“the marks of a long line of Castilian ancestors” (Newcomb, qtd. in Matovina and de la Teja)

Depictions of Menchaca focusing primarily on his military exploits and his “American” loyalties continued beyond his own lifetime. In the introduction to the partial publication of Menchaca’s reminiscences in the San Antonio weekly the Passing Show, his longtime acquaintance James P. Newcomb avowed that the Tejano’s “sympathies carried him into the ranks of the Americans.” Newcomb even went so far as to describe Menchaca’s physical characteristics as bearing “the marks of a long line of Castilian ancestors,” rhetorically severing Menchaca from both his Tejano loyalties and his Mexican heritage. Similarly, the obituary of Menchaca published in the San Antonio Express declared that he was “born a Mexican” but that “when the Texas war for independence came on, Don Antonio was found upon the side of our people, a contestant for that liberty and those privileges of citizenship which are bequeathed to the American.” Claims such as these reveal a larger pattern regarding some Tejanos and others deemed loyal to the Texas or U.S. causes. James Crisp notes similar rhetorical commentaries regarding nineteenth-century Tejanos like José Antonio Navarro, whose patriotism led Anglo-Americans to claim that he was “not of the abject race of Mexicans,” but rather “a Corsican of good birth,” that is, a european. In more contemporary times, Edward Linethal shows that public ceremonies at the Alamo continue to mediate a message of “patriotic conversion” whereby through courage in battle those of diverse backgrounds leave behind their ancestral heritage to become Texans and Americans.[4]

Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, “Introduction: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History,” in Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 2.

  1. [4]James P. Newcomb, introduction to Memoirs, by Antonio Menchaca, ed. Frederick C. Chabot, 11; San Antonio Express, 2 November 1879, p. 4; Northern Standard (Clarksville), 6 March 1845, as cited in James Ernest Crisp, “Anglo-Texan attitudes toward the Mexican, 1821-1845,” 402; Edward Tabor Linenthal, Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, 61-62.

“the germ of discontent that the people of Texas harbored. For this reason they adhere to the new order of things that is offered to us by the institutions of a great, appreciative republic. Such is the beginning that brought about the Independence of Texas” (Navarro)

After the arrival of Arredondo, San Antonio remained quiet and subject to the dominion of the king of Spain. He confiscated and sold the property of the patriots–known as rebels–who never recovered their belongings, not even after the consummation of Mexican independence in the year of 1821.

The noble citizens of Béxar sacrificed their lives and property, performing heroic deeds of valor in the year 1813. Yet they left to their descendants no other inheritance than the indifference and ingratitude of the Mexican Republic.

They never received any compensation or indemnity, not even the due respect and gratitude from their fellow citizens of Mexico. Our courage and heroism were cast into oblivion by the government of that ancient and renowned land. For that reason, I do not believe that anyone will be surprised by the germ of discontent that the people of Texas harbored. For this reason they adhere to the new order of things that is offered to us by the institutions of a great, appreciative republic. Such is the beginning that brought [59] about the Independence of Texas, which separated itself from that government forever.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 58-59.

“The descendants of the first Islanders, the settlers of Béxar, its legitimate original masters…” (Navarro)

The descendants of the first Islanders, the settlers of Béxar, its legitimate original masters, found bold and daring ways to humiliate the arrogance of the Spanish governors. The Delgados, Arochas, Leales, Traviesos and others[59] had established privileged families in Béxar that were considered nobility from the time their fathers sailed from the Canary Islands to settle in the Province of Texas in the year 1730.

Here their well honed pride and zealous indignation against the despotic actions of the Spanish governors germinated. There could have been no opportunity more suitable for these belligerent nobles than the one provided by the reports from Mexico regarding the triumphs gained by the priest Hidalgo and the other leaders of the insurrection.

There was, nevertheless, considerable resistance to declaring a military rebellion. The principal military leaders were of Spanish origin. There were others of Mexican origin, but they restrained themselves with respectful delicacy from initiating the first rebellion against the rights of the monarchy that had ruled for three hundred years.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 67.

Los descendientes de los primers Isleños, pobladores de Bexar como legitimos señores originals, eran los que con mas libre osadia descubrian los conatos de humillar la altaneria de los Gobernadores Españoles, Delgados, Arochas, Leales, Traviesos y otros que formaban en Bexar unas tribus privilegiadas, se consideraban los nobles desde que sus Padres vinieron de las Islas canarias á poblar la Provincia de Texas el año de 1730.

De aquí dimanaban su bien pretendido orgullo y la celoza indignacion contra las acciones despoticas de los Gobernadores Españoles. No podia haber coyuntura mas adecuada para estos resentidos nobles, que la que ofrecian las noticias de México, con respecto á los triunfos alcanzados por el cura Hidalgo y los demas Gefes insurreccionados.

Habia sin embargo, un considerable obstaculo para efectuarse el pronunciamiento: los principales Gefes Militares eran de origen Español: habia algunos otros de origen Mexicano pero estos se detenian por respetuosa delicadeza á iniciarse los primeros, contra los derechos del monarca que habia dominado por 300 años.

José Antonio Navarro, Apuntes historicos interesantes de San Antonio de Bexar (San Antonio de Bexar: publicados por varios de sus amigos, 1869), 7. Reprinted in José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995).

  1. [59]It is beyond the scope of this work to annotate all the individuals mentioned by Navarro who were involved in the Casas Revolution and the counter-revolution. However, reference to almost all of them are in Benavides, ed. and comp., Béxar Archives. See also Chabot, ed., With the Makers of San Antonio; Chabot, ed., Texas in 1811: The Las Casas and Sambrano Revolutions (San Antonio: Yanaguana Society, 1941).

“the tribulations of a valiant people … our Americans, who with base, aggressive pretexts want to uproot from this classic land its legitimate people” (Navarro)

These motives and the urging of some of my friends, who have desired to know about the most important contemporaneous events that happened in our city, have persuaded me to write this brief chronicle.

I do not write for the heartless nor for the egoists–to whom the glories and misfortunes of men of another origin and language matter little or not at all. I write for the humanitarian and cultured who understand how to respect and empathize with the tribulations of a valiant people who have struggled in the midst of their own ignorance guided only by an instinct for their liberty, against enemies so superior that they may be placed alongside the most free and fortunate nations of all mankind–such as the nation with the flag of stars. I write in order to inform our Americans, however indignant some of them among us may be, who with base, aggressive pretexts want to uproot from this classic land its legitimate people who are the descendants of those who fifty years ago spilled their blood searching for the liberty of which we now vaingloriously boast.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 63.

Estos motivos y las instancias de algunos de mis amigos que han deseado saber los mas importantes sucesos contemporaneos acaecidos en nuestra ciudad, me han decidido á escribir esta sucinta crònica.

No la hago para las almas pequeñas, ni para los egoistas, que poco ó nada les importan las glorias ó desgracias de hombres de otro origen y lenguaje; la hago para los filántropos y cosmopòlitas, que saben apreciar y condolerse de las vicisitudes de un pueblo valiente, que ha luchado enmedio de su propia ignorancia y por solo el instinto de su libertad, con enemigos tan superiores; [6] por tal de ponerse al nivel de los hombres mas libres y dichosos del genero humano, como son los que cubre el pabellon de las estrellas: la hago para que sepa nuestro pueblo Americano, cuan indignamente hay algunos entre nosotros, que con pretextos mesquinos é ingratos quieren extirpar de este suelo clásico, á los legítimos señores y descendientes de los que hace como medio siglo que derramaron su sangre, buscando esa libertad de que hacemos jactancia.

José Antonio Navarro, Apuntes historicos interesantes de San Antonio de Bexar (San Antonio de Bexar: publicados por varios de sus amigos, 1869), 5-6. Reprinted in José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995).

 

“a shout for death and a war without quarter on the gachupines” (Navarro)

Whoever knows, or who can formulate, a rough idea of the type of men of that epoch, can comprehend the extreme depth of ignorance and ferocious passions of the men of those times. Whoever is informed will understand that among the Mexicans of that time, with some exceptions, there was no clear political sentiment. They did not know the importance of the words “independence and liberty” and they did not understand the reasons for the rebellion of the priest Hidalgo as other than a shout for death and a war without quarter on the gachupines, as the Spaniards were called. Thus one will readily concede and agree, as Bernardo Gutiérrez has admitted in his own way, that the band of so-called patriots “killed those fourteen victims.” But his excuse is very weak, very cowardly, and unworthy of a general who neither would nor could avoid such a scandal, much less relinquish his command upon seeing his cause blackened by a more monstrous action than could be perpetrated by a vandal chieftain.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 50.

The priest Hidalgo gave the shout at midnight on the sixteenth of September–even a delay of two hours probably would have seen him a prisoner on the way to Mexico, with all hope of independence dashed.

¡Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; and mueran los Gachupines![56] This was the first invocation that occurred to him in those portentous moments. Upon such fragile auspices a revolution of fruitful results was born that has raised a federal republic that is a member of the family of nations.

Let those who judge these anomalies with astonishment pause and contemplate the times and the capacities of the people there. Let them put themselves in the place of the patriot Hidalgo, already denounced as a traitor before the implacable despot, the Viceroy of Mexico.[57] Imagine being in a pressing situation without the slightest plan of operation, without money, arms, or troops, having no more than a few hundred Indians from his own village. Neither the rigorous mind of a Washington nor the iron will of a Napoleon I could have led these chaotic, backward masses to so great an enterprise without motivating them by means of vengeance and [66] superstition, just as this illustrious and unfortunate patriot was compelled to do.

The plunder and slaughter, a necessary consequence, began at that point. But how powerful are the instincts of a people who fight for a just cause! The Mexicans, in the midst of those inevitable disorders, triumphed everywhere by the end of 1810.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 65-66.

This memorable day of January 22, 1811, was the first occasion in which the Mexicans of San Antonio de Béxar announced their desire to break forever the chains of their ancient colonial slavery.

This was the day in which they no longer attempted to restrain the trembling, guttural voice that pervades the long and servile life, and they were able to speak out loudly to those who had been the absolute masters of the Mexicans. But the sudden transformation of that day, in which the slaves were elevated to masters and the arbiters of their oppressors and masters of yesterday, generated a bitter vanguard directed against those called gachupines.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 68.

 

  1. [56]Long live our lady of Guadalupe and death to the Spaniards! Gachupín was a derogatory word for Spaniards. Derived from the Nahuatl word, cacchopini (cactus thorn), used by Aztec Native Americans with clear symbolism to characterize Spaniards by their large, conspicuous spurs. José María Santamaría, Diccionario de Mexicanismos (Méjico: Editorial Porrua, S.A. Av. Rep. Argentina, 15, segunda ediciôn, 1974), 541.
  2. [57]Francisco Javier Venegas, viceroy of Mexico 1810-1813. Venegas was described as a military man of action and few words who was bloody, cruel, and calculating. Assuming the viceregal office two days after Hidalgo proclaimed Mexican independence, Venegas undertook measures that led to the capture of the insurgent leadership, which he believed had crushed the rebellion. Manuel Garcia Puron, Mexico y sus Governantes, (México: Libreria de Manuel Porrua, S.A., tercer edición, 1964), 146-47.

Tejanos and Mexicans at the 1836 Convention; Zavala becomes Vice President (Henson)

[101] Zavala saw many familiar faces from the Consultation, but most were new men. Among them were José Antonio Navarro and Francisco Ruíz from San Antonio, and as neither spoke much English, they relied on Zavala to translate for them. By the end of the first week, the three Mexican delegates joined William Fairfax Gray in a rented carpenter shop where they had more privacy. Gray, a Virginia lawyer visiting Texas as agent for some land speculators, found the three fascinating and wanted to learn Spanish.

[…]

[103] After midnight the constitution was finished and adopted and an ordinance organizing a provisional government read and approved. The election of officers followed in the early hours of March 17.

Zavala supported the selection of cabinet members Samuel B. Carson, Bailey Hardeman, Thomas Jefferson Rusk, Robert Potter, and David Thomas for seccretaries of state, treasury, war, navy, and attorney general. But tired as he was, he was not pleased by his own unanimous election as vice president nor that of David G. Burnet as president. The latter had won by seven votes over the better qualified Carson, a former United States congressman from North Carolina.

After initially refusing, Zavala reluctantly accepted his post when the members persuaded him that it would create a favorable impression among Mexican federalists. His confidence in Burnet to unite the Texans was less.

[…]

[104] The new officers took their oaths at 4:00 A.M. Thursday, March 17. […] Zavala, Ruíz, and Navarro, with their servants, horses, and Zavala’s mule, crossed the ferry to the east bank of the Brazos on Friday, March 18, and that night camped alongside the road. Zavala was unwell the next morning, so the entire group remained in camp. Sunday they reached Jared E. Groce’s [105] Retreat, a recently developed plantation where Zavala parted from his new friends. The two San Antonio men were headed downriver to San Felipe, where they expected to hear news about their refugee families.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996), 101, 103-105.

“If the word white means anything at all it means a great deal and if it does not mean anything at all it is entirely superfluous” (Navarro, Weeks)

Mr. Navarro said, that if the word white means anything at all it means a great deal, and if it does not mean anything at all it is entirely superfluous, as well as odious, and, if you please, ridiculous. He made no remark with the idea that this question had any relation to the Mexican people, for they are unquestionably entitled to vote. By the application [159] of the word white, certain persons may be qualified, &c.,–and others, though white as snow, yet not white by descent, be disqualified. That is to say, white negroes or the descendants of Africans, who, in the course of time become so nearly white that no distinction or scarcely any can be made. He was as much opposed to giving the right of suffrage to Africans to the descendants of Africans as any other gentleman. He hoped the Convention would be clearly convinced of the propriety and expediency of striking out this word. It is odious, captious and redundant: and may be the means at elections of disqualifying persons who are legal voters, but who perhaps by arbitrary judges may not be considered as white.

William F. Weeks, Reporter. Debates of the Texas Convention.  Houston, Tex.: J.W. Cruger, 1846158-159.

“this race of men who, as the legitimate proprietors of this land, lost it together with their lives and their hopes” (Navarro)

Mexican independence, germinated in the blood of these martyrs, was finally declared in September 1821.

But what ingratitude! Not one single murmur ever crossed the mountains of Anahuac [Mexico City] to console the broken remnant of those brave patriots. Such is the end for heroes! Perhaps their renown would be more complete if they were to receive the miserable compensation due from their fellow men. To complete the picture of misfortune, the few descendants who survive in San Antonio are disappearing, murdered in full view of a people [un pueblo] who boast of their justice and excellence.

Consolación Leal, heroine of those days, died a few months ago, killed by a Spaniard, and Antonio Delgado was riddled by bullets from the rifle of an American bastard.

May Divine Providence use these historical commentaries to stir generous hearts to treat with more respect this race of men [esa raza de hombres] who, as the legitimate proprietors of this land, lost it together with their lives and their hopes, to follow in the footsteps of those very ones who now enjoy the land in the midst of peace and plenty.

Jose Antonio Navarro, “Commentaries of Historical Interest,” in Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: Jose Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857. Edited and translated by David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina. Austin, Tex.: State House Press. 76.