BOTAS AND GUARACHES
BOTAS AND GUARACHES. In 1884 two political factions in Laredo and Webb counties designated themselves as Botas and Guaraches. The Botas ("Boots"), led by Raymond Martin, a powerful political patron and one of the wealthiest men on the border, and incumbent county judge, José María Rodríguez, were essentially the "wealthy" class, although they drew much support from the less fortunate. The reform club, which adopted the slogan Guaraches ("Sandals") to symbolize the lower class, included Santos Benavides, who had previously served as county judge and as a colonel in the Confederate Army.
The Guaraches, with the small but vocal contingent of Republicans in Laredo, turned the general election of 1884 into a referendum on the dominance of city and county governments by Martin-controlled Bota politicians. Most of the attention that year centered around the race for county judge between Rodríguez and Juan V. Benavides, the son of Santos Benavides. The constant flow of alcohol before the election, a cherished custom on the border, led to several violent confrontations. Tension was heightened by James Sanders Pennqv, owner and editor of the Laredo Times, whose editorials strongly criticized the Botas. The election saw the usual accusations of illegal voting, including paying Mexican aliens to vote. In a record vote Rodríguez was reelected as county judge, and the Botas took four of five county precincts.
By 1886, with the usual meetings, parades, accusations, and alcohol, quick tempers and itchy trigger fingers were added to an already tense political scene. But except for the usual complaints of unqualified voters and arrests for drunkenness, the city election on April 6, 1886, was peaceful. Although the vote was close, the Botas won. In their celebration the following day, they paraded the streets of Laredo promising to bury a Guarache in effigy. When the Guaraches attacked the Bota parade, one of the biggest gun battles in the history of the American West developed. As many as 250 men were involved in the fighting at one time or another. It took two companies of the Sixteenth United States Infantry and one company of the Eighth Cavalry to restore peace. Although the official number of dead in what was called the Laredo Election Riot was placed at sixteen, unofficial reports placed the number as high as thirty, with as many as forty-five wounded.
Although the bitter rivalry between the two parties continued, the Botas and Guaraches joined forces against the Texas Prohibition party in 1887. In 1888 a few leaders from the two parties joined to form the Laredo Immigration and Improvement Society. After the Guaraches elected their first mayor, Andrew H. Thaison, in 1895, factions from both the Botas and Guaraches came together to form the Independent Club. The Independent party or "Partido Viejo" as it came to be called on the border, dominated Laredo and Webb County politics under the patrón system until 1978. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, political factions in Duval and La Salle counties were also known from time to time as either Botas or Guaraches.
C. L. Sonnichsen, Ten Texas Feuds (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1957; rpt. 1971). Jerry Don Thompson, Laredo: A Pictorial History (Norfolk: Donning, 1986). Seb S. Wilcox, "The Laredo City Election and Riot of April, 1886, " Southwestern Historical Quarterly 45 (July 1941).