Gregorio Cortez Lira, a ranchhand of Mexican parentage, was virtually unknown until one summer day in 1901 when he and a Texas sheriff, pistols in hand, blazed away at each other after a misunderstanding. The sheriff was killed and Gregorio fled immediately, realizing that in practice there was one law for Anglo-Texans, another for Texas-Mexicans. The chase, capture, and imprisonment of Cortez are high drama that cannot easily be forgotten. Even today, in the cantinas along both sides of the Rio Grande, Mexicans sing the praises of the great "sheriff-killer" in the ballad which they call "El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez."
Américo Paredes tells the story of Cortez, the man and the legend, in vivid, fascinating detail in "With His Pistol in His Hand," which also presents a unique study of a ballad in the making. Deftly woven into the story are interpretations of the Border country, its history, its people, and their folkways.
Américo Paredes (1915–1999) was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and founded the UT Center for Mexican American Studies.
To see why Gregorio became a folk hero, one only has to remember that in practice there was one law for Anglo-Texans, another for Texas Mexicans. The chase, capture, and imprisonment of Cortez are high drama.... This is an extraordinary book.
~Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin
Part One: Gregorio Cortez, the Legend and the Life
Chapter I: The Country
The Rio Grande people
Mier, the Alamo, and Goliad
The Texas Rangers
Chapter II: The Legend
How they sing El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez
How Gregorio Cortez came to be in the county of El Carmen
Román's horse trade and what came of it
How Gregorio Cortez rode the little sorrel mare all of five hundred miles
How El Teco sold Gregorio Cortez for a morral full of silver dollars
How Gregorio Cortez went to prison, but not for killing the sheriffs
How President Lincoln's daughter freed Gregorio Cortez, and how he was poisoned and died
Chapter III: The Man
A likable young man
The sheriff is interpreted to death
The long walk
The Battle of Belmont
The long ride
The battle of the courts
"Through thick and thin"
The last days
Chapter IV: The Hero's Progress
Theme and variations
Fact and fancy
Cortez as a folk hero
Part Two: El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez, a Ballad of Border Conflict
Chapter V: The Corrido on the Border
Before the corrido
The corrido century
The earliest Border corridos
Ballads borrowed from Greater Mexico
Border outlaw corridos
The Borderer against the fuereño
The Border Mexican against the rinches
The corrido of border conflict as a dominant form
Chapter VI: Variants of Gregorio Cortez
Chapter VII: Gregorio Cortez, a Study
Change and development
Versification, rhythm, and structure
The use of the imperfect and of syllable-supplying devices
Corrido imagery in Gregorio Cortez
The corrido language
Conventions which the Border corrido has borrowed from Greater Mexico
Conventions which have been developed in El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez
Chapter VIII: A Last Word
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