Federico Villalbas Texas

by Juan Casas

Federico Villalba´s Texas

A Mexican Pioneer in the Big Bend

Federico Villalba who, as a young man, moved with his family from old San Gerònimo, Chihuahua in the 1880s to begin ranching near the village of San Carlos, near Lajitas, Texas. He prospered and eventually crossed over the Rio Grande to settle and ranch at Burro Mesa. There, Villalba married, built his herd of cattle and angora goats, discovered cinnebar and opened a store at Cerro Villalba (later Study Butte) and a leather goods store in Santa Elena.

Federico Villalba´s life was filled with excitement, challenge, and victory; nevertheless, tragedy also played a hand. The Big Bend country was a dangerous place in those days, especially for those of Mexican descent. Men carried guns and were not reluctant to use them.

"The first part of the book contains many short segments which taken together give a snapshot picture of aspects of life in South Brewster County at that time as well as advancing the story: punching cattle, bootlegging, fiesta, holding the family together. Occasionally a wider lens is used to describe the increasingly violent mood which enveloped the area as the Mexican Revolution started and as anti-Mexican sentiment grew."

In a lively and engaging style, Juan Manuel Casas gives us this narrative history of his great-grandfather, Federico Villalba and his family. This is a significant contribution to the literature of the Big Bend and the first to represent the Mexican point of view during its early years of settlement.

"Federico Villalba (d. 1933) and his son Jacobo (d. 1924) both lie in Terlingua cemetery. Their graves are likely to receive more attention now that a biography of Federico Villalba has just been published. The book is not just the story of a Mexican immigrant who prospered in Big Bend between 1882 and 1933; it is also a picture of troubled times along a volatile border; and, most important, it is the first history of the area written from a Mexican point of view."


Victor Villaseñor, Author of Rain of Gold

"A very, very good book. My hat is off to Juan Manuel."

Glenn Willeford, Author, Historian

"If ever there has been family history recounted through a tale of genuine adventure, this is it. While sometimes heart-rending, often romantic, and ever ringing of truth, FEDERICO VILLALBA´S TEXAS is a major contribution to the history of the Big Bend of Texas as well as to that of La Frontera de Chihuahua."

Lonn Taylor, Big Bend Sentinel, Marfa, Texas

"Reading Casas´s book is like listening to old men telling stories by the stove on a winter day, and, like listening to old men, it is well worth doing."

Jim Glendinning, Alpine Avalanche, Alpine, Texas

"...the picture [Casas] paints of racial prejudice in South Brewster County (according to local folks...) is overstated... This local reaction to opinion or nuance on the sensitive issue of race relations serves to draw attention to Casas´ history of Federico Villalba, a unique success story in troubled times and a companion to books by Anglo writers such as Kenneth Ragsdale and Glenn Justice."

Glenn Justice, www.rimrockpress.com

"Federico Villalba´s Texas is an outstanding and well-told family history. It is an excellent read, one that Big Bend enthusiasts will greatly enjoy and want to have on their bookshelves. Casas has done a fine job of presenting the Mexican perspective in the frontier times of the Texas Big Bend.... It is a story that simply needed to be told and begs discussion."

About the Author

Juan Manuel Casas was born in El Paso, Texas. He is a graduate of California Southern Law School and Trinity College & University. Juan is currently working on a historical novel that chronicles the Villalba family´s life in Italy and migration to Sicily and then Spain. He and his wife, Arlene currently reside in Murrieta, California.

ISBN Binding Pages Retail
978-0-9745048-5-8 Cloth 303 $35.95
978-0-9745048-6-5 Trade Paper 303 $19.95

Find this book in these stores:

  • amazon logo
  • barnes and noble logo