Cortez was a tenant farmer and vaquero accused of horse theft by the county sheriff. The sheriff killed the brother of Cortez and Cortez shot back in self-defense. He was tried by an all-Anglo jury who found him not guilty. However, during the resulting chase of Cortez he killed two other lawmen and was sentence to prison for their death.

The Cortez incident resulted in one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history with the Texas Rangers and professional trackers after him. Mexican-Americans fought for him since much of the incident was due to the poor translation of Spanish by one of the county sheriff’s assistants.

In 1958 Americo Paredes wrote the history of the incident in With a Pistol in His Hand published by the University of Texas. A co-founder of Mexican-American Studies, Paredes taught at the University of Texas. Dr. Orozco was his student. In 1982 Hollywood director Robert Young released “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” starring Edward James Olmos as Cortez. In 1996 Orozco wrote a brief history of Cortez for the encyclopedia New Handbook of Texas.

Mexican-Americans in Texas consider Cortez a folk hero and wrote a ballad (corrido) about him. Likewise, today Ramon Ayala of Mexico recorded this song as well as New Mexicans Al Hurricane and the all-female band Sparx with Lorenzo Antonio.

Dr. Orozco is the author of “No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed” and “Mexican Americans in Texas History.”

For more information, contact Dr. Orozco at 575.257.2120 ext. 383.

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