SPANIARD'S REPORT GIVES EARLY LOOK AT PUEBLO LIFE.Byline: MARC SIMMONS
Some years ago while doing research in Mexico City, I acquired a copy of an interesting document written in 1793 by the Count of Revilla Gigedo Two Counts of Revilla Gigedo served as Viceroys of New Spain:
The document was titled simply Report of the Missions and included a lengthy section on the history and status of New Mexico's Franciscan missions.
Reading over it the other day, I plucked out several revealing tidbits TidBITS is an award-winning electronic newsletter and web site dealing primarily with Apple Computer and Macintosh-related topics. Internet publication
TidBITS has been published weekly since April 16, 1990, which makes it one of the longest running Internet publications. that show the condition of both the church and the Indians just 28 years before the winning of independence from Spain.
According to the count, New Mexico in 1776 had a total of 29 missions ministering to its people. But when the great smallpox epidemic of 1780-81 ravaged rav·age
v. rav·aged, rav·ag·ing, rav·ages
1. To bring heavy destruction on; devastate: A tornado ravaged the town.
2. the province, the deaths were so great, especially among the Pueblo Indians, that some of their villages were almost depopulated de·pop·u·late
tr.v. de·pop·u·lat·ed, de·pop·u·lat·ing, de·pop·u·lates
To reduce sharply the population of, as by disease, war, or forcible relocation. .
Then-Gov. Juan Bautista de Anza Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto (July 1736 - December 19, 1788) was a Novo-Spanish explorer for the Spanish Empire. Life
Juan Bautista de Anza was born in Fronteras, Sonora (near Arizpe) into a military family on the northern frontier of New Spain. recommended these be consolidated to form new, viable communities. His superior in Mexico agreed, ordering that done and reducing the number of missions to 20.
The clergymen here were furious. They each received 330 pesos as an annual stipend, paid them by the Royal Treasury. So the loss of missions and missionaries cut deeply into their funding.
As a result, they brazenly ignored the order, kept all their missions open and appear to have gotten away with it.
A quarter-century ago, I published an article on the epidemic, but I'd missed this little squabble squab·ble
intr.v. squab·bled, squab·bling, squab·bles
To engage in a disagreeable argument, usually over a trivial matter; wrangle. See Synonyms at argue.
A noisy quarrel, usually about a trivial matter. between the government officials and clergy that ensued in the wake of the disease.
Another curious situation is mentioned in the 1793 report. He declares the Indians possess the best irrigated fields along the middle Rio Grande. By contrast, some citizens have poorly watered lands on the margins. Thus, they are often obliged to rent productive plots from their more prosperous Pueblo neighbors, or even hire out to them when drought depletes irrigation irrigation, in agriculture, artificial watering of the land. Although used chiefly in regions with annual rainfall of less than 20 in. (51 cm), it is also used in wetter areas to grow certain crops, e.g., rice. water.
When I saw this, I recalled
an instance from 1753 that sounded quite similar. In that case, 12 Albuquerque settlers complained to the governor that, owing to the shortage of prime farmland in the area, they were unable to feed their families through the winter.
As a result, these men to survive had taken demeaning de·mean 1
tr.v. de·meaned, de·mean·ing, de·means
To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner: demeaned themselves well in class. jobs at nearby pueblos, weeding gardens and hauling wood for the Indians. Hence, they asked the governor at Santa Fe for a land grant on the Rio Puerco west of Albuquerque where there was ample farmland and grazing.
The two parallel cases,
40 years apart, point out something that seems to be forgotten today. That is, the royal government after 1700 was working hard to preserve the Pueblo people's ancestral lands, even as their own settlers were in want.
Its dedication in that regard is now recognized by scholars as part of the Spanish struggle for justice on behalf of Indian subjects, a commitment seldom found among other colonizing powers in the New World.
Some other items of interest that emerge from the count's document of 1793:
u The Puebloans wore clothing of deerskin deer·skin
1. Leather made from the hide of a deer.
2. A garment made from deerskin.
Noun 1. deerskin - leather from the hide of a deer and buffalo hide for everyday use. It was cut and sewn in the same style used by wild nomads. All efforts, his excellency HIS EXCELLENCY. A title given by the constitution of Massachusetts to the governor of that commonwealth. Const. part 2, c. 2, s. 1, art. 1. This title is customarily given to the governors of the other states, whether it be the official designation in their constitutions and laws or not. noted, to persuade them to dress like Spaniards had proven entirely futile.
u Similarly, although most of the Indians understood Spanish, they refused to speak it, since for their own reasons, they detested de·test
tr.v. de·test·ed, de·test·ing, de·tests
To dislike intensely; abhor.
[French détester, from Latin d the language.
u The Count also observed that Pueblo children at birth were given Indian names in their own language. But they also received Christian names of the saints at baptism. Those, however, were ignored.
These examples of Pueblo behavior illustrate their subtle efforts to resist Spanish attempts to assimilate them. I am not sure how much the Viceroy was aware of that when he wrote. After all, he never saw New Mexico, and in composing his report, he depended upon official records in Mexico City archives.
A year after assembling his useful Report on the Missions, the Count of Revilla Gigedo died (1794). Historians have rated him as the ablest of the 18th century viceroys of New Spain Viceroys of New Spain
In addition to viceroys, the following list includes the highest Spanish governors of the colony, before the appointment of the first viceroy or when the office of viceroy was vacant. .
Historian Marc Simmons is author of numerous books on New Mexico and the Southwest. His column appears Saturdays.