Canary Islanders

During the settlement of Texas in the early 1700’s, the Spanish government recognized the need to both Christianize and civilize the Indians of Texas. They also recognized the need to keep the French from encroaching on Spanish territory. They therefore developed a three-fold strategy. First, to establish a series of missions. Second, the presidio and third the civil settlement of the territory. In the year 1718 the presidio of San Antonio de Béjar was established on the San Antonio River. During the same year, the mission of San Antonio de Valero was moved from the Rio Grande to the vicinity of the presidio.

On February 14, 1729, the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo made a report to the king of Spain, King Philip V, proposing that 400 families be transported from the Canary Islands, Galicia, or Havana to populate the province of Texas. His plan was approved, and notice was given the Canary Islanders to furnish 200 families, the Council of the Indies suggested that 400 families should be sent from the Canaries to Texas by way of Havana and Vera Cruz. In the port of Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, on March 27 1730, an air of excitement prevailed as the ship the España set sail for the New Pillipins or Texas as the territory was known. By June 1730, twenty-five families had reached Cuba and ten families had been sent on to Vera Cruz before orders from Spain to stop the movement arrived. On September 9th, 1730 they were at Quantitlan, a small village near Mexico City. They stayed there until November the 15th when they began their difficult overland journey to the San Antonio River. The route that was mapped out for them by the Spanish government lead them through San Luis Potosí and Saltillo. They had a short stop at the presidio of San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande where they left their worn-out horses. Under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, the group marched overland to the presidio of San Antonio de Bexar, where they arrived on March 9, 1731. The party had increased by marriages on the way to fifteen families and four single men, a total of fifty­six persons. They joined a military community that had been in existence since 1718. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Béxar, the first regularly organized civil government in Texas.

Historians have generally marked the beginning of civilian settlement in San Antonio with the arrival of fifty-six Canary Islanders, however the Alarcón's expedition of 1718 was not a purely military undertaking. In April 1718 Alarcón crossed the Rio Grande with an entrada numbering ten families and seventy­two persons. On May 1, 1718, he assisted Father Antonio San Buenaventura y Olivares in the founding of San Antonio de Valero Mission. Four days later Alarcón founded San Antonio de Béxar Presidio. The families clustered around the presidio and mission formed the beginnings of Villa de Béxar, destined to become the most important town in Spanish Texas. The presidio was to protect the missions in the area and serve as a way station between the Rio Grande and the East Texas missions. San Antonio was also to be the site of a Spanish villa (San Fernando de Béxar), and to this end Alarcón had recruited frontiersmen from Coahuila and Nuevo León. As Jesús F. de la Teja has demonstrated, "From its founding in 1718 to 1731, forty-seven couples married and 107 children were baptized at Mission Valero." Thus, a first generation of native Bexareños was already living in San Antonio by 1731. The arrival of the Canary Island settlers temporarily disrupted the racially harmonious community, but the threat of Indian attacks and frontier isolation soon eroded the Islanders' aloofness. Indian attacks by the Apaches began in the 1720s and worsened in the 1760s with the appearance of the Comanches at San Antonio. In the summer of 1768, Bexareños had to fight off a twenty-two-day siege without outside assistance. Again, as De la Teja has remarked, "Shared roles, kinship ties, and the frontier experience tied much of Bexar's population into a dynamic community." Oakah L. Jones, Jr., has similarly demonstrated that outside of San Antonio there was little by way of class rivalry among the Spanish population in Texas.

Like many of the old families of San Antonio, the Gibson family can trace their descent from the Canary Island colonists. María Rosa Padrón was the first baby born of Canary Islander descent in San Antonio.,

CANARY ISLANDS. One of the few remaining possessions of Spain, the Canary Islands lie in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the northwest coast of Africa. Their total area is 2,796 square miles (7,242 square kilometers). The Canaries are divided into two provinces of Spain­Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. They comprise seven principal islands­Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, Hierro, Gomera, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura­and several smaller uninhabited ones. They were called Fortunatae Insulae (Fortunate Islands, or Isles of the Blest) in ancient Roman legends. One wonders to this day when and how the ancients learnt about this little paradise which Herodotus called the Garden of Hesperides, Homer the Elysian Fields and Pliny the Fortunate isles. Christopher Columbus visited them in 1492. The name Canaries is derived from canis, the Latin word for "dog." Early explorers named them for the many dogs they found there. The isles share an eternal spring climate but they differ dramatically amongst each other. Exploring the Canaries you move from sub-tropical vegetation to volcanic semi-deserts, from verdant cliffs and gorges to sand dunes by the sea shore.

The original inhabitants of the Canaries were a race known as the Guanches, a name derived from guan, meaning man or people, and achinch, meaning white mountain in an obvious reference to Tenerife's snow-capped Mount Teide. The natives lived a Stone Age existence of shepherding and very rudimentary agriculture. They buried their dead and, in the case of chieftains, mummified the, much like the ancient Egyptians. In Tenerife, Bencome, the mencey or leader of the tribe, fiercely resisted the conquistadors with his flint exes and slings, while in Gran Canaria the ruling guanarteme. Semidán, welcomed the European strangers and established truces.

Modern contact with the Canaries began to develop in the Middle Ages as sailors from peninsular Spain arrived to plunder the isles of their orchids, which were used to make dye, and of their inhabitants, who were enslaved. Conquest in earnest only began with the Norman explorer Jean de Bethencourt who, in 1402 , claimed Lanzarote on behalf of his feudal lord Henry III of Castile and who later became king of the islands. In 1483, during the region of the Catholic Monarchs, Pedro de Vera established a base in Gran Canaria and in 1496 Alonso Fenández de Lugo won control of Tenerife. From then on colonization started in earnest.


It is through Margarita Chaves that the Gibson lineage descends from the Canary Islanders. When George Alberto Gibson married Margarita Cháves little did he know that his descendants would be born into the "first settlers of San Antonio". Margarita great grandfather, Francisco Xavier Cháves married Maria Juana Francisca Padrón, while Maria’s maternal grandparents are Martin Lorenzo de Armas and María Robaina de Bethencourt both of the Canary Islands. Maria Juana Francisca Padrón’s heritage extends to three of the family listed as Canary Islander taken at Quautitlan, Mexico on November 8th, 1730.

The following is a partial list of Canary Islanders from which we descended, it was taken on November 8, 1730 at Quatitlan Mexico just outside of Mexico City just before the group of islanders continued their journey to San Antonio.

Fifth Family

22. - Joseph Padrón. Native of Palma, about 22 years of age, good figure, long face, dark complexion, black eyes, black hair & eyebrows, thin black beard.

23 - María Francisca Sanabria. Wife of above, daughter of Luis Sanabria y Francisca Lagarda, native of Lancerota, about 22 years old medium height, slender, thin face, thin nose, light grey eyes, fair complexion, chestnut hair & eyebrows.

Fourteenth Family

42 - María Rodriquez-Provayna. daughter of Manuel and Paula Umpienes, native of Lancerota, about 27 years old, good figure, slender, long face, fair complexion, black hair and eyebrows, thin nose.

43 - Pedro Rodriquez Granadillo. son of Juan Rodriquez and the above Maria, about 13 years old, good figure, fair complexion, broad shoulders, full face, light grey eyes, thin nose, light chestnut hair & eyebrows, pitted with small-pox.

44 - Manuel Francisco Rodriquez (Granadillo). son of Juan Rodriquez and the above Maria, native of Lancerota, about 3 years old, fair complexion, reddish hair, blue eyes.

45 - Josefa Rodriquez Granadillo. daughter of Juan Rodiguez and the above Maria, native of Lancerota, full faced about 10 years old, reddish flat nose, chestnut hair.

46 - Paula Rodriquez Granadillo (also called Pabla Rodriguez) daughter of Juan Rodriguez and the above Maria, about 10 years old, native of Lancerota, fair complexion, flat nose, round face, black eyes hair and eyebrows.

47 - Maria Rodriquez Granadillo daughter of Juan Rodriquez and the above Maria, 5 years old, native of Lancerota, round face, fair complexion, reddish hair & eyebrows, grey eyes.

48 - Juan de Acuña (Rodriquez Granadillo) son of Juan Rodriquez and the above Maria, native of Guautitlan, about 1 month old, round face, fair complexion, blue eyes, reddish hair and eyebrows, flat nose.

Sixteenth Family

55 - Martin Lorenzo de Armas son of Roque and Teresa de Aviles, native of one of the Canary Islands about 20 years old, good height, broad shoulders, flat face, dark complexion, flat nose, long eyebrows, grey eyes, black beard, eyebrows & hair, three moles on the left cheek toward the nose.




María Robaina de Bethencourt, also refered to as María Rodriquez, María Rodriquez-Provayna, Robaina de Bentacourt and María Granado. She was the daughter of Manuel de Bethencourt and Paula Umpienes (Umpierre). María was born 1703 in Lancerote, Canary Islands, and died January 26, 1779 in San Antonio, Texas. She married (1) Juan Rodríguez Granado while living in the Canary Islands. He died May 5, 1730 in Vera Cruz. She married (2) Martin Lorenzo de Armas in San Antonio, Texas, son of Roque Lorenzo de Armas and Teresa Aviles. Martin was born 1710 in San Sebastian, Gomera, Canary Islands, and died July 9, 1769 in San Antonio, Texas. They had 4 children. Martin and his wife lived in her home on the plaza. They had a ranch of one league of land called "San Antonio del Cibolo," and Martin himself, had rincon or suerte, granted to his as first settler. His will is dated April 6, 1769. There is a deed of sale dated Feb. 20, 1783, from Antonia Rosalia de Armas, widow, to Pedro Jose Texada, for the portion 7 by 14 vera on the plaza. There is a will of Gertrudis de Armas, dated Feb. 8, 1802.

San Fernando Church Records, Jul 9, 1769.

Armas, Martin Lorenzo de, Spanish, married to Robaina de Bentacourt. He left a will, signed before the alcade Francisco Flores. He and his wife, were the original settlers who came here from the Canary Islands in 1731.



The following is a excerpt form Yanaguana’s Successors, the Story of the Canary Islanders’ Immigration into Texas in the eighteenth Century.

A few months after the death of his wife at Guautitlan, the Canary Island settler observed that Juan Leal Goraz began to show unusual interest in Maria Rodrigues, whose husband, Juan, had died of the vomito at Vera Cruz. Maria, who was twenty-eight years old when she arrived at San Antonio de Bexar, was vivacious and comely, and sprang from good stock. She claimed to be a direct descendant of Jean de Bethencourt, one of the conquistadores of the Canaries, and was closely related to a well-to-do merchant at Las Palmas in Grand Canary.

Though uneducated, Maria possessed a natural grace and charm not found in her female associates in the new settlement. She was proud and haughty and took great pains in planning and constructing her home at Villa de San Fernando. She boasted that she had obtained the services of the political leader of the settlers, Juan Leal Goraz, in building her home and had employed Ignacio de Armas to cultivate her farm. Ignacio was twenty-four years old, and with his younger brother, Martin, had sailed from Gomera on the Dos Amigos in the summer of 1729 for Havana, where he joined the Texas-bound Canary Island settlers a year later. He proved to be an able farmer and through his efforts, Maria’s farm produced the best crop of all the settlers during the first year.

With one exception, the women at Villa de San Fernando admitted the superiority and social leadership of Maria. Because of her capabilities and popularity, Goraz reasoned that if he could persuade her to marry him, her would acquire and able young wife as well as the privilege of living in the best home in the settlement, a combination that should vouchsafe their prestige as leader of both sexes in the colony.

In furtherance of his secret ambition, Goraz overlooked no opportunity to show Maria with floods of gratuitous advice, affection with worldly gifts. For a time Maria accepted such advice from Goraz as seemed most beneficial to her, but beyond a perfunctory expression of thanks for his aid, she manifested no other interest in her suitor.

One woman in the colony, Mariana Delgado, widow of Luis Delgado, refused to acknowledge the social and intellectual supremacy of Maria Rodriguiz. Mariana was forty-four, homely and unattractive, but possessed of a strong will. She showed her resentment of Maria’s popularity by making amorous advances towards Ignacio de Armas, the young bachelor employed by Maria to cultivate her farm. The Delgado woman secretly hoped that she might induce Ignacio to marry her, and if successful, she would embarrass Maria by depriving her of a valued helper, and at the same time obtain for herself a young husband who, without monetary consideration, would work on her farm and care for her in her old age.

Acting on a centuries-old theory that the best approach to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Mariana prepared a sumptuous meal of gofio, Ignacio’s native food, and invited him to her home to eat it. When Ignacio told the messenger he had other plans and could not accept Mariana’s invitation, she carefully placed the food in a crock and sent it to him. The fact that he neither acknowledged receipt of the food nor returned the crock did not turn Mariana from per purpose.

Undismayed, Mariana wove a brightly colored manta from wool purchased on credit at the garrison store, and waited patiently for Iganacio to pass her door so she might present the gift to him in person. When, after several days, he did not appear, she sent it to his home by her young son, who reported that he had placed the manta in Ignacio’s hands. As with the gofio, Ignacio did not acknowledge receipt of the gift and continued to ignore the sender. After several weeks, during which Mariana neither saw nor heard from Ignacio, she attended a religious fiesta at the fort where to her dismay she observed Ignacio, dressed in his best pantalones and with her manta draped across his broad shoulders, conversing seriously with Maria, the sixteen year old daughter of Juan Curbelo.

The day following his return from Mexico City, Juan Leal Goraz visited Maria Rodriguez at her home, expecting to receive her commendation upon his success in obtaining horses for herself and the other colonists, particularly in view of the discomforts and hardships she must have known he had suffered throughout the long journey. Instead, Maria’s attitude was one of indifference approaching contempt. She criticized him severely for taking sudden leave of the colony without disclosing his destination and the purpose of his trip. She declared that on several occasions during his absence she had needed his advice on important matters requiring immediate decision, and as he was not available, she had been compelled to seek assistance elsewhere. She had profited so well by the advice of her new counselor, she had concluded to refer all future problems to him, and therefore she would have no further need of Goraz service. She told Goraz she did not wish to seem disrespectful to an Hidalgo, but he would oblige her greatly if he would leave her premises, and in future see that proper distance was maintained between them. Astonished at Maria’a attitude, Goraz pleaded unsuccessfully for an opportunity to present his case. Disappointed but undismayed, he left Maria’s home, more firmly determined to win her as his wife.

While in Mexico, Goraz received as a gift from one of the viceroy’s attendants a small silver chain, to which was attached a silver pendant bearing several deeply etched Aztec characters. Fully expecting to present the souvenir to Maria as a token of his admiration, he had the gift with him when he called at her home, but her antagonistic attitude prompted him to defer the presentation until a more favorable time. A fortnight after Goraz’ last visit to Maria’s home, he sent the chain and pendant to her by Miguel Leal, one of his young grandsons, who reported that Maria had accepted the gift without comment.

After a week had elapsed, Maria sent Goraz a wicker basket containing a live armadillo, which her children had captured on the outskirts of the town. Around the animal’s neck, she had placed the silver gain, leaving the pendant swinging between its ugly front legs. She sent no message with the armadillo, but the implication was unmistakably clear: Goraz would greatly oblige her if, like an armadillo, he would burrow a hole in the ground, enter it, and take the gift with him. The following day the priest at the chapel at the fort of San Antonio de Bexar performed the ceremony that made Ignacio de Armas and Maria Rodriguez man and wife.

Note: There is an error in the book. María Robaina Rodriguez Granadillo de Bethencourt married Martin Lorenzo de Armas not Ignacio.

Children of María Bethencourt and Juan Granado are:

i. Pedro Rodríguez3 Granado, b. 1717; d. April 11, 1784.

ii. Josefa Rodríguez Granado, b. 1720; d. August 1796, San Antonio, Texas; m. Patricio Antonio Rodriguez.

iii. Paula Rodríguez Granado, b. 1722; m. Joseph Antonio Péres; b. Abt. 1711.

iv. Maria Rodríguez Granado, b. 1725; d. November 2, 1730, Quautitlan.

v. Manuel Francisco Rodríguez Granado, b. 1727.

vi. Juan De Acuña Rodríguez Granado, b. September 15, 1730, Quautitlan, Mexico City, Mexico.

vii. Polonia Rodríguez Granado, b. Aft. 1731.

Children of María Bethencourt and Martin Lorenzo de Armas are:

viii. Fermin Lorenzo de Armas, b. March 5, 1733/34, San Antonio, Texas; d. 1747.

ix. Joseph Lorenzo de Armas.

x. Jose Bacilio Lorenzo de Armas, m. María Encarnación Del Rio.

Xi. Antonia Lorenzo de Armas.