Rodriguez, Juan (ca. 1660–1735)

By: Thomas F. Schilz

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 27, 2021

Juan Rodríguez, or El Cuilón, was an Ervipiame chief who was instrumental in the founding of the missions at Bexar. The first recorded encounter between him and Spanish officials took place in April 1718, when Rodríguez appeared before Martín de Alarcón at the San Antonio de Valero Mission and introduced himself as the chief of the Ranchería Grande tribes, a loose assemblage of Tonkawa and Coahuiltecan Indian bands that dominated Central Texas from their villages on the Colorado River. Rodríguez assured Alarcón that these tribes wanted to befriend the Spaniards, and the chief agreed to accept missionaries if the White men would provide his people with firearms to use against the hostile Apaches. Alarcón refused him guns but provided Rodríguez with a baton and named him "lieutenant Captain-General of the Province of Texas." In the next few years Rodríguez worked closely with Spanish authorities in Texas to recruit his people for the mission at Bexar. He guided Spanish explorers into east and north central Texas, acted as an interpreter in Spanish dealings with the Caddoes in east Texas, and served as a scout in Spanish campaigns against hostile Indians. Despite Rodríguez's urging, however, the Indians of Ranchería Grande refused to settle at San Antonio de Valero in large numbers. Other chiefs replaced him among the Indians, and so Rodríguez, supported by only fifty families, abandoned his own village in 1722 to move to San Antonio. Nevertheless, Spanish officials continued to regard him as an important chief and at his urging built two additional missions near San Antonio. These missions, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo and San Francisco de Nájera, were constructed on Rodríguez's assurance that new missions would attract more Indians. He argued that by providing each tribe with its own mission the White men would avoid intertribal friction. Rodríguez and his followers continued to live at San Antonio de Valero throughout the eighteenth century. The Ervipiames became the core of a large number of Indians who settled at the missions on the San Antonio River and helped populate the town of Bexar. Rodríguez died at San Antonio de Valero Mission in 1735.

Fray Francisco Céliz, Diary of the Alarcón Expedition into Texas, 1718–1719, trans. F. L. Hoffman (Los Angeles: Quivira Society, 1935; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1967). Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673–1779 (2 vols., Albuquerque: Quivira Society, 1935; rpt., New York: Arno, 1967).


  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Chiefs and Other Leaders

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

Thomas F. Schilz, “Rodriguez, Juan,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 27, 2021