Angelina is the only woman to have a Texas river, a county, and a national forest named for her. In 1690, the name Angelina was given at baptism to a Native-American woman who was educated by Spanish friars at the Mission of San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande and perhaps also at the College of Zacatecas.
Various priests described Angelina as having a bright intellect and a striking personal appearance, and as a learned woman who spoke Spanish as well as several Indian languages. Much of her employment as a translator seems to have come through the French Canadian guide, hunter, and explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. In 1716, she interpreted for Domingo Ramon and St. Denis, who led an expedition to establish missions and a presidio in East Texas. In 1718 and 1719, she translated for an expedition that founded the Alamo and the city of San Antonio.
Spanish governor Joseph de Azlor also used Angelina's services when he went to East Texas around 1720-21 to reoccupy missions and presidios abandoned after the French invasion of 1719.
Written by Teresa Palomo Acosta
Read by Teresa Palomo Acosta
Angelina, probably a member of the Caddo nation, served as a guide and translator for native people and European explorers between 1716 and 1721. In this role, she, like other Indian women, including Sacagawea in the American West and Malintzin Tenepal in Mexico, became a mediator, negotiator, and peacekeeper among the Indian, Spanish, and French.
The Spanish established a mission among her people in 1690 in present-day East Texas. The mission marked the beginning of a friendship between the two peoples, one that she promoted through her talents and skills.
She received the baptismal name Angelina from the Spanish missionaries. Father Damian Massanet described Angelina as an "Indian maiden with a bright intellect and possessing [a] striking personal appearance," who "expressed a desire to learn the Father’s language." One account of her life describes her as "learned" and "sagacious."
In the 1690s, Angelina traveled to study at San Juan Bautista Mission in Guerrero, Coahuila, thirty-five miles south of present-day Eagle Pass. She later returned to her people. In 1718, Angelina helped found San Antonio de Valero Mission (the Alamo). The last written record of her life comes from 1721. The date of Angelina’s death is unknown.
Angelina has been honored by the State of Texas by having both a county and a river named for her. She is the only woman in the state to have been accorded this recognition.
Acosta, Teresa Palomo and Ruthe Winegarten. Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
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.