The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

‘Border Bandits’ educates viewers

He wears snakeskin boots and a tall tan cowboy hat that heoccasionally tips as he greets individuals. Although his Texasdrawl has diminished from long residency in Dallas, Kirby Warnock,director and producer of Border Bandits, still looks likehe’s just off the trail.

“As a baby boomer who grew up with Roy Rogers and The LoneRanger,” Warnock said, “I was always fascinated anddisturbed by my grandfather’s story….It also inspiredme.”

Border Bandits is based on the eyewitness accounts of hisgrandfather, Roland A. Warnock, a Texas rancher, who taught himcivil right from wrong and who observed the drive-by shooting oftwo unarmed Mexican-American men by legendary Rangers Henry Ransomand William Warren Sterling.

Warnock, a “gringo” who speaks not a lick ofSpanish, decided to set the record straight. The entire sequence ofevents relayed to 5-year-old Warnock in 1927 was recorded in 1974as part of Baylor University’s oral history program asBandits.

“The Texas Rangers and the Legacies of Racial Violence: ADocumentary and Panel Discussion” was held Wednesday at 7p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Forum.

Warnock was joined on the panel discussion by SMU historianBenjamin Johnson, who discussed in his book Revolution in Texas:How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression TurnedMexicans into Americans the important role that racial violencehas played in starting the present Mexican-American civil rightsmovement. The second panelist, José Angel Gutierrez ofUT-Arlington, discussed his personal experience at the hands of theRangers and their attempt to prevent Hispanic politicalorganizations from forming which are topics that have beenaddressed in his book, The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessonsfrom Cristal.

His story is not a tall tale, but a true segment of historynever before revealed. The lives of as many as 5,000 South TexasMexican-Americans and insurgents were claimed by racial violence in1915 and 1916 as the land in the Rio Grande Valley was taken bynorthern land developers. Many of these Mexican-Americansindividuals, labeled “bandits,” and their families diedat the hands of the Texas Rangers at the same time Pancho Villa wasfighting the Mexican government for the civil rights of the peasantfarmer across the Rio Grande border.

“The Lone Ranger always shot the gun out of the hand ofhis enemy — he didn’t kill them,” Warnocksaid.

With classic histories like Walter Prescott Webb’s TexasRangers, it is difficult to view a Ranger as anything but heroic.Their “narratives,” along with Hollywood’sglamorous mythical heroes John Wayne and The Lone Ranger, portrayeda one-sided historical perspective to many land controversies thatwent down in the West.

“The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame [in Waco] does make someacknowledgement to the deaths of some innocent individuals byRangers,” Johnson said.

“I’d never heard of anything like thisbefore,” senior English major Dan Najork said. “This isnot exactly what they taught us in seventh grade TexasHistory.”

As the Hispanic population grows toward a majority in Texas,issues regarding the historical accuracy of the people’sancestry is culturally and politically important.

While the current history books do unify Anglo Texas, they failto unify Texas as a whole.

“Because of the size of Texas, we purchase an enormousamount of textbooks every year,” former Dallas School Boardmember and SMU alum Rafael Anchia said. “This money grantsTexas the ability to censor what we wish and send it out across thecountry.”

Unfortunately, as Gutierrez pointed out, the American goal up tonow has been to Anglicize the westward movement.

The Texas Ranger killings, along with dozens of other accountsand stories that are yet to be told.

“Our history isn’t as untainted as we’d likeit to be,” Najork said. “I’m pleased to knowthere is evidence out there now that will begin to rectify what hashappened.”

Warnock maintains that glamorized Anglo Western role-models aredestroying Texas’ heritage.

“My generation grew up believing we belonged here inTexas,” Gutierrez said. “While we were called names bythe Rangers here we were called names by the Mexicans whenwe’d go to Mexico.”

First hand accounts like Warnock’s being passed downthrough generations of Mexican-Americans challenge historical”fact,” creating a civil imperative to correct thetextbooks.

“Kirby’s trying to bring this documentary to theyounger generation,” co-worker of Warnock and juniorengineering major Vivian Cho said. “People our agedon’t really have these stories or myths instilled inus.”

Warnock is now making an effort to attend colleges around thestate, delivering the message of his grandfather and of thethousands of Mexican-Americans victimized by the Texas Rangers. Hisgoal is the preservation of the oral history.

Some of the educational facilities in the Rio Grande Valley haveimplemented oral history programs since the mid 1970s.

Warnock is currently looking for funding to complete the editingof a Spanish version of Border Bandits. The next screeningof Border Bandits will be at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inSan Antonio on Nov. 16. The documentary is also scheduled to air onKERA in January.

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