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The Texas Rangers' Lore Spurred Cultural Fawning and Sports Namesakes that have Long Masked a History of Violence and Racism

Growing up in Monahans in the 1960s, Arlinda Valencia said she was used to hearing about the valor of the Texas Rangers in school and on television.

“I grew up watching The Lone Ranger,” she said, referring to the 1950s Western drama series. “The Lone Ranger was a hero, and that's what we grew up with, thinking that the Texas Rangers were heroes.”

But when Valencia learned from a relative that the Texas Rangers took part in killing her great-grandfather, Longino Flores, and 14 other unarmed Tejano men and boys in the 1918 Porvenir massacre, she slowly began to reevaluate her long-held perception of the law enforcement agency.

Now Valencia, 68, is spreading word of the massacre in hopes of shedding light on a piece of Texas history that historically has not been given widespread attention: the Texas Rangers’ racist and xenophobic past. She developed a website that details the massacre and has organized screenings of "Porvenir, Texas," a 2019 documentary about the killings.

This year’s prevalent and ongoing anti-police brutality protests have added resonance to Valencia’s cause as calls have surfaced for the Texas Rangers name to be stricken from the modern-day Texas Department of Public Safety investigative agency, North Texas’ Major League Baseball team and college mascots. Meanwhile, historians and public officials are at odds over how to reconcile the law enforcement unit’s racist historical acts with its long-running exalted place in Texas history and culture.

The Porvenir massacre is one of many past acts of violence committed by the Texas Rangers against people of color in the state, including indigenous Texans, Black Texans and Tejanos, or Mexican Americans from the South Texas region, from the 19th century through the 20th century.