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Texas: Padre Balli and His Mother



     The blessed and venerable Jaqui White, who lives in Port Isabel, on the southern tip of Padre Island, which encloses the Laguna Madre, explains the "Mother" "Father" names, "Mother " meaning "Mother" and "Padre" meaning priest (at least, I hope that's all it means). Jaqui writes:
     "Padre Island is named after Padre Jose Nicolas Balli, the first American born Spaniard ordained in this continent. Padre Balli was one of three sons born to Rosa Maria Hinojosa de Balli and Jose Maria Balli. The priest's mother received the land grant from King Charles IV of Spain.. The grant was deeded to Padre Balli in 1765, which included Padre Island, the Laguna Madre (located between Padre Island and the mainland of Texas) and a ranch known as the Atarazanas. In transferring possession, the "corregidor," as was the custom, took Padre Balli's hand, walked with him on this land. Padre Balli picked up the vegetation and soil and cast them to the four winds as a symbol of taking peaceful, royal, and rightful possession. They they boarded a canoe and took a short ride through the Laguna Madre where Padre Balli took water from the Laguna and drank from it. He was informed by the "corregidor" of his fishing rights and of his rights of harvesting coral and pearls, without any interference from any individual. A statue of Padre Balli stands on the island at the base of the causeway, welcoming all. "
     My question: If he was born in America, he was a "criollo". Does this mean that until the late 18th century no native-born "criollos" were ordained priests? Sounds odd to me. "Balli" is an Italian, not a Spanish name. My reference works name no Spaniard by that name. Perhaps it was an Italian family which came to Spain with Charles III. Jaqui lives in Port Isabel. Who was she? And just across the Rio Grande in Mexico there is Playa Lauro Villar. Who was he? And just inland is Matamoros, presumably named after Mariano Matamoros, a priest who was the hight-hand man of Father Jose Maria Morelos, another of the Mexican-born priests who led the so-called Mexican war of independence, although they were fighting in the name of Fernando VII and the Virgen de Guadalupe. It was really a fight against the "gachupines," the first-class citizens born in Spain.

Ronald Hilton - 02/02/99


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