When Americans Lynched Mexicans, Valdez Art as Political Propoganda

There has been a lot of talk of lynchings lately in Austin, TX.   Here’s a piece of art that has helped fuel the discussion:

(The Strangest Fruit by Vincent Valdez, 2013)



The New York Times ran an article about a forgotten part of history that has only now come to light; a history where Mexicans were mercilessly slaughtered by whites in previously unheard of numbers. I took the NYT article to task to see if the evidence presented held up to scrutiny.  It does not.

I’ve chosen to list some of the article’s claims, followed by contraindicating evidence, sourced below.

You can read the full article here.

(Re: Carragan and Webb article, NY Times, 2.20.15)

1.  The article claims that “From 1848 to 1928, mobs murdered thousands of Mexicans, though surviving records allowed us to clearly document only about 547 cases.”

The authors are constructing evidence. They state the number of Mexicans murdered to be in the thousands, and yet, contradict that claim in the same sentence.

You can see the record of lynchings recorded within a comparable time span here. The category of “white” lynchings was not reserved for whites only, but includes Mexicans, Italians, Chinese, and Native Americans. In other words, there is no way of knowing how many Mexicans were included in that number.  The total of all “white” lynchings listed is 1,297. [1] Again, there is no way of knowing how many Mexicans were included in that number.

2. The authors make another startling claim that misrepresents historical data and presents a false cause fallacy.

They claim, “White fears of Mexican revolutionary violence exploded in July and August 1915, after Mexican raiders committed a series of assaults on the economic infrastructure of the Lower Rio Grande Valley…”

It was not an assault on the economic infrastructure that resulted in fear, but rather, orchestrated murders of whites by Mexicans.

“In 1915, persons of Mexican origin living in Texas orchestrated an uprising remembered today as the Plan de San Diego. Comparable in scale to Nat Turner’s slave rebellion nearly a century earlier, the revolt was responsible for the killings of dozens of white farmers and ranchers in south Texas.”[2]

In fact, there was a documented murder mission orchestrated by Mexicans to rid the southern states of white people.  But the authors don’t mention this.

“The Plan of San Diego (Spanish: Plan de San Diego) was drafted in the small Texas town of San Diego in 1915 by a band of Mexican rebels hoping to overthrow the United States government in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California during the Mexican Revolution. The plan called for the killing of all Anglo men in the Southwestern states.”[3]

“The appointed start date of the Plan of San Diego was February 20, 1915. It called for the execution of all white American men over the age of sixteen; only the elderly, women, and children would be spared. Also executed would be Mexican American sympathizers who refused to participate in the plan.”[4]

3.  “The lynchings persisted into the 1920s, eventually declining largely because of pressure from the Mexican government.”

Historical evidence suggests that the Mexican government encouraged violence.  Instead of pressuring for the just treatment of Mexicans, the Mexican government itself killed their own people using the ‘ley fuga’ as justification.

“Mexican support was crucial in keeping the offensive alive when the Plan was enacted. Mexico supplied half of the men on guerrilla missions and even used Mexican newspapers as propaganda in the border towns, where they exaggerated the success of Mexican against white Americans and urged further participation.”[5]

“In March 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. In response, the U.S. sent the Pancho Villa Expedition deep into Mexico to catch him. It never did, but the Mexican government responded to U.S. forces entering Mexico by resuming raids northward. The crisis escalated to the verge of formal war, but was resolved by diplomacy. President Carranza was the driving force behind the resurgence of raids.”[6]

If these lynchings are so offensive to the authors, I wonder that they didn’t mention the ley fugo (law of flight) used by the Mexican Government at that time?   Is it only injustice when it’s done to a Mexican by a white man?




4.  “July 5, 1851, a mob of 2,000 in Downieville, Calif., watched the extralegal hanging of a Mexican woman named Juana Loaiza, who had been accused of having murdered a white man named Frank Cannon.”

Juana Loaiza was not lynched for being accused of murder. She was lynched because she had a trial by jury and was found guilty of murder.

“Josefa was found guilty of the murder of Cannon”[8]

An investigative writer, J’aime Rubio, has researched this particular incident thoroughly. You can read her article here. Following is a noteworthy statement from her post:

“The fact she was a woman and Hispanic has no relevance. It has only wrongfully made Josefa an innocent martyr based on the classic idea that all whites were racist and that she was only hanged for the color of her skin. No, that is not why, it was because she murdered someone. Let us not forget the crime committed.”[9]


It’s hard to overlook the fact that this historical “revelation” comes at a time when the political climate is rank with calls for amnesty for Mexicans and Hispanics, millions of whom are in the US without having gone through legal entry.  Clearly, the authors of the New York Times article have chosen to ignore inconvenient facts and the museum participates in historical revision by hanging the art with similar misleading information.  When poor scholarship teams up with artistic propaganda, a powerful force is created.  And we all suffer.  Our concept of equality is morphed into something it was never meant to be: preference.  Our justice system is weakened when people with brown skin are deemed doli incapax because of perceived wrongs in the past.  Valdez wants us to feel sorry for the Mexicans then, so we will overlook their crimes now. The Valdez art is being used as a tool to bolster support for a political agenda, and in this instance, it’s the justification of illegal immigration by millions of Hispanics into the United States.




[1] Source: “Lynchings by State and Race, 1862-1968.” The Charles Chesnutt Digital Arhive.n.d. 19 Oct. 2015. <http://www.chesnuttarchive.org/classroom/lynchings_table_state.html>.


[2] Source:  Benjamin Heber Johnson. Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. p 272


[3] Source: Coerver, Don M. “The Plan of San Diego”The Handbook on Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 19 October 2015.


[4] Source: Harris, Charles; Sadler, Louis (July 2013). Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue. University of Nebraska Press. p 27.

[5] Source:  Harris III, Charles; Sadler, Louis (August 1978). “The Plan of San Diego and the Mexican-United States War Crisis of 1916: A Reexamination”. The Hispanic American Historical Review 58 (3): 381–408.


[6] Ibid.

[7] Source:  Marley, David F.(2014) Mexico at War: From the Struggle for Independence to the 21st Century Drug Wars. Retrieved from http://tiny.cc/rxrw4x


[8] Source: “Woman up in the west”. Fairbanks Weekly News – Miner [Alaska], January 21, 1921, p. 15.


[9] Source:  Rubio, Jaime. (2013, July 8). First Recorded Lynching of a Woman in California.[Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://dreamingcasuallypoetry.blogspot.com/2013/07/first-lynching-of-woman-in-california.html


1 thought on “When Americans Lynched Mexicans, Valdez Art as Political Propoganda

  1. Hi Scarlett – I need to come back to read properly … but being British I wouldn’t be able to comment, as I’d have insufficient knowledge – present or background …

    These times are so challenging for us all … with thoughts – Hilary

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