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Out of its origins in Nueva España, independent Mexico, and Texas, an American city took shape.

THE COMMUNITY GREW SLOWLY in the years after its founding in 1718. In the earliest years of this community of New Spain, military and civilian residents intermingled, and there was no organized civilian settlement. By royal decree, municipal government was formalized in 1731 upon the arrival of fifteen families from the Canary Islands. Because land west of San Pedro Creek lacked irrigation and was often at risk from ongoing Indian attacks, the colonists were settled near the presidio that stood on the creek’s east bank. In July 1732 Captain Juan Antonio Pérez de Almazán laid out the new civilian villa that included a central plaza, the ejido (a town common), and land for collective grazing and farming (the labores). Town and outlying lots were granted to the Isleños (Canary Islander families). As the town grew, it was organized into barrios that would shape and imprint the city’s future–the Barrio del Sur, Barrio del Norte, Barrio del Alamo, La Villita, El Portrero, and the Barrio de Laredo, each represented by its own commissioner. The Barrio del Norte included land lying between the creek and river stretching from the town’s plazas to just north of this site. An acequia (irrigation channel) dug from San Pedro Springs south to near the creek’s confluence with the San Antonio River was completed in 1734 to provide water to homes and farms in the Barrio del Norte. Because of its access to abundant water and proximity to the plazas that were the center of community life, the Barrio del Norte developed into a thriving neighborhood where members of diverse ethnic groups lived and worked side by side.

Drawing: José Cisneros. Courtesy: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
Painting: Thomas Allen; Courtesy: Witte Museum, San Antonio

Plaza de las Armas (Military Plaza) just east of the creek was the site of a vibrant market where residents of the Barrio del Norte gathered throughout the 1800s. This depiction of the market was painted by Thomas Allen in 1878.

Source: “Historical Map of Old San Antonio de Bexar as it was in 1837 or 75 Years Ago.”

San Antonio was organized into governmental units known as barrios as illustrated on John Rullman’s map of the city as it was in 1837. Rullman based his map, published in 1912, on extensive historical research.