Matamoros and the Texas Revolution

By Craig H. Roell | Go to book overview

3.
PUERTA MATAMOROS:
GATEWAY TO TEXAS, THE GULF
… AND THE WORLD

MATAMOROS BECAME a revenue-producing center for Mexico long before it attracted the plans of revolutionaries in Texas. Indeed, Matamoros was crucial in plans for reestablishing the Mexican economy, which had become burdened by tremendous debt incurred from the War of Independence with Spain. Matamoros would be part of the solution for keeping Texas out of the hands of expansionists from the United States by giving northeastern Mexico, including Texas, a prosperous lifestyle that patriotic and loyal Mexicans could relish. They need not look to the colossus to the north for prosperity. Even the U.S. consul in Matamoros, David Willard Smith, recognized this in an 1832 dispatch to Washington, asserting that the city had “a decided preponderance in a commercial and military point of view” to any other port on the Gulf of Mexico. (Notably, Smith was also a merchant in the city.)1 Matamoros became la puerta, the gateway, to prosperity. Thus, Creed Taylor’s observation that Matamoros was “an opulent city” was not the vain imaginings of Anglo Texans, but rather a reflection of both a reality and Mexican expectations already in place.

In attempting to control Texas, Mexico faced the same conundrum as had the Spanish crown: deterring aggressive Indian tribes like the Comanches and restraining American encroachment. Colonization still seemed to offer the best answer, but Mexico, like the previous royal government, faced a lack of Mexicans willing to relocate into Texas. Nevertheless, the reach of the Villas del Norte stretched wide, with Refugio (Matamoros) increasingly becoming the most important settlement among them. Economically and politically far from centers of government, the Río Bravo settlements developed an identity quite apart from that of the Mexican interior and increasingly associated themselves with Texas. Isolated on the frontier, these communities built strong trading relationships for their survival, interconnected by cart road but dependent on the flood stage of the volatile river. Even as early as 1757, the ranches of the Villas del Norte of Nuevo Santander, the Spanish province that included the present state

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