One day in Texas in 1859, a man named Juan Cortina happened to be passing by a coffee shop on his horse when he saw the Brownsville sheriff hitting a Mexican man over the head with his pistol. Cortina got off his horse and got into a standoff with the sheriff to defend the farmhand. Cortina ended up shooting the sheriff in the arm and rode away with the farmhand, who happened to be Cortina’s former worker.
This started what became known as the “Cortina Wars” between Mexican landowners and Anglo settlers in Texas. The Mexican landowners were outraged that the white people in the area were attempting to claim their land and Mexican laborers were tired of being discriminated against. So Cortina made his home into the headquarters for the resistance movement for a couple of years.
He was eventually defeated and forced to flee to Mexico City.
Most people have never heard of this “Rio Grande Robin Hood,” but for those who have, many remember him as a hero while others begrudge his violent tactics.
Featured image: Juan Cortina (DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)
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