A Forgotten Kingdom: The Spanish Frontier in Colorado and New Mexico, 1540-1821
BLM Cultural Resources Series (Colorado: No. 29)
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Chapter II
The Reconquest of New Mexico, 1693-1704

From 1680 until an actual reconquest was organized, the Spanish government attempted several expeditions into New Mexico. It was a matter of a collection of unchristianized natives removing a highly cultured and ancient civilization from the province.

However despite a desire to return on the part of the government many settlers who huddled in El Paso del Norte were not interested in going back. From 1680 until Diego de Vargas actually retook New Mexico there was constant friction between the government and its settlers. Ambitious governors looked to go back to Santa Fe while the settlers looked south for safety. More than once a governor tried to recruit refugees for an expedition north. There were few volunteers. Instead, the government depended on Indian allies and professional soldiers. The government was unable to force settlers to move, and even with promises of safety, these people, having survived one rebellion, were not about to try again.

Officials, both at Mexico City and at El Paso, worked on plans to retake New Mexico. It was clear that while the settlers might not be willing to return, the government would do so at nearly any cost. [1] Therefore, the Franciscans put a great deal of pressure on the Spanish crown to help in the reconquest of New Mexico so that many thousands of natives could be saved for Christianity. While it seemed as if Christianity was universally rejected in New Mexico, there were still a few Indians, like several hundred at Isleta, who believed in the Catholic faith. These souls were enough to encourage the missionaries that New Mexico was not lost.

The Spanish government also had its reasons for returning. Reports coming from the north indicated that the Indians had split into factions. As early as 1683, exploratory expeditions went as far north as Isleta and found the natives contrite. However, it was the northern sector of the province that was the most troublesome. The western, eastern, and northern pueblos were still warlike.

Nonetheless, the fact that the southern pueblos were pacific caused the government at El Paso del Norte to report that reconquest might be possible given enough support. The viceroy was unwilling to spend much in taking the province by force. Due to constant reports from El Paso indicating there would be no problem in reconquest, he permitted various governors to organize their own expeditions. This is one of the major reasons it took over ten years to recover New Mexico. [2]

If the Spanish ever needed a hero, the reconquest was the reason. It was no accident that one of the most qualified men available was chosen to lead an expedition north to remove the natives and to restore Spanish government in New Mexico. After years of quarreling over who would go, Mexico City finally chose Diego de Vargas Zapata y Lujan Ponce de Leon as governor in 1688. A man of noble lineage, with nearly twenty years experience in New Spain including numerous government posts in northern Mexico, Vargas was perfect.

It was not until 1690 that Vargas was confirmed and the governor began to plan his reconquest of New Mexico. Don Diego made it clear that he was prepared to spend much of his sizeable personal fortune in this venture, but he could not raise volunteers. It took two years and recruiting far south in New Spain before the Vargas expedition was ready to leave El Paso.

On July 13, 1692 Vargas was notified that the Junta General de Hacienda had approved his plans and in August of that year, having rallied a sufficient force, he set out toward New Mexico. On August 16th, Vargas, along with forty soldiers, ten residents of El Paso, fifty Indian allies, three Franciscans and two ox carts of food crossed the Rio Grande headed north. He camped along that river waiting for fifty men from Parral who were to reinforce him. The Parral soldiers had not arrived by August 19th, so impatient, he left for Ysleta, about four leagues from El Paso, placing Lieutenant Governor Luis Granillo in charge at El Paso. Juan Paez Hurtado, whom Vargas had chosen as his personal secretary, was given the task of taking the Parral volunteers directly to Santo Domingo, thirty miles north of present-day Albuquerque.

By August 21st Vargas was ready to leave Ysleta with his little group. They joined forces with Roque Madrid at Robledo, twenty leagues north of Ysleta, where they decided to divide the company due to a projected water shortage between Robledo and Fray Cristobal, some thirty-six leagues distant. [3] The army arrived at Fray Cristobal six days later, having crossed the Jornada del Muerto without incident. They then marched on to the estancia ruins of Juan de Valencia. From there they moved on to Mejia arriving on September 9th. [4] The little force set out for Santa Fe on the next day. They reached Santo Domingo only to find it abandoned by the inhabitants who heard the Spanish were coming. At this point, Vargas linked up with Juan Paez Hurtado, who had come up river with the Parral volunteers faster than Vargas. From this pueblo, Vargas proceeded cautiously toward Santa Fe where he was expected.

Upon arriving at the former Spanish capital, Vargas attempted peace negotiations with the defenders of the city. Receiving no answer to his peace bid, he was forced to resort to force. By September 12th a battle was the only clear solution. Vargas dispersed his men and placed his artillery where it could breach the walls. Domingo, a native leader, who came out to parley with Vargas, was told that if he did not submit, the water supply would be cut off. This was no idle threat, for the Indians did the same to the Spanish in 1680. The natives quickly sued for peace.

The next day Vargas made his entry. Accompanied by Juan Paez Hurtado, Roque Madrid, the three Franciscans, and ten El Paso residents, he formally occupied the city with raised swords and he elevated the royal standard three times. [5]

From Santa Fe, Vargas went forth to conquer other rebel pueblos. Marching north he took Tesuque, Galisteo, Pecos, Cuyamungue, Nambe, Pojoaque, Jacona, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, San Juan, San Lazaro, and San Cristobal. At each pueblo he reaffirmed Spain's claims to New Mexico. Vargas' biggest problem was Taos, where the revolt began. Using Indian allies he managed to reduce this pueblo by early October, 1692. He returned to Santa Fe believing that the northern pueblos were pacified. [6]

He then went west and took Acoma and Zuñi, two of the hardest pueblos to capture. It took several weeks of struggle before Acoma was retaken, while Zuñi was captured without bloodshed. With the whole of New Mexico now ostensibly under Spanish control, Vargas prepared to return to El Paso del Norte which he re-entered in late December, 1692. [7]

In a period of five months Vargas, seemingly, had recovered the whole of New Mexico. He reduced the Indians, and prepared them for their return to Christian practices. He had formally reclaimed New Mexico for the Spanish empire, without costing the King a single peso. Seventy-four Spanish captives held by the natives were released and 2,214 Indians were baptised by the Franciscans who travelled with the expedition. The stage was now set for phase two of Vargas' plan: the recolonization of New Mexico. [8]

After the Revolt of 1680, Spain had a chance to wash her hands of the whole New Mexican venture, yet she refused to do so, for reasons of conscience. Spain's commitment, ending in 1680, was resumed in 1692.

El Paso del Norte was the primary settlement for the refugees of 1680. A census, conducted from December 22, 1692 through January 2, 1693 showed that the town had 382 inhabitants contained in fifty households. At San Lorenzo, two leagues from El Paso, another 266 persons resided while at Ysleta, four leagues south of the city, 118 residents lived. At Senecu, three leagues from El Paso another 130 residents were counted. Altogether the El Paso area had about 1,000 persons in early 1693. [9]

Upon arriving in El Paso del Norte, Vargas found living conditions for the citizens less than comfortable. Most lived on a miserable economic level; many more were without basic needs. They lacked sufficient clothing and adequate transportation. In addition, articles of furniture and cooking utensils were sorely needed. [10]

To resettle New Mexico, Vargas saw that it would take the full cooperation of the refugees at El Paso as well as more money than was granted by Mexico City for the project. The crown had provided a measely 12,000 pesos to move the colonists north. Vargas stated that livestock, grain, seeds, wagons, mules, horses, plus household goods were needed to make the expedition a success. He requested forty more missionaries to insure that the pueblos would be adequately served. [11]

The governor, a thorough man, spent most of 1693 traveling throughout Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Galicia recruiting men and buying horses. By the summer he proudly reported that he could count on forty-two soldiers plus 200 horses, along with supplies. A request for 300 arquebuses from the government was also granted. [12] By July of 1693 he had sixty-two volunteer families, from as far away as Mexico City, ready to make the journey into New Mexico. Since not all residents of El Paso were enthusiastic about returning to their previous homes, the volunteer families were a godsend. The families that decided to risk their futures in New Mexico were motivated by land. Vargas had recruited from all over New Spain, so he ordered the volunteers to meet at Mexico City whence they would proceed north to El Paso and then ultimately on to Santa Fe.

Most of the recruited families were suited to the frontier conditions they were about to find. Unlike many settlers, they did not move to New Mexico in abject poverty. For example, the families of Simon de Molina Moquero, Antonio de Uassasi Aguilera, Jose Cortes de Castillo, Antonio de Monya, Cristobal de Gongora and Francisco Gonzales de la Rosa listed as chattel the following items: 10-1/2 varas [13] of best quality cloth, one piece of Breton linen, two pieces of Silesian linen, two metal cooking pots, ten pieces of goat's hair cloth, two pairs of mules, seven varas of woolen goods and a number of pairs of gloves, 1-1/2 varas of green cloth, some cradles, one cloak, three sets of heavy woolen goods for snow, one small helmet, one small cauldron, and one flat earthenware pan. [14] Although these settlers were clearly not rich, they seemed well informed as to what to take to their new homes. [15]

Vargas' settlers represented a cross-section of society in New Spain. Along with the "quality" families of the interior, Vargas gathered twenty-seven families of negroes and mestizos from Zacatecas. Also included were widows, single men and a few Spaniards of "pure blood" with great social standing.

As the expedition set out, it had cost 7,000 pesos to outfit and included 900 head of livestock, 2,000 horses and 1,000 mules. Vargas also carried a letter of credit worth 15,000 pesos although where it could be used in New Mexico is not clear. Perhaps the pueblos would give credit to these tourists. [16]

On October 13, over ten days late, the permanent settlement expedition, divided into three sections, and set out. Luis Granillo was named second in command, Roque Madrid was put in charge of the soldiers, and Fray Salvador was superior to the forty missionaries. Santa Fe was to be reached in fifty days. [17]

The march took the expedition to Robledo by October 18th. As the families marched, Vargas went ahead to scout and plan the best method of moving the group safely. The trip was slow and rough.

By the time the group had reached San Diego, about 75 miles north of El Paso, food ran low. The colonists quickly sold arms, jewelry and horses to the Indians in exchange for grain and beans. In contrast to the warmer climates to the south, New Mexico in October and November was cold and the land was covered with snow. The party was not prepared for the cold they encountered. The chill winter months took their toll on the party. Women and children died of cold and starvation. By November 12th the advance party reached the pueblo of Sandia (near the future Albuquerque) where a friendly welcome awaited the Spanish. [18]

However, despite the "pacification" of the natives, trouble was brewing for the settlers of New Mexico. Although Vargas found the Indians at the mesa of San Felipe friendly, he also heard rumors that after he left in 1692 some of the "pacified" pueblos plotted another rebellion. Undeterred, Vargas pressed on toward Santa Fe. Indian runners informed the town of the oncoming Spanish. When in late December the Vargas party arrived at the capital, they were greeted with an unhappy surprise.

The new residents found themselves without living quarters, without food, and, worst of all, among unfriendly natives. Despite the complaints, Vargas planned to refound the missions and to reconstruct the churches. The Spanish tried to trade with local pueblos for badly needed grain, only to find that none was available. As the cold weather continued, more children and infants died. [19]

Vargas now concentrated all of his efforts on obtaining food. One incident provided food from an unexpected source. On December 23rd Captain Diego Arias de Quiros arrived with three deserters, captured at Ancon de Fray Garcia two weeks before. [20] Vargas told the Indians that the men were the vanguard of reinforcements totalling 200 men. Impressed, the natives of Santa Fe turned over twenty sacks of maize on the spot. [21]

Yet this was unsatisfactory. While the settlers were eating better they had no shelter. Vargas turned toward the Indian dwellings in Santa Fe. The leaders met in a council of war which soon turned into a cabildo abierto, [open meeting]. It was decided that the Tanos Indians, who occupied Santa Fe, should return to their pueblo at Galisteo and the town would be turned over to the Spanish. Six Spanish dissenters felt that the natives should be removed by fire and sword. When the Indians heard of the proceedings, their wrath grew. They vowed to resist any attempted resettlement. [22]

After several days of mounting tension, the Indians attacked Spanish settlers. In the early morning of December 28th, Vargas sounded the alarm and the battle for Santa Fe was on. For two days it raged, as the Spanish attacked the walls of the city while the Indians repelled them. Finally, on December 30th, Santa Fe was taken after hand-to-hand combat. Vargas not only gained badly needed shelter, but he found the houses well provisioned with maize and beans. [23] The natives paid dearly for their resistance; nine Indians died in battle, seventy were summarily executed in a rather brutal manner, and two committed suicide. The Spanish lost twenty-two men and women from the cold, with one killed in battle. Santa Fe was in Spanish hands, which could hardly be said for the rest of the province of New Mexico. [24]

The Spanish, now protected in the villa of Santa Fe could go to work pacifying the outlying pueblos. This included sending forth missionaries. Santa Fe faced overwhelming odds against survival. San Ildefonso mesa held the key to continued Spanish existence. Here were grown all-important grains. Because continuous hostilities prevented planting, the Spanish as well as the Indians lacked food. San Ildefonso had to be taken so Vargas established a siege; he soon lifted it when it became clear that the effort was futile. Meanwhile, Roque Madrid was sent to Nambe with twenty soldiers and forty mules to capture grain. The desired food was removed while Madrid gained news of the Indians. It seems that the natives of San Lazaro and San Cristobal had joined the rebels of San Ildefonso and only about ten families remained at Nambe. Clearly the Spanish would have to crush to the rebels and restore food production. [25]

On March 23rd, Vargas wrote to Viceroy the Conde de Galve requesting more colonists. He asked that settlers from Nueva Galicia, Parral, and other areas be sent to protect New Mexico from uprisings. In response to the pleas, Galve issued an order calling for volunteer families to go to Santa Fe and defend the city. Presumably the fear of both Galve and Vargas was that the natives would retake Santa Fe, resulting in another defeat for the Spanish. Numerous discontented settlers felt that Vargas should be removed because he was unable to supply food or to break the rebellion at San Ildefonso. [26]

Luckily, the viceroy's orders were heeded, and on June 16th, Don Diego commanded the people of Santa Fe to prepare for the arrival of an unspecified number of colonists. He asked that both citizens and soldiers receive the new residents with favor and to offer their thanks to Viceroy Galve for delivering them from the hands of the infidels. [27]

But beyond the need for food and shelter, Diego de Vargas had more problems. One of his first acts was to reestablish civil government in New Mexico. By tradition, Santa Fe continued as the center of government. Since most of Mexico was either in the hands of the Indians or was in a state of open rebellion, Vargas had military control over the government.

Even so, a cabildo, [advisory group of the most important citizens], was set up in Santa Fe. [28] The cabildo consisted of both civilians and military men who helped the governor provide defense for the city. Roque Madrid and Luis Granillos were the two men of importance as military leaders. Granillos was Vargas' maestre de campo (lieutenant governor), while Madrid was his captain, head (of the militia), and caudillo (chief military adviser). Basic military policy in New Mexico was the defense of Santa Fe and to prepare expeditions to reduce the pueblos. [29]

Santa Fe itself was reasonably well-protected from Indian attack. It had been designed as both a villa and a fortress in 1610. The city was formed on a plaza with the governor's palace along one side and adobe houses about a block long on the remaining three sides. Within the houses were supply depots, quarters for soldiers and governmental offices. The general populace lived in single or multiple adobe houses outside the defensive perimeter. When danger threatened, the occupants could flee to the square where attackers had to scale walls of some magnitude. That the defense of Santa Fe was adequate is seen in the fact that the Spanish had such a difficult time in recapturing the city.

While the walls of the city were on a square, they opened at four corners proving a major problem for defense. No blockhouses were to be seen. Vargas was able to keep the citizens within easy running distance of the square, but his successor dispersed the populace and reduced the town's defensive effectiveness. [30]

Within Santa Fe life seems to have been on a communal basis, less from desire than from necessity. From the descriptions of Vargas' distribution of foods and goods, grains were gathered in a central place for storage. Food supplies were evidently doled out by a single authority, as was clothing, medicine, and other goods. For housing, settlers at first lived in woolen or hide tents, then in ex-Indian estufas and finally in adobe huts. Chances are good that several families inhabited each house, for the simple reason that too few houses existed. A number of buildings were destroyed by the natives. Others were in such poor condition from their previous tenants that they had to be razed. Santa Fe in 1694 resembled more a primitive commune than a Spanish capital, but this was soon to change. [31]

On June 22, 1694 a group of 220 newcomers from Mexico City arrived in New Mexico. [32] All were given housing in the city. While this meant reinforcements were available, the food situation had not improved. To meet this new crisis, Vargas planned an expedition against the Jemez and Santo Domingo Indians, still in a state of rebellion. They were raiding the friendly and food-providing Keres. In addition, Vargas wrote to the viceroy requesting other necessities for resettlement at Santa Fe. Among his needs were: 2,000 varas of flannel cloth, 2,000 varas of fine cloth, 1,000 varas of blue woolen cloth, 2,000 blankets, 500 campeches (slickers), 2,000 varas of linen, 2,000 varas of sack cloth, 100 dozen men's shoes, 150 women's shoes, fifty rolls of Breton linen, twelve spools of silk, thirty dozen hats, fifty rolls of goat's hair cloth, twenty packs of soap, 300 pesos worth of medicine and numerous other items. Vargas also purchased grain from Nueva Vizcaya rather than take it from friendly Indians. Luis Granillo was sent south with 3,000 pesos to purchase sorely needed grain. [33]

By September 7th, the Jemez had fought their last battle. Spanish soldiers overwhelmed them and they surrendered. The Jemez now joined forces with the Spanish and laid siege to San Ildefonso. Finally, San Ildefonso was captured as were all the other pueblos except for Taos, Picuris and Acoma and Zuñi.

Vargas now prepared for restoration of the missions in New Mexico. He took formal possession of Nambe on September 17th and the next day Pojoaque, San Juan, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso (not the mesa), Jacona, and Cuyamungue were formally reclaimed. [34] The missionaries could now be distributed. Friars were sent into the pueblos and the rebuilding process began.

Meantime pueblo Indians started to visit Santa Fe, and a busy trade with residents thrived. The food problem seemed to be solved, at least for the time being. Now Vargas planned for resettlement of some of Santa Fe's residents throughout New Mexico.

The year 1695 saw fifty families prepared to move north to a new town. The basis for a new villa was in the refounding of the missions. The government felt that to help protect the Franciscans, another Spanish town would be needed. To this end, a proclamation of April 19th established the town of Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de Españoles Mexicanos del Rey Nuestro Señor Carlos Segundo. This lengthy name was shortened to Santa Cruz de la Cañada. The site was located upriver about halfway between Santa Fe and Taos. It was founded for two reasons. First, the settlement was used to spread Spanish colonists along the upper Rio Grande and secondly it was planned that the city would be maintained for the defense of the many pueblos in this area.

The town was given a military government composed of an alcalde mayor (mayor), a captain of the militia, an alferez (second lieutenant), a sergeant, an alguacil (constable), and four military squad leaders. Each family was provided half afanega of seed along with implements for farming. On April 21, 1695 sixty-six families moved to Santa Cruz, the first new town established in New Mexico since 1610. [35]

That May forty-four new families from New Spain arrived at Santa Fe under Juan Paez Hurtado. They were moved into the recently vacated quarters of the Santa Cruz settlers. The next winter brought starvation occasioned by drought during the previous summer, a plague of worms, and a severe lack of sufficient tools and new cattle. Petitions for more food came from both Santa Cruz and Santa Fe. Vargas had only enough maize to support the twenty-one of the poorest families. The settlers soon bartered with the natives, exchanging clothing for food. Earlier trading with Indians was so substantial that on May 25th Vargas issued an order forbidding firearms trading with the pueblo Indians. [36]

Another problem Vargas faced was a lack of discipline among his soldiers. On September 15th, Antonio Tafoya appeared before alcalde ordinario Lorenzo Madrid to explain the bad conduct of soldiers under the command of Simon de Ortega. The problem was looting private residences throughout Santa Fe. The soldiers behaviour toward some of Santa Fe's more eminent citizens was not good. Disrespect and sloth were common problems on the New Mexican frontier. [37]

In the autumn months hardships became much worse. A report written in 1697 depicted the people of Santa Fe as living on horses, cats, dogs, rats, oxhides and old bones. Nearly naked gaunt, desperate people were said to be roaming the streets. Some were even hiring themselves to Indians to carry water or chop wood for a little maize. Two hundred were reported to have died of starvation during the winter of 1695. [38]

The plight of the Spanish in New Mexico that winter was not lost upon the Indians. Many pueblos, nominally pacified, saw the new unrest as an opportunity. Spanish firmness only increased the restlessness of the natives. The starving settlers were in no position to crush a new revolt. Reports from the missions poured into Santa Fe. An Indian uprising was likely. Quite aware of Spanish vulnerability, native leaders took advantage of the moment. On March 7, 1695 Fray Covera, at San Ildefonso, wrote to Vargas of the danger. Fray Alpunte also wrote from an unnamed location begging for soldiers, while Fray Cisneros at Cochiti likewise asked for protection. Fray Ramirez from San Felipe, Fray Matta from Zia, Fray Trizio and Fray Jesus Marfa from Jemez and Fray Diaz from Tesuque all warned of unrest in the pueblos. [39] Throughout the spring of 1696 the letters came to Santa Fe, but Vargas was helpless because Mexico City refused to send troops. The settlers in New Mexico were so weak that they could not possibly withstand an Indian uprising.

In early June Fray Alonzo Ximenez de Cisneros warned Vargas of a possible revolt. He said he heard of open plotting among the Indians of Cochiti. Without question, he wrote, trouble was coming. By June 4, 1696 reports of the new rebellion came in from all directions. Taos, Jemez, and Santo Domingo Indians killed five missionaries and burned churches. It was 1680 again. [40]

Despite weakness, Vargas moved swiftly against the Indians. Roque Madrid was ordered to call in all missionaries, while squads of men were sent to certain very dangerous missions to escort the friars. On an inspection tour of local pueblos, Vargas saw that rebellion had indeed occurred among the natives. At San Ildefonso the church was burned, and at other pueblos priests were found brutally slain. [41]

Vargas proposed to crush the rebellion by military force. On June 17th he assembled a troop of thirty-seven men and led them to Tesuque, where rebels under the leadership of a half-breed named Naranjo fled. [42] The Spanish seized a large quantity of grain and then scouted the area. They discovered rebel Indians at Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara, and Chimayo. [43]

Upon his return to Santa Fe, in late June, Vargas organized another expedition to reduce the pueblos on a systematic basis. He began at Santa Cruz and worked into the Chimayo Mountains. While these efforts progressed, word came from Sandia that the Jemez Indians were subdued by Miguel de Lara. [44] Heartened by this news, Vargas captured Cochiti pueblo which contained a large supply of grain. Those supplies were rapidly returned to Santa Fe on July 17th. [45] After delivery was made, Vargas began another operation against Taos. As he marched north, the Spanish were harried by pueblo Indians. In each engagement they were soundly defeated. Vargas did not have to take Taos because he engaged combined enemy forces at Santa Cruz and defeated them. This battle relieved Taos. But before returning to Santa Fe, Vargas and his army marched into the San Luis Valley, where they noted the presence of hostile Ute Indians who were not impressed by Oñate's force. Don Diego returned to Santa Fe at the end of July satisfied that the natives were again controlled.

Taos Indians came to Santa Cruz to help defeat the Spanish. Once the battle of Santa Cruz was decided, the various Pueblos returned home and the revolt was over. The uprising had taken the lives of twenty-one settlers, and five missionaries. Churches and religious articles were burned, but as Vargas wrote to the viceroy, he was in no way defeated. He said the only way New Mexico could be lost was from hunger not Indians. [46]

In August, having defeated the pueblos to the north and east, Vargas turned his attention west and to the rock of Acoma. On August 14th he laid siege to Acoma without result. Three days later he returned to Zia for more food. As Don Diego pondered how to supply his people, Roque Madrid sent word that the Picuris were about to attack Santa Cruz. This brought about a revival of the Taos plans. In mid-September, Captain Lara reported all quiet in the west, so Vargas ordered troops into the north.

On September 21st Vargas moved northward planning to break the latest rebellion. Without great difficulty he reached Taos only to find it empty. He conferred with the native leader Pacheco and asked that the people come back to Taos. Trusting the natives, Vargas then left for Picuris where he inspected the pueblo before returning to Santa Fe with a pack train of maize, beans and clothing taken from Taos. [47]

Although the war in the north was nearly over, pockets of resistance remained. Nevertheless, Vargas prepared to send a few friars back into the field and with the help of Fray Custos Francisco de Vargas, he began to replace lost horses, livestock and religious articles for the missions. Sandia was restored, as were Santa Cruz, Zia, and Santa Ana.

The revolt of 1696 stirred Mexico City to action. In November that year the viceroy and the Junta (de Hacienda) approved Vargas' requests for supplies. Some 1,400 fanegas of the promised 2,000 fanegas of maize were on their way, as were 1,500 varas of cloth, 1,245 varas of heavy flannel, 2,000 blankets, 2,000 goats, 3,000 sheep, 600 cows, and 200 bulls. They arrived at Santa Fe in April, 1697. During May the goods were distributed among 1,007 persons, who were described as follows: natives of New Mexico - ninety six families totaling 404 persons; Mexicans [of the group residing in Santa Fe prior to 1680] - seventeen families totaling seventy one persons; residents from Zacatecas and Sombrerete - 124 families totaling 449 persons with eighty three listed as orphans, bachelors, single women, and half-breeds. [48] 1697 promised to be much better than any previous times for the settlers of New Mexico. The revolt of 1696 was crushed. Supplies finally arrived from New Spain. There was little reason to suspect that the next several years would be a time of turmoil, not from external forces but caused by internal politics.

Don Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon may have subdued the pueblos, brought colonists into New Mexico, and saved the province from disastrous defeat, all at his own expense, but he made many enemies in the process.

His troubles were caused by the Spanish colonial system. Vargas was appointed in 1688 for a five-year term, which expired in early 1693. However, he was told to continue his position as governor until relieved; in this case Pedro Rodriguez Cubero. Vargas retained his office until the arrival of Cubero in July 1697.

Mean while Vargas administered his governorship as a benevolent dictator, personally handling civil cases and overseeing the troops. For example on June 5th Nicolas Ramieres, listed as a mulatto, and married to Isabel Hazzca [?], was accused of attempting to kill an Indian named Martin. The defendant was found guilty of aggravated assault and sentenced to three years of "working for the good of the general public." [49]

On July 2, 1697 Pedro Rodriguez Cubero arrived at Santa Fe to claim the governorship. Vargas, unwilling to hand over the reins of power, wrote to the viceroy seeking a postponement of Cubero's assumption on the grounds that he (Vargas) was not given a fair hearing. Meanwhile, Vargas persuaded the cabildo of Santa Fe to give him a statement of loyalty. Cubero took office over the protests of Vargas (on the basis that Cubero had a letter from the viceroy giving him the power to do so) and promptly instituted a residencia on Vargas. The residencia was a colonial device to keep governors and other officials honest. It was simply a review of the outgoing officer's record. Although Cubero's residencia found Vargas free from any wrongdoing, it was of little consequence. The cabildo, seeing which way the wind was blowing, drew up a petition that charged Vargas with embezzling large sums of money and the summary execution of many Tano captives after the battle of Santa Fe in 1693. Vargas was also blamed for the famine of 1695 and the outbreak of Indian warfare, particularly the uprising of 1696. Further criticisms of Vargas' administration included his refusal to allow the settlers to make slaves of Indian captives. [50]

Cubero used this petition as a means of getting rid of Vargas. On October 2, 1697 he declared that in the light of the "new evidence", Vargas was guilty of all charges, despite the previous residencia verdict. He confined the former governor to his home and confiscated his slaves (not Indians), mules, clothing, and fined him 4,000 pesos for court costs. Further, Vargas was forbidden to communicate with anyone, thus depriving him of appeal to higher authority.

Vargas did not lack friends, for Fray Custos Francisco de Vargas travelled to Mexico City and presented the governor's case. In Santa Fe, meantime, Vargas carried on his own campaign of self-defense by threatening Cubero and the cabildo with reprisals once he was reappointed by the crown.

Vargas' appeal reached the Spanish court by means of Antonio Valverde y Cossio, temporary captain at El Paso del Norte (and appointed to that post by Vargas). Cubero had exiled Valverde. But, on his own, this loyal soul traveled to Spain to present his "master's" case while also asking for personal favors. To counter this threat, Cubero in February, 1699 sent to the court a list of accusations against Valverde. Allegedly the list was given to him by Lorenzo Madrid, Roque Madrid, Tomas Palomino, Jose Domingues, Antonio Gutierrez de Figueroa, and Jose Antonio Romero, all highly respected citizens of New Mexico who were enraged by Vargas' appointment of Valverde to a high post while they were passed over. [51]

Vargas' accomplishments did not go unnoticed by officials in both Spain and New Spain. After a long review of his achievements in New Mexico, the Council of the Indies, recommended that Vargas be reappointed governor, that he should be given an honorary title of "Pacificator," that he be granted the title of Marques de las Navas Brazinas, and that he be given an encomienda of 4,000 pesos. The king approved all these recommendations except for the encomienda. Vargas was not granted an encomienda until August 21, 1698. Valverde, for his effort, was appointed permanent captain of the Presidio of El Paso del Norte by the Crown, a position he sought.

Vargas' struggle was far from over. Even though the crown had agreed that Vargas was in the clear, Cubero still had to be dealt with.

The new governor and the cabildo were desperate. They heard of Vargas' reappointment and drew up new charges in an attempt to stall enactment. These charges included: that Vargas had stirred unrest since 1697, that he offered favors to those who would take his side, and that he had intimidated the opposition. [52] Cubero and his cronies conducted hearings and found Vargas guilty of the new allegations. The Pacificator was placed in chains within his home and forbidden all visitors. He was not allowed to write.

The legal battle continued in Mexico City for several more years. On March 20, 1700 the Vargas case went to the Junta General and cabildo's accusations were found false. The lingering matter of embezzlement caused more concern and the Junta asked that Vargas' reappointment be held up until this matter could be cleared. Vargas, still in Santa Fe, was released under bond and departed for Mexico City in July, 1700. The case was transferred to Spain, where after months of careful consideration, the crown, in 1701, ordered viceregal authorities to clear up the case against the ex-governor and if they found him not guilty, to allow him to accept the privileges granted him.

When word reached Santa Fe, the cabildo was thrown into panic. New charges flowed, but to no avail. Vargas was acquitted of all allegations and after a careful audit, it was discovered that the government owed Vargas 17,619 pesos. Vargas had won the battle with Cubero. The latter was assessed, along with the cabildo of Santa Fe, the entire cost of the case. [53]

In August, 1703 Don Diego was on his way back to New Mexico to claim his titles, while Governor Cubero proceeded southward to take up new duties as governor of Maracaibo and Grita. Cubero died in 1704 before he could assume his job. J. Manuel Espinosa, chronicler of the Vargas administration, sums up Cubero's term: "Thus ended the six year Cubero interlude, during which New Mexico witnessed no significant changes, while the Reconquerer underwent perhaps the darkest days of his whole career only to emerge undaunted." [54]

On November 10, 1703 Don Diego de Vargas, now Marques de las Navas Brazinas, reached Santa Fe. He quickly established himself in the Governor's Palace and wrote a report to the viceroy describing the conditions of New Mexico, in which he denounced Cubero for: "ignorance of frontier problems," particularly because Cubero had virtually abandoned Santa Cruz, one of Vargas' pet projects. Also, he complained that Cubero had spread the settlers in Santa Fe out too far making defense difficult. [55]

In the spring of 1704 Vargas prepared for a campaign into the Sandia Mountains to eliminate some Fararon Apaches raiding along the Rio Grande. He chose Sandia as his headquarters. With fifty soldiers he set out from Santa Fe to that village. From there he went to the abandoned ranch of Ortega, about 20 miles east of present-day Albuquerque, and on April 1st he pushed into the mountains. On April 2nd Vargas was in pursuit of his enemies when he became ill. Returning to Sandia, he drew up his last will and received the sacrament of extreme unction. Don Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon, Marques de las Navas Brazinas, died at Sandia on April 8, 1704. Exact cause of his death is still unknown. He requested that his body be laid to rest under the main altar of the church at Santa Fe.

The death of Diego de Vargas brought an end to a unique era in New Mexico. In a short time the energetic Don Diego had managed to do what others had failed to do: the recapture and resettlement of New Mexico.

With Vargas' reestablishment of New Mexico as a viable Spanish colony, Spain was once again committed to her frontier outpost. The Spanish were unable to relinquish this territory and because of this continuing presence in New Mexico, Spain was to face nearly a century of continuing entrapment.


1 J. Manuel Espinosa, Crusaders of the Rio Grande (Chicago, 1942). Chapter One deals with early attempts at a reconquista.

2 William L. Schurz. This New World (New York, 1964), pp. 78-108, and pp. 103-108.

3 J. Manuel Espinosa, First Expedition of Vargas into New Mexico, 1692 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1940). Cited: Vargas Journal, at Mejia, August 21, 1692, in: Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City, Tomo 39, hereinafter cited AGN.

4 Ibid. At Santo Domingo, September 11, 1692.

5 Ibid., at Santa Fe, September 14, 1692.

6 See Oakah L. Jones, Pueblo Warriors and Spanish Conquest (Norman, 1966).

7 Vargas Journal, in J. Manuel Espinosa, Crusaders of the Rio Grande (Chicago, 1942), p. 108.

8 Ibid., pp. 109-110.

9 Census of El Paso del Norte, in Archivo General de las Indias, Guadalajara. Legajo 139. Hereinafter cited AGI. See: also Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico), Historia Tomo 37.

10 Ibid., January 2, 1693, at El Paso. See also Anne E. Hughes, The Beginnings of Spanish Settlement in the El Paso District (Berkeley, 1914).

11 January 2, 1693 at El Paso del Norte, in AGI and AGN.

12 Order granting request for arquebuses, Legajo 4, Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico. Hereinafter cited BNM, 1693.

13 A vara is a measurement equaling about 2.8 feet.

14 Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Loose Documents, 1693. Hereinafter cited AASF.

15 The inventory for one family is as follows: for the family of Joseph Cortes del Castillo, who had a Spanish wife and three children ages ten, five and one year two months: twelve waterproof overcoats, five fanegas of cheap cotton cloth, six fanegas of floss silk, seven fanegas of quality flax, one piece of Breton linen, four pieces of Silesian linen, one piece of china, one cloak, one book entitled "Hilo de Clemes" and two pairs of shoes. AASF, Loose Documents. 1693.

16 Vargas Journal, October 13, 1693, in AGN, Historia, Tomo 38.

17 Ibid., October 15, 1693.

18 Ibid., November 5, 1693.

19 Ibid., December 17, 1693.

20 J. Manuel Espinosa, Crusaders of the Rio Grande (Chicago, 1942), p. 154.

21 Ibid.

22 Vargas to viceroy, January 20, 1694 at Santa Fe, Official Resume in AGN.

23 Ibid.

24 Vargas to viceroy, December 30, 1693, in Historia, Tomo 39, in AGN.

25 Vargas Journal, February 20-24, 1694, in Historia, Tomo 39, in AGN.

26 Vargas to Conde de Galve, Santa Fe, March 23, 1694, State Archives of New Mexico. Hereinafter cited SANM.

27 Vargas, Order, at Santa Fe, June 16, 1694, in SANM.

28 See: Marc Simmons, Spanish Government in New Mexico (Albuquerque, 1968).

29 Some of the more important citizens were: Luis Granillo, Juan Dios Lucero de Godoy, Jose Tellez Jiron, Francisco de Anaya Almazan, Francisco Romero de Padraza, Antonio de Montoya, Luis Martin, Antonio Lucero de Godoy, Diego de Montoya, Diego de Luna, Roque Madrid, Juan del Rio and Arias de Quiros.

30 In 1760 Bishop Tamaron of Durango visited Santa Fe and described it as above. See: Eleanor B. Adams, Ed., Bishop Tamaron's Visitation of New Mexico, 1760 (Albuquerque, 1954).

31 See Vargas, Bando providing for reception of colonists, June 16, 1694, at Santa Fe in SANM.

32 Vargas Journal, July 5-6, 1694, Historia, Tomo 39, in AGN.

33 Vargas Journal, to viceroy, September 6, 1694, at San Ildefonso, in Historia, Tomo 39, AGN.

34 Ibid., September 17, 1694.

35 Vargas Journal, April 22, 1695, Historia, Tomo 39, in AGN.

36 Order of Don Diego de Vargas, May 31, 1695, at Santa Fe in SANM.

37 Appearance of Antonio Tafoya, squadron leader, before Lorenzo Madrid, alcalde ordinario, September 15, 1695 at Santa Fe, in SANM.

38 Accusations of the cabildo against Don Diego de Vargas, October, 1697 at Santa Fe in SANM.

39 Loose Documents. 1694; December 23, 1694, Number 2 and Number 2 [No. 9], December, 1695-April, 16 in AASF.

40 Cisneros to Vargas, June, 1696, SANM.

41 Guadalajara, Vargas Journal, Legajo 141, AGI.

42 Ibid., June 17, 1696.

43 Ibid., June 20-26, 1696.

44 Ibid., July 21-23, 1696.

45 Ibid., 1696 and Athearn, op. cit., p. 15.

46 Vargas to viceroy, July 30, 1696, at Santa Fe, SANM.

47 Ibid., October 11-12, 1696.

48 Vargas Journal, Records of Distribution, May 1, 1697, at Santa Fe, in SANM.

49 Criminal proceedings against Nicolas Ramieres, June 5, 1697, at Santa Fe, in SANM.

50 Accusations of the cabildo against Don Diego de Vargas, October, 1697 at Santa Fe, in SANM.

51 J. Manuel Espinosa, Crusaders of the Rio Grande (Chicago, 1942), pp. 322-323.

52 Vinculos Tomo 14, "Autos hechos sobre causas criminales contra el general Don Diego de Vargas...,", in AGN.

53 See Lansing B. Bloom, "The Vargas Encomienda," New Mexico Historical Review, XIV (October, 1939), 390-391.

54 Espinosa, Crusaders of the Rio Grande. pp. 352-353.

55 Report of Vargas to viceroy, December 1, 1703, at Santa Fe, in SANM.

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