Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Spanish Female Ranchers in Historic Texas

By Celia Yeary

 In my first Western Historical, All My Hopes and Dreams, a female secondary character almost upstaged my heroine. I named her Starr Hidalgo. I dressed her in men’s pants that were too tight, a loose shirt, cowboy boots, and a gaucho hat that matched her black hair and eyes. She ran the adjoining ranch for her ailing parents, and she knew as much about cattle and horses as any man. Riding and ranching came natural to her, and any male in her vicinity gravitated toward her.
 The hero in this novel, Ricardo Romero, had a romantic history with this fiery woman, but had chosen a blond Anglo from the east to marry and bring home. Starr was not happy about this and disliked my heroine, Cynthia Harrington. She made her unhappiness known to both Ricado and Cynthia, but her anger had no effect on either of them.

Starr nagged at me, though, and since the release of that book, the character has returned to my mind on occassion. Readers made as many comments about Starr as they did Cynthia—and not always in a positive manner. You see, I had made Starr seem like the “bad girl.”
She wasn't bad--but she was very angry.
Since I believed Starr Hidalgo would be a good heroine in her own story, I researched Texas women ranchers.

The Spaniards first conquered the region in the 1500s and settled permanently in the 1700s.
Many married the Indian women of the Americas and the women became Mexican-Americans.
 But some Spaniards tried to keep the line pure and marry within the Spanish population.

Under Spanish law, women had community property rights. They owned, inherited, administered, bought, and sold property. 
Spain and Mexico made more than sixty land grants to women. In 1798, Rosa Marie Hinojosa de Balli owned one-third of the lower Rio Grande valley.

Imagine owning such an enormous amount of property. In 1770, the widow Marie Ana Cubelo owned 3000 head of cattle, the second largest herd in Bexar (San Antonio). Others held land and cattle as did these two more well known women.

After Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, most Mexican-American women maintained loyalties to Mexico. The process of land dispossession affected Tejano landed families in Goliad and Hidalgo counties after 1880. An attorney, Luz Escalera De Leon of Victoria, transacted twenty-five land sales, though most Texas Mexicans were not able to protect their land.   

Some of the women who managed to save their land for her family continued running cattle into the Twentieth Century. Some of these ranches still exist today.

I had hoped to write Starr Hidalgo’s story. She would own her family ranch after the death of both parents, and she’d find herself up against some force that might destroy her ranch. What would be that force? 
Whatever it was, you may be sure a strong man would appear who was capable of stealing Starr’s heart.
And recently, along came the new publishing house owned by Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn called Prairie Rose Publications. I read the requirements for one of the anthologies titled COWBOY CRAVINGS, and decided to write Starr's story to submit.
What man would be equal to Starr? Why, Conrad Taylor, of course, the foreman who plays a big secondary part in one of my recent releases Texas Dreamer.
Oh, I wanted a story for Conrad so much, when the idea struck! 

Starr and Conrad, the perfect pair, both handsome, both smart and good, and both wishing for someone to love.
Now, "Starr Bright" is one of four stories in the anthology Cowboy Cravings

Craving a cowboy on these hot summer nights? Here are four stories that are sure to turn up the heat! If you love tall, dark, and handsome cowboys with a touch of danger thrown in, and the ladies that show them they've met their match, Cowboy Cravings is a must-have. Fast guns, smooth action, and hot love sizzle in one delicious recipe for these spicy stories. The summer has never been hotter in the Old West than it is when you have to satisfy those COWBOY CRAVINGS!

EXCERPT from Starr Bright:
"Hola, mi amigo." Her voice was deep and throaty, just the sort that would make any red-blooded man grovel.

She pulled off her hat, dismounted, and hung her hat on the saddle horn. As she approached Conrad, she threw back her head and fluffed her long black glossy hair.

He didn't move. Good thing the fence was between them.

"Morning, Starr. What brings you out here so early in the morning?"

Smiling slightly, she said, "You."

Lord have mercy. He tried not to even blink.

"Yeah? What do I have that you want?"

Two could play this game.

She paused and smiled. "Water. I forgot mine."

She never forgot anything.


He leaned down and picked up the canteen, uncapped it, and handed it over the fence.

She tipped it up, leaned her head back, and took a good long slow drink. He couldn't have looked away if someone had leveled a pistol at his head.
The authors and stories in this anthology are:
Cheryl Pierson-Hearts and Diamonds
Celia Yeary-Starr Bright
Kristy McCaffrey-Lily and Mesquite Joe
Kathleen Rice Adams-Making Peace



  1. Starr sounds like the kind of heroine that would have to be loved. Heck, I love her already. Isn't wonderful how secondary characters sometimes stick in your head, and you just can't get them out? We know when a really special character comes along. I know this is going to be a great story. I don't have Cowboy Cravings yet, but I will soon.
    That was so interesting that Mexican law allowed women to own land when the supposedly progressive American law did not.
    This was such an interesting blog, Celia. You always manage to grab my attention with your articles. I look forward to them.

  2. Celia,
    Thanks for the background on your story. I really enjoyed Starr and Conrad. Starr is definitely feisty! Conrad was the perfect match for her, since he wouldn't play the games other men did with her. I love the background info about women ranchers.

  3. Love the backstory for this and the thought of women ranchers. I'd never given it a lot of thought so thanks for the history lesson regarding the Rio Grande Valley. It's so fun with a story is born from a secondary character.

  4. Celia, I remember Starr so well from All My Hopes and Dreams. She was one of those secondary characters that you just can't get out of your mind. I wondered if you might come up with a story for her someday, and I'm so glad you did, and that you submitted it for the Cowboy Cravings anthology! It is just perfect, because Conrad and Starr are such a great match, but they don't know it. Love stories like that. And I really found this background info interesting, on women owning land. That was pretty amazing!

  5. Sarah--it is very interesting that the Spaniards gave women the rights to land ownership so long ago. Whether it's true today or not, I don't know. But I bet it is.
    Thanks for commenting. The anthologies have been fun and "educational," too.

  6. Thank you, Kristy--and thanks for Tweeting it, too. I do appreciate that. I'm glad I wrote this story and Cheryl took it for the anthology. Really, I've lived with Starr a few years, and now I can concentrate on other characters.
    See you around!

  7. Ciara--I've written more than one story based on a secondary character. It's something that just seems natural usually. Usually, they are family connected--but not in this case.
    Thanks for commenting.

  8. Cheryl--Starr was a pistol, for sure. And I thank you so much for taking this story. As I said before, I needed to get her and Conrad out of my head. You know how it is--something like that can stall other projects. Now that the story is finished and published, I can breathe a sigh of relief.
    Thank you for coming by--I know how busy you are.

  9. Celia, Starr and Conrad were perfect together. What a firebrand she is! And he's mister easygoing ... until he gets riled. Conrad was so cute in his confusion about his feelings for Starr, and when it came time to declare his intentions, I could just see him blushing all over. But get out of his way when someone threatens anything he considers (or would like to consider) his! Just a really good story about two fascinating people, each strong but yet vulnerable in his or her own special way. :-)

    The information about Mexican women owning property is good to know. Thank you for sharing your knowledge yet again!


  10. Kathleen-yes, they are perfect. Conrad was in one of my newest releases, Texas Dreamer. When he rode from his house--he had as foreman--he was like a tornado riding into the yard and meeting Emilie. There for a minute, Emilie almost fell for Conrad...when she and Lee King were to be together.
    Honestly, that startled me! That Emilie could momentarily succumb to Conrad's big blond boisterous ways. But she didn't, of course.
    And Conrad was too loyal to Lee to make a move on Emilie.
    Thanks so much for commenting.

  11. I'm so glad Starr got her story! And I love the excerpt. Lots of sexual tension between these two. Congratulations on another great story!

  12. And thank you, Maggie! I'm glad to see you didn't drop off the edge of the world! Welcome back!

  13. Great post, Celia. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Celia, this is so interessting to learn about the Mexican women who owned an ran ranches. Seems they were more liberated than their "neighbor counterparts."
    And I, too, felt for a little while that Conrad and Emilie were going to follow up on that intital attraction they had. Thankfully for Starr and Lee they resisted the impulse.


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