Notes and Documents
Governing Texas, 1779: The Karankawa Aspect
Edited by Elizabeth A. H. John
Translated by John Wheat*
W HY PUBLISH NOW THIS RECENTLY RECOVERED LETTER, WRITTEN BY THE
Spanish governor of Texas at San Antonio in the spring of 1779?
There are two principal reasons. Most obvious is the governor's analysis
of legal, moral, and logistical constraints that shaped eighteenth-century
Spanish management of Indian affairs-a valuable contribution to our
understanding of the historical process in eighteenth-century Texas.
Less obvious is the import of the recovery process. It underscores the
ongoing challenge, as well as the possibilities, inherent in the more than
250,000 pages of manuscript materials in the Bexar Archives, the princi-
pal documentary legacy of Spanish and Mexican Texas. Given the tur-
moils of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, those documents
were in grave disarray by 1899, when they were moved from San
Antonio to the Archives of the University of Texas for professional pres-
ervation and management. Today that archival entity is a component of
the University's Center for American History.
Within twenty years of the collection's arrival in Austin, the costly,
continuing task of reordering the manuscripts had progressed enough
to support significant research and publication on the early history of
Texas. Still, much remained to be done by the 196os, when the National
Historical Records Commission agreed to underwrite the microfilming
of the B6xar Archives. Preparation for that enormous project entailed
* Elizabeth A. H John is an independent historian engaged m research and writing, consulta-
tion, and lectures. Her primary interest is m ethnohistory, with particular emphasis on the Amer-
ican Indian, the Hispanic Borderlands, and the interplay of Indian and European cultures
John Wheat has been archives translator at the Center for Amencan History at the University
of Texas at Austin since 1978. A professional archivist/libranan, historian, and Latin American
area specialist, he has taught in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at UT
Austin, served as a translator and interpreter of Spanish, and produced Spanish-language radio
programs and concerts.
VOL. CIV, NO. 4 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY APRIL, 2001
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/. Accessed July 7, 2015.