At the Edge of an Empire
The Spanish Frontier
French Louisiana
The Caddo
From Mission to Capital
The Spanish Frontier
Spain explored the New World in the 1500s and claimed parts of what later became the southern U.S. However, Spain only settled land that needed to be protected from other European nations. Present-day Texas and far western Louisiana were part of Nueva España—or New Spain. The government of New Spain was based in Mexico City. The Spanish idea of an empire in the Americas was mainly to take gold and silver from the land and to bring Christianity to the native people by building missions. New Spain was successful, but it did not produce all of the day-to-day goods it needed. Spain bought these goods from other European countries, shipped them to the New World, and sold them for as much as four times what they cost in Europe. Goods reached the colonies through the port of Vera Cruz in Mexico. Spain did not allow other European countries to trade with the Spanish colonies, even though the French and British were very eager to do so. Los Adaes was, in part, a reaction to the French attempting to establish trade relations with northern New Spain.
Mexico City in the 1700s Lead seal with the Spanish royal emblem
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Province of Texas?
In the late 1600s, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle sailed from France with plans to establish a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Instead, he landed 400 miles to the west, in what is now Texas, and what was then Spanish territory. When Spanish soldiers were looking for La Salle’s settlement, they encountered a group of Caddoan speaking Indians who proclaimed themselves Tayshas upon meeting the Spanish. The Spanish thought this was the name of their tribe, and so called the land Provincia de los Tejas, or Province of the Tejas. The “j” and ‘x’ were interchangeable, so on some maps the area was Provincia de los Texas. The word Tayshas, is the Caddoan word for “friends” or “allies.” The Caddos invited the Spanish to come to their land, and in 1690, the first two Spanish missions were established in what is now northeast Texas. The bad behavior of some of the Spanish soldiers and wandering Spanish cattle angered the Caddo, and in 1694 the Spanish were told to leave, which they did. For more than ten years, no Spanish settlement was in the northeastern part of the Province of Texas.
Suggested Reading
Chipman, Donald E. 1992 Spanish Texas, 1519-1821. University of Texas Press, Austin.

John, Elizabeth A.H. 1975 Storms Brewed in Other Men’s Worlds: The Confrontation of Indians, Spanish, and French in the Southwest, 1540-1795. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.

Weber, David J. 1992 The Spanish Frontier in North America. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.