Today in Texas History – September 28

From the Annals of the Border – In 1859, Mexican rancher, politician, military commander and at times outlaw Juan Cortina rode into Brownsville with a band of 80 men and seized control of the town. Cortina had a long running feud with the Anglos in south Texas who were attempting to oust him from his family’s extensive holdings on the north side of the Rio Grande in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War.  For his efforts, Cortina was  viewed as a champion of Mexicans living along the border in the years after the War.  The first “Cortina War” arose from an incident on July 13, 1859, when Cortina saw the Brownsville city marshall, Robert Shears, arrest and brutally beat a Mexican who had once been employed by Cortina. Cortina shot the marshall in the shoulder and  rode out of town with the prisoner. Early on the morning of September 28, 1859, he rode into Brownsville again, and seized control of the town. Five men, including the city jailer, were shot during the raid.  Cortina’s hold on Brownsville was short-lived as residents of Matamoros convinced him to return to Mexico which he did on September 30.

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