Juan Nepomuceno Seguín's life is symbolic of the Tejano experience during the Texas revolutionary period. He was born in San Antonio de Béxar, a frontier town in Spanish Mexico, in 1806. His parents, José Erasmo Seguín and María Josefa Becerra, were prominent townspeople. Erasmo Seguín, now recognized as one of the most significant Tejano statesmen of his day, was exceptionally well-educated and proved to be an influential political leader. Erasmo monitored the schooling of his young son and encouraged him to embark on a political and military career.
Loyal Young Texan
In 1834 Juan Seguín became the jéfe político (political chief) of Béxar. Significantly influenced by his father's close friendship with Stephen F. Austin, Seguín was particularly sympathetic to the continuation of Anglo colonization in Texas. Inheriting his father's staunch federalist views and possessing a deep loyalty to his native state, the young politician led troops against centralist forces in Monclova in 1835. As the events of the Texas Revolution escalated, Austin made him a captain for the Army of the People. Drawing from the ready pool of other federalist Tejanos like himself, Seguín gathered a company of thirty-seven who assisted in the Siege of Béxar in which Texas revolutionary forces defeated Mexican General Martín Perfecto de Cos' army at the Alamo.
At the Alamo
As Antonio López de Santa Anna marched his Mexican Army of Operations toward San Antonio to seek retribution, Seguín's company served as scouts for the Texas forces inside the Alamo. By mid-February of 1836, they reported that Santa Anna had crossed the Río Grande. Seguín and his men joined Colonel William B. Travis in the Alamo when Santa Anna arrived on February 23. They were soon surrounded. Travis sent Seguín across enemy lines to ask for reinforcements, hoping his knowledge of Spanish would help get him through the lines.
Tejanos for Texas
When the Alamo fell on March 6, Seguín organized a company of nineteen to fight as the rear guard of Sam Houston's retreating army. As Sam Houston and Santa Anna faced each other's forces at San Jacinto, Houston ordered the Tejano company to stay behind and guard the army's baggage. He was worried that anti-Mexican sentiment would cause those in his own army to be indiscriminate in finding worthy targets, Seguín was angrily adamant that his men be allowed to fight for the freedom of their homeland. Houston welcomed his enthusiasm and requested that the Tejano company place pieces of cardboard in their hats in order to identify them as allies for the cause of Texas. Thus outfitted, Seguín's company fought in the San Jacinto battle and assisted in the victory that established Texas independence.
Advocate for Spanish
After the war, as a lieutenant colonel in the Texan Cavalry and commandant at San Antonio, Seguín presided over the burial services for the Alamo's dead. In 1837, he was elected to the Senate of the Texas Republic, where he served as Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. Despite the increasing tension between Anglos and Tejanos, he managed to secure the printing of all new laws in Spanish.
After he was elected mayor of San Antonio in 1840, Seguín found himself increasingly under suspicion of disloyalty to Texas when he persisted in ousting illegal Anglo settlers and maintaining correspondence with Mexico. In 1842 Seguín had warned both the San Antonio City Council and the Republic of Texas government that a Mexican attack was on the way that spring. But the Mexican invasion of the town provided sufficient proof to many that Seguín, still mayor, had aided in the attack. Though he was innocent of the accusations of treason leveled at him, animosity was so strong that Seguín resigned from his position and fled to Mexico.
Across the Border
Considered a Tejano traitor in Mexico, Seguín was captured and given the option of imprisonment or service in the Mexican army. Choosing the latter, the Tejano found himself accompanying the Mexicans as they invaded San Antonio for a second time in 1842. Continuing his service in the Mexican army, he fought the United States during the Mexican War. Afterward, he quietly returned to Texas and managed to re-enter Béxar politics for a short time. He died in 1890 among his family in Nuevo Laredo.