Texas Ranger statue plans reopen old wounds over troubled past with some Hispanics

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For Byron Johnson, director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, a nearly 70-foot-tall statue of a 19th-century Ranger represents the idyllic image most Americans have of the legendary Texas lawmen.

But for Ernesto Calderon, a Mexican-American and Waco native with roots in the Chicano movement, the statue carries the symbolism a 70-foot-tall noose could hold for an African-American.

The proposal to erect a towering Texas Ranger statue outside Waco’s official museum has caused some local Hispanics to revisit horror stories about the Rangers that they grew up hearing from their parents and grandparents.

Meanwhile, museum officials are attempting to give the statue a “generic” design, not representative of any race in particular. Inside the museum, Johnson said, there is a balanced approach to Ranger history that he expects the museum to improve in the coming years.

The stories Hispanics recall are born out of a bloodstained era during the Mexican Revolution when hundreds — perhaps thousands — of Mexican-Americans were killed by Rangers and vigilantes.

Stories continue into the ’60s and ’70s when Rangers were called in to break up labor strikes organized by Latino civil rights activists.

Such stories — some confirmed by historians — continue to be a lingering wound for some Hispanics that smarts at first mention of the words “Texas Rangers.”

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