Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas

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Overview

At a time when the U.S.-Mexican border was still not clearly defined and when the doctrine of Manifest Destiny and land hunger impelled the Anglo presence ever deeper and more intrusively into South Texas, Juan Nepomucino Cortina cut a violent swath across the region in a conflict that came to be known as The Cortina War. Did this border caudillo fight to defend the rights, honor, and legal claims of the Mexicans of South Texas, as he claimed? Or was his a quest for personal vengeance against the newcomers who had married into his family, threatened his mother’s land holdings, and insulted his honor? Historian Jerry Thompson mines the archival record and considers it in light of recent revisionist history of the region. As a result, he produces not only a carefully nuanced work on Cortina—the most comprehensive to date for this pivotal borderlands figure—but also a balanced interpretation of the violence that racked South Texas from the 1840s through the 1860s. Cortina’s influence in the region made him a force to be reckoned with during the American Civil War. He influenced Mexican politics from the 1840s to the 1870s and fought in the Mexican Army for more than forty-five years. His daring cross-border cattle raids, carried out for more than two decades, made his exploits the stuff of sensational journalism in the newspapers of New York, Boston, and other American cities. By the time of his imprisonment in 1877, Cortina and his followers had so roiled South Texas that Anglo reprisals were being taken against Mexicans and Tejanos throughout the region, ironically worsening the racism that had infuriated Cortina in the beginning. The effects of this troubled period continue to resonate in Anglo-Mexican and Anglo-Tejano relations, down to this very day. Students of regional and borderlands history will find this premier biography to be a rich source of new perspectives. Its transnational focus and balanced approach will reward scholarly and general readers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Thompson’s book provides not only a powerfully written history of a Mexican American who symbolizes ‘resistance to oppression and intolerance,’ but also a clear, cogent explanation of the relationship between the United States and Mexico as they face each other across the Texas border.”—Journal of American History

“Jerry Thompson has produced the definitive work on one of the most controversial and influential Mexicano/Tejano figures of Texas and Southwestern history . . . . With stunning clarity and balance, Thompson has provided a much-needed narrative interpretation that brings to life one of the more colorful figures of Texas, Border, and Chicano histories.”—Hispanic Outlook

“Jerry Thompson has performed a difficult feat: comprehensively examining a life that had almost as many turns as a circle.”—Journal of Southern History

“This is the most well-researched and thorough account of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina’s life that we have. . . . This book certainly shows that Cortina ‘established his niche in the grand sweep of time,’ but it will be left to other scholars to follow the many trails hinted at by Thompson.”—Western Historical Quarterly

“Jerry Thompson’s sympathetic but balanced biography is a ‘must read’ for all students of Texas history and Anglo-Hispanic relations.”—East Texas Historical Journal

John Mason Hart

“This book is of exceptional quality. Through painstaking research the author establishes a new standard for the history of the Rio Grande Valley, Northeastern Mexico and a higher level of understanding for the historical significance of Juan Cortina. It will become a classic of Texas History.”--John Mason Hart, The John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, University of Houston
Military History of the West

"The two decades that Jerry Thompson devoted to studying Juan Cortina's life have produced a significant contribution to historical literature." -Military History of the West

Military History of the West
“This book is of exceptional quality. Through painstaking research the author establishes a new standard for the history of the Rio Grande Valley, Northeastern Mexico and a higher level of understanding for the historical significance of Juan Cortina. It will become a classic of Texas History.”—John Mason Hart, The John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, University of Houston
John Mason Hart
“This book is of exceptional quality. Through painstaking research the author establishes a new standard for the history of the Rio Grande Valley, Northeastern Mexico and a higher level of understanding for the historical significance of Juan Cortina. It will become a classic of Texas History.”—John Mason Hart, The John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, University of Houston
From the Publisher
“Thompson’s book provides not only a powerfully written history of a Mexican American who symbolizes ‘resistance to oppression and intolerance,’ but also a clear, cogent explanation of the relationship between the United States and Mexico as they face each other across the Texas border.”—Journal of American History

“Jerry Thompson has produced the definitive work on one of the most controversial and influential Mexicano/Tejano figures of Texas and Southwestern history . . . . With stunning clarity and balance, Thompson has provided a much-needed narrative interpretation that brings to life one of the more colorful figures of Texas, Border, and Chicano histories.”—Hispanic Outlook

“Jerry Thompson has performed a difficult feat: comprehensively examining a life that had almost as many turns as a circle.”—Journal of Southern History

“This is the most well-researched and thorough account of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina’s life that we have. . . . This book certainly shows that Cortina ‘established his niche in the grand sweep of time,’ but it will be left to other scholars to follow the many trails hinted at by Thompson.”—Western Historical Quarterly

“Jerry Thompson’s sympathetic but balanced biography is a ‘must read’ for all students of Texas history and Anglo-Hispanic relations.”—East Texas Historical Journal

Military History of the West

"The two decades that Jerry Thompson devoted to studying Juan Cortina''s life have produced a significant contribution to historical literature." -Military History of the West

Military History of the West

"The two decades that Jerry Thompson devoted to studying Juan Cortina's life have produced a significant contribution to historical literature. Thompson reveals Cortina to be not only a man who was shaped by history but also one who helped shape the history of two nations."--Military History of the West
Hispanic Outlook

"Cortina's life was much more complex than commonly understood, and a major and exciting contribution of this book is its account of the role that Cortina played in the Mexican War against the French Intervention as well as the American Civil War."--Hispanic Outlook
CHOICE

“This book is meticulously researched by a master historian who has a deep, profound understanding of 19th-century history along the Texas-Mexico border. It therefore provides a historically sound biographical portrait permitting readers to understand the complexity of both Juan N. Cortina and the border country that produced him.”--Choice
The Journal of American History

“Thompson’s book provides not only a powerfully written history of a Mexican American who symbolizes ‘resistance to oppression and intolerance,’ but also a clear, cogent explanation of the relationship between the United States and Mexico as they face each other across the Texas border."--Journal of American History
East Texas Historical Association - John D. Huddleston

“Jerry Thompson’s sympathetic but balanced biography is a ‘must read’ for all students of Texas history and Anglo-Hispanic relations.” --East Texas Historical Journal
Western Historical Quarterly

“This is the most well-researched and thorough account of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina’s life that we have . . . . This book certainly shows that Cortina ‘established his niche in the grand sweep of time,’ but it will be left to other scholars to follow the many trails hinted at by Thompson.”--Western Historical Quarterly
The Journal of Southern History

“Jerry Thompson has performed a difficult feat: comprehensively examining a life that had almost as many turns as a circle.”--Journal of Southern History
WWHA Journal - Chuck Parsons

“[Thompson] readily underscores the racial prejudice within Anglo leaders… This biography… is proof that a century and more after the events, the historian who is willing to devote years of research on both sides of the border into documents as el as state and national archives, can produce and outstanding biography. Lovers of the history of the Wild West as well as Mexican and Civil War buffs will find this work a treasure.” –Chuck Parsons
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Product Details

Meet the Author


JERRY THOMPSON is a Regents Professor of History at Texas A&M International University in Laredo and a past president of the Texas State Historical Association. He is also the author of Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri, winner of the 2011 Tejano Book Award.
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