When Mexican Marines arrived at the San Jose Ranch, 15 kilometers from Victoria, Tamaulipas, the scene was bleak: The austere main house was practically destroyed by grenades and heavy gunfire.
Outside of the home, they found four bodies. Cautiously, and with their weapons drawn, the troops continued inspecting the exterior and found two more gunmen, wounded and unconscious, but alive.
Inside the house only one body was found, riddled with bullets and with two weapons by it's side. The body was identified as Don Alejo Garza Tamez, the owner of the ranch and a highly respected businessman in Nuevo Leon.
Upon further inspection of the interior, marines found weapons and ammunition at every window and door. This allowed them to reconstruct how, just hours prior, the battle had played out.
Marines searched for more bodies inside the house, but none were to be found. It seemed hard to believe that one person, armed only with hunting rifles, had caused so many casualties on the attackers.
Dozens of spent shells and the smell of gunpowder gave proof of the tenacity of the man who fought to the end in defense, of not only his ranch, but his dignity.
In the end, it was deduced the man had created his own defense strategy to fight alone, placing weapons at every door and window.
The story began in the morning of Saturday November 13, when a group of armed gunmen went to deliver an ultimatum to Don Alejo Garza Tamez: He had 24 hours to turn over his property or suffer the consequences.
Using the diplomacy he had acquired over nearly eight decades of life, Don Alejo flatly announced that not only would he not be surrendering his property, but that he'd be waiting for them.
When the men had left, Don Alejo gathered his workers and ordered them to take Sunday off, he wanted to be alone.
He dedicated the rest of Saturday to taking stock of his weapons and ammunition and creating a military fortress style defense strategy for his home.
The night of Saturday the thirteenth was long and restless, much like his past hunting adventures; Don Alejo woke early. Shortly after 4 a.m. the motors of various trucks could be heard entering the property from a distance.
Marines who investigated the scene could only imagine how it was that morning: armed men, their impunity secured, confident they'd soon be owners of yet another property. Nobody, or almost no one, could hold out against a group of heavily armed gunmen. Only Don Alejo.
The trucks entered the ranch and took up positions surrounding the house. The gunmen got out of their trucks, fired shots in the air, and announced they came to take possession of the ranch. They were expecting the terrified occupants to run out, begging for mercy with their hands in the air.
But things didn't go as expected. Don Alejo welcomed them with bullets; the entire army of gunmen returned fire. Don Alejo seemed to multiply, he seemed to be everywhere. The minutes would have seemed endless to those who had seen him as easy prey. Various gunmen were killed on sight. The others, in rage and frustration, intensified the attack by swapping out their assault rifles for grenades.
When everything finally fell silent, the air was left heavy with gunpowder. The holes left in the walls and the windows attested to the violence of the attack. When they went in search of what they had assumed was a large contingent, they were surprised to find only one man, Don Alejo.
The surviving gunmen did not take over the ranch. Thinking the military would arrive at any moment, they decided to run. They left behind what they thought were six corpses, but two of their gunmen had survived.
Shortly after, the Marines arrived and methodically reconstructed the events. A lone rancher, a man who worked a lifetime to be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor such as his ranch, had defended it to his death.
In the last hunt of his life, Don Alejo surprised the group of assassins who wanted to impose the same law on his ranch that they had on the State, the law of the jungle.
The marines who were present will never forget the scene: a 77 year old man, who before death, took out four gunmen, fighting the same as the best soldiers: with dignity, courage, and honor.
Rest in Peace Don Alejo Garza Tamez
A Man of His Word
- Don Alejo Garza was a proud Norteño. He was born in Allende, Nuevo leon in 1933. He childhood was spent in the most wooded areas of the state.
-Allende, located 50 miles south of Monterrey, is crossed by National Highway 85 that leads to Ciudad Victoria, Tampico and Veracruz. This community is located at the base of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
-His father owned a sawmill, and he learned early in his youth, along with his older brothers, how to work, saw, and sell wood. Driven by this activity he eventually founded the timber supply store El Salto in Monterrey, taking the name from the place where they bought the product.
- As a young man he had to travel constantly to Parral, Chihuahua, and El Salto, Durango, to buy the wood which would then be sold in Monterrey. His family was successful in this field and opened branches in Allende, his hometown, and Montemorelos.
- Don Alejo began fishing and hunting as a child. As a young man he began to collect weapons. Among his friends and associates he was known as an excellent shooter who, in the company of his friends, hunted deer, geese and pigeons.
- Don Alejo Garza Tamez was one of the founding members of the "Dr. Maria Manuel Silva" Hunting, Shooting and Fishing Club, located in Allende, Nuevo León.
- He and his brother, Rodolfo, bought the San Jose Ranch in Tamaulipas and divided it between them. Don Alejo's half bordered with the Padilla Lake and Rodolfo's with the Coronoa river.
- Don Alejo was known for keeping his word. To all those who knew him, his word was as good as any legal contract.