Between 1910 and 1920, vigilantes and law enforcement—including the renowned Texas Rangers—killed Mexican residents with impunity. The full extent of the violence was known only to the relatives of the victims. Monica Muñoz Martinez turns to the keepers of this history to tell this riveting and disturbing untold story.
Operating in remote rural areas enabled the perpetrators to do their worst: hanging, shooting, burning, and beating victims to death without scrutiny. Families scoured the brush to retrieve the bodies of loved ones. Survivors suffered segregation and fierce intimidation, and yet fought back. They confronted assailants in court, worked with Mexican diplomats to investigate the crimes, pressured local police to arrest the perpetrators, spoke to journalists, and petitioned politicians for change.
Martinez reconstructs this history from institutional and private archives and oral histories, to show how the horror of anti-Mexican violence lingered within communities for generations, compounding injustice by inflicting further pain and loss. Yet its memorialization provided victims with an important means of redress, undermining official narratives that sought to whitewash these atrocities. The Injustice Never Leaves You offers an invaluable account of why these incidents happened, what they meant at the time, and how a determined community ensured that the victims were not forgotten.
Winner of the 2019 Lawrence W. Levine Award, Organization of American Historians
Winner of the 2019 Caughey Western History Prize, Western History Association
Winner of the Robert G. Athearn Award, Western History Association
Winner of the TCU Texas Book Award, Friends of the TCU Library and TCU Press
Winner of the María Elena Martínez Prize , Conference on Latin American History
Winner of the 2019 Best Non-Fiction Book Award, National Association of Chicano/Chicana Studies, Tejas FOCO
Finalist for the 2019 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians
“The Injustice Never Leaves You is a profoundly sensitive history that explores the reverberations of early twentieth-century state violence upon ethnic Mexicans in Texas. Martinez weaves carefully crafted stories of specific episodes of violence into the larger context of complicity by state officials, particularly within the Texas Rangers…Its final chapter highlights the imperative of knowing the past to understanding the burdens and responsibilities it places, often unknowingly, upon the present.”—Organization of American Historians Lawrence Levine Award Committee
“This brilliant work not only documents a critical facet of borderlands history, but also powerfully and respectfully honors the voices and memories of ethnic Mexicans who have endured state-sponsored violence.”—NACCS Tejas Foco Book Award Committee
“A page-turner… Haunting… Martinez has written a book that bravely and convincingly urges us to think differently about Texas’s past. But she has also written a book that tells us something about the future we are creating right now.”—Carlos Kevin Blanton, Texas Monthly
“Monica Muñoz Martinez’s new book paints a brutally clear picture of the Rangers’ complicity in crimes against minorities. The academically rigorous but accessible book functions, in one sense, as an exemplary study of not only Texas-style historical mythmaking but also a chronicle of how unofficial, vernacular and oral historical narratives — researched by families of the victims of state-sponsored racial violence — challenged official Texas history. It’s an apt moment for this book’s hard lessons of non-textbook Texas history to go mainstream.”—Michael Sandlin, Texas Observer
“In 1915 and 1916, a time of revolutionary upheaval in Mexico, when refugees were streaming across the border, Texas Rangers and American soldiers declared open season on ethnic Mexicans in a time known as the ‘bandit wars.’ …Martinez explores a terrible history that reverberates today not only because of family memory and local curation…but also because so many of its particulars seem taken from current headlines as refugees continue to die in the desert… Timely and of considerable interest to students of borderlands history as well as of sociology.”—Kirkus Reviews
“With eloquence and corazón, Monica Muñoz Martinez has crafted a magisterial study of state-sanctioned vigilante violence in rural Texas. Drawing on institutional archives, oral histories, and family records, she has uncovered horrific events whose deep trauma has carried across generations. She is the first historian to document the anti-lynching campaigns mobilized by Mexican Americans, especially widows seeking justice for their murdered husbands. The Injustice Never Leaves You is a rare, field-defining book that reminds us of the power of historical memory.”—Vicki L. Ruiz, author of From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
“The border has always been a place upon which the United States has projected its fears, often at great cost to the people who live here. Much like the time recounted by Martinez, we are in a period of change in every area of life. Politicians have seized upon fears of change to lie about the border, demonize immigrants, and win elections. The history recovered in this book, which sheds light on the consequences of such rhetoric, is an important contribution to the truth.”—José Rodríguez, Texas State Senator
“Through impeccable archival work and a rich trove of oral history and other testimony, Martinez excavates the record of anti-Mexican violence along the U.S.–Mexico border in Texas. The Injustice Never Leaves You is also an indispensable study of the subtler violence along the border of memory and forgetting. A brilliant, important book on the specificities of border history but also on the very nature of ‘history’ itself.”—Matthew Frye Jacobson, author of The Historian’s Eye: Meditations on Photography, History, and the American Present
“In this important and haunting book, Martinez not only documents the painful reality of anti-Mexican violence in Texas, she reveals how, despite the best efforts of the perpetrators, this violence was prevented from fading into oblivion because of the grassroots historical traditions of Tejano communities. The Injustice Never Leaves You opens up significant new insights on everything from state-building along the U.S.–Mexico border to questions of collective memory and historical trauma.”—Karl Jacoby, author of Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History
“A masterful and sensitive work that reveals the ways in which ethnic Mexicans in Texas have dealt with the trauma of state-sanctioned police violence, mourned the loss of loved ones in their communities, and memorialized the victims by creating multigenerational records that counter state narratives.”—Neil Foley, author of Mexicans in the Making of America
“This compelling book about survival and reckoning examines the efforts of communities in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands to wrestle with the meaning of painful episodes of violence. A graceful writer and talented storyteller, Martinez shows the families’ determination to recover these histories and heal wounds that have lasted for generations.”—Geraldo Cadava, author of Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland