Doña María Robaina de Bethéncourt, (also referred to by historians and in historical documents as María Granado, Betancour or Betancourt), early San Antonio settler and landowner, was born in 1703 to Manuel Robaina de Bethéncourt and Paula Umpierre in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. She claimed descent from Jean de Bethéncourt, the Norman Baron who first invaded and colonized portions of the Canary Islands in the name of Castile in the early 1400s. In 1730, under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, Canary Island families, following a decree from the Spanish crown that called for more settlers in Spain’s northern territory, started their journey to Texas. A pregnant Bethéncourt, her husband Juan Rodríguez Granado, and their four children landed with the Canary Islands group in Veracruz, Mexico, where Granado fell ill and died. Bethéncourt gave birth to their fifth child in Cuautitlán, Mexico. In Cuautitlán, on November 8, 1730, she was described as a woman “about 27 years old, good figure, slender, long face, fair complexion, black hair and eyebrows, [and a] thin nose.”
Once the Canary Islanders arrived at the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar on March 9, 1731, each family was granted a piece of land and named their community San Fernando de Béxar, the first chartered civil settlement in Texas under Spanish rule. Bethéncourt and Granado were originally granted land on the Plaza de las Islas or the main plaza of the San Fernando settlement. Bethéncourt married her second husband Martín Lorenzo de Armas soon after they arrived in Texas. Armas was one of the four unmarried men who traveled with the original group of Canary Islanders to Béxar along with his brother Ignacio. Bethéncourt, Armas, and all of her children lived in a stone home on the original land granted to the Granado family on Plaza de las Islas. This house on the northeast corner of the plaza, located across from the Church of San Fernando (seeSAN FERNANDO CATHEDRAL) was purchased eventually from Bethéncourt descendants by Ramón Músquiz and is referred to in different historical documents as the “Granado homestead” or the Músquiz house. Contemporaries considered the Granado home relatively grand, and it was adorned with furnishings and valuables imported and/or brought with the Bethéncourt family when they immigrated. The structure existed into the late-nineteenth century, and by the mid-twentieth century, the location was marked with a plaque on the Main Plaza grounds in San Antonio.
Through the marriage between Armas and Bethéncourt, the couple acquired a suerte, or about twenty-six acres of land, they called Del Palo Quemado. The couple had five children together. Additionally, Bethéncourt and Armas helped raise at least one of their grandchildren, María Josefa Granados, whose marriage to Fernando Veramendi was one of a number of matches made by Bethéncourt’s children and descendants that continued the family’s wealth and influence for generations. After Armas’s death in 1769, Bethéncourt continued to manage her property and business until her death ten years later.
In her will, executed on January 5, 1779, Bethéncourt (spelled Betancour in the document) announced her strong faith in the Catholic Church and listed her property and her heirs. Among her property, she owned a ranch near Cibolo Creek, various heirlooms, art, and a chest from the Canary Islands, cattle with her own brand, and the land that the Spanish crown gave to her family. She named her sons “Pedro and Manuel Granados” as executors of her estate. María Robaina de Bethéncourt was buried at the San Fernando Cathedral cemetery on January 26, 1779.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Teresa Palomo Acosta and Ruthe Winegarten, Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003). Maria Betancour, Last Will and Testament, San Antonio Spanish Archives, County Court House, San Antonio, Texas, 1779. Frederick Charles Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio: Genealogies of the Early Latin, Anglo-American, and German Families with Occasional Biographies (San Antonio: Artes Graficas, 1937).
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