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Blood and resilience: New exhibit shows Mexican American struggles in Texas

The "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas on June 28, 2024. The installation by the Mexican American Museum explains the history of the Texas-Mexico border between 1910-1920, including the violence and upheaval that defined much of that decade.
Azul Sordo
/
The Dallas Morning News
The "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas on June 28, 2024. The installation by the Mexican American Museum explains the history of the Texas-Mexico border between 1910-1920, including the violence and upheaval that defined much of that decade.

The white walls of the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery at the University of Dallas are adorned with red plaques recounting one of the most violent periods in Texas history. Each plaque vividly depicts the challenges and hardships faced by Mexican Americans in the early 1900s.

“Life and Death on The Border 1910-1920” focuses on the history of la matanzas, or the killings of Mexican Americans that occurred in South Texas. The exhibit originally comes from the Bullock Texas State History Museum in partnership with the Refusing to Forget Project, a nonprofit that educates people on the racial violence that occurred on the Mexico-Texas border.

“It’s a tough history, but history has tough parts and if you don’t address them head on then you don’t learn from them,” Gustavo Hinojosa, president and director of TMAMT said. “And that’s why we thought it was important to showcase this exhibit.”

Mexican American Museum Director Gustavo Hinojosa poses for a portrait at the "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas on June 28, 2024.
Azul Sordo
/
The Dallas Morning News
Mexican American Museum Director Gustavo Hinojosa poses for a portrait at the "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas on June 28, 2024.

One of the plaques in the exhibition talks about the prominent families from Mexico that came to the United States to seek their fortunes. Another talks about the importance of the railroads that brought Anglo settlers who imposed on Mexican culture.

The Texas Rangers are also mentioned in the gallery. Their plaque talks about how the Rangers would kill or imprison anyone who looked of Mexican descent, and how they were hailed as heroes to the Anglo population. Other plaques talk about the “Juan Crow” laws, which prevented Hispanics from going to the same places as Anglos.

“Not Mexican enough to be Mexican and not Anglo enough to be considered American by Anglos,” Hinojosa said. “We’re in a weird place.”

The "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas on June 28, 2024. The installation by the Mexican American Museum explains the history of the Texas-Mexico border between 1910-1920, including the violence and upheaval that defined much of that decade.
Azul Sordo
/
The Dallas Morning News
The "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas on June 28, 2024. The installation by the Mexican American Museum explains the history of the Texas-Mexico border between 1910-1920, including the violence and upheaval that defined much of that decade.

In the center of the gallery stands a long table with red, green, blue and white tablecloths draped over it representing the colors of Mexico and the U.S. flag. Above hangs different nooses, which reflects the many Mexican-American lives lost through hangings. Hinojosa was the mastermind behind the art installation. He wanted to create a physical representation of what it means to be Mexican American.

“The walls are covered with boards that say a lot of information,” he said. “We felt that there needed to be something in the center that gives the exhibit some heart. How do we express in three-dimensions the essence of this exhibit, which is the killings, the matanzas, married with what it means to be Mexican American.”

An art installation sits at the center of the "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas, as part of a collaboration with the Mexican American Museum on June 28, 2024. The installation, created by Mexican American Museum Director Gustavo Hinojosa, represents the loss of life during "la matanzas" of 1910-1920.
Azul Sordo
/
The Dallas Morning News
An art installation sits at the center of the "Life and Death on the Border" gallery at the University of Dallas, as part of a collaboration with the Mexican American Museum on June 28, 2024. The installation, created by Mexican American Museum Director Gustavo Hinojosa, represents the loss of life during "la matanzas" of 1910-1920.

TMAMT has existed for two years. This is their third exhibition. The museum does not have a building, so instead they do pop up exhibitions. Previous ones include a look at family history with tamale recipes, and "Tejanas at the Alamo."

“There is no museum in Texas that captures the whole Mexican-American experience,” Hinojosa said. “And in Texas, a little over 40% of the population is Hispanic, and of that 40%, 80% have Mexican roots.”

The Mexican American Museum of Texas' latest exhibition, "Life and Death on The Border 1910-1920," debuted on May 5, 2024, at the gallery situated at The University of Dallas. The showcase will remain open for public viewing until Oct. 15, 2024.

To learn more information about The Mexican American Museum of Texas visit their website. The exhibition is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. A private tour can also be requested by contacting the gallery. It is located at Art History Auditorium, Gorman Drive, Irving, Texas 75062.

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, The University of Texas at Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.