A presidio (from the Spanish, presidio, meaning "jail" or "fortification") is a fortified base established by the Spanish in areas under their control or influence. The term is derived from the Latin word praesidium meaning protection or defense.
In the Americas, the fortresses were built to protect against pirates and hostile Native Americans, as well as colonists from enemy nations. In the Mediterranean and the Philippines, the presidios were outposts of Christian defense against Islamic raids. The presidios of Spanish-Philippines in particular, were centers where the martial art of Arnis de Mano was developed, combining Filipino, Latin-American and Spanish fighting techniques. Later in western North America, with independence, the Mexicans garrisoned the Spanish presidios on the northern frontier and followed the same pattern in unsettled frontier regions like the Presidio de Sonoma, at Sonoma, California, and the Presidio de Calabasas, in Arizona.
In western North America, a rancho del rey or king's ranch would be established a short distance outside a presidio. This was a tract of land assigned to the presidio to furnish pasturage to the horses and other beasts of burden of the garrison. Mexico called this facility "rancho nacional". Presidios were only accessible to Spanish military and soldiers.
- The Presidio San Augustin, founded in 1565, which developed into the city of St. Augustine, ceded to Great Britain in 1763 and regained 20 years later
- The Presidio San Mateo, founded in 1565 on the ruins of Fort Caroline, captured and destroyed by the French in 1568
- The Presidio Ais, founded in 1565 on the Indian River Lagoon, abandoned after one month
- The Presidio Santa Lucia, founded in 1565 near Cape Canaveral, abandoned four months later
- The Presidio San Antonio de Padua, founded in 1566 at Calos, capital of the Calusa, abandoned in 1569
- The Presidio Tocobago, founded in 1567 on Tampa Bay, destroyed by the Tocobagos within ten months
- The Presidio Tequesta, founded in 1567 on the site of what is now Miami, abandoned in 1568
- The Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, founded in 1696, near Fort Barrancas at present-day Naval Air Station Pensacola; captured by French in 1719, and the Spanish returned 3 years later. (See below, both Presidio Isla Santa Rosa Punta de Siguenza and Presidio San Miguel de Panzacola, which were established in the same general vicinity.)
- The Presidio Bahía San José de Valladares, founded in 1701 on St. Joseph Bay, captured by French in 1718. (See below, Presidio Bahía San Josė de Nueva Asturias.)
- The Presidio San Marcos de Apalachee, founded in 1718 at the existing port of San Marcos, which developed into the town of St. Marks, ceded to Great Britain in 1763 and regained 20 years later
- The Presidio Bahía San José de Nueva Asturias, founded in 1719 on St. Joseph Point, abandoned in 1722
- The Presidio Isla Santa Rosa Punta de Siguenza, founded in 1722 on Santa Rosa Island, abandoned in 1755
- The Presidio San Miguel de Panzacola, founded in 1755, which developed into the city of Pensacola, ceded to Great Britain in 1763 and regained 20 years later
- The Presidio Fuerte de Santa Cruz del Cibolo, founded in 1734 and re-established in 1771 near Cestohowa, Texas in Karnes County, Texas, (between San Antonio and Goliad).
- The Presidio San Antonio de Bexar, founded in 1718 in San Antonio
- The Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto, founded in 1721, near Lavaca Bay, now in Goliad
- The Presidio of San Carlos de Cerro Gordo, founded in 1772 in Big Bend Country
- The Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas San Saba, founded in 1772 near the present-day Menard
- The Presidio de la Junta de los Ríos Norte y Conchos, founded in 1760 just southwest of present-day Presidio
Presidios were established in frontier regions in northern Mexico to control and confine rebellious indigenous tribes. Captured indigenous warriors were confined and enslaved at the presidio.
- The Presidio de San Felipe y Santiago de Janos, founded in 1685 in Janos, Sonora
- The Presidio del Pitic, founded in 1726 in Hermosillo, Sonora
- The Presidio Santa Gertrudis del Altar, founded in 1755 in Altar, Sonora
- The Presidio de Santa Rosa de Corodéguachi, founded in 1692, near the Sonora/Arizona border and later moved to Fronteras, Sonora
- The Presidio de San Bernardino, founded in 1776 near the present-day Douglas (Gerald 1968)
This is a map outlining the general locations of the Spanish "Presidios" built in the Philippines during the 1600s, according to the book Fortress of Empire
by Rene Javellana, S. J. (1997)
- Moorhead, Max L. The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press 1975.
- Rene Javellana, S. J. Fortress of Empire. Ateneo de Manila University Press 1997.
Gerald, Rex E. (1968) Spanish Presidios of the Late Eighteenth Century in Northern New Spain. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.