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Having been in Nueva España for almost 150 years, it was not until the new province of Nuevo Santander came into being that our ancestors firmly planted their roots, nurtured them and cultivated them into a lasting legacy. A brief review of how and why Nuevo Santander came into being is thus necessary since it played such an important role in the history of so many South Texas families.

In the early 1700’s those areas that today comprise the Mexican state of Tamaulipas and South Texas were still the domain of native Indian tribes. Spain had not yet attempted to settle those areas, but the English and French had a well known interest in establishing a presence in lands that Spain claimed as her own. The extension of Spanish settlements into northern Mexico and Texas was thus prompted by a desire to halt English and French encroachments into Spanish territory and by a need to populate those regions to stop the Indian raids into the more populated regions of New Spain. The man chosen to head the colonization effort was Lieutenant Captain General Jose de Escandon, a native of the province of Santander in Spain and a man with a distinguished military career in New Spain.

Escandon received his appointment in September 1746, with orders to map the region and submit a proposal for entering the region and a plan for subjugating the natives. Escandon first initiated a detailed exploration of the region by dispatching seven different expeditions to survey the region and record their observations. Each expedition started from a different point within New Spain and all were to converge at the mouth of the Rio Grande. The starting points for the seven expeditions were Tampico, Villa de Valles (modern day Ciudad Valles), Queretaro, Linares (in Nuevo Leon), Cerralvo (in Nuevo Leon), Monclova (in Coahuila), and the presidio of La Bahia (at that time located on the Guadalupe River but relocated in 1749 to it present site on the San Antonio River near Goliad, Texas). The Cerralvo group, under the command of Blas Maria de la Garza Falcon, departed Cerralvo on January 21, 1747, and reached the mouth of the Rio Grande a few days before the Queretaro group arrived on February 24, 1747. The remaining groups arrived later, except for the La Bahia group which for some unexplained reason ended up at el Paso del Cantaro (near modern day Roma, Texas) and sent their report to Escandon.

After the initial expeditions, almost two years passed in making ready for one of the greatest colonization efforts ever undertaken in the New World. The initial caravan was headed by Escandon and left Queretaro in December 1748; it was comprised of 750 soldiers and 2500 colonizers. The caravan picked up additional colonizers as it traveled northward to San Luis Potosi and then onward to Tula. Settlements established by this caravan were:

  1. Villa de Llera de Canales (modern day Llera, Tamaulipas, to the south of Ciudad Victoria) (website), was founded on December 25, 1748. Escandon named it in honor of his wife Josefa de Llera y Ballas (he subsequently added de Canales in honor of a general named Servando Canales). Left in charge of 44 families and 11 soldiers was Capt. Jose de Escajadilla.
  2. San Fernando de Güemes (modern day Güemez, Tamaulipas, north of Ciudad Victoria) was established on January 1, 1749. Escandon named it in honor of the Viceroy Juan Francisco de Guemes Horcasitas Aguayo, the Count of Revillagigedo. Forty families and six soldiers remained there under the charge of Capt. Felipe Téllez Girón.
  3. San Antonio de Padilla (modern day Padilla, Tamaulipas) was established about 10 leagues northeast of San Fernando de Güemes on January 6, 1749. Escandon named it in honor of Doña Maria Padilla, the wife of the Count of Revillagigedo. Placed under the command of Capt. Gregorio de la Paz, it was comprised of 30 families and 11 soldiers. The settlers were from Rio Blanco, Linares and Hidalgo.
  4. Villa de Santander de los Cinco Señores (modern day Jimenez, Tamaulipas) (website) was established on February 17, 1749, and made the capital of the new colony of Nuevo Santander. Left in charge of 60 families and 12 soldiers was Capt. Guevara. Escandon named it after his home province of Santander in Spain. Here he also built his own home (musuem website, with photos and videos) and made the villa the capital of the new province of Nuevo Santander. This villa was the future birthplace of my father-in-law Mauro Alcala and the birthplace of several generations of his ancestors. It is quite probable they were descended from one of the original settlers, Jose de Alcala and his wife Maria Guadalupe, but I have not yet made that connection. In his inspection tour of 1757, Don Jose Tienda de Cuervo noted that Jose de Alcala had a hacienda of major livestock about 1½ leagues from the villa, had six children, all arms and ten horses.
  5. Nuestra Señora de Loreto (modern day Burgos, Tamaulipas) (website) was founded a few days later with Capt. Jose Antonio Leal in charge of 30 colonists and 8 soldiers.

After the caravan was joined by a group of colonizers from Nuevo Leon led by Capt. Nicolas Merino, Escandon left this caravan and traveled northward to the point where the San Juan River enters the Rio Grande. Arriving there, Escandon discovered that the Cerralvo caravan was already there, busily establishing a settlement:

  1. Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana de Camargo (modern day Camargo, Tamaulipas) (website) was officially founded on March 5, 1749. Capt. Blas Maria de la Garza Falcon was in charge of 40 families, mainly from Nuevo Leon, and a few soldiers. Among the initial settlers were Juan Diego Longoria and his family, including sons Matias, Vicente and Pedro. Camargo was the key settlement in our family history as many of our Longoria ancestors were among the initial settlers of Camargo.

Before departing Camargo, Escandon authorized the establishment of a mission further upriver on the Rio Grande. This mission was to be called San Agustin de Laredo. Escandon then continued down the Rio Grande some 12 leagues from Camargo, where he encountered another settlement that had been already started by another caravan from Nuevo Leon:

  1. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Reynosa (modern day Reynosa, Tamaulipas) (website) was officially founded on March 14, 1749, and was under the command of Capt. Carlos Cantu, with 40 families, mainly from Nuevo Leon, and 11 soldiers.

Escandon then departed the northernmost settlements and returned to resume the colonization efforts in the southern part of the new colony of Nuevo Santander.

  1. Probably before Escandon could rejoin them, the remaining caravan that had started out from Queretaro founded the villa of San Fernando de la Llave (modern day San Fernando, Tamaulipas) (website) on March 19, 1749. Initially consisting of 40 families and 11 soldiers, it was joined by an additional 30 families soon thereafter. The settlers were from Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, and were led by Fernando Sanchez Zamora.
  2. After being rejoined by Escandon, Nuestra Señora de Las Caldas de Altamira (modern day Altamira, just north of Tampico, Tamaulipas) (website) was founded on May 2, 1749. Escandon named it in honor of the viceroy Juan Rodriguez de Albuerne, Marques de Altamira. Capt. Juan Francisco Barberena was left in command.
  3. The villa of San Juan Bautista de Horcasitas was founded on May 11, 1749, and placed under the command of Capt. Jose Antonio de Oyervides. It became subsequently known as Magiscatzin and was the Municipal capital until 1927 when the head of the Municipality was transferred to modern day Gonzalez, Tamaulipas (website).
  4. The villa of Santa Barbara (modern day Ocampo, Tamaulipas)(website), a short distance southwest of the first settlement of Llera, was founded on May 19, 1749.
  5. The villa of Real de los Infantes (modern day Bustamante) (website), about 13 leagues north of Tula, Tamaulipas) was founded on May 29, 1749. Jacinto de Salazar initially petitioned Escandon to found this settlement after discovering mineral deposits in the area.

Escandon then returned to Queretaro to report on the colonization effort. Shortly thereafter, on October 23, 1749, an official decree was signed in Spain making Jose de Escandon a Knight of Santiago and giving him the title of Count of Sierra Gorda.

In 1750, inspection tours of the existing settlements were begun. During his tour through Reynosa in July 1750, Escandon was petitioned by Miguel Martinez (the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Ana Treviño, wife of Eugenio Longoria, through her maternal grandfather’s branch) to start a new settlement about 20 leagues upstream from Camargo. Three months later, the governor received a similar request from Vicente Guerra, who stated that 26 families were already at the location.

Jose Vasquez Borrego, owner of a large hacienda in Coahuila, also made a similar request to start a new settlement, to be located on the left bank (the Texas side) of the Rio Grande even further upstream from the site requested by Martinez and Guerra.

Soon after Escandon’s inspection tour, the last 7 of the 19 new settlements were established:

  1. After approving Borrego’s request, Nuestra Senora de Dolores (modern day Dolores, a few miles north of San Ygnacio, Texas) was founded on August 22, 1750, with 13 families. The founder of this settlement, Jose Vasquez Borrego, was the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Ana Treviño, the wife of Eugenio Longoria, through her maternal grandfather’s line.
  2. The villa of Soto la Marina (website) was founded on September 3, 1750. Originally located near an arroyo with good water, the site was moved to its present location in 1810 after a yellow fever epidemic decimated the population.
  3. The villa of Santa Maria de Aguayo (modern day Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas) (website) was founded on October 6, 1750. In 1825, it became the capital city of Tamaulipas and its name was changed to Victoria to honor the first president of Mexico, Don Guadalupe Victoria.
  4. After approving Guerra’s request, San Ignacio de Loyola de Revilla (referred to as Revilla, it became modern day Guerrero, Tamaulipas) (website) was officially founded on October 10, 1750. The initial settlers were from Coahuila.
  5. The villa of Escandon (modern day Xicoténcatl, Tamaulipas) (website) was founded on March 15, 1751, with approximately 100 families under the command of Capt. Nicolas Alvarez. Initially named after Escandon himself, the name was subsequently changed to honor the Tlaxcalteca hero, Felipe Santiago Xicoténcatl.

At this point the colonization effort slowed. But several noteworthy settlements were founded in the subsequent years. The next settlement to be officially founded was located about halfway between Camargo and Revilla, near a crossing on the Rio Grande named “El Paso del Cantaro”. The site had actually been the location of a ranch since 1734 and had initially been placed in the jurisdiction of Camargo by Escandon. Finally, in 1752, Escandon approved the official establishment of a separate settlement there.

  1. La Purisima Concepcion de Mier (modern day Mier, Tamaulipas) (website) was officially founded on March 6, 1752 and placed under the command of Capt. Jose Florencio Chapa. The settlement which had existed there prior to that time had been under the jurisdiction of Camargo. Many of the families living in Mier had close ties with those living in Camargo.
  2. Santo Domingo de Hoyos (modern day Hidalgo, Tamaulipas) (website) was founded on May 19, 1752. Under the command of Capt. Domingo de Unzaga, it was settled initially by 180 settlers.
  3. Santillana (modern day Abasolo, Tamaulipas) (website) was founded on October 26, 1752. It initially had 18 families.

There were several other settlements that had been made over the years by individuals without the proper authorization. Subsequent to 1752, some of these were approved by Escandon and were elevated in status to official settlements. In 1754, while Escandon was in Revilla, he was again approached by Jose Vasquez Borrego, who requested permission for Tomas Tadeo Sanchez to establish another settlement on the left bank (the Texas side) of the Rio Grande.

  1. After Escandon gave his consent, the settlement of San Agustin de Laredo (modern day Laredo, Texas) (website) was officially founded on May 15, 1755. The founder, Tomas Tadeo Sanchez, was the great-great-great-grandfather of Ana Trevino Vidaurri, wife of Eugenio Longoria Villarreal, through her maternal grandfather’s line.

The final two settlements, inhabited since before Escandon received his appointment, were located in the extreme southwestern corner of Nuevo Santander. They were not quite the frontier outposts that the other Escandon settlements were, but they apparently had never been officially recognized.

  1. The settlement of Palmillas (website) was officially recognized in 1756.
  2. The settlement of Jaumave (website) claims it was established by Escandon on May 19, 1744; however, this date is before Escandon received his appointment and before he initiated the colonization of Nuevo Santander. When it actually received official status is unclear.

Although it was not one of the original Escandon settlements there is another settlement along the Rio Grande River that figures prominently in the history of South Texas and in our family history. In 1774, a group of 13 families (12 from Camargo and one from Reynosa) founded a new settlement further downriver from Reynosa. Among the Camargo families were two sons (Marcelino and Ramon) of Matias Longoria. Also among the 12 Camargo families was Santiago Longoria, a cousin of Matias and Pedro Longoria. This new settlement was originally named "San Juan de los Esteros Hermosos" but was later renamed as "Nuestra Senora del Refugio de los Esteros", which was popularly called "Villa del Refugio". In 1826 it was again renamed as Villa de Matamoros, known today simply as Matamoros, across the river from present day Brownsville (history website). It was in Brownsville that one descendant (Maria Lydia Garza Longoria) of that Matias Longoria branch became joined in 1939 with the Alcala family through her marriage with Mauro Alcala, whose family had arrived from Jimenez about 20 years earlier. And in 1968, another Longoria descendant (myself), this time from the Pedro Longoria branch, joined forever in holy matrimony with one of the Alcala descendants (Maria Minerva Alcala), further strengthening the ties between the two families and sprouting the Longoria-Alcala branch.

The Longoria-Alcala family has roots in many of the original Escandon settlements, most notably Camargo, Jimenez, Dolores, Laredo, Revilla, Mier and Reynosa. Of these, the settlement with the most roots is Camargo.

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Copyright © 2001.  Raul N. Longoria.  All rights reserved.