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 Basque Ibargaray at Pecos

Another missionary of stronger stuff, a Basque in his late twenties, came out from Santa Fe to live at Pecos. He was Antonio de Ibargaray. A native of the bustling north-coast villa of Bilbao, Ibargaray, at age twenty-two, had taken the Franciscan habit at the Convento Grande in Mexico City on the feast of San Antonio Abad, January 17, 1629. For his novitiate, the superiors sent him to the province's Convento de San Francisco in Puebla, There he professed on January 20, 1630. He cannot have set out for the missions of New Mexico before the supply caravan of 1634. In February 1635, when Father Perea asked him to act as a ratifying witness, Ibargaray was living at the Santa Fe convento. Transferred to Pecos as guardian before November 1636, the young friar learned rapidly. That month, flaying the royal governor in a letter to the viceroy, Fray Antonio sounded like a veteran. [81]

Church-state Struggle Renewed

The issues had not changed. What the governor considered use of the colony's human resources, the friars considered abuse, and vice versa. What the friars demanded in the name of respect for the church, the governor viewed as disrespect for the state, and vice versa. Without local checks or balances on either side, contention was assured. After Silva Nieto, who supported Perea's missionary expansion between 1629 and 1632, royal governors and friars were increasingly at cross purposes. By the end of the thirties, their disagreement had degenerated into a violent, bare-knuckle affair verging on civil war.

Greedy Francisco de la Mora Ceballos, 1632-1634, cared only about turning a profit, to hear the Franciscans tell it. Delivering quantities of trade knives to certain missions—surely Pecos among them—don Francisco sought to turn conventos into trading posts and missionaries into hawkers. He revived the vale, that little slip of paper entitling the holder to abduct Indian children "as if they were calves and colts." So thoroughly did Mora fleece New Mexico that "the whole land protests." [82]

Francisco Martínez de Baeza, 1635-1637, was no better. After two years of misrule by him, Custos Quirós in desperation sent a special messenger with letters of protest to the Viceroy Marqués de Cadereyta. From Pecos, young Antonio de Ibargaray had opened with a proper courtier's bow: "Once again Your Excellency's great devotion to our holy Order has reached these remote provinces of New Mexico and as a result Your Excellency's chaplains consider ourselves fortunate to have at the present time such a prince governing this New World." He then laid bare for his prince the bad government of Martínez de Baeza.

Ibargaray Roasts a Governor

From the moment he became governor he has attended only to his own profit, causing grave damage to all these recently converted souls. He has commanded them to weave and paint great quantities of mantas and hangings. Likewise he has made them seek out and barter for many tanned skins and haul quantities of piñon nuts. As a result he has now loaded eight carretas with what he has amassed and is taking them and as many men from here to drive them to New Spain, thwarting everything His Majesty has ordered in his royal ordinance.

Thus, not since this governor took office, has a single pueblo been baptized. He has refused to lend support to the Faith. Instead he has sought in every way to insult with the ugliest words every minister His Majesty employs here in his royal service converting the natives. Likewise he has sought by force and violence to use the citizens of the villa of Santa Fe and its cabildo [municipal council], because they are poor people, to make utterly untrue reports against the religious of these provinces solely to discredit us with Your Excellency.

The missionary at Pecos understood that Martínez de Baeza had a grudge against him. He hastened to explain. On Sunday he had gone to a preaching station to say Mass. Late the night before, the governor and some soldiers had arrived unexpectedly and unannounced. When the friar went ahead with the service, not waiting for the guests he did not know he had, Martínez flew into a rage. "I advise Your Excellency of the truth of the matter confident that Your Excellency will sustain us in all as such a fond patron of our holy Order." [83]

Pecos, November 20, 1636, Your Excellency's chaplain, Fray Antonio de Ybargaray

The Rowdy Luis de Rosas

Five months later, in April 1637, the friars rejoiced. A new governor had been installed in Santa Fe. Charged with carrying out his predecessor's residencia, the standard judicial review of an official's administration, don Luis de Rosas could have dealt a blow to avarice and exploitation. Instead, he embraced them. Allegedly bribed by Martínez de Baeza, don Luis let the former governor off mildly, then took over his business interests with ravenous intent. He would make this drab colony pay even better, by God. A tough, two-fisted, damn-the-hindmost officer, Luis de Rosas would knock down the man, colonist or missionary, who got in his way.

Pecos interested Rosas from the start. As the main gateway for trade with the Plains Apaches, the eastern pueblo could supply in quantity hides and skins to fill his warehouse and keep native leather workers occupied in the Santa Fe sweatshop he operated. He offered the Pecos incentives. According to witnesses who testified before the failing Esteban de Perea and Custos Juan de Salas in 1638, Rosas would have gladly bartered the Indians' souls for "mantas, hides, and tanned skins."

Ensign Nicolás Enríquez, no friend of Rosas, had heard that the Pecos captains were complaining. The governor had ordered them to collect mantas, hides, and skins and to deliver them at night through a window. In return he would allow the pueblo to name idolatrous leaders, capitanes de la idolatria, just as they used to do. The proposal was made, said Enríquez, in the governor's own quarters in front of the Pecos interpreter called Puxavi and Capt. Matías Romero, brother-in-law of armorer Gaspar Pérez. Romero was later accused of illicit trading with the Plains Indians and of taking captives for Rosas to sell. Another witness had it that the governor offered the Pecos leave "to practice idolatry and freedom in their sect or religion," if they would pay their tribute a second time. [84]

Whatever the details, such diabolical meddling in the spiritual lives of his charges must have infuriated Fray Antonio de Ibargaray or his successor at Pecos. Evidently in the fall of 1638, missionary and governor met face to face. "Pretending that he was on the king's business," Rosas and a squad of armed men reined up at Pecos "loaded down with knives to barter with a number of Apache Indians, friends of the baptized natives." From the testimony of Francisco de Salazar, bitter enemy of Rosas and later beheaded as a traitor along with Nicolás Enríquez and six others, the scene unfolded something like this.

Rosas in Fracas at Pecos

To his chagrin, Rosas discovered that the Apaches had nothing left to trade. He blamed the Father Guardian of Pecos. How dare the missionary allow the nomads to trade off all their hides and skins before he arrived? The ranting governor "became so enraged and rash with the minister that he was going to take him to the villa as a prisoner." He ordered him to consume the Blessed Sacrament at once. The friar protested. He had just eaten and thereby broken the required fast. He would not consume the Sacrament, nor would he leave it.

Just then, "at the ugly words" of the governor, Fray Antonio Jiménez, a seventy-year-old lay brother, came to the guardian's aid. Viciously, Rosas turned on the old man. He ordered him seized and confined to the convento, "to the profound scandal of the natives." He then posted four soldiers armed with arquebuses "in the porter's lodge to guard him. Had the religious not feigned illness he would have taken him publicly as a prisoner to the villa." As a parting threat Rosas sent word to the Father Guardian while he was preaching that the king would "throw out" the Apaches who were there. [85]

The affair was not over. Back in Santa Fe ex-Pecos missionary Domingo del Espíritu Santo confronted the four men who had kept guard over the venerable Brother Antonio. He declared them excommunicate. Rosas was rabid. He detested that friar and "began to persecute him." At the Franciscans' custodial chapter that year, Father Custos Juan de Salas named Fray Domingo guardian of the Santa Fe convento. At the same time, he reassigned from Santa Fe to Picurís the controversial Fray Juan de Vidania, a transfer from the Franciscan province of Michoacán who had earlier been expelled from the Society of Jesús. Vidania, a most passionate and unorthodox religious, was the one friar Rosas esteemed, his "intimate friend."

Taking the reassignment as a personal affront, which it probably was meant to be, the governor sent a squad of soldiers after Vidania and had him returned to the convento in Santa Fe. He then challenged Custos Salas with the fait accompli. Salas backed down. "To keep the peace" he sent Vidania a patent as guardian of Santa Fe. He withdrew Domingo del Espíritu Santo. [86]

Everywhere the Franciscans turned, or so it seemed to them in 1638, there was Rosas, violent, irreverent, and insatiably greedy. Earlier that year, he and a large armed escort had joined five friars on a missionary expedition to the Opata Indians of northern Sonora. In his eagerness to extract from these natives everything they had to trade, the governor alienated them and ruined the missionaries' debut. His indiscriminate slaving among the nomads, particularly the Apaches, caused the friars further grief. It also hurt the Pecos.

Rosas' Slavers on the Plains

Sometime before October 1638, Rosas sponsored a trading and slaving venture far out onto the plains. The members of this party killed, according to Francisco de Salazar, "a large number of these friendly Apache Indians," the ones who came in seasonally to trade and live in the shadows of Pecos pueblo. The Spaniards had used "many heathen enemies of said Apaches" in the attack, "a practice prohibited by cedula of His Majesty in which he commands that they be left to themselves in their wars." That did not matter to Rosas. What did matter were the captives they brought back. Some of them he set to work in his private labor force. Others he sent for sale to Nueva Vizcaya.

If we can believe Salazar, "the native Christian Indians of Pecos" were horrified. An attack upon these Vaquero Apaches was an attack upon them. The Pecos depended on the goods the Vaqueros brought to the pueblo every fall, not only the dried meat, but also the hides and skins "with which they clothed themselves and paid their tribute." More than that, such slaving raids invited retaliation, an eye for an eye. [87]

In Defense of Governor Rosas

One prominent New Mexican, a man who probably had more than a passing interest in the Pecos tribute, stuck by Governor Rosas, just as he had stuck by the Oñates. Addressing the viceroy in the name of the soldiers of New Mexico, Sargento mayor Francisco Gómez praised the governor as a military leader and explorer. He urged the viceroy to continue Rosas in office. The Apaches were no more troublesome now than usual, "but well punished." In fact, said Gómez, they appeared intimidated. If the Franciscans claimed otherwise in their litigations, it should come as no surprise. They had complained about every governor. With them it was force of habit.

As a result they have this land so afflicted and exhausted that the soldiers despair. This state of affairs is easily understood, since the religious are the masters of the resources of the land and they proceed without a civil judge. The ecclesiastical one they do have here is for throwing the cloak over their faults. The faults they possess in this kingdom are not heard beyind this land, and they are not punished with more than a reprimand, if by chance one is handed down, and that does not hurt them in the slightest. In this way they are masters of the land and of its assets. [88]

Franciscans' Monopoly

Francisco Gómez was not alone in his attack on the heavy-handed Franciscan regime. The Santa Fe municipal council, packed by Rosas, sent to the viceroy a long list of grievances. For the repair of their souls, the several hundred poor and struggling colonists of New Mexico were utterly dependent upon the friars. At the slightest provocation, it was alleged, a citizen could find himself barred from the sacraments, excommunicate, or the object of an investigation by the Holy Office. The influence of not one but three ecclesiastical authorities, all Franciscans in New Mexico, hung like a pall over the lives of the colonists—the local prelate who exercised quasi-episcopal powers and served as ecclesiastical judge ordinary, the agent of the Inquisition, and the subdelegate of the Santa Cruzada who exacted the price of special papal indulgences sold to provide funds for wars against the infidel, in effect a church tax. Each had his staff of notaries and assistants who enjoyed immunity from civil prosecution. So powerful had the Franciscans' monopoly grown, wrote the cabildo, "that, while enjoying the quiet and ease of their cells and doctrinas, they are able to disturb and afflict the land and keep it in [a state of] continuous martyrdom."

The Franciscan insignia: the arm of Christ and the arm of St. Francis.

The Franciscan bloc also ruled the economy. None of the colonists, according to the cabildo, had herds to match those of the missions. Instead of complaining about the animals of others trespassing on Indian lands, the government-subsidized missionaries should get out of the livestock business. They should distribute their thousands of head of sheep as alms, succoring the impoverished soldier-colonists and at the same time decreasing the burden of labor on the Indians. Every mission kept dozens of Indians at work as cooks, wood carriers, maize grinders, herders, and the like. How could the ordinary citizen hope to survive in a land where many soldiers were too poor to buy horses and arms and where every friar had twenty, thirty, or even forty horses, and arms as well?

Rosas versus the Friars

The stormy Rosas had an answer—fight. With his own selfish interest always before him, the governor marched into battle on two fronts, political and economic, and in the process rent the colony right down the middle. On the one side stood the embattled Franciscans, joined by a growing assortment of soldier-colonists whom Rosas had stripped of their commissions and encomiendas or had otherwise wronged. With the governor stood the colonists he favored, as well as those, like Francisco Gómez, who gave their first allegiance to the king's man regardless of who he was.

Relying on the counsel of Father Vidania, who went over to the governor's side without a backward glance, Rosas assailed the Franciscan power structure in every way he could. He charged Fray Juan de Góngora, subdelegate of the Santa Cruzada, with misconduct and finally drove him from the province. With relish, he forwarded to the Holy Office in Mexico City charges of gross immorality against the missionary of Taos. Death removed testy old Esteban de Perea, and for more than two years there was no local agent of the Inquisition. Emboldened, Rosas and his cabildo challenged the authority of Custos Juan de Salas, and thus his pronouncements and censures, saying that the prelate had never legally presented his credentials to the civil authorities. Salas fought back.

By early 1640, when a Rosas man, excommunicated for slandering the Franciscans, turned up murdered, the hatred spilled over. Father Vidania allowed the excommunicate to be buried in the Santa Fe church. In the fracus that followed, the governor rescued Vidania from his fellow friars, installed him at his side as royal chaplain, banished the others from the villa on pain of death, and closed the convento. Shocked, Custos Salas summoned the missionaries from their posts to an urgent meeting at Santo Domingo. On March 16, they issued a manifesto, signed by Salas and nineteen others, including Father Antonio de Ibargaray and Brother Antonio Jiménez, who together may still have been serving Pecos, as well as ex-Pecos guardians Andrés Juárez and Domingo del Espíritu Santo.

Rosas had boasted that he would seize the Father Custos and expel him from the colony. The other friars vowed to go with him. They blamed the unregenerate governor for what had happened the year before at Taos. They said that he had ordered the Indians not to obey their missionary. As a result, the Taos had rebelled, sacked their church, and put to death Fray Pedro de Miranda, who had replaced the missionary charged with immoral conduct. To consider these grave matters, the friars had come together at Santo Domingo. A number of soldier-colonists joined them. [89]

In April, after voting to return to their missions, the friars chose two of their number to reason with Rosas. The governor personally bloodied their heads with a stick, locked them up for the day, and subjected them to all manner of harassment before he banished them from the villa that evening. The schism was complete.

The Colony Divided

For a year, while the two hostile factions stood off and denounced each other in reports to Mexico City, a number of sorry incidents occurred. Where the blame lay depended upon whose report you read. One of the episodes involved the aging veteran Fray Andrés Juárez. He and a number of other friars, it seemed, had returned to their missions. Juárez was reported at San Ildefonso. According to testimony by anti-Rosas witnesses, the governor dispatched a squadron of soldiers under Capt. Alonso Martín Barba

with the express order that they throw him out of that convento, which they did by force. Said Father fray Andrés Juárez, being as he is a sick man, elderly, and almost a cripple, begged them for the love of God to let him sleep that night in the convento. They did not allow it, and the Father had to leave with the utmost difficulty.

After robbing the convento and driving off the mission livestock, Martín Barba's raiders did the same at Santa Clara and at Nambé. Then Rosas stationed a detachment at San Ildefonso, turning convento into garrison. Father Vidania, whose defense of his patron became more and more frenzied, told a different story. The friars, according to him, had already abandoned the three pueblos before the soldiers rounded up the straying stock. The troops at San ildefonso were there not on a whim of the governor but because the pueblo had been fortified in defiance of civil authority. So it went, and the Pueblo Indians looked on. [90]

sketch of Santo Domingo pueblo
Santo Domingo pueblo. Horatio O. Ladd, The Story of New Mexico (Boston, 1891)

The precise chronology of events from mid-1639 to mid-1641 is impossible to establish from the conflicting testimony. There is no doubt, however, that most of the Pueblos were involved in one way or another. At Santa Domingo, they threw up fortifications against the governor. When Rosas finally mounted a punitive expedition to Taos, many of the natives migrated out onto the plains and settled among the Apaches. Other Pueblos fled their homes in fear and disgust. A missionary to the Jémez died violently, either at their hands or those of Navajos or Apaches. The nomads availed themselves of the confusion and raided at will. The governor's men robbed Sandía and Quarai. At the latter place, one of his captains reportedly put on a Franciscan habit and ordered the Indians to kiss his hand.

Sometime around 1640, a lethal epidemic visited New Mexico. Rough estimates put the death toll among the Pueblos as high as three thousand, more than ten percent of the population. [91] It was as if their own supernaturals were scourging them. And Mary of the Angels at Pecos just let them die.

Another governor, Juan Flores de Sierra y Valdez, not a well man, relieved Luis de Rosas in the spring of 1641. Fray Hernándo Covarrubias, sent out from the Convento Grande, took over as custos and Fray Juan de Salas became agent of the Inquisition. They soon had the apostate Father Vidania behind bars. In Santa Fe, the anti-Rosas faction won control of the cabildo. When the new governor died after only a few months in office, they arrested the former governor, their archenemy, on grounds that he might slip away before his residencia was completed.

Rosas Defends Himself

From "this prison" at Santa Fe, the fearful but still-determined Rosas composed a defense of his administration for don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, specially appointed royal trouble-shooter to New Spain. He probably entrusted the document, dated September 29, 1641, to the deceased governor's son, who also carried with him the last will and testament of Luis de Rosas.

He had never wanted to be governor of New Mexico, Rosas told Palafox. After fifteen years of loyal military service in Flanders, during which he had risen through the ranks, he had come to New Spain with Viceroy the Marqués de Cadereyta. When the viceroy had assigned him the New Mexico post in 1636, he had protested because of "the bad reputation it has always had for mutiny and seizure of governors." But to no avail. Upon his arrival, alleged Rosas, he had run head-on into the entrenched Franciscans.

"Every convento is a livestock operation and general store owned by the friars," he charged. "During the time I have been in these provinces they have extracted seventy-five two-and-a-half-ton wagons of goods, which from a land so poor amounts to more than extracting millions from Potosí." At one mission, claimed Rosas, he had shut down a sweatshop employing Indian children. That did it. From then on, the friars incited the colony against him.

When he had arrested a criminal, two Franciscans led a mob to the governor's palace and forced the man's release. They made a mockery of royal justice and spat on the authority of the governor. Rosas had sent in his resignation, but the viceroy refused to accept it. Regularly the friars withheld the sacraments from him and from any colonist who would not defame him. They called him foul names and threatened his life. By the time their faction fortified Santo Domingo in defiance of Santa Fe, seventy-three of the colony's 120 soldiers had joined the insurrection. In their effort to depose Rosas, the friars circulated a letter urging the people of New Mexico not to obey him, saying, in Rosas' words, "that I followed the law of Luther and Calvin, that I was practicing an abominable idolatry with a goat, and that I and the citizens of this villa [Santa Fe] were whipping an image of Christ."

The imprisoned ex-governor knew that his allegations about Franciscans fathering bastard children in New Mexico and cheating the royal treasury by accepting subsidies for twelve to fifteen vacant missions would not greatly scandalize Juan de Palafox. What would shock him, Rosas calculated, was the picture of friars fomenting open rebellion against legitimate royal authority, scheming to oust, even to murder, royal officials, and holding a royal governor prisoner while they ruled the colony. This picture Rosas painted in vivid colors. [92]

Once the supply caravan had departed for New Spain that fall carrying his letter, Rosas held his breath, He feared that his enemies might try to murder him before help could arrive. And he was right. They did.

In January of 1642, under cover of a cloak-and-dagger plot complete with unfaithful wife, apparently planted in Rosas' room, enraged husband, and masked avengers, the opposition finally rid the world of the rowdy Luis de Rosas. One wonders if old Fray Andrés Juárez of Fuenteovejuna, the town that had taken justice into its own hands, recalled the precedent. Governor Rosas and Comendador Fernán Gómez, like most tyrants, had a lot in common.

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