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Juan Nepomuceno Cortina l 5.16.1824-10.30.1894 l Somos Primos l Nov 2008 l 107th Online Issue

Juan Nepomuceno Cortina l 5.16.1824-10.30.1894 l Somos Primos l Nov 2008 l 107th Online Issue

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Published by: vomeditor on May 28, 2013
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Historia Chicana 
27 May 2013
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina - "Cheno"
May 16, 1824-Oct. 30, 1894
114 years after his death-PRESENTE!October 30, 2008/10:30 AMBrownsville
uan Cortina that was born on May 16, in Camargo, Tamaulipas,the son of the
son of Estéfana and Trinidad Cortina,
 wealthy cattle-ranching family and 1824it was three years since the independence of Mexico from Spain.
(For familylineage, go to
Jose Manuel de  Goseascochea  and Dona Maria Francisca Xaviera de la Garza y de la  Garza, John Inclan research, fromgalveston@yahoo.com  ) 
Following theTexas War of Independence (Slave Republic of Texas) in 1836
The Cortina family used their ranches as frontier strongholds to resist Texasexercising its sovereignty in accordance with the Treaty of Velasco. Cortinanever recognized Texas independence, remained a citizen of Mexico and apatriot of his homeland. As a young man, Cortina was at the battles of Palo Alto
and Resaca de la Palma in Mariano Arista's army fighting Z. Taylor’s military
invasion of Mexico . In 1846,at age 22, he joined the Mexican Army under the orders of Gen. Mariano Arista,who had arrived at Matamoros in an attempt to stop the advancing forces of Gen. Zachary Taylor.Arista asked Cortina to form
a force from the local 
 (Mexican version of 
) that worked for
him and the nearby ranches. This irregularcavalry regiment (called the
) was placed under his command, and as theMexican-AmericanWar began, it took part in the battles of  Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.  With the end of the War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on
February 2, 1848,the Cortina family estates were divided by the new frontier,
leaving a vast portion of their lands inside the United States territory. However, ownership of that land was jeopardized by the legal reasoning of common lawhich allowed bysquatter rights,discouraged vast concentrations of land
ealth, and put alien ownership at a disadvantage. Therefore, Cortina becamean important political boss for the South Texas Democratic Party, paid off theMexican government to keep his lands as a US citizens, succeeded indefending his rights in a number of cases and thereby remained a large ranchowner albeit substantially reduced. However, Cortina never forgot hisallegiance and love of Mexico , remained bitter about the loss of his land andcontinually resisted inroads to his caudillo power in South Texas . Since many large landowners last land as well under the new common law system, theyand Cortina used their substantial retinues of vaqueros, peons,servants, and
allied Mexican small farmers to form a political union which resisted anddiscriminated against Texans thereby keeping many settlers away. EventuallyCortina came in conflict with an influential group of lawyers and judges of Brownsville , who were united in opposing the political bossism of Cortina. Inturn, Cortina agitated the Mexican population when he accused his opponentsof expropriating land from Mexican Texans or
, who were unfamiliar
ith the American legal system. Unflappable in his propaganda Cortinaspread hate pamphlets against Texans:
"Flocks of vampires, in the guise of men,Gringos" 
he wrote, robbed Mexicans
"of their property, incarcerated, chased,urdered, and hunted them like wild beasts" 
. Continuing his pre-annexationpartisan warfare, Cortina managed a carefully constructed insurgency of intimidation, assassination, propaganda, agitation, legalism, and political massaction to eliminate Texan ranchers, store owners, and other Tejanos whocollaborated with the authorities. Eventually, Cortina's clandestine activitiesand he was finally indicted twice on charges of cattle theft. However, becauseof the threat of wide spread insurgency and his own large private army he wasnot arrested. With the self-appointed purpose of defending the rights of Mexicans and Tejanos Cortina gathered, trained and armed a private armyhich interfered with the law, evicted or killed Texan ranchers and farmers,and stopped the enforcement of common law rulings against dividing his andother caudillo's large properties. Through his superb political maneuveringand his hatred of Americans, he became a popular leader among the poorerlocal population, who viewed him as a hero against the
.With outright flouting of the law, the tension between Cortina and the
Brownsville authorities finally broke into violence, and on13 July 1859,the
First Cortina War started. That day, Brownsville Marshall Robert Shears wasarresting Cortina's former employee, Tomás Cabrera who was brutalizing aprostitute for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and publicdrunkenness. Cortina happened to pass by, and asked the Marshall to let himhandle the situation, who is said to have then yelled at him
"What is it to you,ou damned Mexican?" 
. Cortina pulled his sidearms and shot the marshallounding him critically. This flouting of the law in broad daylight on the publicstreets caused consternation among the Texans when the authorities refused tobring Cortina to court out of fear. Realizing the weakness of the opposition tohis rule, Cortina on28 September raided, occupied, and looted the town with
40 to 80 Mexican bandidos. As the stores were pillaged and burned and theTexan men captured and brutalized and the women raped, and the authoritiesfled, Texans were effectively removed from Brownsville . Cortina then issued afamous proclamation to reveal his intentions to the Mexican population.
"(...)There is no need of fear. Orderly people and honest citizens are inviolable to us  n their persons and interests. Our object, as you have seen, has been to chastisethe villainy of our enemies, which heretofore has gone unpunished. These haveconnived with each other, and form, so to speak, a perfidious inquisitorial lodgeto persecute and rob us, without any cause, and for no other crime on our part than that of being of Mexican origin, considering us, doubtless, destitute of those ifts which they themselves do not possess. (...) Mexicans! Peace be with you! Good inhabitants of the State of Texas , look on them as brothers, and keep in ind that which the Holy Spirit saith: "Thou shalt not be the friend of theassionate man; nor join thyself to the madman, lest thou learn his mode of work and scandalize thy soul." 
 Cortina retained control over Brownsville until30 September 1859,when he
evacuated the town at the urging of influential residents of Matamoros . Thefollowing days, the surviving Texans formed a 20 man group in order to fightCortina, called "
the Brownsville Tigers" 
. In November, the Brownsville Tigerslearned that Cortina was at his mother's ranch in the nearby town of Santa Rita ,five miles west of Brownsville . Although outnumbered they immediatelylaunched an attack, only to be sent into retreat in disarray by Cortina's forces.Later the same month, the Brownsville Tigers were joined by a unit of TexasRangers,and Cortina decided to attack them. The offensive was unsuccessful,
and on December, a second group of Rangers led by Capt. John "Rip" Ford 
arrived, larger and better organized. Because of appeals from Brownsvillecitizens, the U.S. Army sent troops from San Antonio to the nearby Fort Brown,  hich had been abandoned due to Cortina's incessant raids a few yearspreviously. The fort's new commander, Maj.Samuel Heintzelman,united and coordinated all armed groups to put an end to the Cortina threat. Cortinaretreated up theRio Grande,until onDecember 27, 1859 Heintzelman and Ford engaged him in the battle of Rio Grande City.Cortina put up resistance
but eventually fled with bodyguards leaving his partisans decisively defeated,ith over sixty men killed and their arms confiscated. Cortina and his gang

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