In a life that spanned both sides of the Rio Grande, Juan Seguin knew both the adulation of a Texas hero and the anguish of a tejano forced to live among his former enemies.
Seguin was born in 1806 into a long-established tejano family in San Antonio. Few details of his early life are known, but he became a harsh liberal critic of Santa Anna's centralization of authority in Mexico in the 1830's. Seguin's father had been a strong political ally of Stephen F. Austin, and Seguin himself played an active role in the Texas revolution. He served as provisional mayor of San Antonio and led a band of like-minded tejanos against Santa Anna's army in 1835. The next year he was at the Alamo for the first part of the siege, and survived only because he was sent to gather reinforcements. He and his tejano company fought at the battle of San Jacinto, helping to defeat Santa Anna's army.
Seguin was rudely shocked, however, by the aftermath of the Texas Revolution. Numerous towns in Texas moved to expel all of their tejano residents, and even in San Antonio many anglos seriously considered such a move. But the most stunning blow came when Seguin helped defeat a Mexican expedition against San Antonio in 1842. In a ploy to turn anglo Texans against him, the Mexican commander stated publicly that Seguin was still a loyal Mexican subject, and although Seguin was the mayor of San Antonio at the time, anglos who had been his former comrades suddenly accused him of treason. Vigilantes drove him from the city where he had been born and forced him to flee to Mexico. Seguin's hopes that the Texas revolution would mean freedom for all Texans were shattered.
Seguin's betrayal left him embittered: "A victim to the wickedness of a few men... a foreigner in my native land; could I be expected to stoically endure their outrages and insults?" he wrote in 1858. "I sought for shelter amongst those against whom I fought; I separated from my country, parents, family, relatives and friends, and what was more, from the institutions, on behalf which I had drawn my sword, with an earnest wish to see Texas free and happy."
The Mexican government hardly welcomed Seguin with open arms. Upon his arrival in Nuevo Laredo in 1842, the authorities arrested him and offered him a choice between serving in the army or extended imprisonment. He chose to join the army, and fought in the Mexican-American war against the United States. After the war Seguin received permission to return to Texas, and did so, but in 1867 continued harassment again prompted his return to Mexico. He died in Nuevo Laredo, just across the Rio Grande from the land for whose independence he had fought, in 1890.
Program | People | Places
| Events | Resources | Lesson
Plans | Quiz|
© 2001 THE WEST FILM PROJECT and WETA