(Not a word for word transcript)
So far we’ve talked about the state of the world in the 1500s, the first Spanish expedition in Texas in the 1530s, the earliest residents, and in the last episode, it was about the clash of cultures that occurred between the Spanish and the Native Peoples. it’s about the Spanish Missions.
I’ll talk about the reasons for the missions, how many they established, and some of the good and the bad that took place around and in the missions. In the last episode, I spoke about how, in the new world, the Spanish sought the three G’s, God, Gold, and Glory, the Spanish missions in Texas are a direct result of that philosophy.
As a majority Catholic nation, whose people had lived under Moorish (or Muslim) rule for a total of 800 years. However, that 800 years statement is something of a misconception because it makes it seem as if the whole country lived under Moorish rule the entire time in fact, the Moors lived in about two-thirds of Spain (or the Iberian Peninsula) for about 375 years, a little more than half for another 160 years and finally their last stronghold in Granada for about 244 years. Eventually they were driven off of the peninsula and the country came under a unified Catholic rule.
Once the Spanish had established settlements in Mexico they turned their vision north, in search of fabled cities of gold and between 1632 and 1793, in order to establish a foothold in their northern most territory, they sent expeditions which all had at least one Spanish friar as a member. These teams traveled north from Mexico into present-day Texas, where they built dozens of missions and presidios.
In all, 26 Spanish missions were established and maintained in Texas with various results. According to the Spanish belief system at the time their goals were somewhat noble. Establish Christian enclaves with communal property, labor, worship, political life, and social relations all under the guidance and supervision of the missionaries. The missionaries and Spanish authorities sought to make life within the mission communities resemble that of any Spanish villages and echo Spanish culture. To do so, the priests not only taught the Indians religion but also life skills, they felt the native peoples lacked.
Unfortunately the results didn’t meet the expectations, for several reasons. The day-to-day life in the Spanish missions wasn’t anything the Native Peoples had ever experienced. The priests supervised all activities in the mission; however, when we look at their methods from our current social beliefs, their actions could hardly be described as Christian. They would often physically punish uncooperative natives and for the most part, Native Peoples did not care for mission life, and the records show that very few ever converted to the Catholic faith. Most of those who came into the missions usually stayed only for a few months and then tried to leave. Those who left were often captured again by presidio soldiers and then punished by the priests.
Some history of mission establishment, in 1632, the Franciscans established the first mission in Texas near was is now San Angelo, this mission was established as a follow-up to a 1629 missionary trip. The 1632 mission existed for six months before it was abandoned because of its remoteness from the Franciscan home base in New Mexico. Due to the establishment of Spanish settlements in New Mexico, the first missions North of the Rio Grande were in the El Paso area. Those were established around 1680, the Franciscans started the missions of Corpus Christi de la Isleta (Ysleta), Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción del Socorro and San Antonio de Senecú.
San Antonio de Valero Mission (we know it as the Alamo) was established May 1, 1718, as the Spanish created the Presidio of San Antonio de Béxar. The community served as a stopping point for travelers from the Rio Grande to the East Texas missions. Due to the great distance between Mexico and the Eastern Missions in Texas Spain was unable to maintain them and by spring of 1731, the three Querétero (named after the Franciscan who originated in Querétaro and Zacatecas, Mexico) missions were relocated to San Antonio, with name changes.
La Purísima Concepción de los Hasiani was situated near what had been San Francisco Xavier de Nájara and became La Purísima Concepción de Acuña, or as it is now known Mission Concepción. San Francisco de los Neches, a legacy of the original 1690 San Francisco de los Tejas, was renamed San Francisco de la Espada. Situated between this new Mission Espada and the older Mission San José (y San Miguel), the East Texas mission San José de los Nazonis became San Juan Capistrano, as is now referred to as Mission San Juan. You can visit all the Missions in San Antonio by following a Hike and Bike trail that runs along the San Antonio River. I’d also suggest that when in San Antonio you take some time and visit the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, it has some great exhibits and much more information about the missions and life in the San Antonio area, and actually pretty much all of Texas.
Texas State Historical Association – https://www.tshaonline.org/home/
Texas Almanac – The Spanish Missions in Texas
Legends of America, Spanish Missions in Texas, https://www.legendsofamerica.com/spanish-missions-texas/
Donald E. Chipman. Spanish Texas, 1519-1821: Revised Edition (Clifton and Shirley Caldwell Texas Heritage Series) (Kindle Locations 703-704). Kindle Edition.