Texas Women’s History Month: Maria Gertrudis Perez Cordero Cassiano
María Gertrudis Pérez Cordero Cassiano
María Gertrudis Pérez, a descendent of the Canary Island immigrants who formed the core of the first organized civil government in Texas in the 18th Century, was born in 1790 in the family homestead at the Royal Presidio of San Antonio de Béxar. When she was 14, her family, which had a long history in ranching and the military, bought the Spanish Governor’s Palace and made it not only their home, but a center for military and social activity.
At 24, she married Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante, an experienced military commander nearly 40 years her senior and the Governor of Coahuila. For the nine years of their marriage, he was often gone, commanding western provinces. María, considered an equal to men in the inheritance, administration, buying, and selling of property, took over her husband’s duties in his absence, including reviewing the troops in Military Plaza, on horseback, dressed in an embroidered military jacket. She became known as La Brigaviella (or “the Brigadier-General”).
After her husband died, she married a wealthy Italian, José Cassiano. She died in 1832, and in her will refused to leave any money for “pious works,” allegedly to ensure that her assets would not fall into the hands of the Mexican government. Her husband, declaring that it would have been her desire, donated money to public charities and school funds.