“Tatita” was hot topic of conversation in 1861 brush country

It snowed in South Texas at the start of 1861; and that was only the beginning of curious happenings around San Diego and Corpus Christi. One particular item had the entire area talking.

A saint reportedly appeared in Camargo. Accounts came to the area that the saint fed thousands with three tortillas and cured the sick and blind. One observer said the saint used a mixture of “agua ardiente” and water rubbed in an affected area to perform amazing healing.

Initial reports had the saint being about 17 but appearing old with a beard. Mexican Federales shaved off the saint’s beard and asked him to grow it back to prove he was a saint. After turning around for a moment, the soldiers looked at him again and the saint’s beard was back. The man said he had come to serve the Mexican people and that another man would kill him but he asked the people not to harm him.

The story got even more interesting. Reports had the devil following the saint in a black horse. Accounts from the border said the devil distributed never-ending amounts of money. D. Glover & Co. advertised in the Ranchero that the “Mexican prophet is coming to Corpus Christi.”

A description of the saint appeared in the Ranchero in a letter received by a reader from a friend in Laredo, who saw the saint in Mier. The writer described the saint as a “nice old fellow” the people called “Tatita.” He further described him as being about 60 years old and was “very dark and vulgar looking.”

He had a “long white beard reaching halfway to his waist; gray mustache and hair” and wore a “hat of old high crowned broad brimmed Mexican style black wool; a coat of striped sack cloth; pants the same, a dirty white shirt opened down bottom.” He wore sandals tied with string coming up the toes on a pair of very dirty feet.

The writer reported between 1,500 and 2,000 people following the saint and kissing his hands and feet. The saint supposedly bought cattle and gave them to his followers. He also distributed clothing. “Don’t know where the money comes from,” wrote the Laredo observer. The writer spent and conversed with the saint all day. The saint told him “there would never be peace until the world was destroyed.”

“I have seen, and unless I had, would not believe,” concluded the letter writer.

After three months of dominating conversations in the brush country, reports of the saint faded. “The Mexican Saint,” reported the Ranchero, “at last, has received a commission permitting him to leave the scene of his labors within 24 hours under penalty of becoming a martyr.”

Life returned to mundane activities, such as local politics and the land. Voters elected Rafael Salinas as Justice of the Peace Pct. 9 in Nueces County; Edward N. Gray Justice of the Peace in Pct. 10; and Alejandro Garcia in Pct. 11. In May, Felix Blucher resurveyed the San Andres grant for the heirs of Andres Garcia. Blucher was the Deputy District Surveyor of the Nueces District. Chain carriers for the survey included Antonio Bermudes, Cayetano Villarreal, Abram de los Santos and Cayetano Molina.

All would soon change in the brush country, as the Civil War would invade the area.

2 Comments on "“Tatita” was hot topic of conversation in 1861 brush country"

  1. Good job Alfredo. Excellent story of south Texas history. I noticed San Diego was under Nueces County in 1861.

  2. Thanks RJ. Yes, San Diego was in Nueces. Duval County had been created but not yet organized. By the way, I got an interesting email form a Mexico historian who is writing a book on Tatita. I may have an update on Tatita next week.

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