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April 19, 2008 -- The footbridge between Candelaria, Texas and San Antonio del Bravo, Chihuahua may be one of the last "informal" crossings along the eastern U.S.-Mexico border.

The two communities connected by the bridge, which crosses a diminutive Rio Grande on gapped wooden planks suspended by repurposed car chassis, are situated, literally, at the end of the road.

Texas Highway 170 dissolves into rough dirt ranch tracks at Candelaria, leaving the river unaccompanied by road for a 200-mile stretch upstream known as the forgotten Rio Grande. On the other side, San Antonio del Bravo is a bumpy three-hour ride on an unmaintained dirt road from Ojinaga, a bustling outpost for Mexican ranchers.

Dr. Maribel Aquino, 32, works alone in San Antonio del Bravo's rural medical clinic with no phone or internet connection. She describes how the majority of San Antonio's women and children spend the week in Candelaria in order to send their American-born children to the school in Presidio. San Antonio del Bravo's schoolhouse sits empty; most women in the community decide to give birth across the border so that their children become American citizens.

A sign near the footbridge advises crossers that it is illegal to enter the United States at Candelaria, but residents of the community say the warning is un-enforced. If it were, says Dr. Aquino, the community would not survive.

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Few outsiders really understand the impact of the Departmant of Homeland Security's order to tear down the Candelaria bridge. The only nearby medical clinic is at San Antonio del Bravo just across the river from Candelaria and the bridge is a vital link to many of us who never know when we need medical care. Please take a minute and view the excellent short documentary film by concerning the bridge and the clinic. ... ctora.html


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To Congressman Ciro Rodriguez: subject, the recent Homeland Security ordered dismantling of the suspension footbridge across Rio Grande at Candelaria, Texas, in Presidio County.

Sir, we met at Rocksprings, Texas, a few months back when you graciously attended the homecoming for former Edwards County Deputy Sheriff "Gilmer" Hernndez after his release from federal prison for "violating the civil rights" of a fleeing violator. You will recall that Hernndez shot at a tire on the suspect vehicle in an effort to protect himself and do his job.

Permit me to now express dismay at the short-sightedness being displayed by bureaucrats in Homeland Security. The isolated, economically-depressed region situated forty-odd miles upriver from the Presidio (Texas) Port of Entry has long been a point of acculturation between people of both Mexican and United States origin. One of the factors that have made this interaction possible has been the footbridge which was built by folk of both countries many decades ago at no cost to taxpayers. Candelaria faces San Antonio del Bravo, Chihuahua, a poor Mexican community which has relied upon its connection with the United States in order to survive for more than a century. Everything from sending and receiving mail, making store purchases, summoning help or ambulance services in an emergency up to attending school has been dependent upon the availability of la puente twelve months a year no matter what the weather.

There is no evidence that any Arab terrorists have ever or would ever enter the U.S. at such a place. (If they did, the locals would probably save both governments any trouble and take charge of the matter in their own quiet way. Besides, Canada and Logan International and JFK work better.) Smuggling, always a problem along any border, will not be stopped by removing a one-lane suspended footbridge. What will be stopped, or at minimum greatly interrupted, are the current incessant opportunities for cultural interchange and a significant amount of legitimate commerce that depends upon year-round access a el otro lado.

I ask that you become involved in stopping this untoward effort to further drive a wedge between the people of neighboring nations who want nothing more than to be friends and partners in progress.

Glenn Willeford (historian and novelist)
Alpine, Texas and Cd. Chihuahua

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Recently the Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to the Candelaria owners demanding the little foot bridge across the Rio Grande be removed. Details are sketchy but the owners met with federal agents to discuss their concerns about tearing down the bridge. One report I have heard says that at least one of the owners vehemently opposed the action. Homeland Security agents simply replied that Washington officials have only recently learned of the existence of the bridge and issued orders to have the bridge destroyed. The footbridge has been in existence for many years and is a vital link between the two communities of Candelaria, Texas and San Antonio Del Bravo, Chihuahua. It was built by folks from both sides of the river in a community effort. It should be obvious that tearing down the bridge will accomplish little except causing an extreme hardship on good, honest local people who need the bridge so that they can get their mail, gasoline, groceries and send children to school. Anyone interested in opposing this thoughtless, politically motivated action should speak out now. I am told that U.S. Representative Ciro Rodriguez might be willing to take up the cause. Please contact him at:

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Gode Davis is a wonderfully talented filmmaker and writer. I have known him since 2002 when he contacted me about the Porvenir massacre and came to west Texas to film Juan Flores and document first hand that terrible day in 1918 at Porvenir. Gode is producing a documentary titled: "American Lynching: A Strange and Bitter Fruit". Davis intends to include the Flores account and the story of the massacre in American Lynching. While this is not a popular topic, it is certainly one that must be seen so that this grim and terrible side of American history will not be forgotten. It is also a topic that for many reasons makes it difficult to produce. The agendas of academia are not helpful and politics play no small role in raising the money. Gode has been able raise some money to finish the film but needs about $10,000 more to get the documentary completed and aired. Gode is also an excellent speaker and is available to speak for a modest fee to help him cover expenses. He lives in Rhode Island so his travel expenses to Texas are not small. Take a minute and check out Gode speaking about his documentary at where you need search Gode Davis to bring it up. He can also be seen speaking at his

Also,you may get information, contact him or make donations to Gode at his website or simply call him at: 401-828-4435.

I don't normally work to solicit money on the blog but I feel this is a very worthy effort that should not be swept under the table for any reason. Please help Gode with a donation no matter how small. Perhaps there is someone or an organization out there that can help with a sizeable contribution. If so, now is the time. Gj

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I can now post photos on the blog. My friend Billy Ray sent me the following photo. Its not Texas but a picture of Sheriff Hugh Porter (right) made in 1915 at the Log Saloon in Douglas, Arizona. Thanks Billy Roy! Also thanks to my web wizard Mike Middleton.

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Dear Glenn, 18 May 2008

I am Jim Willeford, Glenn Willeford is my father. If we met years earlier, I hope you will forgive me for not remembering. Regardless, I have read your Porvenir article over and again; I find it and the accompanying photos fascinating.

I first read of the Porvenir Massacre in Robert Keil's book, Bosque Bonito. It captured my imagination and has occupied my thoughts for years since. It was gratifying to hear from Dad that you and he had done some excavating, found some bullets and cartridge casings, and were able to gather information on what may have actually happened at the site. Based on your findings, it appears that Keil's account of who did the killing may have been more than a little biased. As you know, he blames the killing on two unidentified Texas Rangers (who allegedly thereafter fled the area and were never seen again), leaving the shocked and horrified troops behind to clean up the mess and deal with the aftermath. That the evidence implicates the troop of US cavalry itself to have been actively involved in the massacre elevates it to a horrific, bloody travesty. What a helpless situation for the victims, what a despicable action for the murderers, and what terrible memories and devastation for the survivors.

Keil recounts in his book a horseback return to Porvenir later in his life, decades removed from the incident. According to his account, the horse he was riding absolutely refused to go near the massacre site. Why? Perhaps the spirits of those victims recognized a participant from so long ago, and were roused by his presence? Who knows. However, this one significant event, perhaps the only event of consequence in the entire history of the spot, may have stamped such an imprint upon the place that it may be forever stained. That the ballistic evidence remained to be discovered, inspected, and so plainly tell a story after nearly a century is as fascinating as any mystery man could invent. There are probably more evidentiary items to be found, waiting patiently in the grit to reveal their secrets.

I would love to be a contributor to the Porvenir effort in whatever way I can. I am a career Marine and am not residing in Texas, but if you intend to make another trip to the site, please let me know in advance; I would love to make plans and accompany you.

I enjoy visiting your Texas History blog and do so several times per week. Thanks for your efforts, and keep up the good work!

Jim Willeford
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Thanks for your comments! Locals also say horses are are spooked and shy away from the massacre site. Quien Sabe. Take care, Gj

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Friday, May 16, 2008, 06:01 PM
Hello everyone.I appreciate the fact that more ballistics have been recently found at the Porvenir Massacre site where I took a crew to film in 2002.

I am starting to recover my health and would like to return to production and complete American Lynching: A Documentary Feature. (I've revised the title slightly because of a documentary made by Joel Katz called Strange Fruit, about the song bearing its name.)

I have just re-located the transcript of the main interview that I conducted with Juan Bonilla Flores in 2002 and plan to share it with Glenn, if I can obtain the permission of an expert translator who was involved.

I'm also writing The American Lynching Phenomenon, the first definitive work of its kind since James Elbert Cutler's Lynch Law in 1905. (I think an update is somewhat overdue.) I often accept invitations to lecture on lynching-related topics and to show a trailer for the documentary feature project at universities and colleges and other venues for a quite reasonable fee. You can watch me discussing lynching at the University of New Hampshire if you go to the or else google me from the main page of

Your feedback is welcome. My colon closed down for seven months and is now finally permitting me to live productively again!


Gode Davis

If you have comments or would like to make a donation (even a tiny one) to help us finish production, please email me or call me in Rhode Island at 401-828-4435.

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Several years ago, documentary filmmaker Gode Davis videotaped an interview with Juan Flores, the last living survivor of the Porvenir massacre. Davis has written and produced a number of films over more than 20 years including The Nature of Biology; Winter: The Saint Paul-Sapporo Connection: The Palestinian Question: and the 1998 film Tunnel Visions described as "succinct and captivating television" by PBS affiliate WGBH-Boston. The Juan Flores interview was to be part of Davis forthcoming film, American Lynching: A Strange and Bitter Fruit.

I had the privilege of being present when the Flores filming took place both in Odessa and at Porvenir the following day. Sadly, Mr. Flores passed away in 2007 and never got to see the film completed. I have had many inquiries about the status of the Davis production and recently had the opportunity to visit with Gode about the progress of the film and ask that he release a transcript of the Flores interview so that it can be made public. Gode was very cordial in our conversation and remains committed to getting American Lynching completed although he is facing some very serious health issues. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Gode agrees how important the Flores account is and the fact that entire Porvenir massacre story certainly needs to be told. I am of the opinion that the Porvenir massacre and the Flores account is a story that should stand on its own. Hopefully, one day, Mr. Davis will be able to produce a film about the massacre or perhaps focus on abuses along the Texas border during the Mexican revolution years. In addition to his health problems, Gode needs $10,000 more to get American Lynching completed. Hopefully he will be able to raise the money. Anyone wishing to contribute to the effort can contact him at his American Lynching website:

Also, see an interview with Gode Davis about his film by Genevieve Butler at: ... /davis.htm


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Glenn's Texas History Blog contains many archived articles and book reviews. If you wish to search the archive simply type your topic into the search box. Example, if you are interested in articles on Porvenir simply type Porvenir in the search box and the archived articles will come up. Gj

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