On Feb. 6, 1971, after witnessing incidents of police brutality, a group of Pharr residents gathered in protest outside of the local police the department. At the time, the police had a reputation of siding with the small number of Anglo residents, despite the city, and the Rio Grande Valley region, being predominately Latino. The police attacked the protesters and the event escalated into a riot. One man was killed. Fifty years later, Eduardo Martinez, barrio historian from the Rio Grande Valley, reflects on the Pharr Riots.
“Pharr Police Department had ordered the fire department to start spraying them down with hoses. And this is when things got escalated. There were some men that came out from the local bars and cantinas, and they’re asking the women, like, why [the police] were attacking them. And the men started helping the women, and they started fighting back.”
“The big tragedy that happened during the Pharr Riot was the death of this man, Alfonso Laredo Flores. He happened to be in front of this barbershop. It’s closed now, but the building is still there. And he was standing there and there’s this deputy sheriff that ended up shooting him. Reports say the bullet might’ve ricocheted, but it came from this police officer Robert Johnson.”
“Unfortunately there’s still Pharr police violence happening. And obviously not just here but, like, everywhere around the world. It’s a story that I think a lot of young people would like and really treasure if they knew the context of all the things that these group of badasses were fighting against. So, and I think it’s unfortunate that, for the most part, it’s a story that’s kind of getting lost over time.”