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Texas Originals

The Cattle Queen of Texas: Rosa Maria Hinojosa de Ballí

She was known as the first “cattle queen” of Texas, owning more than a million acres in South Texas, on which cattle was raised.


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In 1790, the woman now known as the first “cattle queen” of Texas — Rosa Maria Hinojosa de Ballí — inherited 55,000 acres in what is now South Texas. Her father and husband had applied to the Spanish crown for the land, but both died before their request was approved.

It soon became clear that in addition to the land, Doña Rosa possessed a strong will, exceptional foresight, and shrewd business skills.

From her ranch headquarters in what is now Cameron County, Doña Rosa set about to improve her land, expand her holdings, and rid the estate of the debt that came with her inheritance. She acquired herds of cattle, sheep, and other livestock. She applied for and received land grants on behalf of her three sons, including a portion of Padre Island, which was named for her son Nicolás, a priest who helped develop the island. Her goal was to establish a ranching empire for her family.

Deeply religious, Doña Rosa was also a generous benefactor of Catholic churches throughout the region, earning her the nickname “La Patrona.” Her name appears in local church records as the godmother at scores of baptisms.

When she died, in 1803, just thirteen years after her original inheritance, Doña Rosa owned more than a million acres of ranch land in the lower Rio Grande Valley.


Additional information


Selected bibliography

Alonzo, Armando. Tejano Legacy: Rancheros and Settlers in South Texas, 1734–1900 Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.

García, Clotilde P., “Hinojosa de Ballí, Rosa María,” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed July 31, 2013.

Gilbert, Minnie. “Texas’ First Cattle Queen.” In Roots by the River, 15–25. Mission, TX: Border Kingdom Press, 1978.

Graham, Joe S. El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change from 1750. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1994.

Greaser, Galen. New Guide to Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in South Texas. Austin: Texas General Land Office, 2009.

Scott, Florence J. Royal Land Grants North of the Rio Grande, 1777–1821. Waco: Texian Press, 1969.

Tijerina, Andres. Tejano Empire:  Life on the South Texas Ranchos. College Station:  Texas A&M Press, 1998.