The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972

Nuevo Santander in 1795: A Provincial
Inspection by Felix Calleja
Translated and edited by DAVID M. VIGNESS*
IN MANY WAYS NUEVO SANTANDER, NOW TAMAULIPAS' WAS A UNIQUE
province in the viceroyalty of New Spain. It was not quite on the
northern frontier, yet it nonetheless suffered many of the compli-
cations of that semi-arid, isolated expanse of the Spanish empire.
Nor was it really considered a part of central Mexico, though its
tropical climate and the vestigial remains of ancient civilizations as-
sociated with the Mayan cultures in its southern zone might have
so entitled it. Geographically it was included in the vast coastal plain
of the Gulf of Mexico, yet much of its territory spread across the
formidable mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental (or Sierra Gorda)
and the Tamaulipa ranges.' Because it offered few attractions that
Spaniards traditionally sought, colonization of this neglected area be-
tween Texas and Veracruz came late. Only Upper California, remote
in distance and interest from the heart of New Spain, was colonized
later.
In the mid-eighteenth century, the danger of English and French
encroachment and the harassments of Indians making forays into sur-
rounding settlements forced the king to order the development of
this exposed coastline, until then occupied only by Indians. He as-
signed the responsibility to Jose de Escand6n, a seasoned Indian fighter
*David M. Vigness is chairman of the History Department, Texas Tech University. This
study was made possible by a grant from state-appropriated research funds through
Texas Tech University.
1The formal name of the area was Provincia del Nuevo Santander, although in docu-
ments frequently the southern, mountainous part was designated Sierra Gorda and the
remainder of the province was called La Colonia. The formal name was changed to Estado
del Tamaulipas by act of the national congress of January 29, 1824, three years after
Mexico achieved independence from Spain. The contiguous province also involved in this
report was Nuevo Reino de Le6n, whose name was shortened to Nuevo Le6n after
independence.
2The Sierra Madre Oriental crosses through southern Nuevo Santander. One spur of
this mountain group centers in southern Tamaulipas and is called either Tamaulipa
Oriental or Tamaulipa Vieja. Another spur, in the center of the state, is called by several
names, including Tamaulipa Nueva, Tamaulipa Occidental, or Sierra de San Carlos. The
two Tamaulipa spurs, which are separated by the Rio Soto la Marina, are usually referred
to as the Tamaulipa ranges or mountains, or the Sierra de Tamaulipa.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101201/. Accessed July 24, 2014.