ESPARZA, JOSÉ (1856–1926). José Esparza, entrepreneur and political activist, son of Francisca (García) and Carlos Esparza, was born on July 8, 1856, at Rancho de San Juan el Encantado. His maternal grandfather, Ramón García, was one of Juan N. Cortina's spies, and his father was a Cortinista activist. Esparza married Rufina Sayas, who died in a fire; he married Virginia Reyes on December 28, 1895. He used his position as a Cameron county commissioner from 1882 to 1885 to promote the railroad. In 1903 he invested in the Merchants and Planters Rice Milling Company in Brownsville. He later abandoned rice growing since it was "damaging the soil." Esparza donated money and land to the first San Benito public school in 1907. He also donated an acre of land along the military road in El Ranchito and expressed the wish that a school, La Encantada School, be built there. On November 23, 1970, the community built a memorial park to him at El Ranchito, not far from San Benito. Esparza aided militant Aniceto Pizaña during the turbulent era along the lower Rio Grande that began in 1915. He also encouraged the United States Army to station troops in the area. During the 1920s he invested $50,000 in the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company, which built several branch lines in the area by 1926. He was checking records of his railroad investments when he had a stroke and died, on September 19, 1926.