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 6: Their Own Worst Enemies, 1680-1704

The Population of Pecos in 1694

There were, according to his records, 736 native residents of Pecos: 186 men, 230 women, and 320 children under the age of twelve or thirteen. Two years earlier, Diego de Vargas had estimated the pueblo's population, based on the number and size of its house blocks, at more than twice that many, or about 1,500. Either Vargas' guess was badly off, or a good many members of the resistance faction had lived up to their threat and not returned. Even if some had stayed away, there were others still living at Pecos who spoke against reconciliation with Spaniards. Before long they and their "pro-Spanish" brothers would be at each other's throats.

The temporary church was described by Zeinos as "a chapel, not large but decent and fitting for celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass." Asked whether the Pecos provided him with food, he replied that they "do for me what they can to help succor me and supply my needs." He admitted that New Mexico's winters were severe and the country poor. "It is without resource for humans until we get a new shipment." Still, the friars did not accuse the Pueblos of stinginess. Former vice-custos Muñoz, responding to a personal grilling by Custos Vargas, said that even in the Jémez, Tewa, and Tano pueblos, where the natives were experiencing scarcities, they provided their friars with some tortillas at least. "The better supplied pueblos, e.g., Pecos and the Keres pueblos, provided more, but only maize and tortillas."

In the matter of idolatry, Fray Diego had not actually caught the Pecos at it, but he had reason to believe they did engage in it. "I beg the Father of the Heavens to grant me the enlightenment to recognize and remedy it," he prayed. At San Juan, where the natives had been observed using rocks as altars for offerings of "meal, feathers, and other things," their friar had "corrected them."

Jémez altars and altar paintings. Parsons, Jémez

Trusting not in himself but in the Almighty, the earnest Zeinos expressed hope for the future. The harvest of souls was potentially great, and the Pecos, in his words, "do not present poor prospects." Still, no one said it was going to be easy.

We must always fear future setbacks because of the utter fickleness and inconstancy we have experienced in the Indians. Still, this fear has not been enough (thank God) to turn us away from our first purpose. Indeed we stand ready to die if necessary for that Lord who, blameless, gave his life for ours. [41]

The Unfortunate Accident of Fray Diego de Zeinos

Almost everyone agreed. Fray Diego de Zeinos was an ideal missionary. He gave patient instruction and fervent sermons. He had begun learning the Pecos language. In recognition of his ability, Custos Vargas continued him in office as secretary and notary of the custody. His brothers elected him definitor. The Holy Office of the Inquisition appointed Zeinos its comisario for New Mexico. Then, without warning, his career was ruined.

On September 7, 1695, a Wednesday, a group had gathered around the baptismal font in the temporary Pecos church. Fray Diego was intoning the prayers in Latin and going through the rites of a solemn baptism for a baby girl born to Ana María Pijunguechi and Pedro Juan Ucaevo. He named her in Christ Angelina Rosa. Through his interpreter, probably Felipe, he explained to the godmother, María Somocee, the spiritual relationship and obligations she had just assumed. It was Zeinos' last Pecos baptism.

Next day in one of the rooms of the refurbished convento, Fray Diego picked up an arquebus. Certain that the weapon was unloaded, he ran his hand over it to examine the lock. It fired. A Pecos Indian fell dead, evidently one of the man servants or boys who had access to the convento. The friar was horror struck.

Whether or not the incident happened just that way, which is what the documents say, it ended Zeinos' ministry to the Pecos. Further testimony disclosed that Alcalde mayor Anaya, who came and went as a familiar member of the convento household, had loaded the arquebus without telling Fray Diego. Why the religious was handling the weapon in the first place no one said. Perhaps with that in mind, Custos Vargas later recalled Zeinos and suspended his authority to say Mass.

The Pecos took the accident in their stride. They neither rose against the friar nor sought revenge. They recognized that it was not his fault. They could see how it grieved him. A group of them set out at once for Santa Fe to inform Governor Vargas what had happened. They also appeared before Vice-custos Juan Daza at Santo Domingo to plead in the friar's behalf. Later, when they learned that Custos Vargas had returned from El Paso, a second delegation made up of Lt. Gov. Agustín Sebastián, Cacique Damián, the alcaldes, and the war captains went up to the villa. Through Alcalde mayor Anaya and interpreter Felipe they appealed to Governor Vargas to intercede with the custos. They begged in the name of Diego Marcos, their governor, who was ill, and all the people of the pueblo that Father Zeinos be allowed to remain at Pecos.

Diego de Vargas Defends Zeinos

Favorably impressed, Diego de Vargas sent them over to the prelate's quarters so that the Franciscan could see how devoted they were to Father Zeinos. Even though the royal ensign Antonio de Valverde accompanied them with a request from Governor Vargas, Custos Vargas did not give them the assurance they sought. When the royal governor rode out to Pecos on a visitation October 21, the whole pueblo met him with the same plea. "I was," admitted Diego de Vargas, "perplexed." Only the custos could assign a missionary. But just to demonstrate his friendship for them, he agreed to go with them in person to see the prelate.

October 27 was the day. Between ten and eleven in the morning they processed across the open plaza to the Francis cans makeshift "convento"—royal governor, Lt. Gov. Luis Granillo, Secretary of government and war Domingo de la Barreda, Alcalde mayor Anaya, and the Pecos. Custos Vargas saw them coming and met them at the door of his cell. The governor greeted the prelate, told him that the Indians were from Pecos, and requested leave to enter and kiss his hand. The Franciscan consented.

This time when Governor Vargas reiterated the Pecos' petition, Custos Vargas had an answer. Father Zeinos, he explained, had requested permission to travel to Mexico City on Inquisition business, a request the prelate could not deny. In that case, countered Diego de Vargas, it would be well if the Franciscan superior assured the Pecos that Zeinos, on his return, would be reassigned to their pueblo. Governor Vargas then turned to the Pecos and explained that their minister was going to see the Padre Grande to get a license to say Mass again.

To that they responded that one of them would go to Mexico City to bring him back so that he would not stay there. I told them that I would give them a license for not one alone but for two, three, or four to go so that they would see as far as I was concerned that they had achieved all they had asked of me. With that we took our leave of the Very Reverend Father Custos together. For my part I much regretted not being able to console these Indians, for they told me that the women and children were crying to come see me and the Very Reverend Father Custos and the minister and comisario Fray Diego de la Casa Zeinos.

Earlier the same day Governor Vargas had admitted a petition by Father Zeinos in his own behalf. After reviewing the shooting incident, the friar had pointed to the Pecos' remarkable efforts to retain him as their minister, which served, in his opinion, "as an endorsement of my person and proof of my innocence." But he wanted something in writing.

Therefore, looking as I must to the honor of my sacred Order and also to my personal reputation, I petition Your Lordship please to order that I be given a certified affidavit, signed by Your Lordship and countersigned by your secretary of government and war, of all the efforts of these Indians, my parishioners, before Your Lordship. . . . God Our Lord as my witness, I have not intervened or had the slightest part in these vigorous efforts and opportune petitions. Rather these Indians on their own, because they liked me, of their own free will made these most urgent efforts [in my behalf].

The governor was happy to oblige, almost too happy. He lauded Zeinos' ministry at Pecos and stressed the importance of the pueblo, "among the largest with an apparent population of more than eight hundred persons of all ages." He urged that the superiors hasten this missionary's return to his post. Because Pecos, like the other recently revived missions, was in effect a new mission after fourteen years of apostasy, it seemed unwise to substitute another missionary for one they liked. At Zeinos' request, the Santa Fe cabildo also addressed to the viceroy, his council, and the religious superiors a warm endorsement in the friar's behalf.

Fray Diego de Zeinos

One wonders. This near-canonization of Fray Diego by the civil authorities, the fervent desire of the Pecos to retain his services, and the constant presence with them of Alcalde mayor Francisco de Anaya—it all sounds contrived. One wonders if the governor might not have been using the episode to embarrass the prelate. Whatever, Fray Diego de Zeinos left New Mexico, perhaps in the company of some Pecos. Sadly, "the missionary they liked" never returned. [42]

The Reluctant Ministry of Juan Alpuente

The Pecos did not like the next one, nor did he like them. He never trusted them. Among Diego de Vargas' original eighteen, Fray Juan Alpuente, definitor and former lecturer in philosophy, had served the reconqueror most often as military chaplain. He had volunteered first for Zia, partly because he wanted to administer the saving sacraments to Indians, partly to get out of Santa Fe "because I am by nature violent and I recognize in my conscience that I only live when I live alone." He had seen Pecos first when he accompanied the unneeded relief expedition of Roque de Madrid. He had been with Vargas at Taos when don Juan de Ye failed to return. Now in mid-November, like it or not, Fray Juan found himself Father Guardian at Pecos. [43]

Partly to ease the loss of Father Zeinos and partly to provide for Governor Vargas' pet Pecos, Custos Vargas assigned a companero, or assistant, to Father Alpuente. He was Fray Domingo de Jesús María, one of eight members of the new Franciscan missionary college at Querétaro who had answered the Father Commissary General's call to join in the reconquest. Temporarily under obedience to the custos in New Mexico, these eight were not incorporated in the province of the Holy Gospel but retained their affiliation with the college, which was of no consequence to the Pecos, who did not like Fray Domingo either. [44]

To make matters worse, the winter of 1695-1696 was another starving time in New Mexico. A plague of worms and a drought during the previous growing season had ravaged the harvest, particularly among the struggling colonists. Again the northern Pueblos were restive. The relocated Tanos, uprooted once more when Governor Vargas founded the villa of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, twenty-two miles north of Santa Fe, had taken to the hills. Rumors, threats, and fears of new revolts were common. But because such rumors tarnished his image as reconqueror, Diego de Vargas was inclined to minimize them.

Nevertheless, in December 1695, he got up out of his sickbed and summoned the Pueblo leaders, "his children." He told them that he had had reports of agitators stirring up their people. He reminded them of the war they had just suffered. Surely they preferred the peace of his administration. As usual in don Diego's journal, they went away "pleased."

New Rumors of Revolt

Not everyone minimized the threat. Lieutenant Governor Granillo thought a note from Father José Díez of Tesuque urgent enough to deliver it to the governor on Sunday, February 26 at midnight. It warned that the Pecos were about to rebel.

Next day, the pueblo governor of Tesuque arrived to verify the report. He had heard it from a Tewa of Nambé who had just come from Pecos. This lone Indian, fearing that the Pecos would kill him if he did not go along with them, agreed that the Tewas would also rise. The leader of the plot was said to be don Lorenzo de Ye, son of ex-governor Juan de Ye. First they would murder Father Alpuente and the Spaniards, then go off to live at "La Piedra Blanca where they have an old pueblo." [45]

Anti-Spanish sentiment at Pecos, given new life by the elimination of don Juan de Ye, by the shooting incident, the removal of Zeinos, or the indiscretion of Alpuente, may have coalesced around don Lorenzo de Ye, whose father had died futilely serving the Spaniards. If the leaders of the resistance faction really were sending out invitations to the Tewas—consistent enemies of the Pecos—to join them in revolt, they must have been desperate.

Friars Ask for Guards

From where the friars knelt, all the signs pointed to a repeat of 1680, a general rising of all the Pueblos. Early in March, a concerned Custos Vargas convened the definitory. They would petition the governor for mission guards. Failing that, each would face a dilemma, whether to remain in the relative safety of the villa or return defenseless to his mission and probable death.

Diego de Vargas admitted their petition but shifted the burden to them. He would do what he could, given the dearth of his forces, when each missionary specified for him how many men he needed. The custos responded at once. Each minister must state how large a guard he considered adequate, or if he could do without.

Fray Juan Alpuente of Pecos answered first. As a definitor, he was already in Santa Fe, where he had been spending most of his time anyway. He took the rumors of an impending revolt as fact. Accordingly,

I answer and in conscience request six soldiers (to protect the sacred vessels and my person) under the following conditions: First, that they are armed with weapons, powder, and shot. Second, that they are God-fearing so as not to cause unrest and scandal in the pueblo. For if I tell and preach to the Indians to give up their concubines and live as God commands, they might see the soldiers having intercourse with Indian women and say to my face, "Why do you scold us, Father, for the Spaniards do the same?" And the third is that the maintenance of these soldiers be charged to their salaries because the convento cannot support them.

Tewa warrior
Potshuno, a Tewa warrior of Nambé, photographed by John K. Hillers, 1879. B. M. Thomas Collection, Museum of New Mexico

Fray José Diez of Tesuque, whose mission lay no more than three leagues north of Santa Fe, wanted twelve well armed soldiers. He had already reported the Pecos plot. A Tano had told Roque de Madrid that the uprising was set for the next full moon, only eight days off. Already the Tanos had hauled provisions up into the mountains and had built horse traps at the ascents. Painfully aware of the gathering storm, the friars continued their ministry. "The minister of Pecos knows that the Indians of his pueblo are carrying their provisions to La Peña Blanca, yet he persists in ministering to them."

D&ieacute;ez was torn. How could he say Mass in conscience before apostates who had already consented to the uprising? He knew they had by what Pecos Alcalde mayor Francisco de Anaya had said to Governor Vargas in front of four priests. Now it was Tewas inciting Pecos. Two Indians of Tesuque had gone to Pecos with an appeal: "Already the time is short. Only you are not with us. The Spaniards are dropping from hunger. Only twenty are strong." Seized, these two were whipped at Anaya's orders. If D&ieacute;ez excommunicated them to keep them out of church, they would use it as grounds for rebellion. Yet he could not bear to celebrate the Mass before them. [46]

When all the alarms were in, the friars had made a point. But so had Diego de Vargas. Simple arithmetic exposed the folly of their requests. They had asked for ninety men or more. The governor had only one hundred. Of those, sixty were needed for the two detachments that alternated guarding the horses, ten more guarded the entrance to Santa Fe, and twenty-six had to escort the pack train of provisions and livestock coming from El Paso. That left four. As a compromise don Diego agreed to provide at his own expense six temporary four-man mission guards: at San Juan, Nambé, Picurís, Taos, and the two Jémez pueblos.

As for Pecos, the six-man detachment requested by Father Alpuente was not only unnecessary, it was an insult. Rather than assign soldiers and cause the Pecos to doubt the royal governor's confidence in them, he frankly preferred that Father Alpuente not return to his mission. What did the Pecos have to do to prove their loyalty? Don Diego suggested that Alpuente consider the kindness these Indians had shown his predecessor. Instead of committing some outrage as a result of the accidental shooting, as one might have expected from "barbarous people," they grieved with the Padre. If Fray Juan Alpuente had any cause for alarm, it could only be the pueblo's frontier location, not the Pecos themselves. [47]

Obviously the governor did not believe them. Custos Vargas told the friars assembled in Santa Fe that he could not force them back to their missions alone, nor could he prevent them from going. After discussing the pros and cons of martyrdom, he asked each missionary for his decision. Armed with these, he replied to the governor's half-way proposal, listing one by one the friars' verdicts.

Fray Juan Alpuente, Difinidor

The Pecos Abuse Fray Domingo

Alpuente refused to return to Pecos. His assistant, who had remained at the pueblo, told of harassment and a death threat. The Pecos had ridiculed Fray Domingo de Jesús María as he preached with a crucifix in his hands. Frightened, he had carried the sacred vessels to his cell for safe keeping. At midnight on March 21, Indians had entered the cell and taken the vessels, as well as the keys to the entire convento and church. Two Pecos came to him and told him to run, begging him not to expose them. His fear grew when he noticed Faraón Apaches mixing with the Pecos. One rancheria had camped at the pueblo and another at the river. Then "a heathen, crying, told him by signs that they were going to cut off his head." That was too much. "He does not dare administer this pueblo or any other."

The custos begged the governor to send soldiers to remove the religious objects and the livestock from the missions. Once again the Pueblos were bent on freedom to practice their idolatry. The upheaval was imminent. [48]

Diego de Vargas gave ground. The presence of Faraón Apaches at Pecos permitted him to accede to Father Alpuente's demand for six soldiers without losing face. After three weeks, he would withdraw four of them leaving two "to guard the friar's person and to accompany him at night whenever he is called to administer the holy sacraments." As for Santa Clara, San Juan, and San Cristóbal, he had no more troops to send. If the missionaries were scared, they would simply have to evacuate. [49]

hand-written summons
On the day of the second Pueblo revolt, June 4, 1696, Diego de Vargas summons a hundred Pecos warriors to Santa Fe (SANM, II, no. 60a).

A few days later as he forwarded to the viceroy the friars' representations, Diego de Vargas all but called them cowards. Their "fears and timidity" had got a hold on them. "It has been for me, I assure Your Excellency, one continuous bout." Their woes, he added, "were enough to oppress the most carefree spirit." Ten weeks later, five of the cowards were dead. [50]

Fray Domingo de Jesús María got out just in time. He, Fray José D&ieacute;ez, and Fray Jerónimo Prieto were recalled to the Querétaro college, where some of the religious from Mallorca had walked out after a dispute with their brethren from the Spanish mainland. Custos Vargas hated to lose the three, but there was nothing to do but comply with the special order. Fray Domingo departed May 15, the other two May 16. [51]

prayer sticks
Jémez prayer sticks. Parsons, Jémez
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