The General Zaragoza State Historic Site, two miles south of Goliad, was established in the 1960s to commemorate the birthplace of Ignacio S. Zaragoza. The memorial honors the general who led Mexican forces to victory over the French in the battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862, an event celebrated annually in Mexico and Texas as El Cinco de Mayo (see FIESTAS PATRIAS). Goliad County donated three acres for the site to the State Parks Board in September 1961.
A three-room, stone house was reconstructed on existing stone foundations, which, according to local tradition, mark Zaragoza's birthplace. Archeological investigations in 1969 and 1972 provided scant details on the architectural features of the structure originally on the site. Stein Lumber Company of Fredericksburg constructed the building based on plans drawn for the Historic Sites and Restoration Branch of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by Raiford Stripling of San Augustine. The construction was completed in December 1974, and the site was opened on May 5, 1976. Exhibits in the building illustrate living conditions in the Mexican frontier state of Coahuila and Texas and also present information on the life of Zaragoza, with special emphasis on his military career.
In 1980 a statue of Zaragoza was added to the memorial, following decades of effort by Mexican Americans associated with the Sociedad Ignacio Zaragoza and others, including W. M. Neyland of Corpus Christi and state representative Tim Von Dohlen. Abigail Vargas Carbajal, also of Goliad and president of the Zaragoza Society for many years, was instrumental in preserving Zaragoza's birthplace and in advocating a special monument for the Texas-born general. The 3,000-pound, $350,000 bronze statue, cast by a family of sculptors from Mexico, was a gift from the state of Puebla to Texas. A formal dedication ceremony to present the statue was held on September 13, 1980, with the governor of Puebla present. Other Mexican, Texan, and United States officials also represented their respective governments at the event, which drew an audience of 1,000. A Mass for the occasion was concelebrated by Archbishop Patrick Flores of San Antonio and Bishop Thomas J. Drury of Corpus Christi.