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Canary Islanders

Overview

On February 14, 1719, the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo made a report to the king of Spain 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 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, the group marched overland to the presidio of San Antonio de Bexar, where they arrived on March 9, 1731. The party had increased by marriages on the way to fifteen families, and four unmarried men constituted a sixteenth “family,” making a total of fifty-six persons. They joined a military and civilian community that had been in existence since 1718. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Béxar, the first regularly organized civil government in Texas, and on August 1, 1731, elected Goraz as first alcalde.

The arrival of the Canary Islanders disrupted the existing presidio community of Mexican frontiersmen, soldiers, and resident families—especially regarding land and water ownership. Soon after their arrival, the single men joined the presidio service while others forged family and business bonds with the existing population. As Old World farmers, all of them had to be trained in the arts of frontier living. In time, Canary Islander status became a point of pride in much of San Antonio’s population. María Rosa Padrón was the first baby born in San Antonio of known Canary Islander descent.

A number of the old families of San Antonio trace their descent from the Canary Island colonists. In 1971 a Texas Historical Marker honoring the Canary Islanders and their role in the development of San Antonio was erected on the Main Plaza of San Antonio. By the late 1970s the Canary Islands Descendants Association was established to promote the history, preservation of documents, and fostering of education about the Canary Islanders, the sixteen original families, and their legacy.

Mattie Alice Austin, "The Municipal Government of San Fernando de Bexar, 1730–1800," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 8 (April 1905). Canary Islands Descendants Association (http://www.cida-sa.org/index.html), accessed February 25, 2018. Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Jesús F. de la Teja, San Antonio de Béxar: A Community on New Spain’s Northern Frontier (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995). Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.

Categories:

  • Peoples
  • Canary Islanders

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Canary Islanders,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 01, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/canary-islanders.

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