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Gregorio Cortez
Digital History ID 3689


Annotation: One of the most popular corridos described a real-life figure, Gregorio Cortez, who killed two sheriffs in south Texas in 1901, and who gained folk hero status when he eluded capture by the Texas Rangers.

Born in Matamoros, Mexico in 1875, Cortez toiled as a cowboy and farmer in Texas. In 1901, local authorities in south Texas began searching for a horse thief, described only as a “medium-sized Mexican.” Lawmen confronted Cortez and confusion ensued, since neither the sheriff nor his deputy understood Spanish. The sheriff wounded Cortez’s brother and Cortez responded by shooting and killing the sheriff. Pursued by a posse, Cortez escaped, but not before killing another sheriff and a landowner. When he was finally apprehended, Cortez was nearly lynched. Many trials took place. A Texas appeals court later reversed Cortez’s conviction for murdering the landowner, and was finally pardoned for the murder of the second sheriff in 1913.

Document: …In the county of El Carmen such a tragedy took place: The Mayor Sheriff is dead; no one knows who killed him. They went around asking questions about half an hour afterward; They found out that the wrongdoer had been Gregorio Cortez.

Now they have outlawed Cortez throughout the whole of the state; Let him be taken, dead or alive, for he has killed several men.

Then said Gregorio Cortez, with his pistol in his hand, "I don't regret having killed him; what I regret is my brother's death"…

The Americans were coming; they were whiter that a poppy From the fear that they had from Cortez and his pistol….

They let loose the bloodhound so they could follow the trail; But trying to overtake Cortez was like following a star….

From Belmont he went to the ranch, where they succeeded in surrounding him, Quite a few more that three hundred, but he jumped out of their corral.

When he jumped out of their corral, according to what is said here, They got into a gunfight, and he killed them another sheriff. Then said Gregorio Cortez, with his pistol in his hand, "Don't run, you cowardly rinches, from a single Mexican"….

Now he has met a Mexican; he says to him haughtily, "Tell me the news; I am Gregorio Cortez.

They say that because of me many people have been killed; so now I will surrender, because such things are not right."…

All the rinches [Texas Rangers] were coming, so fast that they almost flew, Because they were going to get the ten thousand dollars that were offered.

When they surrounded the house, Cortez appeared before them: "You will take me if I'm willing but not any other way."

Then said the Major Sheriff, as if he was going to cry, "Cortez, hand over your weapons; we do not want to kill you." Then said Gregorio Cortez, shouting to them in a loud voice, "I won't surrender my weapons until I am in a cell"….

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