Gregorio Esparza was one of ten Texans of Mexican descent who fought and died defending the Alamo. The Esparza family, who had been long-time residents of San Antonio, became divided in their beliefs about government. This resulted in Gregorio and his brother Francisco fighting on opposite sides against each other at the Battle of the Alamo. Gregorio, a Federalist, fought with the Texas Army; while Francisco, a Centralist, supported Santa Anna and the Mexican army.
The Esparza family was originally descended from Canary Islanders, some of the first European families to move to Texas. Gregorio's family had moved to the area of San Antonio de Bexar in 1795 where Gregorio was later born on March 11, 1808. Gregorio was the youngest of six children born to Juan and Maria Esparza and he lived all of his brief life in San Antonio. As a young boy, he did not go to school, but helped his parents work. When he was older, he worked as a "jornalero" (day-laborer) farmer and did odd jobs for the local priest.
As Texas' struggle for independence grew, Gregorio became a private in the Benavides company under Juan Seguin. He believed in a democratic constitution and that people should have the right to vote and express themselves, free of Mexico's rule. When word came that Santa Anna was sending an army to take over San Antonio, Gregorio planned for his wife Ana and four children to leave for a safer area. When they were trapped by the arrival of the Mexican army, Ana and the children sought refuge with Gregorio at the Alamo.
During the final battle on March 6, 1836, Gregorio was hit by a fatal cannon ball in his chest, while his wife and children watched. After the battle ended, Santa Anna released the women and children of the Alamo. Since Gregorio's brother Francisco served Santa Anna in his army, he received permission to give Gregorio a proper burial at the San Fernando Campo Santo.
Between 1850 and 1860, Gregorio's sons, Enrique, Manuel and Francisco filed for the rights to land near Pleasanton, Texas, for their father's service at the Alamo. They eventually received the land and ranched, farmed, and ran a freight line between San Antonio and the coast.
Enrique lived to be eighty-nine years old, never forgetting his experiences at the Alamo. He taught himself to read and write and became a good translator between English and Spanish. He was well known for his clear memory of the events at the Alamo. "You ask me, do I remember it. I tell you, yes. It is burned into my brain and indelibly seared there. Neither age nor infirmity could make me forget, for the scene was one of such horror that it could never be forgotten by anyone who witnessed its incidents." Manuel owned a general store in Pleasanton, Texas, and later served a brief stint in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Francisco also served in the Confederate Army and later became a Texas Ranger. He eventually moved to Tucson, Arizona, and became known as a tough lawman in the area.
Today, the descendants of Gregorio Esparza continue to preserve the history of his sacrifice as an Alamo defender and Texas hero.