Sunday, January 15, 2017


(Editor's Note: The following narrative on the founding of Matamoros originally appeared in the Bravo and we translated it for our Spanish-challenged readers.)
"Mi Matamoros Querido"

By Oscar Treviño Jr.
The Spanish Crown formed the Internal Provinces Command in 1776 due to the constant attacks by marauding bands of Indians (natives) of the Plains, Comanches, and other tribes who resisted the efforts of the government to colonize them.
Nuevo Santander formed part of the command and a demarcation line was formed to cordon the colonies from the attacks.

The colonization of Nuevo Santander was based on the establishment of "Ayuntamientos," (a political jurisdiction roughly equal to a county), so that each town could name a mayor, a prosecutor, and two council members (regidores).

The evangelization and conversion of natives was entrusted to Franciscan monks from the College of the Propagation of the Faith based in Guadalupe, Zacatecas. In 1793, the priests Francisco Pueyes and Manuel Julio Silva arrived and at once proposed that the name of the community be changed to "Nuestra Señora de Refugio de los Esteros," partly because the inhabitants called it "El Refugio" or "Villa del Refugio."

The Huastecos and the Olives who had been transported here from Florida, strongly resisted colonization and fought against both the local inhabitants and the domesticated natives. They were summarily exterminated.

(The name Tamaulipas is derived from Tamaholipa, a Huasteca term in which the tam- prefix signifies "place where." As yet, there is no scholarly agreement on the meaning of holipa, but "high hills" is a common interpretation.

However, a native population of Tamaulipas, now extinct, was referred to as the "Olives" during the early colonial period, which is a likely Spanish transformation on holipa... source: Wikipedia)

The native prisoners were exchanged at a rate of 60 to 80 natives for a horse. After the Crown – whose policy forbade slavery – discovered that this trade was being allowed in Nuevo Santander, it charged José de Escandón y Helguera and tried him to Juicio de Residencia (Trial by Residence?) in 1767. Despite this fact, he still retained the governorship of Nuevo Santander. Escandón died four years later but was vindicated by the honors granted him in Spain upon his death.

The Franciscans, meanwhile, decided to change the center of the town to a higher elevation due to the chronic flooding of the Rio Grande and it was moved two blocks to the south, where it currently exists.

They used the traditional town layout used in their native Spain: the cathedral toward the east, a plaza, the government building housing the cabildo to the west, and prominent businesses and citizens to the north. They christened the new layout as "Congregación de Nuestra Señora Refugio."

They also brought a patron saint, a virgin originally named "Nuestra Señora de Refugio de los Pecadores," (Our Lady of the Refuge of Sinners), but removed the word "sinners" since everyone had converted to Catholicism.

The Plaza de Armas, now known as "Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla", was a very important place because that's where "La Picota" was placed. This consisted of a large stake upon which were impaled the heads of natives who resisted the authority of the Crown.

There was also a type of wooden platform where public executions would take place.
It was called "plaza de armas" because the authorities would call out the inhabitants in case of an indian attack, raiders, or foreigners. They would hand out weapons to the inhabitants that showed up to defend the town or go after the raiders.

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