An Italian immigrant, Luis Cardis was a middle-aged
man when he came to El Paso in 1864. He quickly learned fluent
Spanish, which helped him build political power with Mexican Americans.
Cardis gained political favor with men who
valued his strong ties with the Mexican Americans. A group of
powerful businessmen, called the Salt Ring, schemed to make money
off of the El Paso area Mexican Americans. Their scheme resulted
in a famously intense dispute over control
of the salt beds at the foot of the Guadalupe Mountains, ninety
miles east of the city.
Cardis also formed an alliance with local
Democrat James Howard, to
influence the Mexican vote for his political election. In return,
Howard aided Cardis's successful campaign for the state legislature.
Howard said, “I think no county in the State deserves more credit
than El Paso, and no man more that L. Cardis.”
However, the relationship deteriorated, and
the politicians became bitter enemies when Howard double-crossed
Cardis in the salt flats scheme and physically attacked him on
two occasions. In retaliation, Cardis incited a mob of angry Mexican
Americans that held Howard captive in San Elizario for three days.
The Texas Rangers rescued Howard, and he fled
the scene until his vengeful return to El Paso on October 7, 1877.
Howard shot Cardis dead with a shotgun. Two months later, a gang
of Cardis supporters killed Howard.
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