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Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border : Governor Colquitt, President Wilson, and the Vergara Affair

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In early 1914, Clemente Vergara discovered several of his horses missing and reported the theft to local authorities. The Webb County sheriff arranged for the South Texas rancher to meet with Mexican soldiers near Hidalgo to discuss compensation for his loss. Vergara crossed the Rio Grande, soon succumbed to a vicious physical assault, and was jailed. Days after incarceration in Hidalgo, his body was found hanging from a tree.

The murder of Clemente Vergara contributed to events that put the United States and Mexico on the brink of war and opened the door for expanded American involvement in Mexico. Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt seized upon the incident to challenge President Woodrow Wilson—a fellow Democrat—to intervene and even threatened retaliation by the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the White House played a larger strategic game with competing factions in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. Wilson’s apparent inaction heightened Colquitt’s demands to guarantee the safety of Americans and their property in the Texas borderlands, and the Vergara affair’s extensive media coverage convinced many Americans that intervention in Mexico was necessary.

Author John A. Adams Jr. shows how an otherwise commonplace horse theft and murder revealed a tangled web of international relations, powerful business interests, and intrigue on both sides of the border. Readers will be captivated by Murder and Intrigue on the Mexican Border and the continuing legacy that border events leave on Texas history.

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