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The beginning of the city of San Antonio as a civil settlement in the province of
Tejas is generally recognized as the arrival of 16 families consisting of 55 immigrants
from the Canary Islands. By royal decree of the King of Spain, they founded La Villa
de San Fernando, which was named in honor of Fernando VI, the heir to the Spanish
throne and established the first chartered civil government. The Isleños had rights
as first settlers to form a town government, to receive generous land grants, and
to carry the noble title of “hidalgo” which comes from Hijo Dalgo and means “son
of noble Lineage”.
On March 27 1730, from the port of Santa Cruz, on the island of Teneriffe, the ship
España set sail for the New Philippines or Texas as the territory was now known. By
June 1730, twenty-five families had reached Cuba and ten families had been sent on
to Vera Cruz before orders from Spain to stop the movement arrived. By September
9th, 1730 they had arrive at Quantitlan (Cuatitlán), an ancient Aztec Village near
On November 8th an official list of the families was taken at which time the group
had increased by marriages to fifteen families and four single men, a total of fifty-six
persons where listed. The four single men were considered one "family" and listed
as number sixteen. Because they were unmarried, they had to split the property normally
granted to the head of the family.
They stayed there until November the 15th when they began their difficult overland
journey to the San Antonio River. The route that was mapped out for them by the
Spanish government led them through San Luis Potosí and Saltillo. They had a short
stop at the presidio of San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande where they left their
worn-out horses. Under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, the group marched overland
to the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar, where they arrived at eleven o’clock on
March 9, 1731 a full year after their departure from the Canary Islands.
Two years earlier, in February 1729, the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo made a report
to the king of Spain, King Philip V, proposing that 400 families be transported from
the Canary Islands, Galicia, or Havana to populate the province of Texas. His plan
was approved, and notice was given the Canary Islanders to furnish 200 families,
the Council of the Indies suggested that 400 families should be sent from the Canaries
to Texas by way of Havana and Vera Cruz.
The site for the Church of San Fernando was selected on July 2, 1731, when Juan Antonio
Pérez de Almazán, captain of the Presidio of San Antonio, laid out a central square
for the villa of San Fernando de Béxar which became the center of the San Fernando
parish. The first foundation stone for the church was not laid until three years
after the arrival of the Canary Islanders, May 13th, 1734. Delays because of funding
did not allow the church to be finished for more than 20 years, but finally in 1755
San Fernando Church was finished. Today, San Fernando Cathedral stands as one of
the oldest Cathedrals in the United States.
Maria Rosa Padrón was the first baby born of Canary Islander descent in San Antonio.
By the time the Isleños had completed their arduous journey across the Atlantic and
the rigorous trek to Texas, widows headed two of the families. Maria Rodriguez-Provayna
also know as Maria Robaina de Bethéncourt, was only 27 years old and had 6 children
ranging from one month to thirteen years of age. Her husband Juan Rodríguez Granado
died at Vera Cruz on May 5, 1730. Maria claimed be a descendant of Jean de Béthencourt
who, early in the fifteenth century, achieved the conquest of the Canary Islands
for Henry III of Spain.
The other widow to head a family was Mariana Delgado Meleano who was thirty years
old and had three children ranging in age from two to sixteen years old. Her eldest
son was listed as the head of the twelfth family. Her husband was Lucas Delgado who
also died at Vera Cruz on July 5, 1730.
They joined a military community that had been in existence since 1715. Together they formed the nucleus of the villa of San Antonio de Béxar, now the city of San Antonio.