What do we accomplish by petitioning for this marker and coming here today to present it to the wider public?
We cannot loosen the rope that was placed around the neck of Rudolfo Muñiz not far from here, un-fire the bullets that riddled his body in July of 1915, convince his murderers that his life had value, or strip them of their badges for taking it from him.
We cannot undo the orders and the fear mongering that that led to his murder, or those of Jesús Bazan, Antonio Longoria, and countless others. We cannot return the land stolen from their heirs.
We cannot return husbands to their wives, or fathers to their orphaned children, like Juan Flores and nameless others.
We are here to tell the truth about the past: that people suffered and died, often at the hands of their own government, for no justifiable reason. That their land and independence were taken from them, that their families were denied the right to give them a dignified burial, that this was all sanctioned and encouraged at the highest levels of power. That many of the murderers are still celebrated – in our history books and classes, on historical markers and in museums lionizing the Texas Rangers.
But the past is unchangeable. It is the future that is ours to shape.
By telling the truth about the past – in this case, the hard truth – we work for a world where this kind of violence is not repeated. When we remember Rudolfo Muñiz, we insist that he was somebody, a child of God, like us, like our neighbors, like the people we encounter working in the fields, in offices, sitting in theatres, in school, going about their own lives. When we remember that he was killed by men authorized to use deadly force to uphold the law, we remind our fellow citizens that putting on a badge and uniform is no inoculation against venality and sadism, in 1915 or 2017.
When we say that legislators and governors and reporters looked the other way and even endorsed these actions, we remind our fellow citizens of the dangers of demagogues in high places today. When we celebrate those who tried to stop the violence – Cameron County Sheriff W.T. Vann rescuing prisoners from execution, attorney Thomas Hook translating telegrams for help into English, journalist Jovita Idar and State Representative J.T. Canales risking their lives to expose the violence in public – we offer examples to be emulated today.
The demons of our past are still with us. The Ku Klux Klan parades in our streets, angry men arm themselves in fear and hate against their neighbors, our government again targets Mexicans as criminals and invaders. We need an honest history, for the living, now more than ever.
Today we take one step toward that history. We refuse to forget.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The above remarks were delivered by Professor Benjamin H. Johnson, author of Revolution in Texas, at the unveiling ceremony for a new historical marker on the frontage of I-69 East in San Benito that recognizes the massacre of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in South Texas from 1910-1920.
our land was taken from us thru fraud and power of attorney trials by james b w ells schunior and frank w kibbe 1907-1908 miflinkenedy and Richard king would giove the attorneys monmey to buy derechos to llanogrande and othe spanishland grants belonging to the ballies hinojosa zamoras Garcia benavides dela garzas Alaniz washingtons eayers longorias and we were elft with nothing I grew up wondering what was id oing living insuch poverty when growing up inrpemont and other kids had every thing dad was alow income self employed truck driver and poor we were field migrants wtf is afield migrant we traveled all over the country greatest education a kid ever got. then I almost finished highschool and before I could finish the selective service got me and drafted to s asexas and ft polk Louisiana,us army 11 bravo and ft hood basic ait and ft riely viketnam along with many kids from the cioastal bed and the rgv ended up at ft riuely the 9th inf div was made up of texas Mexicanamerican kids othing but highschool kids and college along with whitesand others we would finish our tfx and ship to vung tau and bear cat then the Mekong delta and fighting the vc nva black pajamas,I went thru sevral fire fights before being sent to 9snt and night convoys irecieved my cib and I didn’t want any medals ,ijust wanted to go home intact ,I came home November 251967bienhoa air fiorce base and Kyoto japan anchorage Alaska to sanfrancisco after our tour of dsuty and home to cc texas by way of dallas houston to premont igrew up wondering why we were Washington?dad kept driving to the riogrande valley and visiting places he knew but what he was doing was giving me atour of places his family once owned then after 45 years of marriage and now alone divorced empty nester and working,now.dav Vietnam vet I sit at homeresearching our roots which point to Guadalajara jalisco mexico. and our great grand mother mariana dela mota y velasco and who married george washingtoneayers and he was from boston a yankee smuggler on the Spanish california coast, born 1775 and wellhis sons jose washington fights at the Alamo reachs the rank of lt colonel,and become governor of Colima and he disappears in history in my research my grand father martin washington velasco isfound inreynosa and he was supposed to be aferry boat captain and marries my grand mother ediuviges daughter of candido solsi Cervantes daughter of petra maria Garcia hinojosa solis jsoe vicente deynojsoa son of capitainjuan jsoe deynojosa owner of llano grande and 8 other land grants Eileen fowler says we owned 492 ,000 acres but it maybe less ask Richard king and miflinkenedy famileis theyhave the deeds