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Texas Originals

Texas Originals: Lorenzo de Zavala

He opposed Spanish rule over Mexico and then opposed Mexican rule over Texas. Fought with the Texians against Mexico for Texas Independence and became the Republic of Texas' first Vice President


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Portrait of Lorenzo de Zavala
Portrait of Lorenzo de Zavala.


October 3, 1788–November 15, 1836


Born in Yucatan in 1788, Lorenzo de Zavala dedicated much of his life to fighting oppression. That was certainly true when his former ally, Santa Anna, established a centralized regime suppressing Mexican Federalism. Zavala did the only thing he could to weaken the leader's iron grip: he helped bring about the Texas Revolution.

Zavala's political experience and reputation as a principled fighter made him an ideal ally for the Texas cause. Earlier in life, he was jailed for criticizing Spanish rule over Mexico. And after Mexico's independence was established in 1821, he helped write the new country's Constitution.

During his time in Mexico, Zavala held many elected and appointed offices. But in 1834, Zavala's allegiance would shift north. That's when Santa Anna's consolidation of power grew strong. Zavala resigned in protest and headed to Texas to support the independence movement.

Zavala's new loyalty to Texas was complete. He signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, helped write the Texas constitution, and served as the Republic's first vice president.

In October of 1836, ill health forced him to step away from public life. A month later, on a near freezing day in November, Zavala's rowboat ... with him in it, overturned in Buffalo Bayou. Zavala developed pneumonia from which he never recovered. The hero who helped secure Texas independence was laid to rest in a family cemetery near the San Jacinto Battleground.

Handwritten letter from Zavala
Letter from Zavala to Prest/Cabinet, June 3rd 1836

Selected Bibliography

Estep, Raymond. “Lorenzo de Zavala and the Texas Revolution.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 57: 322-335.
Estep, Raymond. “Zavala, Lorenzo De.” Handbook of Texas Online.
Henson, Margaret Swett. Lorenzo de Zavala, the Pragmatic Idealist. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996.
“Lorenzo de Zavala.” Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Rivera, John-Michael. “'A Complete Though Bloody Victory': Lorenzo de Zavala and the Transnational Paradoxes of Sovereignty." American Literary History 18, no. 3 (2006): 427-445.

This episode first aired May 11, 2012.