There is this unspoken yet booming narrative of untaught history in our school system. We are not sure which individuals get to decide; in fact, each state sets its own standards for what history is and isn’t taught. However, it’s been prevalent over the years that the darker moments in American history are swept under the rug.
In 2010, the Arizona public school system prohibited teaching Mexican-American history. Texas Public Radio reported, “Republican state lawmakers there argued that the classes created resentments towards other races, and even in some cases, promoted the overthrow of the U.S. government.”
The story in Texas was a bit different; a board agreed to an ethnic studies course in 2014 that would focus on Mexican descent, but since its creation, it had been in the queue for four years with debates on which textbook would be used in classrooms. Until 2018, when the Texas Board of Education finally approved the curriculum, named Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.
Now, African-American history courses are being taught in Texas, with Native American history courses following suit. To advocate for the inclusion of ethnic studies courses throughout our Texas high schools, we curated five pivotal historical facts to highlight the significance of Mexican-American and Indigenous history in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to various Indigenous tribes and communities, many of which still live in the RGV, like the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe, who continue to protest against SpaceX destroying their native land.
Other tribes discussed in Indigenous Mexico are the Lipan Apache Tribe, the Mayapem Tribe, and the Pintos Tribe. In 1943, “musicologist, teacher and historian Gabriel Saldívar Silva, wrote Los Indios of Tamaulipas, [providing the names] of many indigenous groups” along the Rio Grande Valley and Mexican border. These are a few of many tribes with roots, ties, and connections to the indigenous history of the Rio Grande Valley. Unfortunately, many tribes have been assimilated or disappeared throughout the course of history.
La Matanza of 1915 is a significant moment in Mexican-American History and holds the historical events of violence against Mexican-Americans by Texas Rangers, who killed Mexicans based on allegations of being affiliated with local bandits.
One of the incidents cited in the RGV was the lynching of fourteen Mexican-American men at Alamo City Park by Tom Mayfield and Texas Rangers. No investigation was ever made, and the resting place of the fourteen is still unknown to this day.
Have you ever wondered why the Valley is called the Valley? We don’t have hills or mountains, so what gives? Well, it was marketing.
In the article Inventing the Magic Valley of South Texas 1905-1941, authors Christian Brannstrom and Matthew Neuman describe how Anglo land developers used “language, iconography, and performance” to market and paint a rosier picture of the region and its “opportunities.”
The 1918 pamphlet that first published the mention of the “Magic Valley” described it as a place “where the Northern farmer has planted and claimed the land for his own.” It described local labor as “cheap and plentiful and will always be” because of the “numerous Mexicans living on the Texas side of the river who welcome the coming of the new blood with its capital, energy, and enterprise.”
There is a lack of scholarly research, stories, and discussion on segregation in the Rio Grande Valley. However, you can find bits of the segregation that Mexican people experienced in oral history.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, residents in McAllen of Mexican descent were segregated from receiving a full education due to Anglos taking over the farming economy. Mexican children were “not expected to go beyond” the fifth grade. In the 1920s, middle schools and high schools became segregated as well. Segregation affected all facets of Mexican people’s lives, even their hospital stays where Mexican patients were placed in hospital basements.
Segregation was not just present in McAllen but all throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
In 1971, the citizens of Pharr were faced with various accounts of police brutality. After failed attempts from the Mayor and Police departments to address the allegations, Efrain Fernandez and Maria Magallan organized a protest; the protesters asked for the removal of Chief Ramirez. High-pressure hoses were used on the protests, and violence ensued. As a result, Alfonso Loredo Flores, an innocent bystander who had not been involved in the protest, was killed by police.
A historical marker is now installed outside the Ramos Hair Styling Center after Thomas Ray Garcia advocated for its placement where the events took place.