The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979

Notes and Documents
Memorial of Father Benito Ferndndez
Concerning the Canary Islanders, 1741
Translated by BENEDICT LEUTENEGGER, O.F.M.,
with Introduction and Notes by
MARION A. HABIG, O.F.M., and BARNABAS DIEKEMPER, O.F.M.*
IN 1739 THE VILLA SAN FERNANDO WAS CELEBRATING ITS EIGHTH BIRTH-
day. Prior to 1731, the town (founded in 1718) had been known as
Villa de B6xar and had been composed of soldiers stationed at the Pre-
sidio de San Antonio de Bexar and their families. However, with the
coming of fifteen Canary Island families in 1731,1 the name was changed
to Villa San Fernando, and Captain Antonio de Almazan of the presidio
appointed six of the newcomers to the cabildo, or town council. Since
their appointment was for life, the Canary Islanders wer still in
control of the town as late as 1745, although they made up less than
one-fourth of its population-fourteen out of sixty-three families.2
During the first decade of their settlement in the Villa San Fernando,
the Canary Islanders had not enjoyed the success that the Indian mis-
*Father Leutenegger is the director of the Old Spanish Missions Historical Research
Library at San Jose Mission, San Antonio, Texas. Father Habig of Chicago, Illinois, is the
author of many historical works, including The Alamo Mission. Father Diekemper is the
archivist for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas.
1Ten families made up the group of immigrants who set sail from Tenerife, the largest
of the Canary Islands, about a year before they reached B6xar in March, 1731; there were
five weddings during the year. Fifty-six persons arrived in Cuatitlin; fifteen were children,
and sixteen were teenagers. Carlos E. Castafieda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1519-
1936 (7 vols.; Austin, 1936-1958), II, 278-287, 293. For a list of the members of the first
group, as of September g, 1730, see ibid., 285-286; for the journey to Bexar and the estab-
lishment of Villa San Fernando and its cabildo (council), see ibid., 287-310; for subsequent
events, ibid., III, go-io8.
2Ibid., II, 307-308; Juan Augustin Morfi, History of Texas, I673-1779, translated
by Carlos Eduardo Castafieda (2 vols.; Albuquerque, 1935), II, 293. Although a cabildo
with six regidores (councilmen) was instituted for the Villa San Fernando, it did not be-
come a city (ciudad) but remained a town (villa) until 1811, when it was rewarded for its
loyalty to the Spanish Crown by being raised to the rank of a ciudad. Marion A. Habig,
The Alamo Chain of Missions: A History of San Antonio's Five Old Missions (Chicago,
1968), 262. After the members of the cabildo had been appointed, they elected two of their
own group as alcaldes (mayors), namely the first and fourth regidores (first, second, third,
etc., designated the rank and precedence on formal occasions). For a history of the munic-
ipal government at San Fernando de B6xar, see Mattie Alice Austin, "The Municipal Gov-
ernment of San Fernando de Bexar [sic], 1730-18oo," The Quarterly of the Texas State
Historical Association, VIII (Apr., 1905), 321.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/. Accessed August 21, 2014.