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Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa (1717-1779)

by Warren Pannell

Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa, forty-sixth viceroy of New Spain, was born in Seville on January 24, 1717, the son of Luis Bucareli, Marqués de Vallehermoso, and Ana Ursúa Laso de la Vega, Condesa de Gerena. Controversy surrounded Antonio María de Bucareli to the time of his death. Bucareli finished many unfinished projects, among them, the strength and the lunatic extension hospital of San Hipólito of San Carlos in Veracruz. Born in Seville, Spain, Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa served as Captain-General of Cuba from 1766 to 1771 and as Viceroy of New Spain from 1771 to 1779. There is no record or indication of his having married. At age fifteen, he answered a military calling by enlisting as a cadet in the brigade of Royal Carabineers. His military service included campaigns in Italy and Portugal, and he rose to the rank of lieutenant general while serving as inspector of coastal fortifications in Granada.

Bucareli joined the voluntary army in an infantry regiment and ascended rigorously until becoming commander in chief. He was distinguished in the campaigns of Italy which is one reason why he was made governor-general of Cuba, where he took care in fixing the military services and instilling the strengths of the Crown. In Havana he received the appointment as viceroy of New Spain.

Bucareli viewed the assignment in New Spain as both a disappointment and a challenge. He had finished what he felt was his task in Cuba and wanted to return to Spain. Bucareli brought to the viceregency a preparation that was, in many respects, nearly perfect. He was not simply a bureaucrat but had seen active service of several kinds. Since one of his principle functions was to defend his area, he benefited from his experience both as a commander of troops in the field and as an inspector of fortifications. He also had some experience with diplomacy during the war in Portugal.

Bucareli viewed his official assumption of command as ceremonial and ordered food distributed to afflicted inhabitants of New Spain while still serving in Havana.

Money was always the biggest challenge for Bucareli's administration. Bucareli himself had finance problems leaving Cuba with practically nothing. His administration was almost constantly in debt. From his viceregal post in Mexico City he reorganized the Spanish viceregal military units, and he strengthened and rebuilt fortifications along the vast coast lines on the Pacific and on the Gulf of Mexico to forestall invasions by forces from other countries. He took a keen interest in the northern reaches of New Spain and fought Indian insurrections and destruction of towns. He invested in fortifying presidios and Spanish and Indian settlements. Bucareli sent expeditions to explore and settle the whole coastal area of California. He dispatched a naval expedition led by Juan Pérez, which was followed by several others, to prevent Russian invasions of North America. Pérez and his forces traveled as far as Alaska. Bucareli was an able administrator and historians rate him as one of the best viceroys of Mexico.

He arrived at Veracruz August 23, 1771, and received control in San Cristobal Ecatepec. He entered Mexico the following September. He peacefully reduced the military staff to avoid expenses, although he put special attention in reinforcing the military presidios of the north to persecute the Apache Indians. Most Indians were deported along with their families to Cuba. He tried to reconcile the Franciscans and the Dominicans, divided by the Evangelist Movement in California. He prohibited the introduction of foreign currency and ordered the circulation of the type that bore the effigy of Carlos III. He founded a military hospital in San Andrés. In 1772, he created the port of San Francisco in California and a military prison that would later become Alcatraz. As the mining industry came into form, Bucareli arranged a meeting of miners on May 3, 1774 which resulted in many decrees for the industry that gave great results.

The Roman Catholic church had long been a hindrance to the viceroys in New Spain but by Bucareli's time relations had become relatively peaceful. Bucareli's concern with the Inquisition was minor. Church Inquisitors were persistent but for the most part powerless in a land where final jurisdiction fell on Bucareli. Bucareli found himself entrenched in controversy over his Vida Comun. His movement centered around reforms to the nuns' mode of life, introducing a more common lifestyle. Many nuns complained to the Crown about his actions but these controversies fell toward the end of his tenure.

Bucareli's predecessor Croix informed him that the Crown wished to expand the militia. Bucareli saw this as an unnecessary expense especially during times of peace. He also added stipulations in agreements with the Crown for militia movements.These stipulations worked towards retirement packages and reimbursements for hardships and good works.

One of the great defects which Bucareli noted was the location of the presidios. Not only were they too far apart, but they did not cover the routes ordinarily used by the Indians to enter the areas of Spanish settlement. The anomaly was admitting peacefully Indians who had just come from assaulting another fortress. Presidio captains agreed but argued that they were outnumbered and dared not engage with every Indian force which may be superior. Some corrective measures were taken including inspections by Rubi which led to relocations of presidios to create a northern frontier of protection.

Adequate, skilled personnel to keep the various activities of San Blas going were a constant source of worry to Bucareli. In 1773, to handle the ships on exploratory voyages along the California coast, he asked Spain for experienced naval officers. The Crown was apathetic and conditions remained poor. His efforts maintained the only port able to supply growing settlements in California until the Anza land route opened up. The progressive government of Carlos III, in January 1774, released mandates allowing free commerce between New Spain, Peru and the newly created viceroyalty of New Granada, which is today Colombia. Bucareli promoted this initiative before the liberal ministers of Corona.

The 1770's mark the beginning of an era of exceptional prosperity for Mexico mining, a prosperity in part dependent on a reorganization initiated under Bucareli and involving characteristics unique to colonial Mexico. This decade also witnessed the utilization of the mining industry as an avenue for introducing the ideas of the Enlightenment into New Spain, ideas that not only affected the viceroyalty but also the region as a whole. Despite the fact the Crown and its agents evinced a constant interest in the revenue to be derived from mining, the government took little significant action to improve the industry until the reformist monarch, Charles III, turned his attention to it.

In July of 1776 the right was granted to the miners to form a body similar to the consulates of the commerce. They were given great freedom in the handling of their businesses but this also led to a lack of organization in the industry. The workers mining in New Spain were among the best paid in the world, or at least better paid than those of the German states. The administrator of the branch of mines was Don Lucas de Lasaga and the director, the famous Mexican scientist Don Joaquín Velázquez of León.

The administrative problem of the control of the distant territories of the north became more serious. This led to the creation of commands for the Internal Provinces of the West, North, and East near California, New Mexico, Coahuila and Texas. San Diego's strength began in Acapulco, as it was a military and naval strongpoint for the main port of commerce with South America.

In 1766, Bucareli had entered colonial administration as governor and captain general of Cuba, and his excellent record there earned him appointment as viceroy of New Spain in 1771. His eight-year tenure as chief executive, during which he established himself as one of the colony's better viceroys, coincided with significant changes on the northern frontier. The New Regulations for Presidios, flowing from the Marquis de Rubi's inspection, were first printed in Mexico in 1771 and issued in Spain the next year. In 1773 Spanish settlers were compelled to leave East Texas and the capital of Texas was transferred to San Antonio although the viceroy permitted the Adaesaños (occupants of Los Adaes) to return the following year. The entire northern frontier was reorganized into the Provincias Internas in 1776. And Nacogdoches was permanently settled in 1779, after the failure of Bucareli, a settlement named in part for the viceroy.

In his final years as viceroy, Bucareli was often at loggerheads with Teodoro de Croix, commandant general of the Provincias Internas. The two men differed over the placement of presidios along a line from the Gulf of California to Matagorda Bay; they disagreed over the requisite number of troops and attendant expenses required for frontier defenses; and they lacked accord on the most appropriate response to massive Indian attacks on frontier settlers and their possessions.

Controversy surrounded Antonio María de Bucareli to the time of his death. He was under investigation for his handling of sensitive ecclesiastical matters in Puebla when he died in Mexico City on April 9, 1779. However, in recognition of his distinguished service to the crown, Charles III waived posthumous judicial review proceedings against the deceased viceroy, a rare concession made to colonial administrators and their estates.

By the time the benefits of economic liberalism had set in,Antonio María de Bucareli passed away in Mexico City on April 9, 1779 as a result of an attack of pleurisy.He was buried, in the middle of the town that loved and grieved for him, in the attached cemetery to the Colegiata de Guadalupe.

Works Cited

Bobb, B.E. The Viceregency of Antonio María Bucareli in New Spain, 1771-1779. Texas Pan American Series, 1962.