“such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly” (Menchaca)

Perceptions of skin color– “such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly” / RTL, 88

After Houston and his officers and also Santa Anna had held a long conversation with Zavala, [88] the latter asked to see the documents which contained a record of the proceedings of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Rusk told him that I had them and asked him to accompany him over to my quarters. When they reached there I had not returned and they asked where I was and sent after me. My shirt had not yet dried sufficiently for me to put it on, so I went back without it. When I came into the presence of the august ex-vice president of the Republic of Mexico, I had no shirt on, and both he and Rusk looked a little surprised and smiled visibly. Rusk asked me to explain why I came on dress parade before one of the generals of the army with such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly. I told him all of my other shirts but one had been stolen by one of his own men who were guarding some of the baggage and that one was drying on the bank of the bayou. He then said he would make me a present of a shirt and sent to his tent by one of my men to bring me one.

Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 87ff.


Lorenzo de Zavala’s second wife, who he married before he came to Texas, was an American widow, Emily West de Zavala. (Henson)

HOP # 5, n. 40. “… There are some prominent exceptions to the generalization that mixed marriages primarily joined Anglo men and Tejana women; Lorenzo de Zavala’s second wife, who he married before he came to Texas, was an American widow, Emily West de Zavala. Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala, 53-55.”

Meanwhile, Zavala was unconcerned about colonists. He had fallen in love during the autumn. Estranged from his wife for a number of years, Zavala doubtless had entered into amorous affairs during his time in Mexico City. Apparently he was an admirer of beautiful women. In his Viage a los Estados-Unidos, published in 1834, he said that Mexican travelers wer always surprised by the beauty of Anglo American women. With their “good color, large bright eyes, well-shaped hands and feet …” they were unusually attractive although they lacked the voluptuous walk of Mexican women. Now at age forty-two, he met a beautiful, tall, dark-eyed New York native half his age.

During his early morning walks in Battery Park near his boardinghouse, Zavala regularly noticed the attractive young woman with two small children. After discreet inquiry, he learned that her name was Mrs. Miranda West Cresswell. After a proper introduction, the young widow enjoyed the attention from the cosmopolitan gentleman. Like Pygmalion and Galatea, Zavala began educating her to suit his more sophisticated taste by giving “her an accomplished education,” according to gossips. He even changed her first name to Emily, according to a note in his journal.

On December 22, the pair sailed for France where Zavala was to recruit colonists for the Galveston Bay Company. Upon reaching Paris in February, Zavala bought “Madame [54] Zavala” new clothes, subscribed to English and French newspapers, and contracted to print 5,000 copies of his Ensayo Histórico de las Revoluciones de Megico desde 1808 hasta 1830. He had worked on this first volume of his history for the past several years.


When Zavala’s enemies in Mexico City learned about his companion, one publicly labeled him a vagabond and a libertine. From Mexico City, Mexía warned his friend that rumors about him were spreading around the capital. Zavala’s wife had died in Yucatán in April 1831, and he should have received the news in Paris in May or June. Whether her death triggered the gossip is unknown.


[55] Personal busienss required Zavala’s attention on Saturday, November 12, his second day in New York. Early in the morning he visited Father Félix Varela, the pastor of the Catholic church on Ann Street, about performing a marriage ceremony for himself and Emily, who was seven months pregnant. The couple returned to the church at eight that evening and the priest gave them his “nuptial benedictions.” Zavala dutifully noted these details in his journal.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996), 53-55.

Tejanos and Mexicans at the 1836 Convention; Zavala becomes Vice President (Henson)

[101] Zavala saw many familiar faces from the Consultation, but most were new men. Among them were José Antonio Navarro and Francisco Ruíz from San Antonio, and as neither spoke much English, they relied on Zavala to translate for them. By the end of the first week, the three Mexican delegates joined William Fairfax Gray in a rented carpenter shop where they had more privacy. Gray, a Virginia lawyer visiting Texas as agent for some land speculators, found the three fascinating and wanted to learn Spanish.


[103] After midnight the constitution was finished and adopted and an ordinance organizing a provisional government read and approved. The election of officers followed in the early hours of March 17.

Zavala supported the selection of cabinet members Samuel B. Carson, Bailey Hardeman, Thomas Jefferson Rusk, Robert Potter, and David Thomas for seccretaries of state, treasury, war, navy, and attorney general. But tired as he was, he was not pleased by his own unanimous election as vice president nor that of David G. Burnet as president. The latter had won by seven votes over the better qualified Carson, a former United States congressman from North Carolina.

After initially refusing, Zavala reluctantly accepted his post when the members persuaded him that it would create a favorable impression among Mexican federalists. His confidence in Burnet to unite the Texans was less.


[104] The new officers took their oaths at 4:00 A.M. Thursday, March 17. […] Zavala, Ruíz, and Navarro, with their servants, horses, and Zavala’s mule, crossed the ferry to the east bank of the Brazos on Friday, March 18, and that night camped alongside the road. Zavala was unwell the next morning, so the entire group remained in camp. Sunday they reached Jared E. Groce’s [105] Retreat, a recently developed plantation where Zavala parted from his new friends. The two San Antonio men were headed downriver to San Felipe, where they expected to hear news about their refugee families.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996), 101, 103-105.

Mexican plans for Texas revolution in 1835 and the Amphictyonic Council (Henson)

1835 Sep-Nov: Mexican federalists and Amphictyonic Council attempt to create a separate northern federation

While the Texans made plans to resist General Cós, Zavala’s federalist friends in New Orleans met on September 3 and 4 to plan the defeat of Santa Anna. Former Vice President Gómez Farías and his family had arrived in the Crescent City on August 29, four days after Austin left for Texas. Mexía and the others welcomed him and organized a meeting of the Amphictyonic Council for September 3. The name came from ancient Greece: amphictyons (deputies) represented their neighborhoods at meetings of a league of states at Delphi or Thermopylae. The New Orleans group included both Mexican federalists and Anglo Americans who were united by commercial interests and freemasonry. Mexía outlined a plan to attack Tampico and rally federalists to attack Santa Anna. He already had tentative financial backing from some Louisiana capitalists, provided he could guarantee the sale of Texas to the Louisiana interests. Texas would be made an independent state, temporarily under the guidance of the United States, until “a new republic of the South” could be organized that included the north Mexican states.”

[90] Gómez Farías thought the plan impractical and did not like the idea of severing Texas even temporarily, saying that the Mexican people would not understand. He recommended that Mexía’s proposed invasion be postponed. But the supporters of the scheme argued the invasion was in the interest of all lbierals, which brought Gómez Farías reluctantly into the fold.

The meeting on September 4 debated the issues of bringing “true liberty” to the United States of Mexico. A two-thirds majority approved seven articles: Gómez Farías, Mexía, and Zavala would lead the effort to return the federal system and liberalism to Mexico. Gómez Farías was the nominal head while Mexía, as head of the Federal army, was to recruit met in Louisiana and later the civic militias of Tamaulipas and other Mexican states. Zavala would direct the Texans in an uprising to draw attention and Santa Anna’s army away from Mexía’s landing at Tampico. Amnesty would be offered to all except Santa Anna and his ministers, who would be executed. Mexía would petition Congress to reform the 1824 Constitution by restricting the power of the clergy and the military, while freedom of religion would be established along with land reform. United States citizens, as a reward for their support, could enter Mexico without passports and be exempt from one-third of the import duties. Thirty-seven men signed the document, but their names did not appear in the December newspaper article published in Mexico City, the only known record of this meeting. Seemingly the Amphictyons had a spy in their midst.

Zavala and Mexía must have discussed the plan in July, because the wording used some of Zavala’s phrases. Moreover, his questions to the Columbus committee about support for independence fit the scheme. There was sufficient time for Zavala to tell Mexía about his cool reception, but perhaps Mexía and even Zavala believed that the Texans would rally in time.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996). 89-90.