National Park Service
Kiva, Crown, Crown


The Invaders

The New Mexico: Preliminaries to Conquest

Oñate's Disenchantment

The "Christianization" of Pecos

The Shadow of the Inquisition

Their Own Worst Enemies

Pecos and the Friars

Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas

Toward Extinction



Chapter 4: The 'Christianization' of Pecos, 1617-1659

The Mission Supply Contract of 1631

While Benavides advertised the missions of New Mexico in Europe at the expense of a sensitive and confused nun, the superiors of his province negotiated a financial agreement with royal officials. This contract, signed in Mexico City on April 30, 1631—the day before Fray Alonso reached Ágreda—spelled out to the last fraction of a peso the amount the crown was willing to spend on these missions. For each item, the negotiators had arrived at a set figure: maintenance of a missionary in the field for the three years between supply caravans (450 pesos for a priest, 300 for a lay brother), outfitting a new missionary (875 pesos), travel expenses for each friar (325), cost of each wagon and its sixteen mules (374 pesos, 4 tomines). The Franciscans assumed the upkeep of the wagons and replacement of spent mules; the crown provided the military escort. By adding the twenty friars being sent out in 1631 to the forty-six already in the field, treasury officials came up with a ceiling on the number of missionaries the crown would subsidize in New Mexico, sixty-six. Only in the late 1650s was the ceiling lifted with the addition of four more for the El Paso district.

book page
Description of Pecos from Benavides' Memorial of 1630.

For thirty-three years the contract stood. It converted mission supply into a business-like and efficient operation. Instead of providing the friars with supplies in kind as before, the treasury now turned over to the procurator-general of the custody a lump sum for the sixty-six missionaries. Everything else was up to the Franciscans. Thanks largely to one remarkable man, Procurator-general fray Tomás Manso, later bishop of Nicaragua, the system ran smoothly and on schedule. Making the arduous round trip with the wagons probably nine times, Manso kept his finger on every detail.

The 1631 contract called for thirty-two wagons, one for every two New Mexico missionaries, excepting the procurator-general and his assistant. These were not the quaint two-wheeled ox carts of the Castaño de Sosa entrada. They were heavy, four-wheeled freight wagons with iron tires, drawn by a team of eight mules, and capable of hauling two tons. On the road, the long train was divided into two squadrons of sixteen wagons, each squadron under the whip of a wagon master. To set them apart, the two lead wagons, like flagships, flew banners displaying the royal coat of arms and their teams were specially caparisoned and wore bells. The squadrons were further broken down into eight-wagon divisions whose lead wagons also flew the royal banner.

Fray Tomás Manso

The round trip took a year and a half more or less, six months out, six months in New Mexico, and six months back. That left the procurator-general eighteen months to organize and outfit the next northbound train. As long as Father Manso ran the supply service, neither treasury officials nor missionaries could find much to complain about.

inscription on rock at El Morro NM
Inscription of the Spanish party that stopped at El Morro on March 23, 1632, bound "to avenge the death of Father Letrado." Frederick Webb Hodge, History of Hawikuh (Los Angeles, 1937)

In practice, the triennial caravan was more than a mission supply service. It was New Mexico's lifeline, the only regularly scheduled freight, mail, and passenger service between the colony and points south. Outbound, royal wagons and Franciscans on muleback, attended by military escort, hundreds of spare mules, and meat on the hoof, were joined by everyone else going to New Mexico, from royal governor to merchants to penniless hangers-on. It was a motley, boisterous train.

On the way back, a similar conglomeration formed around the king's wagons. Governors and ex-governors, claiming the right to use the emptied wagons for shipment of hides, salt, piñon nuts, and other produce of the province, wrangled with the friars who saw these exports as fruits of the unlawful exploitation of Indians. Missionary control of the wagons added yet another dimension to conflict between church and state. [70]

sketch of church at Awatovi
The church built at Awátovi in the 1630s. Conjectural restoration by Ross G. Montgomery. Montgomery, Franciscan Awatovi.

Missionary Reverses

By the early 1630s, the Franciscans had all but covered the Pueblo world. From Pecos to Oraibi, from Senecú to Taos, resident missionaries sought to impose the Christian regime described by Fray Alonso de Benavides. Opposition by traditional Pueblo leaders, veiled in most of the communities, erupted violently in the western pueblos, those farthest from the seat of Spanish authority. At Hawikuh on February 22, 1632, the Zuñis put Fray Francisco de Letrado to death and danced with his scalp on a pole. Five days later they caught up with Fray Martín de Arvide, who had set out in search of the Opata and Pima Indians of Sonora, and killed him too. At the Hopi pueblo of Awátovi, the following year, alleged miracle worker Fray Francisco de Porras died a painful martyr's death when he ate food poisoned by "the priests of the idols." About the same time, the friars pulled back from the Tompiros of Las Humanas and the Jémez of Giusewa, presumably out of fear and frustration.

Disappearance of Alonso de Benavides

The news from New Mexico reached Father Benavides at Rome in time for him to include accounts of these "glorious deaths" in the revised memorial he was preparing for Pope Urban VIII. In every way he knew how, the resourceful Fray Alonso continued to promote the New Mexico missions. His fond hope of becoming the first bishop of Santa Fe seemed at times within his grasp. In 1635, back at the Spanish court, he arranged for return passage to the Indies. Then, when the proposal to make New Mexico a bishopric ran into bureaucratic snags, Benavides, the colony's premier propagandist of the seventeenth century, accepted appointment as auxiliary bishop of Goa in Portuguese India. He left for Lisbon at once. Since his name does not appear on any of the standard lists of bishops, it is possible that he died on the outward voyage. It was as if he had sailed off the end of the earth. [71]

Fray Alonso de Benavides

Blue Habits for the Friars

The publicity campaign of Alonso de Benavides had put New Mexico on the map. It may also have resulted in a change of color for his brothers' habits. Spanish Franciscans had long pressed the Roman Church to define and endorse the doctrine of the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception. Conceptionist Franciscan nuns like María de Jesús of Ágreda, wore the coarse, deep-blue sackcloth cloak symbolic of the Immaculate Conception. According to Benavides, María de Ágreda on her miraculous visits to New Mexico most often dressed in the gray habit of Saint Francis. On other occasions she appeared in the blue of La Concepción. In grateful response to María's favors through the advocacy of the Immaculate Conception, and as a demonstration in support of the doctrine, it would appear that the friars of the Holy Gospel province, mother province of the Order in Mexico, dyed their gray habits blue, about the color of "the denim used for western 'Levi's.'" [72]

drawing of Maria de Jesus de Agreda
María de Jesús de Ágreda. Benavides, Revised Memorial

There is no doubt that before the end of the century, and from then on, the missionary at Pecos wore blue. Just when the change was ordered is not certain. In Spain, the gifted María de Ágreda wrote a famous and controversial defense of the Immaculate Conception, the Mística Ciudad de Dios, being the personal reminiscences of the Virgin as dictated by the Queen of Heaven herself. After Philip IV visited her at Ágreda in 1643, María became a confidant of the king. She asked and received his support of the Immaculate Conception. Both king and nun died in 1665. In 1670, a Franciscan editor brought out the Mística Ciudad. Two years later, at the request of the Spanish court, María's cause was introduced at Rome. Perhaps one of these events, if not an earlier one, had occasioned the change to blue. [73]

Father Juárez Leaves Pecos

The Pecos made no news during the 1630s. They neither martyred a missionary nor fled their homes. Like most of the Pueblos, they endured the Spaniards' presence, paid their tribute, and went through the motions of the Roman Catholicism imposed upon them. Fray Andrés Juárez, the missionary they had grown accustomed to, pursued his ministry through 1634. Then, quite suddenly, he was gone. Whether he asked to be transferred, possibly because of some trouble with the Pecos, or whether the Father Custos simply decided Fray Andrés had been there long enough, by early 1635 he had been replaced.

Because most mission records of the period burned during the purge of 1680—reports of the custodial chapter, correspondence, mission books of baptisms, marriages, and burials—often the only hope of learning a missionary's whereabouts is the Inquisition. Local proceedings of the Holy Office, remitted periodically to the Tribunal in Mexico City, still survive in the Archivo General de la Nación. Not only did missionaries preside over those proceedings, and serve as notaries and as ratifying witnesses, but they also testified in Inquisition cases. And more often than not, the notary recorded what missions they were from.

Fray Esteban de Perea, comisario

Perea as Agent of Inquisition

By the time his belated commission as agent of the Holy Office arrived in 1631, Fray Esteban de Perea had already turned over to Fray Juan de Salas the burdens of Father Custos. That freed the crusty Perea to attend to Inquisition business, which he did until 1638 or 1639, when death finally caught up with him. The formal reading of an edict of the faith at Santa Fe in March 1631, combined with Perea's stern countenance, jolted the populace. "I have noticed," Perea reported to Mexico City, "that before the anathema was read to this simple folk they did not have the fear concerning the [superstitious] use of these powders and herbs which they now so truly show. Their hearts are agitated, and they are afraid." [74]

Perea's investigations opened up a can of night crawlers, the sordid side of frontier life—the love potions concocted with urine or mashed worms as antidote for marital infidelity, the fatal curse of witches who could travel magically in an egg, the diabolical visions. Although Perea dutifully called witness after witness, their testimony did not set him off the way Eulate's offenses against church authority had. Instead it made him sick.

Much of it he laid to racial mixture. There were in New Mexico "so many mestizos, mulattos, and zambaigos, and others [who are] worse, and [also] foreigners; so dangerous and of [such] little moral strength that I am sometimes embarrassed [in making these investigations]." Moreover, Perea thought that the Indians—who as neophytes were exempt from prosecution by the Inquisition—exercised a degrading influence on the Hispanic community in their midst. Frustrated Christian wives testified that Indian servants were the source of powders and potions designed to bring back straying husbands. It was extremely difficult, noted Perea, for persons raised among Indians, even for those who emerged as captains and royal officials, to tell truth from falsehood. [75]

At ten o'clock Thursday morning, May 26, 1633, forty-six-year-old Capt. Tomé Domínguez complied with a summons to appear at the mission of Quarai before Father Perea in the matter of mulatto Juan Anóon, alleged bigamist. The captain, a resident of Mexico City, testified that he had been traveling between New Mexico and the viceregal capital the previous summer when at Cuencamé he learned by chance that Juan Antón had a wife there, a black woman who worked at the inn where Domínguez stopped. Antón also had an Indian wife in New Mexico.

To render such testimony as legal evidence in the eyes of the Inquisition, the testifier had to ratify it, either as it stood or with whatever changes he wished to make. This ratification, sometimes executed the same day as the testimony and sometimes years later, required the presence of additional witnesses, "honestas y religiosas personas," at least one, usually two, and in New Mexico, usually Franciscans. Next day, May 27, when Captain Domínguez ratified his testimony without change, Perea relied on only one witness, Fray Anarés Juárez, "because it was impossible to get another." Identified as "preacher and guardian of the Convento de los Ángeles de los Pecos," Juárez cosigned the document with Father Perea, Domínguez, and the friar notary. [76]

This is the last definite reference to Andrés Juárez at Pecos. The following year, 1634, on April 11, he again acted as ratifying witness at Quarai, in another bigamy case. But this time, the notary failed to identify Juárez mission. [77] Probably he was still at Pecos. It seems likely that his 1634 excursion with Capt. Alonso Baca and company out onto the plains took place while he still served at the gateway. Late in the year the supply wagons arrived. With them came a new governor, friar replacements, and word of the election of Fray Cristóbal de Quirós, twenty-five-year New Mexico veteran, as Father Custos. Soon after, the Franciscans of the custody held their chapter. That body must have confirmed a change of assignment for Fray Andrés Juárez.

He was not leaving New Mexico. Fifty-three years old, he had persevered as a missionary in the colony for twenty-two years, the last thirteen at the populous pueblo of Pecos. Still he refused to retire. In Santa Fe on February 19, 1635, Juárez and another friar witnessed a ratification for Father Perea. Do&ntilce;a Yumar Pérez de Bustillo had testified earlier in the day that the mulatto Juan Antón did indeed marry a Mexican Indian named Ana María at the pueblo of San Felipe. On this occasion, the notary gave the missions of both witnesses. Fray Andrés Juárez, former apostle to the Pecos, was now guardian at the Tewa pueblo of Nambé, a post he would occupy for the next twelve years or more. Fray Domingo del Espíritu Santo, a relative newcomer, had taken over at Pecos. He would not last a year. [78]

If Domingo del Espíritu Santo was the same person as Martín del Espíritu Santo, which is not very likely, he may have come to New Mexico in the Benavides dozen of 1625. Benavides did mention a friar of that name who worked among the Gila Apaches "with great courage during the year 1628." [79] If not, he probably arrived with the caravan of 1634. The earliest extant reference to him in New Mexico, the only reference to him as guardian of Pecos, is the ratification dated February 19, 1635. By mid-1636, he was serving as secretary to Custos Quirós and as guardian of the convento in Santa Fe, where he became involved in the politics of the capital. He died before the supply caravan of 1658-1659 reached New Mexico. [80]

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