Colonial Ranch Architecture in
the Spanish-Mexican Tradition
WILLARD B. ROBINSON*
IN HISTORIC TIMES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, ARCHITECTURE HAS GEN-
erally reflected the physiographical aspects of its region. Prior to the
development of modern technology, geographic situation was indicated
by the indigenous materials used for construction to satisfy requirements
imposed by climate and by human functional needs. Consequently,
buildings erected on the plains in a semi-arid hot climate differ from
those built in areas where rainfall is heavy, both because of different re-
quirements for shelter and because of availability of different materials.
Structures built in response to similar requirements and limitations
usually displayed common stylistic characteristics that inherently por-
trayed the geographical area in which they were constructed. Contrasts
are few, particularly in undeveloped lands. Such characteristics of the
land, along with functional requirements and demands of defense, were
apparent in the architecture on the ranches of the Spanish-Mexican
Texas ranching originated with the earliest missionary work. In
1591 Hernando Cortez had introduced Spanish horses and long-horned
Andalusian cattle into the newly conquered land. Stock that had de-
veloped on Mexican ranches from the early Spanish animals were trailed
north by the Alonso de Le6n expedition in 1690o and by the Domingo
Teran expedition in 1691 to provide food for the first Texas missions.
Later, when the expedition of the Marques de Aguayo crossed the prov-
ince on its return to Mexico, Aguayo turned loose stallions and mares,
bulls and cows at river crossings. In adapting to their environment, these
animals, along with others that may have strayed from ranches or pre-
sidios, multiplied and evolved into large herds of rangy longhorn cattle
and bands of agile mustangs-all available to those who could catch
and brand them.'
*Willard B. Robinson is professor of architecture at I exas lechh University. Research
for this paper was financed in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the
Humanities entitled "Research and Development of an Interpretive Program for the
Ranching Heritage Center, the Museum of Texas Tech University "
1Sandra L. Myrcs, The Ranch in Spanih Texas, 1691-1800, Social Science Series Numbel
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 83, July 1979 - April, 1980. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101207/. Accessed April 27, 2015.