Raza Fights Back


At the end of 1915 a group met in El Paso to mark what they called the, “Start of an era of peace in Mexico”. Those in attendance, El Paso Mayor Tom Lea, a known racist and germophobe, Mexican General Alvaro Obregon, American General John Pershing, and others. They all agreed that Pancho Villa would be eliminated as a threat and therefore all-American mining interests would be protected in Chihuahua. However, Pancho Villa gave warning that no American would have any protection and if they valued their life they should leave. C.R. Watson of the Cusihuiriachi mining company quickly ordered all employees to leave with what they could and board the train to El Paso.

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  However, General Obregon insisted that they return as the whole area was now under his protection and no harm would come to him or his men. With this assurance and the lure of the rich mines that awaited just over the border, C.R. Watson ordered his men to return. This proved to be a fatal mistake as the train carrying the men was attacked by Coronal Pablo Lopez and the hundred soldiers under his command. According to reports from that day the men shouted, “Viva Villa, and death to the Gringos”! They slaughtered reportable eighteen or more mining workers that day and their remains arrived back in El Paso on January 13, 1916. 


“By now the marauding crowd grew into the hundreds”


  Once word spread of the slaughter of Americans at the hands of the Villa soldiers, menacing crowds formed to exact revenge on someone, anyone. As the day grew longer and men drank at area bars, their fuse grew shorter and shorter. Then two American soldiers from Fort Bliss attacked two Mexican men from a Mexican neighborhood close to the downtown area. The violence spread to the interior of Chihuahuita district when drunken Angelo’s poured out of saloons to join the violence. Among their victims were children and the elderly. If you looked Mexican, you were a target. By now the marauding crowd grew into the hundreds. Local police tried to stop the riot, but we’re outnumbered.                                                                                           


“General Pershing declared Martial law and ordered Dead-Lines that separated the Mexican neighborhoods from the Angelo community…”


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  Groups from El Segundo Barrio heard the news and came to help los Mejicanos from Chihuahuita. They were armed with bats, pipes, and any other weapons they could get their hands on. In addition, reportable some residents from Juarez, including some soldiers crossed into El Paso to defend the Mexican Americans living in El Paso. Finally, General Pershing ordered his troops into the downtown and Mexican areas of town to quell the rioting. The soldiers established and enforced a curfew through entry check points; they allow only those with permits signed by the provost Marshall out. Despite all this, the fighting between both groups continued well past midnight. General Pershing declared Martial law and ordered Dead-Lines that separated the Mexican neighborhoods from the Angelo community, even temporarily closing the International Bridge. How many killed or injured is not clear, but estimates are well into the hundreds. 

  According to published public records at Texas Tech University and books written about this nightmare for El Paso Mejicanos, these incidents affected race relations in this area for many years. Given the anti-immigrant rhetoric promoted by POTUS and his supporters, we must all be vigilant to prevent what happened in El Paso in 1916 from returning in 2020.                                   

  By A.Govea

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