MARTINEZ, Monica Muñoz. The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018. 400p. Resenha de: WEBER, John. The History Teacher, v.52, n.3, p.530-532, may., 2019.
In her remarkable book, The Injustice Never Leaves You, Monica Muñoz Martinez examines the prevalence of anti-Mexican violence in Texas in the early twentieth century, and the importance of the lingering memories and scars created by those campaigns of violence on those who survived. Beyond highlighting episodes of racialized violence in the 1910s and their importance in solidifying a segregated society in the Texas-Mexico border region, this book also focuses on the efforts by those affected by racial violence to understand and record their own version of this history that has long been denied by both officials and academics in Texas.
Martinez has produced an enormously important history of extralegal violence that demands its readers confront past crimes and their continued resonance today.
The book’s first three chapters examine three infamous episodes of anti-Mexican violence and the struggles by survivors to challenge the presumption that wanton killing of Mexicans was justified. The lynching of Antonio Rodríguez in 1910, the murder of Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria by Texas Rangers in 1915, and the killing of fifteen ethnic Mexicans at Porvenir by a separate group of Texas Rangers in 1918 yielded no criminal convictions or punishments. They were all justified by state officials and local law enforcement as appropriate, if brutal, punishment for bandits or people deemed inherently criminal. Beyond these justifications that shielded Texas Rangers or lynch mob members from facing any punishment for their crimes, the families of the murdered and community members in each of these places fought against official versions of the past with a determined effort to maintain and cultivate their own understanding of history based in preserved community memories. In these alternate portrayals of the past that still circulate near the sites of these century-old murders, the Texas Rangers and white vigilantes were the criminals, preying on innocent, law-abiding locals. “Preserving memories,” writes Martinez, “became a strategy of resistance against historical inaccuracies and social amnesias” (p. 126).
Beyond just recounting these moments of violence, in other words, Martinez shows the continued resonance of these extralegal murders and the efforts by those affected to “insist that the state and cultural institutions stop disavowing this history and instead participate in the long process of reckoning” (p. 29).
The book’s next two chapters delve into efforts by the state of Texas and generations of historians to hide the brutal reality of racist violence and the Texas Rangers in the early twentieth century. Martinez shows that in 1919, the Texas government held off two efforts to punish state violence and mob violence. State Representative José Tomas Canales held a much-publicized investigation of the Texas Rangers in an attempt to both record their misdeeds and force their reform.
While the investigation produced thousands of pages of testimony and revealed the racist violence that animated Ranger activities in the border region, the state legislature, the adjutant general’s office, and the governor all resisted efforts to condemn past actions or reform the Rangers. Instead, Ranger activities were justified by Anglo state officials as necessary protections against endemic and inevitable banditry in the border region. As Martinez points out, the governor and the legislature also rejected efforts by civil rights advocates to pass anti-lynching legislation after a particularly brutal and public lynching in Hillsboro in early 1919. These simultaneous failures to confront both state and mob violence were, the author argues, clear proof that these forms of extralegal violence were selfreinforcing and “had a state-building function” (p. 6).
Martinez closes the book with an examination of recent efforts to use public history as a means to tell this more violent and complicated history. The author and other historians of the Texas-Mexico border region have worked to tell the true history of the Texas Rangers and vigilante violence through historical markers and, most ambitiously, through an exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin in 2016 that revealed the history of racial violence that the state had tried to justify and then hide a century earlier.
The Injustice Never Leaves You is an important and timely book that should be read and taught widely. Martinez not only reveals the centrality of racial violence in Texas history, but also makes clear that the events of the past continue to bleed into the present through memory and through the unhealed wounds of contested history.
John Weber – Old Dominion University.