Juan Leal Goraz, Spanish colonizer of Texas, was born in 1676 on the island of Lancerote in the Canary Islands to Antonio Goraz and María Pérez. He led the colonization of the Villa de San Fernando (San Antonio) by Canary Islanders and later became the city's first mayor. In March 1730 a handful of emigrants gathered in the port of Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, in response to a royal decree calling for colonists to settle in Texas. As an inducement the crown agreed to provide the colonists transportation and a generous subsistence for a year. A colonial judge appointed the oldest male among them, Leal Goraz, as their leader. When the colonists arrived at Veracruz in the early part of June, the Mexican viceroy reaffirmed Leal's leadership. Many of those who traveled with him were weakened by the rigors of the journey. Among these, Lucia Hernández, Goraz's wife and mother of his five children, became ill and died. Sixteen families arrived near the Béxar Presidio on March 9, 1731, and immediately staked out their new community, the Villa de San Fernando. The king granted in perpetuity, to each of the colonists and their heirs, the noble title of Hidalgo ("person of noble lineage"). Unfortunately, with the title came a degree of arrogance and intolerance toward the region's established population.
Under Leal's leadership, the colonists twice petitioned the viceroy to conscript the mission Indians to work their lands. They further insisted that the missionaries keep to their ecclesiastical duties and be prohibited from trade or agricultural expansion because the latter was not their calling and was prejudicial to the colonists. The viceroy declined both petitions. In 1735, Leal was appointed regidor de cano, or councilman, to the villa.From the council he was later appointed for life as first alcalde. His leadership was seldom tempered with wisdom or tolerance, however, a fact that quickly won him enemies among the military, the clergy, and even his fellow colonists.
Records of the arriving settlers described Leal as "tall, long faced, blind in the left eye, with thick black beard and hair, dark complexion, sharp nose, and light gray eyes." Though reasonably intelligent and moderately literate, he was plagued with nearsightedness in his remaining eye, which restricted him greatly in his public duties. He boastfully referred to himself as "Spaniard," "principal settler," "regidor for his majesty," and various other titles accorded to him. Still, most looked upon Leal as a small farmer and petty justice of a minor settlement. His inflated sense of pride was shared by his fellow colonists, as demonstrated in their childish, continual, and often impertinent demands to the viceroy.
Leal married María Melano, the widow of Lucas Delgado. Of his children, Juan Leal Goraz, Jr., Bernardo Leal, and Catrina Leal, with their spouses and children, constituted three of the original sixteen Canary Island families. Leal died in the Villa de San Fernando in March 1743 and was buried near what is now San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.