Tribute to San Antonio’s Founders Unveiled at Bexar County Courthouse

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The Bexar County Founders Monument is unveiled for the first time in it's permanent location of the Bexar County Courthouse.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The crowd at the Bexar County Courthouse takes cellphone photos of officials and the Canary Islander bronzes after the unveiling.

Cast in metal, the five figures unveiled outside the Bexar County Courthouse on Saturday represent the cultural crossroads of early San Antonio: a Native American man, a Franciscan friar, a Spanish soldier stationed at the presidio, and a couple who migrated from the Canary Islands.

Descendants of those Canary Islanders joined with Native American groups and local officials to dedicate the monument to the city’s origins at a ceremony that drew well over 100 people to the site near Main Plaza, formerly known as Plaza de Las Islas because of the Islanders’ role in San Antonio’s founding.

“We are pleased that our ancestors decided to make that treacherous journey by sea and by land,” said Mari Tamez, president of the Canary Islands Descendants Association, the driving force behind the monument’s creation. “It was a true leap of faith.”

The Canary Island couple in the monument represent the 56 people from the Spanish territory off the coast of Morocco who arrived in San Antonio on March 9, 1731. They founded the village of San Fernando de Bexar, the first civilian colonial settlement in San Antonio outside the bounds of mission and military life.

The Bexar County Founders Monument is unveiled for the first time in it's permanent location of the Bexar County Courthouse.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

County Judge Nelson Wolff and wife Traci, along with Luis Padilla, a vice-councilor with the Canary Islands government, celebrate between bronzes of a Native American man, a Franciscan friar, and a Spanish soldier.

First sculpted by Armando Hinojosa, a Laredo artist whose stone and bronze monument to Tejano heritage adorns the grounds of the Texas Capital, the founders sculpture was then cast by Stevens Art Foundry in Bulverde.

Speaking at the event, Hinojosa said Alfonso Chiscano, a local thoracic surgeon and advocate for knowledge of Canary Islander history, was the first to contact him about the sculpture. Chiscano immigrated to San Antonio from the Canary Islands in the 1970s.

Bexar County commissioners in October 2017 approved $375,000 in County funds for the sculptures and $68,000 to build the statues’ base. At that meeting, Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert noted the presence of people of African descent among the Canary Island settlers, a detail not often highlighted in stories about San Antonio’s past.

The Canary Islands Descendants Association and supporters raised the remaining $375,000, with donors including the San Antonio Conservation Society and the Tobin Endowment.

The ceremony was a modern celebration of San Antonio’s origins, with Canary Islanders’ descendants wearing traditional 18th-century clothing and the Order of Granaderos y Damas de Galvez, wearing Spanish colonial military dress and playing fifes and drums, presenting historical flags of Spain and the U.S.

It began with songs and prayers by the Tehuan Band of Mission Indians, who trace their history to Mission San José. They filled the courthouse square with their voices, rhythmic drumbeats, and the smell of burning sage.

After prayers by Tehuan Band member Gloria Pacheco Hernandez and Father David Garcia, administrator of Mission Concepción, Bexar County Heritage and Parks director Betty Bueché introduced multiple local and international dignitaries.

Visitors included Teresa Sancho Martinez, consular officer with the Spanish Consulate in Houston, and Luis Padilla, a vice-councilor with the Canary Islands government.

“Immigration has been and continues to be, in our days, an option to improve economic conditions,” Padilla said. “Generally, the most entrepreneurial people are also the ones that immigrate, looking for a better future.”

10 thoughts on “Tribute to San Antonio’s Founders Unveiled at Bexar County Courthouse

  1. It’s unfortunate that there are no sculptures of women. Canary women did come; hence the flourishing culture. I rather imagine there were Native American women. Men don’t “settle” without women to create and carry the culture. What’s up with that?

    • The first picture shows a sculpture of a woman and the article says “a couple who migrated from the Canary Islands”.

  2. so $ 500,000 in taxpayer funds spent WITHOUT a vote from citizens??…more reasons why Nelson Wolff needs to be replaced as county judge…..he has become a king instead of a representative of the citizens of Bexar County.

    i dont support ANY taxpayer funds being spent on monuments, etc. this should be privately funded.

    • I support my tax dollars going to monuments and art that celebrate the history and culture of our community. Especially when it’s only half the cost and matched by an equal contribution from PRIVATE donors.

      If people want statues of themselves or their family, then I agree that should not be taxpayer funded. But what’s presented here is a celebration of what makes SA great. More please!

      • Right on Mark! They should have just placed these along San Pedro Creek and killed two birds with one stone. And, I guess liberals are okay now with indian warrior mascots and logos.

  3. The text says there is a couple which usually implies a male and s female. Sexist, I know. In the image there is s buxom figure in a dress. A woman?

    • The model for the female Canary Island statue is myself. This is exactly how I look. My “buxom” was actually scaled down a little. I find it to be offensive that you are only looking at my figure then and finding it insulting. I was chosen because I am direct descendant of these families, and for no other reason. We are trying to portray a very accurate representation of what and who would have been at the meeting the moment the Canary Islanders arrived in San Antonio. People will truly find anything to be offended by.

  4. Honoring and acknowledging our heritage is as important as any legacy for Bexar County. I applaud the use of any of my tax or bond dollars for such a worthy contribution to our heritage! Hooray for all those families who contributed to the development of this great region! Our roots are the foundation for the future and. . . let’s welcome the new roots being planted everyday!

    Thank you to the County for focusing on this heritage. We all share this history!

  5. Barbara, I agree. Unfortunately, some day there will be those who will claim that tge Canary Islanders were colonists who stole land from indigenous people, and a mayor who agrees with them will have them hauled off in the dead of the night. So, enjoy them while you can.

  6. And, in spite of the criticism from some, there is still so much which could be added to this story and the founding and origins of this beautiful city known as San Antonio. All in San Antonio should be proud of their city even if their own ancestors were not original settlers of the city. We must assume that today, all are in San Antonio because they have chosen to be part of this very culturally diverse city.

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