Historical Articles

10. Home is Where the Heart Is: Nuevo Laredo, Coahuila

By Bill Neeley

Having returned to San Antonio after the close of the U.S.-Mexican War, in which Juan Seguin fought as a colonel in the Mexican Army, the former Texas Lt. Colonel and commander of his home town garrison set about to re-establish his life in the San Antonio River Valley. His ranch house, burned by Santa Anna's soldiers, and the lands surrounding it near the town of Seguin, had passed in his absence to new owners. Fortunately for Juan, his father Erasmo's ranch lands contained over twenty thousand acres, and there was room for both father and son to raise livestock and live comfortably.

The former two-time mayor of San Antonio found himself still popular among the Tejano community as well as some members of the German and Anglo-Celtic populations, and he was elected to two terms as justice of the peace. Erasmo passed in 1857, and the next year Juan Seguin wrote a Memoir in which he presented the facts as he saw them about the upheaval in San Antonio that led to Seguin as mayor fleeing for his life because his enemies chose to believe that the Tejano mayor was a traitor. There was no basis in fact, but the power of innuendo delivered a mighty blow to his reputation. Yet the principal Anglo-Celtic citizen of San Antonio, Samuel Maverick, who had known Seguin during the revolutionary period in Texas, appears never to have believed the vicious rumors circulating about Juan Seguin after General Rafael Vasquez had implicated, falsely, Seguin in a plot to return governance of Texas to Mexico. Maverick, in fact, chose Seguin after his return to Texas to help the Anglo leader to establish the Democratic Party in San Antonio.

The Alamo city had always been home to Seguin prior to being forced out of office and having to take his wife and nine children to Mexico in hopes of reaching relatives in Saltillo, Coahuila. But Seguin was arrested soon after crossing into Mexico. Santa Anna gave the former mayor the option of staying in jail or fighting the enemies of Mexico. Seguin chose the latter. He distinguished himself so well in a Mexican uniform that he won the respect of the generals under whom he served.

During his stay in Mexico, a tenth child was born to Juan and Gertrudis, and the older children were experiencing life south of the border and liked it. When Seguin returned to San Antonio in 1848, the children came with him. They were glad to see their grandparents and Aunt Leonidas, but some of the older children had left their hearts in Mexico. By 1867, during Juan Seguin's tenure as Judge of Wilson County, son Santiago was Mayor of Nuevo Laredo, and Juan, Jr. was a captain in the Mexican Army. Other children also lived south of the Rio Grande. There the Catholic religion was respected, as it was the religion of Mexico, and the traditions of the Mexican people were observed. In San Antonio, where Gertrudis owned the home in which they lived while in town, Tejano customs were fading away as the town became more and more Americanized. And carpetbaggers were seen here and there taking what they could from the defeated Confederates. Reconstruction was not a happy time for Texans of any stripe.

So when son Santiago invited his father and mother to join him and his family in Nuevo Laredo, Juan and Gertrudis sold all of their property and moved to that city across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas. Juan would live for another twenty-three years, and he received a pension from a grateful Texas government for his heroics in the Texas Revolution. In old age, Juan Seguin could reminisce about the men who had touched his heart and his life: Stephen F. Austin, Samuel Houston, Thomas Rusk, and many others. They faded away to memory as Seguin and his family enjoyed the Paseo late in the day as they walked alongside their neighbors in the main plaza of Nuevo Laredo.

The above is excerpted from A Tejano Knight: The Quest of Don Juan Seguin by Bill Neeley. Copyright © 2017 Bill Neeley. All rights reserved.

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