El Mocho (unknown–1784)

By: Thomas F. Schilz

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 21, 2020

El Mocho, or Tosche ("Left Hand"), was the head chief of the Tonkawa Indians from 1779 until 1784. During that period he organized an alliance of tribes that attempted to oust the Spaniards from Texas. Little is known about his early life, except that he was born in a Lipan Apache ranchería in Central Texas and was captured as a child by the Tonkawas, who adopted him. Beginning in the 1750s he rose to prominence as a warrior, and by 1758 he was one of the tribal war chiefs. In 1758 he helped organize the attack on San Sabá de la Santa Cruz Mission. This mission, organized in 1754 for the Apaches, had alarmed the Tonkawas, Wichitas, Bidais, and Comanches, who feared the Apaches would use it as a supply base from which they could attack other tribes.

After the destruction of the San Sabá mission, El Mocho frequently clashed with the Tonkawa peace chief, Neques, who favored an alliance with the Spaniards. El Mocho, who hoped to drive Whites from Texas, persuaded most of his fellow chiefs to continue the war against Spain and the Apaches, until the last Apache missions were abandoned in 1769. Throughout the 1770s El Mocho resisted the overtures of Neques to the Spaniards and acquiesced in a general peace only after Spanish officials agreed to pay the Tonkawas for taking Osage and Apache scalps. He assumed the leadership of the Tonkawas in 1779 after a smallpox epidemic killed Neques and most of the other Tonkawa elders.

El Mocho, who had participated in several conferences with Spanish leaders, hurried to the Taovayas' village near the Red River and assured the Spanish Indian agent, Athanase de Mézières, of his loyalty and friendship. Mézières escorted El Mocho to Bexar to visit the Spanish governor, Domingo Cabello y Robles. El Mocho received gifts from the governor and was invested as the chief of the Tonkawas. But despite these overtures, he continued to press for an anti-Spanish alliance among Texas Indians. Hoping to free his people from Spanish control, he formed a loose confederacy of groups that included the Tonkawas, the Lipan Apaches (with whom he had made peace in 1781), and some Comanches and Caddoes. In January 1784 El Mocho began leading war parties against Spanish settlements, carrying off captives, and stealing horses. The Spaniards' Indian allies attempted to halt these attacks but were defeated by the Tonkawas. In July 1784 El Mocho was invited to a conference at the presidio of La Bahía, and there he was assassinated.

William E. Dunn, "The Apache Mission on the San Saba River: Its Founding and Failure," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 17 (April 1914). Elizabeth A. H. John, Storms Brewed in Other Men's Worlds: The Confrontation of Indians, Spanish, and French in the Southwest, 1540–1795 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975).


  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Chiefs and Other Leaders

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas F. Schilz, “El Mocho,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/el-mocho.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 21, 2020