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VELA, ISIDRO (1798–1862). Isidro Vela, rancher and judge, was born in Mexico in 1798 and first appears in the 1850 census as a landowner in Cameron County. He served as president of the secessionist meeting held in Zapata County in December 1860. Sentiments in the area were split between the small landowning minority and the large impoverished elements. Vela, like the rest of the landowners, strongly supported secession. Pro-Union sentiment among Hispanics, derived from hostility against local Anglos, placed Vela and other landowners at a numerical disadvantage. They also continuously faced problems generated by Juan N. Cortina and his followers. In April 1861 Vela confronted a band of armed Tejanos under the leadership of Antonio Ochoa, a follower of Cortina who threatened county officials that supported the Confederacy. Vela was able to dissuade the band from taking any action. Ochoa and his men, however, issued a pronouncement against the Confederacy and demanded of Judge Vela that it be forwarded to the United States. Guerrilla warfare became a feature of the region as pro-Union, anti-Anglo bands staged raids into Texas and retreated into Mexico. In the latter half of 1861 one of these bands attacked Vela's ranch, El Clareño. Forced to leave his ranch, he sought refuge at Henry Redmond's ranch at Carrizo. On December 26, 1862, a band of about 100 men crossed the river and attacked Vela's ranch. He was captured and hanged in the presence of his family. Capt. Refugio Benavides pursued the raiders and defeated them in Mexico near Camargo. Among papers seized in the battle were documents that implicated Leonard Pierce, Jr., as an instigator of the raid.


Jean Y. Fish, Zapata County Roots Revisited (Edinburg, Texas: New Santander Press, 1990). Virgil N. Lott and Mercurio Martinez, The Kingdom of Zapata (San Antonio: Naylor, 1953). Jerry Don Thompson, Vaqueros in Blue and Gray (Austin: Presidial, 1976).

Juan O. Sanchez


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Juan O. Sanchez, "VELA, ISIDRO," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.