Cortina, Juan Nepomuceno, 1824–94, Mexican military leader and politician. Born into a wealthy cattle-ranching family that moved to the Rio Grande Valley, Cortina joined the Mexican army in 1846 and formed an irregular cavalry regiment that fought against the United States in the Mexican War. After the war, his family's lands were divided between the two countries. Cortina became active in Texas politics and formed a militia that thwarted the eviction of poor Mexican-Americans from their lands. In 1859, following a confrontation with the Brownsville marshal, Cortina and his forces took over the town for two months, then fought Texas forces until he was driven into Mexico in 1860. In 1861, as the Civil War began, Cortina invaded Zapata co., Tex., but was quickly defeated and retreated into Mexico. In 1862 he fought alongside Benito Juárez against French intervention in Mexico, becoming (1863) a general in the Mexican army and serving (1864–66) as interim governor of Tamaulipas state. He returned to his estate in Matamoros (1870), but President Díaz) had him arrested (1876) on charges of cattle rustling. He was imprisoned until 1890, when he was released into internal exile near Mexico City.
See biographies by C. Goldfinch and J. Canales (1974) and J. Thompson (2013).
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