The Great Whisky Famine
Edgar Louis Clinton Jr., Esq
Dr. Eddie Vuittonet, MBA-Ph.D.
PREFACE by Dr. Vuittonet:
Prohibition, as I see it, is the overt, legal methodology of choice in which a government may impose and subsequently attempt to enforce a complete or partial band on the elements of the creation, availability, exchange and or the utilization of a particular thing; and do so, for what ever reason and purpose it perceives, or has been influenced to believe that in mitigating the complexities of the law it will ensure it’s continued sovereignty, and the viability of it’s domain
The entire history of the prohibition of alcohol is laced with accounts of it’s failure.
In fact the earliest written records of the prohibition of alcohol and it’s subsequent demise date back to the Xia Dynasty, around 1600 BC. Prohibition failed then, as it failed in America during it’s prohibition period in the 1920’s and early 30’s.
The law enforcing the prohibition of alcohol, for human consumption, in America was a result of the eighteenth amendment to the constitution which essentially declared that the production, transport and sale of (though not the consumption or private possession of) alcohol was illegal.
The Volstead Act, which enabled government to enforce the 18th amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect on January 17, 1920. It clearly defined and delineated which intoxicating liquors were prohibited and those that would be excluded for use in medicine and religion.
As a consequence, for more than a decade, police, courts and prisons were overwhelmed with new cases. Organized crime grew, and corruption metastasized throughout law enforcement. The amendment was repealed in 1933 by the ratification of the 21st Amendment – which incidentally is the only instance, to date, that an amendment to the constitution of the United States has been repealed.
There was a lot of money to be made during that period and as such attracted the attention of many.
CHAPTER 1: OF MICE AND RATS
Dr. Vuittonet: The famous, purported bootlegger – politician, diplomat and father of future president John F Kennedy came to visit the Rio Grande Valley during the prohibition era.
Thus, the question arises: Was he running a smuggling operation on the southern border?
Rumor has it that Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch and the man that amassed the Kennedy fortune, made a good amount of that fortune by rum and whiskey running. The legal and self-styled tactics that Joseph Kennedy so meticulously employed in the whiskey trade business are all a matter of record, with the exception of those that remain transfixed in the realm of innuendo and slur. It is those very rumored acts and actions, that to this day remain a delicate subject as it relates to the Kennedy clan in general. The circumvention or in certain instances, the blatant and purposeful violations of the critically, flawed Volstead Act by a father of one of our most beloved and respected presidents is relatively incomprehensible; moreover it is inconceivable – even by today’s standards.
It is imperative that we first take into account, that even back then, as it is now, that there exists very little, solid evidence of his illegal and unlawful exploits, and even less information on any succeeding legal scrutiny by law enforcement; therefore, we must approach this entire topic with caution and a high degree of diplomacy, as that one: the statue of limitation has long passed… and two: the aftermath from all that distant exertion did provide us with one of the most prolific presidents the United States of America has ever had.
On the other hand, we did find that there is a vast body of anecdotal evidence that leads to some form of abstract culpability… but evidently it was, and still has not proven to be substantial enough, for what ever reason – then and now, to drive the powers to be to take action.
The two most dominant political parties that we as Americans still are saddled with today, were evidently not too enthusiastic in metaphorically spilling rotgut on their whisky running, drug smuggling ancestors and patriarchs; thus, certain things continue unabated and as a result we have yet one more conspiracy of silence to deal with today.
Nonetheless, in that silence there is still voice…it ungulates remnants of verities and lends veracity to conjecture and even that of it’s own sound.
The truth is shaped and blended in the substrates that formulate conduits to echoes from the past…they resound – only to be heard by those with ductile minds…minds that even now, in the Zombie Age, can still manuvere into favorable positions to listen.
One such truth, a virtual whimper in the stream of things …yet significant all the same, comes shredding forth in the form of a 93 year old native of The Rio Grande who lived through Prohibition.
He has lived in the Rio Grande Valley all his life and as such has experienced most of all the major shifts and multifaceted transitions in the Valley and the nation at large, that have occurred through out the 20th and 21th century. This person, this docile and genial man, remains lucid and articulates that he has no agenda, vendetta or any other nefarious motives in relating the details of Joseph Kennedy’s involvement …..
The Times In The Rio Grande Valley leading up to Prohibition’s end.
The Rio Grande has always been a conduit for people, trade, both legal and other, as well as a two way highway of cultural exchange between very uneasy and at times warring neighbors. My source and his son (who knew many of the stories himself and who also assisted translating the old Spanish, and helped with the pronunciation of names that are now more or less extinct among today’s Mexican-Americans, and in many areas of Mexico as well), knew of how the Rio Grande Valley once was, as well as how it is today. Before the Great Hurricane of 1933 (that is how it was named and remembered) there was a different world of ranchos, farms and small communities. There was little money, but food tended to be plentiful, There were three growing seasons, and cattle, goats and livestock in general did well. The actual environment provided a bounty if you knew where to look, and how to prepare the native plants and herbs.
Housing was not that much of a problem. Jacal’s, or stick houses, were built from mesquite limbs and branches and glued together by mud. Sounds simple enough, but if you didn’t know how to do it, or skipped steps in the process, you had a domicile that would certainly not last the winter. You also had the option of hiring a “Jacalero” or professional stick house maker.
One thing you didn’t have was a huge mortgage to carry on your back for thirty years; with crushing interest. In many ways progress is not always that great.
The Hurricane of 1933 was a game changer. A whole way of life especially in Cameron County was gone. Houses, barns, outbuildings were blown or washed away. Livestock scattered or drowned and independent subsistence farming was coming to an end as well anyway. Roosevelt’s New Deal was destroying crops and livestock and limiting production. And with less production there was less employment. Also there was now more paperwork, in English…One thing that people of Mexican descent were not fond of and not good at. The little communities died and they were never resurrected, they only exist today in the memories of Los Viejos and in the family and community cemeteries that are hidden away amongst the back roads of the Rio Grande Valley. The refugees fled to the bigger cities and North and Central Texas cities received them grudgingly. Then came World War 2 and everything changed in a major way.
The towns and ranches that are gone are legion. To name a few, there is Paso Real that was the site of a strategic ferry that crossed the Arroyo Colorado east of Rio Hondo. There is Carricitos also La Paloma on The Rio Grande… One of the most famous is located west of Lyford in Willacy County, the town of Stockholm founded by Swedish immigrants.
It slowly disappeared starting in the 1930’s.
The history of Rio Rico amazingly is a town and ranch that existed both in Mexican and American land at different times and at the same time. It is documented in The Lost Americans of Rio Rico. Many a whiskey runner and many of the American elite came to the border, for the booze, the gambling, and yes, the bordellos. Was Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of what was to become one of Americas most famous political families, one of them?
Author: Dr. Eddie Vuittonet
Dr. Eddie Vuittonet, MBA, Ph.D.
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