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Poor Mexico (CEC)

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Cynthia Ann Parker, perhaps the most famous white captive of the Comanches. Shown here after her capture by Texas Rangers in 1860 with her daughter, Prairie Flower.

For more than a decade, Comanches increased the tempo of their raids into Mexico carrying captured livestock and goods to a voracious American market while hitting Texan settlements along the way. Hundreds of Mexicans and dozens of Texans passed into captivity. Just a month after Texian insurgents defeated Mexican forces at San Jacinto, a party of Comanches and Kiowas, moved along the Texas frontier guided by local Wichitas, searching for targets of opportunity. On May 19, they attacked Parker’s Fort, a settlement near the Navasota River, carrying nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker and four others into captivity.

That spring and summer, Comanches also marauded in Chihuahua. The next spring, 500 warriors fell upon the Mexican settlements along the lower Rio Grande. These warriors returned, plunder laden, to their homes along the upper Colorado and Brazos. What they brought must have made an impression. In the summer of 1837, 1,000 Comanche warriors returned to Tamaulipas to pillage and loot.

As this violence escalated, Northern Mexico became denuded of horses and mules. Its towns struggled to cope with an influx of refugees from the ravaged ranches and haciendas of the countryside. Thousands of people were dead. Hundreds had disappeared into the great abyss of Comancheria. The economy of the northern tier of Mexican states had fallen to shambles.

The Comanches at the same time became unwitting agents of American Manifest Destiny. Their raids distracted and weakened the Mexican capacity to retake Texas from the secessionist insurgents. The Indian wars also debilitated Mexico’s ability to mount a systematic and effective defense to counter and American invasion. Eventually, the loss of Texas and the disaster of the Mexican War caused half of the nation to transfer into American hands. This calamity to Mexico’s ambitions was crafted in part by Comanche fire and lance.