Texas Women's History Month: A Widow Rises

Mar 29, 2017

Betancour arrived in Texas as a widow, a mother of five and an immigrant from the Canary Islands, but became a wealthy landowner.

In the early 18th century, 15 families from the Canary Islands immigrated to Texas as part of an effort by the Spanish government to settle a group of its citizens in the military outpost of San Fernando de Béxar. After sailing to Veracruz, Mexico, the travelers, including María Robaína Betancour, a widow with five children, endured a difficult overland journey to arrive in present-day San Antonio in March 1731. Making a home for her family in a new land, Betancour acquired a large property that became a dowry when she married her second husband, Martín Lorenzo de Armas. Betancour had five more children with De Armas, and together they owned a ranch on Cibolo Creek where they raised horses. Widowed once again in 1769, she continued to manage the family property holdings and business interests for the rest of her life. 

The details of her will provide insight into everyday life during that era as well as to her religious devotion and notable wealth. The will listed not only her home and land holdings, complete with irrigation rights, but also herds of cattle and horses, a branding iron, and personal items including fifteen images of saints, a mattress, a quilt, a woolen skirt, and a chest she had brought from the Canary Islands.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.