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Book cover of Border Contraband: A History of Smuggling Across the Rio Grande by George T. DiazThe Webb County Heritage Foundation will host a public presentation and book-signing on Border Contraband: A History of Smuggling Across the Rio Grande by George T. Diaz on Wednesday, August 12 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum, 810 Zaragoza St. Books will be available for purchase at the event.

Tequileros and Texas Rangers: A Tale of Prohibition along the Rio Grande

Between 1919 and 1933, south Texas saw the rise of organized smugglers. During this period tequileros, ethnic Mexican liquor smugglers, supplied contraband Mexican liquor to thirsty Americans. U.S. law enforcement, however, saw tequileros’ armed forays into the United States as an invasion and resisted them with deadly force. Conflicts between American law enforcement and tequileros made Prohibition one of the bloodiest decades on the border. Despite this era’s violence, both Anglos and ethnic Mexicans often smuggled liquor together. Although Anglo bootleggers and Mexican tequileros both violated American laws, U.S. law enforcement took a much higher toll on tequileros than their Anglo counterparts. American law enforcement’s war on tequileros was so successful that by the end of the 1920s, it had effectively ended tequilero incursions into south Texas. American authorities’ victory over tequileros proved hollow, however, when more sophisticated and more violent gangs of smugglers took their place.
George T. Díaz’s presentation is based on research for his book, Border Contraband: A History of Smuggling across the Rio Grande, which examines illicit trade by everyday people and those who profit off drugs and guns. His work is informed by investigations in Mexican and U.S. archives, as well as a lifetime of living on the border.