Stories From Old Tampico
A Man Who Went From Rustler to Marquis

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

The Cattle of Tamaulipas
Cattle and Rustlers Were Abundant
Back in the old days, in the southern part of Tamaulipas, there was a lot of cattle in the countryside, especially along the roads.

People who lived back then, used to say that in order to travel the roads, you needed to carry along a pole to shoo the cattle away so that you could pass.

Perhaps because of this there were gangs of cattle rustlers who made a fortune in this productive business.
Southern Tamaulipas
El Señor "El Don"
And among these cattle rustling gangs, there was a certain man I will call "El Don", for the sake of anonymity.

His men specialized in killing cattle to utilize their hide, since that was all they utilized.

Then, the hides were exported to other countries, and went through Customs at the Port of Tampico.
The Hacienda
"El Don´s" Hacienda
"El Don" had an hacienda near Horcasitas, and what a fine place it was!

It was a miniature Trianon in the jungle!

The basements were immense and it was where he had tanks full of salt water in which to soak the hides.

And it was a gold mine, too!

But, no one could discover this treasure, because as far as this was concerned, it wasn´t available for indiscrete glances.
The Living Room
A Home in Tampico for Opera Season
In Tampico, he also had a regal house, but without the basements. It was built in the French style that reigned at that time.

And they used the house in Tampico during the Opera Season, the season for Grand Balls, and the Bathing Season on the Gulf.

For the Bathing Season at La Barra, the whole family would take a special train car at 2PM in the afternoon and return at 6PM.

Everyone took along food in enormous picnic baskets which usually had sandwiches made from shrimp, soda crackers with cheese from Flanders, and all kinds of cookies.

It was said that the iodized air of the ocean awakened the appetite.

And the ritual was to take 9 dips in the ocean to take the most advantage of it, then leave the water and try not to catch a chill.
The Corridor
But, the Gang Overdid It
But "El Señor Don´s" gang overdid it with their misdeeds, and eventually they devastated the region.

Although they couldn´t ignore who was the head of these "bandoleros", they couldn´t prove it.

There were innumerable complaints to the Governor of the State and from the mayors of the neighboring towns, but nothing could be done because of the man´s ingenuity.

It was almost diabolical.

Troops sent to chase the rustlers always failed because the rustlers had horses so fast they almost had wings.

But the mystery was they there were spies who were splendidly paid.

The spies followed the troop movements, and since the rustlers knew ahead of time, they were never caught.

The President Heard About It
These gruesome exploits made so much noise that they came to the ears of don Porfirio Díaz, the President of Mexico back then, After considering the pros and cons, and to stress the failures of the Army sent the "gendarmes", or the national police, to Tampico to surprise the gang. And, without the knowledge of anyone.

The Comandante de Policía back in those dignified and respectable days was Don Emilio Cardona, who with the instructions received, was sure he could trap the criminal. The whole operation was prepared with great secrecy. However since the "gendarmerie" went on horseback, one of the hidden spies saw them from the bushes, and went riding ahead of them with the news.

But, "El Don" didn´t lose his head.

His Salvation
Although the raid was unexpected, he had to get the hides out of the salt water tanks, and send his men and horses off to hide in the countryside. And there wasn´t much time. But, where would he find the time he needed?

But, soon he began to laugh.

He knew where he would get the time. Yes, he had found his salvation!

His Wife´s Horse
"El Don" ordered his wife´s horse to be saddled quickly. She was talented and cultured, and she understood the importance of her assignment, so she quickly galloped off on her sorrel horse to encounter the gendarmerie.

When she saw them off in the distance, she dismounted, and stood in the road to wait for them. This caused the chivalrous comandante to also dismount from his own horse and pay his respects to the lady.

The lady caught the comandante up in conversation since her assignment was gain as much time as possible. When she finally got back on her horse, they proceeded at the gate of the sorrel, at a very slow step. The comandante matched the ladies step, and he must have regretted this unfortunate encounter that ruined the minute by minute plans he had so carefully made. That would have been the only way to catch them red handed.

Mission Completed
Without a doubt, the lady had done her assignment well and had achieved her goal because the gendarmerie didn´t find any trace of the hides, or suspicious people. It was only too late that the comandante realized that he had fallen into a trap.

But the visit of the gendarmerie wasn´t entirely fruitless, it marked the end of the exploits of "El Don" and his famous gang of rustlers.

From Rustler to Marquis
"El Don" left these lands, and went to Mexico City to La Capital to live like a king, or better yet, a Marquis. This is what the people say. And to round off his lineage he had actually purchased the Title of Marquis.

How easy it seems to scale the summit, living in this Promised Land, and then leaving the countryside of Tamaulipas!

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