On March 9, 1731, fifty-five Canary Islanders arrived at Béxar, becoming the first municipality in the Spanish province of Texas
The last phase of the strategy was to establish a civil settlement or presents in
Texas. To that end, on February 14, 1719, the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo proposed
to King Philip V of Spain 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 Veracruz.
By June 1730, twenty-five families had reached Cuba and ten families had been sent
on to Veracruz before orders from Spain to stop the movement arrived.
Under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, ten families started out from the Canary
Islands. Within a month after the group arrived at Cuatitlán in September of 1730,
the number increased by marriages to fifteen families and four single men, a total
of fifty-six persons. This is evident from a comparison of the list of the families
taken at Cuatitlán, September 9, 1730 with the official list taken just before they
left Cuatitlán, November 8, 1730. At Saltillo in the state of Coahuila a new list
and inventory was taken on January 31, 1731. They were provided with an escort of
10 soldiers to the Presidio de San Juan Bautista and from there they where escorted
to the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar by Francisco Dubal, where they arrived at
eleven o’clock in the morning on March 9, 1731.
The Alvarez Travieso and the Arocha families apparently joined the original party
of settlers after their arrival at Cuatitlán. A new and final list was made after
arrival at San Antonio in order to confer upon them the title of nobility, as first
settlers and upon their descendants, the title of Hijos Dalgos or Hidalgos, mandated
and so honored by the king of Spain, Philip V, each family head could use the term
“Don” before his name, denoting his title. Today, there are many individuals and
families who are descendants from these original Canary Island colonists.
Herodotus called the Garden of Hesperides, Homer the Elysian Fields and Pliny the
Fortunate isles. Christopher Columbus visited them in 1492. The name Canaries is
derived from canis, the Latin word for "dog." Early explorers named them for the
many dogs they found there. The isles share an eternal spring climate but they differ
dramatically amongst each other.
The original inhabitants of the Canaries were a race known as the Guanches, a name
derived from guan, meaning man or people, and achinch, meaning white mountain in
an obvious reference to Tenerife's snow-capped Mount Teide. The natives lived a Stone
Age existence of shepherding and very rudimentary agriculture. They buried their
dead and, in the case of chieftains, mummified the, much like the ancient Egyptians.
In Tenerife, Bencome, the mencey or leader of the tribe, fiercely resisted the conquistadors
with his flint exes and slings, while in Gran Canaria the ruling guanarteme, Semidán,
welcomed the European strangers and established truces.
Modern contact with the Canaries began to develop in the Middle Ages as sailors from
peninsular Spain arrived to plunder the isles of their orchids, which were used to
make dye, and of their inhabitants, who were enslaved. Conquest in earnest only began
with the Norman explorer Jean de Béthencourt who, in 1402 , claimed Lanzarote on
behalf of his feudal lord Henry III of Castile and who later became king of the islands.
One of the few remaining possessions of Spain, the Canary Islands lie in the Atlantic
Ocean about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the northwest coast of Africa. Their
total area is 2,796 square miles (7,242 square kilometers). The Canaries are divided
into two provinces of Spain Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. They comprise
seven principal islands Tenerife, Grand Canaria, La Palma, Hierro, Gomera, Lanzarote,
and Fuerteventura and several smaller uninhabited ones. They were called Fortunatae
Insulae (Fortunate Islands, or Isles of the Blest) in ancient Roman legends.
During the settlement of Texas in the early 1700’s, the Spanish government recognized the need to both Christianize and civilize the Indians of Texas. They also realized they would need to keep the French from encroaching on Spanish territory. They developed a three-fold strategy. First, was establish a series of missions to bring Christianity to the Indians. Next, protect those missions by a series of presidios or forts and finally, populate the territory with civil settlements loyal to New Spain. The presidio of San Antonio de Béjar was established on the San Antonio River in 1718. That same year, the mission of San Antonio de Valero was moved from the Rio Grande to the vicinity of the presidio, completing the first two stages of the three-fold strategy. Béxar, as it was known, was populated only by a small group of solider's and their few families. A civil government did not exist at this time.