December 30, 1799
Mexico, New Spain
|Died||November 13, 1863
San Patricio, Texas, C.S.A.
|Criminal penalty||Death by hanging|
Josefa "Chipita" Rodriguez (December 30, 1799 – November 13, 1863) was convicted of murder and hanged in San Patricio County, Texas, at the age of 63. She was not the first woman to be put to death by the state of Texas. The first woman was Jane Elkins. It was May 27, 1863, when they carried out Judge John H Reagan’s orders and hanged her in downtown Dallas, right where the Old Red Courthouse is today. A century later, on June 13, 1985, the Texas Legislature passed a resolution noting that Rodriguez did not receive a fair trial. She has been the subject of two operas, numerous books, newspaper articles, and magazine accounts.
Trial and execution
Rodriguez was reportedly born December 30, 1799, in Mexico. She was a Mexican-American woman from the South Texas town of San Patricio who furnished travelers with meals and a cot on the porch of her lean-to on the Nueces River. She was accused of robbing and murdering a trader named John Savage with an axe. However, the $600 of gold stolen from him was found down river, where Savage's body was discovered in a burlap bag. She and Juan Silvera (who was possibly her illegitimate son) were indicted on circumstantial evidence and tried before 14th District Court judge Benjamin F. Neal at San Patricio. Although Rodriguez maintained her innocence, she refused to testify in her defense and remained silent throughout the trial, perhaps, some have speculated, to protect her guilty son. Although the jury recommended mercy, Neal ordered her executed. She was hung on Friday, November 13, 1863. She was 63 at the time of her death. Her last words were quoted as being, "No soy culpable" (I am not guilty). At least one witness to the hanging claimed to have heard a moan from the coffin, which was placed in an unmarked grave. Her ghost is said to haunt San Patricio, especially when a woman is to be executed. Rodriguez is depicted as a spectre with a noose around her neck, riding through the mesquite trees or wailing from the riverbottoms.
Chipita Rodriguez has become a folk legend, and since the 1930s, there have been numerous alleged sightings of her ghost along the Nueces River where she was hanged.
Rodriguez has been the subject of numerous books and newspaper articles. Rachel Bluntzer Hebert’s epic-length poem "Shadows on the Nueces" and Teresa Palomo Acosta's poem "Chipita" both portray Rodriguez as a heroine. In 1993, the University of Texas music department performed the opera Chipita Rodriguez, composed by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi professor Lawrence Weiner. In 2010 a screenplay was written by Del Mar College and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student screenwriter Cary Cadena.
- "Handbook of Texas Online - Rodriguez, Josefa #93". Tshaonline.org. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
- "Chipita's execution haunts local memory". Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Retrieved 2008-11-26.