Delaware Review of Latin American Studies

Vol. 15 No. 1   August 31, 2014

"We Would Live Like Brothers:" A Reexamination of Diego de Vargas' Reconquest of New Mexico and the Pueblo Indian Revolt, 1692-1696

Christopher Ross Petrakos
Historical Studies Department
University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada

Diego de Vargas' reconquest of New Mexico (1692-1696) and the Pueblo Revolt of 1696 is an almost forgotten episode in colonial Spanish history. While largely overshadowed by the more successful 1680 rebellion, this period is critical in understanding the cultural dynamics of Spanish power in the late seventeenth century. This paper situates the reconquest of New Mexico and the revolt of 1696 within the context of an emerging culltural consensus between the Pueblos and Spaniards. Through an extended examination of Diego de Vargas' journals and correspondence, I investigate the intersection of cultural identity and political allegiance on the fringes of the Spanish Empire.


When Governor Diego de Vargas left El Paso in the searing summer heat of 1692, he set about reversing nearly thirteen years of independent Pueblo rule in the remote frontier of Nuevo Mexico. And the odds were against him. For over a decade, the Pueblo Indians lived in complete freedom from Spanish control, the result of the most successful Indian uprising in the history of Spanish colonialism. With only fifty Spaniards and one hundred Indian allies and refugees, Vargas reconquered New Mexico in a four-month tour, surprising the Spanish world (Jones, 1966).1 Sending shockwaves through the beleaguered Empire, the news of Vargas’ bloodless reconquest resounded in Mexico City. The earliest account of the campaign by Sigüenza Góngora in 1693 chronicles the Viceroy’s ceremonious thanks to God and the Virgin Mary and the ringing of church bells in the imperial capital celebrating Vargas’ spectacular victory. Just before the 1693 New Year’s celebration, Vargas concluded his reconquest and did so “without wasting a single ounce of powder, unsheathing a sword, or (what is most worthy of emphasis and appreciation) without costing the treasury a single maravedí” (Gongora and Leonard, 1932, p. 88).Despite Sigüenza y Góngora’s praise of Vargas’ achievements, four years later, the Indians of New Mexico once again rose up in a concerted effort to throw off Spanish rule, killing five Franciscan missionaries and twenty-three Spanish vecinos and their Pueblo allies.2 For many historians, the 1696 pueblo revolt is much less worthy of attention than the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The former was, after all, unsuccessful, and by the early eighteenth century, the Spanish had firmly established their presence. This paper asks some of the basic questions of the Pueblo and Spanish interaction in the late seventeenth century: Why were the Pueblos so inconsistent in their reactions to Spanish rule? Why, for instance, were the Spaniards pledged loyalty in 1692 but forced to fight their way into Santa Fe early the next year? More importantly, why did the Pueblo Indians come to accept the Spaniards in 1694 but rebel two years later?

Historians have often discussed 1690s New Mexico as a watershed in Spanish/Pueblo relations: the end of Indian intransigence and the beginning of an inexorable and permanent advancement of civilization and Christianity in New Mexico. The classic statement of the reconquest is J. Manuel Espinosa’s 1947 The Crusaders of the Rio Grande, the Story of Don Diego de Vargas and the Reconquest and Refounding of New Mexico. It is here that Espinosa most fully articulates an apology for Spanish domination of the Pueblos and the pacification of the New Mexican frontier. Espinosa’s metaphors of crusade and conquest figure prominently in his account, as they describe the relationships implicit in the domination of the Rio Grande. To Espinosa, the advance of civilization and Christianity wiped-out traditional Indian beliefs, political organization, and culture, which to him were remnants of the “stone-age” (Espinoza, 1942, p. 8).  At the forefront of this crusade stood the Franciscan missionaries. To Espinosa, the Franciscans were “heroic agents of civilization” and their victories against both hostile environment and natives “looms as one of the most glorious and inspiring pages in the whole history of the Western Hemisphere” (Espinosa, 1944, p. 82 ).3

Outside Santa Fe in 1694, Diego de Vargas articulated a conception of Pueblo and Spanish relations that guided the reconquest of New Mexico in the late seventeenth century. At this time Spaniards were reclaiming territory in that remote outpost. Outside the city, which was once the center of Spanish control of the area, he declared that they “would live like brothers, all very content” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 472). This was not posturing by Vargas but an articulation of a new set of social relations that would govern Spanish/Pueblo interactions until the revolt of 1696. As Vargas gained headway in New Mexico 1692, the Pueblos viewed his appeals to equality and amity as an opportunity to both embrace and exploit. As Vargas reclaimed New Mexico, it appeared to many Pueblo Indians the Spaniards were simply another player in the complex and shifting sets of alliances that had developed in the twelve years since the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. By underscoring Pueblo reactions to the Spanish throughout the 1690s, taking seriously the cultural contexts of the Pueblo Indians who had lived, we can get a clearer picture of the causes of the 1696 Pueblo Revolt.

One of the aims of this paper is to build on recent research by postcolonial theorists and historical archeologists, who have called into question the stark dichotomy between colonizer and colonized in traditional narratives of the southwest. This paper argues that Pueblo and Spaniard were not two diametrically opposed cultural categories; rather they were cultures that shaped each other through almost a century of political and social interaction. While some Pueblos sincerely thought the Spaniards legitimate “sons of the land” and offered friendship, other Pueblos vowed to “fight them to the death” (Hackett, 1942, p. 235). By placing emphasis on inter-Pueblo responses to Spanish control as well as Spanish responses to Pueblo resistance, we gain a better understanding of the causes and course of the 1696 revolt as well as its failure. In this sense, my discussion speaks to issues debated in postcolonial and subaltern studies. The work of Ramon Grosfoguel, Walter Mignolo, and Anibal Quijano have all investigated the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer in Latin America and the development of Spanish and Amerindian relations in a global context. This paper contributes to their work by examining the establishment and spread of Spanish power in the absence of their direct ability to dominate and colonize the Pueblo Indians. Perhaps nowhere better are the limits of Spanish colonial domination revealed than in the failed project of colonization on the fringes of the Empire in the late seventeenth century.

The persistence of some variety of Spanish culture in the Pueblos late into the seventeenth century is one of the defining features of Pueblo society during the 1690s. Christianity hardly left with the Spanish in 1680. At Zuni in 1692, Vargas discovered a cache of Christian relics that Pueblos still used, apparently on a daily basis (Espinoza, 1991, p. 40). Vargas’ first meeting with Luis Tupatú, the war leader of the Tewa during the 1680 revolt, illustrates the great degree of continuity between these two cultures. The level of detail with which Vargas recorded the event is perhaps an indication of his surprise. Although unable to speak to Vargas without an interpreter, Luis Tupatú showed his readiness for friendship and an alliance symbolically showing him his “silver image of Christ,” a “small piece of taffeta with a printed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” and a pouch of relics, which Vargas was told he customarily wore (Vargas, 1992a, p. 407).

Throughout this period, Luis Tupatú served as a cultural intermediary, moving between the Spaniards, Apache, and the Pueblo Indians he represented, the Picuris, Tewa, and Tanos (Vargas, 1992a, 404; Schaafsma, 2002, p. 260; Carter, 2009, p. 200). He had been in fervent opposition to the Spaniards in 1680 but now had switched sides and assisted them in the 1690s. That he is commonly referred to by both his Indian surname “Tupatú” and his Spanish one Picurí further emphasizes his role as an interlocutor who moved within both worlds. Indeed, the line of demarcation between “Pueblo” and “Spaniard” was blurred in this period. Not only did the major leaders of both Pueblo revolts carry Spanish names but so did the leaders of Vargas’ Indian auxiliaries. For instance, Domingo Naranjo of Santa Clara, Antonio Malacate of Cochiti, Alonzo Catití of Santo Domingo, Domingo Romero of Tesuque, Don Felipe of Pecos and Antonio Bolsas of Santa Fe all suggest affinities with Spanish culture. Indeed, it should not be assumed that familiarity with Spanish culture is correlated to friendliness to the Spaniards: Antonio Bolsas, who was executed for resisting the Spaniards during the winter of 1694 at Santa Fe, spoke excellent Castilian and apparently knew Vargas very well (Vargas, 1992a p. 391, 404).4 

Many Pueblo Indians adorned themselves with Spanish-style clothing, rode horses, made leather, and copied their war tactics. In the summer of 1694, for instance, Vargas and his men, starving from lack of supplies at Santa Fe, made their way into the far northern reaches of the Pueblo world to look for supplies. Theirs was the first known European expedition into what is today Colorado. On their way, they were attacked by the Utes because they were mistaken for Pueblo raiders. The reason for this, according to Vargas, was because the Pueblos disguised themselves “by…coming on horseback…[in] suits of armor, dressed in leather and hats they make of rawhide like those the Spaniards wear”. (Vargas, 1998, p. 307; Espinoza, 1936, p. 186) Pueblo-Spanish exchange occurred not only on the fringes of the Pueblo world in Colorado but also in Santa Fe, the center of that world in the early 1690s. The scene outside there in 1692 may well have played out anywhere in Europe, for the Pueblos had flanked the ramparts of the city armed with “lances, heavy spears, and large lances.” Perhaps surprised at the quality of their weapons Vargas asked where they acquired them. He received an interesting reply: the Indians in Santa Fe had their own blacksmith “who made lances for them” (Vargas, 1992a, p. 391-392). Cultural adaptation was apparent even in the far Western Pueblo, Hopi, where Vargas was greeted by a regiment of three hundred men on horseback “armed with leather jackets, lances, swords, and guns” (Forbes, 1994 p. 241). There is also evidence that Vargas used his Pueblo allies as emissaries between the Spaniards and Pueblos. Outside Santa Fe around Christmas 1692, for instance, Vargas and his men were encamped on the outskirts of the city in preparation for a siege. Before the battle, however, Vargas sent two Indian informants into the city to confirm the impending Indian revolt and gain information about it. Dressed “like Spaniards,” these Indian allies had no problem entering the homes and interviewing the Indians there, apparently getting close enough to overhear the rebel leader, Antonio Bolsas discussing plans for the revolt—in Spanish (Vargas, 1992b, p. 521).

Although the Pueblos had absorbed aspects of Spanish culture as their own, they were divided over the return of the Spaniards. Despite this tension and difference of opinion among the Pueblos, there still existed an intimate relationship between the two. When Governor Otermín passed through Cieneguilla de Cochití in the summer of 1681, according to one informant, he was met by one of the rebel leaders, Alonso Catití. Feigning peace, Catití arranged to send them “all the prettiest, most pleasing, and neatest Indian women so that under pretense of coming down to prepare food for the Spaniards, they could provoke them to lewdness and kill them” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 235-241). This was hardly resistance by one culturally and incomprehensibly distinct “other,” but instead resistance of one cultural and social familiar. The familiarity and intimacy between Pueblos and Spaniards persisted in spite of the 1680 Revolt and the revolt leader’s call for an extirpation of Spanish influence from Pueblo culture.5

By the time of Vargas’ successful entrada, or expedition,in 1692, any semblance of Pueblo unity had since given way to factionalism and war. Popé, the organizer of the 1680 rebellion was dead, and the other leaders who had helped bring about the destruction of Spanish authority in New Mexico were divided among themselves. The major Pueblo alliances that developed after 1680 transcend language and ethnic groups. The most powerful was headed by Tupatú who allied the Picuris, Tewa, and Tanos Indians. This alliance united most of the northern Tewa and three villages to the east including Santa Fe. This alliance between the Picuris, Tewa and Tanos also included the Navajos and Acho Apaches whom Tupatú frequently consulted and traded with (Schaafsma 2002b p. 260; Vargas, 1992a p. 404; Vargas, 1992b p. 438). When Vargas made his first entrada, for the benefit of those who might not know Spanish to Santa Fe in 1692, for instance, he stayed perhaps later than he would have liked, as Tupatú was meeting with the Navajo Apache just outside San Juan ostensibly to trade but more likely to discuss a defensive alliance before meeting with Vargas (Vargas, 1992a, p. 403). The second alliance existed between the Pecos and Taos Indians while, the third group the Keres of Cochiti—were under the leadership of Antonio Malacate. The Keres often played a supporting role among the other two groups. The latter two alliances, on friendly terms with one another, were unable to successfully challenge the alliances created by Tupatú. But these alliances were neither hard nor fast during this period, particularly after the arrival of the Spanish (Forbes, 1994, p. 237; Robins, 2005, p. 235). By the end of 1693, due to infighting between the Pueblos these alliances splintered, with the main anti-Spanish strong-holds at the predominantly Tewa Pueblo at San Ildefonso, the Keres at Cieneguilla Mesa, and the imposing Black Mesa at Jemez. The far western Pueblos at Acoma and Hopi apparently were ungovernable and outside the range of Spanish power centered in Santa Fe. When Vargas redistributed Franciscan missionaries throughout the Pueblo world at the end of 1694, these Pueblos were excluded, apparently because of the lack of resources and the hostility of those Pueblos to Spanish rule.

Although the Pueblos were divided, they all shared a common history of Spanish rule and had absorbed aspects of Spanish culture, something that the revolt of 1680 was unable to erase. Indeed, as one historian has persuasively argued, the 1680 Pueblo Revolt was less the result of cultural differences between Pueblo and Spanish worlds than similarities (Knaut, 1995, p. 152-153). But instead of conceiving of “Pueblo” and “Spaniard” as two opposing cultural categories at odds with one another, one could see it as the beginning of a period characterized by cultural and political accommodation between what had become two very similar societies. On one hand, some Pueblos apparently accepted the culture and Christianity of the Spaniards and longed for a return of familiar Spanish rule and the protection from Apache raiders, while others condemned the Spaniards allied with Apaches, and terrorized the Spaniards’ Indian allies. Divided opinion among the Pueblos was not based as much on differences of culture than on the function of Spanish authority within the Pueblos. This difference in opinion over Spanish rule is a central feature in creating a context for distrust between the Pueblos and the Spaniard.

Creating the Context of Distrust, the “Bloodless Reconquest,” 1692-1693
On his way to Santa Fe in 1692, Vargas passed deserted Indian villages, some dating from the time of the 1680 Revolt and others the result of Apache raids that had plagued the Pueblos throughout the century. On his way to San Felipe Pueblo in 1692, Vargas’ journal depicts the kinds of behavior that were central to Pueblo understanding of the Spanish and the reconquest in the early 1690s. High atop the Santa Ana mesa overlooking the eastern bank of the Rio Grande, the Pueblo lookouts of San Felipe watched hesitantly as the Spaniards made their northward advance to the Rio Arriba in the fall of 1692. Traveling ahead of the main company to the Pueblo of Santo Domingo, Vargas’ war captains Fernando de Chaves and Capt. Antonio Jorge noticed that the Indians of San Felipe immediately fled upon seeing the Spaniards, perhaps remembering the atrocities of the failed Otermín and Cruzate reconquests. After Chaves and Jorge stopped one of the Indians, promising the Spaniards were coming to neither make war nor do them harm, they received a response that characterizes this period. According to the anonymous Indian, who spoke to them in Spanish, “[The Keres of San Felipe] did not want war but peace with the Spaniards. Because the Tewas and Tanos, who all speak the same language, were making war against them and causing much damage, they celebrated the coming of the Spaniards and would help them kill the Tewas” (Vargas, 1992a, p. 384-385). Unlike almost every other Pueblo group throughout this period, the Pueblos of San Felipe were one of the most consistent allies of the Spaniards. They were faithful to their promises of peace during Vargas’ recolonization campaign of 1694 and remained one of the few loyal Pueblos during the revolt of 1696 that provided auxiliary troops and provisions for the Spaniards. This relatively obscure but significant encounter between the Spaniards and the natives of San Felipe Pueblo illustrates one of the defining features of Pueblo/Spanish interaction of the early 1690s: The Spaniards were welcomed so long as they acted as a counterweight in the complex system of Pueblo alliances that developed after 1680.

The acceptance of the Spanish by the Keres of San Felipe was the exception rather than the rule, however. Distrust was nothing new in Pueblo-Spanish relations, and the cause of Pueblo distrust was fear, the result of a legacy stretching back into the 1680s. When Vargas entered Santa Fe in 1692—the first Spanish homecoming in nearly a dozen years—he met with Tewa and Tano Indians so hostile that he expressed doubts that he could ever conquer them (Espinoza, 1996, p. 67). Replaying a ritual that would symbolically reunite the rebellious Pueblos to Spanish rule throughout 1692, Vargas’ alférez, or standard-bearer, raised the image of the Virgin and interpreters recited the alabado sea el Santísimo Sacramento, a hymn to the sacraments. To this show of force, the Pueblos delivered a very telling reply. Perhaps indicative of the kind of treatment received at the hands of the Spaniards throughout the 1680s, they asked that “if they were really Spanish why were they not shooting?” (Vargas, 1992a, p. 388). Mere offers of pardons were not enough to convince the Pueblos of their goodwill. Almost immediately, the Indians took to the ramparts of the city ready with their “lances, heavy spears, bows, arrows and large lances.” At this point Vargas questioned one of the Indians, who he later learned was Antonio Bolsas, a Tanos leader at Santa Fe. He was told that the Indians well remembered the harsh treatment of the Spaniards. He went on to ask if specific Spaniards were with them, “Javier, Quintana, and Diego Lopez,” thinking that the Spaniards had come to kill them (Vargas, 1992a, p. 391). Their distrust was justifiable, as these three Spaniards’ harsh treatment of their servants and their execution of four medicine men in 1675 were, arguably, the catalysts for the 1680 revolt (Espinosa 1996 p. 67; Knaut, 1995, p. 167). In a twist of fate, only after Vargas cut off the water supply to the city—an action the recalled twelve years before when the Pueblos had done the same thing to the Spaniards—that the Tewa war leader Domingo sued for peace. The peace negotiation that ensued however was motivated not by an understanding between the two sides; it was motivated by fear. When Tewa reinforcements made their way to Santa Fe the next day, Vargas was put into a position that forced him to forge an alliance with the Indians in Santa Fe that almost destroyed him.

The reason for ultimate Spanish success was Vargas’ alliance with Luis Tupatú, the leader of the Tewa, Tanos, Picurís and conspirator with Apache de Navajo. Before heading to Santa Fe to meet Vargas, Tupatú met with Apaches Indians at San Juan, with whom he was trading and discussing the return of the Spaniards. Throughout this period, Tupatú kept in close contact with the Navajo Apache and often acted in concert with them against the Spanish (Vargas, 1992a, p. 404). Tupatu had a long career plotting against the Spanish and conspiring among the whole spectrum of disaffected Pueblos and even Spanish vecinos. In 1680 he had been a leading member of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and Popé’s successor of the Tewa and Tano Indians. In 1692 he allied with Vargas and, later in 1696, he was one of the principle architects of the rebellion. Indeed, leaders like Tupatú break down the traditional categories of race and culture that historians use to describe Indian/Spanish relations during this period. Indeed, the complex set of alliances that developed after 1680 knew no cultural barriers. Tupatú was both Indian chief and, as Debra S. McDonald has pointed out, an interlocutor of Pueblo Indians and marginalized “mixed blood” Spanish groups like mistreated coyotes, mestizos, and mulattoes in the area (McDonald, 1998, p. 142). Although she states that because of the lack of documentary evidence it is impossible to know whether Indian-casta alliances continued throughout the 1680s, the readiness with which Tupatu entered into an alliance with Vargas suggests that they did.

On Monday September 15, Luis Tupatú entered Santa Fe to discuss an alliance with Vargas (Vargas, 1992a, p. 406). When he came to see Vargas that day, there is no question that he came to see him as an equal: “all dressed in animal hides as is their custom. On his forehead near the crown of his head he was wearing a palm straw band that looked like a diadem. It was woven like a cordon and in the middle above his forehead was a heart shaped shell.” As one historian put it, “all of which gave the appearance of a crown” (Espinosa, 1946, p. 68).  Tupatú not only dressed as an Indian of “high ceremonial status” but more significantly brought with him three hundred “fully armed Indians on foot and horseback,” an army larger and better equipped and trained than Vargas’ force (Vargas, 1992b, p. 191). It is impossible to know why Tupatú did not eliminate the Spaniards at Santa Fe, but evidence from Vargas’ campaign journal suggests that it was because Tupatú needed an ally against his enemies.

The exchange of gifts that occurred when Vargas met Tupatú at Santa Fe showed to Tupatú that Vargas thought of him as an equal. According to Vargas, when the two leaders met, they exchanged gifts in a rather elaborate ceremony. In his letter to the king Charles II, Vargas stated that he met Luis Tupatú in the Plaza de Armas in Santa Fe on September 15, 1692 and “Received him peacefully, treated them kindly and gave them gifts. They did the same, giving me various animal skins from elks, buffalos, and seals” (Vargas, 1992b, 191).  Ramón Gutiérrez and other historians and anthropologists have pointed out that gift giving in Pueblo cultures is an exchange between equals. As Gutiérrez states, “A gift properly reciprocated with a counter gift establishes the exchanging parties as equals.” Anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, noted that gift giving was analogous to payment for goods sold or services rendered in European culture: “How can a man expect much without paying something in return?” (Gutierrez 1991, p. 9; Parsons, 1939, p. 77). In other words, when Tupatú came to Santa Fe and met with Vargas, they met as equals with intentions of making an alliance that benefited their interests.

Luis Tupatú viewed the Spanish as a possible ally against their enemies. When he and Diego Vargas discussed the future of Spanish rule in Rio Arriba, the two powerful leaders clashed over the course of the reconquest. By 1692, the Pueblos had splintered into well-defined camps but none were powerful enough to establish themselves as the undisputed leaders of the area. The Spaniards, thus, became supremely important in the system of alliances within the Pueblo world. Despite Luis Tupatú’s ceremonious behavior towards Vargas, he clearly thought of himself as the one who set the terms of the alliance. This is particularly evident when he told Vargas he was “content” with the reoccupation of Santa Fe, but then went on to suggest that Vargas should leave for a year, apparently so that Tupatú could muster more Pueblos to fight with the Spanish against their enemies. Hearing this, Vargas sensed condescension and apparently rose to exclaim, “Your majesty had sent me to conquer not only the villa but the whole kingdom.” He went on to tell him that “the King of Spain’s power was great and that if [Luis killed him], the King of Spain would ‘send many more people to kill them all” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 191).

According to Vargas, it was his “resolution” and “honesty” that persuaded Tupatú to accept Vargas’ pardon and the Christian religion. In his report to Charles II, Vargas was likely posturing as a chivalric conquistador, as this statement stretches the truth. Luis Tupatú’s acceptance of Spanish power was contingent upon an alliance with the Spaniards against his enemies, the Pecos. The characterization of Vargas as a “bold” and “intrepid” “crusader” by contemporary historians is valid in so far as it is used to describe his frequent disregard for his own personal safety and that of his men, something clear in his refusal to retreat from Santa Fe in during the winter of 1692-93 and his disregard of missionary testimony in 1695-96 of an impending Pueblo revolt. If not bold intrepid or even “suicidal,” as his actions are characterized, they certainly were irresponsible. However, while historians laud Vargas’ military decisions, they often overlook Vargas’ pledge to unite the Picuris, Tewa, and Tano Pueblos as his allies to defeat Tupatú’s enemies. Vargas states, “since the Pecos nation is numerous and friendly with his enemy, the Faraón Apaches, as is the Taos nation…I would go to these two Pueblos …to see whether I could unite them as…allies. If not, Tupatú would assist me with some men, so that with mine, we could make war against them until we were victorious” (Vargas, 1992a, p. 410). It is unsurprising that not only did Tupatú promise Vargas his friendship but also armed men and horses on his expedition to the Pecos. The next day, Lorenzo Tupatú, the brother of Luis and war captain, met with Vargas to solidify further the terms of the alliance. Giving him the “same kindness as his brother,” Vargas accepted his friendship—and his pledge of men in the war against the Pecos. In part to seal the alliance, Vargas then became the godfather to three Pueblo girls “of various ages”, whom he named Isabel, Francesca, and Maria (Espinosa, 1940, p. 109).

A few days after the alliance was made, Vargas headed out to Pecos Pueblo with his Indian allies. Watching the allied troops head towards their home a couple of Pecos Indians were spotted by one of Vargas’ Tewa allies in the nearby mountains. Understandably anxious because the Tewa were their enemies, the Pecos Indians voiced their distain for both the Spaniards and their allies. When Domingo, a Tewa war captain told them that they were “safe,” the Pecos replied they “did not want to return to their pueblo and those that made friends with the Spaniards, who were a pack of liars, were a bunch of old women.” It was reported that the Pecos wanted “neither peace nor friendship” (Vargas, 1992a, p. 432). The Pecos were not united in opinion regarding the return of the Spaniards, however. Vargas, it seems, was well aware of the internal dissent between the anti-Spanish youth and pro-Spanish elders and sought to undermine the former’s position by treating them magnanimously. He did this by doing something completely unimaginable—he left Pecos alone. Sacking neither their milpas nor stores of grain, Vargas ruminated to himself in his journal that “I have proceeded with such mature and prudent understanding that even the kivas they have, of which there are many in this pueblo, have been neither burned nor buried” (Vargas, 1992a, p. 434). By leaving Pecos pueblo alone, Vargas undermined the position of the anti-Spanish faction at Pecos but created tension and distrust between himself and the Tewa alliance entered at Santa Fe. These tensions will plague Pueblo-Spanish relations until the revolt of 1696. Although Vargas managed to undercut the young war hawks at Pecos, his action fueled resentment among the Tupatú alliance, which pushed them further in league with the Apache. Indeed, when Sigüenza y Góngora immortalized Vargas’ expedition in 1693, it was only the beginning of what was to be a sustained and bloody encounter that would last another three years.

Rumor, Recolonization, and War, 1693-1694
Upon returning to El Paso, after a four month travail, Vargas reported to the Conde de Galve, the viceroy of New Spain, the achievement of the “bloodless reconquest”: twenty-three Pueblos and ten Indian nations repossessed for the King, seventy-six captives returnedto their families, and most importantly, 2,224 souls baptized for the Catholic faith. When Vargas left El Paso on October 4, 1693, with 70 families mostly recruited from Zacatecas, Sombrete, and Fresnillo, along with over 900 head of cattle, 2,000, horses, and 1,000 mules, he set about to permanently recolonize New Mexico and return Spanish influence (Espinosa, 1996 p. 129). At the head of the 1,200 settler caravan was Our Lady of the Rosary, La Conquistadora, along with seventeen rather inexperienced Franciscan missionaries (Norris, 2000, 33-34). Nothing went according to plan. In stark contrast to the “bloodless reconquest” of 1692 and the promises of peace and loyalty that went with it, the colonizing expedition of 1693-1694 saw continued revolt and hostilities from Pueblo groups.

Historians of this period have various explanations for the Pueblos breaking their promises of peace. According to Jessie Bailey’s account of this period, Vargas’ trek from El Paso to Santa Fe was peaceful, having made allies of the Pecos after the siege and friends with the Keres, who welcomed Vargas in 1693 as they had done in 1692. In Bailey’s view, the pathetic condition of the Spaniards outside Santa Fe in late December of 1693 undermined confidence in Spanish authority, causing the Pueblos to rise up against them. According to him, “The natives trusted their success on the rigorous climate that caused much hardship among the Spaniards” (Bailey, 1946, p. 95-106).  Oakah Jones, however, pins the cause of insurrection on some Pueblos’ belief that the Spaniards would exact revenge against them for their role in the revolt of 1680, an argument used by Gutiérrez in his more recent account of that period. These arguments neglect the social context of the revolt (Jones, 1966, p. 47; Gutierrez, 1991, p.144). More specifically, that rumors of Spanish vengeance caused disintegration of Vargas’ carefully managed alliances made the year before. These rumors undermined Pueblo confidence in the Spaniards thereby freeing the Pueblos of their obligations to them. This context of distrust that emerged after 1692 was especially detrimental to the fledgling Spanish reoccupation in 1693-94, since friendly relations with the Pueblos were central to ensuring the successful recolonization of the area. Indeed, so widespread were the rumors that Vargas counted it a “complete wonder and miracle” that he and his men got out of Rio Arriba alive (Vargas, 1992b, 406).

For all intents and purposes, Vargas’ trek from El Paso in 1693 was an almost an exact copy of the year before. Tewa Indians were harassing the Keres, while Apache raiders were decimating both milpa and livestock. On November 10, 1693, however, Vargas’ situation changed when a messenger from Zia returned to a small hacienda outside Santa Fe with information that only San Felipe, Santa Ana, and Zia had kept their promises of loyalty from the year before. Reaching San Felipe Pueblo two days later, he was welcomed by the Pueblos and his “compadre” Andrés. The Pueblos greeted him unarmed and the women arrived “very well dressed, all with their crosses around their necks” (Vargas, 1992b, 405). Here Vargas heard of the disloyal Pueblos and the “watchful and rebellious mood” of the Tewa, Tanos, and Taos pueblos towards the Spaniards. Vargas thus sent runners to the Indian governors whom he had appointed the year before with letters and gifts of rosaries to let them know he was back and headed north (Vargas, 1992b, 402). While stationed the next day at San Felipe, Vargas heard even worse news. Antonio Malacate, the leader at Zia, was planning a revolt among the Keres. The prime reason for the uprising was a rumor propagated the year before by one of Vargas’ translators, Pedro de Tapia. According to Pecos governor Juan de Ye, during a 1692 speech, Tapia said that Spanish pardons were bogus and at their return they would “kill them and run everyone through with a knife. [Vargas] was only going to save and leave alive those from twelve to fourteen years of age or older” (Vargas, 1992b, 406). Elizabeth A.H. John described the rumor as “tragically plausible as it was false, consistent with Spanish actions Pueblos had seen before and with their own ideas of vengeance.” The rumor was far from the “stock argument,” as it is commonly portrayed, used to justify Pueblo resistance but the central reason for the Indian uprisings (John, 1975, p. 127). The impact of these rumors is perhaps the most understudied aspect of this period.

Between November 1693 and September 1694, these rumors would not only sever alliances between Pueblos and the Spaniard but also force the Spaniards from a benevolent and paternal posturing towards the Pueblo Indians into a defensive one that would in turn fuel Pueblo distrust of the Spaniards. Immediately after Vargas heard news of the rumor, he exclaimed, “I could have died because of this, and all my men could have perished” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 406). Before reaching the fortified town of Santa Fe in the winter of 1693, Vargas had to deal with one major Indian revolt that was caused by the rumors of Tapia. Stationed at San Juan pueblo, Vargas sent Indian runners throughout Rio Arriba promising not only peace but specifically repudiating the rumors of the year before. It was also here that Vargas learned of a Tewa-Tanos conspiracy at Cieneguilla de Cochiti. First, Vargas called on the Indian governors that he appointed the year before to discuss the impending revolt. Vargas then met the principal players whose continued recalcitrance would plague the project of Spanish recolonization for the next few years. In an indication of their distrust, the leaders of the Pueblo factions arrived to meet Vargas “fully armed.” That evening Vargas interrogated the captains, intending to “make them understand that my coming was permanent” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 416). Belying Vargas’ words was the fact that the Spaniards were extremely vulnerable: not only were they low on provisions and soldiers but also many women on his expedition were pregnant. In fact, during November, things got worse for Vargas when some of his soldiers deserted Vargas’ army, perhaps more willing to take their chances among the Pueblos or Apache. The defections left Vargas even more exposed during the late fall and winter of 1693. It is no wonder that Vargas’ affirmation of Spanish superiority to the governors of the area, “did not sit well.” Nevertheless, after their meeting, Vargas ordered “artillery set up in the outposts where an assault is most likely” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 417).

The next week, on November 25, the revolt of the Pueblos seemed evident. On that day, Juan de Ye, a loyal Pecos Indian who was a staunch supporter of the Spanish, reported to Vargas that the Tewa, Tano, and Picuris nation led by Luis Tupatú planned a junta of all the powerful Indian governors in the area including the Rio Colorado Apache and the Apache de Navajo to discuss a general revolt against the Spaniards. To Vargas’ surprise, they were the same Indians who had pledged loyalty to him the week before, along with Antonio Bolsas of Santa Fe, Domingo of Santa Clara, and José Naranjo of San Ildefonso. According to Ye, these powerful leaders were to meet at the Cieneguilla and were preparing to massacre the Spaniards in a concerted attack (Vargas, 1992b, p. 438). According to one informant, there would be two groups, one comprised of the Indian governors who would beguile Vargas into a meeting at Cieneguilla, while another would ambush him and his men. The only reason that this plan did not materialize was because the Jemez and Pecos Indians would not support the revolt. Pecos remained loyal to Vargas throughout this period. It is worth noting that when Juan de Ye outlined the plan for revolt, he included in his summary that the Tewas living at Santa Fe learned from Vargas’ siege the year before and “deepened their well” so that Vargas would be unable to divert their water source. According to Ye, the defections of some of Vargas’ soldiers also emboldened the rebellious Pueblos, causing them to say “they were as manly as the Spaniards” and that as foot soldiers the Spaniards “were worthless” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 439; Espinosa, 1942, p. 142).

When Vargas questioned Luis Tupatú regarding the impeding revolt, Luis recalled the “evil words of Tapia” that had caused so much tension among the Pueblos, especially those at Santa Fe (John, 1975, p. 131). In fact, so destructive were these rumors that between the November 25 meeting between Vargas and his Indian adversaries and December 16, Vargas embarked on a Pueblo-wide tour to counter Tapia’s rumor. Evidently, Vargas’ attempt to explain that “Tapia had deceived them in order to take their deer skins, elk skins, and buffalo hides from them” was to no avail (Vargas, 1992b, 458). When Vargas’ war captain, Miguel Luján, arrived from Santa Fe, it was reported that there was “certainly a lot of talk, differing opinions, and partisanship among the inhabitants. All of this was caused by what Pedro de Tapia had told them” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 462-463).

By mid December, Vargas seemed intent on putting down the Tewa and Tano Pueblos holed up at Santa Fe. According to him, “If it is impossible to conquer them, everything that has been done could fail.” On December 16, he entered the plaza with colonists recruited from northern Mexico, seventy families in all: twenty-three African, Mulatto, and Mestizo and the rest “full blood Spaniards.”6 Entering the city ceremoniously, kneeling while the priests sang psalms and prayers, including the Te Deum Laudamus and the Litany of our Lady, the Pueblo reception was nevertheless cool. Vargas tried to quell any suspicion that the Pueblos had of the Spaniards by recalling their pledges of loyalty the year before. Here, Vargas told them he came to ask of them two things: That they be good Christians hearing mass and say prayers asking that they be safe from Apaches. “These were the only reasons I came,” Vargas told them. Specifically recalling the rumors of Tapia, Vargas threatened to punish any Indian rabble-rousers after fair a trial (Vargas, 1992b, p. 466). Vargas’ speech was highly conciliatory towards the Tewas and Tanos residing at Santa Fe, despite their repeated conspiracies against the Spanish.

In Vargas’ words, the peace that would be restored to the Pueblos would allow everyone to “live like brothers, all very content” (Vargas, 1992b, p. 472). Vargas proved to be not only a benevolent general to the Pueblo Indians but also was culturally accommodating. At one point, while the Spaniard were still encamped outside the city, some Indians reported to Vargas that there was not enough timber to build a church for the newly installed Franciscan priest. The Indians requested to Vargas that their kiva, or traditional ceremonial room, be whitewashed and used in its stead. The whitewashing of the kiva suggests that it may have been painted with images of the kachina, Pueblo spirit beings. It was at this time that Vargas, inside the sacred space of the Indian kiva, publicly denounced the rumors of Tapia. Vargas declared inside their kiva, “Before I would harm you in any way, the Earth would open making a hole larger than this kiva. It would swallow me alive and close up again, unbeknownst to anyone” (Vargas and, 1998, p. 65) However, the Spaniards would not convert that kiva into a chapel. According to Vargas, one Franciscan priest rejected the idea “for reasons the Friar was keeping to himself,” despite protests of the Pueblos. Although the Pueblos would have to rebuild a chapel, this episode is a high point in Vargas’ conciliatory attitude towards the Pueblos. Indeed, it should be noted that when the friar dismissed the idea of using the kiva as a chapel, Vargas reportedly argued, “the main cathedrals of Spain had been Moorish mosques ” (Vargas, 1998, p. 68; Kessell, 1994, p. 27). Shortly thereafter, however, the whole project of recolonization would change course.

By December 28, the Spaniards, still camping outside Santa Fe, were facing extreme hardships. Not only were the colonists facing hunger, but it was unusually cold that year, and it was feared that the children would perish because on that day that Vargas initiated talks with the Pueblos at Santa Fe wanting them to return to their historic homes west of the city, at Galisteo (Vargas, 1998, p. 69). According to one Indian informant, Agustín de Salazar, there was mixed opinion within the city but none of it welcoming to the Spaniards. In fact, from the deposition of this Indian, the Pueblos clearly considered the Spaniards a weak and defeatable enemy. According to him, some Pueblos advocated heading to the mountains adjoining Santa Fe and fight the Spaniards there or fight them outside the city. At this point war seemed inevitable (Vargas, 1998, p. 69; Vargas, 1992b, p. 525).

The Battle of Santa Fe was the bloodiest encounter yet and the cause of further distrust between the two groups. Although it only lasted one day, the close quarters of the city required Vargas and his men to conduct door-to-door searches of the homes putting Vargas’ men in great danger. Indeed, the battle was so decisive that the Indian governor Jose, committed suicide by hanging himself once realizing the Spaniard’s victory (Vargas, 1992b, p. 533). The relatively swift victory was matched by Vargas’ harshness towards the Pueblos, something meant to end for once and for all the Indian rebellion, but it had the opposite effect. By the end of battle, a total of eighty-one Pueblos were killed: nine battle deaths, two suicides, and seventy executed (Espinosa, 1942, p. 162). Beyond all doubt, the mass executions as a result of the battle exacerbated the level of distrust between the two groups. In effect, Vargas’ treatment of the Indians after the battle of Santa Fe confirmed and perpetuated the rumors of Tapia, first told almost two years before. As Tewa and Tano Indians fled the walled city just after Christmas in 1694, they carried with them the belief that the rumors of Tapia were coming to fruition. These beliefs, reinforced by Vargas’ treatment of the captives, raised the stakes in both the pro and anti-Spanish factions’ struggle to survive. The statement of one Jemez leader after the Spanish siege there in 1694 reveals the impasse between these factions after the Battle of Santa Fe:

Asked what the people of [Jemez] Pueblo say, he said that first they said they had to be friends of the Spaniards. The Tewas came later, and they told them not to be friends with the Spaniards, who only came to kill them all and should go away. For this reason, they said they should not merely attack but fight to the death (Vargas, 1998, p. 238).

Rumor and the 1696 Pueblo Revolt
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Tapia’s rumor would plague the Spaniards until the summer of 1696, when in a concerted attack, the Pueblos of San Cristóbal, Nambé, and Jemez, killed their resident priests and twenty-one Spanish settlers and their Indian allies. The Pueblo Revolt of 1696 has often been looked upon by historians as an isolated incident and divorced from the larger period of reconquest. And by no means do historians agree on what exactly caused it. In fact, that historians so widely disagree on the origins of the revolt is a significant commentary on the historiography of the period. In Pueblo Warriors and the Spanish Conquest, Oakah Jones lays the blame for the revolt on the “crop failure during the winter of 1695-1696, combined with the renewed hostility of the Indians” as reason for the hostilities (Jones, 1966, p. 56). John Kessell, in his study of Pecos instead argues that the creation of the Spanish settlement at Santa Cruz de la Canada was the principle cause of the revolt since it necessitated the forced removal of Tano Indians from their traditional villages (Kessell, 1987, p. 281). The most prevalent argument among historians of this period is that religious confrontation between the Franciscans and the Pueblos was the main cause of the revolt. David Weber, Elizabeth John, and J. Manuel Espinosa, for instance, stress religious confrontation between over-zealous Franciscan friars who “strove to root out all pagan practice and belief” as the leading cause of the revolt (Weber, 1992, p. 139; John, 1975, p. 139-140; Espinosa, 1996, p. 48-50). Jim Norris in After the Year Eighty, takes a similar approach as the historians discussed above (Norris, 2000, p. 28-53). Examining the role of Franciscan Missionaries in New Mexico during this period, Norris paints a picture of clerical incompetence and unqualified missionaries assisting in the spiritual reconquest of 1692—1696. This is a significant finding in the context of the Pueblo Revolt of 1696, since the most dominant school of thought stresses the religious dimension of the revolt and uses sources generated by the missionaries to document the religious tension between the Pueblos and Spaniards. By the spring of 1696, crop failures and disease forced Vargas to reduce the number of soldiers kept at the missions, leaving the Franciscans exposed. Alarmed by the lack of military support, the Franciscans petitioned Vargas throughout the spring to supply them with troops, which he provided by moving small contingents of troops periodically to different Pueblos. This movement of troops and the anxieties of the Friars caused the Pueblo Indians to become extremely suspicious of Spanish intentions, and ultimately to revolt.

Although these interpretations of the revolt are all quite plausible, they neglect the social context and, to a large degree, the longer-term historical context of the revolt. As shown, the persistence of distrust exacerbated by the executions at Santa Fe caused by the spread of rumors, which provided the catalyst of the Indian uprising. When in 1696, the Tewa, Tano, and Keres along with the Apache rose up in a concerted effort to rid themselves of Spanish oppression, they did it not because of famine, epidemic, or for religious reasons but because they distrusted the Spaniards and were fearful that they were planning to murder them. 

By March 1696, the missionaries began receiving information of an impending Indian uprising. Francisco de Vargas the Custodian of the New Mexico, reported to Diego de Vargas on March 7, of rumors of armed violence, recalling the horrors of 1680. According to him, the missionaries were “completely alone” and were “without any way to protect themselves” (Vargas, 1998 p. 675). The major source of Franciscan unease centered on rumors of an impending Indian revolt and the subsequent lack of military support. According to Custos Vargas, the Custodian of the Holy See of New Mexico, Spanish military support was the sole cause of Pueblo cooperation at the missions and, without aid, the Friars were threatening to abandon their posts. Vargas believed the military, not the missions, were the cornerstone of stability in the Pueblo world. In his view, because the Spaniards were unable to properly feed themselves and provide protection to the friars, they appeared weak. Thus, according to Custos Vargas, “the missionaries, because they find selves alone, neither dare to punish evil, nor do the Indians fear anything more than the force of Spanish arms and their alcaldes mayors” (district-level governor judges” (Vargas, 1998, p. 675-676).

Diego de Vargas’ reply to Custos Vargas is telling in its insistence on the loyalty of the Pueblos. To him, the cause of unrest was not genuine disaffection with Spanish rule, but rather the result of certain “Indian rabble-rousers” stirring up trouble (Vargas, 1998 p. 677). Replying to Custos Vargas that March, Diego de Vargas promised armed escorts for the Friars, “if I was able to give one.” For the most part, the missions did not receive the reinforcements asked for. In reality, Vargas knew the number of troops he would be able to send would be totally inadequate to protect the Friars, given the toll wrought by disease and famine in the Spanish militia of the previous year. Out of the fourteen missions that asked for armed escorts, only the missionary at Pecos received the full amount they asked for (Vargas, 1998, p. 675). Vargas stressed that his decision was based not on the belief that the Pueblos were rebellious, but merely to appease the friars. Agreeing to distribute some of Vargas’ already strained military force to the most populous pueblos, Vargas pointed out the centrality of the missions in holding the territory gained during the last four years: “Without their missions, the Indians may mistrust me and the Spaniards, and what is presumed about them and the uprising they have decided upon may be certain (Vargas, 1998, p. 679).” Vargas was also explicit in his belief that the anxiety of the Friars was more the result of their inexperience than the reality of an impending Indian revolt. In his view, “the fear of the religious, who find themselves alone, caused more division of purpose than even the Indians’ intentions” (Vargas, 1998, p. 699).”7

When news of the revolt did arrive on June 4, 1696, it came in the form of a letter delivered by an Indian ally, el Tempano from Roque Madrid the Alcalde Mayor of Santa Cruz. This letter told of revolt in San Cristóbal of Tewa Indians along with Keres, Apache, Hopi, and Pecos Indians (Vargas, 1998 p. 727). Soon after, Vargas and his men would see first hand the atrocities wrought by the Pueblos—priests savagely butchered and churches and holy objects desecrated and burned. At San Ildefonso, the center of Pueblo resistance just over a year before, Fray Francisco Corvera and Fray Antonio Moreno were suffocated to death. When they sought sanctuary in their church, the Indians there boarded up the windows and doors and lit the place afire (Vargas, 1998 p. 727-729).

Since the Spaniards were excellent record keepers, they kept detailed assessments of the revolt. Unlike the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, this revolt was unsuccessful and none of the archives were lost to pillaging Indians. The depositions of the captured Indian leaders survive, which give an excellent picture of the motivation of the Indians in their decision to rebel. The most significant element of the depositions is the informants’ unanimous insistence on rumor and anxiety as the root causes of the revolt. Perhaps the most informative depositions come from two Jemez war leaders who were its leading participants. Caught by Spaniards carrying a reliquary of a murdered priest to Pecos, these war captains were forced to testify (Vargas, 1998 p. 748). Undergoing an interrogatorio (interrogation) the Alcalde Mayor of Santa Fe, Luis Granillo, took their depositions. According to the formal dictates of the interrogatorio, the Alcalde Mayor accompanied by two other witnesses asked a set of questions (Cutter, 1995, p. 127). When asked why they rebelled, the responses yielded the same answer, even from Indians of different linguistic and ethnic groups. Diego Xenome, a cacique from Nambé, testified that he heard at Cochiti that the Spaniards and some of their Indian allies were planning to “kill all the men, leaving only the boys. This is why the Spanish had come.” He goes on to remark that these rumors occasioned secret Indian juntas of the Jemez and Keres of Santo Domingo and Cochiti Pueblos working in unison, which were central in organizing to the uprising (Vargas, 1998 p. 752). Alonso Guigui, the Indian governor of Santo Domingo, recounted a similar rumor inciting him to revolt.

With the revolt put down by the beginning of September, Vargas wrote to the viceroy and fiscal in Mexico City to report the events of the summer of 1696. The reply of the fiscal is quite telling and illustrates the new mentality that would come to characterize the cultural politics in the years after the Revolt. Aside from chastising Vargas for not taking more seriously the fears of the friars in the early summer, the fiscal exonerated Vargas of any negligence of office (Vargas, 1998 p. 909). Indeed, agreeing that the “rumors that circulated among [the Indians] served as a pretext for the rebellion,” the fiscal was at odds over how to proceed against apostate rebels. On the one hand, he felt that swift justice should be met out to the ring leaders of the rebellion, but on the other hand, he advocated “compassionate methods” be used with the Pueblos because “they are more easily inclined through good treatment to submit and obey” (Vargas, 1998 p. 937-939). There is good reason to be suspicious of the advice of a distant Spanish bureaucrat living in Mexico City. The fact remained, however, that the rumors that caused the revolt and the impossibility of the authorities to assign blame for it, forced the Spaniards into a conciliatory position with the Pueblos.

Because Luis Tupatú and the Pueblo he represented played such a significant role in this period, it is fitting to end the story there. In many ways the Pueblo Revolt of 1696 did not end in October of that year but rather a decade later in 1706 when the natives of Picurís Pueblo were returned to their traditional homes. At Picurís, the population after 1696 dropped precipitously, with upwards of three thousand inhabitants in 1680 but merely three hundred remaining in 1706 (Simmons, 1979, p. 185). Apparently, the families at Picurís preferred to live more among the Apaches at el Cuartelejo than under Spanish rule. Their leader by the early eighteenth century was none other than Luis Tupatú’s son, don Juan Tupatú and Luis’ brother, Lorenzo, who took flight once realizing the Spaniard’s immanent victory. Things did not work out for the Picurís in their decade away from home. When they fled to the northwestern fringe of the empire, they were enslaved by the Apaches but managed to send emissaries to the Spaniards at Santa Fe in 1706 to request help. In Santa Fe, Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdes sent General Juan de Ulibarri to return the Picurís Pueblos from what is now western Kansas. After assuring the Apache Indians of the Spaniards good will and offering an alliance with the king of Spain against their French and Pawnee enemies, Ulibarri took the Picurís back to their Pueblo in time for Christmas 1706 (Barnaby, 1935, p. 16-22). According to Ulibarri, the sixty-two Pueblos he returned to Picurís were “living as apostate slaves and captives [to] the barbarity of the Apaches” (Barnaby, 1935, p. 74). Unlike during earlier epochs in New Mexican history when the Pueblo’s apostasy and ultimate reconversion to Catholicism would have loomed large in the account of their reunion to the kingdom of New Spain, Ulibarri only mentions that they returned to their homes peacefully and were happily reunited with their family members who had been living with their Spanish conquerors for about a decade.
The world to which the Picurís returned was vastly different from the one they had left a decade earlier. Despite their former apostasy and their rebellion, in the years after 1706 the Picurís became some of the staunchest allies of the Spaniards and were allowed much political and cultural autonomy throughout the eighteenth century (Brown, 1979, p. 271).8 With the end of the revolt came the end of historical uncertainty of Spanish rule in New Mexico. By 1706, the Spaniards and Pueblos came to the understanding that on the frontier of New Mexico each side was essential in supporting each other’s interests. Indeed, for their autonomy from the Spaniards, the Picurís Pueblos provided a defensive shield against invading nomadic Indians from the North and, for that, the Spaniards left them largely alone. Although the Pueblos and Spaniards never did “live like brothers” as Vargas conceived outside the frozen walls of Santa Fe in the winter of 1694, they were the first generation of New Mexicans to accommodate each other’s values.


1 John Kessell claims he number was more likely 200; see John Kessell, “The Ways and Words of the Other: Diego de Vargas and Cultural Brokers in Late Seventeenth-Century New Mexico,” in Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker, ed. Margaret Szasz (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 25.

2 The closest approximation in English to the word “vecino” is “citizen.” See, Tamar Herzog. Defining Nations: Immigrants and Citizens in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003, 17-63.

3 J. Manuel Espinosa, Crusaders of the Río Grande; the Story of Don Diego De Vargas and the Reconquest and Refounding of New Mexico (Chicago, Institute of Jesuit History, 1942). 8. Idem, “Our Debt to the Franciscan Missionaries.” The Americas 1, no. 1 (July 1944): 82. Traditional historiography of the Spanish Borderlands has been rife with “Christophilic triumphalism,” David Weber’s term for a pro-Christian and western bias in Borderlands historiography. Joe Sandos has discussed this term’s opposite: “Christophobic nihilist.” Christophobic nihilism views the missionaries almost solely as “monsters who committed genocide against native peoples in the name of religion.” Joe Sandos. Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), xiii.  See: David Weber. “Blood of the Martyrs, Blood of the Indians: Towards a More Balanced View of Spanish Missions in North America,” in Columbian Consequences Archeological and Historical Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands East, ed. David Hurst Thomas (Washington DC: Smithsonian Press 1990), 429-448); for Weber’s discussion of Franciscan missionaries in the late seventeenth century see: Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, 115-121; Michael Wilcox has questioned some of these assumptions in: Michael V. Wilcox . The Pueblo Revolt and the Mythology of Conquest. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 42-53;

4 In 1692, Vargas remarked that Bolsas, who was “very fluent in Spanish,” spoke for “all of the traitorous, rebel Indians” inside Santa Fe. For fluency in Spanish see Vargas, By Force of Arms, 391. For leadership at Santa Fe
see: ibid, 404.

5 Gutierrez, for instance sees the Pueblo revolt of 1680 as a manifestation of cultural resistance. Gutierrez, Corn Mothers, 135. Andrew L. Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 175.

6 Espinosa, Crusaders, 129. Although Espinosa asserts, “it was … especially the former residents of New Mexico, full-blooded Spaniards most of them, who were in reality the guiding spirits in the reforming of the northern settlements,” he offers no explanation of this statement.

7 Ibid., 677; Ibid., 675. This is based on Custos Vargas petition to Diego de Vargas and Diego de Vargas’ reply. See; ibid., 687—697; Ibid., 679; Ibid., 699.

8 Brown Donald. “Picuris Pueblo,” in The Handbook of North American Indians, ed. Ortiz, Alfonso. (Washington D.C.: the Smithsonian Institute, 1979). 9: 271. Also, John Kessell. “Spaniards and Pueblos: From Crusading Intolerance to Pragmatic Accommodation” in Columbian Consequences: Archeological and Historical Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands West, ed. David Hurst Thomas. (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution), 1: 131-134.



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