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April 9, 2018 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Whistling Canaries of mine

woman. Soldier's unfaithful wife (Screenshot, SA300 Canary Islands Special KSAT)

“Hey, babe. Wanna whistle up a storm?” (SA300 Canary Islands Special,KSAT)

Spicy food, unfaithful wife, murder, and a general wildness was just the start of it.

Birthday guest lists can lead to some unexpected surprises.

It’s not all about Mexico and the Tejanos for San Antonio’s 300th birthday celebration. Nope. 

Ya’ gotta include the Canary Islanders.

Around 1731 the King of Spain realized the few soldiers he had positioned around nueva españa was not discouraging French from sneaking in and attempting to secure the land for themselves.

So he sent 56 Canary Islanders, about 16 families, who volunteered (facing economic hardship from volcanic eruptions, epidemics, famines and some political unrest at home) to establish a town in the province of Tejas.

The Canary Islands settlers gave Texas quite a bit of flavor: in architecture, civil government, and food.

It’s not tortilla soup or even tacos without cumin/camino, and cilantro which the Canary Islanders brought along with them.

Love all those palm trees all across San Antonio and all the way to California? Canary Island Date Palms made the boat. (Oh, yeah, I know. A non-indigenous invasive species….)

You know the Alamo, but the how about the  San Fernando Cathedral? (Really named Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe, the name is early PC: a combo for the traditional European”Our Lady” and a nod to local beliefs of Our Lady of Guadalupe It’s very close to a mirror image of a Canary Island cathedral (as shown in video below). The cornerstone placed before the Alamo was built. Jim Bowie was married there. (The church was surely a gun free, knife free zone, even then, right?) General Santa Anna used San Fernando as a lookout and flew a red flag over it telling the Alamo defenders that no quarter would be given.

As if there weren’t enough frightening creatures around, the Islanders brought their fierce, giant, cattle herding dogs, the Perro de Presa Canario. which range from, 100-160 lbs.(Scary enough to be a possible source of the Mexican werewolf/Chupacabra legend.)

The Canary Islanders want their contributions included in school curriculum along with all the others’. They do have a point.

There are differences between San Antonio’s now dominant Mexican culture and the Islanders’ heritage.

Although most are fairly fluent in Spanish in the area, Mexican Spanish differs from Spain’s Academy Spanish. Even more unique is the Canary Islands’ whistling language: Silbo Gomero. (Hear it on the video: around 28:00. Not a language that survived in Tejas.)

Originally a small group, the Canary Islanders kept to themselves before eventual marrying into all the other groups that settled in central Texas. Still, as late as the mid 70’s in South/Central Texas there was some friction and social distance remaining between the Spanish descendants (often with blue eyes and blond hair) and the Mexican heritage descendants.

Now like some Aussies looking for their immigrant convict family connections, many San Antonians are linking back to their Canary roots. (Canary Islands Descendants Association).

So what’s the deal with the master stone mason/architect sent by the King and the soldier’s wife?

Well, it was quite a scandal as recorded in detail by authorities.

One man dead, Rosa imprisoned in a home as there was no jail for women, and one man escaping, but never heard from again. Lost the girl and the chance to see his cathedral completed.

A man who “not only loved to build, but loved two other things as well: wine and women.” (More in video around 12:52)

A whole different place, but the same old story.

Something to build on

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Eating along San Antonio's River Walk (Screenschot SA300 Canary Islands Special. KSAT promo.)

No cilantro in margaritas, you picky ones! (The River Walk/SA300 Canary Islands Special)





  1. Amy / Apr 9 2018 6:44 am

    I never heard of the Perro de Presa Canario dog before, so followed your link and was shocked at how vicious they are, in many of the cases listed killing their owner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 9 2018 7:13 am

      Not your soft fuzzy lap puppy, these. In a wild country, herding dogs would have to be pretty strong and tough to do their job and survive predators. As with any dog, the owner makes the critical difference. I actually ran into one of these dogs in an elevator when visiting friends. Not sure who was walking whom, but extremely well mannered…but huge. A place for everything and everything in its’ place? Thanks for whistling along

      Liked by 3 people

  2. shoreacres / Apr 9 2018 6:56 am

    I knew nothing of this history. How can that be? Obviously, there’s always something more to learn — great details, and an interesting post.

    Beyond that, the Canary Islands were my first experience of “civilization” when I left Liberia the first time. Believe me, landing in a Las Palmas hotel after six weeks of traveling overland in West Africa gave me an appreciation for the Canary Islands that’s never faded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 9 2018 7:51 am

      Been rolling this over in my mind for a few months as I found it fascinating, too. The similarities between the two places.(Definitely want to visit there now. I bet it seemed like paradise to you then. Road trip time!)
      They are right. If the schools teach about influences, then the Canary Islanders need to be included. We are such mutts here. Makes it fun.
      (And now with another chilly drizzling day, maybe perhaps the obligatory bluebonnet/wildlife post…although RC Cat is threatening to raise The Paw over that…but she’s lulled into oblivion by her heated bed by the window)
      Thanks for traveling over to chat

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Ally Bean / Apr 9 2018 7:02 am

    Absolutely fascinating to know this piece of San Antonio history. The Canary Islands are so far away, both geographically and vibe-wise. Plus to have brought with them such a vicious dog on those ships from far away. What a story. One that I don’t remember hearing when visiting San Antonio.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 9 2018 7:57 am

      I’m always stunned at the small size of the ships that sailed people this way. How they managed to bring all the stuff necessary for survival, animals, and the passengers in such tight quarters. A lot more fortitude/determination/tolerance and social skills than seen these days? People get so cranky on a 4 hour plane ride in cushioned seats or despair of family car trips (with movies, AC/heaters, and internet now. If history is merely a collection of stories, what will the future ponder.
      Thanks for whistling up a comment

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Kate Crimmins / Apr 9 2018 7:21 am

    Interesting history. I don’t remember seeing any of this when I was in San Antonio.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Littlesundog / Apr 9 2018 9:57 am

    I’ve been to San Antonio a dozen times and never heard this story. What an amazing history! I am a real lover of dogs, but that Perro de Presa Canario is a beast I don’t care to have an encounter with!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 9 2018 4:18 pm

      All the tales that walls and woods could tell! Sometimes I can just feel a story is trying to get through. IF I could have a super power, I think being able to hear and retell the stories of those who passed through and places that saw it all – that would be my choice. (Of course no one would listen or pay attention, except perhaps little kids who feel it too)
      Thanks for relating to the mists and dreams

      Liked by 2 people

  6. D. Wallace Peach / Apr 9 2018 12:55 pm

    I haven’t been to San Antonio but enjoyed the post and the history lesson. It’s fascinating how migration can have a lasting influence on a place and create a new cultural element. Cool post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. LordBeariOfBow / Apr 9 2018 8:09 pm

    What a fascinating piece of history, loved it, something completely unknown and new to me, I knew the French like to sneak around for a bit of poaching, about 60 70 years after this they tried it out in the antipodes, but the English would have none of it, thank you very much : 😀

    My sister who’s a bit of a snob, well a big bit really,she doesn’t like me very much 😈 is into the Ancestor thing tracing relatives, she thinks she found one of ours that had his death sentence commuted and got shuffled off to Botany bay instead. Wishful thinking on her part. She’s been conned by
    The bit about the palm trees got me, who would imagine that the ones I saw in Ca came from the Canaries, amazing
    Thanks phil you’ve made my day 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 10 2018 5:05 pm

      So many stories so easily lost. Only their plants survive – sowing seeds to keep memories alive. Old homesteads on farms populated by self reliant plants once tended carefully by previous occupants. is a Mormon enterprise. The growing list of family connections of people who join is really important to them as they want to locate all LDS distant relatives in order to rededicate/baptist them into the faith even if they are dead and buried as another faith. My grandmother, a research librarian, historian, author, and trusted genealogist wasn’t a big fan of them as LDS will accept non verified/actually documented lineages as truth (which muddies the water for genealogists working at a later date.) You’re right there are mistakes – names’ spelling is a big reason. But DNA now offers stronger evidence – the more people in their data base, the more accurate the conclusions. (I know. More than you ever wanted to know. HAHA)
      What really matters is, well, here you are and now is now. (We’ll all be history soon enough…so give them something to talk about as the song goes HAHA)
      Thanks for sailing in with a comment


      • LordBeariOfBow / Apr 10 2018 5:15 pm

        The only thing I have time for with the LDS is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,
        I had heard that nonsense about them baptizing the dead which just confirmed to me that they are odd. As I always say, and it’s probably getting downright boring, Thank christ/god I’m an atheist

        Liked by 1 person

  8. robstroud / Apr 9 2018 8:51 pm

    Didn’t know this about the Canary Island Texans. Interesting.

    By the way, don’t forget that for 14% of us, cilantro tastes just like soap (and ruins our meals).

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 10 2018 4:52 pm

      Texas is a real collection of mutts – and perfectly happy being so. (You know they just chop it up really really fine and you never know it’s in the dish. HAHA!)
      Thanks for wandering over to chat


  9. aFrankAngle / Apr 10 2018 5:19 am

    Excellent post. Who would have thunk it? … that is, the link between San Antonio and the Canary Islands. Just another example of everything has a history, which includes good and bad.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 10 2018 4:50 pm

      As you know the trick with the stories/history of a place is to completely give the fact of all the people – without prejudice or seeing them through the lens of modern times – see who was there, what influenced them, what the action /incident was, and how that impacted or influence later times, people, or thoughts. Letting one group over shadow to the point of making another group almost invisible doesn’t authentically tell the story.
      People are pretty interesting characters.Thanks for stopping by to whistle up a comment

      Liked by 2 people

  10. RKLikesReeses / Apr 13 2018 1:27 pm

    Wow! Didn’t know about any of that!
    Big fan of dates – deeeeeelicious!!
    The language is cool. And WOW, the Mexican werewolf. Yikes!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 15 2018 6:01 pm

      When they say “give a little whistle…” bet few can do it with such elegance and style? SA is a pretty cool place where the most unexpected things collide. Thanks for joining the fiesta

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Spinster / Apr 17 2018 3:03 pm

    Very interesting history. Never got a chance to visit those islands while living on that side of the Atlantic Ocean. Hopefully one day though. Thanks for sharing.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 17 2018 8:07 pm

      Definitely on a list to see now. Almost parallel universe? There’s never enough time – have to go back! Thanks for traveling along

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Spinster / Apr 17 2018 3:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Spinster's Compass and commented:
    Nice piece of expatriate/travel history. Enjoy.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Apr 17 2018 8:06 pm

      So good to see yo again! Hope you’re rested up and ready to roll to new adventures soon. Thanks for featuring this really interesting bit of history

      Liked by 1 person

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