Rattlesnakes, Cactus, and Laurel: The Heritage of Loreto

Our Lady of Loreto Chapel ~ watercolor by architect Raiford Stripling

Integral to the life of Presidio La Bahía, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto was constructed in 1749 as a place of worship for Spanish soldiers at the fort, and settlers in the surrounding town.

There were interruptions in the chapel’s religious life, to be sure: the imprisonment of Fannin and his men within its walls after the Battle of Coleto Creek; the massacre of those same men in its courtyard; and the signing of the Goliad Declaration of Independence on its altar on December 20, 1835. Although the Goliad Declaration came two days before Stephen F. Austin called for independence at Velasco, and preceded the Texas Declaration of Independence by seventy-three days, the signing was significant, and moved the Texas Revolution forward.

After the formation of the Republic of Texas in 1836, other parts of the Presidio began a slow decline, but the chapel remained intact and, with only a few more interruptions, continued to serve its original purpose. Today, weekly masses still are celebrated, and couples often exchange wedding vows at its altar.

Historically speaking, some Presidio weddings are more remarkable than others. When Roxanne Caye Gayle married Aaron Lee Ochoa in the chapel in 2010, she did so as a seventh-generation descendant of Don Carlos de la Garza, a Mexican rancher who was born at the Presidio in 1807, was baptized in its chapel, and married his wife Tomasita there in 1829.
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