Ortiz, Ramón (1813–1896)

By: Fidelia Miller Puckett

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 4, 2020

Font size: A / A reset

Ramón Ortiz, pastor and activist, son of Antonio and María Teresa (Mier) Ortiz, was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1813. He was orphaned as an infant and cared for by an older sister and her husband. After attending a seminary in Durango, Mexico, he was ordained about 1833. Upon ordination he spent several years in Mexico ministering to Indians and mestizos at small mining villages. From 1838 to 1896 he was pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission at El Paso del Norte (Ciudad Juárez) and the surrounding missions. Soon after becoming pastor he took in a number of family members to live in his household. After accounts of the Texan Santa Fe expedition of 1841 were published, Padre Ortiz gained wide acclaim for his benefactions to the Texan prisoners when they reached El Paso del Norte on the march to Chihuahua. While Ortiz was personally benevolent towards Americans, he feared American encroachment and encouraged Mexican resistance to United States forces. During the Mexican War he was held as a hostage by Col. Alexander Doniphan to assure the safety of United States prisoners in Mexico and was taken with Doniphan's expedition to Chihuahua. During the years immediately preceding and following the war, he was tireless in his efforts to promote friendlier relations between the citizens of the two republics, and he extended hospitality to many American government officials, army officers, and Santa Fe traders. Ortiz served as a Mexican congressman in 1848 and as a commissioner to New Mexico in 1849 to superintend removal of families who wished to retain their Mexican citizenship. In 1850 he sought to assist many Mexican settlers in retaining their land on the Texas side of the border and requested the help of the first United States boundary commissioner, John R. Bartlett, but most of his efforts were unsuccessful. His statement in 1878 for the United States Board of Inquiry on the Salt War of San Elizario is reproduced in full in the Congressional Record. Ortiz had tried to serve as peacemaker between opposing factions but with little success. He died on March 11, 1896, and was buried in the churchyard of the San José Mission near Juárez. Leading American newspapers reported that thousands of mourners attended Ortiz's funeral, one of the largest in the area's history.

William Elsey Connelley, Doniphan's Expedition (Topeka, Kansas, 1907). Thomas Falconer, Expedition to Santa Fe (New Orleans, 1842; rpt., as Letters and Notes on the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 1841–1842, with intro. by Frederick Webb Hodges, New York: Dauber and Pine Bookshops, 1930). George Wilkins Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition (2 vols., New York: Harper, 1844; rpts. Austin: Steck, 1935; n.p.: Readex, 1966). Fidelia Puckett, "Ramon Ortiz, Priest and Patriot," Western American, April 4, 1936. W. H. Timmons, El Paso: A Borderlands History (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990).


  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Religion
  • Catholic

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

Fidelia Miller Puckett, “Ortiz, Ramón,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 20, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ortiz-ramon.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 4, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: