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 7: Pecos and the Friars, 1704-1794

Peñuela's War on Pueblo Religion

Admiral don José Chacón Medina Salazar y Villaseñor, Marqués de la Peñuela, who bought the governship of New Mexico for five years and succeeded Cuervo in 1707, had declared war on kivas. To him and to Custos Juan de la Peña, they represented all that was secretive and diabolical in Pueblo paganism. Not all the friars agreed. Nevertheless, on orders from Peñuela and accompanied by Peña, Sargento mayor Juan de Ulibarrí toured the pueblos demolishing kivas and pronouncing against native dances. [12] Later, when his administration was under fire, Peñuela took testimony from the Pueblos themselves to show that they harbored no ill feelings toward him or Ulibarrí. As usual, the Spaniards put words in the Indians' mouths and then transcribed them in proper legal form.

Dutifully, the Pecos delegation reported to the casas reales in Santa Fe: Juan Tind&te;eacu, governor; Felipe Chistoe, cacique; José Tuta, war captain; Agustín and Santiago, alcaldes; and Pedro Aguate, interpreter. Testifying on July 8, 1711, they affirmed that neither the royal governor nor Ulibarrí had done them any harm. Ulibarrí, who had been alcalde mayor of Pecos and Galisteo, had not come to their pueblo on the visitation ordered by Peñuela. The Pecos may have been speaking in general terms when "they stated that they did not or do not hold against him his having got rid of their kivas and prohibited the dances. They recognize first, as the Christians they are, that having rid them of said kivas, scalps, and dances was indeed a service." Those, of course, were the Spaniards' words, not the Pecos', as the next royal governor would find out soon enough. [13]

El Marqué de la Peñuela

Peñuela versus the Friars

Peñuela, meanwhile, found himself confronted by angry Franciscans. His ally, Custos Juan de la Peña, had died in 1710. The new prelate, Fray Juan de Tagle, a close associate of former governor Cuervo, evidently believed the charges against Peñuela lodged in Mexico City by a couple of disgruntled New Mexicans: that the governor had abused and exploited the Pueblo Indians and had usurped the trade of the province. Peñuela fought back, denouncing Father Tagle to the Franciscan commissary general in the bitterest terms. Not only had the prelate prejudiced the Indians against the governor so thoroughly that they no longer heeded his orders, but he had also encouraged the missionaries to disobey their king. In his scandalous effort to win the Indians' allegiance, Tagle had traveled from pueblo to pueblo inciting them to dance.

Worse, Fray Francisco Brotóns, one of the custos' cohorts later accused of soliciting sex, had allegedly urged the Taos to construct two underground kivas. These were the places, Peñuela reminded the Father Commissary, where the Pueblos carried on their infernal idolatry, "where they commit sundry offenses against God Our Lord, performing in them superstitious dances most inconsistent with Our Holy Catholic Faith, from which have resulted diverse witchcraft and things most improper." Despite the governor's general demolition of these kivas, with the full cooperation of the deceased custos, Father Tagle now tolerated every abuse. As a result, the Indians were getting out of hand.

In this fight, which divided friars as well as laity, the Pecos sided with Peñuela. According to him, they were bitter because Custos Tagle had removed their minister, the Mexican veteran Fray Diego de Padilla, whom they liked, and had substituted a much younger man, Fray Miguel Francisco Cepeda y Arriola, who badly mistreated them. "Because of this," Peñuela continued,

their governor don Felipe Chistoe felt obliged to flee to this villa, abandoning his privileges, and saying that if they did not remove from his pueblo said Father, successor of Father fray Diego de Padilla, they would have to rise and take off for the sierra. With much cajolery he was compelled to return to his pueblo, but this was not enough to compensate for the removal of Father Padilla and what may result from it. I leave the matter to the superior consideration of Your Reverence. [14]

Attire of dancers in the corn dance at Santo Domingo as drawn by Julian Scott, 1891. Thomas Donaldson, Moqui Pueblo Indians of Arizona and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico (Washington, D.C., 1893)

Another matter rankled the governor, a shameless violation of his jurisdiction. The viceroy had forwarded to New Mexico two titles, one creating don Domingo Romero of Tesuque native governor and captain general of the Tewas, Taos, Picurís, Keres, Jémez, Ácomas, Zuñis, and all the northern and western frontiers of the province, and another granting don Felipe Chistoe of Pecos the same rank over Pecos, Tanos, Southern Tiwas, and "the frontiers and valleys of the east." Somehow, alleged Peñuela, the devious Custos Tagle had appropriated the titles, conferring Romero's because he was a partisan and withholding Chistoe's because he was not. The prelate then had the audacity to request, through his vice-custos at Santa Fe, that Governor Peñuela make the formal presentations at a ceremony before the assembled native leaders. [15]

The entire weighty issue of whether or not to suppress the Pueblos' ancient customs, their kivas and dances, their way of painting and adorning themselves, their heathen attire, even their privilege of carrying Spanish weapons, came to a head during the administration of Peñuela's successor, Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, native of Sevilla, ex-governor of Nuevo León, an infirm, aging bachelor.

The Demolition of Pecos Kivas

Hardly had Flores been in office a year when he learned that the Pecos had built a partially subterranean room outside the pueblo "under the pretext of the women getting together to spin." It was a kiva, he knew. And they had others. Emboldened by the precedent of Peñuela, the resolute Flores decided on his own to obliterate this evil once and for all. On January 20, 1714, he decreed the destruction of all kivas and cois. The latter were unauthorized rooms having only a roof entrance and hidden in a pueblo house block. The decree said nothing about consultation with the Franciscans. In this case, the state was acting unilaterally.

First, the governor ordered his alcalde mayor of Pecos, Capt. Alfonso Rael de Aguilar, prominent soldier and citizen of New Mexico since the reconquest, to go at once to that pueblo and investigate. If the reports were true, he was to make the Pecos raze the abominable structures,

admonishing said Indians that if they wish to build a room where the women may get together to work it must be inside the pueblo in a public place near the convento or the casas reales [16] with its door onto the street so that those who enter and leave, and what they do inside, may be known.

Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón

Moreover, Rael was to have Pecos Gov. Felipe Chistoe and Lt. Gov. Juan Diego el Guijo appear in Santa Fe before Flores to explain their negligence in this matter. The decree was routed to all the alcaldes mayores

so that each one may publish it in his district and destroy whatever kivas there may be. They are to notify the natives of these pueblos that they are not to rebuild them under pain of a hundred lashes administered without pardon at the post and subjection to four years in a sugar mill or sweatshop.

Alcalde mayor Rael carried out his governor's orders to the letter. His account, of particular interest to archaeologists today, follows in full.

In the pueblo of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de los Pecos on January 23, 1714, I, Capt. Alfonso Rael de Aguilar, alcalde mayor and military chief of this pueblo and its district, in execution and due fulfilment of the above order issued by don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, governor and captain general of this kingdom and provinces of New Mexico and castellan of its forts and garrisons for His Majesty, proclaimed and made it known to don Felipe Chistoe, governor of this pueblo, and his lieutenant, Juan Diego Guijo.

Having heard and understood, they said that they would obey and appear before the governor and captain general. Then immediately I went in the company of Capt. Sebastián de Vargas, my lieutenant alcalde mayor, to examine the kivas. I found four in this form: One halfway between the two house blocks, subterranean. I entered it by the ladder placed in the square door of the roof. It had a hearth where they build a fire. On top of this kiva I found a holy cross of wood stained red which apparently they had just put in place a short time before. In the vicinity of the door near the ladder there was about a load of firewood which I ordered removed and the kiva destroyed. It was entirely closed up, unroofed, and filled with rock. There remained not a sign or a trace that there had been on that site and in that place any kiva at all. [17]

The two that were opposite [or in front of] the first house block made with walls, with their doors in the roof, their ladders in place, their hearths where they build fires, were also destroyed and razed to the ground, level with the foundations.

The fourth was in the second house block next to a stable of Governor don Felipe. The walls of this one were not demolished because they are joined to those of the house block. It was unroofed and the vigas that crossed and continued into some rooms of the apartment of some Indians were sawed off. In this kiva I found three cowhides, a small box containing tobacco and three cigarette butts, and a fire that was on the hearth, from which it was known that they had slept in the kiva.

So that it is thus of record I put it in the form of a legal writ which I signed with my lieutenant on said day, month, and year as above.

Alfonso Rael de Aguilar
Sebastián de Vargas [18]

Sebastiá de Vargas

Felipe Chistoe cannot have watched the rape of his peoples' sacred places without regret. But he said nothing. Life would go on. They would build new kivas. This vicious act by the Spaniards did not justify war or flight. Chistoe and the Pecos had too much to lose. The Spaniards had made him what he was, the most important Pueblo leader on the eastern frontier. They led the campaigns in which he and his auxiliaries profited from booty. And of course they supplied many of the trade goods that lured the plains peoples to Pecos every year. Life would go on.

Some of the missionaries may not have been so sure of that as Chistoe. Time had not yet erased the memory of 1680 and 1696. Surely God in his wisdom and grace was enlightening the Pueblos. There were signs. Why provoke them with direct attacks on their customs, so long as these did not obstruct the preaching of the Gospel? Of course not all the missionaries could agree on what constituted an affront to God and what did not.

diagram of kiva
Pecos Kiva 16. Kidder, Pecos, New Mexico

Other Christian Reforms

Governor Flores was not through yet. The Pueblos had permitted the destruction of their kivas. Why not proceed with other Christian reforms? Why not disarm them of all but their native weapons; why not curtail their intercourse with known hostiles; why not forbid them to paint themselves and dress like heathens? They should instead be made to dress like Christians so everyone could distinguish them from the enemy. This time, Flores would ask for opinions not only from soldiers but also from friars. After all, he did not have to heed them.

Regarding the weapons, it had come to his attention that the Pueblos "possessed many firearms, swords, and cutlasses." Not only did these pose a threat in case of rebellion, but too often they found their way into the hands of heathens. The civil and military men were agreed. At a junta held in Santa Fe on July 6, 1714, they urged that the Pueblos be disarmed quickly before they had a chance to hide their weapons. The friars disagreed. While the royal ordinances forbidding Indians the use of Spanish weapons should indeed be enforced in most places, beleaguered New Mexico was different. Here, they argued, where distances were great and Spanish troops few, the Christian Indians needed such weapons to defend themselves. Moreover, if the governor tried to remove them, he might touch off a new Pueblo revolt. Why not let the viceroy decide?

"Believing that there was no cause for such fear," as he put it, Flores forged ahead. The alcalde mayor of each district was told to gather up the weapons without delay, while the dispossessed owners reported to Santa Fe for a compensatory payment. The penalties for failure to comply were stiff: for Spaniards who sold weapons to the Indians, fifty pesos and four years on the Zuñi frontier for the first offense, and for the second, a hundred pesos and ten years at Pensacola; for mulattos and mestizos two hundred lashes and two years on an ore crusher; and for Indians caught again with Spanish weapons, loss of those weapons without compensation, fifty lashes, and sale to a sweatshop.

Alfonso Rael de Aguilar

Disarming the Pueblos

Again they began at Pecos, where eight muskets and a carbine were seized. One of them belonged to don Felipe Chistoe, and that was a problem. Not only did this Indian, because of his outstanding record of loyalty, possess a patent from the former viceroy Conde de Galve licensing him to carry such arms, but he also had a letter from the current viceroy conferring on him the perpetual governorship of Pecos and on his right-hand man, Juan Tindé, the perpetual lieutenant governorship. Wisely, Flores made an exception. He paid the other Pecos, but he returned the gun to don Felipe Chistoe. [19]

Having voted to disarm the Pueblos, the same junta of July 6 considered the related problem of native dress and adornment. These Indians still painted themselves with "earths of different colors" and wore feathers as well as skin caps, necklaces, and earrings as they had before their conversion. What bothered the governor and the military men was not so much that these practices were offensive to God, but rather that they were being used as a cover for illicit activities on the part of the Pueblos. If Christian natives dressed like heathens, how could anyone tell friends from foes?

Capt. Juan García de la Riva, like most of the others, believed that the Pueblos should not be allowed to go about looking like heathens, but he added that he had heard it said that in the winter they painted their faces with red ochre to protect their eyes from the glare of the snow. Veteran Capt. Tomás López Olguín was against the Pueblos painting themselves or entering church with feathers on their heads or ears. "It is an open abuse, like the kivas were." Moreover, said López Olguín, the Pueblos, in the guise of heathens, were stealing stock. He gave an example. A mule from the rancho of El Torreón had turned up at Pecos with the brand altered, "a thing the Apaches are not accustomed to do." When accused of stealing such animals the Pecos denied it, saying that they bought them from the Plains Apaches. That, López Olguín declared, was a lie. The Apaches came to Pecos to buy animals not sell them. And lastly, "he had heard it said that these Pecos have come in the company of Apaches to kill in the area upriver from this villa."

Zuni warriors
Zuñi warriors in native attire. Century (May 1883)

An Expression of Tolerance

Because of the gravity of the issue, Custos Tagle requested the opinions of the missionaries in the field. Two of them agreed with the governor, others maintained that the Pueblos were being falsely accused. Fray Antonio Aparicio of Pecos refused to comment, recommending only that such a serious matter be referred to the viceroy for a decision. Some expressed their fear of Pueblo unrest if the Spaniards tried to curtail such ancient and relatively innocuous practices. After all, wrote Fray Antonio de Miranda from Ácoma, "there are many incongruous customs among us and completely permitted." Spanish women painted their faces and Spanish men wore "ribbons, plumes, and other profane dress." This time Governor Flores listened to the friars. [20]

"I have come to realize," he confessed to the viceroy, "that to make the Indians change their dress would be for them more lamentable than having removed their kivas and weapons." As a result, he decided not to act until he had word from the viceroy. In Mexico City, too, they listened to the friars. A top-level junta recommended that the viceroy order the governor of New Mexico not to make any sudden moves, rather gradually by "good and gentle measures" to wean the Pueblos from their traditional dress and customs "to a civil and Christian life, without using force or violence." [21]

Governors Peñuela and Flores were the last to mount concerted attacks on Pueblo culture. Succeeding governors interested themselves in the natives as an exploitable resource and as allies against the quickening raids of the nomads. Except for an occasional unusually zealous or idealistic friar, the missionaries too adopted a more patient and tolerant attitude. Commenting on these early attempts to crush Pueblo "superstition and idolatry," Fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante admitted in the late 1770s "that afterward, despite various measures taken at different times by governors and prelates to extinguish these dances and kivas, the same Indians have reestablished them little by little and they maintain them to day." [22]

It had come to a calculated, practical coexistence. Responding in 1714, Fray Antonio de Miranda, the veteran missionary at Ácoma, had summed up in these words the prevailing attitude of the eighteenth century.

As Catholics the Indians are obliged to detest all heathen ceremony. However, in such a critical case, one must exercise the prudence of the serpent and the simplicity of the dove, because violence will result in more harm than one bargains for. Christ, our Life, removed the weight of the Law and rendered it easy and light. Jugum enim meum suave est, et onus meum leve. [For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Mat., 11:30.]

With a load so weightless, and of such ease, one must carry the natives (weak sheep) with the patience of the gardener cultivating a recently planted garden. Little by little he removes the weeds, and through patience he comes to see the garden free of darnel. But to will that the new plant bear leaves, flowers, and fruit all at once is to will not to harvest anything. [23]

Small Pecos ceremonial vessels. Kidder, Pottery, II

Governors and Friars Renew Competition

In the eighteenth century, as in the seventeenth, the Pueblo Indians remained for the royal governor and his alcaldes mayores, and for the friars, New Mexico's most readily exploitable resource. Naturally, a governor who had paid exorbitantly for the office expected an exorbitant return. But with no mines, no cochineal, no customs houses, such a return was by no means assured. By default, therefore, Pueblo Indian weaving, buffalo hides, and the soft tanned animal skin became "the principal object and attraction of the governors. They are," in the words of Fray Andrés Varo, "the rich mines of this kingdom." [24]

To hear the missionaries tell it, the governors were avaricious, cruel, tyrannical brutes utterly devoid of scruples or a sense of duty. Rather than nurture or protect the Pueblos, they exploited them mercilessly, exacting their goods, their labor, even their women, while neglecting both the administration and the defense of this unhappy kingdom. Obviously they hated and maligned the Franciscans who called them down. To hear the governors tell it, the missionaries were the ones who forced the Indians to labor without pay, who appropriated their maize, and who entered into trading ventures while neglecting their spiritual obligations. After more than a century, their critics pointed out, the friars still did not know the Pueblo languages; after more than a century, the Pueblos still had to confess through interpreters.

Regardless of who were the worse oppressors, governors or missionaries, both parties in their ardor seemed to agree that the Pueblos were indeed oppressed. But how badly is difficult to say. Certainly for don Felipe Chistoe and don Juan Tindé, with their titles, their fancy ceremonial Spanish dress, their privileges, and their influence over native auxiliary troops and native trade, both in constant demand by the Spaniards, life was not all that miserable. Nor were the Pueblos slow to take advantage of a fight between Spaniards, to play one set of "protectors" off against the other.

When it suited their purpose, or there was no other way, they asserted whatever a particular governor or custos wanted to hear. No, answered Chistoe and Tind^eacute; in 1711, Governor Peñuela had never taken advantage of them. He had never summoned the Pecos all at once to work on the churches, the governor's palace, or the other public buildings in Santa Fe "but rather thirty, twenty-five, twenty, or six have gone." He had always fed them and paid them well in trade knives or awls for their carpentry and other work. [25] Yet, a dozen years later, when local politics dictated, the same two Pecos, Chistoe and Tindé, pressed their claims against a domineering governor.

Judicial Review as a Check on the Governors

The residencia, or judicial review of every governor's administration upon leaving office, offered the Pueblos a means of expressing their grievances, that is, when the residencia judge was impartial, unbribed, or an enemy of the departing executive. In the case of the controversial, rags-to-riches opportunist don Félix Martínez, whose residencia was held belatedly in 1723, there were Spaniards, including the aging Pecos alcalde mayor Alfonso Rael de Aguilar, who for one reason or another wanted the Indians to speak up. The Pecos demanded compensation from Martínez for the personal labor that had caused them to lose their crops, payment for two thousand boards he ordered them to cut, dress, and haul to "his palace or houses he built," and two horses, the agreed-upon price, owed to Chistoe for an Indian boy acquired from heathens and sold to Martínez. In this case, the judge ordered Martínez to pay. [26]

The Pecos Present Claims

Another opportunity for the Pueblos to be heard was the royal governor's general visitation, provided of course that their grievances were not against him or his partisans. The self-serving Antonio de Valverde y Cosío, who, like his rival Martínez, had risen through the ranks since the reconquest, reined up at Pecos with his retinue in August 1719. Alcalde mayor Rael had announced in July the upcoming visit.

All gathered in "the casas reales," or casa de comunidad, a building seventy feet or so west of the convento. This structure, like similar ones built and maintained by the Indians in other pueblos, was a visible reminder that the Pecos were vassals of the Spanish king. Here the alcalde mayor or his deputy took lodging and sometimes resided. Here, too, travelers who stopped at the pueblo could expect room, board, and feed for their animals, as did the first bishop to visit Pecos in defiance of the Franciscans. On the doors of the casa reales were posted the decrees of the royal governor, and here, on his visitation, the governor reiterated to the Pecos the desire of their king that they receive the benefit of his justice. If anyone had injured or offended them or owed them a debt, they should step forward and so state. [27]

While the account of Valverde's visitation says only that the Pecos filed "several claims" which the governor ordered "promptly and faithfully settled in full," the records of other visitations are much more explicit. By listening at the door of the casas reales to the claims presented by Pecos carpenters and traders, one glimpses the day-to-day intercourse between these Indians and their neighbors. Before Gov. Gervasio Cruzat y Góngora on July 28, 1733,

Miguel Jaehi, Indian of the pueblo of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de los Pecos, asks and claims of Francisco Velázquez, soldier of the royal presidio of the villa of Santa Fe, one door, for which he offered him a horse bit. He had not paid in more than twelve years. (The governor] ordered that it be paid. He was paid with a large Mexican hoe.

Diego Jastimbari, Indian of said pueblo, asks and claims of Diego Gallegos, citizen who lives across from Cochití, one red roan he-mule he took from his nephew. [The governor] ordered that it be paid. He was paid with a musket. Alonso Benti, Juan Diego Guojechinto, Diego Chumba, and Antonio Chunfugua, Indian carpenters of said pueblo, ask and claim of the Rev. Father fray Juan José [Pérez] de Mirabal, [28] minister of the pueblo of Taos, twenty-four trade knives, six apiece, for the work they did on the church dressing timbers, now more than ten years ago. The Reverend Father will be notified.

Lorenzo de Chillu, Indian of said pueblo, asks and claims of Cristóbal, Indian of the pueblo of Nambé, one horse for two mantas, one painted cotton, the other wool, now two years past. [The governor] ordered that it be paid. [29]

Twelve years later in the casas reales, Gov. Joaquín Codallos y Rabal sat in judgment of other small claims, all of which he allowed and ordered paid.

Lorenzo, Indian of said pueblo and war captain, states that Bartolo Olguín, citizen of Ojo Caliente, owes him a horse that he borrowed when don José Moreno [Codallos' alcalde mayor of Pecos and Galisteo, 1744-1748] went on a buffalo hunt by order of Col. don Gervasio Cruzat. . . . Agustín, Indian of said pueblo, claims of a son of Lt. Andrés Montoya also named Andrés a calf for a half-fanega of piñon nuts, two standard buckskins, and one heavy buffalo or elkskin he sold to him. . . . Agustín, Indian of said pueblo claims of the heirs of Diego, Indian and former governor of the Indians of the pueblo of Cochití, four fanegas of wheat for a bed he sold to the said deceased Diego. . . .

wood-frame bed
A colonial New Mexico bed. Museum of New Mexico

In conclusion, Governor Codallos exhorted the Pecos through an interpreter, in the prescribed form, to respect royal justice and decent living, as well as their missionary, and

to take special care, as His Majesty charges, to raise poultry, cattle, and sheep and to cultivate their lands, neither living in idleness nor as vagabonds but working in their own pueblo in their fields; likewise to obey their superiors, governor, and captains in whatever they command conducive to the service of Both Majesties. [30]

The Pecos recognized the irony in these rhetorical preachments. How were they to respect their royal governor and alcalde mayor on the one hand and their minister and the Father Custos on the other, the agents of Both Majesties, when so often they were bitterly at odds? Guided by self-interest and a will to survive, and, one suspects, sometimes intimidated or or simply confused, the mission Indians more often than not took the governor's side, even when their position roundly contradicted their missionary.

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