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

The Pueblo in 1776

As for the pueblo itself, the only entrance through the long low peripheral wall from the outside, said Domínguez, was a gate facing north.

A short distance from the entrance are some house blocks, or tenements all joined at the corners (cuarteles o lienzos todos unidos por las esquinas), [53] which form a little plaza within. One enters through a gate in the middle of the tenement facing east. Of these four tenements the two that face east and west are very wide. On top in the center they have dwellings that overlook both the little plaza inside which they enclose and the outside and are like the top section of a long and narrow tomb.

Beyond this little plaza to the south is another tenement, or house block, like the two described. The only difference is that it stands alone and is very long, extending from north to south. Farther beyond to the south are the church and convento. [54] Everything appears very large and can only be seen in perspective up from the north and down from the south.

sketch of Pecos
Pecos from the north: main pueblo, south pueblo, church and convento. An artist's restoration by S. P. Moorehead. Kidder, Pecos, New Mexico

By comparing Domínguez' word picture, as sketchy as it is, with the house blocks Father González listed in his 1750 census, and with the maps of A. V. Kidder's excavations, it is possible to correlate the lot. The two wide "tenements" on the east and the west of Domínguez are the "east side of plaza house block" and "plaza" of González, that is, the east and west sides of Kidder's main Pecos "quadrangle." The entrance midway along the east side, cited by Domínguez, shows clearly on the maps of Kidder. The third of Domínguez' "four tenements," which he did not describe, probably because it was a less impressive extension of the first two, is the "placita" of González and the U-shaped extremity at the south end of Kidder's quadrangle.

The Domínguez tenement that "stands alone and is very long, extending from north to south" would seem to be the "community house block" of González and the mysterious "south pueblo" of Kidder. From the vantage of a hawk circling high over the elongated mesilla of Pecos in 1776, one would have seen the main pueblo complex at the northern tip, the long thin south pueblo in the middle, and the mission compound at the southern end. The two pueblos, evidently both occupied when Alfonso Rael de Aguilar destroyed the kiva halfway between them in 1714, had continued to house the Pecos through most of the eighteenth century, even though the people's diminishing numbers would have permitted consolidation in one or the other. [55]

Father Domínguez counted one hundred "families" at Pecos, or 269 persons. Their language, he observed, was one with Jémez. "It is very different from all the other languages of these regions, and its pronunciation is closed, almost through clenched teeth." Rather matter-of-factly, and without commentary, he added that the Pecos spoke Spanish "very badly." Availing themselves of wood from the sierra, most of them were good carpenters.

Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez, Minister

The Pecos as Christians

Regarding their observance of the Christian faith, Domínguez, surprisingly enough, deemed the Pecos "devout and well inclined," which hardly squares with what he had to say later about the Pueblos in general. Alcalde mayor José Herrera assured the visitor that even though the Pecos had no missionary, they understood that their children "must go to the church daily to recite the catechism with the fiscal." On Saturday mornings and on feast days, everyone went to say the rosary. For baptisms and marriages, they journeyed up to Santa Fe where the friars would keep the Pecos books until a missionary returned to their pueblo. "With regard to burials," Domínguez noted, "if an Indian dies, the others perform the offices, etc."

Devout or not, the Pecos were in a bad way. Comanche raiding had forced them to give up their irrigated fields northeast of the pueblo along the Pecos River. Out of fear of this enemy, they no longer hauled the good water half a league up from the river, where swam, according to Domínguez, "many delicious trout." They relied instead on "some wells of reasonably good water below the rock." Even arable land dependent on rain, if it lay at a distance from the pueblo, was too dangerous to work.

Therefore, but a very small part remains for them. Since this is dependent on rain, it has been a failure because of the drought of the past years, and so they have nothing left. As a result, what few crops there usually are do not last even to the beginning of a new year from the previous October, and hence these miserable wretches are tossed about like a ball in the hands of fortune.

Governor Mendinueta had given them a dozen cows, which, taken with the eight the Comanches had left them, brought their herd to twenty. Once the Pecos had been rich in horses. Now they had twelve in all, "sorry nags" Domínguez called them. "Today these poor people are in puribus, fugitives from their homes, absent from their families, selling those trifles they once bought to make themselves decent, on foot, etc." [56]

Back in Santa Fe, Domínguez filled in briefly as minister of the villa, and thus as missionary of Pecos in absentia. In mid-June, he had a new book of baptisms begun for Pecos and on July 23, six days before he and Father Vélez de Escalante set out on their "splendid wayfaring" into the Great Basin, he made the first entry. Domingo Aguilar, of the prominent Pecos Aguilar clan, and his wife María Rosa had appeared at the church door in Santa Fe carrying a three-month-old son. Why had they delayed so long, the Padre inquired. They had been away from their pueblo, they told him, "looking for something to eat." [57]

Dominquez Characterizes His Brethren

The actions of some of his brethren had scandalized Father Domínguez, probably more than they should have. When he listed for his superiors all twenty-nine friars resident in the custody, including himself, he made no comment about thirteen who apparently were doing their job. Eight he classified as old and ill, or just ill, and one as blind. Two were drunks. Another, he alleged, lived openly with a married woman and another was an unruly, brawling trader "at the cost of the Indians' sweat." One each he characterized as "ungovernable and living in scandal," "not at all obedient to rule and a trader with heathens," and "not at all obedient to rule and an agitator of Indians." [58]

The timely advent of forty-six friar recruits from Spain aboard the warship El Rosario in 1778, enabled the superiors to dispatch seventeen new men to the custody straight-away. Replacing the ailing and the unsuited, they brought the total to thirty-five, "leaving three as extras on hand to fill vacancies as has been customary." A neat listing, drawn up soon after, matching men and missions showed Fray José Manuel Martínez de la Vega at Pecos. If he really served there, it was only on the fly, and he baptized no one. He was soon at Albuquerque. Fray José Palacio, who signed himself "ministro de esta misión de Pecos," celebrated one baptism at the pueblo in 1779 and three in 1780. He may even have been resident for a time. [59] Then, unexpectedly, the smallpox hit, carrying off so many people that the royal governor urged reducing the number of missions.

Smallpox Ravages the Province

The toll was ghastly. At Santo Domingo in February and the first week of March 1781, at least 230 Indians died. Up and down the river the count at several pueblos exceeded a hundred. The plague spread. Evidently many died at Pecos, but the burial records are lost. [60] Two censuses of the eastern pueblo, one before and one after, tell the tale:

1779 94 men, 94 women, 23 boys, 24 girls, or 235 persons
1789 62 men, 58 women, 6 boys, 12 girls, or 138 persons

Reporting on May 1, 1781, the governor put the total number of men, women, and children dead in the contagion of 1780-1781, probably the worst ever, at 5,025, a quarter or more of the entire population. Under these circumstances, why, the governor asked, should not some of the desolated missions be joined together and the total number subsidized by the crown reduced proportionately, say to twenty.

Consolidation of Missions

Ever since the visitation of Bishop Crespo in 1730, consolidation had been a dirty word with the missionares of New Mexico. Now the governor, the highly touted, economy-minded, military hero Juan Bautista de Anza, had them against the wall. His superior, the Caballero de Croix, first commandant general of the Provincias Internas and vice-patron of the church in this recently formed northern jurisdiction, liked the idea. No matter that the friars protested. Croix cut their missions to twenty. [61]

Teodoro de Croix
Teodoro de Croix, the Caballero de Croix. Thomas, Teodoro de Croix

In the case of Pecos, consolidation was merely a clerical matter. For the previous two decades, while maintaining the status of a mission and thus its claim to a full-time missionary supported by royal allowance, Pecos had been treated in effect as a visita, or preaching station, of Santa Fe. Since the stipend went to the man and not to the mission, as was confirmed several times in the 1780s, it was up to the custos to place his men wherever he thought they would do the most good. By formally attaching Pecos to Santa Fe as a visita in 1782, consolidation simply acknowledged a fact of long standing. Given the hard times, Pecos, with its steadily declining native population and no nearby Hispanic communities, no longer warranted the services of a full-time minister.

It worked as before. To regularize certain human relations in the eyes of the church, Fray Francisco de Hozio, minister at Santa Fe and "pro ministro" of Pecos, ordered chief catechist Lorenzo to bring all the people who needed marrying up to the villa. Ten Pecos couples showed and, on January 4, 1782, in mid-winter, all were duly married. Three weeks later, Custos Juan Bermejo, who also served as chaplain of the Santa Fe presidio, rode over to Pecos with a military escort to baptize two new babies. Soldiers stood as godfathers, and the friar signed as custos and pro ministro of Pecos "for lack of a minister." While he was there, Bermejo married one more couple and, at a nuptial Mass, veiled all ten previously joined in Santa Fe on the fourth. [62]

A 1784 Spanish real, the size of a dime, found at Pecos during excavations in 1966. National Park Service photo by Fred E. Mang, Jr.

Pecos Exempted from War Tax

Later in 1782, because of their poverty and their losses to smallpox the year before, the Pecos, along with Zuñis and Hopis, missed their chance to contribute to the war against England and, indirectly, to the independence of the United States. The king had decreed that all free subjects of the colonies donate something to the war chest, each Indian and mixed-blood one peso, and each Spaniard two. But after Governor Anza and Custos Bermejo had visited Pecos in August of 1782, they conceded that the poor people of that pueblo should be exempt. And the commandant general agreed. [63]

Interference Charged by Missionaries

Preoccupied as they were with personal Indian diplomacy and defense, subjects of the next chapter, both Anza and his successor don Fernando de la Concha still managed to keep a close eye on mission affairs, much too close to suit the friars. The governors chided the missionaries about the Indians' ignorance of Christian doctrine and urged stricter enforcement of attendance. In turn, Custos José de la Prada, in 1783, bewailed Anza's interference, especially in placing missionaries. The following year, a delegation of New Mexico friars turned up in Arizpe to complain about Anza before Commandant General Felipe de Neve and to answer charges the governor had preferred against them. They resented everything from his consolidation plan and his juggling of mission allowances and boundaries to his partisan judgments and false accusations.

Franciscans Divided

Unfortunately, the Franciscans themselves were too badly divided to do much about the meddling of the governors. This disharmony ran deeper than the routine lack of fraternal charity deplored by their superiors from time to time. This was criollo versus peninsular Spaniard, americano versus gachupín, a malady that pervaded all of colonial life, as old as the first generation born in the Americas, yet now, in the age of revolutions and independence, all the more virulent.

Under Anza, a rare criollo governor, and Custos Bermejo, a Spaniard who allied himself with Anza, the gachupín friars in New Mexico charged blatant discrimination. In 1782, they cited nine specific cases. This tension between American and European friars, a tension that built during the years leading up to independence, explains their preoccupation with an old policy of the province known as the alternativa. It provided rotation of office, with superiors chosen alternately from americanos and gachupínes, as well as equality of representation on the definitory and even throughout a missionary field like New Mexico. When they should have been pulling together, some of the friars were instead competing, concerned during the 1780s and 1790s with a growing imbalance in favor of the gachupínes. [64]

Fernando de la Concha

Governor Concha Inspects Pecos

The Pecos had already assembled, as many of them as there were in October 1789. Don Fernando de la Concha, flanked by soldiers and his secretary, listened without understanding as the interpreter intoned in Towa the threefold purpose of his visitation. The royal governor would hear their claims, he would take a census, and he would review their weapons and accoutrements of war. The Pecos alleged no injuries by government officials, neither to their lands nor to their possessions. They did make certain petty claims which the governor settled forthwith. Of the 138 Pecos enrolled, Concha judged forty men well mounted and armed and fit for military service. Even though they confessed only on their deathbeds and did not understand Spanish, he concluded that the Pecos were "not among the worst instructed in the Christian doctrine." After he had delivered the usual sermon, the Spanish governor departed as quickly as he had come. [65]

The arrival in Santa Fe of Custos Pedro de Laborerta and a band of missionaries "to be employed in the missions," late in August 1790, put pressure on Concha to raise the number of missions again. He compromised. In consultation with Laboreria, he came up with a plan "altering in a small way the consolidation Col. don Juan Bautista de Anza, my predecessor, effected in 1782." He reelevated Pecos and three other pueblos from visitas to full-fledged missions, and he approved the assignment of missionaries. With some reservations, he recommended two extra missionary allowances. The viceroy, he knew, was for holding the line. After all, Anza's consolidation had been saving the crown 3,695 pesos annually, while, in the viceroy's words, "all the goals of service to God and king continue to be achieved." [66]

The Census of 1790

That same year, 1790, while federal marshals counted people in the new United States of America to determine representation and taxation, the Viceroy Conde de Revillagigedo also called for population counts from every corner of New Spain. They were to show name, ethnic group, age, family status, and occupation of adults, as well as the number and ages of all dependent children. That fall, Father Severo Patero and Alcalde mayor Antonio José Ortiz, both of Santa Fe, compiled the rolls for their district which also embraced the missions of Pecos and Tesuque.

The Pecos census of 1790 differed from the one of 1750 in several ways, other than the very obvious two-thirds drop in total population, from 449 to 154. For one thing, Father Patero made no effort at all to list native names. He put down only the Spanish given name, supplying in six cases a Spanish surname: José Miguel de la Peña, Tomás de Sena, Domingo Aguilar, Lorenzo Sena, Antonio Baca, and Matías Aguilar. He gave their ages, most of them doubtless guesses, but he provided no hint where anyone lived in the pueblo. Considering all Pueblos farmers, he did not bother with occupation. Although he titled the roll "Census of the Indians of Pecos," he listed first "don José Mares, Spaniard, age 77, widower, one son, 13." Evidently Mares, a retired soldier and plains explorer, was living at Pecos in 1790 as an Indian agent or local administrator of the Comanche peace signed four year earlier. [67]

Four years later, in 1794, there were 180 Indians at Pecos, including some Tano families, a rare increase of nearly twenty percent, but no Spaniards were listed. [68]

Viceroy the Conde de Revillagigedo II
Viceroy the Conde de Revillagigedo II, 1789-1794. Rivera Cambas, Los gobernantes, I

Religious Coexistence in New Mexico

When Viceroy Revillagigedo sent off to Spain late in 1793 his 430-paragraph report on the missions of New Spain, including the 1790 census figures from New Mexico, he lamented the spiritual backwardness of the Pueblo Indians. "The saddest thing," he wrote.

is that after the more than 200 years the Indians of New Mexico have been reduced they are as ignorant of the Faith and religion as if they were just starting catechism, giving evidence of this regrettable truth in many notorious cases and in fact.

It is true that they baptize the recently born Indian, but it is also true that they never use any other name than the one his parents gave him from the first thing they saw after the infant's birth, for example Mouse, Dog, Wolf, Owl, Cottonwood, etc. And thus everyone calls him in their language, and he forgets entirely the saint's name given him at baptism.

When the Indian reaches the age of six or seven he must attend instruction morning and afternoon. But this is achieved only with difficulty, and as a result, since the beginnings of their Christian education are so feeble and cease the day of their marriage or in the first years of their youth, they forget very rapidly the little they learned, abandoning themselves to their evil inclinations and customs and dying not much different than heathens.

They are heathens underneath and very given to the vain respect and superstitions of their elders. They have a natural antipathy for everything to do with our sacred religion. Few confess until the moment of death, and then the majority by means of an interpreter, and in order to get it over they do no characteristic Christian works nor do they contribute a thing in gratitude to God and king. [69]

At least the viceroy had no favorites. The customs of the Spaniards and mixed-bloods of New Mexico, he allowed, were not much better. Father Domínguez would have said amen to that.

Whatever the reasons, the friars had failed to impose upon the Pueblos more than a patchy veneer of Christianity. For all their zeal, they had not stamped out kivas or kachinas, neither by violent suppression nor by gentle persuasion. They had not broken the Pueblos' pagan spirit. They had not learned their languages. In fact, during the eighteenth century, they had come grudgingly to accept coexistence. They kept on baptizing and marrying, but by now they recognized that spiritual conquest had eluded them, that the ultimate salvation of the Pueblo Indians lay beyond their means. "May God Our Lord destroy these pretexts so completely," Father Domínguez prayed, "that these wretches may become old Christians and the greatest saints of His Church." [70]

El Vado Grant

Late in 1794, as the Spanish-born minister of Santa Fe, Tesuque, and Pecos advocated the use of "more rigor than gentleness" to enforce Indian attendance at Mass and catechism, one Lorenzo Marquez, citizen of Santa Fe, stood before Lt. Col. Fernando Chacón, the new governor of New Mexico. Marquez and fifty-one other men, finding their present lands and waters insufficient for the support of their growing families, formally petitioned for a grant of vacant land on the Pecos River at a place "commonly called El Vado." [71]

For the pueblo de los Pecos the settlement of that grant was the beginning of the end.

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