Anti-American violence under the digital lens

Bevyn Howard

Stories of violence on the Texas-Mexico border are often left out of the digital archive, but new projects are working to keep these narratives alive.

Monica Munoz Martinez and English professor John Moran Gonzalez showcased digital archives of such narratives on Wednesday morning as part of the “Anti-Mexican American Violence Under the Digital Lens.”

Gonzalez and Martinez are part of the Refusing to Forget project, which is working to bring these stories of violence and discrimination of the 20th century-borderlands to life by gathering pictures of familial relics and court documents in their online digital archive in an effort to unveil this history to the public. They have also taken great lengths to uncover counter-narratives that have only previously resided in familial oral histories.

“The public wants to know these histories,” Martinez said. “(The fact that) 40,000 people (were) going to the bullet to (live) life at the border is overwhelming to think about. State institutions and scholars tend to think that the public isn’t ready, and that is an assumption when in reality, people want to learn these histories.”

Martinez is also part of a similar initiative to bring these lost histories to the forefront of America’s minds called Mapping Violence. Martinez and her partners are working to bring together hundreds of instances of racial violence against minorities due to mobs, lynchings and extralegal violence by law enforcement. They are archiving them in an interactive map of Texas. They are working to make these missed histories available as a form of redress for the victims and to showcase these preserved alternate histories.

“We cannot have a dialogue without acknowledging the differences in power,” said Gonzalez, director of the Center for Mexican-American Studies. “These projects are an attempt to acknowledge the deepness of history … (and) necessity of reading the archive against the grain.”

These projects are ongoing and are available to researchers, teachers and the public to educate about the earliest instances of racial violence in Texas. Munoz and Gonzalez hope that by providing these histories, the gap between historical academic advances and public knowledge will shorten, all while maintaining the theme of humanity in a data-driven world.

“It’s important because it’s a person and it could’ve been anyone else, but it happened to this one person and you shouldn’t forget that this happened,” biochemistry freshman Ryan Lam said.