Spanish Colonization

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Spanish civilization--very ancient, very devout and very courtly--was firmly rooted in this area by the time of the American Revolution. What kind of people brought it here?

They were ordinary people, not the great captains of the previous conquests. They were men who took their families on great overlands treks. They were not looking for adventure, but for a chance for each man to establish himself on land of his own, to be lord over his own dominions, beholden only to God and the King.

They were priests who looked for the chance to gain new converts. The soldiers were garrison troops, not expeditionary forces, sent to protect, and not to conquer. In addition to the regulars, many soldiers were local militia from the bordering areas.

They were not top heavy with grandees, since their leader had managed to keep the elite down to a minimum. The civil and military leaders who did accompany the expedition were those who could contribute to the development of the colonies. This was to be essentially a civil conquest, rather than military.


Their leader was a man who had proven these methods worked. Jose de Escandon, born in Spain in the 1700s, had immigrated to Mexico while still in his teens, and had proven himself a civil and military leader. In war, his Indian prisioners were treated according to yet non-existent rules of humane warfare. They left captivity with a newfound respect for the Spaniards and a willingness to cooperate.


Because of his expeditions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro, Escandon had been named Count of the Sierra Gorda. In 1746, the Viceroy had recommended him to lead the settlement of the northern reaches of Mexico.

Escandon's new province of Nuevo Santander covered approximately the modern State of Tamaulipas, including areas of Texas between the Rio Grande and the Nueces. The site of San Benito was in Nuevo Santander. A look at maps of the period will show it was never part of Texas and Coahuila under Spanish or Mexican rule.

Between 1747 and 1749, "Seven Entradas", or exploratory journeys were made into the area to ascertain the best procedures for colonization. Slowly but surely, settlement was established in the areas between Tampico and the Rio Grande, until finally, on March 5, 1749, Camargo was officially dedicated opposite the present Rio Grande City. Dedication of Reynosa came nine days later.

In 1750, an attempt was made to establish a settlement north of the Rio Grande at Dolores, on a grant in what is now Zapata and Webb counties. However, it remained a ranch headquarters and never developed into a town.

Escandon died in 1770. Despite his hopes for the area north of the river and the establishment of Laredo as a town (1755), the ranch mentality appeared to dominate settlers in that area. The huge tracts granted on the north side remained intact and were not divided among colonists. Most of these ranch grants were made to a limited number of individuals after the General Visit of the Royal Commission to the Colonies of Nuevo Santander in 1767. Among these was the Concepcion de Carricitos Grant, awarded to Eugenio and Bartolome Fernandez in 1781. One hundred and thirty years later, a portion of this grant would be designated the City of San Benito.