National Park Service
Kiva, Crown, Crown


The Invaders

The New Mexico: Preliminaries to Conquest

Oñate's Disenchantment

The "Christianization" of Pecos

The Shadow of the Inquisition

Their Own Worst Enemies

Pecos and the Friars

Pecos, the Plains, and the Provincias Internas

Toward Extinction



Chapter 6: Their Own Worst Enemies, 1680-1704

With regard to the pueblo of Pecos, it has been my experience that these Indians are very loyal. After all, it is of record and well known to this entire kingdom that they dutifully gave warnings of the uprisings of these natives. Aside from not having soldiers to spare, I consider the guard of six men requested by the Rev. Father definitor fray Juan de Alpuente inadvisable. Sending this guard would be to tell these Indians that I doubted their proven loyalty. I am convinced, therefore, that having no guard—even if this Reverend Father refuses to minister to them—is preferable to the unfortunate consequences of their suspecting that they do not have this confidence.

Don Diego de Vargas, Santa Fe, March 14, 1696

Indeed one may allege that these Pecos Indians are loyal because of their outward and public demonstrations, also that in 1680 during the general revolt they gave warning of it to some Spaniards and to the then governor. Yet if one asks about their role in that uprising, they assert as a hard fact that they did not kill Father fray Fernando de Velasco, their minister, and this they allege as a meritorious act. But ask them about Father fray Juan de la Pedrosa, lay religious who was with their Father minister, and likewise about a Spaniard who was at their pueblo of Pecos at the time with his wife and children, and they remain silent.

Fray Francisco de Vargas, Santa Fe, July 6, 1696

Because of the punishment don Felipe, Indian governor of the Pecos, had dealt the five rebellious Indians in 1696, the relatives of the latter toward the end of the year 1700 began to show their resentment and their desire for revenge. They tried at first to incite the whole pueblo to kill Felipe, but in this they were unsuccessful. After they had committed grave acts of disrespect in the presence of the Father minister and the alcalde mayor, the latter informed [Gov. Pedro Rodríguez] Cubero who put the leaders of this faction in the Santa Fe jail. Breaking their chains, these Indians fled to the Jicarilla Apaches.

As a result of this, the pueblo of Pecos split into two antagonistic factions. That of don Felipe prevailed, after one had attempted to take up arms against the other on five occasions. The leaders of the other faction, fearing that they would be destroyed if the rupture came, presented themselves before Cubero requesting that they be permitted to move to the pueblo of Pojoaque. Whether they did so is not of record.

Fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante,
Extracto de Noticias, 1778

Pecos modern painted ware. Kidder, Pottery, I

Escalante as Historical Researcher

During the last quarter of the enlightened eighteenth century, when the Spanish crown's pragmatic interest in history and geography pervaded every corner of her vast and vulnerable empire, an intense young Franciscan received permission from the governor in Santa Fe to examine the provincial archives. This was a collection which, in the governor's estimation, "contained nothing but old fragments." Undaunted, Fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, not yet thirty but already in failing health, spent hours poring over, copying, and abstracting what documents he could. Among those from the period of the great revolt, he came across a formal complaint by the Santa Fe municipal council against Gov. Antonio de Otermín. Not only did this document present a different version of the outbreak, notably at variance with Otermín's own account, but it also suggested that the Indians of Pecos were their own worst enemies. [1]

His-oo-san-chees, The Little Spaniard, famed Comanche warrior, after a painting by George Catlin, 1834. Catlin, North American Indians, II.

Revolt Laid to Governor Otermín

The cabildo put the blame for the revolt of 1680 squarely on Governor Otermín. Because he was either unable or unwilling to govern, or both, Otermín relegated all authority to his secretary of government and war, Maese de campo Francisco Javier, "a man of bad faith, avaricious and sly." Well built, with very gray hair and the scar of an old wound across the left side of his forehead, the cruel Javier had driven the Indians of New Mexico, in the words of the cabildo, "to the ultimate exasperation."

A short while before the general uprising, Javier had seized at the pueblo of Pecos a camp of Apaches to whom he had given assurance of safe-conduct. Coolly, he distributed some of these captives to his friends and shipped the rest off to Parral for sale. To the Pecos, who gained much of their livelihood from trade with Apaches, the treacherous act of Francisco Javier was grounds for rebellion, or so Fray Silvestre implies. Yet, in the very next sentence without the least explanation, he tells how the Pecos—or the pro-Spanish faction at Pecos—warned Maese de campo Francisco Gómez Robledo of the impending rebellion well in advance, twenty days, by one account.

Francisco Javier

Gómez Robledo of course told Otermín. Later he appeared before the governor with the native messengers from Tesuque. "My lord," he explained, "here are the two Indians, who freely confess that the uprising is certain." To which Otermín is alleged to have replied, "Have them put in prison until Maese de campo Francisco Javier arrives." A fine way to react in a crisis.

To this excessive confidence [in the unscrupulous Javier] and in action on the part of Otermín the members of the cabildo attributed the execution of the uprising. This was verified by the rebels in the plaza of Santa Fe, who said, "Give us Francisco Javier, who is the reason we have risen, and we will remain in peace as before." [2]

Santa Fe in 1766. "PLAN of the Villa of Santa Fe, capital of the Kingdom of New Mexico, situated, according to my observation, at 36° 10' north latitude and 262° 40' longitude measured from the Island of Tenerife. KEY: A. Church and convento of San Francisco. B. House of the governor. C. Chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Luz. D. Church of San Miguel. E. Pueblo or district of Analco, which owes its origin to the Tlaxcaltecas who accompanied the first Spaniards who came to conquer this kingdom. NOTE: To the east of the Villa, about one league distant, there is a chain of very high mountains which extends from south to north so far that its limits are unknown, as far as the country of the Comanches, who came from the north always skirting said range during their entire peregrination, which they say had been very long. Scale of 200 toesas [c. 400 meters]. José de Urrutia" (The British Library, Add. Ms 17662 M). Reproduced by permission of the British Library Board.

Double Role of the Pecos

bowl design
Pecos Glaze III bowl design. After Kidder, Pottery, II.

Even after the outbreak, the Pecos played a double role, or rather, they acted in the interest of at least two factions, one of which chanted, "Death to the Spaniards!," and another which evidently did not. The Pecos did not kill their minister, old Fray Fernando de Velasco. Instead, they disclosed to him the plot, and saw him off to Galisteo, where the Tanos promptly dispatched him. By most accounts, the Pecos did kill Fray Juan de la Pedrosa and at least one Spanish family. And they did join Tanos and Keres before Santa Fe on August 13 "armed and giving war whoops."

The Siege of Santa Fe

As news of widespread death and devastation in the outlying districts accumulated in Santa Fe, Otermín ordered the residents of the villa to come together and fortify the casas reales, that is, his thick-walled "palace" and the other government buildings on the north side of the plaza. Fray Francisco Gómez de la Cadena, guardian of the Santa Fe convento, and his assistant, Fray Francisco Farfán, consumed the Blessed Sacrament, packed up the objects of divine worship, and joined the others. When two Indians sent to scout the Galisteo Basin reappeared out of breath with word that "all the Indians of the pueblos of the Pecos, San Cristóbal, San Lázaro, San Marcos, Galisteo, and La Ciénaga, who numbered more than five hundred, were one league from this villa on the way to attack it and destroy the governor and all the Spaniards," the defenders dug in for a siege.

These rebels were saying that now God and Holy Mary, whom the Spaniards worshipped, had died, but the god they obeyed had never died, and therefore they would take possession of the kingdom, having done with all the Spaniards. [3]

Leading this first wave of rebellious Pueblos was a Spanish-speaking Tano named Juan, whom Governor Otermín had sent out three days before with a letter for Alcalde mayor José Nieto at Galisteo. He rode a horse and sported a priest's sash of red taffeta. Armed like a Spaniard with arquebus, sword, dagger, and leather jacket. Juan agreed to parley with Governor Otermín in the plaza. He was not intimidated. He presented the governor with an ultimatum. Many more Indians were on their way to attack Santa Fe. They were bringing two crosses, one white and the other red. If the Spaniards chose the white cross, they would be spared to leave New Mexico. If they chose the red cross and war, they would surely die.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe painted on hide. Museum of New Mexico

Otermín countered with an offer of pardon. Juan laughed and spurred his horse back across the Río de Santa Fe to the Analco district where the rebels greeted him "with bugle, with solemn pealing of the bells of the San Miguel chapel, and with hurrahs, mocking the Spaniards." When the natives began pillaging the abandoned houses of the Mexican Indians who lived in the barrio of Analco and then set fire to the chapel of San Miguel, Otermín dispatched a troop of soldiers to disperse them. But the rebels, taking cover in the gutted houses, put up such a fight that the governor was obliged to join the action himself.

Antonio de Otermín

The battle lasted most of the day. Just as the Spaniards put the Pecos and Tanos to rout, hundreds of newly arrived Tewas, Taos, and Picurís, threw themselves at the villa from the other side, drawing the defenders back to the casas reales. When the sun set, the Pecos and Tanos, having suffered heavy casualties, withdrew, leaving the siege of Santa Fe to the Indians of the north. After all, the revolt was their idea.

The siege lasted a week. The Pueblos cut the water supply to the casas reales. They had already begun their victory celebration when a do-or-die force of mounted Spaniards suddenly broke out, caught the besiegers off guard, and trampled some of them under the hoofs of their horses. They claimed to have killed more than three hundred in all. They captured forty-seven. The rest were soon in flight.

Next day, August 21, after he had interrogated and executed the prisoners and provisioned everyone for the road from his own stores, Governor Otermín led the orderly exodus of a thousand refugees out of the villa that had served as seat and symbol of Spanish authority for seventy years. By the Blessed Mother of God, he would be back. [4]

El Paso in 1766. "PLAN of the Presidio of Nuestra Señora del Pilar del Paso del Río del Norte, under the governmental jurisdiction of New Mexico and situated at 33° 6' north latitude and 261° 40' longitude measured from the meridian of Tenerife. KEY: A. Presidio or government buildings, where there are only the captain's quarters and a small guardhouse. B. Church and house of the missionary. NOTES. At a distance of one league north is the so-called Sierra de la Otra Banda, or Sierra de los Organos, at the foot of which runs the large Río del Norte and which is inhabited by the Apache Indians known by the names Natagés Carlanas, and Faraones. All the construction of both presidio and settlement is of earth [adobe]. Scale of 200 toesas [c. 400 meters]. José de Urrutia" (The British Library, Add. Ms. 17662 N). Reproduced by permission of the British Library Board.

Spaniards Retreat down the Rio Grande

Filing past Santo Domingo, they looked in vain for signs of life. There was evidence of a struggle in the convento. The bodies of three friars, among them ex-custos Fray Juan de Talabán, had been dragged into the church and buried in a common grave. Five more bodies lay outside.

All along the valley, similar scenes of carnage greeted the forlorn column. They halted at the narrows south of San Felipe, not far from the home of swaggering Cristóbal de Anaya Almazán, who had risen to the rank of sargento mayor despite his trial by the Inquisition. His naked body and those of his wife, six children, and several other persons were heaped up at the front door. The revolt had wiped out the entire Anaya clan, save one. Sickened by the sight, Francisco de Anaya, a brother of Cristóbal wounded in the fighting at Santa Fe, thought of his own family. All of them dead. Unlike many of the refugees, don Francisco and a third wife would later return to New Mexico in the train of Diego de Vargas. In 1694, the reconqueror would name him alcalde mayor of the Pecos. [5]

A Tano Relives the Outbreak

Near the estancia that had been Cristóbal de Anaya's, Otermín summoned a Tano Indian known as Pedro García to appear before him. It was August 25. The day before, while a pack of rebels harried the rear of the retreating cavalcade, this Tano, "who did not want to be a rebellious traitor," tried with his wife and another woman to catch up. The rebels grabbed the two women but he eluded them and, covered by Spaniards, reached safety. Born, reared, and employed in the household of Alcalde mayor José Nieto, whose estancia lay only a league or so from Galisteo, Pedro now related to Otermín what he had seen and heard during the first days of the revolt.

Like a brush fire in the wind, word of the planned uprising had spread from San Cristóbal to all the Tano pueblos, and to Father Custos Juan Bernal. Bernal had alerted Alcalde mayor Nieto and the other Spaniards, who gathered up their families and made for Galisteo. The next day, while Pedro was chopping weeds in a plot of maize on the Nieto estancia, he looked up to see Bartolomé, cantor mayor of the pueblo of Galisteo, coming toward him, his eyes filled with tears.

"What are you doing here?," asked Pedro. The hysterical reply, if Pedro's memory served him, went something like this:

The Indians want to kill the custos and the other Fathers and Spaniards! They say that the Indian who kills a Spaniard will get an Indian woman, whichever one he wants, as his wife. He who kills four Spaniards will take four, and he who kills ten or more will have that many women for wives. They say they have to kill all the servants of the Spaniards and those who speak Spanish. And they have also ordered that everyone take off their rosaries and burn them. Hurry, get going with your wife and the little orphan girl you have, and perhaps you will be fortunate enough to make it to where the Spaniards are gathered and escape.

Governor Otermín asked Pedro if he knew why the Indians had rebelled. Pedro recalled what Bartolomé had said. The Pueblos were tired of all the work they had to do for the Spaniards and the missionaries. It rankled them that they did not have time to plant for themselves or to do the other things they needed to do. Fed up, they had rebelled.

Later Pedro had learned that the rebels had put to death Custos Bernal and Fray Domingo de Vera at the pueblo of Galisteo. They had martyred Fray Manuel Tinoco of San Marcos and Fray Fernando de Velasco of Pecos within sight of the pueblo as the two missionaries hurried to join Bernal. The roll of Spaniards killed that day included Alcalde mayor Nieto, Juan de Leyva, Nicolás de Leyva, their wives, and their children. Several of the women they kept alive. They ransacked the Spaniards' homes. Meanwhile, the Pecos arrived.

Joining forces, Tanos, Keres of San Marcos, and Pecos had marched off to assault the villa of Santa Fe. Defeated there, they had come back in foul humor. Because six Tanos of Galisteo had been killed and many others badly wounded, the Indians of that pueblo vented their rage on the women captives they held. Three of them, Lucía, María, and Juana had belonged to Pedro, or so he said. Another named Dorotea was the daughter of Maese de campo Pedro de Leyva. All died.

Concluding his testimony, Pedro explained why he had fled to overtake the retreating Spaniards. Word had come from the Tewas, and from Taos, Picurís, and Utes, that they would annihilate any Indian, or pueblo, who refused to participate in the revolt. For that reason, and because he was a Christian, Pedro had resolved to throw his lot with the Spaniards. [6]

Evacuation of Río Abajo

As Otermín listened to Pedro's story near the pillaged Anaya house, two hundred and eighty miles downriver Father Francisco de Ayeta received at El Paso the first jumbled reports of the disaster. They came from the Río Abajo. Ever since about 1660, the kingdom of New Mexico had been divided for purposes of administration and defense into two major districts known as the Río Arriba and the Río Abajo, literally the upriver and the downriver sectors of the Rio Grande Valley. The governor commanded upriver, and the lieutenant governor downriver. At La Bajada, where the road from Santa Fe wound down the black basalt descent to the valley just above Santo Domingo, the traveler passed from Río Arriba to Río Abajo. The uprising of 1680 had cut all Spanish communications between the two regions.

In the Río Abajo, the scared survivors, fifteen hundred of them, had flocked together at Isleta. Assuming that Otermín and everyone else upriver were dead, Lt. Gov. Alonso García and the whole crowd had started south on foot to save themselves. They had with them "a multitude of small children." At El Paso, meantime, Father Ayeta, reacting with his usual vigor, unloaded some of his supply wagons and outfitted a rescue expedition of armed men, friars, and provisions.

painted sandstone slab
Painted ceremonial sandstone slab from Pecos. Kidder, Artifacts

A Tiwa Explains the Revolt

When Governor Otermín learned that the Río Abajo people were already retreating downriver, he sent riders ahead with orders for them to stop and wait for him. At Alamillo, north of Socorro, the governor interrogated another Indian, an aged Southern Tiwa man of Alameda captured on the road. What had possessed the Pueblos to forsake their obedience to God and king, Otermín demanded through an interpreter. The old man's reply was direct. "For a long time," he said,

because the Spaniards punished sorcerers and idolaters, the nations of the Tewas, Taos, Picurís, Pecos, and Jémez had been plotting to rebel and kill the Spaniards and the religious, and that they had been planning constantly to carry it out, down to the present occasion. . . . He declared that the resentment which all the Indians have in their hearts has been so strong, from the time this kingdom was discovered, because the religious and the Spaniards took away their idols and forbade their sorceries and idolatries; that they have inherited successively from their old men the things pertaining to their ancient customs; and that he has heard this resentment spoken of since he was of an age to understand.

United at Fray Cristóbal, the entire Hispanic community of New Mexico—less some 380 colonists and twenty-one Franciscans dead—resumed their inglorious trek southward through the dry Jornada del Muerto. [7]

Upriver, the rebels were celebrating.

Pretentions of El Popé

Pecos Glaze I bowl. After Kidder, Pottery, II

Just what the Pecos were doing is difficult to determine. If, as Fray Angelico Chavez suggests, a strapping mulatto named Naranjo, with big yellow eyes and a burning hatred of Spanish injustice, did assume the clever guise of the Pueblo "ancient one" Pohé-yemo and engineer the revolt from a kiva at Taos, he kept to the shadows. The conspicuous leader was El Popé, an ambitious, embittered San Juan medicine man flogged in 1675 at Governor Treviño's orders and harried from his pueblo by Francisco Javier. Once the Spaniards had gone, he took all the credit himself. [8]

El Popé was a paradox. He lashed out against everything Spanish, and he did it as only a Spaniard would. The Pueblos, driven to exasperation by demands for tribute and work and by the persecution of their native religion, had joined together to cast off their oppressors. For a few days or weeks, they had coordinated their efforts. But beyond that, they had no tradition of united political action. It was the Spaniards who had imposed a common sovereignty. Thus El Popé, in his effort to hold together what had been wrought against the Spaniards, ruled in the manner of a Spaniard. He even swaggered like one.

Testifying late in 1681, during Governor Otermín's bootless attempt at reconquest, several Pueblo captives described the administration of his would-be native successor.

Popé came down in person, and with him El Saca and El Chato from the pueblo of Los Taos, and other captains and leaders and many people who were in his train, and he ordered in all the pueblos through which he passed that they instantly break up and burn the images of the holy Christ, the Virgin Mary and the other saints, the crosses, and everything pertaining to Christianity, and that they burn the temples, break up the bells, and separate from the wives whom God had given them in marriage and take those whom they desired.

They hacked santos, tore up vestments, and fouled chalices with human excrement. To erase their Christian names and cleanse themselves of the water and holy oils of baptism, El Popé commanded that they wash in the rivers with yucca-root soap. Anyone who harbored in his heart a sympathy for priests or Spaniards would be known by his unclean face and clothes, and he would be punished accordingly. They must not even speak the name of Jesús or Mary or the saints, under pain of whipping or death.

They were ordered likewise not to teach the Castilian language in any pueblo and to burn the seeds which the Spaniards sowed and to plant only maize and beans, which were the crops of their ancestors . . . . all the nations obeyed in everything except in the command concerning Spanish seeds . . .

[Certain natives] moved by the zeal of Christians . . . Popé caused to be killed immediately. He saw to it that they [the Pueblos] at once erected and rebuilt their houses of idolatry called estufas, and made very ugly masks in imitation of the devil in order to dance the dance of the kachina; and he said likewise that the devil had given them to understand that living thus, in accordance with the law of their ancestors, they would harvest a great deal of maize, many beans, a great abundance of cotton, squash, and very large watermelons and cantaloupes; and that they could erect their houses and enjoy abundant health and leisure. [9]

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