Republic of the Rio Grande

Address: St. Augustin Square
City: Laredo
County: Webb
Year Marker Erected: 1976
Marker Location: East side St. Augustine Sq. on lawn
Marker Text: In January 1840 Senor Antonio Canales and other Federalists met near Guerrero to found the Republic of the Rio Grande. Canales and friends were loyal to the Mexican constitution of 1824, which had been set aside by Centralists in Mexico City. The Republic was to govern northern Mexico and the part of Texas south of the Nueces. Jesus Cardenas was president; Francisco Vidaurri y Villasenor, vice president; and Juan Francisco Farias, secretary. The capitol was established at 1000 Zaragoza Street, on this plaza in Laredo. Centralist General Manuel Arista brought an army here to crush the Republic. In March he took Laredo without a fight; then after a battle at Morelos, he captured and killed Federalist leader Antonio Zapata. Mexican and Anglo-Texan Federalists counterattacked, and recaptured Laredo and several other towns; but confronted by a large Centralist force at Saltillo, the Anglo-Texans found themselves and some Carrizo Indians making a lone stand. Many comrades had fled. After a bloody battle, the Indians and Texans escaped to the north of the Rio Grande. Canales, deserted by his army, surrendered to Arista near Camargo, and in a few days Cardenas gave up Laredo. The Republic of the Rio Grande had lasted 283 days. (1976, 1994)

Manuel Cavazos of the Carrizo


In the early days of the railroad the surveyors for the G H & S. A. R.R. Co. and G. W. T. & P. Ry. Co. discovered two major sites that showed that either a major battle took place or a massacre of a whole tribal village was discovered by there crews. While G.W.T. & Ry. Co was surveying in what is called today Sutton County and Valverde County on the devils River, 325 skeletal remains were unearthed from a pile that was thought to be a earth mound. The records and survey show the mound was 10 feet in height and 25 feet across and 9 ½ feet in depth. When the discovery was made all surveying was stopped until the sheriff could be brought in.

The records of the Surveyors show that the local law was not interested but the military was contacted and able to establish through there own investigation from local Mexicans that the area was the hunting ground of the Carrizo Indians. The oldest of the families that remembered was the family of Senior Manuel Cavasos who claimed to be Carrizo Indian by birth. As he states in records " I quote directly from record" of the G H & S.A. R.R. Co. and G.W.T. & Ry Co. and Military report.

On this day we take the following story of and elderly Mexican man through interpretation since he is unable to speak our language. I am Patrick Wilson who will write in full detail for all in common place at this time for this story of the accounts of Senior Manuel Cavasos. In attendance is as witness to the facts are Mr. Juan Castro Garcia , Spanish & Apache Interpreter. Mr. Jose Pernales Sanchez , Captain Ezra Hawkins Anderson of Kentucky , Mrs. Anna Castro Garcia wife of Juan. Mr. Thomas Anderson of the G H & S.A. R. R. Co. Captain Hawkins will conduct the questioning to Mr. Cavasos through Mr. Garcia.

Question: Senior Cavasos do you have any facts relating to the skeletons that have been found;

As I have said many times before even though I am old it will never pass in my eyes on what happened to my family when I was a little boy of 11. Our people had been moving up from the hot land to our hunting area upon the grounds of our fathers. Day and night we walked from the hot land from the south. In constant fear of being seen by the long robes and long spears who we had escaped from many summers before. Many of our people divided their belongings and went with others of our people to the flat lands towards the blue water.

We were many, many people and went many directions for safety and away from those who imprisoned us and took us from our lands. "Captain Hawkins" Mr. Cavasos I am not interested in the history of your family but of the skeletons at Devils River. I am and old man who knows much and for me to give you the answer you must allow me to give the truth of what you have found, if not then I will go and leave you to your skeletons. "Captian Hawkins" Forgive me for my manners but I have traveled long and hard to get here, so if you must continue then do so.

As we came across the great water a horn blew in the distance and we could see a cloud of dust as if the ground tried to reach the sky. Our men moved us across very fast we were running for our lives the cry went out that the long robes of the cross had found us. I grabbed my little sister and followed my brothers and mother to safety. Our Women and Elders ran very fast to the hill on the others side as we came up the top, my father turned to my mother and let out a yell " muerte a los trajos largos". My father is Chief Naz`tazea of the Carrizo who led his people from the hot center of the hot land for twenty nights and days, and he is a warrior and leader to his people.

On this day I stood in greatness to see my father and 200 of our warriors go back across the great water and wait for the long robes and long spears. My mother and the elders got everyone together and we walked for days and nights never looking back, except in our hearts. We came upon and area thick with trees and a abundance of water, this you call Devils River. To our people it was a place of safety. The elder men immediately set out scouts and hunters as all of us made shelter for the nights to come. Our great father gave our hunters meat for the fire and herbs for the sick. On our second moon our warriors came upon us with the dead and wounded of our people.

Many cries could be heard that night and through the next day, our chief had not returned. He stayed behind to make sure that no one was left to follow his people. The camp was always busy and on alert , with the little ones playing it allowed our warriors to heal and rest. As my mother and grand mother were grinding meal a loud scream came across the horizon. 30 Warriors came over the rise and my father was leading them to us. Joy and excitement was everywhere in our camp. My mother greeted my father as he rode up on his horse. Across his front was a dear skin sack. He got off his warrior horse and walked to the middle of the camp and opened the dear skin with his knife. As the contents fell to the ground, there came upon our people a silence as we saw that the hair of the long robes and long spears lay before us. My father raised his spear and said. Los alcoholes del viento aquí yo chief de Naz`tazea del Carrizo, le traemos el ofrecimiento de nuestros enemigos. Demando esta pista como la pista nosotros fue tomada una vez de. Y nunca nos iremos otra vez. Excepto con muerte.

For 10 summers our people grew from the 350 of who escaped from the hot land to 490 from births and others who escaped who found us. During our summers here I grew to a man amongst the warriors of our people. My brothers who have left for the other carrizo lands have been telling the story of our crossing and stand that our father has taken. Four summers past a Great Apache and Kickapoo War Chief came into our village and spoke of the Long Robes who have crossed the great water and are making slaves of their people. As we all set at the council fire my father agreed to fight the Long Robes with the Apache and Kickapoo.

Before the eyes of our people this night we shall join our brothers from the South and ride the spirit wind of the Warrior. In honor my Father, the Apache and Kickapoo Chief took there knives and cut the hand of blood and joined with tied dear skin the three. And sang the Warrior Songs. My father gave the Apache and Kickapoo Chief a beaded strap and said to them, when the Long Robes and Long Spears come bring this and we shall stand against them.

On the 12th summer a loan rider came into our camp and spoke to our father who handed him a beaded strap from the Apache Chief. Immediately the Warriors gathered and collected their belongings. At council fire that night we sang the war songs of our people. That was the last time we saw our chief and 150 of our warriors, out of the 150 that went to fight only 50 returned. At the end of that summer the Long Robes came in peace and spoke to myself and the elders of our tribe. They said they would leave us alone so treaty was made of peace and offering.

Now, to answer you the mound is my people " The Carrizo Of Chief Nat'tazea"who were massacred by the long robes and long spears. As we slept the long Robes and Long Spears came into our camp during the night with horses and trampled and murdered our people. They rapped our young sisters and murdered them in front of there elders before murdering them too. They put our little ones on spear tips and held them up for all to see. My sister was with child and Long Spears cut her with there knives where her unborn baby slept. The Long Spears gathered all the bodies of my people and burned them some were still alive and I could here there screams. The Long Robes said the prayer over our fallen as they were burned. As I lay with a spear in my back from the rivers edge I saw the Long Spears dig a hole in the ground and dump my people in it. It was dark that night and the Long Robes and Long Spears left me for the devils of the night. I awoke that morning and nothing was there, everything was burned by the Long Robes and Long Spears my people were gone. I was alone. What will you do now with my people? "Captain Hawkins" I will do what is advised , my orders are to remove the skeletons and make way for the railroad. "Mr. Cavasos" So again my people will die by another.

Legend of "The Rocks of the Virgin"

My people come from the mountains far south from Guerrero, many "leagues" march. Nearly four hundred years have passed away since they left the valley of Anahuac to find a new home here. My father's father, often when the moon was full, sat in front of his jacal, an old man and a silent one. But when the whippoorwill sent forth its plaintive cry, the old man would raise his eyes to the heavens and break a silence that had lasted for months. "Listen, hija," he would say, "the voices of my people are speaking through the voice of the pajaras of the night. Those are the voices which guided us here to our last homes in the land that had been our fathers before the white gods came with the Gauchipins and Cortez and drove us from our homes in the valley beyond the high mountains of the south. We were of Anahuac not Aztecs but kindred. Our homes before Cortez came with his cross on one hand and his bible in the other, was the valley south of the Anahuac, but we were of the Aztec confederation, said tribute to the Aztec kings, furnished maidens and youths for the annual sacrifices and our soldiers fought side by side with the soldiers of Montezuma against the invaders.

We were conquered, beaten. Our homes were destroyed, our young men murdered and we were driven out of the valley, out upon the long, long trail of sorrows. We became a wayfaring people, wandering from hill to hill, from valley to valley. We were naked and without food for weeks and months. Our route, was always toward the rising sun. We gave ourselves wholly to the travail of the cruel trail, little and grown ups, the young and the old. We fell by the wayside from hunger, children were born enroute and mother and babe were left to die where they lay to become food for ravenous beasts.

How long we traveled thus is not written, but there came a day when my people thought their trails were over. They had, after undergoing the most terrible hardships, at last reached the beautiful valley in the Sabinas-Hidalgo mountains, four days march (80 miles) from this place. There they found waters gushing out of the mountain side and down a rivulet formed by a living spring. Along this river's banks grew to magnificent height giant Nueces (pecan) trees. The avocado was everywhere. The stream was alive with fishes and the trees were nesting places of millions of birds. Here they were to rest and here they decided to make their new home, but it was not to be.

The high priests heard the call of the whippoorpoolwill one moonlight night and pretended to interpret the call of the weird cry as the warning cry of our dead ancestors. They told the people that this was not the place that it lay onward, ever onward, toward the rising sun. They again took up the march, their destination being a spot somewhere in the wilderness which the spirits of the dead had described to the high priests as a place where another river sparkled, blue and crystal, in the sunlight. That its shore, jutting upward from the bed of an ancient river long, long dead, they would find columns of red rock which contained the souls of the first men of the Aztec race. Here they were to stop, to pay worshipful tribute to the rocks by sacrificing the fairest among our maidens on the altar in front of the tallest rock which carried the soul of CoxCox, the first father of all Mexican Indians. They were admonished that they would know the rocks by the red color of them, blood of a million sacrifices in the olden days before the trek southward of the Aztecs, and by the river which would, when followed, lead them to the great leaping waters and beyond the cascades they would find the river flowing into another larger river ( the Rio Grande).

After much suffering from heat of a burning sun that poured down upon them like melted copper, after battling with rattlesnakes, wolves and tigers, and flesh torn and lacerated from contact with the cruel spines of the giant cacti, they came at the close of the day to the spot - the place their priests had told them about. There were the red rocks with their bas in the bed of the ancient extinct river. There, too, was the blue and beautiful river bubbling over its rocky bed and an arrow's flight down this stream they found the cascades which leap from a shelving of rocks, and below this they came to the mouth of the Salado at the Rio Grande. The journey was ended, the trail of sorrows had terminated.

They set up their jacals along the river and began the foundation of what they hope would be another Indian empire. They made sacrifice to the rock gods as admonished and they lighted the fires of eternal purification in a cave near at hand and these fires our priests and chief men have kept burning throughout the years. They are still burning, hija, and when they have gone out then will die the last of the Carrizos. The Gauchipins never knew where this fire was lighted-the cave is known only to the Carrizos, and hija, when you have become the chieftains of the Carrizos, it will be your duty to add the fuel to the fire every day and to keep inviolate, the secret cave where the fires burn. That is the story of the Indians trail of sorrows and their coming to the rocks of their ancient gods I have spoken."

Inspector finds Carrizo tribe in villa

By Odie Arambula

The presence of the indigenous Carrizo tribe in Villa de San Agustin de Laredo confirmed for Jose Tienda de Cuervo what he had learned from other sources prior to his audit inspections of the villages of Nuevo Santander.

Data in the archives indicated that the Carrizo indigenous were found in areas of the mouth of the modern-day Zacate Creek and Rio Grande. The region was described as overly vegetated with bamboo plants, carrizo, which the tribe used to build their jacales as well as hunting tools, spears, bows and arrows.

Their numbers had become part of the record, having been counted for the first time in a census of Villa de San Agustin de Laredo in 1789.

In the book Life in Laredo (A Documentary of the Laredo Archives),Brother Robert D. Wood observed,The census of 1789 distinguished three classes of people: Spaniards, Matzos and Mulattos.The census totaled 700 populations in the three groups. Wood also wrote,Like something of an afterthought, there is a mention of 110 Carrizo Indians attached to the town Laredo.In forty-four years, the population had grown almost ten times. The census archived cited 85 dwellings, not counting those in which the troops lived. In the region, some historians referred to the natives as an Indian Nation because they represented a mixture of different Indian tribes. In his book, Inherit the Dust from the Four Winds of Revilla, Jose M. Pena detailed the makeup of 58 different tribes that once populated the different sectors of the Seno Mexicano of Nuevo Santander.

These were the natives Spanish soldiers and clergy discovered when they moved into the region, having been mandated by Jose de Scanlon to settle 23 villages. The Pena book listed the 23 villages by name, the official in charge, the date of the Tienda de Cuervo inspection and each population of each village.

Upriver from Revilla at Villa de San Agustin de Laredo, the issue of the indigenous generally was confined to troublemakers like the Lipan Apache and Comanche. Pena's inventory of the Indian Nations in Revilla listed Alapagueme, Apaches, Aracates, Bobles, Bocas Prietas, Borrados, Cacalotes, Cantunes, Carrizos, Carvios, Cherokee, Chichimecas, Palaguenques, Chiguillones, Choahuilas, Comecrudos, Comanches, Cotonames, Cueros Quemados, Garzas, Guyquechales, Huastecos, Ipapanan, Inocolos, Jamauve, Janabres, Lipans, Lobos Negros, Mal Hombre, Malaguecos, Malinchero, Malincheros, Matupacan, Mayhuams, Mecos, Mesquites, Morales, Navajo, Naza, Narizes, Olivos, Pajaritos, Pame, Pasitas, Pescados, Pintos, Pisones, Pistispiagueles, Querejenos, Quinicaunes, Tamaulipan, Tareguanos, Tejones, Tepemacas, Tiltiquis, Venados, Villegas and Zalayas.

In his book, Pena identified about 60 different Indian tribes in the Guerrero Viejo region, although the author determined that there were other tribes far north and northwest stretches of Nueva Espana that included bands of Native American nomads who migrated from different areas of modern-day Northwest and Midwest sectors of the U.S.

The Yaquis, for instance, migrated to the Arizona and New Mexico regions and kept moving south into the areas of the modern Mexican state of Sonora and Sinaloa. Some elements of the Yaqui indigenous were found living in slave conditions in these areas under Spanish control. Mexico history says that groups of Yaqui, having been enslaved to work the gold and silver mines, were found living in similar conditions in the southern parts of the country, including the Yucatan peninsula.

The Tomas Sanchez response to Jose Tienda de Cuervo's 14th question should leave no doubt that the state of Coahuila in Santander included Texas.

In the archives, the question reads, Cuales son las provincias de esta Colonia (Villa de San Agustin) y que poblaciones de ellas son las mas inmediatas? (What are the provinces of Villa de San Agustin and which populations are closest?)

Tomas's response as written by the escribano led with four words: Dijo (Tomas Sanchez) que son Texas.(He said they are Texas.)

Y que de esta la poblacion mas inmediata es el Presidio que llaman de Santa Dorotea, distante de esta Colonia como cincuenta (50) leguas, poco mas o menos, y que la poblacion y Presidio de San Antonio de Bejar, de la misma provincia, esta como quince leguas mas dilatada; de la provincia de Coahuila del presidio nombrado el Rio Grande del Norte con el totulo de San Juan Bautista, distante de esta Colonia y su raya como veinticinco (25) leguas, y de Nuevo Reino de Leon las poblaciones fronteras a esta Colonia, son La Punta como treinta (30) leguas, y Sabinas como a otras treinta (30) mas.(And the closest populations are the presidio known as Santa Dorotea, about 50 leagues, more or less, distant from this colonia (Villa de San Agustin); the presidio of San Antonio de Bejar of the same province, which is about 15 leagues further away; of the province of Coahuila, the presidio named Rio Grande del Norte with the title of San Juan Bautista, about 25 leagues away from this colonia; and of the Nuevo Reino de Leon, the border populations of this colonia are La Punta, about 30 leagues away, and Sabinas, about another 30 leagues more.)

Obviously, Tomas Sanchez had some understanding of the geography around the area. The entire statement was signed by Tomas himself, Jose Tienda de Cuervo, Roque Fernandez Mariscal and Fernando Jose de Haro.