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Early Texas Heroes: Lorenzo de Zavala, First Vice President of the Republic of Texas

Kerry is a freelance writer and real estate developer in Southeast Texas. His Aunt Emma is a direct descendant of Lorenzo de Zavala.

Lorenzo de Zavala

Lorenzo de Zavala

Painting of Lorenzo De Zavala In the San Jacinto Museum at the San Jacinto Battlefield by Larry Wheeler

Painting of Lorenzo De Zavala In the San Jacinto Museum at the San Jacinto Battlefield by Larry Wheeler

Lorenzo de Zavala

I love my Aunt Emma. She lives in Pasadena, Texas near the San Jacinto Battlefield and Monument just outside Houston. She has always claimed to be a direct descendant of Emily West and Lorenzo de Zavala. He was the interim veep under President David G. Burnett before things were finally settled around the time Mexican Dictator Santa Anna was marching through Texas in 1836. Zavala was chosen for this position because of his knowledge of politics, his friendship with Texas revolutionist leaders, and his Mexican heritage. Lorenzo was the most prominent Tejano (Mexican Texan) who supported the revolution.

I always had a suspicion that Auntie Em was exaggerating the family connection. I’m not sure why I suspected …I just did. However, after talking with my Dad, I was proven wrong. Her grandparents (Emma and Sidney de Zavala) are buried in the Zavala family cemetery at the San Jacinto Battlefield and Park. Their grave sites are within a few feet of Emily West's and Lorenzo de Zavala’s.

I thought I’d head out to the San Jacinto Monument to see if I could get some questions answered about this former enigmatic family legend.

Zavala's Early Life

Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala was born on October 3rd, 1789 in Yucatan, Mexico. In 1807 he married Teresa Correa y Correa and ultimately they had three children. When he was twenty-five he was imprisoned for his ardent activism in support of Democratic reforms in Mexico. Upon his release he again ventured into politics and was elected to the Mexican Congress and later to the Senate. I guess he figured it was best to work from the inside. Still later he became Governor of the state of Mexico located west of Mexico City.

Zavala authored “Journey to the United States of North America”. This unrenowned yet scholarly publication preceded Toqueville’s famed book, “Democracy in America” by five years. Many contemporary historians suggest Zavala’s book to be the better of the two. These books discuss similar viewpoints about America and Americans. In Zavala’s book he sagaciously states that Mexico will not achieve America’s prosperity and accomplishment without emulating a democracy similar to the United States. Wow!…Texas’ first Vice President was quite a scholarly prophet!

Zavala's Book: "Journey to the United States of North America"

Zavala's Book: "Journey to the United States of North America"

Lorenzo de Zavala Denounces Santa Anna as Mexican Dictator

Lorenzo de Zavala was a prominent political figure promoting an American-style democracy in Mexico. President Santa Anna in 1833 decided to send Zavala to France to be Mexico's first minister plenipotentiary in Paris. Zavala was Santa Anna's chief political rival at the time.

This turned out to be a monumental mistake for Santa Anna.

With Zavala far away from Mexico Santa Ana proceeded to take over dictatorial power by banning newspapers and imprisoning detractors. When Zavala heard of the takeover, he immediately denounced Santa Anna and resigned his diplomatic post in France. Since he could not return to Mexico, he traveled to New York City where he met and married Emily West. It is from this union that my Aunt Emma is directly descended.

Santa Anna

Santa Anna

Emily West and Lorenzo de Zavala Move to Texas

After marrying Emily West, Lorenzo moves his new family to Texas where he has business dealings in the form of land grants. For a while the Zavala's were housemates with Stephen F. Austin (The Father of Texas). They ultimately settled at Zavala Point on Buffalo Bayou near the site of the present-day San Jacinto Battlefield and Monument. Zavala was naturally drawn into Texas politics. Early on he had supported Mexican Federalism but changed his mind at the news of Santa Anna’s total dictatorship of Mexico and quickly joined the Texians’ fight for independence.

At the onset of the Texas battle for independence Zavala was soon accepted by the revolutionary Texian leaders because he spoke fluent English, was a close friend of Austin, had intimate knowledge of Santa Anna's psyche and had a personal grudge against him for his destruction of the progress of democracy in Mexico.





Zavala Family Cemetery San Jacinto Monument in the background

Zavala Family Cemetery San Jacinto Monument in the background

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Stephen F. Austin

Stephen F. Austin

Lorenzo de Zavala’s Untimely Death

After Santa Anna slaughtered the Texans at the Alamo and Goliad, the Texans under Sam Houston were situated very near the Buffalo Bayou home of the Zavala’s and anxiously awaited the arrival of the triumphant Mexican army. Lorenzo took his family to Galveston Island for safe keeping. Soon after Sam Houston surprisingly defeated Santa Anna, Zavala was boating on Buffalo Bayou when he contracted pneumonia and quickly died. This famous quote is attributed to him, "If I knew my death would assure the liberation of Texas, I would not live another hour.”

I can't help but imagine how different today's Texas would look if Lorenzo de Zavala had survived,

My Aunt Emma’s connection to Texas history is an exciting and completely true fact. Her grandparents along with Emily West and Lorenzo de Zavala and other family members are buried in the Zavala Cemetery in the shadow of the world’s tallest monument at the San Jacinto Battlefield.

Adina de Zavala

  • What Died With the "Angel of the Alamo"?
    We take for granted our historic landmarks will always be there for future generations. However, in 1908, an important part of the Alamo was about to be torn down in the name of progress. Thankfully the " Angel of The Alamo" appeared.,,
Granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala

Granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala

Comments

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on August 12, 2014:

This is in response to KZWheeler above.

In actuality Texas has two of the largest Progressive cities in America: Houston and the capital Austin. These cities represent the shining ideals of the Progressive attitude.

Texas is, unfortunately, traveling through an ugly, uneducated, biased political period. The Right Wing has cleverly found a way to confuse the average white Texan's commonsense with smooth-talking, self-serving politicians like Ted Cruz.

This is not normal for Texas. Until the 1990s Texas was a consistently Democratic state with a history of famous Progressives like Lorenzo de Zavala, Sam Houston, most of the early American Texan settlers and, more recently, Ann Richards.

I am in complete support of Wendy Davis for governor of Texas and Jason Carter for governor of Georgia.

Texas can be proud of it's Liberal past and we are convinced those days will shortly return!

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on August 07, 2014:

Okay. I'll send it through my regular email.

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on August 05, 2014:

Thanks Aunt Ruth. Can't wait to see the album you have concerning the de Zavalas.

Ruth Murdock on August 05, 2014:

I am the older sister of your Aunt Emma. Certainly enjoyed your article. We grew up knowing about Lorenzo...just didn't ask the questions we should have. My mother-in-law remarked one time that "youth" was wasted on the young. She was right about that. Look forward to reading more of your articles.

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on August 05, 2014:

My aunt visited a Texas State Historical Marker Ceremony concerning Lorenzo de Zavala.

Not sure if I can send it from here though. Will email you if I cannot.

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=9b29...

KZWHEELER on August 04, 2014:

No documents, more's the pity. I have a Galveston Bay and Texas Land Co. Deed that I bought from a dealer in NYC with the guarantee that there was a LdZ signature on the back. There isn't, but I love the document anyhow!

Your aunt Emma would be my second cousin. Her mom Elizabeth would have been my first cousin once removed and my father's first cousin. He probably knew her because he grew up in Houston. I grew up mostly in Maryland but spent summers in Texas. I have no first cousins, but surely wish I did!

My father and brother's ashes are interred at the cemetery at San Jacinto. I always make a visit there when I get to Texas. I live in GA now.

I am absolutely thrilled with your politics! How did you become a progressive growing up in south Texas? I will say it is hard being liberal in GA!--but there are a bunch of us determined to make GA blue, and Jimmy Carter's grandson is running for governor.

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on August 03, 2014:

I talked to my Aunt Emma to be sure about this. My Aunt must be your first cousin! She said you might know her mother who was called "Liza" de Zavala (Liza for Elizabeth). It's my aunt's grandparents, Emma (Singleton) de Zavala and Sidney de Zavala at the Zavala cemetery on the San Jacinto Battlefield.

In my Zavala article I state I have a "family connection". I'm not blood related to Emily and Lorenzo. My aunt married my father's brother.

Does your family have any historically important documents? Do you recall any of these connections to your cousins?

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on August 03, 2014:

I talked to my Aunt Emma to be sure about this. My Aunt must be your first cousin! She said you might know her mother who was called "Liza" de Zavala (Liza for Elizabeth). It's my aunt's grandparents, Emma (Singleton) de Zavala and Sidney de Zavala at the Zavala cemetery on the San Jacinto Battlefield.

In my Zavala article I state I have a "family connection". I'm not blood related to Emily and Lorenzo. My aunt married my father's brother.

Does your family have any historically important documents? Do you recall any of these connections to your cousins?

KZWHEELER on August 03, 2014:

Hey Joeyallen. You are indeed related to Lorenzo de Zavala if Sidney was your aunt's grandfather (How was she your aunt?). Sidney was my great-uncle, brother of my grandfather Victor, who was Lorenzo's grandson as was Sidney. Their father was Ricardo de Zavala. Sidney married Emma Singleton. My grandfather married her cousin Elizabeth Singleton. The Singletons also have a huge background in Texas history. Lorenzo bought his home on the bayou from Philip Singleton, who named a son for Lorenzo de Zavala.

Kerry Allen (author) from SE Texas on July 06, 2014:

Thanks, Lady Guinevere! Checkout "What Died With the Angel of the Alamo". The "Angel of the Alamo" was Lorenzo's granddaughter Adina de Zavala.

Debra Allen from West By God on July 05, 2014:

Very informative hub.

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