López: Texas Down Under

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The The keeper of the Rio Grande Tejano’s historic writer José Antonio López is delighted that we are hosting a one-day conference in December on the American-Mexican War of 1846-1848.

Jose antonio lopez

To help promote the conference, Joe recommended that we publish two of these previous columns. This is what we are happy to do. The first is published below. It first appeared in our international news service on August 2, 2015. The second column will be published next weekend.

“In truth, the topic of the conference is a very topical issue, given today’s toxic environment. People need to know the truth and I hope the conference sheds light on this dark corner of Texas history, ”said López.

López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF veteran. He lives in Universal City, Texas, and is the author of four books. His latest book is “Preserving Early Texas History”. It is published by Xlibris and is available on Amazon.com. Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and of www.tejanosunidos.org, a website dedicated to Spanish Mexicans and events in US history that are mostly overlooked in the history books. traditional. He can be contacted by email via: [email protected]

Here is the column:


While most of us have come to appreciate the current map of Texas, the history of lower Texas has its own rare tale.

Its origins are not in Texas, but in Nuevo Santander (Tamaulipas). Anchored by the vibrant roots of Villas del Norte on both sides (ambos lados) of Lower Rio Grande, this is the corner of land below the Nueces River, south of the east-west direction of US Highway 59. To in my opinion, this is our version of “Texas Down Under”.

Key to its vibe is that the Rio Grande was originally a local river where Spanish Mexican pioneers settled on both sides of the river to raise their families. As a bonus, many of the pioneers of the Villas were of Sephardic Jewish ancestry (including mine). Thus, it is through this lineage that the inhabitants still practice countless Jewish customs without even knowing it.

In his book “Colonial Spanish Texas and Other Essays,” Dr. Lino Garcia, Jr., Professor Emeritus, UT-Rio Grande Valley, writes that the delicious pastries semita and cuernitos, capirotada, cabrito and caldo de pollo, as well as our dear ones. Quinciañera customs, all of which derive directly from our South Texas Jewish heritage. He adds that if your name is Adán, Abrán, José, Josué, David, Raquel, Israel, Ezeqiel, for example, and you are from South Texas, it is almost certain that you are descended from Villas del Norte Sefarditas (Jewish Sephardic).

Unfortunately, these notable basics of our South Texas way of life are for the most part not recorded in the Texas history books. As a result, most Texans with Spanish names who hail from southern Texas and the Rio Grande Valley are generally unaware of their fascinating history. For this reason, I provide details below regarding the mid-1700s adventure called Las Villas del Norte.

At the time, the Spanish monarchy wanted to protect the province of Texas from hostile native tribes and a perceived French invasion. Thus, on a number of submissions, Count Escandón’s recommendation for villas was approved.

Beginning with the Spanish and Mexican (Native American) families he recruited from Querétaro, Count Escandón created more than 20 communities on both sides of the Rio Grande during the years 1749-1755. The following summary is for those established on both sides of the Lower Rio Grande that have a direct natural impact on present-day Texas. In addition, it is important to note that this enterprise was the only purely civilian enterprise (no military or presidio) in New Spain.

1747-49. The foundation of Las Villas del Norte begins. Count José de Escandón was a planner, architect and administrator of this Herculean effort. It was the largest and most complicated settlement in Texas. Easily, he was the most industrious land emperor in what is now Texas!

1749. The first villas were Camargo (Villa de Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana de Camargo), Reynosa (Villa de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Reynosa) and Refugio (San Juan de Los Esteros Hermosos) was colonized the same year. As a reminder, the Camargo families came from the state of Nuevo León; that is, Cadereyta, Cerralvo, Monterrey and Pesquería Grande. The Reynosa families came from Monterrey, Cadereyta, Cerralvo and Montemorelos (Rio Pilón). In the same year, some Camargo and Reynosa families settled in Refugio (Matamoros / Brownsville), launching the vaquero cattle ranching industry in the area. Soon the rest followed:

1750. Revilla (Villa del Señor San Ignacio de Loyola de Revilla) was founded with more than 50 families from the state of Nuevo León. Renamed “Guerrero” in honor of Vicente Guerrero, 2nd President of Mexico, it briefly served as the capital of the Republic of Rio Grande (1840).

Dolores (Hacienda de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores) was founded by Captain José Vásquez Borrego, a wealthy breeder from Coahuila who had expanded his breeding business to include the lower Rio Grande region.

1753. Mier (Estancia de Mier). (Established by families of Camargo and named in honor of the governor of Nuevo León Francisco Mier y Torre.)

1755. Laredo (Villa of San Agustín de Laredo); named in honor of Saint Augustine of Hippo and Laredo, Cantabria, Spain (birthplace of Count Escandón). Its founder, Don Tomás Sánchez, brought his brothers and their immediate families, as well as other families from Nuevo León to his new Villa in San Agustín de Laredo.

(Note: Dolores and Laredo are the only two sites established on the east side of the Rio Grande.)

When completed, Villas del Norte’s family count stood at nearly 1,500 with a combined population of over 6,000, plus nearly 3,000 Native American Christians who provided most of the muscle in the area. The inclusion of local indigenous people is very important. That is, the local Native American tribes (clans) living in the area have not disappeared. They gradually assimilated and married the locals of Villas, becoming the first cowboys / cowgirls in Texas. This magnificent blend of Old World (European) and New World (American) bloodlines created today’s Mexican-born Texans.

Like a pearl necklace, the Villas have shone, radiating faith in God and family unity for 100 years. The Spanish Mexican pioneer settlers built a system of roads (Caminos del Rio) connecting the Villas. Today’s descendants must be proud to know that our Villas ancestors built parts of what is now US Highway 83. On the Camino Real, Dolores and Laredo served as welcome stops midway between Monclova and northern Texas.

Please note that when the Escandon group arrived in South Texas, they were the first inhabitants of European descent. For example, when the original residents started building their homes in Dolores and Laredo, for example, they were the only Europeans living on this side of the Rio Grande, from the Gulf of Mexico to El Paso and Santa Fe, New Brunswick. Mexico. In fact, the ruins of Dolores contain the foundations of the oldest structure built in Europe on the Texan side of the Rio Grande. (Unfortunately, the Texas Historical Commission has yet to properly act on its historical value.)

As a result of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, life in the Villas abruptly changed in 1848. The tight-knit communities were split in two. The people whose homes were located on the east bank of the Rio became the American cities of Laredo, San Ygnacio, Zapata, Rio Grande City, Roma, Mission, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, Edinburg, McAllen, Harlingen and places dotted around the banks of the river. to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sadly, a permanent Mason-Dixon line in US history continues to divide blood-related families to this day. Yet despite its political implications, the region has an organic connection to the sister states of Texas, Provincias Internas, in northern Mexico; Coahuila, Nuevo Léon and Tamaulipas. Common heritage, vital social and economic ties continue to embrace the region as one. This is why many “Borderlands” families still have strong family ties, proving that “el agua del Rio Grande” (water from the Rio Grande) does not separate them, but unites them.

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian’s talk is titled “To Conquer. Defend. A conference to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). To learn more about the conference and to purchase tickets, click here.


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