|SAN ANTONIO, February 9 - Mostly as a result of the Tejano Monument’s unveiling in Austin in 2012; interest in early Texas history people, places, and events continues to grow.
In a previous article, I wrote that the first President of Texas, Lt. Colonel José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara Uribe wasn’t born in Texas, but in the state of Nuevo Santander (now Tamaulipas), Mexico in what is today’s bi-national sister towns of Guerrero and Zapata spanning the Rio Grande. The basic question in readers’ minds is why would Don Bernardo get involved in a Texas affair? The answer is simple – family ties.
The fact is that the first communities in Nuevo México, Coahuila, N. León, Tejas and Nuevo Santander consisted of basically the same family groups. Of strong stock, they came from towns in Central Mexico. Hence, firm familial cohesion served as one of Don Bernardo’s motivations to first volunteer, and second, to serve and lead Texans in declaring independence from Spain. (Incidentally, family ties could easily qualify both sides of the Lower Rio Grande for a Guinness Book record as a region with one of the largest blood-related populations in the world.)
From their start in 1747-49, Count José de Escandón’s Villas del Norte served mas o menos (more or less) as a Camino Real midpoint from Monclova to sites north in Texas, such as San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches. Thus, the Villas although set up in Nuevo Santander, strengthened Texas communities against French incursion and hostile Indian attacks.
To be sure, independence fervor inside Texas itself grew on its own. Reaction was typical in communities throughout the region, once riders came into town bringing news of Father Miguel Hidalgo’s “Grito” of September 16, 1810. One of the first attempts for Texas liberty was initiated in 1811 in San Antonio by Captain Juan Bautista de las Casas. Sadly for Captain de las Casas, his compatriots betrayed him. He was arrested and executed by the Spanish Army.
Don Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara led the next attempt. More substantial, it introduced the people of Texas to their first taste of freedom. Here’s how those events occurred. As mentioned above, Don Bernardo was appointed a Lt Colonel in the Republican Army. Alas, shortly after Mexico’s 1810 revolution began, Father Hidalgo and his senior staff were defeated in battle, captured, and executed. It was shortly thereafter that Lt. Colonel Gutiérrez de Lara, accompanied by Captain José Menchaca, undertook a difficult trip to Washington, D.C. to seek help for their revolution.
Of interest to South Texas is the fact he was also joined on his trip from Revilla to the U.S. by a small group of recruits. The trip was tough, with most energy spent trying to avoid the Spanish Army. All went well until the party reached the Texas-Louisiana border. It was then that they were attacked by a Spanish patrol. Don Bernardo narrowly escaped death; most of his soldiers wounded, and three of his men were killed. Stopping in New Orleans, Don Bernardo left Captain Menchaca and wounded soldiers there to recuperate. He continued his journey.
For the record, Don Bernardo succeeded in his mission. (Due to its historical significance, many people are now familiarizing themselves with his epic story, and would like to see it become part of mainstream Texas history classroom curriculum.) Besides Gutiérrez de Lara, only one other name is known; that of Capt. Menchaca. However, what about the recruits who were with him when they left Revilla? Who were they and what is known about their lives before they became the seeds of the Army of the North (First Texas Army)? Regrettably, we don’t know.
Based on available information, following is a partial list in alphabetical order of some early Revilla family names. It’s possible that the 12 heroes had names within this group. However, many other family names existed in the nearby close-knit Villas del Norte (over 20) on both sides of the Rio Grande. There was also constant movement of pioneer settlers within the villas:
- Adame, Alcántara, Baez Benavides, Benavides, Botello, Campos, Cañamar, Cavazos, Cuellar, de la Cerda, de la Garza, de la Garza Falcón, de la Peña, Garcia, Gonzales, González Hidalgo, Guerra, Guerra Cañamar, Gutiérrez, Gutiérrez de Castro, Gutiérrez de Lara, Herrera, Longoria, Martínez, Ochoa, Paredes, Peña, Pérez, Piña, Rodríguez, Salinas, Tabares, Treviño, Uribe, Vela, Villarreal.
I’m hoping folks with these names who originate in the Villas del Norte realize that they’re blessed to have such lineage. Coincidentally, the enthusiastic generosity of South Texans (Nuevo Santander/Tamaulipas descendants) led by Mr. Renato Ramirez of Zapata was vital in getting the Tejano Monument built. It’s quite a fitting tribute, since the spark leading to the first Texas independence in 1813 was lit in Revilla. The torch of liberty was then carried to Texas.
Rio Grande Valley residents should be especially proud of early Texas history. Most of all, please share this knowledge with your children to show them how it is they have ownership of early Texas history. It’s with that thought in mind, and with a deep sense of honor, that the following homage is dedicated to these unidentified Texas patriots:
The Forgotten Fourteen
Fourteen Revilla Valientes rode out in 1811 in search of freedom.
First to fight for Texas, against the mighty Spanish kingdom.
Pledging their very life; these courageous men, loyal and brave;
Eternally entombed in a long vanished, far-away unknown grave.
Their spirits soar high in heaven, amidst other warriors in history.
Rare valor; so vital to Don Bernardo’s Texas Independence victory.
Nameless souls whose memory in our hearts will always be close.
Valiant Villa de Revilla patriots; ‘ever may you rest in sweet repose.
José Antonio (Joe) López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF Veteran. He now lives in Universal City, Texas. He is the author of two books: “The Last Knight (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero),” and “Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas).” Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and www.tejanosunidos.org, a Web site dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books.