Art Martínez de Vara’s Tejano Patriot: The Revolutionary Life of José Francisco Ruiz, 1783–1840 is the first full-length biography of this important figure in Texas history. Best known as one of two Texas-born signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, Ruiz’s significance extends far beyond that single event. Born in San Antonio de Béxar to an upwardly mobile family, during the war for Mexican independence Ruiz underwent a dramatic transformation from a conservative royalist to one of the staunchest liberals of his era.
Steeped in the Spanish American liberal tradition, his revolutionary activity included participating in three uprisings, suppressing two others, and enduring extreme personal sacrifice for the liberal republican cause. He was widely respected as an intermediary between Tejanos and American Indians, especially the Comanches. As a diplomat, he negotiated nearly a dozen peace treaties for Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas, and he traveled to the imperial court of Mexico as an agent of the Comanches to secure peace on the northern frontier. When Anglo settlers came by the thousands to Texas after 1820, he continued to be a cultural intermediary, forging a friendship with Stephen F. Austin, but he always put the interests of Béxar and his fellow Tejanos first.
Ruiz had a notable career as a military leader, diplomat, revolutionary, educator, attorney, arms dealer, author, ethnographer, politician, Indian agent, Texas ranger, city attorney, and Texas senator. He was a central figure in the saga that shaped Texas from a remote borderland on New Spain’s northern frontier to an independent republic.