The Spanish Missions in Texas
Between 1632 and 1793, Spanish friars travelled north from Mexico into the area that is now the state of Texas, where they built dozens of missions and presidios (military forts). The goal of the Franciscan friars was to spread the Catholic faith by converting the native Indians. The missions were supported by the Spanish colonial government, which saw them as a means of spreading Spanish influence and claiming territory.
Many of the missions, especially in the south and eastern portions of Texas, grew into thriving settlements that formed the basis of some of the state’s most important cities.
In addition, the mission system had a lasting impact on the state. We can see the mission influence in place names and commonly used Spanish words, in building materials and architecture, and in agriculture and crops. The famed Texas cattle industry was started by Spanish missionaries, who brought cattle with them from Mexico!
The Missions Today
Many of the missions were abandoned and fell into ruin. Even the location of some of the missions has been lost to time.
However, there are many missions that are well preserved (or restored), and open to visitors today. Some even continue to operate as Catholic churches.
From 1769 to 1823, Spanish soldiers and monks built a total of 21 Missions and 5 Presidios in the area that is now the US state of California. Visit the California Mission Guide to learn about the Spanish Missions of California, and to see an animated California Mission Map.