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people, mister/* a volunteer boasted to one of his officers in
Santa Fe. But a few months later one of his fellows com-
mented, on soldiers at that city: "a more drunken and de-
praved set, I am sure, can never be found." 49

Johnny Gringo could not have failed to notice various
manifestations of religion in New Mexico even if he had been
utterly oblivious to religion at home. Churches were found
everywhere "quaint little buildings," "extraordinary and
primitive specimens of architecture," one man said. "At each
corner of the fagade half a dozen bricks are erected in the
form of a tower, and a centre ornament of the same kind sup-
ports a wooden cross." 50 Bells were rung constantly, 51 and
fiestas and other public religious observances such as wed-
dings and funeral processions all called attention to New Mex-
ico's church.

Children's funerals seemed both frequent and striking to
Johnny Gringo. A child's corpse, as described by Lieutenant

is dressed up with a cross upon its breast and is carried (with-
out any coffin) to church on a kind of hand-barrow or platform,
generally by little girls, escorted by ... a fiddle and guitar play-

48. Benjamin L. Wiley, Journal, Illinois State Historical Library, Nov. 7, 1847.

49. Christian Kribben to unnamed person (copy), Sep. 26, 1846, J. H. Smith Papers,
Vol. XIII; Hastings, Personal account, Jan. 6, 1847. For the views of a European
observer see Ruxton, Adventures, pp. 175-78, 197, et passim,

60. Ruxton, Adventures, p. 184.

51. Gregg described the city- wide observance of vespers at Santa Fe in the early
1840's (Commerce, p. 180), but absence of comment by Johnny Gringo or others implies
that this observance was lost in the period 1846-1849.


ing a lively tune. . . . The whole seems to be more of rejoicing
than mourning.

Another man, describing a child's funeral, thought the service
at the church very perfunctory. He also followed the little
procession to the graveyard :

Here the body was lowered into a pit about eight feet deep, a
cloth placed over the face, it had no coffin, the women threw
in a few handf ulls of earth and then retired to the other side of
the camposanto, where they formed a circle on the ground, drew
their rebozos over their heads, and sat in solemn silence until
the grave was filled up. The man who officiated as sexton
pounded in the earth with a large piece of rock, which so ex-
cited my horror, that I came away as quickly as I possibly
could. 52

Weddings were occasionally noticed, as for instance one
at Las Vegas in 1848 :

the happy pair (of the unshaved and unwashed class) march-
ing through town escorted by rude music and a few dirty men,
women, and children, some of whom continued as fast as they
could to fire off old-fashioned muskets every few minutes until
they reached home. 53

Saints' days were attended by both solemn and festive
observances. Towns were illuminated by small fires and pine
faggots and yard-long tallow candles, placed on walls and
around the plazas and carried in procession. Theatrical per-
formances were held in the plazas and guns, fire-balls, sky-
rockets and torpedoes were put into play. In Santa Fe on
San Juan Day, June 24th, there were races and games, par-
ticularly chicken-pulling, in which fast-riding contestants
tried to seize a chicken with greased neck, buried (except

52. Bieber, ed., Gibson Journal, p. 242. McDermott, ed., Waugh's Travels, p. 124.
See also : Bieber, ed., Marching, pp. 318-19 ; Abert, Report, p. 447 ; Edwards, Campaign,
pp. 47-48 (blaming soldier-brought measles for many deaths) ; and Gregg, Commerce,
pp. 184-85. Gibson noted the funeral of a New Mexico boy, a military cadet at a
Chihuahua school, who was attended by an American military escort. Bieber, ed.,
Gibson Journal, pp. 266-67.

53. George R. Gibson, Journal, typescript copy lent me by Prof. R. P. Bieber of
Washington Univ., May 1, 1848. Original is at Missouri Historical Society. The artist,
Waugh, asserted that New Mexican brides never wore white dresses, but used instead
various colors. McDermott, ed., Waugh's Travels, p. 125n.


head and neck) in the ground and then they fought over the
bird when someone carried it off. 54

Johnny Gringo sometimes attended mass on Sunday, when
he was convenient to a church, but he rarely felt that he
understood or profited by it. Private W. H. Richardson was
probably typical in this regard, as seen in his laconic reports
of services he attended at Abiquiu and Santa Fe. A priest
appeared wearing gold lace, he wrote once, and "The music
of various instruments now commenced, the priest mean-
while drinking sundry glasses of wine. The people remained
on their knees till the music ceased, when all retired." "The
music was prettily performed," he wrote on the other occa-
sion. "An old man in the meantime turning round before an
image, and after he had bowed to the people several times,
the music ceased, All was over, and we returned to camp. I
felt sick and sad, for the worship did not refresh my spirits." 55

Johnny Gringo had constantly in mind, during religious
observances, his low opinion of the morality of New Mexican
women, and their kneeling devotion seemed a travesty to him.
The music sounded identical with that played at fandangos.
Nor could he forget the gossip he had heard about the priests.
Even Captain Turner, who tried to keep his head, noted that
the vicar at Santa Fe was "a large, fat licentious looking
man," and "not one woman in the church was supposed to be
virtuous." Puritanical Americans were ready to believe
the worst of a people whose greatest day for business and
pleasure was Sunday. The invaders ordered all places of busi-
ness closed on Sundays, beginning October 4, 1846, 56 but the
order didn't stick. The weight of evidence is overwhelming
that some priests in New Mexico gambled, but most Ameri-

64. Emory, Notes, pp. 71-72 ; Connelley, Doniphan's Expedition, pp. 233-84 ; Drumm,
ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 165 ; McDermott, ed., Waugh's Travels, pp. 125-27 ; George Wilkins
Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, Comprising a Description of a
Tour through Texas . . . (New York, 1844), I, pp. 337-39; letter dated Socorro, N. M.,
July 8, 1849, in Arkansas State Democrat, Oct. 5, 1849, cited in Bieber, ed., Southern
Trails, p. 315. For a unique soldier description of penitentes scourging themselves during
Lent (in 1852) , see Bennett, Forts and Forays, p. 37.

55. Richardson, Journal, pp. 46, 36. See also: Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, pp. 137-
38 ; Bieber, ed., Gibson Journal, pp. 218, 227, 241 ; Abert, Report, pp. 454-55 ; and Emory,
Notes, p. 69.

56. Turner, Diary, pp. 19-21. Bieber, ed., Gibson Journal, pp. 246-47.


can statements on the subject were unreasonably extreme. 57
Sergeant F. S. Edwards, who had little use for priests, still
did write, referring to gambling at cards, "It is said that the
priests also indulge at it, but I never saw one playing." 58
Johnny Gringo condemned the priests in strong terms for
failing to ameliorate the illiteracy and extreme ignorance of
the people. 59 Education was the church's responsibility. But
yet, Lieutenant Abert, a careful reporter, could write :

I have been much surprised by the many men and children of
the lower class that I have met with who both read and write ;
in fact, all that we questioned seemed to be educated, thus far,
but they have no books ; I only recollect to have seen a Roman
Catholic catechism at Padillas. Many of the sons of the ricos
are well educated ; we saw several who had been at Union Col-
lege, St. Louis. They speak French and English, and under-
stand their own language grammatically. 60

Perhaps the last word should be reserved for a Mexican
resident of New Mexico. He wrote in 1832. Conditions had ap-
parently improved somewhat by the late 1840's, but his testi-
mony is still relevant :

At present the tithe is used only to enrich three or four pri-
vate persons, without any spiritual benefit to New Mexico or
temporal profit to the republic. . . . Christian piety revolts on
seeing the abuses committed in New Mexico with regard to the
care of souls. Charity demands that a veil be thrown over many
things which would, if they were narrated, create a scandal. 61

But Johnny Gringo was generally much more preoccupied
with amusements than with religion, and the leading form of
amusement in New Mexico was the fandango here he met
the senoritas, and he needed no formal introduction to enjoy
himself with them. Johnny did not realize it at first, but fan-
dangos were very often undertaken for the profit of the host

57. E. g., Gilmer to Welcker, n. d. (fragment), Lenoir Family Papers, No. 2 ; Bieber,
ed., Gibson Journal, p. 289 ; and Gregg, Commerce, pp. 183-84.

58. Edwards, Campaign, pp. 59-62.

59. E. g., McDermott, ed., Waugh's Travels, p. 123 ; and Gregg, Commerce, pp.

60. Abert, Report, p. 482.

61. Antonio Barreiro in Carroll and Haggard, trans., New Mexico Chronicles, p. 55.


and his associates. Various eatables and drinkables were al-
ways offered for sale, and Johnny was expected to "treat"
his partners. Gambling was usually carried on, also. In Santa
Fe and presumably elsewhere in New Mexico, fandangos
came more and more to be sponsored by the commercial
houses of lodging and gambling, and sometimes by groups of
the soldiers themselves. Fandangos were always informal,
come-one-come-all affairs; an invitational, dress-up, society
affair would be called a baile.

The senoritas were the big attraction. "The volunteers cut
a wide row among the Spanish [i.e., Mexican] girls," a Mis-
sourian wrote to his brother, continuing, "the most of them
are dark and homely but I have seen some as pretty girls
here as in any country." 62 Their grace in dancing was uni-
versally admired, even by the critical artist, Alfred Waugh,
who also considered the fandango an admirably democratic
institution where persons of high and low stations mingled
with entire ease. 63 The dance most noted was the cuna: the
"Coonie" was "perfectly sui generis" said the Santa Fe Re-
publican, "Beginning like a Country Dance it changes to an
Indian swing, and winds up like a waltz, being . . . partly of
Indian origin." 64 Lieutenant Emory called other figures the
"Bolero" and the "Italiana," and likened the latter and the
cuna to the waltz, the former to a "negro jig." Close body
contact was common, and repugnant to some. 65 The invaders
attempted to introduce "cotillions" and other figures with
which they were more familiar, but without notable success.
The music was supplied chiefly by violins and guitars which
seemed to play the same tunes at church and in funeral and
wedding processions supported by drums, triangles, "pieces
of wood" and voices, singly and in chorus. The human voice
was important. A forty-niner at a fandango at Galisteo re-

62. T. J. Edwards to brother, Joseph, Sep. 15, 1846, Mexican War Envelope, "The
beauty of Mexican ladies is not generally great, but in some cases is extraordinary fine
and brilliant," wrote another soldier. Cpl. M. L. Baker to sister, Sep. 13, 1846, Mexican
War Envelope.

63. McDermott, ed., Waugh's Travels, p. 128 ; Connelley, Doniphan's Expedition,
p. 216. The wives of ricos, however, were known to use footstools in the form of a serving-
man crouched on elbows and knees ! Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 123.

64. Santa Fe Republican, Oct. 2, 1847 ; Edwards, Campaign, p. 64 ; Drumm, ed.,
Magoffln Diary, p. 145.

65. Emory. Notes, p. 74. Connelley, Doniphan'e Expedition, p. 216.


ported "some of the sets accompanied by a beautiful chant."
At Manzano, Lieutenant Abert heard singers composing im-
promptu songs which sometimes evoked much laughter. 66

The "vicio inocente" of smoking, as Gregg termed it, was
particularly in evidence at the fandangos, for the senoritas
smoked even while dancing. Captain Turner noted cryptically,
"Everybody smoking, women & men. Cloud of smoke all the
time, Genl. [Kearny] go to bed sick in consequence. . . ."
The habit attracted favorable attention from some of the
invaders, however. "It certainly does enhance the charms of
the Mexican senoritas," wrote Lewis Garrard, adding that
they, "with neatly rolled up shucks between coral lips perpe-
trate winning smiles. ..." A soldier described the corn
shucks, cut into pieces about three inches by one inch, and
other paraphernalia :

When neatly tied in bundles, these skins [shucks] are called
hojas. Every Mexican, male or female, carries, at the girdle,
a pouch which contains a bundle of hojas and a small bottle of
powdered tobacco . . . and flint, steel and tinder. As tobacco is
very scarce with them, they are not over free to offer a cigar-
ito; but when they do, they always first kindle it with the
assistance of the mouth. This, from their general use of garlic,
does not improve the flavor of the cigarito. ... I did not observe
a single Mexican make any other use of tobacco. 67

New Mexicans did not, in other words, dip snuff. Gregg added
further, to their credit, that they were "but little addicted to
inebriety and its attendant dissipations," although he ex-
plained this in part by pointing to the extreme poverty of the
lower classes. 68

The universality of the cigarito [wrote Sergeant F. S. Ed-
wards] is only equaled by that of their eternal game of monte,
played with cards. The suits whereof are clubs, swords, suns,

66. See especially: Hannum, ed., Pancoast, p. 217; Abert, Report, pp. 448, 486;
Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 165 ; Elliott, Notes, pp. 249-250 ; C. Kribben letter in
Taglicher Anzeiger des Westens, Sep. 26, 1846, cited in Bieber, ed., Gibson Journal,
pp. 216n-217n ; Bieber, ed., Marching, pp. 321-22 ; Santa Fe Republican, Oct. 16, Dec. 1
and 25, 1847 ; Gregg, Commerce, p. 170 ; and Bennett, Forts and Forays, p. 16.

67. Gregg, Commerce, p. 170. Turner, Diary, p. 20. Garrard, Wah-to-yah, p. 238.
Edwards, Campaign, pp. 58-59. See also : Garrard, Wah-to-yah, p. 237 ; and Gregg, Com-
merce, pp. 170-71.

68. Gregg, Commerce, p. 171.


and cups, all delineated in their own proper colors and figures.
Each suit numbers ten cards, namely, (like the American,)
from ace to seven, and then knave, horse standing in the place
of queen, and king. The mysteries of the game can only be
learnt by losing at it.

It is apparent from a wealth of reports that there was a lot
of "losing at it" at Santa Fe and in other parts of New Mex-
ico, by Johnny Gringo as well as by the New Mexicans.
Gambling was a vice which the invaders supported gener-
ously. A forty-niner unknowingly echoed remarks of previous
years when he wrote, "Santa Fe takes the lead of all places
I ever was in for gambling. It is filled with sporting charac-
ters, and even the women gamble. On one of the streets last
evening I noticed in front of one of the houses a transparency
with the names of the games that were carried on within." 69
The fullest description of a Santa Fe gambling house of
this period, and it is in fact unduly elaborated, is by George
Brewerton, dated midsummer 1848. After passing through a
bar equipped with billiard tables and cut-glass decanters, he
entered an even more foul-smelling room, long and narrow,
its earthen floor saturated with tobacco juice. This was the
main gambling den of Santa Fe. There were six tables, three
each along opposite walls, with dealers seated back-to-wall
and pesos, ouzos (gold pieces), dollars, knives and pistols
much in evidence. The far end of the room held a roulette
table. There were women, a child and a priest present in the
crowd. The most interesting person was a woman, the famed
Dona Tules, alleged gambling queen of New Mexico. She was
"richly but tastelessly dressed," in Brewerton's opinion, with
her fingers "literally covered with rings, while her neck was
adorned with three heavy chains of gold, to the longest of
which was attached a massive crucifix of the same precious
material." 70

69. Edwards, Campaign, p. 59. "A member of the Little Rock Company" in Arkansas
State Democrat, Aug. 81, 1849, cited in Bieber, ed., Southern Trails, p. 309.

70. Brewerton, Overland, pp. 185-191. See also: Gilmer to Welcker, Nov. 6, 1846,
Lenoir Family Papers, No. 2 ; Sgt. William C. Kennerly, "Recollections of Our War with
Mexico," typescript, Mexican War Envelope, p. 8 ; McDermott, ed., Waugh's Travels,
p. 121 ; Gregg, Commerce, pp. 168-69 ; and Kendall, Narrative, I, p. 319n. For a not en-
tirely convincing defense of Dona Tules, see Fray Angelico Chavez, "Dona Tules, Her
Fame and Her Funeral," El Palacio, 57 : 227-234.


Dancing, gambling, smoking and drinking, be they vices or
diversions, were all involved in processes that brought Anglo-
American males and New Mexican females together. The
natural laws of sex were in full operation. Charles E. Pan-
coast, a forty-niner from New Jersey, met one of the results
at a Galisteo fandango, a "pretty, bright eyed, innocent-look-
ing Spanish [i. e., Mexican] Girl" with a two-year-old daugh-
ter whose father, a former soldier, had returned to the east
six months earlier, to bring back dresses and jewelry for his
woman and child. Pancoast thought that she would never see
her soldier again. On a more earthy level, a Missouri volun-
teer wrote that "the most choice women are those that are
married who fear their husbands as they do death which pre-
vents them from becoming so common [.] there is nothing
like chastity in any Spanish woman. . . ." 71

It was truly shocking to her modesty, Susan Magoffin
wrote as she entered New Mexico, and she blushed behind her
veil, to observe how the women of New Mexico dressed and
how their children ran about undressed. The women had bare
arms and necks and "perhaps their bosoms," too, which was
bad enough. But in addition, when fording a creek, "regard-
less of those about them, they pull their dresses ... up
above their knees and paddle through the water like ducks."
The skirts barely concealed the calves of their legs, to begin
with. 72 Blushing or not, both Susan Magoffin and Johnny
Gringo looked at New Mexican women and often admired
what they saw. Flashing black eyes, glossy black hair, small
feet and hands, bright teeth. "But what we admired most was
the fine forms, the graceful carriage, and the ease and dignity
of the fair," said the Santa Fe Republican, reporting on a
baile and speaking boldly of "Busts, which a Phideus might
take for a model." 73

New Mexicans were regarded by Johnny Gringo as dimin-
utive in stature, and their color was against them among in-

71. Hannum, ed., Pancoast, pp. 217-18. M. B. Edwards to brother, Joseph, Oct. 7,
1846, Mexican War Envelope.

72. "Some of them wear leather shoes from the States, but most have buckskin
mockersins, Indian style." Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 95. Many more "leather
sandals" or nothing. Bieber, ed., Marching, pp. 164-65.

73. Santa F6 Republican, Dec. 18, 1847.


vaders who were growing increasingly color-conscious. In-
dian features and coloration were a mark of degradation.
"Those [women] who have much white blood in them are
pretty," wrote Sergeant F. S. Edwards, "but these are seldom
found among the lower order. . . ." Some influence from the
States in the matter of feminine styles was being felt in New
Mexico, but not among the "lower order." Among all classes
the rebozo reigned supreme, the bonnet unknown. With the
"lower order," the rebozo or shawl, wrapped over head and
shoulders throughout the day, indoors and out, at work and
leisure, often took the place of the bodice. If a bodice was
worn, it was sleeveless and collarless, and a soldier at a fan-
dango in 1850 reported that, soon after the music struck up,
"those ladies who had waists to their dresses commenced tak-
ing them off. 'Twas too warm." The ladies of higher position,
"dressed in the Mexican style," who attended a governor's
ball at Santa Fe, wore "large sleeves, short waists, ruffled
skirts, and no bustles," according to Susan Magoffin. 74 Such
ladies, with fancier rebozos, would call them mantillas instead
but Johnny Gringo was not always sure of, or even aware
of, the difference.

But Johnny was repeatedly made aware of a particularly
disgusting custom, among New Mexican women even of
prominent position, which was the use of alegria on the face.
The invader's first reaction was uncertain. "A result of some
Aztec custom," one said; to cover the dirt, said another;
tattooing, said a third; "an inflammation of the face" and
"birthmark," said others. 75 They were all wrong. Alegria
was the juice of a special plant, crimson, "not unlike blood,"
as Gregg said, which was smeared over the face in order to
protect the skin from the sun, hence to render it lighter in
color when the stain was removed on the occasion of a fan-

74. Edwards, Campaign, p. 50. Bennett, Forts and Forays, p. 15. Drumm, ed.,
Magoffin Diary, p. 145. New Mexican women of all classes liked "various showy orna-
ments, such as hugh [tc] necklaces, countless rings, combs, bows of ribbands, red and
other coloured handkerchiefs." Ibid., p. 124. Gregg reported that some jewelry of New
Mexican manufacture was "admirably executed," and was "generally preferred" over
the large quantities of cheap imported jewelry. Commerce, pp. 152-53.

75. Michael McEnnis, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 2, 1905, cited in Connelley,
Doniphan'a Expedition, p. 626 ; Ruxton, Adventures, p. 184 ; Richardson, Journal, p. 35 ;
Brewerton, Overland, p. 197 ; and Kendall, Narrative, I, pp. 316-17.


dango. The rich purple juice of the poke-berry (Phytolacca)
was also used, the juice of "a kind of cornstalk which is very
red," and grease. 77 Whitish applications for the same purpose
were also common, consisting of clay, starch or flour. 78

The use of alegria and other substances did nothing to im-
prove the generally bad reputation that the people of New
Mexico gained in the matter of cleanliness. The "lower
orders" would "quite cooly pick off vermin in the presence of
visitors," one man remembered. Gibson was not surprised to
find men, women and children sleeping in the street in front
of their homes in Santa Fe, early one September, presumably
because of infested homes. 79 Looking for something on which
to compliment New Mexicans, however, Johnny Gringo often
noted that they were universally polite and ceremonious or
even excessively so. Many men were taken aback by the
abrazo or close embrace noted above, customary when friends
met or parted, regardless of sex.

New Mexican men found it easier than their ladies to
adopt American styles of clothing. On the other hand, men
were often observed wearing only the breech-clout or, as
Colonel Philip St. George Cooke expressed it, "center cloth-
ing." 80 But the majority wore less or more than these two ex-
tremes, as indicated by the following description :

The commonest class are generally dressed in cheap dyed goat-
skin pantaloons, made of two different colors, which are
dressed like our buckskins and are as soft; a coarse shirt, and
a blanket of a quality according to the circumstances of the
wearer; a palm-leaf hat generally completes the dress. Shoes
are a luxury worn by those who can afford them, being re-
placed by those who cannot, with a piece of raw bullock's hide,
tied on the sole of the foot.

Men who were more affluent, this description continues, wore
cloth trousers with buttons, never fastened, along the out-

76. Gregg said the custom belonged to "the belles of the ranches and villages."
Commerce, pp. 153-54. Susan Magoffin believed the application was to bleach, not merely
to protect from the sun. Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 102.

77. Abert, Report, pp. 445, 508 ; Jacob S. Robinson, A Journal of the Santa Fe Expe-
dition under Colonel Doniphan, Carl L. Cannon, ed., (Princeton. 1932, reprinted from
1848 edition), p. 37 ; and Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 150.

78. Gregg, Commerce, p. 154 ; Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 102.

79. Elliott, Notes, p. 242 ; Bieber, ed., Gibson Journal, p. 231.

80. Tyler, Concise History, p. 178.


side of each trouser-leg. A better key to the economic status
of the wearer than trousers, however, was the quality of his
poncho. Ponchos varied in value from one dollar to as much as
two hundred dollars, and those of good quality were coveted

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