Provincias Internas

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: April 30, 2019

Establishment of the Comandancia General of the Interior Provinces of New Spain (Provincias Internas) had been proposed by José de Gálvez Gallardo during his visitation (1765–71) of the viceroyalty. His initial suggestion of 1768 had been approved in principle by King Charles III in the following year but was not implemented until after Gálvez assumed the post of minister of the Indies on January 30, 1776. In May of that same year the king formally authorized the Provincias Internas, a huge semiautonomous administrative unit that included Texas, Coahuila, Nueva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the two Californias (Baja and Alta). The first capital of the Provincias Internas was the town of Arizpe on the Sonora River, equidistant between Nueva Vizcaya and the Californias. The rationale for carving this jurisdiction from the viceroyalty of New Spain sprang from the desire to promote administrative efficiency on a frontier far removed from Mexico City, to stimulate economic development, and to protect Spanish realms from English and Russian designs. It also came at a time when Hugo Oconór was in the field as commandant inspector of presidios on the northern frontier. Henceforth, Oconór continued to supervise military matters until his resignation in January 1777, but he was obliged to serve under a commandant general who reported directly to the king, rather than to Oconór's friend Viceroy Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa. The new official with titles of governor and commander in chief of the Provincias Internas was Teodoro de Croix, nephew of the Marqués de Croix, former viceroy of New Spain from 1766 to 1771. Croix's tenure (1776–83) coincided exactly with the years of the American Revolution.

In 1783 Teodoro de Croix left northern Mexico to become viceroy of Peru, and at that juncture the Provincias Internas entered an interregnum of ten years marked by brief tenures for five successive commandants general. During that interval the official capital was Villa Chihuahua. In 1786 the viceroy regained control of the Provincias Internas. The restoration of viceregal authority signaled the temporary end of a single administrative unit, and the Interior Provinces were then divided into three military regions. The eastern provinces, which included Texas, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Nuevo Santander, were placed under the command of Juan de Ugalde. But this arrangement did not last long. In 1787 the three regions were reduced to Eastern and Western provinces, with Ugalde and Ramón de Castro exercising control over Texas for an additional six years.

In November 1792 King Charles IV ordered that the two regions be reorganized into a single unit and again removed the Provincias Internas from the control of the viceroy of New Spain. That juncture marked an end to the interregnum and ushered in the administration of Pedro de Nava, which lasted until 1802. In 1804 the king reversed his position and again ordered two separate jurisdictions, but that reorganization was delayed under the administration of Commandant General Nemesio de Salcedo y Salcedo (1802–13) by Napoleon Bonaparte's designs in Spain. The Eastern Division fell under the control of Commandant General Joaquín de Arredondo in 1813 and remained under his heavy hand until Texas joined in the Mexican nation in 1821.

Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519–1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Luis Navarro García, Don José de Gálvez y la Comandancia General de las Provincias Internas del Norte de Nueva España (Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos de Sevilla, 1964). David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

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

Donald E. Chipman, “Provincias Internas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 30, 2019

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