introduction
Nadie es profeta en su tierra. (No one
is a prophet in their homeland.)—Catarino
Garza, from exile in Costa Rica, 1894
Catarino Erasmo Garza stood on the bank of the Rio Grande, a Winches-
ter rifle in one hand and a revolutionary proclamation in the other. The
harsh sunlight was just beginning to soften on this day of September 15,
1891, the eve of Mexico’s Independence Day, when Catarino led his band
across the Rio Grande from Texas to Mexico. He had come to overthrow
Porfirio Díaz, the tyrannical president who had ruled over Mexico for
fifteen years. ‘‘The last of the independent journalists, the most humble of
all,’’ Garza wrote with typical hyperbole, ‘‘today abandons the pen to
seize the sword in defense of the people’s rights.’’∞
After several incursions into Mexico, skirmishes with troops from both
countries, and scores of casualties, Garza’s rebellion was finally crushed.
The two-year revolt raised doubts about the durability of the pax por-
firiana (Porfirian peace), long heralded as the salvation for Mexico’s inces-
sant problems of economic stagnation and political chaos. Just as impor-
tant, the insurrection graphically demonstrated the lack of control that
Anglo Americans exercised in South Texas, a region that the United States
had occupied just forty years earlier during the Mexican-American War.
Although not a great military threat to Mexico or the United States,
Garza’s rebellion was an expression of broader, and potentially more
destructive, racial and class antagonisms.
Years later, border people would remember Catarino as the one who
stood up to Porfirio Díaz, the one who defended Mexicans in Texas, the
one who outsmarted the Rangers and the armies, and the one who kept
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