San Antonio, Texas, is unique among North American cities in having five former Spanish missions: San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo; founded in 1718), San José y San Miguel de Aguayo (1720), Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña (1731), San Juan Capistrano (1731), and San Francisco de la Espada (1731). These missions attract a good deal of popular interest but, until this book, they had received surprisingly little scholarly study. The San Antonio Missions and Their System of Land Tenure, a winner in the Presidio La Bahía Award competition, looks at one previously unexamined aspect of mission history—the changes in landownership as the missions passed from sacred to secular owners in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Drawing on exhaustive research in San Antonio and Bexar County archives, Félix Almaráz has reconstructed the land tenure system that began with the Spaniards' jurisprudential right of discovery and progressed through colonial development, culminating with ownership of the mission properties under successive civic jurisdictions (independent Mexico, Republic of Texas, State of Texas, Bexar County, and City of San Antonio). Several broad questions served as focus points for the research. What were the legal bases for the Franciscan missions as instruments of the Spanish Empire? What was the extent of the initial land grants at the time of their establishment in the eighteenth century? How were the missions' agricultural and pastoral lands configured? And, finally, what impact has urbanization had upon the former Franciscan foundations?
The findings in this study will be valuable for scholars of Texas borderlands and Hispanic New World history. Additionally, genealogists and people with roots in the San Antonio missions area may find useful clues to family history in this extensive study of landownership along the banks of the Río San Antonio.