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Is he not king of the whole frontier? NE W YO R K T I M E S A lthough Cortina would never again return to Texas,he never kept his eyes off the state.Realizing the inability of the U.S.Army and local law enforcement officials to secure the vast reaches of the border, he would once again strike at the landholding elite and the forces of oppression. In the process, the reactionary forces of racism, oppression, and fear that had been simmering since 1859 would again come to the forefront of the history of the region. In the process, not only did Cortina come close to instigating a war between the United States and Mexico, but also the victims of the violence he helped to unleash would not be his zealous Cortinistas but helpless Tejanos . It was to be a sad and regrettable chapter in the history of Texas. In 1863, the U.S. Army legitimized stealing livestock when it employed Tejanos to prey on cattle herds in the Nueces Strip. Worse, when General Cortina returned to the frontier in 1871, cattle raids into Texas increased dramatically. Although the affected ranchers greatly exaggerated the effect, the fact remains that the practice reached new heights of intensity and frequency . Clearly orchestrated and directed by Cortina, the raids were carefully planned in the ranchos and small villages on the Mexican side of the river. Most Americans, including Thomas F. Wilson, the American consul in Matamoros, had little doubt that “armed bands of Mexicans” who were involved in the raids were “sheltered and protected” by Cortina. In the years that followed, local, state, and federal authorities in the United States compiled a mountain of evidence implicating Cortina. Raids fell into a particular pattern. Targeting a given ranch, the raiders, armed with Winchester carbines and six-shooters and numbering anywhere from ten to one hundred, would divide into small parties, cross the river, and rendezvous at a prearranged site in the chaparral. After locating a herd of Chapter Eight PredatorWar Predator War 201 cattle, the animals would be pushed south through the night without rest until they reached the river. As associates waited on the south bank, the cattle were herded across the Rio Grande at any one of a number of lowwater fords, where there were usually small ranches on both sides of the river. Crossing points included Las Grullas, Sabinito, La Bolsa, Las Rucias, Rancho Nuevo, Prietas, Naranja, and Tulosa. Las Cuevas, though, was the most popular. In Mexico, the stolen cattle were frequently rebranded (usually with Cortina’s brand) and sold in Matamoros or in small villages and towns as far away as the Sierra Madre. Some were driven to Bagdad and shipped to Cuba. Collaterally, a lucrative trade in hides sprang up, helping to rejuvenate the economy on the frontier as thousands of hides were shipped to tanneries as far away as New York and Boston. Popular response to Cortina was, as always, telling. Economic effects and cultural responses derive, of course, from basic needs, and the arrival of a large herd of cattle into the small, impoverished villages of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León was celebrated with joy and festivities. The rustlers were feted Cortinistas gather at a small rancho in northern Tamaulipas prior to a cattle raid into Texas in this 1873 engraving by William de la Montagne Cary. Returning safely to Mexico, the raiders were often cheered as heroes. Appletons’ Journal, 1873. 202 c h ap t e r e ig h t as heroes,and so began another chapter in the sometimes-flamboyant,sometimes -desultory, and always-violent life and times of Juan Cortina. Cattle Raids Striking back at his old enemies in Texas, Cortina grew rich from the cattle raids, accumulating a fortune that amounted to as much as $800,000. With his newfound wealth, Cortina was able to purchase Rancho Guadalupe from Juan Solís Ballí. Two months later, he acquired several thousand acres of El Rancho Tahuachal from Juan and Donato Longoria. Shortly thereafter, he bought a large adjacent tract of land from the descendants of Leonardo Longoria. At the same time, Cortina purchased a second tract of land on the river from Guadalupe Longoria, widow of Policarpio Farías. In early January 1872, he acquired the hacienda Nuestra Señora Soledad de la Mota from Martina Peña de la Garza and her children. Nine months later, he added the Rancho Maguellitos of Tiburcio Cisneros...


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