A Highway Sign and a Massacre

(This is one of four stories about the unique sites to be seen along the 37-mile stretch of Highway 90 through the Chihuahuan Desert from Marfa, Texas, to Prada Marfa.)


Not everything on the highway to Prada Marfa brings joy.


We’ve all seen the highway signs noting an historical marker of one kind or another. I don’t stop at all of them but, now that retirement provides me a bit more time, probably do stop at more than the average traveler.


Many are of dubious historical interest and probably would have been better to pass by. Others, though, are much the opposite.

Photo of highway marker noting the Porvenir Massacre with desert in the background.
The Porvenir Massacre highway marker. It sits roughly 30 miles from Porvenir. which is on the Rio Grande border with Mexico. **

There’s a lonely historical marker on Texas Highway 90 about 30 miles, give or take, outside Marfa. You’ll see it there, just a handful of miles before you get to Prada Marfa.


With the desert stretching as far as the eye can see toward Mexico, the marker sits alone with a single candle, some beads and coins left in remembrance at its base. It reads, in part:


“Porvenir was a community in remote northwest Presidio County on the Rio Grande. In the midst of military conflicts and raids across the international border and in the immediate area during the Mexican Revolution, the small farming and ranching settlement was the site of a notorious tragedy in 1918.

A close up of the commemorative sign, including the names of the victims.**
A close up of the commemorative sign, including the names of the victims.**

“A group of Texas Rangers from Company B in Marfa, U.S. Army Solders from Troup G of the 8th Calvary, and local ranchers arrived at Porvenir in the early morning hours of January 28, 1918. They came to the ranch of Manuel Moralez and separated fifteen able-bodied men and boys from the women, children and other men. Though initial accounts denied any wrongdoing, later testimony confirmed that these 15 victims were shot and killed.”


The victims ranged in age all the way from 16 to 64. When their families found their bodies they were so disfigured they believe initially they had been cut up with machetes. Instead, it was the bullets.


Five Rangers were later dismissed and the Captain forced to resign. No one was ever charged with a crime and the Captain later rejoined the Rangers. The names of the victims are listed on the marker, pictured at right.


To learn more, Time Magazine has a very interesting story relating what happened at Porvenir and what has happened since. It includes some recounts from survivors, now in their 90s.


The marker along Highway 90 was erected in 2018, a century after the massacre. Its location on the highway is roughly 25 miles northeast of Porvenir, as the crow flies. It is placed in the more prominent highway location to be accessible to more motorists.


Yes, some of those historical markers aren’t that interesting. But there are others with incredible stories to tell. We should take more time to stop and learn what they have to tell.


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**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.


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