Francisco A. Chapa, alderman and member of the board of education in San Antonio, was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on October 4, 1870. When he was seventeen years old, he immigrated to New Orleans to continue his studies in pharmacy at Tulane University. He worked as a drugstore clerk in Matamoros and Brownsville in 1890 and later that year moved to San Antonio, where he worked as a pharmacist for four years before establishing his own drugstore, La Botica del León, on West Commerce and Santa Rosa, which he ran for thirty years. Chapa served as a member of the local board of education from 1888 to 1906, some of the time as treasurer. In 1913 he was narrowly elected alderman for the third ward. He was apparently an alderman for at least two terms. He was also president of the San Antonio Retail Druggists' Association and a member of the Business Men's Club.
He was one of a handful of Texas-Mexican Republicans. He published El Imparcial de Texas, a conservative newspaper that resembled the Imparcial of Mexico City. Under his guidance the Texas Imparcial championed the dictator Porfirio Díaz and denounced the Mexican Revolution. Chapa is credited with delivering the Texas-Mexican vote to Oscar B. Colquitt in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1910. Colquitt went on to win the governor's seat and ultimately appointed Chapa a lieutenant colonel on his personal staff.
In this position Chapa was involved in political intrigue that was "legally and politically embarrassing" to him and Colquitt. The event concerned Gen. Bernardo Reyes, once one of the most powerful military associates of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz. After Díaz resigned during the Mexican Revolution in May 1911, Reyes attempted to assume political power in Mexico and used San Antonio as his base of operations. Chapa, a defender of the Díaz regime, aided Reyes's efforts by arranging meetings between Governor Colquitt and Reyes to discuss the deployment and use of the Texas Rangers along the border, with the intention of ensuring that the Rangers would not interfere with Reyes's revolutionary endeavors. Chapa probably assisted Reyes in other ways as well, for when the "Reyes Conspiracy" collapsed almost two dozen others, including Chapa, were accused of violating federal neutrality laws. Only Chapa, however, came to trial. In federal court in Brownsville he was found guilty by a jury allegedly reassured by presiding Judge Walter T. Burns that he would not be sentenced to prison. Burns fined Chapa $1,500 and stated that the "penitentiary is not the place for men of your kind." Chapa remained on the governor's staff, and Colquitt persuaded President William Howard Taft to issue a presidential pardon to Chapa.
Chapa's association with the governor and his apparent leadership among Texas Mexicans helped win Gregorio Cortez's struggle for justice in the murder case against him. Chapa spent ten years leading the legal fight for Cortez's pardon, which was granted in 1913. He was called to testify years later in a joint Texas House and Senate committee organized by Representative J. T. Canales to investigate alleged atrocities committed by the Texas Rangers against Texas Mexicans; Chapa refused to implicate the leader of the rangers.
He married Adelaide Rivas and had two daughters and a son. His son, Francisco, operated La Botica del León until it was demolished under urban renewal in 1970. Chapa died of pneumonia in San Antonio on February 18, 1924. At his funeral service at San Fernando de Bexar Cathedral, honorary pallbearers included his old friend and political ally, former governor Oscar B. Colquitt.
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Don M. Coerver and Linda B. Hall, "Neiman-Marcus: Innovators in Fashion and Merchandising," American Jewish Historical Quarterly 66 (September 1976). Américo Paredes, With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958). Vertical Files, University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Teresa Palomo Acosta,
“Chapa, Francisco A.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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