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
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
The general auto de fe of 1649 in Mexico
City. Alfonso Toro, La familia Carvajal, vol. 1 (México,
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. 
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. 
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
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." 
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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 itlocked 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." 
Ibargaray had the note by three that afternoon. It
only confirmed what he had learned by twenty-nine years' experience in
New Mexicothat 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." 
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. 
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. 
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." 
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. 
Peñalosa Tried by the
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
harshappearance 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. 
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. 
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