Legacy of Nogales Buffalo Soldiers to receive tribute this weekend
The second annual Salute to the Nogales Buffalo Soldiers will take place on Saturday, Jan. 28, honoring the lives of African Americans who joined the U.S. armed forces in the wake of the Civil War.
"They were sent to Nogales to protect the United States long before there was a big wall separating the countries," said Donna Jackson-Houston, president and founder of the Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association. "They settled there and got together with Mexican women. They had children."
From 1866-1947, the U.S. Army segregated most African American troops into all-Black units, known as the Buffalo Soldiers from their initial deployments in wars against Native tribes in the western United States. Among them were units of the 10th Cavalry, stationed at the former Camp Stephen Little in Nogales in the early 20th century, as well as at Ft. Huachuca. Those troops took part in the 1918 Battle of Ambos Nogales against Mexican forces, as well as the final battle of the American Indian Wars, the 1918 skirmish between Buffalo Soldiers and about 30 Yaqui fighters in Bear Valley, west of Nogales.
A descendant of a Buffalo Soldier, Lucius Jackson, Jackson-Houston said she is excited for this weekend's free event and hopes it shines a light on a side of military history that is rarely discussed in schools.
At 10 a.m., participants will gather at the Nogales City Cemetery. There, the Fort Huachuca "B Troop" Cavalry and Color Guard will perform a ceremony in the veterans section of the cemetery. Jackson-Houston said more than 50 Buffalo soldiers are buried there — that is without counting the ones who aren't named or marked. The Nogales High School choir will also perform.
At Nogales City Hall at 1:30 p.m. Mayor Jorge Maldonado will offer remarks and the Carlos Bazan, a board member for the Naco Heritage Alliance, will make a keynote speech. The color guard and calvary will hold another demonstration.
The microphone will be open for descendants to share their stories about their loved ones serving as Buffalo Soldiers. There will be snacks people can feed the horses and folklorico dancers will be there to entertain.
Jackson-Houston said that although they won't be walking together to the Pimeria Alta Historical Museum, people are encouraged to visit a new exhibit there.
A member of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People near her home in California, Jackson-Houston said the national group is pushing to add the history of the Buffalo soldiers to school curricula.
"The NAACP National Conference is in July and will be considered as a national resolution at that time," Jackson-Houston said. "That will be significant in educating our students nationally about the major contributions of Buffalo soldiers."
Bianca Morales is TucsonSentinel.com’s Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.