New Mexico Episode 14 Transcript

Hello and welcome to Distant Echoes: New Mexico Episode 14: Interim Explorer’s.

Last time we talked about the conclusion and lasting impact of the Coronado Entrada and what it meant for Spanish expansion into New Mexico. This time we’ll continue with the next generation of explorers to New Mexico.

To talk about the first set of expeditions we need to talk about the Spanish expansion into the Mexican north and the establishment of Zacatecas.

In the 1540s Crístobal de Oñate and several others established a series of mining settlements in the area of Zacatecas. Sometime between 1550 and 1552 his second son Juan de Oñate y Salazar would be born. Mostly these settlements to the north were mining towns profiting off of the wealthy silver deposits in the area.

In 1543 reforms in the laws regarding the establishment of Spanish colonies would be passed. It outlined the process by which a potential conquistador would apply for the license to establish a colony as well as reforms for the treatment of native people. But it was not seriously enforced until 1573.

While between Coronado and the next major expedition there were probably innumerable slave raids into the northern frontier, perhaps even as far as New Mexico, the details are lost.

Some other things would change between Coronado and the next set of expeditions. The goals of these expeditions, from a profit standpoint at least, was to find mineral deposits that had not yet been exploited and begin exploiting them. The Spanish had also begun to lower their standards for encomiendas. New Mexico was more attractive through these lenses. After all, Coronado had found some “shiny metal” that could be silver.

In the late 1560s Santa Barbara, the northernmost Spanish settlement at the time would be founded in what is today central Mexico. In 1570 Allende, a Spanish mission, was founded nearby. At this mission, there would be a lay brother Agustín Rodriguez. While working with the Conchos in the area he would learn of the Pueblos to the north.

In 1580 or 1581, he organized an expedition to these northern kingdoms with the help of one Francisco Sanchez, known as Chamuscado due to his red beard. Father Rodriguez would be the religious head and Chamuscado the military head of what would become known as the Chamuscado-Rodriguez expedition.

In total the two men would recruit eight soldiers, two friars, and at least nineteen Indian allies. How much of a driver Father Rodriguez really was compared to Chamuscado is a topic of debate, usually Chamuscado is given top billing though. In early June 1581 they set out from Santa Barbara.

Like most future expeditions, they would take a more direct route to New Mexico. A few maps of these expeditions are on the website.

They followed the Rio Florido to the area of modern Cuchillo Parado. From here they followed the Conchos to San Juan Bautista to the Rio Grande. From here they followed the river to the pueblo of San Bernardino. What, if any, exploration conducted by the expedition to this point is completely unknown.

From San Bernardino they continued onwards, staying with a group they called the Jumanos. Whether these Jumanos were just one group of many displaced from Texas or an individual group is unknown. Several other names are given during this period in the record and it is possible these names are all different groups or all the same group.

On their way north they would get lost, their diarist Gallegos writing “On leaving the valley of Los Valientes we went on another four days in search of the settlement of which we had been informed. We did not locate it, so we thought the Indians had deceived us; but we did not lose courage on that account. We pressed forward, going up the same river yet another five days to see if we could find the place; but as we found nothing after fifteen days of travel, we decided to assemble and discuss the question of whether we should return to Christian lands; for, according to what the natives had told us, we were lost. Our latest informants had said the settlements were seven days away; others had previously said five; and we had marched for fifteen days through an uninhabited land without seeing anyone.”

On August 21 1581 they arrived at the Piro Pueblos, but the people who lived there had fled. They claimed the kingdom in the name of the Spanish crown and named it San Felipe de Nuevo México. A later explorer, Antonio de Espejo would shorten it to Nuevo México.

Gallegos writes about their arrival at San Felipe, “When we had learned what there was beyond, from the account of the Indian, we went on with him as our guide, Farther up the same river we came to an abandoned pueblo that had been inhabited by a large number of people, who must have been very advanced, judging by the buildings, and whose discovery would be of great importance, if they could be found. The said pueblo was walled in; and the houses had mud walls and were built of adobes, three stories high, so it appeared, though they had crumbled from the rains and seemed to have been abandoned for a long time.”

From here they set about visiting most of the pueblos. Outside of Taos and the Hopi pueblos. They may have visited the Tompiro pueblos on the Estancia area, or modern Torrance County New Mexico. Although it is considered that Antonio de Espejo, who we will talk about shortly, was the first to visit the Tompiro Pueblos.

As they continued, they traveled to the plains, possibly making it as far as the Canadian River before returning to the pueblos.

Of the three friars, two that had accompanied Rodriguez would stay behind. At least one would be killed before the expedition left, although it is unknown if the expedition knew that at the time. There would be some events of resistance by the pueblos against the Spanish. Causing the Spanish to respond: “When the leader realized that the soldiers were right, he ordered Pedro de Bustamante, the notary, and the other soldiers to place a block in the middle of the camp’s plaza, where the rest fo the Indians were watching, and to cut off the heads of the prisoners with an iron machete as punishment for them and as an example to the others. The preparations were carried out as ordered; although, as the friars had decided to remain in that settlement [en aquella poblazon], it was agreed that at the time when the Indians were to be beheaded the friars should rush out to free them- tussle with us, and snatch the victims away from us in order that the Indians might love their rescuers, who were resolved to remain in the land.”

This tactic of the Franciscians intervening was a common tactic from the Spanish in the New World. How effective it was is hard to say. On their return trip, Chamuscado would get ill and die, being buried along the way.

The expedition would return to Santa Barbara on April 15, 1582 less than a year after they had set out. Their return would set off another round of rumors reminiscent of those Cabeza de Vaca had created. The authorities in Santa Barbara would try to arrest the men from the expedition, especially one Hernan Gallegos, the expedition’s diarist. The authorities wanted to make sure they would be able to control who went to conquer this new land. Much like they had done with Cabeza de Vaca 50 years earlier. Despite this, two of the men would escape back to Mexico City with their reports. In the meantime some scrambled to begin getting their license to establish a colony in New Mexico.

About the licenses in 1573 the Spanish would pass the colonization laws to try and control expansion of the empire. The specific clause we’re interested in reading: “No person, regardless of status or condition shall by his own authority undertake any new discovery, neither by sea or land, of embark on any expedition to a new population or settlement in lands that have been discovered, or about to be discovered, without Our license and provision, or that of an official whom we authorize to give such permission, under penalty of death and confiscation of all goods by Our chamber. And we order that none of Our viceroys, audiencias, governors, and other justices of the Indies issue any license to undertake new discoveries without first sending it to us for consultation and approval.”

In this case the “our” being the royal our.

However, there were some among those who wanted to go that decided it would be better to beg for forgiveness, such as Antonio de Espejo.

Antonio de Espejo was a successful rancher that was hiding out in Santa Barbara from some legal trouble he had gotten into.

The story went as follows:

In April 1581, one of Espejo’s men, Sebastián Lopez, pretended to be sick so that he wouldn’t have to work that day. In a rage, Espejo threatened to kill him. Due to these threats four men would desert. 

These four men would head to a nearby town where at least two of the men’s wives were. In this town they would encounter some of Espejo’s loyal men, a scuffle would break out, and at least one man would die. One of the surviving men would go to the local alcalde, or mayor, there would be an investigation, and Espejo would be fined. Instead of paying the fine, Espejo skipped town to hide out in Santa Barbara. Here he would decide that he could get in on the profit to be had in New Mexico.

Some experts among the Spanish had estimated that some 300 men would be needed to pacify the province, based on the reports recieved to date. Espejo decided he was going to lead a smaller reconnaissance mission of 15 men to check in on the friars that had been left behind.

Fray Bernardino Beltran agreed to get the paperwork handled while Espejo set out ahead. They would set out on November 10, 1582. Largely shadowing Chamuscado’s route. At the Rio Grande they would meet some of the same people Chamuscado had. From their interpreters they learned that the friars may have still been alive. At this point they also elected Espejo as the official leader.

In early January they would make it roughly to El Paso. Continuing on to some abandoned pueblos possibly near Elephant Butte before they made it to the Piro Pueblos. Here they learned both friars had been killed.

They would give a good description of a kiva though while describing the pueblos. From Diego Perez de Luxan’s account: “The people are idolatrous, for that pueblo had four caverns [kivas] in the plazas where they have their dances and their baths; and these places served as a community center and lodging place for strangers. In front of each one, outside the entrance, is a black stone four fingers in thickness, three spans wide, and one estado above the ground; and on each kiva [?] Is a badly painted figure of an Indian with a flaming crown. Everyone has these idols in his house.”

A span is about 9 inches. An estado was an old unit and comes in at about 1.67 meters or anout 5.5 feet.

They briefly discussed establishing a fortress in the area and then sending a smaller party ahead. But they decided that it would be safer to bring all 15 men together rather than in a smaller group.

They did some exploring to the Tompiro or Eastern Tigua pueblos near mordern day Socorro. From there they headed to the pueblo of Puaray, which was located somewhere between Bernalillo and Albuquerque. They spent some time at this Pueblo, trying to get the people to return.

While in the Rio Grande Valley they would also write about what the Pueblo’s remembered anout Coronado’s time there. “We learned from the interpreters that two of Coronado’s captains were in this Pueblo for two years, that from here they went to discover some provinces, and that when Coronado was at Puala de los Mártires (where the friars had been killed) he came to the above-mentioned pueblo of Acomoa, made war on the inhabitants of Puala, who are Tiguas, and those of the surrounding district, had killed ten of the horses left there by Coronado for the people in the garrison. When Coronado heard of the incident, he set out for Puala, whose people are Tiguas, and besieged them near a pueblo encircled by mountains. He pressed them so hard that those who did not die at the hands of the Spaniards – Coronado’s people, whom the natives called Castillos – died of hunger and thirst.” As part of that quote, I have the following notes “(Chamuscado and his men were not ignorant of this. They knew it all, but refrained from telling about it in order that others might come to settle the land.)” Luxan continues: “Finally the people of Puala surrendered and threw themselves on Coronado’s mercy, and he took as many, both men and women, in his service as were necessary, and returned to this Pueblo. From here he set out for the Valley of Samora which must be one hundred leagues distant from this province.”

In late February they visited Kewa Pueblo before visiting Jemez and Zia. At the beginning of March they visited the Zuni pueblos. On the way, Espejo would leave some men at what would become the site of Laguna Pueblo while he made a quick side trip to Acoma. In mid March they would finally arrive at Matsaki.

They would stay with the Zuñi until early April, when they would go to visit the Hopi, leaving 8 men and one of the friars behind. They claimed one Hopi pueblo in mid April and toured the rest. From there they would select 5 men to continue on and explore some potential mines to the west. The rest were going to return to Zuni.

At the end of April, they went west to somewhere in the area of Verde Arizona. Overall they were disappointed by the mines, but Espejo would write favorably about the mines in his bid to be colonizer of New Mexico.

When the whole party reassembled at Zuñi they were divided into two factions; one wanted to return since their stated mission, to check on the friars, had been completed. Meanwhile the other wanted to continue exploring the prospects of the territory. They had heard about some mines to the east and wanted to scout them out.

In the end, the return faction would leave. Only 9 men would remain for further exploration. At the end of May they would finally leave, briefly camping at Acoma while Espejo tried to round up some deserters. While at Acoma they would get into a fight with one of the nomadic tribes, either the Navajos or Quecheros.

With his smaller party, he found the pueblos to be much more hostile to him, having to seize and kill some people at Puaray. In late June they would head towards the mines they had heard of to the east. Here things get kind of sketchy as to the specific pueblos that they visited. After visiting these mines, they visited the pueblos of Galisteo before heading on to Pecos. Arriving in the middle of June.

They would kidnap two guides from Pecos and later meet three Jumanos who agreed to guide them to the Rio Grande. They would arrive back in Mexico on September 10, 1583, 10 months from when they had set out. Espejo would then write a glowing report.

While he had been gone, the king would issue a credula dated April 19, 1583 to establish a colony in New Mexico. With another favirable account people were even more excited at the opportunity for a colony.

Before we get to who would actually get the rights to colonize outlined in the credula though, we’ve got a few more expeditions to cover.

In 1590, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa, the lieutenant governor of Nuevo León in northern Mexico, would abandon his post to colonize New Mexico. De Sosa had a history of founding towns and mines along the northern frontier of Mexico, but they had not amounted to much.

To get the people of the town he had established to leave, he would go to such lengths as dropping a piece of silver into a sample to raise the assay. Claiming that the doctored sample was from New Mexico. In the meantime, he would twice attempt to get the license to establish the colony but both times he would be denied. In June 1590, the viceroy would send him a note outlawing his slave raids and expressly forbidding him from going to New Mexico.

De Sosa would give the following reason for leaving:

“The reason for abandoning my former settlement [Almadén] was sufficient in my opinion, in that the mines were unprofitable and lacking in ores. Where there any, they did not contain enough silver to pay even for the charcoal used in smelting. Surely this explanation will be believed, since we had constructed water mills, and others run by mulepower, for smelting, grinding and refining, which we would not have abandoned without cause after everything had been done so laboriously and at, God knows, what expense. This work cost me more than fifteen thousand pesos, for most of which I am in debt… Moreover, I had in operation a farm from which I obtained many supplies. All of these things were lost because there was [no] silver, and the land was such that we could not support ourselves there without resorting to acts which would have been in a sense wrongful. That was the principal reason for abandoning the site. In addition, the settlers and other people were leaving the region.”

León however, writing in the 1600s explained his reason for leaving as such: “In reality, the entrada to New Mexico of Castaño de Sosa represented nothing more than a flight, the intent to put space between him and the authorities, in view of the unique and weak legal status of his governorship.”

Some have linked de Sosa’s family to the Crypto-Jewish communities of Nuevo León, implying that it is possible he was also part of the converso communities of which I plan an entirely different set of episodes of. It is possible that with the arrest of his boss, governor Carjaval, on such charges of practicing Judaism he decided to flee to the north to put some distance between himself and the authorities. His expedition was also the only one of the period to not include a member of a religious order.

Regardless of the reason, in July 1590 they would leave for New Mexico anyway. Arriving on the Rio Grande in September. Unable to find the mines, he would begin going on slave raids. These raids, while bringing in potential profit, also kept the men busy so that they would not desert. While the exact route is disputed, it is thought they were around Villa Acuña. Eventually they would leave the Rio Grande and continue on to the Pecos, probably arriving near Sheffield Texas In late October.

Overall, crossing the Pecos was difficult before the water was diverted for other uses. The Rediscovery of New Mexico describes the river as such “Its banks are as perpendicular as the walls of an edifice, rising six feet above the water, to the level of the valley, composed of mud, which on drying, falls into an impalpable powder. An animal may wander along its banks for half a day without finding a point where he may drink. Indeed in my twenty miles’ ride along it I saw but one point on either side where he could do so; and these were the artificial excavations where we crossed.”

They would follow the river. Staying on one side until the Roswell-Artesia area, where they would begin to travel on whichever side was easier.

By late November they were running low on food so de Sosa sent a few men ahead to scout for supplies and the area. If they found a Pueblo though, they were not supposed to enter.

He would continue on until December 23, when his men would return empty handed. They had arrived at Pecos Pueblo, and despite their orders, entered the pueblo. At first things were peaceful and they entered the pueblo, leaving their equipment in a building. The next day, they were attacked, losing half their equipment.

De Sosa would continue on to Pecos, arriving on New Year’s Eve. A fight would break out and he would take the pueblo. But while he took the pueblo he was unable to capture anyone. So, de Sosa laid a trap. He pretended to abandon the pueblo, but left four men behind. When some of the people returned, they were able to capture two guides.

His exact route from here is sketchy. De Sosa may have gone through Glorieta Pass, by the future location of Santa Fe, and as far north as Taos. Alternatively, he may have gone via the Galiateo Pueblos. He may have visited the Tewa or San Juan Pueblos instead.

On his return he definitely visited the Keres Pueblos, arriving in late January. On Febuary 15 they would camp at San Cristobal Pueblo. He would have to make a quick trip back to Pecos to reestablish order, meeting no resistance. They would continue on to Kewa Pueblo, historically called Santo Domingo, arriving in early March. At this point, there may have been an attempted mutiny. At most, punishment was just stripping the mutineers of their ranks though.

We’ll leave de Sosa here for now, and talk about another expedition inextricably linked to his.

Juan Morlete was the other Lieutenant Governor of Nuevo Léon. He had been the one to deliver those earlier orders to de Sosa. Included with those orders were orders for Morlete to take 40 men and arrest de Sosa if he did actually go to New Mexico anyway.

His main orders were to turn de Sosa back and to smooth over any hurt relations among the pueblos. The exact route he took is unknown, but he arrived at the Rio Grande in early January. They would arrive in New Mexico in early March.

He would arrive at Kewa while de Sosa was away. Upon learning of his arrival, de Sosa would hurry back to the pueblo. De Sosa would surrender himself to arrest and all of them would return to Mexico. Their return would take a shorter route, possibly closer to the route Oñate would take.

Before Oñate’s expedition there is one last one we need to at least briefly mention. The Levya and Humaña expedition. In 1593 Captain Francisco Levya de Bonilla was sent to punish the hostile Tobosos and Galivines tribes. On the way, he would decide to conquer New Mexico.

His superiors would explicitly forbid him from going, but he would go anyway. Before they set out, Antonio Gutierrez de Humaña would help recruit more men. They would use San Ildefonso pueblo as their base camp before setting out for Quivira. One of the orders of the later Oñate expedition would be to find and arrest them. We’ll talk about their final fate in a future episode though.

Due to these illegal explorations, there would be a push by the Spanish to turn New Mexico, as we saw with the credula of 1583, into a colony through the crown’s approval and, presumably make them easier to control. Next episode we’ll talk about the selection process for who was going to colonize New Mexico.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *