Espinosa-Olivares-Aguirre Expedition

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: General Entry

Published: January 1, 1995

The expedition of Isidro Félix de Espinosa, Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares, and Pedro de Aguirre of 1709 resulted from a combination of Spanish presence on the Rio Grande, international considerations, and continued interest in missionizing the Tejas Indians. In the early 1700s, a cluster of three missions and a presidio constituted the Spanish establishment west of the Rio Grande near modern Guerrero, Coahuila. San Juan Bautista mission and presidio, destined to become the "Gateway to Spanish Texas," were the staging area for this early expedition into Texas.

During the summer of 1707, the viceroy of New Spain received intelligence that the French in Louisiana were intent upon establishing trade with Spanish dominions. A war council in Mexico City recommended that contacts be made with Indian nations in Texas, and that they be dissuaded from accepting goods of French origin. As it turned out, official concerns about contraband converged nicely with the missionary impulses of fathers Espinosa and Olivares.

At San Juan Bautista the two padres were joined by Capt. Pedro de Aguirre, and the expedition left the gateway settlements on April 5, 1709. With Espinosa and Olivares serving, respectively, as diarist and chaplain, the entrada traveled to the site of future San Antonio, where the party was much impressed with the land and availability of water. From the San Antonio River, the expedition pushed on to the Colorado, for it was rumored that Tejas Indians had moved settlements there in order to be closer to the Spaniards. That report proved unfounded, and in fact the Spaniards learned that the old Tejas chieftain, Bernardino, was still ill disposed toward them.

The expedition returned to San Juan Bautista on April 28, 1709. It had increased familiarity with Texas and lent a favorable impression of lands along the San Antonio River. But it seems likely that the immediate effect of this entrada was to delay the reestablishment of missions in East Texas, for it convincingly dispelled the notion that the Tejas were eager for renewed contacts with the Spanish.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519–1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).


  • Exploration
  • Expeditions

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

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

Donald E. Chipman, “Espinosa-Olivares-Aguirre Expedition,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 24, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

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