JUAN CORTINA (1824-1892)
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina came from a wealthy Mexican cattle-ranching family with extensive land holdings reaching from Camargo, Tamaulipas (Mexico) to Brownsville, Texas. In 1859, after the Mexican-American War ended and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been signed, Cortina came upon a city marshal beating a man who had once worked for the Cortina family. Cortina, who had lost much of his land after the United States annexed all territory north of the Rio Grande, was outraged by the beating, fueled by what he perceived as an illegal land grab that exploited Tejano (Texans of Mexican descent) landowners who were not well versed in property rights. Enraged by the marshal's refusal to release his victim, Cortina shot him in the shoulder and fled to Mexico. Later that year, Cortina returned to Brownsville leading armed forces. The militia executed four Anglos and released several imprisoned Mexicans. Cortina later issued a proclamation justifying his actions, insisting he was "making use of the sacred right of self-preservation" against Anglos who were "despoiling the Mexicans of the lands." The Brownsville invasion and the events during the months that followed became known as the "Cortina Troubles."Juan Cortina grew in popularity with many Tejanos, but the U.S. Army eventually defeated his forces in Rio Grande City on December 27, 1859, and Cortina once again was forced to flee to Mexico. While there, Cortina continued his fighting but now alongside Benito Juárez, who was battling the French occupation of Mexico in 1862. After a brief stint in Mexican politics, Cortina was imprisoned by dictator Porfirio Díaz from 1876 to 1890. He died in 1892.