The New Mexico: Preliminaries to Conquest
The "Christianization" of Pecos
The Shadow of the Inquisition
Their Own Worst Enemies
Pecos and the Friars
Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas
The Adelantado at Pecos
For weeks the Pecos knew they were coming. But not
until July 25feast day of Santiago, as the invaders reckoned
itdid the latest army of Spaniards draw up before the impressive
eastern pueblo. Leaving his cumbrous wagon train behind, Juan de
Oñate had ridden ahead with some sixty armed and mounted men to
receive the homage of his Pueblo subjects. He had encountered no
resistance among Piros, Southern Tiwas, Keres, Northern Tiwas, and
Tanos. Now he beheld "the great pueblo of Pecos," subdued eight years
earlier by Gaspar Castaño de Sosa only after a fierce battle.
"This is the province Espejo called Tamos, from which came a certain don
Pedro Oroz, an Indian of this land who died at Tanepantla under the care
and instruction of the Franciscan Fathers." 
Standing nearby in his abbreviated Franciscan habit
was the Mexican Indian donado Juan de Dios. He had learned the language
of this pueblo from the abducted Pedro Oroz. He interpreted for the
governor and the two friars present, Comisario Alonso Martínez
and Fray Cristóbal de Salazar, a cousin of don Juan. Two of
Oñate's men, likely on hand this day, had fought in the battle of
1590the medium-built, brown-bearded Ensign Juan de Victoria
Carvajal and graying Juan Rodríguez, a Portuguese who would soon
desert the New Mexico colony "at full gallop."
A couple of weeks earlier at the Keres pueblo of
Santo Domingo, where he had received in a large kiva the submission and
vassalage of several native leaders, don Juan apprehended two of
Castaño's Indians, Tomas and Cristóbal. They had been
there since 1591 and spoke Keresan. They too stood with the Spaniards
before Pecos. Even though he had Juan de Dios, interpreter in the
language of this pueblo that called itself Cicuye, Oñate
consistently used the Keresan name Pecos, as did the soldiers and
Indians of Castaño, and everyone who came after them.
This day the Pecos chose not to fight. Apparently
they permitted the Spaniards the usual ritual actsthe harangues
and planting of the cross and volleys. In honor of the day, the friars
assigned Santiago as patron saint of the Pecos. The governor and his
party left the next day. Six weeks later, after the Spanish colony had
settled in at San Juan pueblo among the Tewas, the "captains" of Pecos
were summoned to present themselves there, along with principales from
other pueblos who had not yet rendered obedience. Most likely Juan de
Dios delivered the message. Whoever did, the Pecos responded.
Like Coronado, the bold Oñate had appropriated
an entire native pueblo as his headquarters. Its name sounded to the
Spaniards like Ohke. They had christened it San Juan Bautista. Here
Oñate had set colonists and Indians to work building the first
church in New Mexico, "large enough to accomodate all the people of the
camp." By September 7, it was far enough along to dedicate. The
following day, Tuesday, feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the
Spaniards crowded inside for solemn high Mass with all ten friars
assisting. Father Commissary Martínez consecrated altar and
chalices. Fray Cristóbal de Salazar delivered the sermon.
A Santo Domingo kiva photographed on
October 1, 1880, by George C. Bennett. The figure is Adolph F.
Bandelier. Museum of New Mexico.
Oñate's Grant to the
When the Last Gospel had been sung, Oñate's
secretary Juan Pérez de Donís, a man of medium build with
gray beard and an old scar across his forehead, stepped to the front to
read a proclamation from the governor. "In loud and intelligible voice"
he began in the name of "don Juan de Oñate, governor, captain
general, and adelantado of the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico and
those adjacent and bordering, their pacifier and colonizer for the king
our lord, etc."
Having been in this land since May and having
personally pacified more than one hundred leagues of it, the governor
deemed that the time had come to realize the expedition's highest
purpose"the conversion of the souls of these Indians, the
exaltation of the Holy Catholic Church, and the preaching of the Holy
Gospel." He had therefore summoned the native captains and principal men
"with an Indian messenger and a small book of mine as a memento," and
they had come.
Fixing my eyes and my heart attentively upon the
great merits that the most glorious Order of the Seraphic Father St.
Francis displays in all the world and most particularly in this land of
New Mexico, for Franciscan friars discovered it and already three have
died for its spiritual wellbeing at the hands of these natives, and
likewise on the hardships they have suffered for many days past on this,
expedition with me, in remuneration to them and in discharge of the
royal conscience; recognizing their apostolic spirit and fervor for the
conversion of souls and confident of their great virtue, of their
willingness to dedicate themselves to the task as they always have, and
of their great wisdom, ability, and goodness; and because at present
they alone are the ministers and preachers of the Gospel who should
cultivate this vineyard of the Lord; for all these reasons, in the name
of the king our lord, by his royal authority which I enjoy for the
purpose, and by virtue of the Royal Patronage and the special trust and
obligation that the Apostolic See granted to and imposed upon the
aforesaid king our lord and his successors of distributing curacies
(doctrinas) in all the Indies and supplying them with suitable
and capable spiritual ministers to proclaim the word of God in their
temples and churches . . .
Juan Pérez de Donís caught his breath.
He had reached the critical pointOñate's concession of New
Mexico to the Franciscans.
I do concede, grant, designate, and entrust, the Lord
as my witness, from now for all time binding to the aforesaid sacred
order of St. Francis and its Friars Observant present and future and in
its name and theirs, especially the Reverend Father fray Alonso
Martínez, apostolic commissary, and the Franciscan religious of
these kingdoms here present, the following provinces, pueblos, and
Indian doctrinas with full faculty and license to build in each of them
the churches and conventos they deem necessary for their residence and
the better administration of Christian doctrine.
The secretary then intoned the list of provinces and
pueblos, stretching from the Piros in the south to Taos in the north and
from the Hopis in the west to "the province of the Pecos situated to the
east of us, with the Querecho and Serrano Indians of its district," The
proclamation concluded with an assurance to the friars that the king
would sustain them with his royal alms in temporal matters while "they
sustain their pueblos in spiritual matters."
Father Commissary Martínez accepted for
himself, his brethren present, and all sons of St. Francis. In order
that Oñate's laudable act might be of lasting record, the
Franciscan superior requested a copy of the concession. When he had
signed with the governor's principal officers, the formalities
concluded. Don Juan de Oñate, broadly interpreting his
instructions and his authority, had installed the friars "for all time."
Juan de Oñate
After they had consecrated their church and provided
for the conversion of heathen souls, the Spaniards gave themselves over
to "great celebrations," singing, dancing, jousting, gaming, and the
like. As a climax, they treated the assembled Pueblo leaders to a
thoroughly Iberian ceremonial, "a good sham battle between Moors and
Christians, the latter on foot with arquebuses, the former on horseback
with lances and shields." 
The Pueblos Render Homage
The next day, September 9, 1598, the governor bid the
native leaders "of the Tiwas, Puaray, Keres, Zias, Tewas, Pecos,
Picuris, and Taos" join him in the main kiva. There in the presence of
his officers, the friars, and his secretary, don Juan explained "the
purpose of his coming and what was best for them." He spoke through at
last four interpreters, including "the beloved brother Juan de Dios,
Franciscan donado, interpreter of the language of the Pecos." He used
words suggested by the ordinances of 1573 and his instructions from the
telling them how he had come to this land to bring
them to the knowledge of God and the king our lord, in which lay the
salvation of their souls and a safe and peaceful life in their
republics, sustained in justice, secure in their properties, and
protected from their enemies. He had not come to do them any harm.
Then, in the close atmosphere of the kiva, he gave
them a lesson in elementary theology: one God, creator of the universe
and judge of all men; good and evil; heaven and hell; God's servants on
earth, the Roman pontiff and the Spanish king. He admonished them to
obey and respect the representatives of pope and king. When the seated
Pueblo principales "understood the meaning of this explanation, they
replied through their interpreters that they of their own free will
desired to render . . . obedience and vassalage to God and king." As a
sign of their commitment Oñate instructed each of them in turn to
rise, approach Father Commissary Martínez and him, kneel, and
kiss their hands.
It would be very much to their advantage, the
adelantado continued, if they would take the Franciscans to their
pueblos so that these men of God could learn their languages, instruct
them in the Christian faith, baptize them, and thereby save their souls
from the fires of hell. The Indians agreed. Before dismissing them, the
Spaniards cautioned that they must treat the padres well, support them,
and obey them in everything. He repeated this three times. If they
failed to heed their friars or harmed them in any way, "they and their
cities and towns would be put to the sword or burned alive." They said
Next Oñate and the Father Commissary, who had
agreed beforehand, assigned the missionaries.
To Father fray Francisco de San Miguel, the province
of the Pecos along with the seven pueblos of the marsh to the east and
all of the Vaquero Indians of that range as far as the Sierra Nevada,
and the pueblos of the great saline back of the Sierra de Puaray, and,
in addition, the pueblos of Quauquiz, Hohota, Onalu, Xotre, Xaimela,
Aggei, Cutzalitzontegi, Acoli, Abbo, Apona, Axauti, Amaxa, Cohuna, Chiu,
Alle, Atuya, Machein, and also the three large pueblos of the Jumanas,
or Rayados, called in their language Atziguigenobey, Quellotezei, and
Pataotzei, together with their subjects. 
Sketch of a buffalo found among the
Oñate documents (AGI, Patronato, 22).
After all the priests and pueblos had been matched,
the Indian principales in attendance were told to kiss the hand of the
friar assigned to them "and to take charge of him." That concluded the
A week later Sargento mayor Vicente de
Zaldívar led a well-mounted and well-supplied Spanish column,
some sixty strong, out of San Juan bound for the buffalo plains. Fray
Francisco de San Miguel and donado Juan de Dios accompanied them as far
as the teeming pueblo of Pecos, which they reached September 18, 1598.
After two days, the expedition moved out, leaving the aged friar and his
assistant to begin their ministry to the Pecos people. It lasted not
three months. 
The Ministry of Francisco de San
Fray Francisco was old in years and poor in worldly
goods, full of his God the Father, God the Son, Holy Poverty, and a
Blessed Mother, none of which necessarily offended the Pecos. This
elderly Franciscan already knew some words in their language, words he
had learned from Juan de Dios. He wanted to know more. Three years
later, when he was "seventy years old more or less," Fray Francisco
testified that he had begun learning four native languages, "that he had
worked very hard at it, and that he had labored with the Indians and
native people to convert them and bring them to the holy gospel." But he
admitted to "very great difficulty" in his ministry because other
Spaniards abused the Pueblos. 
Humpbacked Pecos stone "idol," 8-1/4"
Despite his advanced age, Francisco de San Miguel had
not been a friar as long as he might have been. Evidently he had entered
the Order in 1570 relatively late in life, at the age of forty or so.
After the year-long novitiate, he professed his religious vows on April
18, 1571, at the Holy Gospel province's convento in Puebla. A cumulative
provincial roster compiled in the eighteenth century provided no further
information about him, not even his place of birth. A decade after his
professionabout the time of the Sánchez Chamuscado and
Espejo entradasFray Francisco had set out for the frontier.
Unfortunately he was not a theologian, an administrator, or a martyr, so
the chroniclers ignored him. Only as a participant in the Oñate
enterprise did he emerge again. 
Father San Miguel's apostolic labors at Pecos are as
shadowy as the rest of his life. There is no record of his acceptance or
rejection by the people: how many baptisms of Pecos Indians in danger of
dying, if any, he performed; how many of his assigned Tiwas, Tompiros,
Jumanos, Apaches, and others, if any, he visited. It is not known
whether at this early stage Fray Francisco chose to confront the "idols"
in Pecos kivas, as did a successor twenty years later.
The First Church at Pecos
There is only one tangible clue to San Miguel's
ministry, and even it is questionable. On a narrow, piñon-studded
ridge, a thousand feet more north than east of the main Pecos pueblo,
archaeologists uncovered the ruins of a simple, rectangular adobe church
built, in their opinion, "not later than in the first two decades of the
Near the trail the Pecos used going and coming from
their fields along the river, the site afforded a dramatic vista of
tiered pueblo set against massive, reddish cliffs of the mesa beyond.
The church faced south, more or less in the direction of the pueblo,
rested on a rather narrow but well-laid stone foundation, and measured
inside roughly twenty-five by eighty feet. It had been roofed and
mud-plastered inside and out. An unfinished sacristy, containing some
two hundred and fifty stacked adobes, clung to the east wall. Because
the level area was barely wide enough for the church alone, and the
bedrock near the surface, the builder cannot have planned to adjoin
either convento or cemetery. Just north of the church, however, where
the ridge broadens out, he could have built either. If ever the
structure was used, it must have been only briefly. The excavators found
no trace of European artifacts. 
The distance of church from pueblo may be evidence of
Pecos resistance. If in fact Father San Miguel and donado Juan de Dios
were supervising construction of this first Pecos church during the fall
of 1598, they left in a hurry. Early in December, chilling news reached
When he had received the vassalage of Pueblo leaders
and distributed the Franciscans among them, don Juan de Oñate had
set about exploring his huge domain in earnest. He had dispatched
Vicente de Zaldívar to the buffalo plains to report all he saw,
to contact the natives, and to find out if the "cows" could be
domesticated. Oñate himself had ridden out in October to assess
the value of the salines east of the Manzano Mountains and to receive
homage from nearby pueblos. From there he headed westward for the sea.
At the pueblos of Ácoma, Zuñi, and Hopi, he and his men
had been received without incident and given water, maize, and turkeys.
He had sent a captain to verify the Zuñi salt lake and some
silver deposits the Hopis had described. Then in mid-November, he turned
back to the Zuñi pueblos to await the appearance of his elder
nephew Maese de campo Juan de Zaldívar with reinforcements for
the trek to the South Sea.
The pueblo and rock of Ácoma.
Stylized engraving based on Lt. J. W. Abert's sketch, 1846, Abert,
Zaldívar never made it. He and his column had
stopped at Ácoma to exact provisions. Invited up onto the penol
with a small party on December 4, the maese de campo had walked into a
trap. He and a dozen of his men, fighting savagely hand-to-hand in the
sudden onslaught, went down under swarms of Ácoma warriors. A few
Spaniards escaped. Within days Oñate knew. As word spread, the
governor led his men back to San Juan. The missionaries and their
helpers hastened in from their posts on orders from Father Commissary
Martínez. Father San Miguel and Juan de Dios abandoned Pecos.
Evidently the people razed the church and used some of the beams and
adobes to construct a kiva. No missionary would live at Pecos for
another twenty years.
At San Juan, the hastily assembled colony prepared to
meet the crisis. Oñate listened to survivors recount the tragedy.
He established for the record two important facts: that the attack on
Zaldívar's force had been deliberate, premeditated, and
treacherous; and, that until the Spaniards laid waste the defiant
fortress-pueblo of Ácoma, there could be no peace in the land.
The governor next called upon Father Commissary Alonso Martínez
for a definition of just war. The friar, dutifully citing scripture,
church fathers, philosophers, and legalists, concluded, "Finally, if the
cause of war is universal peace, or peace in his kingdom, he [i.e., the
Christian prince] may justly wage war and destroy any obstacle in the
way of peace until it is effectively achieved." The five Franciscan
priests on hand, including Father San Miguel, affirmed their superior's
"very Christian and learned" opinion. After Mass on January 10, 1599,
the colonists resolved at a general meeting that Ácoma must be
punished at once: any delay would see the entire kingdom in rebellion
against the Spaniards.
Vicente de Zaldívar, commander.
The Harsh Punishment of
After Códice Florentino, central
Mexico, 16th century.
Taking seventy soldiersabout half the colony's
total forcethe slain Zaldívar's younger brother Vicente set
forth to humble the rebels of Ácoma. Incredibly enough, he did
just that. In a bold and well-engineered two-day assault, he carried and
sacked the "impregnable stronghold." According to Spanish sources, the
Ácoma men, sensing defeat, began to kill one another and their
families rather than surrender. The invaders took as many captives as
they could, "upwards of five hundred men, women, and children."
At populous Santo Domingo, an elated Oñate met
the returning heroes and dealt with the Ácoma prisoners. All the
Pueblos watched. They did not understand the formalities of the trial
the Spaniards recorded so diligently, but they saw the brutal results.
Ácoma males, twenty-five and older, the governor sentenced to
have one foot hacked off. Like the young men and the women, these
defeated and mutilated warriors must in addition serve twenty years as
slaves of the invaders. Two Hopis caught at Ácoma were to lose
their right hands and "be set free in order that they may convey to
their land the news of this punishment."