TGSA Famous Ancestors of Northeastern Mexico Series

Descendants of Juan Bautista CHAPA and Beatriz OLIVARES

ALTERNATE NAMES: Giovanni Battista Schiapapria / Schiappapietra; Beatriz Olivares Treviño

Juan Bautista Chapa (born Giovanni Battista Schiapapria) conqueror, administrator, explorer, historian, poet, and anonymous chronicler embodied many of the philosophical tenets of a “Renaissance Man”. Born in Albisola, Italy, a small town just outside of Genoa in 1627, his middle-class parents Bartolome Schiapapria and Batestina Badi held education and literacy in high regard and apparently saw the best path for their sons' success was through the priesthood. One son Nicolo did enter a monastery in Cadiz, Spain where their uncle Giovanni Schiapapria was living. Juan Bautista soon joined them to begin his own religious studies. However, at the age of nineteen he was lured away to the New World as were so many other young men in that port city.

He began his adventures in Mexico City where he had come to continue his education. There he shortened his Schiapapria name to Chapa and translated his other two names from Italian to Spanish. In 1649 the young Juan Bautista Chapa met Alonso de León (the Elder) who was conducting state business in the capitol city for the nascent province of Nuevo León. Juan Bautista was impressed by the older man's intellect and knowledge but especially by the exciting stories that De León had begun to chronicle about the history of Nuevo León and its early central characters like del Canto, Montemayor, et al. De León's manuscript entitled Documentos ineditos o muy raros para la historia de Nuevo León covering the period ca. 1577-1649 would later be published in 1961 as Historia de Nuevo León on the tricentennial of his death.

It wasn't long before Chapa joined his good friend and mentor Alonso de León in Nuevo León where he was quickly hired as Royal Secretary to Governor Martín de Zavala, a job which included documenting actions taken against hostile Indians and fully participating in Spanish excursions and expeditions.

In 1653, Chapa married Beatriz Olivares Treviño which was a real coup for the young Italian immigrant as she was the daughter of General Juan de Olivares and Juana de Treviño both from wealthy and powerful Spanish families in the region. Juan Bautista and Doña Beatriz had four sons and two daughters who in turn married into other Nuevo León families and beyond. As a side note Juan Bautista Chapa was not the only Northern Italian to have made his way to Mexico. Later the children and descendants of the Reynosa Italians - the Cantus, the Cavazos, and the Chapas would intermarry. Those surnames are familiar to and populate much of Northeastern Mexico and South Texas.

Juan Bautista Chapa went on to serve under nine Spanish governors including Alonso de León (the Younger) who entrusted Chapa with the founding of the new town of Monclova at the site of Gaspar Castaño de Sosa's deserted city of Almadén.

Chapa was a valuable member of several Spanish expeditions as it was his job to document them. Notable among these were the excursions into Texas led by Alonso De León (the Younger) in search of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's tragically failed Fort St. Louis experiment. In 1689 the Spanish found the ruins of La Salle's colony on the Garcitas Creek in what is now Victoria County. It was here that Chapa was moved to write a poem about the skeletal remains found in the woods of a French woman clutching a baby, both riddled with Karankawa Indian arrows.

His most important literary accomplishment was continuing where his friend Alonso de León (the Elder) had left off by writing his own Historia de Nuevo León: con noticias sobre Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Texas y Nueva Mexico 1650–1690. In it, Chapa includes descriptive information about the journeys, incidents, and methods of the Spanish explorers such as how he and Captain Alonso de León would leave male and female creatures near rivers and other waterways allowing them to wander, graze, and reproduce at will thus creating a large number of wild horses, sheep, and other species for use by subsequent explorers or settlers. Are these the early ancestors of the wild horses of Los Llanos Mesteños of South Texas and Mustang Island near Corpus Christi?

Juan Bautisa Chapa became an expert on the Indians of the region and in his Historia de Nuevo León... he lists the names and location of hundreds of tribes as well as his observations on the climate and the flora and fauna of seventeenth century Texas.

Chapa's Historia de Nuevo León... was written secretly and anonymously “because of the incredulity of some and the censure of others, I will not have to listen to the plaudits of friends or the harping of enemies, and if I remain unknown, they will have no target to shoot at”. His book was published in 1909 by someone else who gave credit to an “unknown author”. It wasn't until 1961, that the edition published by the Biblioteca de Nuevo León revealed his identity and included the contributions of another early settler Fernando Sánchez de Zamora about the Río Blanco region southeast of Monterrey.

Juan Bautista Chapa had come a long way from his early beginnings in Italy. In addition to Doña Beatriz's inheritance, he accumulated as payment for his services to the Spanish Crown, several land grants connecting to the cities of General Treviño, Paras, and Agualeguas but he was never considered a particularly wealthy man.

His wife Doña Beatriz Olivares de Treviño died in 1690 followed by son Gaspar in 1694. He spent his final years in his adopted Monterrey but his hard life in the saddle had taken its toll. On April 20, 1695, Juan Bautista Chapa, exceptional and unique eyewitness and contributor to the early history of Northeastern Mexico, died at the age of 64. The measure of his character is best showcased in his last will and testament which is readily available on the internet.

This Descendant Report extracted by Crispín Rendón from his personal database in September 2022 consists of 8 generations and 15,601 descendants and spouses.

Index to the Marriage Investigations of the Diocese of Guadalajara, Volume 1, by Raúl J. Guerra, Jr., Nadine M. Vásquez, Baldomero Vela, Jr.

Origin of Surnames Garza and Treviño in Nuevo León by Tomas Menderichaga Cueva, translated by Edna Garza Brown.

With All Arms by Carl Laurence Duaine, revised and edited by his son Laurence A. Duaine.

Intro by TGSA
DNA association & Descendant Report by Crispín Rendón

Table of Contents