With His Pistol in His Hand
276 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jan 1958

With His Pistol in His Hand

A Border Ballad and Its Hero

SERIES: Texas Classics
University of Texas Press

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.

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
      • Nuevo Santander
      • 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 capture
      • Aftermath
      • The battle of the courts
      • "Through thick and thin"
      • The pardon
      • The last days
      • Epilogue
    • 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
      • The variants
      • Narrative style
      • 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
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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