Saturday, July 22, 2017

This Week in Texas Methodist History July  23

Holding Institute Suffers under Increased Border Security  1918

File this one under “I’ve Seen this one before” category.

Principal J. M. Skinner’s report for Holding Institute complained that enhanced border security reduced the mission school’s enrollment so that it now has difficulty in achieving its goals.

Holding Institute was founded in 1881 in Laredo to serve the needs of Mexican children.  It soon became a project of the Woman’s Missionary Society and prospered.  It offered both residential and commuter students both primary and specialized education. The report for 1918 showed 75 commuters and 241 boarders.  It trained students for Christian vocation and also prepared Mexican students to become teachers.   By the 1910’s the minutes of the Woman’s Missionary Society reveal it received more financial support than any other Society institution. 

The Mexican Revolution threw the borderlands, including Laredo, into turmoil, and Holding Institute was naturally impacted.  On the one hand teachers in Methodist mission schools in Mexico had to leave, especially after President Madero's assassination in 1913. Many missionary teachers  chose to sit out the Revolution along the border in Laredo and El Paso.   Some Mexican families sent their children to Holding to protect them from revolutionary violence.
On the other hand, as the Revolution dragged on, the Mexican economy suffered and families could no longer afford the tuition for boarding school.  

The U. S. government also enacted stricter border security.  The concern was genuine.  The borderlands were a dangerous place.  Revolutionary organizations raised troops and bought supplies in the relative safety of San Antonio and El Paso, and some revolutionaries such as Pancho Villa brought their troops into the United States, most famously at Columbus, New Mexico.  Pascual Orozco, another revolutionary general, was killed in the Van Horn Mountains of Texas.

Before the Revolution crossing the Rio Grande to attend Holding was simple.  Students even had a crude footbridge for access.  They regularly swam in the river for recreation.  The border tensions resulted in a crackdown, and here is how J. M. Skinner reacted

Never before have passport restrictions been so severe nor enforced with such tenacity.  Many of our patrons in Mexico, after several efforts proved fruitless, gave up in despair. Some secured passports, but were not permitted to use them because of a slight technical error in filling the same.  As we have always enjoyed a good patronage from the republic, we feel this loss very keenly.  However, now that the war is over, we are expecting a return of prosperity in the way of an increased attendance.


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