San Antonio's Canary Island Settlers to be Honored on Saturday

Last year, we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio as a military outpost and a location for the construction of missions to convert the native population to Christianity. Tomorrow, San Antonio will honor the first civilians who called our city home, and will also honor the creation of the first civilian organized government in Texas, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

PHOTO; MARIO GUTIERREZ

"The Spaniards came here and created a fort in 1718, and then established Mission de Valero, but there was no government," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

So in 1731, seeking to avoid encroachments on the province of Tejas by the French, Spanish King Philip V awarded land grants to 56 residents of the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands, 15 separate families, to come to San Antonio and create a community.

"They actually established the first city government in Texas, they called the settlement San Fernando de Bejar, they elected the first Alcalde in Texas," Wolff said. "The government actually started right there, and that was 1731."

Within three years, the Canary Islanders had laid out the settlement of La Villita, navigated the San Antonio River, and in 1734, laid the cornerstone for San Fernando Cathedral.

On Saturday, the 288th anniversary of the arrival of the Canary Islanders to their new community, a statue will be unveiled representing two Canary Islanders, a man and a woman, as well as the people they greeted when they arrived, a Spanish soldier, a Spanish friar, and a native American, and it will be unveiled on the very spot where the meeting is set to have taken place on March 9, 1731, what was then called Plaza de las Islas, in honor of the 'Islanders' who founded San Antonio. It is now Main Plaza, near the courthouse.

The voyage to San Antonio was not an easy one. After being dropped off by a Spanish galleon in Veracruz, the settlers walked the 1200 miles to the banks of the San Antonio River where they would make their home.

Diplomats from the Canary Islands and from the Spanish Consul General's office will be on hand for the ceremony. Also on hand, will be the artist who created the sculptures, which will become a permanent part of downtown San Antonio.

CREDIT ALL PHOTOGRAPHS: BEXAR COUNTY

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