Gregorio Cortez is a Mexican folk hero. The sheriff had come to ask him about a missing mare, but the translator mistakenly specified that it was a missing horse. The situation turned ugly. In the following confusion, the sheriff shot his brother Roman, and Gregorio shot the sheriff. He escaped and was captured, put on trial for murder, found not guilty, and released.

This outcome sat poorly with the authorities, who arrested him again -- this time for stealing a horse. He was found guilty and sentenced to over 99 years in prison.

Months later, the governor of Texas honored the plea of Abraham Lincoln's daughter for clemency. Gregorio Cortez was set free.

Then his enemies poisoned him.


Gregorio Cortez' life and death are chronicled in a corrido, or ballad. The corrido was then made into a film starring Edward James Olmos.

Here are the original lyrics, with my (surely flawed) attempt at a simultaneous translation.

En el condado del Carmen            In El Carmen County
miren lo que ha sucedido,           See what has happened:
Murió el sherife mayor              The sheriff is dead
quedando Román herido.              and Román is wounded.

Otro día por la mañana              The next morning
cuando la gente llegó,              when everyone showed up,
Unos a los otros dicen              they said to each other:
no saben quien lo mató.             "Nobody knows who killed him."

Se anduvieron informando            They started investigating
como tres horas después,            some three hours later,
Supieron que el malhechor           and found that the culprit
era Gregorio Cortez.                was Gregorio Cortez.

Insortaron a Cortez                 Cortez was an outlaw
por toditito el estado              throughout the state,
Vivo o muerto que se aprehenda      wanted dead or alive
porque a varios ha matado.          for killing several people.

Decía Gregorio Cortez               Gregorio Cortez said
con su pistola en la mano,          with his gun in his hand,
--No siento haberlo matado          "I'm not sorry I killed him.
al que siento es a mi hermano.--    I'm sorry my brother is dead."

Decía Gregorio Cortez               Gregorio Cortez said,
con su alma muy encendida,          his very soul ablaze,
--No siento haberlo matado          "I'm not the murderer here.
la defensa es permitida.--          A man can defend his family."

Venían los americanos               The Americans were on their way,
que por el viento volaban,          riding hell for leather
porque se iban a ganar              because they stood to get
tres mil pesos que les daban.       a $3000 bounty.

Siguió con rumbo a Gonzáles,        He hightailed it for Gonzáles,
varios sherifes lo vieron,          and some lawmen saw him go,
no lo quisieron seguir              but they didn't want to chase him
porque le tuvieron miedo.           because they were scared.

Venían los perros jaunes            Then came the bloodhounds,
venían sobre la huella              Came to the manhunt,
Pero alcanzar a Cortez              But could no more catch Cortez
era alcanzar a una estrella.        Than a star in the sky.

Decía Gregorio Cortez               Gregorio Cortez said,
--Pa' qué se valen de planes,       "What do they plan to do
si no pueden agarrarme              if they can't catch me,
ni con esos perros jaunes.--        even with bloodhounds?"

Decían los americanos               The Americans said,
--Si lo vemos qué le haremos,       "When we see him, what we'll do to him!
si le entramos por derecho          If we flank him on the right
muy poquitos volveremos.--          we'll be home before we know it."

En el redondel del rancho           They arrived at a ranch corral
lo alcanzaron a rodear,             in time to surround it,
Poquitos más de trescientos         more than 300 men
y allí les brincó el corral.        arrayed all around it.

Allá por el Encinal                 There at the Encinal,
a según por lo que dicen            just as they'd said,
Se agarraron a balazos              they opened fire.
y les mató otro sherife.            Another sheriff was dead.
                                   [killed by friendly fire!]

Decía Gregorio Cortez               Gregorio Cortez said,
con su pistola en la mano,          pistol in hand,
--No corran rinches cobardes        "All those cowardly rangers
con un solo mexicano.--             can't keep up with one Mexican."

Giró con rumbo a Laredo             He headed for Laredo,
sin ninguna timidez,                without any fear,
--¡Síganme rinches cobardes,        "Right this way, you cowards,
yo soy Gregorio Cortez!--           I am Gregorio Cortez!"

Gregorio le dice a Juan             Gregorio said to Juan
en el rancho del Ciprés,            at the Cypress Ranch,
--Platícame qué hay de nuevo,       "What's the latest news?
yo soy Gregorio Cortez.--           I am Gregorio Cortez."

Gregorio le dice a Juan,            Gregorio said to Juan,
--Muy pronto lo vas a ver,          "Pretty soon you'll see.
anda háblale a los sherifes         I'm going to talk to those sheriffs
que me vengan a aprehender.--       who have come to arrest me."

Cuando llegan los sherifes          When the sheriffs arrived
Gregorio se presentó,               Gregorio made his appearance,
--Por la buena si me llevan         "It's the only way they'll get me,
porque de otro modo no.--           they'd never catch me otherwise."

Ya agarraron a Cortez               They've got him, anyway.
ya terminó la cuestión,             So much for that question.
la pobre de su familia              The poor people of his family
la lleva en el corazón.             took that to heart.

Ya con esto me despido              And so here I am,
con la sombra de un Ciprés,         in the shade of the Cypress,
aquí se acaba cantando              Finished singing about
la tragedia de Cortez.              the tragedy of Cortez.

NOTE: I'm not fluent in Spanish, especially Mexican Spanish, so corrections would be greatly appreciated! Thanks to baffo who has helped me already.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.