The Nuevo León frontier.—While there had been definite progress eastward from New Mexico during the first three-fourths of the seventeenth century, and considerable contact between that province and what is now the western half of Texas, from Nuevo León, on the natural line of advance from Mexico to Texas, progress was slow. For nearly a century the northeastern outpost on the lower Rio Grande frontier was León (Cerralvo), founded in the later sixteenth century. Temporarily a more northern outpost had been established in 1590 at Nuevo Almadén (now Monclova), but it was soon abandoned. Again in 1603 and 1644 the place was temporarily reoccupied, but without permanent success.
Zavala's rule, 1626-1664.—Hostile Indians troubled the border, and the intrusions of English, French, and Dutch colonies into the Lesser Antilles awakened fears for the safety of the western Gulf shores. In 1625 Nuevo León, therefore, was again entrusted to a conquistador, when a contract similar to that of Carabajal in 1579 was made with Martín de Zavala. At the same time the Florida missions 'were extended west to the Apalache district. For thirty-eight years Zavala controlled and governed the frontier with exemplary zeal, subduing Indians, granting encomiendas, operating mines, founding new towns, and opening highways to Pánuco and the interior. His most able lieutenant after 1636 was Alonso de León, one of the founders and first citizens of Cadereyta.
Looking northward.—By the middle of the seventeenth century, explorations beyond the Nuevo León frontier had been made on a small scale in all directions. That they were not more extensive was due to Indian troubles and the feebleness of the frontier settlements. To the north the Spaniards were led short distances by a desire to establish communication with Florida, by rumors of a silver deposit called Cerro de la Plata (perhaps the later San Sabá mines), and in pursuit of Indians. No doubt the Franciscan missionaries made many unrecorded visits to the outlying tribes. In 1665 Fernando de Azcué led soldiers from Saltillo and Monterey across the Rio Grande against the Cacaxtle Indians. This is the first expedition to cross the lower Rio Grande from the south of which we have any definite record.
The founding of Coahuila.—Another forward step was now taken with the founding of the new province of Coahuila, a step made necessary by Indian depredations. In 1670 Father Juan Larios, a Franciscan from Guadalajara, began missionary work on the troubled frontier. In 1673-1674, aided by other missionaries and by soldiers from Saltillo, he established two missions between the Sabinas River and the Rio Grande. In the course of this work Fray Manuel de la Cruz visited tribes north of the Rio Grande. In 1674 Coahuila was made an alcaldía mayor of Nueva Vizcaya, with Antonio de Valcárcel as first alcalde mayor. A colony was now established at thrice abandoned Almadén and later became Monclova.
The Bosque-Lários expedition across the Rio Grande.—In 1675 Valcárcel sent Fernando del Bosque and Father Larios on a tour among the tribes north of the Rio Grande. In the following year (the very year when Bishop Calderón was in Florida) the bishop of Guadalajara visited Coahuila, and urged its further reduction, with a view to passing beyond, to the settled Tejas Indians, across the Trinity River. In 1687 a presidio was established at Monclova, and Coahuila was made a province, with Alonso de León, the younger, as first governor.
The college of the Holy Cross.—The development of Coahuila and Nuevo León was given an impetus by the coming of a new group of Franciscan friars from the recently founded missionary college of Santa Cruz at Querétaro. Among these friars were Fathers Hidalgo, Massanet, and Olivares, all of whom figured prominently in the later development of the frontier. Beside the Querétaro friars, to the westward worked the friars of the Province of Santiago de Xalisco with its seat at Guadalajara.
This was just at the time when Joliet and Marquette descended the Mississippi River.
Next: First Attempts In Eastern Texas
Previous: New Mexico In The Seventeenth Century