Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border: Governor Colquitt, President Wilson, and the Vergara Affair

Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border: Governor Colquitt, President Wilson, and the Vergara Affair

Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border: Governor Colquitt, President Wilson, and the Vergara Affair

Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border: Governor Colquitt, President Wilson, and the Vergara Affair

Synopsis

In early 1914, Clemente Vergara discovered several of his horses missing and reported the theft to local authorities. The Webb County sheriff arranged for the South Texas rancher to meet with Mexican soldiers near Hidalgo to discuss compensation for his loss. Vergara crossed the Rio Grande, soon succumbed to a vicious physical assault, and was jailed. Days after incarceration in Hidalgo, his body was found hanging from a tree.

The murder of Clemente Vergara contributed to events that put the United States and Mexico on the brink of war and opened the door for expanded American involvement in Mexico. Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt seized upon the incident to challenge President Woodrow Wilson—a fellow Democrat—to intervene and even threatened retaliation by the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the White House played a larger strategic game with competing factions in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. Wilson’s apparent inaction heightened Colquitt’s demands to guarantee the safety of Americans and their property in the Texas borderlands, and the Vergara affair’s extensive media coverage convinced many Americans that intervention in Mexico was necessary.

Author John A. Adams Jr. shows how an otherwise commonplace horse theft and murder revealed a tangled web of international relations, powerful business interests, and intrigue on both sides of the border. Readers will be captivated by Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border and the continuing legacy that border events leave on Texas history.

JOHN A. ADAMS Jr. is the author of numerous books, including Mexican Banking and Investment in Transition and Conflict and Commerce on the Rio Grande: Laredo, 1775–1955. He resides in College Station, Texas.

Excerpt

The idea for Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border dates back to over four decades ago in my reading of Walter P. Webb’s Texas Rangers: Century of Frontier Defense (1935). Deep into the book was a brief story of Texas Ranger John J. Sanders, a tale dealing with the apparent kidnapping and murder of South Texas rancher Clemente Vergara during the violent early years of the Mexican Revolution along the Rio Grande border. Over the years I have referred often to Professor Webb and sorted through his extensive collection of documents and manuscript drafts and research items at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Benson Latin American Collection, both at the University of Texas at Austin.

On moving to Laredo in the late 1980s I rekindled a fascination with the history, lore, and dynamics of the Rio Grande border region and the impact of Mexico on the evolution and legacy of Texas and border events. I began my historical journey by reading about Mexico in general and the us southern border in particular as I conducted research for a book covering the turbulent period of the Mexican peso devaluation crisis in the mid-1990s, a crisis that affected the economies, monetary policies, and growth across Latin America for over a decade. As an international banking officer traveling in Mexico I had a front row seat when compiling Mexican Banking and Investment in Transition (1997), written during the early years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). My next book turned out to be a prophetic look at the dynamics of US-Mexico border relations, expansion of offshore manufacturing, commercial logistics, and immigration trends in Bordering the Future: the Impact of Mexico on the United States (2006). This was followed by the first comprehensive history of Laredo on its strategic location, economic development, and . . .

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