The South Texas Border, 1900-1920 is a collection of over 8,000 photographs taken by Robert Runyon, many of which were sold as postcards, advertisements, portraits, and illustrations for American newspapers. These images comprise a multi-faceted documentation of the everyday lives of Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans in Southeastern Texas. They also document the agriculture of the region and U.S. military activity at the border during the early stages of the Mexican Revolution. Finally, the collection provides a unique record of the Mexican Revolution in Northeastern Mexico.
1) The Mexican Revolution
Under the thirty-year dictatorship of Profirio Díaz, an elite ruling class thrived in Mexico, as did foreign investors, while the majority of people lived in abject poverty. In 1910, political and social factions overthrew Díaz, calling for representative government, social and land reform, and decreased foreign control of Mexico's economy. This, however, was just the beginning of a ten-year succession of violent insurrections in which rebellious factions replaced the newly empowered governments. The South Texas Border's photographs portray three years of this turmoil, documenting the Mexican Revolution in Northeast Mexico between 1913 and 1916, as well as America's mobilization on the South Texas border.
Through Runyon's photographs, students can gain an understanding of the events of a battle, as well as a sense of a battle's violence and impact. In 1913, General Lucio Blanco led the Constitutionalists in capturing the city of Matamoros from the Federales. The events of this battle are outlined in a special presentation, "The Mexican Revolution:Conflict in Matamoros" (external link). Search on ammunition to see preparations for battle in Matamoros, or search Blanco for an image of the Constitutionalist General. The twenty-three-year-old Colonel, Antonio Echazaretta, led a contingent of volunteer Federales in defending Matamoros. Search on Echazaretta and June 4 for images that bring home the violence of battle in documenting the execution of federal prisoners after the invasion of Matamoros.
Arriving in Cuidad Victoria just after its fall, Runyon captured the aftermath of battle in images found by searching on Ciudad Victoria. After their victory in Cuidad Victoria, the Constitutionalists moved on the large city of Monterrey. Runyon reflected this conflict in images of the strong federal barricades and fortifications found by searching on Monterrey.
For more images pertinent to the Revolution, students can browse the photographs listed under execution, Mexico -- History -- Revolution, War -- Mexico, and soldiers in the Subject Index. Among these are images Runyon sold as picture postcards, including these three to the right. What sorts of messages did these postcards communicate to the Americans who bought them?
What might Americans have been led to think about Mexicans and the Revolution?