Juan Bautista Chapa, was born Giovanni Battista Schiappapietra in a small Ligurian town near Genoa, Italy in 1627. His parents were poor farmers, and both died before Chapa turned 12.

His Grandfather managed an Inn and a small store in a building that still stands to this day.

At the age of 13, he sailed for Cádiz, likely in the care of his uncle, a merchant and slave trader living in Spain. His only surviving brother Nicolo was already living there and had entered a monastery. Cádiz then had a large community of Genovese traders, part of a far flung diaspora of traders and merchants with colonies all over the world.

Chapa, for reasons unknown, then emigrated to New Spain at the age of 19, spending several years somewhere in the region before deciding to move to the frontier of New Spain under the patronage of Alonso de Leon, a prominent early settler and lifelong mentor for young Chapa. There he built a long and distinguished career as the secretary and advisor to de Leon, Martin de Zavala and a long line of Governors. 

Juan Bautista married Beatriz Olivares Treviño in 1653, and together they raised six children.  As the original Chapa in Mexico, he is the sole ancestor for all the thousands of Chapas now living in Texas and the United States.  

Over the course of his career, but particularly in his last few years, he wrote, anonymously, what became the first written history of Northeastern Mexico and Southeastern Texas for the years 1650-1690.  

He died in April of 1695, in Monterrey, and his Last Will and Testament survive to this day.  That document hints at a man of modest means, living alone in a small house, having given away most of his property to his children during his lifetime.