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Mexico - Filibustering: Republic of the Rio Grande

Last modified: 2013-06-17 by juan manuel gabino villascán
Keywords: mexico | rio grande (republic of) | mexican-us | war | federalist | centralist | santa ana (antonio lópez de) | canales (antonio) | imaginary (states) |
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Flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande 2:3
[Defacto flag]
[Variant - this flag is one of several which can be displayed]
by Ryan Fennell July 27, 2000.

Historical background

"The Republic of the Rio Grande was an effort on the part of Federalist leaders in Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to break away from the centralistic government of Mexico in 1840 and to form a new confederation.

"Since 1835, with the ascension of Antonio López de Santa Anna, then a Centralist, to the presidency of Mexico, Federalist leaders throughout the nation had attempted to force a return to the federalistic Constitution of 1824. This feeling was particularly strong in the northern states of Mexico, and, when they failed to achieve success in that enterprise, the northern Federalists worked to win independence from the Mexican Republic.Contiguity with Texas, recently successful in winning de facto independence, in all probability influenced their action.

"After much Federalistic flurry in the northern frontier Mexican states, leaders of the party met at Laredo, Texas, in convention on January 17, 1840. The convention declared independence from Mexico and claimed for its territory the areas of Tamaulipas and Coahuila north to the Nueces and Medina rivers, respectively, and Nuevo León, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, and New Mexico. Officers and a general council were elected as follows: Jesús de Cárdenas, president; Antonio Canales Rosillo, commander­in­chief of the army; Juan Nepomuceno Molano, delegate and member of the council for Tamaulipas; Francisco Vidaurri y Villaseñor, for Coahuila; Manuel María de Llano, for Nuevo León; and José María Jesús Carbajal, secretary to the council.

"The government was moved to Guerro, Tamaulipas, where it was to have remained temporarily.

"Canales with his force took the field against the Centralist army under Gen. Mariano Arista, and on March 24-25, 1840, met Arista in battle at Morales, Coahuila, and was disastrously defeated. Col. Antonio Zapata, cavalry commander of Canales, was captured and executed. Canales with his few remaining troops retreated to San Antonio, while Cárdenas and the provisional government fled to Victoria, Texas. Canales then toured Texas in an effort to raise interest and aid for the continuance of his campaign. He arrived at Austin in the latter part of April 1840 and conferred with President Mirabeau B. Lamar, who, though privately interested in Canales's cause, officially gave no sanctions to him on the basis that Texas was at that time striving to secure recognition of its independence from Mexico. Canales left Austin on May 2, 1840, proceeded to Houston, where he was well received and on June 1, 1840, arrived finally at San Patricio, where his army was undergoing reorganization. The army at this time consisted of 300 Mexicans, 140 Americans, and 80 Indians, the number increasing daily.

"The principal leader of the Americans was Col. Samuel W. Jordan.qv Jordan and ninety men were ordered to the Rio Grande as the vanguard of the army late in June. They proceeded into the interior of Tamaulipas and captured Ciudad Victoria without a battle. From there treacherous subordinate officers led them toward San Luis Potosí, but, suspecting the treachery, Jordan changed direction and marched toward Saltillo. There, on October 25, 1840, he was attacked by Gen. Rafael Vásquez, the Centralist commander at Saltillo, but in spite of the desertion of part of his command, managed to defend himself and return to Texas. Early in November commissioners of Canales and Arista met, and Canales capitulated at Camargo on November 6, 1840. He was taken into the Centralist army as an officer, and Federalism was dead for the time being."


  • David M. Vigness. "Relations of the Republic of Texas and the Republic of the Rio Grande". Southwestern Historical Quarterly 57 (January 1954).
  • David M. Vigness. "Republic of the Rio Grande: An Example of Separatism in Northern Mexico". Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1951.
  • David M. Vigness. "A Texas Expedition into Mexico, 1840". Southwestern Historical Quarterly 62 (July 1958).
  • From:Republic of the Rio Grande at The Handbook of Texas Online
    Quoted by Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr. February 14, 2001.

    About the history of the Republic of the Rio Grande, the three northern state of Mexico, Cohahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas declared their independence in October of 1838 and formally organized January 18, 1839 with Jesus Cardenas as President. On January 28, 1839 the supporters of the revolt planted their flag in the town square of Guerrero, Mexico and each man walked under the flag and kissed it. That night a grand ball was held at the home of Col. Antonio Zapata, who became the most famous of this revolution. Laredo was established as the Capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande on January 17, 1840 and that building still stands today on the south side of the old down town square as a museum where you can purchase the flag. Each year Laredo hold the largest and oldest George Washington Birthday Parade in the world, and during the two week celebration the Republic of the Rio Grande meets and holds an election of a new President and afterwords passes out Republic of the Rio Grande money with the photo of the new President on it. While this Republic only lasted 283 days, it is an important part of our history, because it is proof the prior revolt in Texas was because of the actions of Santa Anna when he caused the Mexican Constitution of 1824 to be revoked.
    Tom Green, January 21, 2005.

    One of the most serious, impartial, and professional Mexican Historians is Josefina Zoraida Vázquez. She has been deeply dedicated to study the 1846-1848 United States invasion to Mexico, its origins and consequences. The Historian published and article entitled: La supuesta República del Río Grande (The supposed Republic of the Rio Grande) in Historia Mexicana, vol. XXXVI, July-Sempt. 1986, number 141.

    According to her, the supposed Republic was but

    "an invention" and a "radical federalist movement of the north of Tamaulipas which could stood only for two years and was considered as separatist only for undermining it (...) "The idea was born from letters sent to Texan newspapers as a true wishful thinking. Such letters were found by US Historian Herbert Howe Bancroft who accepted the information as veridical. Hence the history has been repeated until now (...) "Between 1839-1840, it [the Republic of the Rio Grande] was a constant topic in Texan newspapers and those from New Orleans. Once the movement was settled down, it revived with the US occupation of Matamoros in 1846. No less, one of the newspapers founded by the US-invading troops was named after the Republic, which did not hide its intentions to support the region's independence [from Mexico]".

    In fact, again quoted to Ms. Vázquez, the supposed Republic of the Rio Grande was to be originally named Repúblic Norte Mexicana [Northern-Mexican Republic], this is Ms. Vázquez quoting The Louisianan of Aug. 13, 1839:

    "The Texians might thus, at little cost and in few months raise an impassable barrier between themselves and Mexico and give birth to a new federative republic... la República Norte Mexicana."

    Ms. Vázquez, reproduces the following document, so called decree, that dates to January 23, 1840, and states four articles:

    "1.º La convención no reconoce autoridad legítima sobre la República Mexicana al presente gobierno de México.
    2.º Hasta que un sistema de gobierno no sea determinado por una convención de todos los estados de México, 'los habitantes de la frontera de la República Mexicana' no cesarán de luchar contra el presente gobierno de México.
    3.º Se establece un gobierno provisional de la frontera norte compuesto de un presidente y un consejo de cinco miembros propietario y tres suplentes.
    4.º Se autoriza al gobierno provisional a organizar un ejército y armada para hacer la guerra."

    Thus, the Mexican Historian concludes:

    "There is no doubt that the idea of the Republica del Río Grande would be born among the Texans and their partisans as a defense system to protect their weak republic. After the US overwhelming invation to Mexico which could see its ambitions to expand all over the Sierra Madre frustrated, the old idea would reborn in the shape of a Republic of the Sierra Madre, then into a Republic of the Sierra Gorda, where existed a indigenous uprising that could be used for that purpose."

    Unfortunatelly, Ms. Vázquez, did not tell about a flag.

    Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, January 26, 2005.

    The flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande

    The red, black and white flag was the national flag of the short- lived Republic of the Rio Grande. A group of rebels known as the Federalists declared a republic based on the Mexican Constitution of 1824. The new state was to include the Mexican States of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas, with its capital at Laredo.

    The Republic of the Rio Grande was declared in January 1840.

    The Centrists in Mexico City (who were responsible for the suspension of the 1824 constitution) moved to quickly to bring the Rio Grande back into the fold. Laredo was captured by Mexican forces less than two months later, but the insurgency continued and the Federalists eventually retook the town. A major Centrist victory at Satillo in October 1840 effectively killed the Republic of the Rio Grande. The Federalists surrendered two weeks later and their new nation ceased to exist. The republic lasted 283 days.

    Ryan Fennell July 27, 2000.

    I found another website saying the Flag of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande displayed the lower stripe in dark blue, not in black. Also in your site another flag of the Republic of Rio Grande is published, in which the lower stripe is blue. If the flag was inspired by the one Texas used in 1939, may be it was dark blue and not black (?) Have you done a research? Is there any book I can look for? The site is:
    Alejandro Covarrubias, January 20, 2005.

    The Republic of the Rio Grande flag had a black stripe on the bottom of the flag.
    Tom Green, January 21, 2005.

    In Laredo, Texas, there is a small museum about the Republic of Rio Grande on Zaragoza square, just a block away from the Rio Grande and the border with Mexico. The museum is located where the government headquarters of the Republic were. The flag displayed, which is supposed to be the official one hoisted at the Independence Day by Jesús Cárdenas, President of the Republic, is white over black, and the red stripe at the hoist features three stars quite smaller than the ones displayed at fotw; although quite old, the flag is remarkably well preserved (or at least it was the last time I saw it there).
    Juan Carlos Jolly, January 21, 2005.

    About the color of the lower stripe on the Republic of Rio Grande Flag. I e-mailed you asking about a probable mistake in the color of the lower stripe which is displayed in black and that probablly the original was dark blue. I also contacted the Republic of Rio Grande Museum in Texas asking about the same topic. I received the following reply. I send this to you because one of the e-mails you forwarded to me said this museum has the flag displayed with the lower stripe in black. I hope this can help in the discussion.

    "My name is Ricardo Villarreal. I'm the director of the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum in Laredo, Texas. Your question regarding the flag was forwarded to me by our parent organization, The Webb County Heritage Foundation.
    "Our most prominent historian, Dr. Jerry Thompson, a professor at Texas A&M International University says the color in question was green on the original flag. He says that the original flag, which was captured by the Centralistas, is probably in storage at Chapultepec Museum.
    "Another early local historian somehow made the mistake of changing that color from green to black, which has been used since the 1930s.
    "I'm puzzled by the dark blue you mention. It is, in fact, the first time I've heard of it."
    Ricardo Villarreal, January 25, 2005.

    Alejandro Covarrubias, January 25, 2005.

    "The convention finished its work on January 28 [1840], and the President, council, and army proceeded to the city of Guerrero, where the next day, January 29, amid whatever pomp and ceremony the jacals of brush and wattles, could furnish. Canales had taken care to supply his troops with ample rations and mescal before crossing the river, and by the time they had reached Guerrero to unite with Zapata's troops they were in the proper mood for a grand, if simple, celebration. A federal flag was planted in the center of the plaza and the 'soldiers... marched under it, kissing it as they passed; which was considered an oath of allegiance to the new Govt (...) Canales was said to have planted on an Indian hut (jacal) at Puentecitos a flag with three stars, signifying the departments of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas: El Ancla (Matamoros), Sept. 14, 1840."

    Joseph Milton Nance. After San Jacinto, The Texas-Mexican frontier, 1836-1841. Austin, The University Texas Press, 1963.
    Quoted by: Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, January 26, 2005.

    Reconstruction of a possible 7-star flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande

    Reconstruction of a possible 7-star flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande 1:2 [Non-offcial proportions]></a><br>
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    [Never-adopted Flag]
    by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán July 27, 2000.

    The Republic of the Rio Grande and its flag date from 1840. The flag is similar to the Texan flag, adopted in 1839. Texas bordered the Republic of the Rio Grande on the north, and there was an overlapping claim of territory, as the Rio Grande Republic claimed the same northern boudary as Mexico, the Nueces and Medina rivers, while the Republic of Texas claimed that the Rio Grande was its southern border.
    The three stars on the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande (República del Rio Grande) represents the States of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Coahuila, which were represented on the council of the republic, but the republic also claimed Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, and New Mexico (Then part of the Republic of Mexico). Stars for the latter States might have been added had the republic secured its independence.
    Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr. February 14, 2001