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 in Spain.

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

 Citation: "Spanish Mapping of Texas," extract from The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 2001, <> [Access Date].

For bibliography and complete article go to Spanish Mapping of Texas.
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