José Gregorio de Arciniega, soldier, landowner, and Spanish American Patriot, was born in Cerro Gordo, Coahuila, New Spain. Sources differ regarding the year of his birth and often list the year of 1761. His parents were José Eusebio Arciniega and Anna Cardenas. He married María Josefa Flores de Abrego at Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Melchor Múzquiz, Coahuila, on August 23, 1792, and had two children with her, José Miguel de Arciniega and Dolores de Arciniega.
On February 26, 1779, José Gregorio de Arciniega enlisted for ten years as a soldier in the Spanish Seventh Company of Alternative Provisional Dragoons of San Carlos de Parras. The Spanish officers wrote the physical description of the enlisted soldiers according to Spain’s caste system. Arciniega was listed as a mestizo, half Spaniard and half Indian. He was five feet, one-inch tall, beardless, had black hair and blue eyes, a round nose, and a pink birth mark on the left side of his nose.
Throughout his military career, he was stationed in several presidios within the Presidio Cordon—a northern line of frontier land made up of several military forts south of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It was built as a defense line to protect New Spain’s Provincias Internas located south of the cordon. The presidios were intended to deter encroachments of hostile Indians, namely Apaches and their kinship tribes, from advancing to the Interior Provinces.
José Gregorio de Arciniega was a Spanish American Patriot in 1779 when Spain and France were allies to Gen. George Washington and the Thirteen American Colonies during the American Revolution. More specifically, a Spanish American Patriot was a soldado (soldier) in the Spanish Regiment from 1779 to 1782, who made contributions towards the Independence of the United States of America. King Carlos III made an official order—a cedula requiring soldiers to pay a donativo (donation) of one peso if they were Indians and two pesos if they were Spaniards. The donation was used to pay for artillery, food, and blankets for the American soldiers. Gregorio Arciniega paid his donation of one peso to his respective commander in Cerro Gordo.
In 1782 Arciniega and five other soldiers were borrowed from the presidio of Cerro Gordo to assist the presidio of Guajoquilla in their battle against Indian deprivations. They served under Capt. Ramón Díaz de Bustamante, and Arciniega was listed as a laborer, who worked in the tobacco fields and in the silver mines for the cause of the American Revolution.
Though each military enlistment lasted for ten years, Arciniega was enlisted from 1779 to 1818. By 1803 he had been promoted from soldado (soldier) to cabo (corporal) in the volante company of the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, or Álamo de Parras for short (see COMPAÑÍAS VOLANTES).
Because Gregorio Arciniega was a mestizo he could not own land while he was a militant in the Presidio Cordon. The mestizos or Indians could not apply for land, as their missions were to relocate to fight wherever necessary along the defensive line. Arciniega and his family moved several times within the Presidio Cordon that was divided into three jurisdictions of Durango, Conchos, and Santa Rosa.
In 1803 Corp. José Gregorio Arciniega and his brother Lt. Alfarez Felipe Florentine Arciniega were among the King’s 100 mounted lancers sent to San Antonio de Valero Mission in Texas to protect the borders and become settlers, civic workers, and merchants to fortify Spain’s existence and cease enemies from entering Texas. The mission served as quarters of the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras for a time and was later named the Alamo most likely because the 100 soldiers came from the town of San Jose y Santiago de Alamo. In 1803 Corp. José Gregorio Arciniega had served twenty-four years in the Spanish Regiment. He was a marksman in a lance, rifle, pistols, and sword. He brought with him his wife María Josefa and his son José Miguel, and they lived in the mission.
Having abided by the military regulations as set forth by King Carlos III in 1772—that is that Arciniega as a mestizo had proved his loyalty to the Spanish Crown and was discharged as a retired soldier—he was allowed to apply for his own land. Corp. José Gregorio Arciniega was given a Spanish land grant in downtown San Antonio in 1811. He retired after thirty-two years of service as written in his land grant. Even after official retirement, he continued his service to the king’s regiment because of the ongoing revolutionary wars.
Ultimately, Arciniega was in the Spanish Regiment for a total of thirty-nine years. He fought in the battle of Medina in 1813. The Bexar Archives lists properties that Gregorio lost during the revolutions from 1812 to 1818 and states that he lost seven horses, one macho, a saddle, a gun, and a lance during the Anglo-American invasion.
From 1815 to 1818 Arciniega was San Antonio’s Juez de Barrio (town judge). His last mission was in 1818 when he accompanied his son José Miguel Arciniega on a trip to secure the Louisiana border and to stop all Americans, foreign opportunists, and filibusters from entering Spanish Texas.
Though born a mestizo, because of his loyalty to the Spanish Crown and his Catholic faith, Arciniega’s Spanish caste status changed through a process called gracias a sacar, a method in which one could legally purchase legitimacy in social status or acquire it through the limpieza de sangre (cleansing of blood). This process required witnesses to attest on Corp. Jose Gregorio’s behalf in front of a judge that he was not of Jewish or Moor blood and his parents or grandparents were of Spanish blood. By presenting his marriage record to María Josefa Flores de Abrego, he satisfied this requirement for documentation. The priest recorded both Corp. José Gregorio Arciniega and his wife as Spaniards. Proof of this outcome is written in San Antonio’s “Padron Census de Alamo, of 1822” where Arciniega, his wife, and children are listed as Spaniards.
On April 25, 1822, José Gregorio de Arciniega died of a tooth infection in San Fernando de Béxar (San Antonio) and was buried there in the Campos Santo Cemetery (later moved to present-day Milam Park Cemetery) as a Spaniard. In San Antonio, Arciniega Street, which runs along the original Arciniega land grant, is named in the family’s honor.