CANARY ISLANDERS

Map of Canary Islanders from Vera Cruz to Texas
Map of Canary Islanders from Vera Cruz to Texas. Courtesy of Gerry Rickhoff and the Bexar County Clerk's Office. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Canary Islanders.
A Canary Islander couple in traditional clothing, ca. eighteenth century. Courtesy Canary Islands Descendants Association and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

CANARY ISLANDERS. On February 14, 1719, the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo made a report to the king of Spain proposing 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, the group marched overland to the presidio of San Antonio de Bexar, where they arrived on March 9, 1731. The party had increased by marriages on the way to fifteen families, and four unmarried men constituted a sixteenth “family,” making a total of fifty-six persons. They joined a military and civilian community that had been in existence since 1718. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Béxar, the first regularly organized civil government in Texas, and on August 1, 1731, elected Goraz as first alcalde

The arrival of the Canary Islanders disrupted the existing presidio community of Mexican frontiersmen, soldiers, and resident families—especially regarding land and water ownership. Soon after their arrival, the single men joined the presidio service while others forged family and business bonds with the existing population. As Old World farmers, all of them had to be trained in the arts of frontier living. In time, Canary Islander status became a point of pride in much of San Antonio’s population. María Rosa Padrón was the first baby born in San Antonio of known Canary Islander descent.

Canary Islanders Historical Marker.
A Texas Historical Marker honoring the Canary Islanders was erected on San Antonio's Main Plaza in 1971. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

A number of the old families of San Antonio trace their descent from the Canary Island colonists. In 1971 a Texas Historical Marker honoring the Canary Islanders and their role in the development of San Antonio was erected on the Main Plaza of San Antonio. By the late 1970s the Canary Islands Descendants Association was established to promote the history, preservation of documents, and fostering of education about the Canary Islanders, the sixteen original families, and their legacy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Mattie Alice Austin, "The Municipal Government of San Fernando de Bexar, 1730–1800," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 8 (April 1905). Canary Islands Descendants Association (http://www.cida-sa.org/index.html), accessed February 25, 2018. Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Jesús F. de la Teja, San Antonio de Béxar: A Community on New Spain’s Northern Frontier (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995). Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.

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Handbook of Texas Online, "CANARY ISLANDERS," accessed November 14, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/poc01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on May 22, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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