Lorenzo de Zavala

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Lorenzo de Zavala
Lorenzo de Zavala.jpg
Vice President of Texas
In office
March 16, 1836 – October 22, 1836
President David G. Burnet
Succeeded by Mirabeau B. Lamar
Personal details
Born October 3, 1788
Tecoh, Yucatán
Died November 15, 1836(1836-11-15) (aged 48)
Channelview, Texas

Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Sáenz, who was known by the name Lorenzo de Zavala, (October 3, 1788 – November 15, 1836) was a 19th-century liberal Mexican and Texan politician of Spanish descent.[1] He "was a leading figure at both the provincial and national level, participating in many of the defining moments that preceded [Mexican] independence from Spain" and afterwards as a major federalist, liberal politician.[2] He served as finance minister under President Vicente Guerrero.[3] He successfully petitioned the Mexican congress for grants to colonize Mexicans and non-Mexicans in Texas. His break with Antonio López de Santa Anna and Santa Anna's attempt to impose stringent controls on the Mexican state of Texas caused Zavala to join the cause for Texas independence.[4] He served as the interim Vice President of the Republic of Texas, serving under interim President David G. Burnet from March to October 1836.

Early life and education[edit]

Lorenzo de Zavala was born during Mexico's colonial era on October 3, 1788, in the town of Tecoh, Yucatán,[5] to Anastasio de Zavala y Velázquez and María Bárbara Sáenz. Young Zavala's parents were criollos, Spanish Basques born in the colonies. Zavala was a third-generation Yucatecan. His grandfather, Simón Felipe Antonio de Zavala y Marín, was born in 1725 soon after his father, José, had moved to the Yucatán peninsula from Peru. Simón became a notary as a legal representative in Spanish-speaking countries.[6]

Zavala was educated in Mérida, colonial Yucatán's provincial capital, in the Francisccan Seminario Conciliar de San Ildefonso, founded in 1851.[6] There he studied the standard curriculum of Latin, morals, scholastic theology, and classical philosophy. On his own, he studied French and political economy, and he came to advocate anticlericalism, democratic ideals, and reading Enlightenment philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau. For his journalistic advocacy of such positions, the Spanish crown imprisoned him for three years (1814–17).[4][7] He studied English and medical textbooks while in prison, and was ready to practice medicine upon his release in 1817.

Political career[edit]

In 1808, the political crisis in Spain and the Spanish empire was the result of Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Iberian and the ouster of the Bourbon monarchy in favor of his brother Joseph Bonaparte. A crisis of legitimacy of royal government occurred in many parts of Spanish America. In Mexico the 1810 revolt by secular cleric Miguel Hidalgo had raised the specter of social revolution, such that American-born Spaniards (creoles) did not pursue political independence. With the defeat of Napoleon and the 1814 restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, Ferdinand VII renounced the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 that called for a constitutional monarchy and restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church. When Zavala was released from prison in 1817, he returned to Mérida and agitated for the restoration of the 1812 constitution.[8] In 1820, Spanish liberals overturned Ferdinand VII and convened the Spanish Cortes (legislature). Zavala was elected to the Cortes as the representative of Yucatán, served in Madrid until word of Mexican independence in September 1821 reached him.[8][9] With Mexican independence, a national congress was created, with Zavala elected as Yucatán's representative. He served during the period when royalist military officer turned advocate of Mexican independence, Agustín de Iturbide became emperor of Mexico; Zavala repudiated Iturbide's rule. Following the emperor's abdication, Zavala became part of the group drafting the constitution of the federal Republic of Mexico. In 1824, he was elected as President of the Constitutional Congress and was the first to sign the Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824.[8]

He was appointed as senator of Yucatán at the first Constitutional Congress and took office in January 1825. During 1827 and 1828, he was governor of the state of México.

In 1828, President Manuel Gómez Pedraza removed Lorenzo de Zavala from the office of governor of the state of México. Zavala, with support from Antonio López de Santa Anna, was able to rally most of the military in Mexico City in his favor. Four days of fighting resulted in Zavala's victory and he installed Vicente Guerrero as the new president.[10]

Written work[edit]

When it comes to Zavala it is important to recognize that his written work was mainly focus in politics. Many of Zavala's work was published in news papers. An example of this is his article he wrote called "Opinion de Don Lorenzo de Zavala". Which is an article that was published in 1835 as a response to the situation faced both in Mexico and in Texas. This article was read at the Lynchburg meeting.[11]

Lorenzo de Zavala written work is better recognized by his books titled: "Ensayo Historico de las Revoluciones de Mexico de 1808 hasta 1830" which was published in Paris 1831 and in New York in 1832. His other book titled "Viajes a los Estados-Unidos de Norte America" which was published in the Paris 1831.[11] In Zavala's book Journey to the United States of North America, written in Spanish, but was published in English translation until 1980. It was reprinted in 2005 in paperback as Journey to the United States of North America.[12] It precedes Toqueville's famous Democracy in America by five years and expresses similar opinions about America and Americans. Zavala writes in his prologue:

However, it should be very useful to Mexicans, for it is to them that I dedicate it. In it they will find a true description of the people whom their legislators have tried to imitate—a people that is hard working, active, reflective, circumspect, religious in the midst of a multiplicity of sects, tolerant, thrifty, free, proud and persevering.


Lorenzo de Zavala and his friends secretly organized the 1st Masonic Lodge in Yucatán, the Reunión a la Virtud lodge No. 9. The lodge received its charter from the Louisiana Grand Lodge in 1817. It was Zavala's relationship with his fellow masonic brothers and connections to other lodges that allowed him to gather political connections and followers prior to Mexico's Independence. Zavala was one of the key people that helped establish the York Rite Masonry in Mexico in 1826 as an alternative to the older, well established Scottish rite (Escosese) of Freemasonry that had been introduced by the aristocratic elements previously loyal to the royal House of Bourbon. That same year in 1826, the Grand Lodge of New York issue charters to five Masonic Lodges in Mexico City. These five lodges became the nucleus of the movement that favored decentralization of governmental power. Zavala became the charter Worshipful Master of Independencia Lodge No. 454. He kept his position until his exile in 1830.

He is listed as a "Masonic Hero" by the Grand Lodge of Texas.[13] Some sources state that Zavala was disgraced for revealing ritual secrets.[14]

In Texas politics[edit]

When he traveled to New York, Lorenzo de Zavala sought to interest Americans in the empresario grants he had received in 1829.[15] These grants authorized him to settle 500 families on a tract of land in what is now southeastern Texas. In October 1830, he transferred his interest in the grants to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company.[7] After spending several months during 1831 in France and England, Zavala decided to live in New York City until his return to Mexico in 1832. From December 1832 until October 1833 he again served as governor of the State of México, and in Congress as a deputy for his native state of Yucatán. In October 1833 President Antonio López de Santa Anna named Zavala to serve as the first minister plenipotentiary of the Mexican legation in Paris. When he learned that Santa Anna had assumed dictatorial powers later that year, Zavala denounced Santa Anna and resigned his commission.[1] Santa Anna warned Zavala not to return to Mexico City, but this did not stop Zavala. In 1835 he traveled to New York and then to Texas, where he briefly shared a house with his friend [16]Stephen F. Austin. Zavala was naturally drawn into the politics of Texas. He at first advocated the cause of Mexican Federalism, but later became a supporter of the independence movement. de Zavala was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence[17] on March 2, 1836. He served in the Permanent Council and later as the representative of Harrisburg in the Consultation and the Convention of 1836. Zavala's legislative, executive, and diplomatic experience uniquely qualified him to help draft the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. The respect of his fellow delegates was evident when they elected him ad interim vice president of the new republic of Texas.

Later life[edit]

In 1807 Zavala married Teresa Correa y Corres. They had three children: a son named Lorenzo Jr., a daughter named Manuela, and a daughter that died at the age of 1. Teresa died in the spring of 1831. He remarried while in exile in New York. Zavala met Emily West while in New York and married her on November 12, 1831, at the Church of the Transfiguration. To this union were born a son and two daughters. Their son Augustine, the eldest, was the father of Adina Emilia de Zavala, who played a role in the fight to preserve the Alamo. In early 1833 Emily left New York to join her husband in Toluca, Mexico, where they remained until he was named Mexican minister to France in October 1833. The Zavala family arrived at Morgan's Point, Texas, in December 1835. Zavala had bought a home on a labor of land north of Buffalo Bayou, called Zavala Point, the previous summer. Emily's citified ways reportedly were not popular in the neighborhood. When Santa Anna's troops approached in April 1836, the Zavalas fled down the San Jacinto River to the home of William Scott, where a number of families awaited a steamer to take them to safety on Galveston Island. Before the boat arrived Mrs. Zavala attempted to return to her home for a chest of silverware, but she met others fleeing the Mexican troops and retreated to Galveston. The Zavalas returned to their home in June to find that the buildings had been used for a hospital. Zavala's health declined, and he died on November 15, 1836.

Zavala rejoined his family at their home at Zavala Point on Buffalo Bayou,[7] from where they fled to Galveston Island as Santa Anna's army approached. After the Battle of San Jacinto, in accordance with the Treaties of Velasco, Zavala was appointed one of the peace commissioners to accompany Santa Anna to Mexico City, where the general was to persuade the central authorities to recognize the independence of Texas. Shortly thereafter, Zavala returned to his home due to failing health and gave up his part in the affairs of government. While out boating, his rowboat overturned in Buffalo Bayou. Zavala developed pneumonia and died at his home on November 15, 1836.[18] He preceded Austin in death by only four weeks. He is buried in his home town of Channelview, Texas. The State of Texas erected a monument over his grave.

Memorial namesakes[edit]

Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School in Crystal City, Texas
Plate of Lorenzo de Zavala, in De Zavala Plaza, Harris County, Texas Historical Marker


  1. ^ a b Estep, Raymond: Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Sáenz from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 6 June 2010. Texas State Historical Association
  2. ^ Ron Morgan, "Lorenzo de Zavala" in Encyclopedia of Mexico. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, p. 1638.
  3. ^ Katz, William Loren. "The Majestic Life of President Vicente Ramon Guerrero". William Loren Katz. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Morgan, "Lorenzo de Zavala" pp. 1638-39.
  5. ^ "Lorenzo de Zavala". Texas State Library and Archives. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Swett, Henson, Margaret (1996). Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist. Fort Worth, Texas: Texas Christian University Press.
  7. ^ a b c "Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Sáenz 1788-1836". TAMU. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Morgan, "Lorenzo de Zavala" p. 1639.
  9. ^ Normand, Pete (1986). The Texas Masons: The Fraternity of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in the History of Texas. College Station, Texas: Brazos Valley Masonic Library & Museum Assn.
  10. ^ "Lorenzo de Zavala" (in Spanish). 
  11. ^ a b https://www.tsl.texas.gov/treasures/giants/zavala-01.html
  12. ^ de Zavala, Lorenzo (2005). Journey To The United States Of North America/ Viaje A Los Estados Unidos del Norte De America. Arté Publico Press. ISBN 978-1-55885-453-6. 
  13. ^ http://www.grandlodgeoftexas.org/content/lorenzo-de-zavala-first-vice-president-republic
  14. ^ http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1542-734X.1997.2002_61.x/abstract
  15. ^ "Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to Lorenzo de Zavala, February 26, 1829". Portal to Texas History. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  16. ^ "Lorenzo de Zavala to Stephen F. Austin, November pengus 30th 1835". Portal to Texas History. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  17. ^ "Texas Declaration of Independence". Texas State Library and Arvhives Commission. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  18. ^ "Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala". Find A Grave. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  19. ^ Bergeron, Angelle. "Lorenzo de Zavala Archives and Library Building". The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  20. ^ "Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School-Irving". Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  21. ^ "Lorenzo De Zavala." Lorenzo de Zavala Elementary School (Houston). Retrieved on July 24, 2010.
  22. ^ "De Zavala Elementary School". De Zavala Elementary School. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  23. ^ http://www.midlandisd.net/Page/2749
  24. ^ "De Zavala Middle School-Amarillo". De Zavalla Middle School-Amarillo. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  25. ^ Ochoa, Ruben E: Zavala County, Tx from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 6 June 2010. Texas State Historical Association
  26. ^ "Lorenzo De Zavala Lodge #1397". Lorenzo De Zavala Lodge #1397. Retrieved 11 April 2013. , Masonic lodge, Houston, Texas

Further reading[edit]

  • Cantrell, Gregg. Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas, Yale Press, 1999
  • Cleaves, W.S. "Lorenzo de Zavala in Texas". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly Vol. 36, No. 1 (Jul., 1932), pp. 29–40
  • Davis, William C.; Lone Star Rising-The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic; Free Press; ISBN 0-684-86510-6
  • Davis, William C.; Three Roads to the Alamo; Harper Collins; ISBN 0-06-017334-3
  • Estep, Raymond. "Lorenzo de Zavala and the Texas Revolution". The Southwestern Historical QuarterlyVol. 57, No. 3 (Jan., 1954), pp. 322–335
  • Henson, Margaret Swett. Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Pre*Carter, James D. (1955); Masonry in Texas: Background, History and Influence to 1846. Waco, Texas: Grand Lodge of Texas, A.F. & A.M.s Press; ISBN 0-292-73086-1
  • Hardin, Stephen L.; Texian Iliad-A Military History of the Texas Revolution; University of Texass 1996.
  • Mexal, Stephan J. "The Logic of Liberalism: Lorenzo de Zavala's Transcultural Politics". MELUSVol. 32, No. 2, Thresholds, Secrets, and Knowledge (Summer, 2007), pp. 79–106
  • Morgan, Ron. "Lorenzo de Zavala" in Encyclopedia of Mexico. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn 1997, pp. 1638–39.
  • Normand, Pete (1986); The Texas Masons: The Fraternity of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in the History of Texas; College Station, Texas: Brazos Valley Masonic Library & Museum Assn.
  • Quintanilla Obregón, Lourdes. Zavala: Entre la historia y la actualidad y otros ensayos. Toluca, Mexico: Gobierno del Estado de México 1987.
  • Venable, Fay. North to the Rio Grande: Lorenzo de Zavala, First Vice President of the Republic of Texas. Austin: Eakin 1985.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
New office
Vice President of the Republic of Texas
(ad interim)

Succeeded by
Mirabeau B. Lamar