A Royal Decree
During the course of the fiesta Ignacio Hernandez, alcalde, or mayor, of Arrecife, called a special meeting of the town council for the morning of May 5 to consider the food situation, and he invited Arocha and Travieso to attend. Their suggestions aided the council in reaching the decision to send two of its members, Juan Leal Goraz and Antonio Santos, to Santa Cruz in Tencriffe as his agents to exchange the impounded goats for another cargo of wheat, with the provision that the wheat would reach Arrecife within two weeks at the latest. The council ordered Goraz and Santos to retrain from asking relief of the Spanish government unless they were unable to obtain the wheat from private sources.
Santa Cruz in Teneriffe was the capital of the Spanish province known as Canary Archipelago, and the King's personal agent, the intendant of the province, had headquarters there. Members of the town council knew that the people of Lanzarote did not stand well with the intendant. For years he had heard frequent appeals for royal aid from this island, many of which he felt would not have been necessary if these people had not been so lazy and shiftless. King Philip V, himself, also had formed a poor opinion of these irresponsible subjects and had ordered the intendant to disregard future appeals for aid unless they were in actual distress from causes beyond their control.
On the night of May 5, 1729, Goraz and Santos, with Arocha and Travieso, left for Santa Cruz by way of Las Cabras in Fuerteventura. Arriving early in the afternoon of the sixth, the four went at once to the trading concern, Los Comerciantes Nacionales, with whom Goraz only a few weeks before had made the trade for the cargo of wheat that was later lost with the ketch, La Aguila. Here Arocha and Travieso reported the details of the wreck of the ketch to its owners and learned that their five companions, whom Arocha sent to Las Cabras for aid failed in their object and returned to Santa Cruz unaware of the fate of the ketch and its skipper and first mate. The traders, therefore,
were not surprised to leam the outcome of the voyage. They told Goraz and Santos their stock of wheat was exhausted and that the small supplies held by other merchants could not be sold for shipment beyond Teneriffe because of a threatened food shortage. Goraz and Santos readily verified this statement when they visited other traders.
Turned down by every private trader in Santa Cruz, on the morning of May 7, as a last resort, Goraz and Santos visited Don Bartolome de Casablanca, intendant of the province, and told him the purpose of their visit to Santa Cruz. On former occasions when Goraz had sought relief of the intendant, he had told pitiful stories of the condition of his people and ended his tales with requests for free assistance from the Spanish government. This time he said that the town council at Arrecife in good faith had bartered a flock of goats it had bought from the citizens of Lnnzarote for a cargo of much-needed wheat, and through an act of God the ketch bringing the grain had been wrecked. The goats, he said, were ready for prompt delivery to the government in exchange for wheat of equal value. He assured the intendant that he and Santos were not asking a gift of wheat and begged him to accept this statement in good faith.
At first Don Bartolome showed little interest in the proposals of his visitors, but later he told Goraz and Santos' he would consider the matter and requested them to return late that afternoon, hen he would tell them his conclusions.
The day previous to the visit of Goraz and Santos, Don Bartolome received a long dispatch from His Most Catholic Majesty, King Philip V, regarding the future welfare of several hundred Canary Island families, and he was re-reading it when Goraz and Santos called to ask his aid in obtaining wheat for the people of Lanzarote. His desire to consider more fully the plight of the citizens of the island in the light of the King's dispatch prompted the intendant to delay his answer to Goraz and Santos until later in the day.
The King's dispatch was dated February 14, 1729. It opened with the statement that Marques de San Miguel de Aguayo, governor and captain-general of the provinces of Texas and Coahuila, ten years previously had told the King that the French invasion of the Spanish province of Texas had forced Spanish soldiers to leave the province, and the six missions that had been built there under the direction of the Marques de Valero, viceroy at the time. Later, De Valero regained the territory for Spain, and by May, 1722, the presidios, or military forts, at San Antonio, situated in the center of the Texas Indian country, Los Adaes, on the eastern border, and Bay of Espiritu Santo, on the gulf coast, had been fortified with twenty-five men, one hundred men, and ninety men, respectively. For greater security and to save expenses of the royal treasury in maintaining the torts and military forces, the King suggested at the time that four hundred families should be sent to Texas from the Canary Islands, the city of Havana, and the province of Tlaxcala, to be distributed among the existing missions. He also thought a new mission should be built halfway between San Antonio and the east Texas country since the full distance of one hundred and seventy-two leagues that lay between was wild and unsettled. Without these families, Spain could not hope to hold the province, which the King regarded as the most valuable in America because of its fertile lands and potentially rich mines.
The dispatch recalled that on March 18, 1723, the King had ordered every register ship leaving the Canaries for Campeche to carry a part of two hundred volunteer families who might settle at the Bay of Espiritu Santo or at some other point in the province of Texas. Those families going from the Canaries were to be moved from Campeche to Vera Cruz in sailing vessels.
Since the royal order of March 18, 1723, had never been carried out, the King stated that he had made a new plan by which four hundred families were to be sent from the Canary Islands, which number would include the two hundred mentioned in the earlier decree. These people were to sail in register ships for Havana in parties of ten or twelve families at a time, and more if space permitted. From Havana, the families were to be shipped to Vera Cruz, and from that point they would travel by sea to the places selected for their future homes.
The King ended the dispatch with a demand that his will be made known throughout the Canary Islands: that all families volunteering as settlers in Texas be given passage in register ships in parties of ten or twelve families each; that the royal officers at Havana receive the colonists, render them all necessary aid, and provide passage from Havana to Vera Cruz. The King ordered the viceroy of New Spain, whose headquarters were at Mexico City, to see that similar measures were taken at Vera Cruz and to provide passage by sea to their final destination in the province of Texas. The viceroy must treat the colonists properly and give them land and everything needed to maintain them for one year or until they harvested their first crops.
When Goraz and Santos returned to Don Bartolome's headquarters, he explained the terms of the royal dispatch and told them about the advantages he believed would come to those families who might accept the King's kind invitation to settle in the province of Texas. He ended the meeting by offering to donate a thousand fanegas of wheat to the people of Lanzarote on condition that Goraz and Santos would take a copy of the King's dispatch to the town council at Arrecife and get its full co-operation in enlisting volunteers to go as settlers to the province of Texas. Flattered by this assignment, Goraz and Santos accepted it and left at once for Arrecife.
In a report to the King a few days later, Don Bartolome wrote:
In considering the condition of the people of Lanzarote, I fully realize that they are hemmed in by deep shores of a small island, whose volcanic soil is poor and scarcely productive. The natives raise goats and a few sheep, but the people have never shown more than slight interest in farming. While it is well known that illiteracy has existed in all the Canaries since the days of the Majoreros and Guanches, the people of Lanzarote are the most ignorant. Although they have often received royal aid, their existence at best has been uncertain, and they have always consumed much more than they produced. Never have they contributed anything to the social or economic advancement of the Spanish kingdom and there seems little hope of improvement. Therefore, we may assume that if the Crown should transplant a number of families from Lanzarote to New Spain, they might learn to become self-sustaining, useful citizens under changed conditions. At least I believe the idea is worthy of trial.
Goraz and Santos reported the results of their visit with the intendant to the council at Arrecife and gave a copy of the King's dispatch to the secretary, who read it to the members. The council sent a message to the intendant, expressing deep gratitude for the gift of the wheat and pledging full aid in persuading a number of families of Lanzarote to settle in America.
The council appointed a special committee, consisting of Juan Leal Goraz, his son, Juan Leal, Jr., Antonio Santos, and Juan Curbelo, to inform all the people of the island of the terms of the royal dispatch and to obtain pledges from those desiring to enlist.
The council directed the committee to aid all volunteer settlers in selling their properties on fair terms and to complete the task with the least possible delay. The secretary made two copies of the royal message, one of which he handed to the parish priest to be read from the pulpit of his church. The secretary posted the other copy on the door of the town hall, an empty formality, since not more than three per cent of the population of Lanzarote at that time could read or write.
There was great activity in Lanzarote during the following months The four members of the special committee appointed by the council to obtain voluntary enlistments joined up before asking others to migrate to Texas. By the end of the year no fewer than ten families in Lanzarote had expressed the desire to move to America.
Holy Thursday of the year 1729 found the people of the island of Grand Canary in a joyous mood, eager to commemorate the Ascension of the Son of God. Until three days previously their low spirits had made them unfit to approach the holy event with proper reverence. According to the more devout Christians, Providence met the situation by sending a cool wind to replace a withering levante that had plagued the island for a month.
Las Palmas, the largest town in Grand Canary. is situated on the east coast, and for centuries has been the social, religious, and commercial hull of the eastern coastal area. The shore line is steep and dangerous, and for that reason its citizens have had to use Puerto de la Luz, a league's distance to the north, as their seaport.
Two leagues west of Las Palmas, at an altitude of six hundred feet, lay the sleepy village of Tamamciete, where a few goatherds and ditch tenders lived. The location was suitable for their occupations, as the land around the village afforded pasturage for sheep and goats, and the two acequias, or canals. That brought water from the springs high up in the mountains to Las Palmas on the coast ran through the settlement. These canals needed constant attention as the water flow was rapid and the volcanic soil was loose and shifty. Failure to repair sudden breaks would have deprived the people of Las Palmas of their only source of fresh water.
Near the village of Tamaraciete sprawled a yawning barranco,or ravine, that was always treacherous after heavy rains in the mountains. Barrancos are found in all the larger islands of the Canary group. They are deep cuts in the soil and radiate from the plateau from which the cone of a volcano ascends, and they do not end until they reach the coast. These canyon-like formations have a depth of several hundred feet and generally are dry except at freshet time in the high altitudes. There are no bridges over these gorges, and the natives use trails of ascent and descent, which are narrow zigzag paths hewn from the rocky walls. Heavy rains in the mountains, which often occur without the knowledge of the inhabitants of the lowlands, send high walls of rushing water through these giant ditches to the sea. In order to warn the people of approaching floods, it was necessary to have patrolmen constantly on duty. These watchmen learned of rains in the mountains by means of a whistled language relayed to them from natives living in the upper regions of the island, thousands of feet above Tamaraciete. This method of communication, which the Guanches used long before the days of the Spanish conquistadores, has been refined, and today one will find it in general use throughout the Canaries.
Commercial activity at Tamaraciete was limited to bartering among the residents who did most of their trading at Las Palmas, which they reached over a camino real, or public highway. They were so poor they could not afford a full-time priest, and once each month a visiting friar conducted mass in the small chapel in the center of the village. At other times they attended religious services at Iglesia San Francisco, which stands in the alameda at Las Palmas. This church was erected by the Franciscans in 1689, and the islanders regarded it with great pride.
Carmen Rodriguez was a widow of forty, and with her only son, Antonio, a vigorous youth of eighteen, lived on the outskirts of Tamaraciete in a one-room dugout in the side of a hill. Branches of withered shrubbery, daubed with a plaster of lime and mud, formed the roof and front wall of the crude hut, and goatskins protected the window openings in bad weather. A thick layer of dry grass covered the earthen floor, upon which lay two lumpy mattresses. Carmen's other worldly possessions consisted of an outside fireplace, a few pottery dishes, a molino, or small gristmill, a scant supply of clothing, and a hand loom on which she wove shawls and coarse cloth. A kind neighbor had loaned her two milk goats, and these she kept tethered to the frame of the molino that stood outside the hut near the loom.
On Ascension Day, Carmen and Antonio Rodriguez rose early so they might reach Iglesia San Francisco at Las Palmas in time for the opening of the special service that had been arranged for the occasion. As Carmen prepared the morning meal of gofio, she was careful to conceal from her son the pain she felt, caused by a wasting disease that had long troubled her. Showing the fortitude of a true descendant of the Guanches, before leaving the hut, Carmen smilingly draped a snow-white mantilla over her head and shoulders and had Antonio put on an attractive gray manta with a broad red stripe, which she had woven on the family loom.
When Carmen and Antonio Rodriguez reached the main highway leading from Tamaraciete to Las Palmas, they met their neighbors, Manuel de Niz, his wife, Sebastiana, and their only child, Josefa, an attractive young woman of eighteen, all dressed in their best church-going clothes, who also were on their way to Las Palmas to attend services at Iglesia San Francisco. Antonio and Josefa were about the same age, and as they had known each other since childhood, they enjoyed walking together down the long decline that led to Las Palmas, while their elders talked about local affairs at Tamaraciete.
Josefa's father was not afraid of working hard at whatever was available on the Canary Islands two centuries ago. From his youth he had tended goats in Grand Canary, first as a goatherd and later as owner of his own flock. Sebastiana was an industrious and helpful wife, and her fine qualities were reflected by her daughter, who willingly helped with the household duties and took her turn in caring for the goats. Twice each week she drove a dozen she-goats to Las Palmas and milked them from door to door according to the demands of her customers.
As the De Niz and Rodriguez families walked down the slope towards Las Palmas, they exuded the gay spirit that filled the island. The morning was bright, the air was crisp and bracing, and myriads of birds sang their sweetest songs. The travelers talked about cheerful and wholesome things, and this seemed to shorten the journey for Carmen Rodriguez, whose physical strength was hardly adequate, for the effort required.
From Tamaraciete the highway followed the barranco to within a hundred paces of the sea, where it crossed the ravine's wide, shallow month and continued along the shore for half a league to Las Palmas. Pedestrians took a short cut by using a footpath that left the main road and crossed the barranco halfway between the village and Las Palmas. Although the descent was sharp, Carmen Rodriguez suffered no ill effects from crossing the barranco, as the steps downward were firm and regularly spaced and the ascending path on the opposite side followed an easy ramplike incline.
When they readied Iglesia San Francisco, the families from Tamaraciete found that both old and young people had spent several days preparing for Ascension Day ceremonies, and that the event seemed to mean as much to the children as to the adults.
The youngsters had carefully spread a thick carpet of rose petals over the floor of the church from the main entrance to the high altar at the rear. Near the altar a huge wax candle, resembling a snow-covered tree trunk, had burned continuously since Easter.
The church was filled early with a motley crowd of worshipers. The most conspicuous were the matronly wives of the merchants of Las Palmas — the social uppercrust — who fanned them- selves briskly while they whispered items of family gossip upon their knees. There were young girls, some in black frocks, others in blue, with white sashes, wearing black mantillas over their heads and shoulders as if to simulate Sisters of Mercy. Leaning lazily against the columns of the church, stood young men with rich mantas, who seemed much more interested in the girls than in the meaning of the holy occasion. More curious than all these were a few raw countrymen, with bare legs and sheepskin coats, wonderstruck at all they saw.
The music of the choir was enchanting, at the elevation of the Host, the Te Deums cheered heart and soul like a divine benediction. Father Diego, the parish priest, was never more fervent in his exhortations, and his earnestness charged the worshipers with the true spirit of the event. At the close of the service he blessed the flowers, and then as the gates connecting the aisles of the church were thrown open, the children rushed up the altar steps and fell upon their hands and knees among the rose petals. These they gathered into the folds of their dresses and carried away with them before the natural fragrance and the smell of incense had disappeared.
The final ceremony occurred when the priest, acolytes, and a dozen laymen gathered around the giant candle that had served its seasonal purpose before removing it. They raised a ladder against it by which a small boy climbed to the top to extinguish the light and to draw from the huge taper the five nails that symbolized those used in the crucifixion of the Master. This done, the men removed the ladder and lifted the candle from its pedestal and slowly laid it upon the marble floor. They then tied ropes to the candle and placed it on a special platform laid to protect the altar steps. Encouraged by shouts from the onlookers, the men moved the candle to a side room and put it among the other items of church property.
The crowd slowly left the church and paused briefly outside to exchange greetings. Suddenly their minds were turned from spiritual matters to the sound of a galloping mule a short distance from the church. Soon its rider dismounted and walked stiffly to the center of the gathering. It was Juan Don Fuentes, alcalde. Or mayor, of Las Palmas, wearing a gaudy manta corresponding with the importance of his office. He took an important looking paper from his waistcoat and in a raucous voice demanded attention while he read it aloud.
The message was the royal dispatch from His Catholic Majesty, King Philip V, of Spain, dated February 14, 1729, which the intendant, Don Bartolome de Casablanca, only a few days before had sent to the people of Lanzarote by Juan Leal Goraz and Antonio Santos. After he read the document, the mayor stated that those interested in the King's plan to colonize the province of Texas should promptly discuss the subject either with Father Diego or himself. He then bowed to his audience, mounted his mule, and rode away.
The crowd received the King's message with mixed emotions. The young people seemed delighted at thc opportunity to migrate to the newest Spanish province in America, but the faces of their parents reflected sadness at the prospect of broken family ties.
The mayor's unexpected visit to the front of the church at the close of Ascension Day services proved an anti-climax that so confused the worshipers as to make further conversation pointless, and they left quietly for their homes.
The De Niz. and Rodriguez families turned in the direction of Tamaraciete, and as she looked at the long hill ahead. Carmen
Rodriguez, suggested that she and Antonio fall behind as her illness would not permit her to ascend the slope as rapidly as the others. Her real motive was to talk privately with Antonio about his future in the light of the King's dispatch. When the members of the De Niz family were beyond the sound of Carmen's voice, she spoke to Antonio:
"My son, for many weeks 1 have thought that I should tell you the facts about my poor, sick self, but when I tried to do so, some mysterious influence clouded my mind and silenced my voice.
Today my spirit is light, my mind is clear, and my tongue is free. Perhaps it was the holy service, or the effect of the message from our great King—whatever it is—something has removed the mists that had gathered about me and I must now speak plainly.
"For four long years a deadly disease has slowly undermined my body and sapped my strength until little is left of either. For some time I have had the feeling that I shall soon join your father in death, and then you will be left alone. It you have ever had any thoughts about your future, you have never disclosed them to me. The time has come when you should make your plans for the years that lie ahead without regard to me, for I shall not be here much longer. You might want to accept the King's invitation to join other colonists from Grand Canary and sail for New Spain. In that case, you should not put off your decision. Several months will pass before the first register ship will sail for America, but you will need time to prepare for the voyage. Long before the sailing date, I shall have exchanged this life for a better one, and if you will tell me now that you will soon settle the question of your future, you will make me very happy."
Antonio Rodriguez knew that his mother had not acted normally for several weeks but not until this moment had he realized the true state of her health, and her frank statement of the facts stunned him. He tried to speak but a lump filled his throat. The mist in his eyes so clouded his vision that he frequently stumbled over the stones in the footpath until they reached the barranco, when his mother suggested that they rest awhile before crossing it.
Despite Antonio's deep love for his mother, her statements about her condition so upset him that he found it difficult to talk to her. Instead, his thoughts turned to his younger days when he enjoyed the comradeship of his father, whose death had occurred only a year previously. He recalled his happiness when he and his father repaired canals and patrolled the barranco together, occupations both liked, although the work was hard and dangerous. He well remembered the time when his father severed two toes and almost bled to death while repairing a break in a canal to prevent the residents of Las Palmas from suffering a water shortage; and finally, how his father lost his life in the same barranco they were soon to cross when, in an heroic effort to save a neighbor from death during a flood that followed a cloudburst in the mountains above Las Palmas, he slipped and fell into the torrent and drowned. As Antonio thought of the future that he must soon face alone, his mother seemed to understand and made no attempt to disturb him until she had rested enough to resume the journey homeward.
Antonio had assisted his father since childhood, and at the age of seventeen, when the latter died, took over his work. Carmen knew how deeply her son liked his occupation, and before they arrived at their hut she had his solemn promise that he would follow his profession whether he remained in Grand Canary or later went to America.
The activities of Ascension Day were too strenuous for Carmen Rodriguez, and when she reached her hut, she took to her bed with a violent illness. After lingering for four weeks, she passed away, and devoted friends took the corpse to the little chapel at Tamaraciete where the visiting priest, old Father Cipriano, conducted the funeral rites. Before the priest committed the remains to the grave, the sexton, as was customary in Grand Canary at the time, removed the coffin lid, and in the presence of Antonio and the other mourners, spread a thick layer of quicklime over the emaciated body of Carmen Rodriguez. He replaced the cover and the pallbearers laid the coffin and its contents into a grave beside her husband.
Manuel and Sebastiana de Niz were not prosperous according to local standards, but by hard work and careful management they had made a bare living and kept out of debt. Occasionally, in long dry seasons, it had been necessary to sell a number of their older animals to buy food for the rest of the flock, and in those cases the year's crop of kids was less than the number of goats sold. Manuel, now forty-nine years old, had become discouraged and was looking about for a chance to improve his condition. He and Sebastiana, seven years younger, were greatly impressed by the King's dispatch and agreed that the plan was worthy of full consideration. Passage to America, a year's sustenance, free land. and a chance to begin life anew in thc province of Texas under royal supervision were matters they felt were worthy of discussion with Father Diego.
The illness and death of Carmen Rodriguez delayed the meeting of Manuel and Sebastiana de Niz with Father Diego. Both were fond of Antonio Rodriguez, and for a long time they had hoped secretly that some day hie would propose marriage to Josefa. Now that he was alone, they invited Antonio to join them on their visit to Father Diego to seek his counsel on the Texas colonization matter. Antonio agreed to go along on condition that out of respect for his late mother's wishes he would not agree to go to America unless Father Diego could assure him that the new settlement was situated near flowing water where he could follow his trade as a ditch digger and tender.
At Las Palmas Father Diego told the visitors he was not fully informed as to the final destination of the first emigrants from the Canary Islands to Texas, but he understood that one mission, San Antonio de Valero, had been completed near the presidio of San Antonio de Bexar, and its success had so pleased the King and the authorities of the church that another of great beauty, known as San Jose de Aguayo, a few leagues away, would soon be dedicated. The Crown had ordered three other missions to be moved from the eastern frontier of the province to the San Antonio River, and these would be under construction by the time Mission San Jose was completed. The rapid spread of the Holy Faith in a heathen country emphasized the need for a Spanish civil settlement in the vicinity of the missions, and Father Diego expressed the hope that the authorities would select this area as a site for the first colony.
Father Diego said that the San Antonio location was ideal for the purpose as the land was rich and productive, and near the missions ran a beautiful river whose source was a series of springs of pure crystal-clear water a league or so away. A short distance to the west was a smaller spring-fed stream, and both were suitable for irrigation. The waters of the river and creek could be used to supply the missions and their farmlands as well as the civil settlement and its farms. The settlers would have to build homes, cultivate farms, raise live stock, and construct and maintain irrigation ditches. While the missionaries were converting the heathen Indians, the colonists could establish a stable civil settlement, and by close co-operation all interests could work for the glory of God and the welfare of the Spanish kingdom. Observing that his remarks were making a deep impression upon his visitors, Father Diego reached the high point of his talk by appealing to their pride.
"You ought to enlist as volunteer settlers in Texas if for no other reason than to uphold the tradition of these ancient islands, which have been the starting point of every important voyage of discovery or development in the western world up to this moment.
Christopher Columbus stopped at Grand Canary in 1492 to repair the rudder of the Pinta and sailed on September 1 of that year for San Sebastian in Gomera, from which place he started westward into the unknown sea. At the beginning of his second voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, Columbus visited Grand Canary on October 3, 1493, and anchored his fleet of seventeen vessels in the harbor at Puerto de la Luz, a league from this church. On his third voyage Columbus called at San Sebastian in Gomera June 14, 1498, and again readied this port on his fourth voyage on May 20, 1502. The fleet in which Hernando Cortes sailed for Hispanola touched the Canaries in 1504.
"Even the tricky English have long known of the importance of the Canaries as a starting point to tlie western world, for did not Captain Christopher Newport, with his flagship, Susan Constant, and other ships of his fleet, stop at the Canaries in 1607 on their to America? And in that same year did not Captains John Smith and Bartholomew Gosnold visit these islands?
"The discoveries of Christopher Columbus and the conquests of Hernando Cortes brought everlasting glory to the Spanish kingdom, but what of the efforts of the English in the New World, whose only purposes were to gain wealth and demoralize the poor heathen Indians? The Lord be praised that the country open to you in the province of Texas is far removed from that occupied by the English. The French county. however, borders New Spain on the east, and our great sovereign's main purpose in colonizing the new province of Texas is to check invasions of Frenchmen upon Spanish territory. The forces of the French in Louisiana are small, and you need have no fear that the Spaniards will again allow them to enter New Spain. I urge you to accept our great King's offer to colonize in Texas."
The De Niz family and Antonio Rodriguez were so impressed with Father Diego's description of Texas that they agreed to sail on the first register ship to leave for Vera Cruz after they disposed of their properties. Manuel tried to sell his goats in time to take passage in the winter of 1729 in the event a register ship should be sailing to Havana, but prospective buyers offered such low terms he waited for better prices, which did not come until early in 1730. Antonio sold his hut in the fall of 1729 and moved into the De Niz home.
Late in January, 1730, the mayor of Las Palmas announced that several families from the island of Lanzarote would sail from Santa Cruz in Teneriffe on March 21, and that Manuel de Niz and family and Antonio Rodriguez of Grand Canary would join them at that port. The mayor said that one of His Majesty's best ships, the Espana, would call at Puerto de la Luz on March 20, and would sail, from there to Santa Cruz in Teneriffe to take aboard the other colonists. As the Espana would not stay long at Puerto de la Luz, the mayor directed the four emigrants to be at the quay ready to embark on arrival of the ship.
During the early years of the eighteenth century, at least one merchant ship sailed annually from Cadiz for Vera Cruz, laden with woolens and other fabrics from England, linens and laces of Holland and Flanders, silks of Italy and France, muslins, silks, and calicoes of the East Indies and various items of merchandise of China, Persia, and Turkey. Spanish agents sold these cargoes at the fair at Vera Cruz, where tradesmen and merchants from Mexico City and other points in New Spain gathered to replenish their meagre stocks of goods. The agents exchanged their merchandise for gold and silver of Mexico and precious stones and other treasures of the West Indies, paying a duty of twenty percent to the King of Spain.
The merchant ship that made the voyage in the year 1729 was the galleon, dos Amigos, bound from Cadiz to Vera Cruz by way of the ports of Santa Cruz in Teneritfe, San Sebastian in Gomera, and Havana in Cuba. The dos Amigos docked at Santa Cruz on the morning of July 2, a few weeks after Don Bartolome de Casablanca, the intendant, had told Juan Leal Goraz and Antonio Santos of the King's desire to send colonists from the Canaries to the province of Texas. She discharged a small quantity of wheat at Santa Cruz, and the space thus made available was filled with supplies for the long voyage. The captain needed six seamen to complete his crew, and he expected to obtain them at Santa Cruz.
Two venturesome young men, Arocha and Travieso, who had been idle since the shipwreck of their ketch, La Aguila, off Lanzarote, offered their services at Santa Cruz tor the westward voyage, and the captain employed them. Arocha and Travieso were friendly with two brothers from Laguna in Teneriffe, Felipe Perez, aged nineteen, and Jose, seventeen. A great uncle of the Perez brothers, one Francisco Terreros, had left the Canaries twenty years earlier and settled at Jalapa, thirty leagues from Vera Cruz, where it was reported lie had become wealthy raising horses and mules for the Spanish government. The Perez youngsters had grown tired of the sleepy old town of Laguna and had often hoped they might pay a surprise visit to their kinsman at Jalapa. When they learned that their friends, Francisco and Vicente, would be aboard the dos Amigos, they took the opportunity to earn their passage to Vera Cruz.
The dos Amigos still needed two seamen when she sailed from Santa Cruz. At San Sebastian in Gomera, while the crew was filling the water casks and bringing aboard a supply of fresh meat for the voyage, tlie captain employed two young fishermen, Ignacio de Annas, twenty-one years old, and his brother, Martin, nineteen, natives of Gomera. These young men had heard fabulous stories about fortunes that were being made by young Spaniards in the sugar cane industry in Cuba and in a spirit of adventure without money, friends, or any knowledge of conditions in Cuba, they agreed to work for their passage as far as Havana. On the long voyage across the Atlantic, the six young men from the Canaries became fast friends.
In the middle of July, 1729, Don Bartolome de Casablanca began the task of advising the people of all the islands of the Canary Archipelago of the King's request for volunteers to migrate as colonists to Texas. He sent special messengers to the larger towns in the province to assist local committees in obtaining enlistments, but they liad little success in Lanzarote. Only four volunteers registered from Grand Canary, and reports from Palma, Hierro, Gomera, Teneriffe, and Fuerteventura were discouraging. While there were no definite refusals, those approached asked for more time to consider the matter.
Lack of interest in the Texas colonization plan should not have been surprising in view of the fact that on July 5, 1723, six years previously, twenty-five families went from the Canary Islands as volunteer settlers to Porto Rico, and as their relatives at home had not heard from them, it was assumed they had met disaster and perished. Had they known that these colonists had done well and some of them had become wealthy in Porto Rico, enlistments for early passage to America might have taxed the capacity of several register ships.
During the eight months required to enlist the settlers from Lanzarote and prepare for their embarkation, Don Bartolome kept in close touch with the town council at Arrecife and its special committee headed by Juan Leal Goraz, and frequently he gave them aid and encouragement. The intendant well knew that if the Canary Islands, with their limited population, were eventually to supply four hundred volunteer families for settlement in Texas, the success of future enlistments would depend upon his ability to get the first shipment off to a good start.
The town council at Arrecife tried to have the colonists from Lanzarote ready to sail for America late in the fall of 1729, but they were unable to dispose of their properties before the spring of 1730. It was not known until early in January 1730, that the voyage would begin at Santa Cruz in Teneriffe on March 21, when the register ship, Espana, would sail for Vera Cruz by way of Havana. Definite plans were then made for the colonists to embark on that date.
Ten families, consisting of fifty-four persons, volunteered from Lanzarote. Besides Juan Leal Goraz, his wife and four unmarried children, were Juan Curbelo, wife and five children; Juan Leal, Jr., wife and four children; Antonio Santos, wife and five children, Jose Padron and wife; Salvador Rodriguez, wife and son ; Juan Cabrera , wife and three children ; Juan Rodriguez, wife and five children; Luis Delgado, wife and four children; and Luis Gutierrez, wife and three children.
During February 1730, Arrecife stirred with business, social, and religious activity. Public sales, fiestas, church masses, and family gatherings occupied the time of the islanders throughout the month. On March 20 the emigrants placed their few items of worldly goods aboard three ketches at Arrecife, and on the following day they arrived at Santa Cruz in Teneriffe where they found the Espana in port.
Although only one family of three persons and a young bachelor enlisted as colonists to New Spain from Grand Canary, the town of Las Palmas publicly recognized their departure when its citizens attended a special mass at Iglesia San Francisco. Father Diego prayed that the emigrants might have safe passage across the sea and that they might find spiritual and temporal wealth in Texas. Later the old priest marched ahead of a large crowd of well-wishers to Puerto de la Luz, a league's distance to the north, to bid Godspeed to the De Niz family and Antonio Rodriguez.
After the emigrants had waited at Puerto de la Luz for three hours, the master of the port sighted a ship approaching from the north. It appeared to be much smaller than the galleon, Espana, and as no other ship was expected that day, there was much speculation as to the identity of the smaller ship. The port master soon recognized it as the barque. La Corona, often seen in those waters in coastwise service between Spain, Spanish Africa, and the Canary and Madeira islands. La Corona slipped quietly alongside the quay, and the captain went ashore. The mysterv of the exchange of ships was solved when Captain Gutierrez explained that the Espana had been slightly delayed in sailing from Cadiz, and to save time, he had orders to put in at Puerto de la Luz, take aboard the passengers for New Spain, and proceed to Santa Cruz in Teneriffe, where he would transfer his passengers and cargo to the Espana. Aboard La Corona were two families of six people bound from Casa Blanca to Havana, also some merchandise and a large stock of provisions for the passengers and crew of the Espana for use on the voyage to Havana and Vera Cruz.
La Corona had a displacement of seventy tons. Full rigged and well balanced, she was rated one of the fastest ships of her class then cruising in the Mediterranean and Atlantic waters around North Africa. In ordinary weather she would not have required more than seven hours to sail from Puerto de la Luz in Grand Canary to Santa Cruz in Teneriffe.
In explanation of the delay of the Espana in leaving Cadiz. the captain later .stated he received an order to wait for two millstones from the village of Arcos, some twelve leagues away. These millstones were gifts from the King of Spain to the Canary Island colonists and were to be used in grinding Indian corn which they were expected to raise on their farms in the province of Texas.
The barque La Corona, had been anchored near the Espana in the port at Cadiz and was ready to sail for Santa Cruz in Teneriffe when it became known that the register ship would be delayed. La Corona had orders to go by way of Casa Blanca on the west coast of Africa and take aboard some provisions, a chest of gold for the viceroy in Mexico, and six passengers bound for Havana all of which were to be transferred to the Espana at Santa Cruz. The Espana had planned to call at Puerto dc la Luz in Grand Canary, but when the King's orders delayed her departure, La Corona included that port in her log, which enabled the Espana to sail direct from Cadiz to Santa Cruz with little loss of time.
Shortly after La Corona sailed, a huge Spanish oxcart approached the dock at Cadiz, bearing two large millstones that were loaded into the hold of the Espana. These stones were so placed as to serve as ballast during the voyage and as hard resting places for such members of the crew or passenger list as might become unruly.
It was late in the afternoon when her crew liberated La Corona, and she swayed forward to seek the freedom of the sea. She swung around and pointed her jib boom northward so she might pass the tip of Grand Canary at Isleta. Slowly, Puerto de la Luz became smaller and the distant town of Las Palmas faded to a single object, the tower of Iglesia San Francisco, which seemed reluctant to say a final farewell to four of its children.
The sadness of the De Niz family and Antonio Rodriguez in leaving Grand Canary soon gave way to pleasant conversation with the two families from Casa Blanca, Juan Gomez, wife and young son, and Felipe Gonzales, wife and small daughter, who were going to Havana to take employment in a branch of the King's service.
The gentle heaving of the sea was so agreeable and the salty breeze so invigorating that the passengers became drowsy soon after nightfall and began to look for sleeping places. The women and children lay on pallets in the fo'castle and the men spread their mantas on deck near the forward hatch. All expected to go ashore at Santa Cruz at midnight. Dawn found them at sea in a dead calm.
An hour after sunrise a heavy swell arose that paled the faces and dulled the eyes of the passengers, who found walking difficult when they approached the sheltered side of the forward hatch to eat their morning meal of gofio. The enthusiasm of the previous evening soon turned into an epidemic of seasickness.
Shortly after midday on March 21, as La Corona turned west and headed for the port of Santa Cruz, two leagues away, Captain Gutierrez saw a ship under full sail approaching from the northeast. He quickly identified the craft as a Barbary pirate ship, whose evident purpose was to capture the chest of gold, if not the entire cargo of La Corona.
Captain Gutierrez orders to sail direct from Puerto de la Luz to Santa Cruz were flexible in case pirates threatened to capture the ship. To protect La Corona and her passengers and cargo, he turned her prow in a northwesterly direction in the hope that the brisk southeast wind would soon enable her to outdistance the pirate ship. If this maneuver proved effective, he would then return to Santa Cruz.
The pirate ship was speedier than Captain Gutierrez had estimated and trailed in sight of La Corona for two days. During the night of the second day of a close race, the wind changed and La Corona turned back towards Santa Cruz and reached port unharmed late in the afternoon of March 26, to find the Espana moored to the quay.
The intendant, Don Bartolome de Casablanca, made his plans to be at Santa Cruz on March 21, the date set for the embarkation of the Espana, in order to assure himself that everything possible had been done for the comfort and happiness of the colonists. He was elated over the report that a young Franciscan friar, Father Jamie Ruiz of Valencia had booked passage on the Espana to Vera Cruz on his way to Mexico, and that the church authorities had appointed him religious counsellor to the passengers. The selection was a happy one, for Father Ruiz had an engaging personality, he was popular with both old and young people, and had gained some distinction as a religious leader. He was a bright scholar; he had spent two years in mission work in Peru, and was well informed about religious and political activities in New Spain.
Don Bartolome expected personally to check all provisions and supplies placed aboard the Espana to make certain they were of good quality and in sufficient quantity for the voyage. Besides the necessary stores, lie had purchased an assortment of tools and implements at Santa Cruz, consisting of axes, crowbars, hand rakes, long knives, and roasting irons, which he assembled in sets to distribute to the heads of the families. Realizing that some of the colonists disliked manual labor, he planned personally to urge them to use these and other implements later to be supplied for their own welfare and for the advancement of the Spanish kingdom.
King Philip V ordered Don Bartolome to make a full list of the colonists sailing on the Espana, showing age, sex, and physical characteristics of each person. This information was necessary because the Spanish government was standing all expenses of the transfer of the colonists to Texas, including their upkeep for one year or until they had harvested their first crops. Don Bartolome thought this duty was so important he was not willing to entrust it to others and arranged to perform it himself just before the Espana sailed. He prepared a stirring farewell speech which he hoped would have the effect of sending the colonists away happy and enthusiastic over their prospects of success in the New World.
On March 18, 1730, Don Bartolome had to visit San Sebastian in Gomera on official business, and he expected to return to Santa Cruz on the twentieth, the day prior to the scheduled arrival of the Espana. Matters developed at San Sebastian that delayed his return until the morning of the twenty-fifth, when he found the Espana at the dock at Santa Cruz.
When Don Bartolome came ashore, he found the atmosphere charged with excitement. Captain Gonzales of the Espana, his crew, and all the parents of the families from Lanzarote were in an ugly mood over the uncertainty of the date of sailing for Havana and the alleged insults they had received from the intendant's chief deputy following their arrival at Santa Cruz four days previously. Don Bartolome soon learned that La Corona's failure to arrive had delayed the departure of the Espana and the explanation was acceptable, but the charges against his chief deputy were serious and, if true, involved his official conduct. The intendant made a thorough investigation in which he developed some surprising facts.
According to Captain Gonzales, a dapper young Spaniard stood on the quay when the Espana docked on the morning of May 21. His natty uniform marked him as a man of quality, and his pert manner impressed the captain as he stepped from the gang plank of his ship.
"I believe you are Captain Gonzales of His Most Catholic Majesty's ship, Espana, are you not?"
"I am, sir," replied Captain Gonzales.
"I would have you know, Captain, that I am Don Carlos Benites Franquis de Lugo, direct descendant of Alonso de Lugo, conquistador of Teneriffe, chief deputy intendant of the province of the Canaries, and at present I am in full charge of affairs at Santa Cruz in the absence of my superior, Don Bartolome de Casablanca. You will please understand that I will issue all orders pertaining to the transfer of the colonists from Lanzarote and Grand Canary, or with respect to any other matters that I shall consider as necessary. I shall expect full and prompt compliance with all my orders, and you will so advise your officers and crew. You will now stand by for further instructions."
"I respect your commands, sir." Captain Gonzales then returned to his ship to convey Don Franquis' orders to his men.
Don Carlos Benites Franquis de Lugo, the son of a Spanish nobleman, was born in the village of Orotoba on the western slope of the island of Teneriffe and received his education in Spain. He enjoyed all the advantages of a rich man's son of the time. He was snobbish and cynical and had no use for persons of lower station in life. In time he obtained a good position in the foreign service of the Spanish government and spent several years in Paris, Rome, and Lisbon. When a vacancy occurred in the chief deputvship of thc intendant of the province of the Canaries, the King appointed Don Franquis to the position in payment of an obligation to the young man's father, who had turned his influence and much of his wealth to the promotion of the King's policies. In return for this aid, Don Franquis' father was made to understand that thc King eventually would appoint his son to the governorship of some Spain province, preferably one in New Spain. The deputyship to an official so well known as Don Bartolome was regarded by the father as a stepping stone to a position of greater importance.
Although he had had a rather broad experience in the foreign service, Don Franquis was a poor diplomat. He posed as a good Catholic, yet he hated ecclesiastics, and often without the slightest provocation he went out of his way to annoy and harass the clergy. His dislike for priests began when, as a lad at confession, the aged priest refused to absolve him from a youthful indiscretion after Don Franquis, in a prankish mood, thrust his hand behind the curtain of the confessional and pinched the good father's leg.
The ketches bringing the colonists from Lanzarote arrived at Santa Cruz before noon on March 21, and under orders from Don Franquis, Captain Gonzales assigned them to quarters on the Espana early in the afternoon. Father Ruiz welcomed the travelers and advised them he was to be their priest during the voyage. He announced that he would conduct mass each morning and would hold vesper services each evening in the ship's chapel. Also, he planned to observe feast days occurring during the voyage, and he urged the colonists to take active part in all religious matters so they might receive the spiritual uplift that these devotions afforded.
When La Corona had not arrived by noon of the twenty-second, Juan Leal Goraz, spokesman for the Lanzarote colonists, requested Captain Gonzales to allow them to go ashore for two hours for exercise and relaxation since they had been aboard the Espana for twenty-four hours. Remembering his orders from Don Franquis, the captain referred Goraz to the deputy intendant, who promptly refused on the ground that La Corona might dock at any moment and confusion would follow if the colonists had to go aboard their ship while the cargo of La Corona was being transferred to the Espana. Goraz argued to no avail that Don Franquis could see La Corona approaching two leagues away, after which there would be ample time to put the Lanzarote passengers aboard before the barque could dock.
Late on March 23, Father Ruiz asked permission of Don Franquis to take the passengers to the parish church at Santa Cruz early the following morning to attend mass, in case La Corona had not arrived nor was in sight at that time. The temerity of the priest in making this request so upset Don Franquis that he promptly refused it and ordered him to go at once to his quarters on the Espana and remain there except when conducting religious services in the ship's chapel.
On March 24, Captain Gonzales told Don Franquis that the Espana's food supply was running low and as La Corona had not arrived with provisions for the voyage, it was his duty to purchase some articles from local merchants to avoid a food shortage. Franquis charged that the captain had invented the suggestion only as an excuse to obtain shore leave for himself, and quickly denied the request. When the captain protested, Franquis threatened to place him in irons if he continued to question orders of the deputy intendant.
On the twenty-fifth the parish priest at Santa Cruz appealed to Don Franquis to allow the colonists two hours in which to attend a special mass for their safety during the voyage across the Atlantic. The priest solemnly promised that if the deputy intendant would grant his request, he would have every person safely aboard the Espana within the time stated. Don Franquis flew into a rage, denied the request, and ordered the priest off the quay.
Don Bartolome developed these facts from several witnesses, and when Don Franquis did not deny any of the charges and offered no defense of his conduct, the intendant ordered his deputy to return to headquarters and remain there until the Espana sailed. Don Bartolome then took steps to smooth the ruffled feelings of tlie captain and the colonists.
Late in the afternoon of March 26 when the colonists returned to their ship after a three-hour shore leave, they found La Corona moored alongside the Espana. Seamen and porters were hurriedly transferring La Corona's cargo to the Espaiia in preparation for early departure. The passengers from Lanzarote welcomed the colonists from Grand Canary and showed elation when Captain Gonzales stated that weather permitting, the Espana would set sail for Havana by way of the Madeira Islands on the following morning.
Don Bartolome's presence at Santa Cruz prior to the sailing of the Espnna was timely. His sincere interest in the success of the enterprise and his tactful manner with the colonists gave them a new outlook. They retired early, happy over the prospect that before the close of another day they would be well out at sea on their way to America.
An air of excitement pervaded the Espana early on the morn of March 27,1730, when it became known that the ship would sail immediately after Don Bartolome had spoken a brief message and obtained a complete list of the colonists. He came aboard early to attend a special mass conducted by Father Ruiz, after which he made a stirring appeal to the colonists to be loyal, brave, and energetic so that all might find happiness and prosperity in Texas. He told them that they should always remember that His Most Catholic Majesty. King Philip V, was spending great sums of money for their future welfare, and that he had a right to expect full returns to the Spanish kingdom and themselves from this great enterprise.
After he had called the last name on the list of colonists, Don Bartolome went ashore, and as the Espana moved slowly away from the quay, he faced the ship and, kneeling reverently, crossed himself.