In my previous blog I referenced the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande as the graphic for our new Web page. It was selected because the Republic of the Rio Grande got its start in the brush country of South Texas.
The Republic of the Rio Grande came about after several years of war between the Central government under Santa Ana and the Federalists, who—like Texas—supported the Constitution of 1824. After Texas won its independence from Mexico, compatriots to the cause of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 continued a similar struggle in northern Mexican states.
In her book “From the Republic of the Rio Grande A Personal History of the Place and the People” Beatriz Eugenia De La Garza points out that on January 18, 1840 Antonio Canales called for a convention to form the Republic of the Rio Grande from the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. The latter included the region between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers today known as South Texas.
Organizers met at the Ovareña Ranch in present day Zapata County but adjourned and moved further inland to Casa Blanca on the Nueces River near present day Sandia, which served as a port of entry for traders from Texas. At Casa Blanca they organized a provisional government, naming Jesus Cardenas as president of the new republic. Canales was named military chief. They chose Laredo as the seat of government.
In the book “After San Jacinto; the Texas-Mexican frontier, 1836-1841,” Joseph Milton Nance wrote that, in March 1840, President Cardenas fled Laredo at the approach of Centralist troops. He made his way through the chaparral towards the Nueces River arriving at Lake Espantosa near present day Carrizo Springs in Dimmit County and then he made his way back to Casa Blanca. Cardenas moved on to Victoria where he was warmly received.
Canales, meanwhile was in Texas recruiting support, and eventually established his headquarters in the San Jacinto and Lipantitlan area on the Nueces, where he was joined by Juan Seguin and some 100 Tejano volunteers. Canales was familiar with the area as he had been a surveyor during the time when Spain and Mexico were making land grants in the Nueces Strip.
Noted historian Jerry Don Thompson of Laredo says in his book “Sabers on the Rio Grande,” that the year before, when Canales and Antonio Zapata had been engaged in revolt to the Central government in Mexico, they had come to Lipantitlan with an army of 1,000.
On July-August 1840, more than 300 Texans were in camp at Canales’ new headquarters at Lipantitlan. They set out from that place towards Laredo to take the town from the Centralists. Not long afterwards, however, the Centralists prevailed in the struggle and the short lived Republic of the Rio Grande was no more.
In addition to the flag with three bands and three stars representing the three states, the organizing convention also adopted the motto, Dios, libertad en convención. De La Garza points out that, ”What is important is to recognize that the people of the area encompassed by the three stars—and this included the disputed Nueces Strip—thought of themselves as belonging together.”