FROM THE PAST: Cavazos captured by Comanche

Special to the Parade

From the Past pic2-4-4-13The story of the local Spanish beauty, Juana Josefina Cavazos, who was kidnapped by the Comanche that wintered in this area, was one of the favorite romantic tales published in newspapers and magazines in the early 1900s.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, “It was on August 15, 1844, that the Comanche raided South Texas near the Rio Grande and captured Juana, who was in her teenage years. One account reports that she was held captive for seven months, while another reports three years, but Juana’s own testimony suggests she may have been captive less than a month.”

From the Past pic1-4-4-13Who was Juana? She was part of one of the first Spanish families to establish a ranch and responsible in colonizing the left bank of the Rio Grande on the site of Brownsville.

It is written that, “She was born in Mexico and the daughter of Maria Josefina Cavazos with Spanish and Italian lineage and descendent of the Canary Islanders.”

Her capture could have been part of any cowboy and Indian movie – it happened like a typical scene in a Hollywood film. She was picked up by a raiding band of Comanche, absent the sound of the Cavalry’s bugle in pursued; they quickly vanished with her toward the north. The Comanche now had a valuable commodity they could later use for trade purposes.

An interesting twist to the story is the fact that Juana’s half-brother, Juan Cortina, was outraged by her capture and which later figures in this story.

A newspaper report wrote then, “That this was the same Cortina, whose exploits later on would include the capture of Brownsville and rise to a generalship in the Mexican Army and governor’s chair of Tamaulipas.”

Josefina’s story did not end up like Cynthia Ann Parker of North Texas, who was captured and adopted the Indian ways and married a Comanche chief…

Instead, her romantic tale starts within weeks of her capture, a young American trader and U.S. agent of the Brazos Indian Reservation, George Barnard, used sweetness to secure her rescue. It was a done deal; Barnard lassoed the Spanish beauty for 25 pounds of sugar. The purchased girl became George’s wife. You could say that it was love at first sight or was it?

Account of their romance which followed was first published in 1910. Her story, which read like a “Mexican Novela,” later reveals that George traded her off for $300 worth of horses and merchandise.

But later somehow, another exchange occurred and Juana was once again engaged in a romantic love triangle leading to the marriage of George’s brother, Charles. But this trade, unlike the ones before, was everlasting, as Charles and Juana, who settled in Central Texas, had 14 children, 25 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

Juana Cavazos was born in 1822 and died in February 1, 1906. You can read the rest of her story in “Juana, A Spanish Girl in Central Texas,” by Pearl Andrus.

The Brownsville Herald reported that, “the Identity of Josefina as a member of the Brownsville Cavazos family was established in suits that the Cavazos family brought against the U.S. Government for occupying Cavazos property and building Fort Brown on it.”

Gen. Juan Cortina, who never forgave the Indians for the kidnapping of his beautiful half-sister – executed a successful campaign against them. And the last time they were seen, was in retreat. Historians credit Cortina with wiping out near Boca Chica the last band of wild Indians seen in the area.

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