Early Texas Heroes: Lorenzo de Zavala, Vice President of the Republic of Texas
Lorenzo de Zavala Chosen As Interim Vice President
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 America’s. Wow…Texas’ first Vice President was quite a scholarly prophet!
Adina de Zavala"Angel of the Alamo"
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Lorenzo Denounces Santa Anna as Mexican Dictator
Santa Anna and Lorenzo de Zavala were the chief political figures promoting an American-style democracy in Mexico. However, Santa Anna, as Mexico”s president in 1833 sent Zavala to France to be Mexico's first minister plenipotentiary in Paris, France. Since Zavala was Santa Anna's chief political rival perhaps he wanted to send Zavala far away before he forcefully took over as dictator. When Zavala heard of the takeover, he denounced Santa Anna and resigned his post. In the following months he moved back to America. During Zavala's time as a diplomat he received news of his wife Teresa's death. Since he could not return to Mexico he traveled to New York City where he met and married Emily West a while later. It is from this union that my Aunt Emma is directly descended.
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 utimately 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 dictatorship and quickly joined the Texans’ fight for independence. Santa Anna surely must have been angered by Zavala's part in the Texas Revolution.
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. During his stay on Galveston Island he was in failing health. 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.