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Border & Immigration

First Republic of Texas

The 1836 siege at the Alamo is probably the most famous battle in Texas history.  But a mostly-forgotten battle that took place 23 years before is arguably the cornerstone of all that followed, including the fall of the Alamo and the bloody Battle of Medina.  A recent event aimed to raise awareness of a missing piece of the Texas history puzzle.

It began in the courtyard of San Antonio’s Spanish Governor’s Palace with a procession featuring a flag bearer in period costume carrying an emerald green flag. A Native American man in traditional dress led a small crowd and passersby on the street in an Indian prayer to the four corners of the universe.

(chant) "Welcome, good ancestors of the land, and welcome you, my relatives. Thank you grandfather for this innate ability to figure things out."

In 1813, 23 years before the Battle of the Alamo, Mexican revolutionary Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara and American Lt. Augustus Magee, led an army of Indians, citizens, former Spanish soldiers, and Tejanos from Louisiana into Texas.  They were determined to drive out the Spanish.  The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition drove further into Texas defeating Spanish defenders.  Spanish governor Manuel Maria de Saucedo surrendered as the Republican Army of the North entered San Antonio, marching under their solid green flag.

On April 6th, 1813, Gutierrez issued a Declaration of Independence from the kingdom of Spain, and declared himself “President Protector of the Provisional Government of the State of Texas.”  In the first Constitution of Texas drafted a little over a week later, the province of Texas was hence to be known as “the State of Texas, forming part of the Mexican Republic.”

Jo Anne Gonzalez Murphy is a direct descendant of Gutierrez, whose state of Texas lasted just a few months.  Her lineage was a startling discovery, as she told the crowd.

"I found this out a few years ago when my brother decided to hand me a book of a family tree, and I just realized that it had started from our families from the 1700s to the 1300s."

Murphy says that honoring Gutierrez de Lara is important to minority populations and the representation of Tejanos in history.  Tejanos are the residents of Texas who were descended from the original Spanish and Mexican settlers

"Historically, I felt that Hispanics were made to feel that they were very insignificant in the history of America, of Texas.  So I wanted to create awareness and let people know who are of Spanish, Mexican, Native American ancestry, that we do have some important connection. But now our words cut like a laser, and we’re just introducing another part of a history that so many of us can share now and relate to and feel proud of."

Addressing the crowd clad in period costume, historian Dan Arellano says the role of Tejanos in the fight for Texas independence is overlooked and misunderstood, especially in books and documentaries.   

"We can no longer sit idly by and allow these people to spread these rumors about Tejanos.  They made our ancestors look like butchers.  They were the bad guys. They demeaned a whole group of ethnic people.  That’s us!"                                                                    

Arellano is committed to educating the state and the nation about this little known piece of history.  He lobbied the Texas legislature to have the history of the first Republic of Texas taught in schools, and it’s now in the 7th grade curriculum.

"But that doesn’t mean that the teachers are teaching it.  It’s not mandatory, it’s what do they’ call it, optional or something.  There’s more to the story of Texas than just the Alamo.  So the history of Texas has always been written from one side,  but we bring the Mexican perspective to it because we have to."

The first Independent State of Texas established that day in April lasted only a few more months – the Spanish defeated the Republican Army of the North at the August 1813 Battle of Medina, the deadliest battle in Texas history.  But short-lived as it was, Gutierrez’s victory laid the groundwork for the battles to come, the ones we DO read about in history books.