William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, "Muerto por Unos Desconocidos (Killed by Persons Unknown): Mob Violence against Blacks and Mexicans," in Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, edited by Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 54-55.
Many Mexicans had indeed turned to “banditry” as a result of white mob violence…
Another Mexican who greatly angered whites was Juan Cortina. Between 1859 and 1873, Cortina and his gang engaged in a series of bitter and bloody confrontations with the U.S. military along the Texas border. Cortina proclaimed to be an instrument of divine retribution sent to avenge those murdered and dispossessed by whites. Cortina reserved particular wrath for the local and state authorities who continued to tolerate the lynching of his people. He once observed: “There are to be found criminals covered with frightful crimes, but they appear to have impunity until opportunity furnish [sic] them a victim; to these monsters indulgence is shown, because they are not of our race, which is unworthy, as they say, to belong to the human species.” Scholars have described Murrieta, Vásquez and Cortina as “social bandits” who raided in retaliation against the forces of racism that repressed Mexicans throughout the Southwest.
Mexicans’ retaliatory actions often served only to compound racial conflict. Retaliatory raids provoked whites to further reprisals against Mexicans. This in turn strengthened the bitter resolve of the recalcitrant Mexicans. A vicious circle of violence and retribution was therefore created. In October, 1859, Texas Rangers lynched Thomas Cabrera, a leading member of the Cortina gang. An enraged Cortina immediately launched an assault on white settlers near Brownsville, Texas. The persistence of these raids provided whites with an excuse to condemn all Mexicans as dangerously criminal people whose presence in the Southwest posed a continued threat to white settlement. Francisco P. Ramírez of the Spanish-language newspaper El Clamor Público understood the danger of retaliatory action. He wrote on July, 1856, that “the Mexicans are growing tired of being run over and having injustices committed against them; but to take up arms to redress their grievances, this is an act without reason.”
- S. Dale McLemore, Racial and Ethnic Violence in America, second edition (Newton, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1983), pp. 219-21; Jerry D. Thompson, ed., Juan Cortina and the Texas-Mexico Frontier 1859-1877 (El Paso: University of Texas at El Paso Press, 1994), p. 6; Jerry D. Thompson, “The Many Faces of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina,” South Texas Studies 2 (1991): 88, 92; Webb, Texas Rangers, p. 176.↩
- Social banditry and Mexican outlaws are discussed in Pedro Castillo and Albert Camarillo, eds., Furia y Muerte. John Boessenecker believes that most Mexican bandits were not social bandits. See Boessenecker, “Pio Linares: California Bandido,” The Californians 5, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1987): 34-44.↩
- Matt S. Meier and Feliciano Rivera, The Chicanos: A History of Mexican Americans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), pp. 101-102; Thompson, “Many Faces,” p. 89; Thompson, Juan Cortina, p. 102, notes 1 and 3; Lyman L. Woodman: Cortina: Rogue of the Rio Grande (San Antonio, Tex.: Naylor, n.d.), pp. 21-22; “Report on the Accompanying Documents of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Relations of the U.S. with Mexico,” U.S. House, No. 701, 45th Cong., 2nd sess., Serial Set 1824, pp. 75-76.↩
- El Clamor Público, July 26, 1856. English translation from Zaragosa Vargas, ed., Major Problems in Mexican American History (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999), p. 147.↩