Adam Dominguez feels hesitant as he prepares to shoot unarmed white men.
“I’ve done it so many times, I sometimes get numb,” says Dominguez, while standing under a large cotton tent with other men cleaning their guns, on a large field in Goliad. It’s a small town in south Texas, a land where most census tracts are over 90 percent Tejano, or US-born Texans of Mexican descent. “The first time I shot them, I felt a lot of empathy. My heart still goes out to these guys because they’re unarmed.”
Despite his reservations, Dominguez, a 34-year-old Tejano who is a newspaper delivery coordinator from San Antonio, marched with his fellow shooters alongside the troop of white men, helped line the men up, and then shot them.
Most of the hundreds of spectators gathered to see the mock execution are white, with some Tejanos mixed in. Several in the audience cry; and still others yell, “Nooooo!” and boo loudly.
Dominguez acknowledges their feelings, but holds his political ground in his role as a cazadero—a scout and sharpshooter in the Mexican army that fought in the March 1863 Battle of Coleto Creek. He is one of hundreds of volunteers who pay thousands of dollars for the uniforms, guns, tents, and other paraphernalia they use during this annual reenactment of the “Massacre at Goliad.” Now in its 31st year, the reenactment of the battle, and the executions Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ordered after the battle, recalls the fighting and settlement that led to Texas’s independence from Mexico.
“It was common practice to execute people,” says Dominguez. “The Americans were deemed pirates, which meant they were bearing arms against a government and not fighting with official flag, kind of like what we call terrorists today.”
Dominguez’s comments inspire his colleague, William Bennett, a 67-year-old native of the Houston suburb Katy, to lead the conversation into the political battles raging in the Texas present. “If Donald Trump were alive at the time of the Goliad massacre, he’d have been on the Mexican side,” says Bennett, referring to how mixed both sides were in terms of nationality and ethnic and racial identity. Speaking for the Mexican army of 1836, he explains, “We were protecting our country, our borders from foreigners. These foreigners want the same equal rights as Mexican citizens, but they don’t pay taxes, they don’t learn our language—Spanish—they don’t become Catholics. They came here to steal land. So, to be historically accurate, Trump would have to be on the Mexican side.”