300 years of the arrival of Spain to Texas with people from the Canary Islands

R. L. P.

San Antonio de Texas commemorates its founding in a moving tribute to the islanders who created it to defend Spain’s influence in North America

The American city of San Antonio this weekend has experienced an exciting act of recognition of the role that Spain played 300 years ago with the presence of families from the Canary Islands and who founded the first urban space in Texas.

The name of Texas is due to the fact that the original American tribes, the Caddos, called the Spanish “tayshas”, which in their language meant allies, against the Apaches. The Spaniards pronounced that as “Tejas”. Later it adapted to Texas.

Texas has seen flags of Spain, France, and Mexico. After becoming independent from Mexico, it became a republic and in 1845 it chose to join the United States. In 1850 Texas earned money in the transfer of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming to the North American government.

Texas has about 400 years of history, its last 300 years written in Spanish. On March 9, 1731, a group of immigrants from the Canary Islands founded San Antonio de Bexar.

From the Canary Islands to Texas through Cuba

For the 300th anniversary, the Government of the Canary Islands has sent a delegation led by the regional minister of Economy, Industry, Commerce, and Knowledge of the Government of the Canary Islands, Pedro Manuel Ortega, together with mayors of the two provincial capitals of the Canary Islands and the President of Lanzarote, the island from which the first Spaniards to arrive in San Antonio in 1718 departed.

A tribute entitled “El Nacimiento” (the birth) has been held in the Main Square of San Antonio with music from the islands performed by the Victor Estárico Quintet. San Antonio de Texas celebrates in this way and in style the presence of the Canarian pioneers. In addition to music, there are cultural encounters such as an exhibition and meetings between businessmen.

The islanders left the Canary Islands on March 27, 1730 on a journey that would take them from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Havana, Cuba, and finally to Veracruz, Mexico. After a long journey on March 9, 1731, they arrived in San Fernando. Since these feats, 300 years have passed.

From Lanzarote

The islanders organized the first settlement in such a way that, in the 1730s, they found a way to live together, respect memory and traditions. One of the first to arrive was Juan Leal Goras, son of Antonio Goras and María Pérez, a native of the island of Lanzarote, aged 54 years “tall, long face, thick beard, dark complexion, sharp nose, blind in the left eye, black beard and hair, brown eyes”, says the chronicle of that time.

300 years have passed but their descendants keep history alive. While the year 1718 is recognized as the founding of San Antonio, it was not until 1731 that 16 families from the Canary Islands arrived and established a civil government for the city, the first in Texas.

Descendants of the islanders this weekend in San Antonio

Descendants of the islanders this weekend in San Antonio

Three centuries

300 years later they have reaped an exemplary coexistence in one of the most important cities in the United States. The first men without family in that city Phelipe Pérez, José Antonio Pérez, Martín Lorenzo de Armas, and Ignacio Lorenzo de Armas, all from Tenerife, from where the ship that took them to San Antonio left.

In addition to establishing the first civil government in the city and in Texas, the islanders also built the Cathedral of San Fernando. Every year, new descendants of these 16 families from the Canary Islands join this respected community. They were people from the 1730s who found a way to live outside their land, but always with Spain at heart.


This post was translated from:

L.P.R. (2018) ‘300 años de la llegada de España a Texas con canarios’, ABC, Madrid, 25 March. Available at: https://www.abc.es/espana/canarias/abci-300-anos-llegada-espana-texas-canarios-201803102313_noticia.html (Accessed: 19 February 2021).

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1494 Christopher Columbus founded the city of Concepción de la Vega (Dominican Republic), on the island of Hispaniola.
1524 Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded the city of Granada (Nicaragua), one of the first on the American mainland.
1537 The Spanish captain Alonso de Cáceres founded the city of Comayagua, Honduras, in New Spain, with the name of villa de Sta Mª de la Concepción de Comayagua.
1548 The Spanish captain Alonso de Mercadillo founded the city of Loja, Ecuador, in the viceroyalty of Peru.
1659 The city of Paso del Norte was founded in New Spain and would later be divided into El Paso (United States) and Ciudad Juarez (Mexico).
1709 Jesuit Lucas Caballero founded the mission and town of Concepción (Chiquitos) in curent Bolivia.
1744 The city of Copiapó (Chile) was founded by Governor José Manso de Velasco, with the name of San Francisco de la Selva de Copiapó.

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