Journal Of The Life And Culture Of San Antonio

Naming the Town and the First Election in Texas

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This dispatch likewise shall instruct the aforesaid governor to select six men, from among the heads of these fifteen families, to serve as councilmen, regidores: one as chief constable, alguacil mayor; one as secretary and notary public, escribano de Consejo y publico; and one as manager of the property and funds of this commonwealth, mayordomo de los bienes y’propios. These officials shall have the power to select two ordinary alcaldes to administer justice. The governor shall personally attend the meeting of the municipal council ‘ayuntamiento', in order to administer the oath of office to them as well as to put them in possession thereof, in pursuance of the appointment which he shall give them.”

--November 28, 1730

Spanish Archives, Bexar County

On July 20, 1731, Juan Leal Goraz, the eldest of the settlers who had acted as leader and spokesman of the Islanders, was appointed first regidor, or councilman. Juan Curbelo was named second councilman; Antonio Santos, third; Salvador Rodriguez, fourth; Manuel de Nis, fifth; and Juan Leal Jr., sixth. At the same time Vicente Alvarez Travieso was named alguacil mayor, sheriff; Francisco de Arocha, secretary and notary public; and Antonio Rodriguez administrator to keep account books on rents and on sales of products raised in public lands which benefited the government of the Villa de San Fernando.

On August 1, 1731, the first election in Texas was held for the posts of alcaldes ordinarios, justices of the peace. Only the appointed members of the cabildo were to vote. Juan Leal Goraz was elected as first alcalde.

With this first election in the first civil settlement in the Province of Texas were established the offices of the first municipality "legally and officially recognized by the highest authority in New Spain."

The first formal census of San Antonio, dated December 31, 1788, refers to the township as the Villa de San Fernando; the entire group of settlements, the Villa, the mission with its pueblo, and the presidio are referred to as San Antonio de Bexar. In 1823, after Spain was expelled from Mexico, an election provided for the subdivision of Texas into five separate territories with San Antonio de Bexar as the capital of the entire Province. The 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas provided for the reorganization of the old municipalities into counties. Present Bexar County was thus created, with San Antonio de Bexar as the county seat. This name change of San Antonio for the original Villa was confirmed on June 5, 1837, with John W. Smith as mayor. The old settlements of San Antonio de Valero, in the county of Bexar, were declared a "body politic and corporate" with the title of "City of San Antonio" on December 14, 1837.

--Mary Ann Noonan Guerra,

excerpted from: San Fernando, Heart of San Antonio

(San Antonio: Archbishop Francis J. Fuery, 1977)