San Antonio’s Sister City Las Palmas, Canary Island, Spain

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¡Saludos, SATX!

By now, you have gotten to learn about Monterrey, Mexico + Gwangju, South Korea with our Sister Cities series. Today, we’re headed near the Moroccan coast to explore one city we share the most history with — Las Palmas, Canary Island, Spain.

Officially known as Las Palmas de la Gran Canaria, this vibrant town is the capital city of Gran Canaria, one of the islands that make up the Canary Islands. Las Palmas is famous for its breathtaking natural scenery. Think: turquoise beaches, warm breezes, and hiking trails situated across mountain ranges. However, there’s more than meets the eye to this beautiful city. Let’s dig deeper into its history…

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We might be putting in some last-minute PTO (for research purposes). | Photo via City of San Antonio

A little more about Las Palmas

  • Las Palmas is the largest city in the Canary Islands, with a population of 378,517. The city receives thousands of visitors every year.
  • Las Palmas’ main industries include tourism, apparel, and manufacturing.
  • The archipelago is an autonomous Spanish region located near Morocco, and it is made up of eight islands + smaller land masses.
  • Each island is part of one of two provinces: Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
  • Together, the Canary Island is home to a distinct heritage made up of Indigenous, Spanish, and Moroccan cultures.

San Antonio and Las Palmas first established their relationship as sister cities in 1975, and since then they have established a solid relationship. In 1999, the Canary Islands government established a trade office, where they coordinate academic, cultural, and trade relations with the Alamo City.

The founding of San Antonio

As the Spanish sought to seize control of their North American territory, 16 families originating from the Canary Islands went to join the military occupation of Tejas in 1731. These first settlers were given the right to create a town government, receive land grants + and the noble title of “hidalgo” (an honorary title given to the first male settlers of a Spanish territory).

They founded the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar, what we know today as the City of San Antonio, becoming the first regularly-organized civil government in Texas.

Two cities 4,000+ miles apart — what do they still have in common?

Many of San Antonio’s historic landmarks are a direct result of the Canary Islands settler’s efforts to create a livable town that emulates the Spanish Crown’s morals. One of the most notable of these is the San Fernando Cathedral. The church was built as part of the center of the San Fernando Parish and used for religious, military, and civic purposes.

Of course, we also have Spain to acknowledge for the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Built back in 1718, the Spanish colonizers first started establishing their military presence in San Antonio. Settlers constructed these structures not only to support themselves in their survival but to disrupt the already established Indigenous communities that lived in the region. Through these missions, countless Indigenous people were forced to convert to Christianity. Learn more about the San Antonio Missions and how to visit them.

Speaking of history, The Canary Islands Descendants Association is a lineage society dedicated to educating Texans on the lasting contributions of the Canary Islanders. Visit its website to learn more about ways to get involved.

If you wish to explore Spanish culture in San Antonio, here are some places to visit:

  • Canary Islander Statues, Bexar County Courthouse | Unveiled in 2019, these five figures represent the Islanders’ role in San Antonio’s founding.
  • Spanish Governor’s Palace, 105 Plaza De Armas | This adobe home is considered the last visible trace of the 18th-century Presidio San Antonio de Béxar.
  • Main Plaza and Military Plaza | Historical district home to Spanish landmarks including the San Fernando Cathedral.
  • La Villita Historic Arts Village, 418 Villita St. | Restored 18th-century neighborhood with many attractions for lovers of art.