SAN BENITO — The soldiers moved sharply in the brisk wind, their blue jackets a bright contrast against gray skies.
“A la derechA!” ordered Ruben Cordova, and the soldiers did a quick right face.
It was San Benito Living History Day and reenactors of Texas Independence Day had gathered Saturday at the San Benito Fairgrounds to practice their moves and talk to the public about life in 1836.
Tents were set up much as they were at that time. Texas defenders in their breech cloths and palmetto hats practiced marching in formation, a woman cleaned a skillet over an open fire, and Mexican troops learned how to load their weapons.
“This is the first time doing this,” said Cordova, organizer of the event, which he described as a precursor of the reenactments in March.
“It’s just teaching people about the Texas side, the Mexican side, what they would have done during camp while on campaign,” he said. “We are hoping they get a little bit of experience of 1836.”
He gestured toward a flag with two large gold stars.
“That’s the Mexican-Coahuila flag,” he said, and then toward one more familiar to locals, “This the 1836 Mexican flag.”
Not far away, Wade Marcum led his troops through drills.
“Do you want to do a column first or a line,” asked Marcum, his stout frame solid beneath a black round hat.
“Line,” they said.
Then he instructed them on commands.
“One, two, three,” he called out, his tall leather boots stepping far onto the sparse grass.
At one point while at ease a discussion arose about what to call themselves.
“Marcum’s Marauders,” someone said. “Wade’s Warriors, Cameron County Criminals, Cameron Crusaders!”
Taking an aside, Marcum explained the difference between the proper uniforms of the Mexican Army and the distinctively individual attire of the Texas defenders.
“The Texas militia used mostly civilian clothes at the time,” he said. “We want a little bit more familiarity with the public and living history. We want people to come experience things more one on one.”
Visitors only trickled in Saturday morning but those who did show up found the presentations and depictions interesting.
“It’s actually very informative,” said Angel Rodriguez. “I didn’t know there was another flag over Texas so that’s pretty interesting.”
His friend J.D. De Leon agreed.
“All the re-enactors are very knowledgeable and very engaging,” he said. “A lot of people here do have roots that trace back Texas and Northern Mexico.”