María Gertrudis Pérez Cassiano, a descendant of the Canary Islanders, daughter of Juan Ignacio Pérez and Clemencia Hernández, was born on January 2, 1790, in the Pérez homestead in Villa de San Fernando, Royal Presidio of San Antonio de Béxar. Her father, a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish army, was later interim governor of Texas. In 1804 the family paid 800 pesos for the Spanish Governor's Palace and made it their home; it was in the family's possession for over a hundred years. The palace, a center of "military and social activity" during María's youth, later became run-down. In the late 1920s, under the leadership of Adina de Zavala, it was acquired by the city of San Antonio and restored as a museum. In 1813, Col. Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante requested permission from the viceroy to marry María and was granted the favor on January 1, 1814. With her marriage to Cordero, María became known as La Brigaviella ("the Brigadier-General") and was permitted to carry out her husband's duties, including reviewing the troops, in his absence. Her apparent ease in handling his duties may have come from the fact that she was considered an equal to men in some business dealings, such as the inheritance, administration, buying, and selling of property. Upon her father's death, María inherited the Pérez homestead. After Cordero's death in 1823, she married a wealthy Italian, José Cassiano, on April 12, 1826. With him she had a son. María died of dropsy and was buried in San Fernando de Béxar on September 29, 1832. In her will she refused to leave any money for "pious works," allegedly to ensure that her assets would not fall into the hands of the Mexican government. Nonetheless, her husband donated a small amount of money shortly after her death to public charities and school funds. In his correspondence transmitting these funds, Cassiano noted that it would have been his late wife's desire to see that some of her wealth be used in the public interest.
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Nettie Lee Benson, "Texas Failure to Send a Deputy to the Spanish Cortes, 1810–1812," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 64 (July 1960). Evelyn M. Carrington, ed., Women in Early Texas (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1975).
Founders and Pioneers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Teresa Palomo Acosta,
“Cassiano, María Gertrudis Pérez,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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