From the very start, San Antonio’s black community has shaped the city’s history. In celebrating our 300th anniversary, it is important that we return to these beginnings and examine how the San Antonio we know today came to be. No history is everall-inclusive, but knowing the distinct tapestry of San Antonio’s origins is ever-important. In the celebration of the 300-Year Tricentennial, we must take a close look at the black community’s contributions to San Antonio for much of it is unidentified to the broad-spectrum of the public.
East of the San Antonio River is where it all started for blacks in San Antonio. Canary Islanders who arrived in San Antonio in the 1700s included white Spaniards and Black Christianized Moors. As noted in the actual logs of the Canary Islanders, verification is provided that darker-skinned Canary Islanders – people of “color quebrado” (Spanish for broken color) – were forced to subsist east of the river. The San Antonio River served as the borderline of segregation during this epoch, establishing racial spaces and limitations. That is how the Eastside became the black subdivision of town and the impending home to San Antonio’s African-American community. This blueprint of segregation set in motion the founding of the Black Baptist Settlement in later years just South and East of the San Antonio River. In Canary Islander records, blacks were portrayed as having “Blobber” (old spelling for Blubber) lips, and having dark complexion and curly hair. This racist description and observation would hang around in racialized thinking for centuries.
San Antonio’s historic east side became black because of the black Moorish legacy that was ordained to be promoted East of the San Antonio River. Before the Texas settlers came to the region it is clear that blacks lived here in larger numbers than is evident today. These numbers far surpassed the 8-9% black population that we currently see. There is proof that the African and African-Mexican population may have been as high as 28% at one time in San Antonio’s past. Associated with these “color schemes,” the Mexican American population was morphed into “whiteness” at various times. Birth records in San Antonio erroneously characterized Mexican Americans, Afro Mexicans, Afro-Mestizos, along the lines of a racial caste system. At times, even those with dark-skin, and with distinct black features, were labeled white if their surname had a Spanishinsinuation. Paradoxically, many Spanish surnames, such as Medina, Alvarez, or Rodriguez (with an ez ending) are actually Arabic or black Moorish as a consequence of the Moorish occupation of Spain for over seven centuries, while other Spanish surnames such as Moreno, Prieto, and many others indicate an African lineage.
According to an article in the Connecticut Current of May 2, 1836, and referenced by distinguished anthropologist George Nelson, just a few days following the pro-slavery defenders of the Alamo being killed, General Antonio Santa Anna issued an command on March 20, 1836. In support of the Black President of Mexico, Vicente Guerrero’s decree to abolish slavery in 1829, Santa Anna issued the following; “In compliance with said laws, the persons of all colored people, of both sexes, are from this moment declared free, and this whatever may be of nature of the contracts which bind them to their masters; should said contracts be, in a direct or indirect manner, contrary to the existing prohibitory laws of the Republic of Mexico and slave trade, in which case they shall be considered as null and of no value.”Thus, San Antonio has a rich Black History that was erased for many years-well, we just put in back into circulation.