The 17-Year Old Heiress
The Texas Story Project.
Who would think that the heiress of the Spanish duke who founded the Alamo would be just a regular teenager?
Bexar County, one of the most important and oldest counties in Texas, is named after her family, yet Cayetana Roca de Togores enjoys simple things like reading and skiing. Still, her family story and lineage has significantly shaped her own life and that of her close relatives. For centuries, the family connection to Texas was lost, but her family still remembered. Cayetana and her family returned in May of 2018 as honorees of San Antonio’s Tricentennial and to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio de Bejar. Cayetana herself lectured at St. Mary’s University on the history of the family’s connection to the city. Her Texas story features her ancestor, Baltazar de Zuñiga, the Marquis de Valero.
Baltazar’s older brother had just died in the Battle of Buda where he had been trying to reclaim Buda from the Turks in the name of the Spanish crown. Baltazar inherited his brother’s title and his responsibilities. The King needed a Viceroy and given the king’s close ties to the Marquis’s family, Baltazar de Zuñiga, the new Marquis of Valero, was sent to Mexico which was then a colony of Spain. Mexico at that time extended from what is today Panama all the way to Oregon.
The Marquis was in Mexico running the colony for the king. When the French arrived in New Orleans, the Spanish became afraid that the French were going to take over Texas. The king of Spain told the Marquis to send the Granaderos de Galvez and priests on evangelical missions to colonize the area that is now known as Texas. Also, the “founding fathers” of Texas colonists arrived from the Canary Islands to San Antonio on the first of May of 1718. They decided to stay there and settle down and they created the mission of San Antonio de Valero, later known as the Alamo.
It was named San Antonio because it was created on the Catholic day of St. Anthony (San Antonio in Spanish) and it was named Valero in honor of the Marquis de Valero. The county for which San Antonio is the county seat is Bexar County in honor of the Duke of Bejar. It was thanks to the crown’s money and the Dukes of Bejar’s help that Spain founded San Antonio and the Valero Mission. (Colonists later arriving from the United States pronounced it “bear county” because they couldn’t pronounce “Bexar.”)
The years went by and the connection with San Antonio was lost for the Dukes of Bejar until 45 years ago when the Granaderos de Galvez went to meet the king of Spain, Don Juan Carlos I, and asked him where they could find the Duke of Bejar. It was the 1970s then and people were beginning to honor the Hispanic heritage of Texas. Thanks to the efforts of the Granaderos, particularly Henry Guerra, Thomas Wilson and Alfonso Chiscano, they located the Dukes of Bejar in Seville. It was then in 1974 that Cayetana’s great-grandfather, Pedro Roca de Togores XX, the Duke of Bejar was named as the honorary mayor of San Antonio. Upon his death, his heir, Pedro Roca de Togores XXI, became the honorary mayor of San Antonio in 1977.
After that, the connection between the Dukes of Bejar and San Antonio was reestablished. For that reason, Cayetana’s father, Pedro Roca de Togores, who will be the XXII Duke of Bejar, attended St. Mary’s university. In 1993 the Dukes of Bejar came to San Antonio to attend their son’s graduation. In summer of 2018, Cayetana Roca de Togores, the youngest heir of the Dukes of Bejar, came to San Antonio to give a talk on her family’s history at St. Mary’s University, her father’s alma mater, and to celebrate the 300 years of the founding of San Antonio de Bejar. Cayetana’s connection continues to grow in San Antonio as she guest-lectured this semester in the Texas History course at St. Mary’s, skyping in from Bard College in Berlin. Cayetana also partners with the history department on its latest project on German American internment during World War II, leading a "Remembrance Rally" where students in Berlin produced a mural to honor the 75th anniversary of internment and they hosted the son of a former internee.
The original Duke of Bejar, the Marquis of Valero, would have been proud to know that his descendants are taking such good care of his title and that his family’s ties to San Antonio are strong once again.
Luis Godoy is a freshman business major at St. Mary's University who hails from San Salvador.
Posted November 13, 2018