SPANISH MAPPING OF TEXAS. (Extract from the Handbook of Texas Online article Spanish Mapping of Texas.)
Early in 1520 the pilots who had sailed the previous year with
Alonso Álvarez de Pinedaqv laid before the Spanish crown an outline sketch of the Gulf of
Mexico.qv This crude rendering, which survives in the Archivo General de
Indias in Seville, represents the beginning of the Spanish mapping
of Texas. A true cartographic landmark, it was the first European
map portrayal of the Gulf based on actual exploration, as well
as the first to show any part of what is now the state of Texas-hypothetical
concepts of the Gulf of Mexico before its actual discovery notwithstanding.
The Álvarez de Pineda sketch gave representation to the
Mississippi River (called Río del Espíritu Santo)
and to the Río Pánuco, which enters the Gulf at
the site of present-day Tampico, dividing the Mexican states of
Tamaulipas and Vera Cruz. While showing several river mouths along
the Texas coast, it names none of them. Yet, before there was
another known voyage to the northern Gulf, mapsqv began appearing with names attached to the Texas features, descriptive
of what Álvarez de Pineda's crew had observed, or imagined.
Virtually the only record of what the explorers reported after
the voyage is a summary contained in a royal patent granting Francisco
de Garayqv (governor of Jamaica and Álvarez de Pineda's patron) authority
to settle the area of the discovery, which was named Amichel.qv The patent relates that the voyagers had seen gold-bearing rivers
and natives wearing gold ornaments on their noses and earlobes;
some were giants almost eight feet tall, others like pygmies.
Some of the things reported were fanciful, but others were real.
Both the real and fancied soon began appearing on maps produced
The changing political scene in the late eighteenth
century continued to provide the major incentive for Spanish exploration
and mapping. Spain's retrocession of Louisiana to France and the
almost immediate sale of the territory to the United States precipitated
an enduring controversy over the Louisiana-Texas boundary. With
the United States seeking to extend the boundary westward as far
as La Salle's colony, in the Matagorda Bay vicinity, the viceroy
of New Spain strengthened his hand in the negotiations by delving
into history. He authorized José Antonio Pichardoqv to compile a comprehensive report from government archives. In
his four-year effort, Pichardo studied the records at his disposal
and commissioned reports from the field. Among the more valuable
contributions was that of a Franciscan friar at Nacogdoches, José
María de Jesús Puelles, which included "the
best map of Texas then available." Puelles's "Mapa Geográphico
de las Provincias Septentrionales de esta Nueva España"
showed the Texas rivercourses more accurately than any previous
effort. The map stands in sharp contrast to Félix María
Calleja's "Plano Geográphyco de la Prouyncya de Texas,"
drawn around the same time. Pichardo added to Puelles's work information
from other sources to form a large-scale map, "El Nuevo Mexico
y Tierras Adyacentes," completed in 1811 but never published.
Just a decade later, Spain relinquished control of Texas and Mexico
to the new Mexican nation. Accurate assessment of the Spanish
contribution to geography and cartography is made difficult by
the jealousy with which Spain guarded its maps and geographical
data. Yet there can be no doubt that the truly original sources
for the early maps pertaining to Texas were Spanish, or that these
sources were utilized by the widely known mapmakers of other European
nations. See also SPANISH TEXAS, SPANISH MISSIONS, PRESIDIOS.
Robert S. Weddle