Posts Tagged ‘South Texas History’

March has become more meaningful. In 1836 the Mexican army under its most infamous caudillo, Santa Anna, came to Texas to put down Anglo-Texian rebellion. With an iron fist Mexico routed the defenders of the Alamo leaving few to tell the tale. Then, Santa Anna’s eye turned toward Goliad where Col. Fannin and his men were between a jagged rock, a crown of thorns, and an unyielding hard place: answer Col. Travis’ desperate plea for assistance, stay and defend Goliad against the coming storm or follow Houston’s orders: raze the presidio and return to Gonzalez.

What to do? what to do?

Fannin chose the latter. They didn’t get far, just a few miles, when they were met by Gen. Urrea and his men. Goliad is not famous for its battle (at Coleto Creek) but for the massacre that came after. Under Santa Anna’s orders the rebels, every one of them, were to be given “no quarter” that is, executed. Many were either gunned down or killed with the bayonet. Col. Fannin himself was shot sitting down as he was too wounded to stand. Thus emerged the most famous battle cry in Texas: “Remember the Alamo!…Remember Goliad!”

I learned at our first annual Alvarez family reunion some years ago that I am a 6th generation descendant of participants in the Goliad campaign. In other words, my grandfather’s grandfather’s mother, Panchita, was remembered by a few of the survivors of the massacre. From them, we learn that she helped the wounded and aided those that would eventually escape execution; this in defiance of direct orders of Santa Anna.

From them and subsequent research, we learn she came to Texas with a Capt. Telesforo Alavez (as a mistress essentially). He had come to Texas from Toluca in Central Mexico, where he was married to a prominent local woman, under Gen. Jose Urrea very early in 1836. I tend to think he got her along the way through Matamoros, as in those days (even now!) Mexican men kidnapped women from the various small ranchitos. After his Texas duties had ended, she and Capt. Alavez traveled back to Mexico where he abandoned her ( in Matamoros?). Thereafter, presumably, he returned to Toluca. It is here that she disappears from the historical record for ever.

Many years later in a 1930’s newspaper interview, Mrs. O’Shea tells this story of her time teaching on the King Ranch (1901-02). Often after the days work, one Matias Alvarez, an illiterate ranch-hand at the Santa Gertrudes Div. of the King Ranch (among others), would gather to hear the days news and/or educational books read to them. While hearing about the events surrounding the Goliad battle, Matias inquired whether there is mentioned in the textbook a Mexican woman who helped the Anglo-Texians? “No” Mrs.O’Shea answered. He proceeded to tell her that he is the son of Telesforo and Panchita Alavez, that in fact his mother was there at the Goliad massacre and helped as she could the Anglos and other wounded. Mrs. O’Shea relates that she met the “Angel of Goliad” who was already in her 90’s at the time. After her death, it is said that she was buried “somewhere on the King Ranch in an unmarked grave”

I realize, of course, the Alavez-Alvarez incongruence . The few primary sources we have, survivor journals and memoirs, call her by different names: Francisca or Panchita Alavez, Alvarez and Alevesco. I tend toward the view that few Anglos knew or cared to know how to correctly spell or pronounce Mexican surnames. And, in any case, these memoirs and journals coming as they were many years later, I don’t have a problem with the confusion. I don’t imagine spelling was so important in that monumental struggle to survive. Somewhere along the way, through a phenomenon of philology, Alavez became Alvarez.

Guardamos las memorias de su pasado que podriamos rescatar–Viva Panchita Alvarez!

**Special Thanks to Reynaldo G., Rudy (Ramirez) and Gilbert Alvarez for their tireless efforts to bring Panchita Alavez to the fore of Texas history**