The Strawn cemetery has many headstones written in Mexican Spanish. The feeling of love and pain is palpable on the writing of those headstones


Those Mexicans of the late 1800s and early 1900s in North Texas wanted to make sure that if someone were ever to come search for them, he would know who they were, how they lived, and how they died. That man finally came to search for them, his name is Felix Alvarado. For the last three years Mr. Alvarado has been on a quest searching for these men and women who are the true foundation of the Mexican settlement of North Texas.

Mr. Alvarado is a walking encyclopedia of the Mexican history in North Texas, and as I follow him throughout the cemetery, he provides a lesson in that history, “in 1875 the last 400 of the Kwahada Comanche band surrendered after years of fighting off the US Army. The Comanche warriors, elite horsemen, had kept American development out of North Texas and the surrounding areas, but with their final surrender and banishment to reservations in Oklahoma a new chapter opened up in North Texas. The land was now wide open for exploitation of its natural resources.  Meanwhile to the south of Texas its Mexican neighbor the state of Coahuila by 1884 had already developed a coal mining industry large enough to feed both the Mexican and Texan trains. The Mexican miners renowned for their ingenuity, bravery, and toughness were originally from Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosi, states with long mining traditions.

When coal was discovered in Thurber, Strawn, Lyra, and the surrounding region, the owners had no problem figuring out where they could find miners, the best in the world were right across the border from Texas in Coahuila. It was difficult recruiting Mexican miners back in 1888 because the miners had plenty of work in Coahuila but the lure of better pay brought hundreds of them and their families to mine coal in North Texas Palo Pinto County. 


These intrepid Mexican miners would become the foundation for the Mexican colonization of North Texas. Coal mining throughout Texas absorbed most of the available Mexican miners and the owners of the mining companies resorted to importing mostly Italian, and Hungarian miners to work the mines alongside the Mexicans. It was a colorful time in Mexican-American history. Mexican neighborhoods shared the landscape alongside other ethnic settlements. There were brothels, saloons, carnivals, and the growing labor movement, Mexicans were right in the middle of it. There was hardship also, in 1919 the Spanish Influenza took the lives of Mexican children, women, and men. The coal mines were dangerous, and miners lost their lives.  By the late 1920s coal mining had given way to oil, and the miners left, some went back to Mexico, others made their way to Fort Worth, some remained.”

We head into downtown Strawn, at the side of the railroad is a rough looking man who reminds me of John Wayne. Mr. Alvarado tells me that he will be our guide in locating the remains of the Mexican settlements in Lyra, Texas. The guide drives us to a dusty road that winds up and down dry creek beds, he points to a field overgrown with weeds, and cactus, “watch out for the rattle-snakes that is what remains of Lyra,” he warns. Mr. Alvarado searches around, it is difficult to see anything because of the brush. Finally, he finds the stone and brick foundations of the buildings where the Mexican miners lived. He picks up a brick from the foundations, a fitting sign of what these Mexican miners represent to North Texas Mexican history. 

Mr. Alvarado with a look of determination comments, “time has forgotten these first Mexicans in North Texas, their contributions are unknown, the physical remains of their presence hidden amongst the weeds and brush. My mission is to give them a voice and make known their contribution to the Mexican history and colonization of North Texas. These men weren’t cotton pickers, they were skilled miners in high demand, and they weren’t fleeing the revolution, they were here before that, these miners are the true foundation of the Mexican settlement of North Texas that continues until the present.” 

We thank the guide, and Mr. Alvarado drives away toward Fort Worth, there is a sadness in the air, as if the spirits of those first Mexicans appreciated the visit of fellow Mexicans and were sad to see us go. 



By Franco

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