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Shipwrecked Spaniards on Beach

Brief History

A brief history of the City of La Joya and surrounding communities on the United States border with Mexico.

Chapter 1:
Native Peoples to Spanish Explorers

Native Peoples Settle Rio Grande Valley

From the beginning, La Joya has been defined by its rich, fertile agrarian lands, its rolling hills and the lakes and river which gives it life.

The Rio Grande Valley of South Texas was home to Coahuiltecans for thousands of years.  These native peoples included tribes such as Aranamas, Bobole, Carrizo, Katuhanno, Kesale-Terkodams, Oregons, Pachal, Payayas and Tamiques.  They lived off the land before the initial encounter with Europeans and Africans.

North America’s “first” Settler are Spanish -- and African

Before Pilgrims were forced to land on Plymouth Rock (1620), before Jamestown’s fort was established (1607), before Roanoke Colony failed (1590), before San Agustin (1565) was founded in La Florida, there was Penitas (1520). The settlement, approximately three miles east of La Joya,  has been largely lost to history due to its diminutive size and its unsanctioned status by Spain.  It consisted of Father Zamora and five military officers and their enslaved Africans who abandoned the Pánfilo de Narváez to live along the native Calero people.

Native Peoples at Sal del Rey

Spanish Ancestors Defend “their” New Lands


The first Europeans to travel through the area were Spaniards defending Nueva Espana from foreign invaders.  In 1638 Jacinto García de Sepulveda and his party travelled along the Rio Grande, past the future side of La Joya and to the Gulf of Mexico in search of a Dutch expedition.  It was never found.


In 1687 Alonso DeLeon also followed the Rio Grande searching for French explorer, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, whose expedition had landed accidentally in Matagroda Bay in 1685 and attempted to establish a French colony.  DeLeon discovered the remnants of the colony in 1689.

The colony was decimated by the local native peoples who were defending their lands against the invading Spanish.  This was a struggle destined to fail for the natives peoples who had lived in North America and along the Rio Grande for thousands of years.  Though not recorded in history, the river crossing and adjacent ford at Los Ebanos, Texas was used by natives to traverse the river long before the first recorded use by Spaniards.

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