Project Proposal: The Last Lynching of Cameron County

“The Last Lynching of Cameron County” website will present information about the lynching of Florencio Garcia, the last confirmed lynching victim in Cameron County, Texas. Florencio’s story is unique because his death was classified as a murder, not by a grand jury, but rather by an investigative committee for the Texas House and Senate. Even as state senators and representatives declared Florencio’s killing unlawful, they took no action to bring his suspected killers (two Texas Ranger officers) to justice.

The intended audience for this digital history project are individuals with a connection to or interest in the Rio Grande Valley region (specifically Cameron County and the city of Brownsville), the Texas Rangers, and/or a history of anti-Mexican violence. The hyper-specific scope of this project will probably mean that the individuals who are most likely to engage with the end product will be current citizens of Cameron County, Hispanic (most likely of Mexican heritage), Spanish-speakers, and have some college education. Other characteristics of likely users include: an interest in history, involvement in local community organizations, politically aware and active, a desire to draw connections between current events and the past, and individuals who are interested in elevating untold/under told stories.

Project Goals

  • Present an easy-to-access narrative of Florencio Garcia’s lynching. Include opportunities for more advanced users to further explore the people and events surrounding Florencio’s story if they wish. These opportunities should be accessible, without overwhelming those users who do not wish to engage beyond Florencio’s basic story.
  • Provide a dedicated space/time for users to share their thoughts and opinions on Florencio’s story, the history of violence and discrimination in the Rio Grande, and the current relationship law enforcement has with its local and state communities.
  • Inspire users to reflect on the following questions:
    • How did non-Anglos understand and respond to Florencio’s disappearance and murder?
    • What impact did Florencio’s lynching and the resulting investigation into the Texas Rangers have on the local community?
    • What impact did his lynching¬† have beyond the Rio Grande Valley?
    • In what ways does Florencio’s story inform the way locals understand present-day events in the Rio Grande?

A unique challenge with this project will be reconciling the available historical content with the goal to present Florencio’s story in a narrative format. Photographs, images, physical objects, and biographical information are essential to a captivating story. Unfortunately, Florencio left a very limited amount of this information behind, likely for the same reasons that made him a target to begin with. It’s likely that the powerful groups that decided what was incorporated into the historical record in the early 20th century did not see much value in maintaining information about a young Mexican national who worked as a cattle herder. Because of this, content may need to come from sources that have no direct connection with Florencio, but present experiences of people whose life experiences were similar to his. A heavy amount of information will need to come from newspaper articles and government documents, like the Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the Investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force, 1919.

The technological elements of the website should allow users to easily submit feedback and view the feedback of other users. The internet being what it is, this talk-back space will need to have a delay built into it, so that project admins can review user-generated content before it is made public. Omeka might be a good fit for the needs of this project.

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