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 5: The Shadow of the Inquisition, 1659-1680

Custos Posada Moves to Pecos

The aggressive Alonso de Posada was still in his mid-thirties. Born to Licenciado Alonso de Llanos y Posada and María González in 1626, he hailed from western León, from the villa of Congosto, which translates "narrow pass, or canyon." Not a particularly important place, the cluster of mostly two-storied stone houses roofed with slate or tile occupied an elevated plain high above the Río Sil. "The land is of good quality," according to a nineteenth-century description, "in the main unirrigated for the Sil waters almost none of it because of the depth of the riverbed." As well as wheat, rye, various fruits, and vegetables, the people grew potatoes in abundance. There were trout and fresh-water eels in the river, which has since been dammed in the vicinity of Congosto. From there it flows south and westward toward the sea, commingling with the Río Miño to form a piece of Portugal's northern border.

general auto de fe
The general auto de fe of 1649 in Mexico City. Alfonso Toro, La familia Carvajal, vol. 1 (México, 1944).

On the American side of the Atlantic, the twenty-year-old Alonso had taken the habit of the Franciscans at the Convento Grande, on Saturday, October 20, 1646, at the traditional hour of compline with the entire community present. As a young missionary in New Mexico, he had seen duty at two hardship posts, at the Hopi pueblo of Awatovi between 1653 and 1655, and at Jémez in 1656. Then Fray Alonso returned to Mexico City, where his superiors soon named him custos of New Mexico and sent him back to do battle with Bernardo López de Mendizábal. That he had done with dispatch. [37]

Sometime early in 1663, Father Posada moved out to Pecos, evidently to avoid bumping into Governor Peñalosa. The two men were no longer speaking. Since Christmas Day 1662, when Peñalosa had learned that his hurried shipment of goods purloined from the estate of ex-governor López had been impounded at Parral on orders from Posada, his fury had badly affected his judgment. He derided the Holy Office and composed rude doggerel about inquisitors. On one occasion he was heard to say in a rage that "if the Inquisitors opposed him the way Posada opposed him, he would scour all their assholes." He had made vile threats against Father Posada. And he never missed an opportunity to proclaim his authority as royal governor over any creature in a Franciscan habit

The showdown began in August 1663. During a dispute over livestock, Peñalosa ordered the arrest of Pedro Durán y Chávez. At Santo Domingo, the prisoner escaped to the church where he invoked the right of asylum. That did not stop Peñalosa. He had Durán y Chávez dragged from the church and jailed in the governor's palace. It was an act Father Posada could not ignore. When a polite letter requesting Durán's return met with a firm refusal, the prelate rode over to Santo Domingo.

To a second request, Peñalosa made no reply at all. With that, the Franciscan started legal proceedings. On September 27, he issued a formal ecclesiastical monition directing the governor to give up the prisoner within twenty-four hours or suffer excommunication. He dispatched a friar to Santa Fe with instructions to make two personal appeals, and, if they did not move Peñalosa, to serve the notice. Fray Alonso then went back to Pecos.

Peñalosa Decides on Arrest

The governor did not bend. Instead, he resolved to make good an earlier threat. He would arrest and deport the arrogant Franciscan. Securing the assent of Lt. Gov. Pedro Manso de Valdés and Fray Nicolás de Freitas, Peñalosa hastily set a dangerous course. It was Sunday, September 30, 1663. A moment of high drama in the long struggle of church and state in New Mexico was about to take place in the convento at Pecos between two strong, unflinching individuals. [38]

Without fanfare, the governor issued a call to arms to a select group of encomenderos. According to a statement by five of them who later sought absolution from Father Posada, "All of us were utterly unprepared, not at all willing, some reaping our wheat, others winnowing theirs, when Gen. Diego de Peñalosa summoned us one at a time without any of us knowing of the others." Each was to mount up, bring his arquebus, and await the governor at a place a quarter-league out of Santa Fe. There they came together. About three in the afternoon Peñalosa rode up. He asked them, "Which way to Pecos?" Told that the road lay before him, he spurred his horse and ordered them to follow.

Before long, don Diego called to Capt. Diego Lucero de Godoy, who rode a fine horse, to go on ahead and ask the native governor "in all secrecy how many friars there are at the pueblo of Pecos and if the Father Custos is there. If by chance you run into him on the road shout to him that something just occurred to you and return in all haste to report to me." Lucero did as ordered. The Pecos governor told him that only Father Posada and Father Juan de la Chica were there. Riding back at a gallop, Lucero missed the main party, which "had taken another trail to the pueblo," but he doubled back to join them as they dismounted under some cottonwoods within sight of the convento.

There were ten or twelve of them. "All proceeded on foot," said the five in their statement,

from behind the kitchen garden toward the convento. The Father Custos, taking a walk or praying, was on a mirador that looks out toward the villa [Santa Fe]. Hearing the rustling, the Father Custos said in a loud voice, "Who goes there?" Gen. Diego de Peñalosa answered, "Friends. Open the door for us, Your Reverence, and give us chocolate." At once the Father Custos ordered the door of the convento opened. [39]

It was sometime between nine and ten at night. Peñalosa posted a guard outside the main door with orders to kill anyone who tried to come out. Some witnesses remembered him saying, "Should St. Francis come out, kill him!" Then the governor and his armed men went inside.

Father Posada recalled their unexpected arrival in these words:

I was in our cell and the convento was in silence with the doors locked. At the ruckus of some dogs I went out on a balcony or window which forms a part of the cell and I saw some six or seven men with arquebuses in their hands. Some were approaching the convento cautiously.

To find out who they were I said from the window or balcony, "Deo gratias, who goes there?" To which Gen. Diego de Peñalosa replied, "It is I."

And I asked him, "Who are you?" He said he was don Diego. I greeted him from above and he said to me, "Open the door, Your Reverence, and let's drink a bit of chocolate." I then ordered the door opened and left our cell to receive the general at the stairway that leads to the patio. I greeted him a second time with all politeness and courtesy and took him straight to our guest cell. [40]

The Franciscan noted that Peñalosa had a pair of horse pistols in his belt. Lieutenant Governor Manso de Valdés entered with arquebus in hand, "apparently with hammer cocked." Obeying an impulse, Francisco de Madrid set his weapon aside. Lucero de Godoy released his hammer. Diego González Lobón came in holding a pistol. Later, before the Inquisition, don Diego de Peñalosa denied that he and his men were any more heavily armed than usual.

Confrontation of Governor and Custos

The most complete account of what happened next is from the pen of Father Posada. Although Peñalosa disputed certain of the details, he did admit before the tribunal of the Holy Office that "he was so impassioned and so blind that without considering more than the harm done to him he resolved to exile said Father Custos from the provinces of New Mexico." [41]

The friar asked the governor what he was doing in the vicinity of Pecos at that hour. "We have come for a refugee," Peñalosa retorted with calculated irony, "and therefore, Your Reverence, you must throw open the doors for us in the name of the king." The Franciscan did.

"Most willingly," I replied, "but I do not know of any refugee in this convento. If per chance it is I Your Lordship seeks, here I am. There is no need to search for me."

I begged him and his companions to sit down and drink some chocolate. He did so and said to me, "Very well then, Your Reverence, I shall come to the point with you." And while the chocolate was being prepared he began to say certain things with great self-esteem and loftiness regarding my infamy, saying that I was a villain, that there were many such in Asturias, and that if I did not know how to obey the king that he would teach me.

To which I replied, "Sir, I and the Asturians are very much vassals of the king my lord, because we inherit it from our fathers." Don Diego then said that I had no right nor could I say the king my lord, but only the king our lord, since only he, who was the prince, was entitled to say the king my lord.

Among other things he insinuated, searching for a way to upset me and make me lose my temper, that he was going to garrote me, that he always carried silk cords to garrote people, that he never did it with one torsion stick but with two because death came quicker. Seeing that he had not made me lose my temper or upset me in this way and that I was responding and speaking to him with great composure and restraint, he tried to catch me in words with theological traps, words used only among theologians.

When I had given him and all his companions chocolate with all graciousness, don Diego de Peñalosa said that it was expedient to the service of God and king that the cell in which I was living be thoroughly searched, to which I responded, "Most willingly."

Taking with him Pedro Manso de Valdés and Diego Lucero de Godoy, with arquebuses in hand, he searched all, even to rummaging through the rubbish. Afterward he said that he also had to search another cell in which I used to live. Without any objection or hesitation I took him to it in person and opened it. He entered with the two arquebusiers and searched it in the same way as the first.

Afterward he went down to the cloister. I told him to search the church and the rest of the cells and workrooms of the convento, to which he replied that he did not wish to go to the church and that it was not necessary to search the rest of the convento.

Back in the guest cell, Peñalosa pressed Posada. He must go to Santa Fe at once, that very night. When the friar explained that it was not his custom to go out at night, and offered instead to give his guests supper and a place to sleep, the governor invited the prelate to step out into the cloister.

When we had gone out, he said to me angrily, "Father, can the custos excommunicate the governor and captain general of this kingdom?"

To which I replied, "Sir, that depends on the case, for if it is one of those contained in canon law, yes, he can, because then the ecclesiastical judge does no more than use and exercise through his office what is ordained in canon law and what the Supreme Head of the Church commands."

To this Gen. don Diego de Peñalosa replied, "if the custos excommunicated me, I would hang him or garrote him immediately, and if the Pontiff came here and wanted to excommunicate me or actually did so, I would hang the Pontiff, because in this kingdom I am the prince and the supreme magistrate, and there is no one who may excommunicate the prince and supreme magistrate."

I replied, "Sir, it is not necessary to bring the person and holiness of the Pontiff into such matters, for it is better to leave His Holiness on the supreme throne he occupies, with the due authority and the respect which all faithful Christians must render to him and with which they regard his person. As for hanging him, he is absent. I am here for Your Lordship to hang, and I shall not be the first religious or priest to die in defense of Our Holy Mother the Roman Catholic Church."

I was worried that someone might have heard us. I made out although at some distance Comisario de la caballería Francisco de Madrid and Capt. Juan Griego who were next to the door of my cell and Capt. Diego Lucero de Godoy who was in a passageway which leads to the patio from outside adjacent to the same cell. It could have been that other persons he brought with him, besides those mentioned, might have heard him because it was night and without light and I could not make them out. While they might not have heard everything clearly, they would have heard some things.

General don Diego, continuing with his replies and propositions, said to me, "Why is Your Reverence seeking to excommunicate me for having ordered don Pedro de Chávez taken from the church of Santo Domingo and held prisoner?"

I replied, "Sir, as an ecclesiastical judge I am obliged to defend the immunity of the Church, and because terms had not been reached for proceeding in the matter judicially, I wrote two letters of supplication to Your Lordship, who, up to now, is not excommunicated or declared such. And with regard to the case concerning immunity, you may state through your attorney, proceeding in legal form, the reasons you had for removing him. And if the reasons of Your Lordship were sufficient basis for doing so, there is no controversy, because the case is one of those contained in the law, as will be seen in the second part of the Decretals, in Quest. 4, Cap. 8, 9, and 10. And if the case is carried to the use of force it is not necessary to hang the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, for by hanging me the affair may be concluded."

And I replied in this way because he had stated to me for the second time the preceding proposition that he would hang the Pontiff. To this Gen. don Diego de Peñalosa replied, raising with his right hand the cape and cloak he was wearing in order to show me the pistols he had in his belt, "Now then, we will consider this affair and Your Reverence and all the other Fathers Custos of New Mexico will learn what a governor can do. I therefore order Your Reverence in the name of the king to go with me at once to the villa where Your Reverence will see the difficulties cleared up."

I replied, "Sir, these matters need little action, if they are considered with prudence and judgment. There are many authors who clarify the manner in which ecclesiastical and secular judges must deal with them, and therefore neither contention nor anger is necessary."

When the shouting ceased, according to the guards, who had indeed heard the governor saying "many vituperative things," the two men went back inside. Father Posada began taking out books to inform Peñalosa of the immunities a clergy man enjoyed as Franciscan prelate, ecclesiastical judge ordinary, and agent of the Holy Office. The governor was not impressed. He told the friar to save his breath. Anyone could see that the priest "was the student of a book and that he himself was a clod." Still, said Peñalosa, he knew more than Posada.

Posada Taken from Pecos

A third time the governor told the prelate that he was required in Santa Fe at once. Still protesting the hour, Posada ordered an animal saddled. He wanted to know if he was being taken as a prisoner. Peñalosa said no, he was merely going to honor the governor's palace with his presence. "I shall do so to comply with your command," vowed the grim-faced Franciscan, "but I give notice that I am not going freely." He would force the governor's hand.

I was outside in the patio about to mount up when it occurred to me to return to the cell. In a loud voice the general commanded Comisario Francisco de Madrid, who was already mounted, to go with me on pretext of my needing something. I realized from his footsteps that the general was following me, and he again entered the cell. At that juncture I knew for certain that they were taking me as a prisoner. In my own cell they placed guards on me, the governor himself serving as one of them.

At that hour, which must have been about eleven at night of said last day of September of last year, 1663, Gen. Diego de Peñalosa, with the accompaniment and escort of all the above-mentioned soldiers, in order to conduct me to the villa of Santa Fe eight leagues from the pueblo of Pecos, disposed that some of the soldiers should go ahead and others behind so that they had me in the middle with His Lordship close to me, conducting me carefully in front of him.

No sooner had they begun the long night's ride when Peñalosa leaned over and said something about the embargo Posada had placed on the goods in Parral. From the tone of the conversation the prelate thought he could feel the governor's mortal hatred. A little less than a league down the trail, "before leaving the milpas of the pueblo of Pecos," he asked again if he was Peñalosa's prisoner. The governor lied. He told the Franciscan that once they reached Santa Fe, he would leave him at the convento. The rest of the way in, recalled the soldiers, "they came chatting on the trail most sociably."

In Santa Fe, the sarcastic Peñalosa insisted that Posada join him at the governor's palace for chocolate. As they came opposite the gallows that had been erected in the center of the plaza "to hang an Indian" said Peñalosa, certain threatening remarks were made. The prelate then disappeared into the casas reales. [42]

The Custos a Prisoner

About 6:00 a.m. Monday morning, October 1, the Franciscans at the convento in Santa Fe learned what had happened.

They were stunned. They had grown used to don Diego's blasphemous threats, but now he had actually done it—locked up the Father Custos. Fray Nicolás de Enríquez, guardian of the convento, reacted swiftly, closing the Santa Fe church and ordering the host consumed. He considered placing all the churches of New Mexico under interdict. "With the utmost anxiety" he penned a hasty note to Fray Antonio de Ibargaray at Galisteo, "definitor and senior Father of this custody," telling him of the prelate's arrest and warning him to be on his guard. "The situation is grave," he concluded, "and to my knowledge without precedent." [43]

Ibargaray had the note by three that afternoon. It only confirmed what he had learned by twenty-nine years' experience in New Mexico—that the governors proceeded, in his words, "as absolute lords, that there is no law other than what they desire, and that not even the immunity of churches is sacred." He knew how to handle the likes of Diego de Peñalosa. Ex-governor López de Mendizábal had characterized Father Ibargaray as "very headstrong and uncontrolled. When Gen. don Juan de Samaniego was governor [1653-1656, while Ibaragaray was custos], this friar seized him and threatened him, telling him that he had trampled the church under foot when he punished the heathen enemy without consulting the religious." But Ibargaray was not as young now, nor was he the prelate. This time he sat down and wrote the Inquisition, urging the tribunal to act "with the utmost dispatch to defend your minister and agent." [44]

Fray Nicolás de Enríquez' anxious note to Ibargaray, October 1, 1663 (AGN, Inq., 507).

For nine days the colony held its breath. The two light field pieces which the governor ordered positioned to prevent the prelate's escape testified to the gravity of the situation. At many of the missions, the friars followed Father Enríquez' lead, locking the churches. They even refrained from celebrating Mass on the feast day of St. Francis, October 4. How Fray Juan de la Chica, who evidently remained at Pecos, answered the questions of the Indians, we can only guess. Surely he made Governor Peñalosa out another Attila. [45]

Meanwhile, inside the governor's palace, Peñalosa and Posada kept up a running argument over their respective authority. Mediators came and went. The governor wanted to expel the prelate for overstepping his ecclesiastical jurisdiction and for sedition. When it became clear to him that he could not build up a strong enough case, he looked for a way out. Father Posada, "in order to avoid greater evils," directed the friars to reopen the Santa Fe church and admit Peñalosa to the sacraments. Although it went against his grain, the dauntless Franciscan finally agreed to drop the whole matter, "insofar as possible," in exchange for an end to the impasse. The governor released him the same day. The ordeal was over.

Posada Builds His Case

Father Ibargaray's appeal for help did not reach the Holy Office, until early February 1664. In early March, don Diego de Peñalosa made his exit. He knew the inquisitor's file on him was growing, and he had no intention of allowing Father Posada the satisfaction of arresting him as he had arrested his predecessor. Once the governor was gone, Posada set aside the agreement he had accepted under duress and prosecuted the case with vigor. He had no trouble finding witnesses. [46]

Most of the testimony related in one way or another to Governor Peñalosa's obstruction of Holy Office business and his utter disrespect for the tribunal's authority. He had ignored Inquisition embargoes, appropriating the goods of former governor López and collecting the ecomienda revenues of the arrested New Mexicans. He had seized, opened, and read Inquisition mail. He had terrorized Agent Posada in an effort to force him to release the goods impounded in Parral, even to bodily removing him from Pecos and imprisoning him in Santa Fe. He had made a mockery of ecclesiastical immunity and the right of asylum. Less weighty in the eyes of the inquisitors, but indicative nonetheless, were the accounts of Peñalosa's devil-may-care lack of moral propriety.

He had delighted in flaunting the young mistress he picked up en route to New Mexico. He had sported also with local females. His language was the filthiest, his jokes the most obscene. With undisguised glee, he often made the friars the butt of his crude humor. Testifying before Father Posada at the estancia of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios de los Cerrillos, the alluring doña Margarita Márquez, wife of Alcalde mayor Jerónimo de Carvajal and former mistress of Governor Manso, now in her mid-twenties, offered some examples.

Asked if she had ever heard anyone say that the woman who got pregnant by a governor had her womb consecrated, doña Margarita responded with a variation on the same theme. Don Diego de Peñalosa on his way to New Spain had stopped over to say good-by at the Cerrillos estancia. He had summoned her to his room. Knowing of don Diego's appetites, she had asked her mother to go with her. There, before Margarita, her mother, and another woman, the governor spoke in this low vein, if we can believe the testimony.

He said that the woman who was sleeping with a friar consecrated him. Her husband became the friar's eunuch and would say that he was helpless against the fates. And while the friar was with his wife, the husband would guard the door. If someone appeared the husband would tell him softly, "Do not disturb the Father inside, for he is tending to his compadre's business."

He added that a friar whose balls ached would tell his compadre to play with them. The compadre would say that it would be better if his comadre played with them. Then the husband would call his wife and tell her, "Come here and play with your compadre's balls." [47]

The virile Franciscan may have blushed. Although his varied duties as agent of the Inquisition, even to seeking out such testimony as doña Margarita's, as ecclesiastical judge, and as prelate kept him moving about, Father Posada evidently continued to serve as guardian at Pecos.

It was to the Pecos convento that the released but unrepentant Cristóbal de Anaya Almazán reported in June 1665. He thrust at the friar an order from the Holy Office releasing his property. He did not present notice of the Inquisition's sentence, as he had been instructed to do, but rather went around boasting that his good name had been wholly restored and that the persons who had testified against him were soon to be arrested. A month later, Posada called his bluff. Not really contrite, Anaya stood at the main altar in the Sandía church during the offertory. It was Sunday morning. He was about to confess before Father Posada and the entire congregation the error of his false doctrine. He had been wrong, he told them, to deny the spiritual relationship of baptizer, baptized, parents, and godparents. Outside afterwards he was as cocky as ever. [48]

Peñalosa Tried by the Inquisition

In Mexico City meantime, the Inquisition had arrested don Diego de Peñalosa. Formal accusation of the reckless ex-governor ran to 237 articles and took two days to read. When the final sentence was handed down twenty months later, it was harsh—appearance in a public auto de fe, a fine, lifelong exclusion from civil or military office, and perpetual banishment from New Spain and the West Indies. That would have broken most men. Not don Diego.

As the self-proclaimed Count of Santa Fe, the cavalier Peñalosa would reappear first in Restoration England and then at the teeming court of Louis XIV. He offered blueprints for an invasion of mineral-rich Spanish America. His intrigues in fact helped launch the famed Sieur de la Salle for the last time. In 1687, the year La Salle perished violently at the hands of his own men in the wilds of Texas, don Diego died in France. His zestful career, from Peru to Pecos to Paris, had finally closed. [49]

Fray Alonso de Posada, the Franciscan champion who had brought low two of New Mexico's high-and-mighty roguish governors, left the colony with the returning supply wagons in the fall of 1665. Years later he was called upon by the viceroy to report on the lands and peoples east from New Mexico. The Spaniards had heard of Peñalosa's intrigues at the French court. Reliable sources indicated that "the count" had presented to King Louis a plan to capture the provinces of Quivira and Teguayo "assuring him that they are very rich in silver and gold." News that La Salle had sailed added urgency to such reports. Responding in 1686, Father Posada drew in part on his experience at Pecos. Speaking of the Plains Apaches, he wrote:

While your informant was minister at the pueblo of the Pecos, on a certain occasion a number of rancherías of this Apache nation used to come in to. the pueblo to sell hides and tanned skins. They would bring some Indian males and females, girls and boys, to sell for horses. These were from the Quivira nation, captured in the assaults the Apaches had made in their lands.

Asked many times if they had captured in the Quivira nation or that of the Tejas any earrings or armbands (worn as adornment mostly on the left arm), at the same time being shown objects of gold and silver, they always responded to a man that they had on various occasions killed some famous captains of those nations as well as many other common Indians, but on none of them had they found such things. What they had found were many buffalo hides, deer and antelope skins, maize, and fruits. They said that all the inhabitants of those lands, men as well as women, dressed in tanned skins. From this is may be inferred that there is neither so much gold as is imagined nor so much silver as is said. [50]

Detail of a French map of New Mexico, drawn c. 1675 in conjunction with Diego de Peñalosa's invasion plot, showing the Moqui, or Hopi, pueblos an a ficticious place called Santa Fe de Peñalosa. From a tracing in the Library of Congress (WL 225)

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