Mares, José (unknown–unknown)

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: August 2, 2020

José Mares was a successful pathfinder between New Mexico and Spanish Texas. His most notable expedition was closely tied to the arrival in Santa Fe of Pedro Vial on May 26, 1787. Vial, who wrote only in French, had kept a diary of his trek from San Antonio by way of Taovaya villages on the Red River. By early July the governor of New Mexico had examined the translated diary and perhaps concluded that Vial had not found the shortest route between the two capitals. It appears that Fernando de la Concha, who succeeded Juan Bautista de Anza as governor of New Mexico (1787–93), commissioned Mares's expedition, which left Santa Fe for San Antonio on July 31, 1787. Mares, a pensioned corporal past the age of active service, was accompanied by Cristóbal de los Santos, a native of Bexar who had journeyed to Santa Fe with Vial, and Alejandro Martín, an Indian interpreter. The three men traveled eastward through the region near the site of present Tucumcari and entered the West Texas plains en route to Taovaya villages on the Red River. After a brief stay on the Red, Mares and his companions marched southward to San Antonio, reaching the capital on October 8, 1787. By Mares's calculation, his trek had covered 373 leagues, or about 970 miles. He expressed a desire to return to Santa Fe as soon as feasible, and he left Bexar on January 18, 1788. On this occasion, he traveled in a generally northwestern direction. His path took him by way of the San Saba and upper Colorado rivers. From the locale of modern Amarillo, Mares crossed the Llano Estacado. He forded the Pecos River to the east of Santa Fe and arrived at the capital on April 27, 1788. On the return trip he had covered an estimated 325 leagues, or about 845 miles. His round trip increased familiarity with the terrain and peoples between Santa Fe and San Antonio. His expedition, coupled with those of Pedro Vial, linked Santa Fe more closely with the Spanish realms in Texas and Louisiana.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–1958; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Noel M. Loomis and Abraham P. Nasatir, Pedro Vial and the Roads to Santa Fe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967).

  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)

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

Donald E. Chipman, “Mares, José,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 2, 2020