José Darío Zambrano (Sambrano), priest, was born in San Fernando de Béxar (present-day San Antonio) on December 17, 1768, the son of Joseph Macario Zambrano and Juana de Oconitrillo. His father was a recent immigrant from Saltillo, Coahuila, who soon became a prominent rancher. Among Darío's numerous brothers and sisters was his younger brother Juan Manuel Zambrano, with whom Darío has often been confused. As a young man Darío was sent to the interior of New Spain to study for the priesthood and was ordained in Monterrey in May 1793. Little is known about where he ministered between then and 1811, except for a few months service as substitute pastor of Matamoros in 1800 and his time as pastor of Santa Rosa, Coahuila, in 1807–08. Zambrano was in San Antonio when the Casas Revolt broke out in early 1811, and he joined in the Royalist counterrevolution led by his brother Juan Manuel Zambrano. When the pastor of the local San Fernando Church was implicated in a revolutionary plot a few weeks later, Zambrano was appointed to replace him. He served as pastor of this San Antonio parish from late March 1811 until his retirement in late 1816 (see SAN FERNANDO CATHEDRAL PARISH). For a while in 1811 he also became temporary chaplain of the Presidial Company of Béxar. When the revolutionary forces of the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition occupied San Antonio in 1813, Zambrano joined the loyalist troops who were forced to withdraw from Texas. He was one of the chaplains with those troops when they returned in August and routed the insurgents at the battle of Medina. One of those who fled to safety in Louisiana after this defeat was Vizente Tarín, for whose child Zambrano had stood as godfather. Tarín remained along the Louisiana border as late as 1821 and apparently never returned to his home. Tarín's pregnant wife, Juana Leal, stayed in San Antonio and was held prisoner by Spanish troops after the battle (see LA QUINTA, 1813). She gave birth to her second son in San Antonio in early 1814; Father Zambrano again served as godfather. There are strong indications that Zambrano's responsibility as godfather to take care of this family in the absence of the husband and father led to a greater intimacy than his clerical state allowed; he was probably the unreported father of several children born to Juana Leal between 1816 and 1824. Although Zambrano retired from the pastorate of San Antonio in late 1816, he served as acting pastor again in November 1818, when his successor absented himself and never returned. For a few months in 1819 Zambrano also took on the responsibility of the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras (Alamo Company) chaplaincy since it was also lacking a resident priest. In late January 1820 a new pastor finally arrived, and Zambrano again retired from public ministry. When a visiting church official in 1825 ordered Zambrano to celebrate Mass in the Alamo Company's chapel for those living on the other side of the San Antonio River, Zambrano ignored the request, probably because he was already retired from ministry and advanced in age. The angered official decreed that Zambrano was no longer permitted to celebrate Mass until further notice. Father Zambrano died around the end of February 1826.
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Archives of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Bexar Archives, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Bexar County Archives, San Antonio.
Politics and Government
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert E. Wright, O.M.I.,
“Zambrano, José Darío,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 24, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
February 1, 1996
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 2, 2022
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: