Luz Arcos

Ages ago my Grandmother told me about members in her family being shot dead over sour milk. It was one of the many stories she had told me. She never did tell me there was a corrida based on that story. Luz Arcos by Los Hermanos Chavarria was recorded  in San Antonio for Columbia,  April 1931.

Luciano Barrientes had sold Luz Arcos some milk. Arcos returned the milk because he said it was spoiled and was given his money back. Barrientos then told him he would not sell milk to Arcos ever again because he was insulted and Arcos had such trouble with it. Arcos would purchase milk from the Barrientos to re-sell. Because the milk had been spoiled he lost his business for the day. 

Arcos was married with three children and yet was after one of Barrientos' girls. This could be the real reason Luciano Barrientos didn't want to do business with him anymore.  Perhaps this is the real reason Barrientos did not want Arcos returning to the store.  No one really knows what made Luz Arcos so angry on December 25, 1928, but he left the store angry and returned with a gun and shot my Grandmother's great-uncle and then shot his two sons.

What followed was a sensationalistic trial and a spectacle that lasted twenty months. He was sentenced to life in prison but the Barrientos widows wanted him to receive the death penalty. When transferred from the Bexar county prison to Huntsville,  Arcos had an expensive, custom made suit created to arrive at Huntsville in style. He made the most out of his ill gotten fame. He would be arrogant, and at times, humble depending on the audience. The Mexican-American newspaper, La Prensa, followed the Luz Arcos story and even encouraged him to write his memoirs to keep their readers in suspense.  There was a fascination with this criminal who shot three men in the Barrientos family in cold blood. Arcos' wife and mother claimed he was mentally unstable and prone to violent outburst that he would not remember later. San Antonio society women were defending him, following the trend set by the wife of a notorious Texas lawyer. On November 7, 1930, he got the chair and that was the end of Arcos.

Listening to the song for the first time left me feeling rather creeped out. I asked my Grandmother if she had ever heard it. She said, "Of course, it was on RCA Victor" that I knew she meant a 78. The Barrientos family was left destitute after the death of the three men. The farm, dairy and store that Luciano had owned were gone before the stock market crashed in 1929. He had come a long way from the simple fruit stand he had along the street in Eagle Pass.



Anonymous freddie said...

The news clipping should have read"EL COBARDE and arrogant luz arcos to be fried manana"...BRAVE and HARDWORKING BARRIENTES family to get justice...he shot 3 UNARMED men.......Hi! Tera it's me your cuz from Garland tx..........

Sunday, April 24, 2011  
Blogger Tera said...

Freddie, send me your email address!

Saturday, August 13, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I am related to the Arcos family. I have heard this story many times. I have heard it from the Arcos family and the Barrientes family. The version I have heard is that Luz wanted his money back but Barrientes did not want to give it to him and this is why he shot the family. Does your family know what type of gun Luz used?

Sunday, March 18, 2012  
Blogger Tera said...

It is still a sore spot for many members of the Barrientes family. They never again regained their footing. I don't think the type of gun was noted. However you might find your answer in the archived papers. The story ran in just about every Spanish language paper in the US at the time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012  
Blogger djphatkat said...

looking more family related to all the Barrientes from Hondo. My dad used to tell me of this story that happened to his tio and cousins. we had the corrido on 8 track with Los Alegres de Teran, and found it years after his passing with Los Hermanos Chavarria. He would cry every time wed play it for him, hed remember of the tragic event that happened to our great family. If there are more out there hit me up and lets talk. Id like to know more of my family.

thank you,

samuel barrientos

Wednesday, September 19, 2012  
Blogger Tera said...

Hi Samuel, Freddie, who left the first comment, is a family member and I am too. Luciano was also my Grandmother's tio. She lives two hours from Hondo. She has a home in Hondo though. Of course, there are still plenty living in Eagle Pass.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012  
Anonymous Freddie said...

Luciano was my Grandfathers tio.....They were murdered in the evening and were all dressed up getting ready to close the store to go to a big family gathering of sort according to my Grandmother who was 21 at the time and living in Hondo....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just this evening I finished reading some transcripts of the hearing and the appellate papers. Fascinating stuff. Old Man Barrientes was my mother's grandfather.

Interesting "paternalistic" way the white jury and attorneys (with the exception of one Gonzalez attorney who helped the defense and kept an eye and ear on the interpreter when Spanish speakers would testify).

It seemed as if there were some reversible errors in the trial (prejudicing the jury) but the appeals court made short work of that.

Saturday, June 28, 2014  

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