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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.

Rancho La Union: About Us


Gualdalupe Martinez was born into the ranching industry.  Being a descendent of the original Spanish settlers that inhabited the land and a fourth generation landowner in San Ygnacio, Guadalupe got his education in Laredo and returned to Rancho La Union® and his ranching roots after completing business school in San Antonio.

Lilia Martinez was also a descendent of land grant families.  However, her true calling was in education.  Being a lifelong learner and educator, Lilia dedicated her life to teaching children in Laredo and San Ygnacio, eventually retiring in 1971.

In 2012, Rancho La Union® was transferred from the Guadalupe Martinez Trust of 2001 to the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation.  The board members voted unanimously to honor Rancho La Union® in the most fitting way by combining both Lupe and Lilia’s passions and turning it into educational facility.

Lupe’s family imprint can still be felt throughout Rancho La Union®. Whether it be in the jacales that once housed workers or through the mesquite fences that have survived the test of time, the hard work of many generations is still felt at Rancho La Union®.  All the while, Lilia’s legacy continues as eager students arrive to learn about the past, while embarking on an educational journey, and in awe of what their future brings.

Since becoming an educational facility, Rancho La Union® has impacted students, teachers and programs.  Studies and site visits have included, but are not limited to:

  • Project participation from 38-students and 11-faculty from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, University of Texas-San Antonio and the University of Texas- Austin. 

  • 8 students from Eastern Michigan University performed scorpion research at Rancho La Union®.

  • A documentary was produced by Webb County Heritage Foundation where interviews were conducted with Professor Jim Glusing and students from Texas A&M University-Kingsville along with Property Manager, Jack Gilpin.  The video featuring the historic importance of Rancho La Union® was shown at the Heritage Foundation’s annual Founder’s Day Luncheon on May 10, 2014.

  • The Texas A&M University-Kingsville summer edition of the magazine, Javelina TODAY, contained a two page article titled “Preserving South Texas History” about Rancho La Union® and the studies being performed on site.

  • Rancho La Union® hosted Professor Christopher Talbot, Director of Art from Stephen F. Austin University.  Professor Talbot dedicated numerous hours photographing this working ranch for use in a cultural landscape of the Camino Real.  

  • Dr. Brent Hedquist from Texas A&M University- Kingsville has documented and presented a GPS map of the entire Rancho La Union® property.  His research team plans to obtain more accurate GPS coordinates for future database and mapping purposes.

  • Members and associates of El Camino Real de los Tejas Historic Trail Association toured the historic sites at the ranch as part of their annual meeting.

In addition to being highlighted in documentaries, articles focused on historical preservation, restoration studies, and inspiring students, Rancho La Union® is currently in talks regarding a possible wind farm partnership for renewable energy.

A 30-minute video documentary and book are scheduled also to be released in 2018.

For more information about educational opportunities Rancho La Union®, email

Courtesy of Webb County Heritage Guild:

Rancho La Union: About
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