April with the U. S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Mexican Relations, moving from Washington, D.C. to San Antonio January 14 to 24, then to El Paso and San Diego and back to the capitol. Dozens of witnesses and testimonials later, they arrived at much the same...


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MARC Record
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