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Esparza, Francisca Reyes (ca. 1901–ca. 1979)

Carlos M. Larralde Biography Entry

Francisca Reyes Esparza, early civil-rights activist, the daughter of Antonio and María (Reyes) Esparza and the granddaughter of Carlos Esparza, was born around 1901. By the 1920s she had become known for encouraging people to stand up for their rights. She worked with her friend Judge Dennis Bangs Chapin to establish the validity of Spanish and Mexican land grants that had been ignored or circumvented by landholders. From 1930 to 1937 Francisca Esparza worked as an aid to José T. Canales in Brownsville. She acquired several properties there and owned a secondhand store where Canales and other lawyers gave free counsel. In Mexico she researched titles and other documents on Texas land grants. She formed the Alliance of Land Grants to help get land rights restored to the original owners, who were to have been protected under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. She received funds from her followers for the alliance and support from Chapin, who also hired lawyers to help her pursue the issue. The effort received some attention in the press and courts during the 1940s, but by 1952 Chapin had died, and Francisca Esparza was accused of being a Communist and discredited. Her movement was destroyed, but others were inspired by her efforts, among them Reies López Tijerina, who became active in the restoration of New Mexico land grants. Francisca Esparza died around 1979.

Corpus Christi Caller, April 3, 1953. Corpus Christi Times, June 7, 1946. Carlos Larralde, Mexican-American Movements and Leaders (Los Alamitos, California: Hwong, 1976).


  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Women
  • Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery

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

Carlos M. Larralde, “Esparza, Francisca Reyes,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 12, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: