Diego Ortiz Parrilla, an important military figure across the Spanish borderlands from Sonora to Florida, was the first commandant of San Luis de las Amarillas Presidio (also known as San Sabá Presidio) in Texas and leader of the Ortiz Parrilla Gulf Coast Expedition. He was born in Villa de Lúcar, bishopric of Almería, Spain, probably about 1715, the son of Tomás Ortiz Parrilla y Montoya and Doña Andrea Parrilla y Montana, "persons of distinguished nobility." He entered royal service in 1734 as an alferez in the Almanza dragoon regiment and went immediately to Cuba. In 1746, when the count of Revilla Gigedo left the governorship of Cuba to become viceroy of New Spain, he took Ortiz with him to Mexico. As a dragoon captain at the fortress of Veracruz, Ortiz Parrilla was sent in January 1747 to Puebla de los Angeles to put down a native revolt. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel the following June.
On March 27, 1749, he was appointed governor and captain-general of Sinaloa and Sonora (called Nuevo Reyno de Andalucía) and captain of Presidio del Pitic, which had been recently moved from the site of present Hermosillo, Sonora, to San Miguel de Horcasitas. He took the oath of office before the audiencia of Guadalajara the following September 12. The new governor was charged with "reducing and extinguishing" the apostate Seris and their neighbors the Tiburones, Carrizos, and Salineros, who were disturbing the jurisdiction. On an initial campaign he rounded up 252 Indians of all ages and both sexes, to be distributed in other parts of New Spain. He then penetrated the natives' refuge on Isla de Tiburón and dislodged the recalcitrants. He explored and mapped the island and sent the map with his report to the viceroy.
In dealing with the Pima revolt, which followed the Seri war in 1751–52, Ortiz Parilla became embroiled in a controversy with the Jesuit missionaries. Each side attempted to place blame on the other. The bitterness generated was echoed a few years later when Ortiz Parrilla, as presidio captain on the San Saba River in Texas, found himself at odds with Franciscans of Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission. After promotion to colonel in February 1751, Ortiz Parrilla was replaced as governor in 1752 so that he could return to Veracruz as captain of a dragoon company. In January 1756 he received crown permission to go to Spain for a year to claim his late father's estate by primogeniture. Before he could make the trip, he was ordered to Texas to take command of San Xavier Presidio. He was to move the garrison to the San Saba River, then to establish a new presidio to protect the new Apache mission.
While spending the winter of 1756–57 in San Antonio, Ortiz Parrilla became a partisan in the personal feud between Fray Mariano de los Dolores y Viana and Fray Alonso Giraldo de Terreros, president of the San Sabá mission enterprise. He made no secret of his belief that the Apaches were faithless and the undertaking foolhardy. The missionary group bound for the San Saba River was split into factions. The colonel was accused repeatedly of causing delays and squandering the funds provided by the mission benefactor, Pedro Romero de Terreros, the mission president's cousin. Ortiz Parrilla arrived on the San Saba River on April 17, 1757, explored the river valley, and chose a site for his presidio on the riverbank a mile west of the site of present Menard. He built a log stockade, explored the area for signs of mineral deposits, and brought ore samples from the Los Almagres diggings (in what is now Llano County) for smelting and assay. As signs of an impending Indian attack mounted, he urged the missionaries to move to the presidio for protection. They refused. When the mission was attacked and destroyed on March 16, 1758, the presidio, with its forces dispersed on various assignments, was powerless to intervene. Afterward, the commandant withstood a petition from his company to move the presidio to a safer spot while he submitted alternate proposals to the viceroy. Whether or not the presidio was moved, he advised, a campaign should be made into the country of the Norteños to preserve Spanish prestige. Council was held at San Antonio on January 3, 1759, to plan the campaign.
The march, with 360 presidial soldiers and volunteers from the presidios and settlements of northern Mexico and Texas and 176 Indians, left San Antonio in mid-August, and proceeded to San Sabá and thence northward. At the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, the force attacked a Tonkawa camp, killed fifty-five natives, and took 140 prisoners. On the Red River, near the site of present Spanish Fort, the Spaniards on October 7 assaulted a fortified Taovaya village where several of the allied tribes were gathered, including Comanches. Unable to take the village in a four-hour battle, Ortiz Parrilla, after council with his officers, withdrew the following day. On reaching San Sabá, he left Manuel Rodríguez of San Juan Bautista in charge and traveled to Mexico City to explain his defeat and the new set of circumstances on the frontier. He was not allowed to return, for Felipe Rábago y Terán, exonerated of misconduct while serving as commandant of the San Xavier garrison, was to be restored to command. Ortiz Parrilla was named captain of Presidio de Santa Rosa María del Sacramento in Coahuila but almost immediately was called to Florida to quell a native uprising. Given 400 men from the garrisons of Veracruz and Havana, he was sent as governor to San Miguel de Pensacola. Settling the Indian problem took two years. By that time Florida had been lost to the British in the settlement of the Seven Years' War. It fell to Ortiz Parrilla to transfer Pensacola to the British Royal American Regiment on September 2, 1763. He removed to Veracruz the Spanish troop and all the converted Florida Indians who were willing to leave their homeland.
After at last assuming command of Presidio de Santa Rosa, Ortiz Parrilla served as interim governor of Coahuila from June 1764 to December 1765. During that time he authorized for Antonio Rivas, who had once served with him, a sizable land grant that is now part of southern Maverick County, Texas. In 1766 he was commissioned to explore the Texas Gulf Coast in response to a rumored English invasion. After exploring Padre Island, he drew a map of the coast as far as Galveston Bay, on the basis of his own exploration and interviews with persons who knew the coast. For more than a decade Ortiz Parrilla had been prevented by the press of circumstances from going to Spain to claim his inheritance. Finally, in December 1767 the viceroy Marqués de Croix authorized his leave on condition that he leave his post in capable hands during his absence. If indeed he left, he was back at Santa Rosa on September 11, 1774, when he asked to be relieved to take a post in Spain, "at the Plaza de Valencia or some other." On October 1, 1774, the crown informed Viceroy Bucareli that the Santa Rosa captain had been assigned to the Valencia post with the rank of brigadier. Ortiz Parrilla was in Madrid by November 16, 1774, and presumably assumed his new duties. He died before the end of November 1775.