The Founding of Nuevo Santander and Laredo
Nuevo Santander, one of the last northern provinces of New Spain, was established by José de Escandón. Upon receiving a commission to conquer this northern frontier, Escandón organized an entrada (expedition) of 1,750 soldiers that resulted in the founding of 20 towns and 18 missions between 1749 and 1755. By occupying this territory, comprised of what would become Tamaulipas, a piece of Nuevo León, and a portion of South Texas, New Spain hoped to convert the indigenous people to Christianity and to discourage French and English expansion.
The Spaniard, José de Escandón, born in 1700, served in a mounted regiment at Mérida, Yucatán. Later he conquered the native inhabitants of Sierra Gorda for New Spain. As Lt. General, he received a commission to inspect the land between the San Antonio River and Tampico known as the Seno Mexicano. Appointed governor, Escandón was responsible for settlements along the Río Grande (Río Bravo): Camargo (1749), Reynosa (1749), Dolores (1750), Revilla (1750), Mier (1752), and Laredo (1755). Laredo is the only remaining Spanish colonial settlement on the northern bank of the Río Grande.
Laredo was founded on May 15, 1755, when Captain Tomás Sánchez, with three families, was granted permission to settle 15 leagues of land near an Indian ford on the Río Grande.Sánchez lived accross the river from Dolores, a large ranching settlement, and journeyed to Revilla to petition for a new villa. Born in 1709 in Nuevo León, Sánchez was a military veteran and had managed a rancho in Coahuila. The Sánchez estate ran cattle, sheep, goats, horses, mules, and oxen.
In 1767, during the Visita General (General Visit) by Juan Fernando de Palacios, the governor of Sierra Gorda, New Spain officially designated the settlement as a villa and christened it San Agustín de Laredo, after a town in Escandón’s native Santander, Spain. A plaza mayor (central public square) was laid out, and porcíones (land grants fronting the river were issued to the heads of households. Plots of land facing the plaza were surveyed for a church, a captains house, and a jail. (central public square) was laid out, and porcíones (land grants fronting the river were issued to the heads of households. Plots of land facing the plaza were surveyed for a church, a captains house, and a jail.
Webb County Heritage Foundation
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