Tejano Tiger: José de Los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823-1891

Tejano Tiger: José de Los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823-1891

Tejano Tiger: José de Los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823-1891

Tejano Tiger: José de Los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823-1891

Synopsis

Riding the rough and sometimes bloody peaks and canyons of border politics, Santos Benavides's rise to prominence was largely the result of the careful mentoring of his well-known uncle, Basilio Benavides, who served several terms as alcalde of Laredo, Texas, and Chief Justice of Webb County. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, Basilio was one of only two Tejanos in the state legislature. During Santos's lifetime, five flags flew over the small community he called home--that of the Republic of Mexico, the ill-fated Republic of the Rio Grande, the Republic of Texas, an expansionist United States, and in March 1861, the rebellious Confederate States of America. It was under the Confederacy in the disputed Texas-Mexico borderlands that Santos Benavides reached the pinnacle of his military career as the highest-ranking Tejano in the entire Confederate army. In the decades that followed the Civil War, he became an esteemed political leader, highly respected on both sides of the border. This is the first scholarly study of this important historical figure.

At the pinnacle of his political career in 1879, Benavides held the distinction of being the only Tejano in the Texas legislature. Through strife, sweat, blood, and heroism in defense of the border, Benavides rose to economic and political heights few could dream of. As a friend and confidant of two Mexican presidents, he was one of the single most influential individuals in the nineteenth-century history of the border. His life was one of enduring perseverance as well as binational leadership and skilled diplomacy. He was without doubt the single most important individual in the long and often violent history of Laredo. The niche he carved in the tumultuous transnational history of the Texas-Mexico borderlands seems secure.

Excerpt

Through its rich and colorful history, Texas has been home to countless fascinating figures. Some of the state’s great works of historical literature, such as Eugene C. Barker’s biography of Stephen F. Austin and Marquis James’s study of Sam Houston, have chronicled the lives of Texas’s largerthan-life leaders. Yet there remain many important personalities who have not yet found their biographer, and many more whose stories are in need of fresh examination in a scholarly biography. the Texas Biography Series, jointly published by the tcu Press and the Center for Texas Studies at tcu, offers a venue for telling their stories. Another major goal of the series is to broaden the body of biographical literature in Texas historiography beyond its traditionally heavy emphasis on the “great men” (which in practice has often meant “great white men on horseback”). While the series certainly includes biographies of nineteenth-century political and military leaders, it also strives to encourage biographers to examine the full range of historical actors who have shaped the destiny of the Lone Star State, including women; members of racial and ethnic minorities; and figures from the worlds of business, the arts, science, religion, and even sports. in doing this, the series aims to keep the field of Texas history vital and relevant in the twenty-first century.

The fifth volume in the series, Jerry Thompson’s biography of José de los Santos Benavides fulfills several of these goals. Benavides was a towering figure in the history of the South Texas borderlands for half a century, yet he has had no biography until now. As a Tejano who served the Confederacy, his role in Texas history is complicated. As a political leader, he successfully . . .

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