The land that eventually became Rancho La Union® was initially a Nuevo Santander Land Grant from Spain. Portions of that Land Grant eventually trickled to families in the 18th century that were willing to fend off the French encroachment into the area of what is now south Texas and northern Mexico.
Don Guadalupe Martinez was a descendent of these original settlers. Ranching was a honored way of living and was learned through apprenticeship rather than formal schooling.
Rancho La Union® is still a working ranch and has many of the original structures. There are the jacales (small buildings), the mesquite fences and the mystery of the limestone dam where there is nothing but sandstone for hundreds of miles. There is also a surrey that is protected in one of the barns on the premises. It was the means of transportation to travel to Laredo on the banks of the Rio Grande when that was the preferred route. We have learned only recently that the ranch had been a resting point for those traveling to Corpus Christi from San Ygnacio and Mexico.
When automobiles became popular, there was a need for roads. In the 1930's, Highway 83 was paved for the use of the autos. The paving of that highway was one of the first major developments of modernization. The families from this old Spanish Land Grant area were now being connected to the outside world as they never had been for generations. In the 1940's, more of these families had the opportunity to get an education and leave their small community for other jobs and lifestyles.
Many of the earlier ranching arts and crafts have disappeared from the cultural landscape. There are no recent stone and block buildings. Technology has replaced hand dug wells, the hand built earthen dams as well as the caliche and stone water troughs. Among other improvements are that butane powers the pare burners and the cattle are transported by vans directly from the ranch.
Don Lupe and Dona Lilia could still be called the Spanish Grantees and had all the accompanying responsibilities. Today, we, the off-spring, bring their history as they saw it. Rancho La Union® is still a working ranch but it is also a multi-disciplinary educational center dedicated to research.