In response to:
Atrocities America Forgot from the June 6, 2019 issue
To the Editors:
In his review of Enrico Deaglio’s A True and Terrible Affair Between Sicily and America [NYR, June 6], Frank Viviano writes that the 1890 lynching of eleven Italian-Americans in New Orleans was “the single worst mass lynching in US history.”
Sadly, that grim statistic belongs to the now well-documented massacre of Mexicans living on the banks of the Rio Grande in the isolated village of Porvenir, Texas. On the evening of January 28, 1918, fifteen unarmed men and boys were rounded up and roped together by Texas Rangers and local ranchers, then led to a rock outcropping in the desert and shot dead. They were likely assisted by a troop of US Cavalry, which returned the next day to burn Porvenir to the ground.
The lynching was allegedly in retaliation for a Christmas raid on the nearby Brite Ranch, but there was no evidence that any of the murdered men participated in that attack, which was probably carried out by Villistas or Carranzanistas.
The true motive for the killings has never been established but they were certainly part of the contemporaneous reign of terror, implemented by the Texas Rangers and their allies in other, more populous, parts of Texas that included lynching scores, if not hundreds, of Mexican-Americans—just not that many at once.