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A Tragedy Uncovered

Border Bandits documents Texas Ranger killings

Published on LatinoLA: March 30, 2005


A Tragedy Uncovered


From the producer of the award-winning PBS documentary Return to Giant comes a new look at a very old incident called Border Bandits. It will screen April 5, 7:30 pm, at Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica, CA.

In 1915 a group of Mexican banditos raided the McAllen Ranch, one of the largest in the area. The next day a group of Texas Rangers supposedly arrived and eliminated the perpetrators. However, the real story is not as tidy as it has been portrayed. Roland Warnock, a 19-year-old cowboy working on the Guadalupe Ranch near present-day Edinburg, witnessed two of these killings when he saw Texas Rangers from Company D shoot two unarmed men in the back and leave their bodies by the side of the road. The effects of these killings by the Rangers are being felt in south Texas some 80 years later. This single incident brings into play much of the roots of the distrust between Mexicans and the Rangers, as well as the continued friction between Hispanics and Anglos in Texas.

An important and moving story, Border Bandits was produced and directed by Kirby Warnock, the grandson of Roland Warnock, and features the actual voice of Roland Warnock as he describes the events of 1915. In 1974, he sat down with his grandson and dictated the entire story to him on a reel-to-reel tape recorder for Baylor University's oral history program. The younger Warnock kept the tapes, then thirty years later digitized them and placed them in this documentary, with re-enactors portraying the events described by Roland Warnock. Unlike other documentaries that rely on voice talent to read letters or journals, Border Bandits contains the actual voice of the primary source of information, Roland Warnock, lending it an air of authenticity unmatched in most documentaries.

Re-enactment scenes were filmed at Old City Park in Dallas, and Warnock's family ranch near Fort Stockton, Texas. Narration for the film is provided by Jon Dillon, the well-known radio personality for KZPS, 92.5 FM in Dallas, Texas.

Because of its Latino influences, the film demanded Mexican-themed music, but the only problem was that Kirby did not speak Spanish and was not totally familiar with Tex-Mex music, save for the cojunto radio stations he heard growing up. Faced with this dilemma, he went back to his roots?rock and roll.

"I've always been a big fan of the Eagles' album, Desperado, so I contacted Don Henley and asked him if we could do a Spanish version of the title song. He gave us permission and basically said that it would be no problem for him to get us the clearances," recalls Warnock.

For the performers, he "stumbled" across The Ramirez Family, an all-female mariachi band from Odessa, Texas. "A close friend took me to lunch at a restaurant in Midland, and The Ramirez Family was performing there. I had never heard those Tex-Mex sounds coming out of a female band before, and I was immediately captivated." Warnock tracked down Betty Ramirez, the leader, and arranged for them to record "Desperado" in Spanish for the soundtrack. The result is a haunting score of a familiar rock standard, sung in Spanish by female voices.

For more information on upcoming screenings, bookmark this site, or e-mail kirby@bigbendquarterly.com

Read the story that inspired the film, from the book Texas Cowboy, available for $11.50 per copy (includes postage and handling). Trans-Pecos Productions, P.O. Box 4124, Dallas, TX 75208.








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