Written by Cynthia J. Beeman
Read by Jacquie Fuller
In the early 18th century, fifteen families from the Canary Islands immigrated to Texas as part of an effort by the Spanish government to settle a group of its citizens in the military outpost of San Fernando de Béxar. After sailing to Veracruz, Mexico, the travelers, including María Robaína Betancour, a widow with five children, endured a difficult overland journey to arrive in present-day San Antonio in March 1731. Making a home for her family in a new land, Betancour acquired property that became a dowry when she married her second husband, Martín Lorenzo de Armas. It included a home on Plaza de las Islas (the main square), two large plots of land, cattle, and tools. Betancour had five more children with De Armas, and together they owned a ranch on Cibolo Creek where they raised horses. Widowed once again in 1769, she continued to manage the family property holdings and business interests for the rest of her life.
The details of her will, filed in 1779, provide insight into everyday life during that era as well as to her religious devotion and to her wealth, which was notable. The will listed not only her home and land holdings, complete with irrigation rights, but also herds of cattle and horses, a branding iron, and personal items including fifteen images of saints, a mattress, a quilt, a woolen skirt, and a chest she had brought from the Canary Islands.
Acosta, Teresa Palomo and Ruthe Winegarten, Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Jackson, Jack, Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721-1821. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986.
Porter, Amy M., Women in the Borderlands 1750-1846: Their Lives and Wills. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2015.
San Antonio Bicentennial Heritage Committee, San Antonio in the Eighteenth Century. San Antonio: Clarke Printing Company, 1976.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.