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Let us give to the world a testimony that all are worthy successors to Hidalgo and Morelos. Long Live Mexico! Long Live Independence! Long Live the State of Tamaulipas! Juan Cort ina R estless and resistless, Cortina returned to the border in early 1861 with a determination to continue his revolution and create a new sense of social justice. Although leading armed men in rebellion against the government had long been a way of life on the Rio Grande, he realized the righteous forces of indignation he had unleashed were different and could not easily be suppressed. Being harshly judged and vilified by Anglo Texans served only to incite him. He would establish his place in history and continue the struggle against those who would dispossess Mexicans of their land. With the secession of Texas and the rapidly unfolding American Civil War, Cortina watched from the south bank of the Rio Grande as the hated Rangers returned to South Texas. The blood ran thick, as the Rangers executed anyone suspected of being a Cortinista. Worse, much of their killing appears to have been indiscriminate. The Corpus Christi Ranchero ran the following brief notice in March that proved typical: “A Mexican vaquero, in the employ of Sheriff Brown[e] was found shot between here and Point Isabel.The cause was traced to some of Capt.[John] Donelson’s command.” Countless other killings went unreported. For his part, Cortina remained intrepid . Despite the numerous indictments against him in Cameron County, he crossed the river in April 1861 to visit his ranch at San José, where he told friends he would return in a few weeks with a force of Mexicans and Indians. His influence with the underprivileged along the twisting and turbulent waters of the Rio Grande had not diminished following his defeat at Rio Grande City. It was upriver in Zapata County, though, where he would again etch his name in the bloody history of Texas. Chapter Four AFrontierinFlames Frontier in Flames 97 With a political structure similar to other border counties, a clique of merchants and large landowners had administered Zapata County since its creation in 1856. Heading the lot was a cunning Englishman named Henry Redmond. Purchasing land on the Rio Grande as early as 1839, Redmond married into an influential local family and survived the bloody Federalists -Centralists wars that swept the area. Redmond was instrumental in establishing the county that was named after the mulatto hero of the Republic of the Rio Grande, Col. Antonio Zapata. In time, Redmond developed a lucrative trading business from his store near San Bartolo (or what was called Redmond’s Ranch), just upriver from the county seat of Carrizo. He also became postmaster at Carrizo, justice of the peace, and the first county judge, as well as collector of customs at San Bartolo. The political machine running the county included John D. Mussett, an articulate Arkansas lawyer who was the deputy collector of customs at Carrizo, as well as County Judge Isidro Vela, Sheriff Pedro Díaz, County Clerk Trinidad Zampano,Tax Assessor-Collector Fernando Uribe, and District Clerk Agustín Díaz. Still another player in county politics was Blas María Uribe, a wealthy merchant and rancher who controlled the votes in the small rock and adobe village of San Ignacio, upriver from Carrizo. The degree to which the patrón system controlled the county was indicated by a vote of 212 to 0 in favor of secession. Prior to the election, Judge Vela had made it known throughout the county that anyone failing to vote for secession would be fined fifty cents, a considerable amount of money to many of the poor, most of them Cortina sympathizers. When several individuals failed to show up at the polls, Vela ordered them arrested. Insurrection in Zapata County On April 12, the day before the first thunder that would shake the nation to its roots with the surrender of Fort Sumter in the far-off South Carolina harbor of Charleston, forty armed Tejanos and Mexicanos under the leadership of a thirty-nine-year-old ranchero and Cortinista named Antonio Ochoa, seized control of Precinct Three in the southern part of the county. Ochoa and his followers, it was said, were threatening to kill all the gringos in the county and hang Sheriff Díaz. Influenced by Cortina, Ochoa and his small band were said to be “marching about the county in armed bodies threatening the lives...


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