Republic of the Rio Grande
República del Río Grande (Spanish)
Flag of Rio Grande
Location of Rio Grande
StatusUnrecognized state
Common languagesSpanish
• 1840
Jesús de Cárdenas
17 January 1840
• Surrender of Antonio Canales in Camargo
6 November 1840
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Nuevo León
Republic of Texas
Nuevo León
Republic of Texas
Today part ofMexico (Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas)
United States (Texas)
Later moved to Guerrero, Tamaulipas, and in March 1840 to Victoria, Texas until disestablishment.

The Republic of the Rio Grande (Spanish: República del Río Grande) was one of a series of independence movements in Mexico against the unitary government dominated by Antonio López de Santa Anna, including the Republic of Texas, and the second Republic of Yucatán. Insurgents fighting against the Centralist Republic of Mexico sought to establish the Republic of the Rio Grande as an independent nation in Northern Mexico. The rebellion lasted from 17 January to 6 November 1840.


After a decade of strife, Mexico won its independence from the Kingdom of Spain in 1821. After a failed attempt at a monarchy, Mexico adopted a new constitution, the 1824 Constitution. This new constitution established los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or "the United Mexican States," as a federal republic. During the war for independence, many rebels were driven to Coahuila and Nuevo León, where this revolutionary mentality won the hearts and minds of the people.[1]

In 1833, General Santa Anna was elected to his first term as president and was, at the time of his election, in support of the federal republic. However, after some members of government angered Santa Anna's political allies, Santa Anna decided to start a centralized government.[2] Santa Anna suspended the constitution, disbanded Congress and made himself the center of power in Mexico.[citation needed] States were converted into departments without political or fiscal autonomy by replacing elected governors with appointed ones and substituting for state assemblies with juntas under Santa Anna's policies. Dismayed by these policies and the perception that the government was deaf to the complaints and plight of the residents in the north, Republic leaders aimed to expel the officials appointed by the central government and restore the Constitution of 1824.[3] On November 3, 1838, one of the republic leaders, Antonio Canales Rosillo, issued a pronunciamiento against the government and in favor of federalism.


In January 1839, Antonio Canales summoned a convention at the office of the Justice of the Peace in Laredo where the Constitution of 1824 was unanimously approved. Canales immediately began building an army and scoured the countryside looking for recruits; among those recruits were Texan Colonels Reuben Ross and Samuel Jordan.[4] Intending to use the property of the church and convents to pay volunteers,[5] in 1839 and 1840, Canales was able to freely travel both sides of the Rio Grande, and recruited a small army of both Tejano and Mexican vaqueros and Caddo Indians, as well as receiving the assistance of the Texian Auxiliary Corps.

On 3 October Canales and his army marched to the town of Mier, where they faced the Mexican army. During the battle, Colonels Reuben Ross and Samuel Jordan charged at the centralist forces and encircled them in a hacienda, where the Mexican army was forced to surrender. Three hundred and fifty centralist soldiers who were taken prisoner ultimately defected and enlisted in Canales’ army.[6] After the battle, Canales was seen as a hero throughout Northern Mexico and many towns began to support his cause. Within a few days, recruits, supplies, and cash were being sent to him.[4]

Canales lingered in Mier for forty days before heading to Matamoros, a port town where another Centrist force was residing. In twenty-eight days, his one thousand man army reached the town only to find Mexican General Valentín Canalizo there with fifteen-hundred troops. Outmanned, Canales decided to withdraw and attack General Mariano Arista at Monterrey instead. Colonel Ross, appalled by this withdrawal, left Canales’ army, taking fifty Texans with him. At Monterrey, General Canales sent three hundred cavalry under the command of Colonel José Antonio Zapata to lure Arista out of town. While Arista left the town unguarded to engage with Zapata, General Canales’ army took a convent on the outskirts of town. However, on December 27, General Arista sent spies to Canales’ army and bribed seven hundred Mexicans to abandon their army. Upon discovering this the next morning, Canales and the remnants of his army fled the battle.[6]


A New Republic

The Centralist Republic with the separatist movements generated by the dissolution of the Federal Republic.
  Territory proclaimed its independence
  Territory claimed by the Republic of Texas
  Territory claimed by the Republic of the Rio Grande

On 17 January 1840 a meeting was held at the Oreveña Ranch near Laredo.[7] A group of notables from the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas advocated for a rebellion seeking secession from Mexico and formation of their own federal republic with Laredo as the capital. However, those states' own congresses and governments never took any action to support the insurgents, and requested the help of the Central government in Mexico City to aid the local state armies.[8] Despite the lack of support from the state governments, the Republic of the Rio Grande was formed. The new Republic had an official newspaper: “Correo del Rio Bravo del Norte” and their state motto was Dios, Libertad y Convención (God, Liberty, and Convention).[1]

The Republic of Rio Grande was a brief attempt to create an independent nation inside northern Mexico. The insurgency lasted from 17 January to 6 November 1840.

The insurgents designated their own officials for the new republic. They were:

This building, the capitol of the Republic of the Rio Grande, is now the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum in Laredo. It showcases the history of the rebellion and the restoration of three rooms in a period hacienda.

Battle of Santa Rita de Morelos (24-25 March 1840)

Main article: Battle of Santa Rita de Morelos

Shortly after the formation of the Republic of the Rio Grande, word arrived that General Arista was in the Rio Grande valley. Texan Samuel Jordan urged Canales to retreat to Texas to recruit more Texans but Canales refused. Consequently, Samuel Jordan and 60 of his men left General Canales’ army. While Canales and the army decided to fight, President Cardenas and the new government fled to Victoria, Texas.[6]

Canales and his army met Arista outside the town of Santa Rita de Morelos. Needing provisions, Antonio Zapata and 30 men rode into town where Arista's men soon surrounded them. Outnumbered by 1,800 men, Zapata surrendered. General Arista offered to pardon Antonio Zapata under the condition that he swore allegiance to Mexico, but he refused. On 29 March 1840, Antonio Zapata was executed and his head placed on a spike in the town of Guerrero as a reminder to his wife, children, and federalists. While Zapata was being held prisoner, General Canales engaged Arista at San Fernando, losing 250 of his four hundred men in the process. After this defeat, Antonio Canales had no other option except to flee to Texas.[6]

Texas's role in the Rebellion

From the beginning, President Cardenas realized that the success of the Republic of the Rio Grande depended on Texan support.[4] Texas also had conflicting interests on whether to support the new Republic or not. On one hand, the formation of the Republic of the Rio Grande would create a buffer state between Mexico and Texas, postponing any possible intentions Mexico had for the reinvasion of Texas; on the other hand, Texas needed Mexico to recognize its independence and supporting the new Republic would certainly anger them. Texas's official stance on the issue was neutral, but president Mirabeau Lamar secretly encouraged Texans to volunteer in Canales's army and gave Canales access to Texan arms and ammunition.[9]

Battle of Saltillo (25 October 1840)

Main article: Battle of Saltillo

In Texas, Canales rebuilt his new army at San Patricio under Colonel Samuel Jordan. The new army consisted of 300 Mexicans, 80 Cane Indians, and 410 Texans. With the new army, Canales marched out of Texas and was able to recapture the towns of Laredo, Guerrero, Mier, and Camargo.

Soon after, Canales ordered 350 men, under the command of Samuel Jordan and Canales’ brother-in-law Juan Molano, to steal horses for future operations. After Jordan and Molano sacked the city of Ciudad Victoria and installed a new state government, they marched to Saltillo where the Mexican General Montoya was residing. Unbeknown to Jordan, Juan Molano had secretly switched sides and joined the centralist forces.

On 25 October 1840, the Mexican army under Montoya faced the army of the Republic of the Rio Grande under the command of Colonel Lopez (who had secretly switched allegiance to General Montoya as well). Colonel Lopez ordered Jordan and his men to move into a mountain gorge. Upon realizing the trap, Jordan, his men, and the remaining loyal vaqueros to the Rio Grande Republic turned around and took refuge in a hacienda. The Mexican army attacked the hacienda in full force but was unable to capture the Texans before they retreated. The Mexican army lost four hundred men[dubious ] attacking the hacienda while the Texans only lost five.[6]


After the defeat at Saltillo, General Canales secretly entered negotiations with General Arista and on November 6, 1840, Antonio Canales surrendered at Camargo. Canales soon accepted a position as an officer in Santa Anna's army. As part of conditions of surrender, no harm would come to the property or safety of former members of the republic. The Republic's debts would be assumed as well.[1] A few days after Canales's surrender, President Cardenas and other officials entered Laredo to officially surrender.

Flag of the republic

This is a sketch from 1840 created by a Centralist spy in the Federalist army camp of Jose Carbajal.[10][11]

The flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande has a blue hoist with three white stars run evenly along the hoist.[10][12][13] The three stars represent the three states that seceded: Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.[14][15] The fly is split into three bands, one white, one red, and one black.[10][12][13]


Remnants of the republic's effect can be seen in:

See also


  1. ^ a b c De La Garza, Beatriz (2013). From the Republic of the Rio Grande: A Personal History of the Place and the People. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 1–22 – via ProQuest ebrary.
  2. ^ Wilfred H. Callcott, "SANTA ANNA, ANTONIO LOPEZ DE," Handbook of Texas Online [1], accessed September 23, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  3. ^ Valerio-Jiménez, Omar (2012). River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 125.
  4. ^ a b c Lindheim, Milton. "The Republic of the Rio Grande". Texas AMU. W.M. Morrison, Publishing Co. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  5. ^ “Northern Mexico—New Republic of the Rio Grande.” American Masonic Register and Literary Companion (1839-1847) 1, no. 43 (jun 27 1840): 338.
  6. ^ a b c d e Coppock, Mike (2005). "The Republic of the Rio Grande". Wild West. 18. History Reference Center: 46–52 – via EBSCOhost.
  7. ^ The text of the constitution is available in Dippel, Horst, ed., Constitutions of the world from the late 18th century to the middle of the 19th century America Vol. 1. Constitutional documents of the United States of America Pt. 6. Rio Grande – Texas, München Saur 2008, ISBN 978-3-598-35756-5, pp. 9–13, “Ley orgánica de la República del Río Grande (1840)”
  8. ^ David M. Vigness, "REPUBLIC OF THE RIO GRANDE," Handbook of Texas Online [2], accessed September 23, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  9. ^ Vigness, David M. “Relations of the Republic of Texas and the Republic of the Rio Grande.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 57, no. 3 (1954): 312-21.
  10. ^ a b c Ceballos Ramirez, Manuel (May–August 2006). "La conformación del noreste histórico mexicano: larga duración, identidad y geopolítica". Secuencia (in Spanish). 65: 9–37. eISSN 2395-8464. ISSN 0186-0348. Por otra parte, se ha aducido el separatismo del noreste por el hecho de que entre sus filas se portara una bandera que, dividida en una franja vertical y tres horizontales, representaba a los tres estados orientales, pues en la vertical también incluía tres estrellas. El color de la franja vertical era azul, y el de las horizontales eran plateado (o blanco), rojo y negro. Mariano Arista supo de la existencia de esta bandera por los informes que le rindió un espía, quien adernás la dibuío en un anexo, y así lo remitió Arista al ministro de Guerra a principios de septiembre de 1840." Translation: "On the other hand, the separatism of the northeast has been adduced due to the fact that a flag was carried among its ranks that, divided into a vertical stripe and three horizontal ones, represented the three eastern states, since the vertical one also included three stars. The color of the vertical stripe was blue, and that of the horizontal ones were silver (or white), red and black. Mariano Arista found out about the existence of this flag from reports given to him by a spy, who also drew it in an appendix, and Arista sent it to the Minister of War at the beginning of September 1840.
  11. ^ XI/481.3/1548, f. 87. Mexico City, Mexico: Archivo Histórico de la Defensa Nacional, courtesy of the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum, Webb County Heritage Foundation.
  12. ^ a b Gallegos, Juan Jose (December 2005). "Last Drop of My Blood": Col. Antonio Zapata: A Life and Times on Mexico's Rio Grande Frontier, 1797–1840 (MA). University of Houston. pp. 145–146, 145n163. A flag flown by J. M. J. Carvajal on his campsite near the Nueces River after Zapata and Canales' defeat in Morelos is shown in Figure 5-1. This flag contains three horizontal bands of white, red and black with a blue vertical band on the left side containing three white stars in the blue field. One could conjecture that the three bands and the three stars symbolize the three Mexican states mentioned above. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to assume that this flag design was the same used prior to the Federalist defeat in Morelos.
  13. ^ a b "[Sketch of the Flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande]" (1840) [manuscript]. Courtesy of the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum, Webb County Heritage Foundation, Laredo, TX, ID: XI/481.3/1548, p. f. 87. Mexico City, Mexico: Archivo Histórico de la Defensa Nacional.
  14. ^ Saenz de los Reyes, Emiliano (1994). "The Transcripts of the First Annual Palo Alto Conference". In Aaron P. Mahr Yáñez (ed.). Proceedings of the First Annual Palo Alto Conference. First Annual Palo Alto Conference (in Spanish). Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, Brownsville, TX: U.S. Dept. of the Interior. p. 148. OCLC 32985554. Las tres estrellas pudieran haber simbolizado los tres estados directamente implicados." Translation: "The three stars may have symbolized the three states directly involved.
  15. ^ Gallegos, Juan Jose (December 2005). "Last Drop of My Blood": Col. Antonio Zapata: A Life and Times on Mexico's Rio Grande Frontier, 1797–1840 (MA). University of Houston. p. 145n163. A Matamoros newspaper reported that the flag featured three stars symbolizing the departments of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila; see El Ancla, September 14, 1840, Matamoros.

Further reading

27°31′N 99°29′W / 27.517°N 99.483°W / 27.517; -99.483