EAGLE PASS, Texas – Along the border of the Lone Star State sits Eagle Pass, its sister city sitting on the other side of the Rio Piedras Negras. Since the 1840’s these towns have grown together, but in the beginning the Mexican War put the people on particular sides of the stream at odds. However, that didn’t stop a bit of business between the border towns.
“Growing up in Piedras and growing up in Eagle Pass is something quite unique I would say,” said Joe Cruz, the Main Street Manager of Eagle Pass.
Cruz has lived on both sides of the border and now works for the city of Eagle Pass, helping tell its complex and copious history.
We met Joe at Fort Duncan, which was established in 1849.
“You pass by through the outside and it looks really small,” Joe said. “You think nothings really in here, but once people walk in they’re very surprised at what we have inside.”
The story of this former U.S. Army post doesn’t just consist of two countries, it also involves the native people, a civil war, a Wild West Texas town, and a country or two that came together.
Ramsey Cantu is the Mayor of Eagle Pass and growing up here has given him a unique outlook on life. It’s not often you’ll find a town rooted with Mexican, American, and even Native American stories to tell.
“Eagle Pass’ success has never been something that we’ve done on our own, but we’ve done it as a collective society,” Ramsey said. “The one great thing about being part of this community is the cultures that we live through.”
It wasn’t long after the Mexican War that the forts main focus was driving off Apaches, but the Civil War forced federal troops to retreat. As the Civil War came to a close, the last Confederate force in the field crossed into Mexico from Eagle Pass and buried and flag in the river that’s become a tough topic in history.
It’s a symbol that still makes most do a double take and here in Eagle Pass, they play a significant role is the final chapter of the Confederacy, hence the reason they feel it’s important to tell the story.
“Interesting history that we also have in Eagle Pass, the last Confederate battle flag that ever flew was buried in the Rio Grande here,” Joe explained. “On the border, we have a park named Shelby Park, and it’s named after General Joseph Shelby. He is the one who buried that confederate flag.”
Here you’ll find the story of the Black Seminole Scouts. Thirteen of these brave men of African American and Seminole descent were among the most revered and crucial contributors to the Texas-Indian Wars.
“They knew the area very well. They knew how to survive on very little. They knew how to manage on the little resources they had, and they were very good fighters also,” Joe explained. “Four of them received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and they have a very beautiful history, very unique history.”
During the Mexican Revolution, Fort Duncan was home to 16,000 soldiers, its peak population, but eventually relations become a bit more civilized and the fort was turned over to the city. Now it’s filled to the brim with the stories that shaped the region.
“You want to hear stories about the fort, about soldiers, about Mexican revolution, gun slingers, and so on, you need to come to Fort Duncan,” Joe says.