Out of the Ashes: How the Burning of Antonio Rodriguez Led to an Increase in Anti-Mexican Mob Violence during the 1910s

Friday, January 6, 2017: 1:30 PM
Room 605 (Colorado Convention Center)
Nicholas Villanueva Jr., University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
On November 3, 1910, an Anglo Texan mob seized Antonio Rodriguez from a jail cell in Rock Springs, Texas. The men doused Rodriguez with oil and set him ablaze. During the 1910s lynch mobs targeted Mexicans in the United States more often than the previous thirty years combined. Mobs removed Mexicans from private homes, prisons, and even hospital beds. In 1911, a mob of American men took the life of fourteen-year-old Antonio Gomez, only a few months after the burning of Rodriguez. This paper examines the anti-American rioting in Mexico that occurred after the lynching of Rodriguez, and the subsequent collective violence against Mexicans in the United States that followed during the early years of the Mexican Revolution. This paper reconstructs the rise of Anglo-American collective violence in the early years of the 1910s and the turning point this rise marked in Anglo Texan-Mexican relations. I will explore the racial stereotypes that Anglo Texans held of Mexicans and how the violence of the Mexican Revolution introduced new ones. Shortly after the burning of Rodriguez and the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, worsening Anglo Texan and ethnic Mexican relations in Texas led to the lynching of Antonio Gomez. I will conclude with an examination of the trial of the perpetrators of the Gomez lynching and their acquittal. I argue that despite the testimony of eyewitnesses, who reported having seen the perpetrators hang the boy, this verdict imbued Anglos in Texas with the belief that their crimes against Mexicans would go unpunished. Out of the ashes of the burning of Antonio Rodriguez emerged a privileged society, determined to protect a racial order in Texas that was threatened by the events of the Mexican Revolution.
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