León, Alonso de (1637–c. 1691)

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León, Alonso de (1637–c. 1691)

Alonso de León (b. 1637; d. ca. 25 March 1691), first governor of Coahuila (1687–1691) and leader of early colonization efforts in Texas. The son and namesake of an important chronicler of Nuevo León, León was born in León, Spain. He grew up on Mexico's northern frontier, earned a reputation as an explorer and soldier, and rose to the rank of general in 1687. That same year, León became the first governor of the newly created province of Coahuila, which was intended to serve as a bulwark against the threatening French presence in the Gulf of Mexico. At first, he concentrated on internal affairs, distributing land grants and mining licenses, reorganizing the presidio system, and attempting to pacify the indigenous population. But imperial matters soon took precedence. In 1689 and 1690, León led expeditions to Texas. The first came across the remains of a French fort built by Sieur de La Salle, already destroyed by Indians. On the second, León's party founded the first Texas mission, San Francisco de los Tejas. However, such missionary activity—underfinanced, poorly supplied, and insufficiently defended—could not be sustained in the face of a hostile Indian response and was abandoned within a few years. Spain would not establish a permanent base in Texas until 1716. León died in Santiago de Monclova, which he had founded in 1689.


Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (1938).

David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (1992).

                                     R. Douglas Cope