Garza, Catarino Erasmo (1859–1895)

By: Gilbert M. Cuthbertson

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: October 1, 1995

Catarino Erasmo Garza Rodríguez, journalist, revolutionary, and folk hero, was born near Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on November 24, 1859, to J. Encarnación and María de Jesús Rodríguez de la Garza. He was educated at Gualahuises, Nuevo León, and San Juan College, Matamoros, and served in the National Guard at Port Plaza. On June 19, 1880, he married Carolina Connor of Brownsville, Texas; they had two daughters and were divorced in 1889. In 1890 Garza married Concepción González, the daughter of a Duval County rancher, with whom he had a daughter. Garza moved to Brownsville in 1877 to work for Blowmberg and Raphael's Casa de Comercio. Between 1877 and 1886 he lived in Brownsville, Laredo, and San Antonio and visited Mexico City. In 1882 he was employed by the Singer Sewing Machine Company as a traveling agent and lived in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León. He also lived in St. Louis, where around 1885 he was appointed Mexican consul, a post he held for a short time. In St. Louis he worked on La Revista Mexicana and served as delegate to the National Convention of Wool Industries in 1886. He promoted sociedades mutualistas and helped found them in Brownsville, Laredo, and Corpus Christi in 1880, 1884, and 1888, respectively. He was a skilled orator. In 1879 he and León Obregón founded El Bien Público in Brownsville, and on June 20, 1886, Garza published the first issue of El Comercio Mexicano in Eagle Pass. In 1887 he and Gabriel Botello published El Libre Pensador to publicize abuses by the Mexican government under President Porfirio Díaz and Coahuila governor José María Garza Galán. Mexican authorities threatened his Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras readers and encouraged them not to buy or read El Libre Pensador. Because of its contents, the newspaper and Garza's equipment were confiscated; Garza was prosecuted for criminal libel and jailed for thirty-one days. He was afraid of extradition, so he moved after December 19, 1887, to Corpus Christi, whence Botello had fled and where they resumed publishing El Comercio Mexicano in March 1888. In 1888 Garza was arrested by Texas Ranger captain John R. Hughes, charged with libel for criticizing former Texas Ranger Victor Sebree for killing Abraham Reséndez, and taken to Rio Grande City. There he was wounded by Sebree in a shooting match, and the Rio Grande City Riot of 1888 ensued. The same year, Garza began writing his autobiography, La Lógica de los Hechos, which described the last twelve years of his life in the United States and the particularly difficult situation that Mexicans faced in Texas. While his revolution was directed against Mexican president Porfirio Díaz, much of his work forming mutualistas and writing for Spanish-language newspapers was aimed at defending the interests of Mexicans in Texas.

After 1888 he continued his collaborations in northern Mexico and South Texas, and by 1891 he and his associates had plotted the overthrow of the Díaz regime, crossed the border in an attack, and issued a manifesto in September 1891 near the Río Bravo in Tamaulipas. Conflict with Mexican, United States, and Texas authorities ensued in the Garza War, which Garcistas continued after Garza left Texas. After leaving the state in 1892, Garza traveled to various places, including Nassau, Jamaica, and possibly Cuba and Florida. By March 28, 1893, he moved to Matina, near Limón, Costa Rica, and a San José press published his pamphlet indicting the Díaz regime, La Era de Tuxtepec en México o Sea Rusia en América. Garza participated in a revolutionary uprising in Colombia. Official sources report that he was killed in storming the jail at Bocas del Toro, Colombia (now in Panama), on March 8, 1895. Following Garza's death he supposedly continued to be sighted, first in Cuba fighting with the independence movement, and later in Ecuador helping the president to reassume power.

Gilbert M. Cuthbertson, "Catarino E. Garza and the Garza War," Texana 13 (1975). Arnoldo De León, Apuntes Tejanos (2 vols., Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1978). María G. Flores, comp., and Laura Gutiérrez-Witt, ed., Mexican American Archives at the Benson Collection: A Guide for Users (General Libraries, University of Texas at Austin, 1981). C. E. Garza, "La lógica de los hechos": O' sean observaciones sobre las circunstancias de los Mexicanos en Tejas, desde el año 1877 hasta 1889, Tomo I (Corpus Christi, n.d.). Agnes G. Grimm, Llanos Mesteñas: Mustang Plains (Waco: Texian Press, 1968). Gabriel Saldívar, Documentos de la rebelión de Catarino E. Garza (Mexico City: Secretaría de Agricultura y Fomento, 1943). Elliott Gordon Young, Crossing Borders: Race, Nation, Class, and Gender on the South Texas Border, 1877–1911 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1993).
  • Journalism
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Outlaws, Criminals, Prostitutes, Gamblers, and Rebels
  • Military
  • Mexican Revolution
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

Gilbert M. Cuthbertson, “Garza, Catarino Erasmo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: