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Tejano Roots
A Family Legend

Author, Dan Arellano

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This article is from a column written by Henry Wolff, Jr. of the Victoria Advocate and sent to me by my friend, Robert Thonhoff, Author and Historian.

'Family Legend' recalls Texas ' bloodiest battle

April 08, 2007 - Posted at 12:00 a.m.
Much less known than the battles for Texas independence at Gonzales, Goliad, the Alamo and San Jacinto was what happened some 23 years before in a sandy, oak-studded forest some 20 miles south of San Antonio .
In his book, "Tejano Roots, a Family Legend," Austin author Dan Arellano refers to the Battle of Medina as being "the Mother of All Wars" in Texas . While there is not enough space in this newspaper column to adequately define the circumstances leading up to Texas ' bloodiest battle ever on Aug. 18, 1813 , Arellano has covered the events thoroughly.
The battle is a part of his family history, he being descended from one of the participants, Sgt. Francisco Arellano. Having heard family legends about the battle, the author spent 10 years researching and writing the book, which is both a family history and a history of the earliest conflicts and various participating cultures that made up the Tejano population of early Texas .

Not only did his fifth great-grandfather, Francisco Arellano, participate in the Battle of Medina, but as a member of the Alamo de Parras Company had been involved in various other battles, including the Casas Revolt in 1811 during the Mexican War of Independence.

He is believed to have arrived at the abandoned San Antonio de Valero Mission in 1803 at the age of 18 with a company of Spanish soldiers from Alamo de Parras, Coahuila , Mexico , that possibly being how the Alamo got its name. It could also have been named for a grove of nearby cottonwood trees, "alamo" being the Spanish name for such.

In his research, Arellano learned that Francisco Arellano was of Texcalla Indian ancestry.

The author and other descendants of participants in the Battle of Medina will gather on Saturday for "first time ever" Tejano Battle of Medina Memorial Services at 1:30 p.m. during the annual Poteet Strawberry Festival, with the public invited to attend. The descendants will also participate in the festival parade beginning at 10 a.m.

Andres Tijerina, a history professor from Austin Community College , and J. Frank de la Teja, chairman of the Department of History at Texas State University in San Marcos , who was also recently named by Gov. Rick Perry as Texas State Historian, are scheduled to participate in the ceremonies.

"Many Mexican-Americans have given their lives defending freedom and democracy," Arellano notes. "A thousand Tejanos were killed in one battle alone in defense of these causes." 

The Battle of Medina was between the Republican Army of the North consisting of 400 American volunteers, 900 to 1,000 Tejanos and 200 to 300 Lipan, Coushatta and Karankawa Indians, he further notes, and a Spanish army led by Gen. Joaquin de Arredondo.

"Out of 1,500 to 1,600 that set out to fight on that hot August day only 100 would survive," he says, "making it the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. Another 327 Tejanos would be executed in San Antonio after the battle and 100 more would be executed as they fled toward Louisiana ."

While his ancestor fought on the side of the victorious Spanish Royalists, who lost only 55 men that day, Arellano says that he was not involved in the slaughter.

"Francisco must have been horrified at what happened," he notes. "Many of the people that were executed had to have been acquaintances."

Spanish Colonial historian Robert H. Thonhoff, editor and annotator of "Forgotten Battlefield of the First Texas Revolution, the Battle of Medina, August 18, 1813," a manuscript by Ted Schwarz, has described Arellano's book as combining "meticulous historical research with oral family history passed down to him over the generations to establish his identity (and the identity of many others) as Tejano and American.

"This groundbreaking book will enlighten many readers to the contributions of many founding families of Texas of Coahuilan and Tlaxaclan descent, who were in fact a typical American blending of ancestral backgrounds, but Tejanos and Americans one and all."

For further information about the book, or the events on Saturday at Poteet, the author can be contacted at darellano@austin.rr.com or by mail at P.O. Box 43012 , Austin , Texas 78704 .

The Battle of Medina was near present Leming in Atascosa County .

Arellano became interested in researching his family history and connections to the early conflicts in Texas after hearing stories from his "great uncle" Tio Paez, head of nearby rancho on which his father had worked for many years.
"During the turbulent civil war times of Sept. 10, 1810 , to Aug. 18, 1813 ," Thonhoff notes, "Tejanos had to choose between being a Royalist or a Republican.

The choices were difficult, and Thonhoff says they suffered one way or another.

According to the Arellano family legend, Francisco later joined with the mostly Anglo defenders at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution of 1836. He points out there are sources indicating there were more Tejanos in the Alamo during the siege than generally credited.

Wherever he was at the time, Francisco had already established the Arellano family's Tejano roots.


Henry Wolff Jr. is a long-time Victoria Advocate columnist. He can be reached at wolfhaus@txcr.net.