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Canary Island Families – On March 9, 1731, fifty-five Canary Islanders arrived at Béxar, becoming the first municipality in the Spanish province of Texas.
During the settlement of Texas in the early 1700’s, the Spanish government recognized the need to both Christianize and civilize the Indians of Texas. They also realized they would need to keep the French from encroaching on Spanish territory. They developed a three-fold strategy.
First, was to establish a series of missions to bring Christianity to the Indians. Next, protect those missions by a series of presidios - or forts and finally - populate the territory with civil settlements loyal to New Spain. The presidio of San Antonio de Béjar was established on the San Antonio River in 1718. That same year, the mission of San Antonio de Valero was moved from the Rio Grande to the vicinity of the presidio, completing the first two stages of the three-fold strategy. Béxar, as it was known, was populated only by a small group of soldiers and their few families. A civil government did not exist at this time.
The last phase of the strategy was to establish a civil settlement or presence in Texas. To that end, on February 14, 1719, the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo proposed to King Philip V of Spain that 400 families be transported from the Canary Islands, Galicia, or Havana - to populate the province of Texas. His plan was approved, and notice was given the Canary Islanders to furnish 200 families; the Council of the Indies suggested that 400 families should be sent from the Canaries to Texas by way of Havana and Veracruz.
By June 1730, twenty-five families had reached Cuba and ten families had been sent on to Veracruz before orders from Spain to stop the movement, arrived.
Under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, ten families started out from the Canary Islands. Within a month after the group arrived at Cuatitlan in September of 1730, the number increased by marriages to fifteen families and four single men, a total of fifty-six persons. This is evident from a comparison of the list of the families taken at Cuatitlán, September 9, 1730 with the official list taken just before they left Cuatitlan , November 8, 1730. At Saltillo in the state of Coahuila a new list and inventory was taken on January 31, 1731. They were provided with an escort of 10 soldiers to the Presidio de San Juan Bautista and from there they where escorted to the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar by Francisco Dubal, where they arrived at eleven o’clock in the morning on March 9, 1731.
The Alvarez Travieso and the Arocha families apparently joined the original party of settlers after their arrival at Cuatitlan . A new and final list was made after arrival at San Antonio in order to confer upon them the title of nobility, as first settlers and upon their descendants, the title of Hijos Dalgos or "Hidalgos", mandated and so honored by the king of Spain, Philip V, each family head could use the term “Don” before his name, denoting his title. Today, there are many individuals and families who are descendants from these original Canary Island colonists.
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