Why Did the Spanish Build Missions in Texas?

The Spanish built missions in Texas to spread their own power and influence and to help defend their territory. The Spanish created missions in modern-day New Mexico, Texas and Arizona for the purposes of rounding up cooperative Native American tribes in order to convert them to Christianity and the Spanish way of life. In addition to missions, Spaniards established presidios, or forts, as protection against any Native Americans deemed hostile or uncooperative, as well as other threats.

Spanish explorers first established missions in South America. They moved northward from Mexico in the early 1500s, making their way to the United States by 1600. The Spaniards faced a threat from French Canadian explorers upon entering the United States, as both vied for power. Spanish explorers used Native American tribes in the southwestern region of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona to their advantage as they sought to gain an upper hand against the French.

Confining Native tribes to missions let the Spanish explorers extend their religious influence, which bolstered their strength. Spanish soldiers also trained men in the Native American tribes as fellow soldiers to help defend the Spanish against competing explorers. Spaniards also used missions for economic benefits by having the Natives work in agriculture and learn other trades. The Natives served as cheap labor and helped Spanish explorers increase their trade and supply.