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South Texas separatists proclaim Territory of the Rio Grande

February
27
1850

On this day in 1850, Carlos Esparza, a supporter of the Mexican folk hero Juan N. Cortina, and various followers attempted to establish a territorial government and separate themselves from the rest of Texas. The Territory of the Rio Grande was intended to protect the interests of Hispanics, but the proposal became politically complicated and was dropped. Esparza, born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in 1828, was to all appearances an ordinary rancher, possessing neither Cortina's striking appearance nor leadership qualities. The eccentric, sharp-tongued Esparza remained Cortina's man in the shadows, however. During the Civil War, he managed to aid Union and Confederate forces against each other while promoting the Cortinista cause. In 1873 Esparza was appointed special deputy inspector of hides and animals in Cameron County. Texas Ranger Leander H. McNelly was probably referring to Esparza when in 1876 he described the Cortinistas' "organization ... called the 'rural police.' The chief man is owner of a ranch, or the superintendent... He is a civil officer... He sends an alarm to one ranch, and it is sent from ranch to ranch in every direction." After Cortina was arrested in 1875, Esparza retreated to his ranch and became a recluse to avoid criminal charges for his controversial political activities. He died in 1885.

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