Agnes C. (Agnes Christina) Laut.

Through our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert online

. (page 13 of 19)
Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 13 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

retinue of defenders, slaves and servants, as might
have attended a European monarch; and a whole
bookful of stories could be written of adventures
among the young Spanish nobility going out to see
the world. The stage fare varied from $160 to
$250 far as the Mississippi. Though Stephen B.
Elkins went to New Mexico with a bull whacker's
team, it was not long before he was sending gold
bullion from mining and trading operations out to
St. Louis and New York. How to get this gold
bullion past the highwaymen who infested the stage
route, was always a problem. I know of one old
Spanish lady, who yearly went to St. Louis to make
family purchases and used to smuggle Elkins' gold
out for him in belts and petticoats and disreputable
looking old hand bags. Once, when she was going
out in midsummer heat, she had a belt of her hus-
band's drafts and Elkins' gold round her waist.
The way grew hotter and hotter. The old lady
unstrapped the buckskin reticule looking, for all
the world, like a woman's carry-all and threw it
up on top of the stage. An hour later, highwaymen
" went through " the passengers. Rings, watches,
jewels, coin were taken off the travelers; and the


mail bags were looted; but the bandits never thought
of examining the old bag on top of the stage, in
which was gold worth all the rest of the loot.

In those days, gambling was the universal passion
of high and low in New Mexico; and many a Span-
ish don and American trader, who had taken over
tens of thousands in the barter of the caravan,
wasted it over the gaming table before dawn of the
next day. The Fonda, or old Exchange Hotel, was
the center of high play; but it may as well be ac-
knowledged, the highest play of all, the wildest
stakes were often laid in the Governor's Palace.

Luckily, the passion for destroying the old has not
invaded Santa Fe. The people want their Palace
preserved as it was, is, and ever shall be; and the
recent restoration has been, not a reconstruction, but
a taking away of all the modern and adventitious.
Where modern pillars have been placed under the
long front portico, they are being replaced by the
old portal type of pillar the fluted capital across
the main column supporting the roof beams. This
type of portal has come in such favor in New Mexico
that it is being embodied in modern houses for ar-
cades, porches and gardens.

The main entrance of the Palace is square in the
center. You pass into what must have been the
ancient reception room leading to an audience cham-
ber on the left. What amazes you is the enormous
thickness of these adobe walls. Each window case-
ment is wider than a bench; and an open door laid
back is not wider than the thickness of the wall.


To-day the reception hall and, indeed, the rooms of
the center Palace present some of the finest mural
paintings in America. These have been placed on
the walls by the Archaeological School of America
which with the Historical Society occupies the main
portions of the old building. You see drawings of
the coming of the first Spanish caravels, of Coro-
nado, of Don Diego de Vargas, who was the
Frontenac of the Southwest, reconquering the prov-
inces in 1680-94, about the same time that the great
Frontenac was playing his part in French Canada.
There are pictures, too, of the caravans crossing the
plains, of the coming of American occupation, of
the Moki and Hopi and Zuni pueblos, of the Mis-
sions of which only ruins to-day mark the sites in
the Jemez, at Sandia, and away out in the Desert
of Abo.

To the left of the reception room is an excellent
art gallery of Southwestern subjects. Here, artists
of the growing Southwestern School send their work
for exhibition and sale. It is significant that within
the last few years prices have gone up from a few
dollars to hundreds and thousands. Nausbaum's
photographic work of the modern Indian is one of
the striking features of the Palace. Of course,
there are pictures by Curtis and Burbank and Sharpe
and others of the Southwestern School; but perhaps
the most interesting rooms to the newcomer, to the
visitor, who doesn't know that we have an ancient
America, are those where the mural drawings are
devoted to the cave dwellers and prehistoric races.


These were done by Carl Lotave of Paris out on
the ground of the ancient races. In conception and
execution, they are among the finest murals in Amer-

Long ago, the Governor's Palace had twin tow-
ers and a chapel. Bells in the old Spanish churches
were not tolled. They were struck gong fashion
by an attendant, who ascended the towers. These
bells were cast of a very fine quality of old copper;
and the tone was largely determined by the quality
of the cast. Old Mission bells are scarce to-day in
New Mexico; and collectors offer as high as $1,500
and $3,000 for the genuine article. Vesper bells
played a great part in the life of the old Spanish
regime. Ladies might be promenading the Plaza,
workmen busy over their tasks, gamblers hard at
the wheel and dice. At vesper call, men, women
and children dropped to knees; and for a moment
silence fell, all but the calling of the vesper bells.
Then the bells ceased ringing, and life went on in
its noisy stream.

No account of the Governor's Palace would be
complete without some mention of the marvels of
dress among the dons and donas of the old regime.
Could we see them promenading the Plaza and the
Palace as they paraded their gayety less than half
a century ago, we would imagine ourselves in some
play house of the French Court in its most luxurious
days. Indians dressed then as they dress to-day, in
bright-colored blankets fastened gracefully round hip
and shoulders. Peons or peasants wore scrapes,


blankets with a slit in the center, over the shoul-
ders. Women of position wore not hats but the
silk rebozo or scarf, thrown over the head with one
end back across the left shoulder. On the street,
the face was almost covered by this scarf. Pre-
sumably the purpose was to conceal charms; but
when you consider the combination of dark eyes and
waving hair and a scarf of the finest color and tex-
ture that could be bought in China or the Indies, it
is a question whether that scarf did not set off what
it was designed to conceal. About the shawls used
as scarfs there is much misconception. These are
not of Spanish or Mexican make. They come down
in the Spanish families from the days when the ves-
sels of the traders of Mexico trafficked with China
and Japan. These old shawls to-day bring prices
varying all the way from $200 to $2,000.

The don of fashion dressed even more gayly than
his spouse. Jewelry was a passion with both men
and women; and the finest type of old jewelry in
America to-day is to be found in New Mexico.
The hat of the don was the wide-brimmed sombrero.
Around this was a silver or gold cord, with a gold
or silver cockade. The jackets were of colored
broadcloth with buttons of silver or gold, not brass;
but the trousers were at once the glory and the
vanity of the wearer. Gold and silver buttons or-
namented the seams of the legs from hip to knee.
There were gold clasps at the garter and gold
clasps at the knee. A silk sash with tasseled cords
or fringe hanging down one side took the place of


modern suspenders. Leather leggings for outdoor
wear were carved or embossed. A scrape or velvet
cape lined with bright-colored silk completed the
costume. Bridles and horse trappings were gor-
geous with silver, the pommel and stirrups being
overlaid with it. The bridle was a barbarous silver
thing with a bit cruel enough to control tigers; and
the rowels of the spurs were two or three inches

No, these were not people of French and Spanish
courts. They were people of our own Western
America less than a century ago; but though they
were not people of the playhouse, as they almost
seem to us, they are essentially a play-people.
The Spaniard of the Southwest lived, not to work,
but to play; and when he worked, it was only that
he might play the harder. Los Americanos came
and changed all that. They turned the Spanish
play-world up side down and put work on top.
Roam through the Governor's Palace ! Call up the
old gay life ! We undoubtedly handle more money
than the Spanish dons and donas of the old days;
but frankly which stand for the more joy out of
life; those laughing philosophers, or we modern



OF all the traditions clinging round the old
Palace at Santa Fe, those connected with
Don Diego de Vargas, the reconqueror of
New Mexico, are best known and most picturesque.
Yearly, for two and a quarter centuries, the people
of New Mexico have commemorated De Vargas'
victory by a procession to the church which he built
in gratitude to Heaven for his success. This pro-
cession is at once a great public festival and a sacred
religious ceremony; for the image of the Virgin,
which De Vargas used when he planted the Cross
on the Plaza in front of the Palace and sang the
Te Deum with the assembled Franciscan monks, is
the same image now used in the theatrical proces-
sion of the religious ceremony yearly celebrated by
Indians, Spanish and Americans.

The De Vargas procession is a ceremony unique
in America. The very Indians whose ancestors De
Vargas' arms subjugated, now yearly reenact the
scenes of the struggles of their forefathers to throw
off white rule. Young Mexicans, descendants of
the very officers who marched with De Vargas in
his campaigns of 1692-3-4, take the part of the con-



quering heroes. Costumes, march, religious cere-
monies of thanks, public festival all have been
kept as close to original historic fact as possible.

De Vargas, himself, was to the Southwest what
Frontenac was to French Canada a bluff soldier
animated by religious motives, who believed only in
the peace that is a victory, put the fear of God in
the hearts of his enemies, and built on that fear a
superstructure of reverence and love. It need not
be told that such a character rode rough-shod over
official red-tape, and had a host of envious curs
barking at his heels. They dragged him down, for
a period of short eclipse, these Lilliputian enemies,
just as Frontenac's enemies caused his recall by a
charge of misusing public funds; but in neither case
could the charges be sustained. Bluff warriors, not
counting house clerks, were needed; and De Vargas,
like Frontenac, came through all charges unscathed.

The two heroes of America's Indian wars
Frontenac of the North, De Vargas of the South
were contemporaries. It will be remembered how
up on the St. Lawrence and among the Mohawk
tribes of New York, a wave of revolt against white
man rule swept from 1642 to 1682. It was not un-
natural that the red warrior should view with alarm
the growing dominance and assumption of power on
the part of the white. In Canada, we know the
brandy of the white trader hastened the revolt and
added horror to the outrages, when the settlements
lying round Montreal and Quebec were ravaged and
burnt under the very cannon mouths of the two im-


potent and terrified forts. The same wave of
revolt that scourged French Canada in the eighties,
went like wild fire over the Southwest from 1682
to 1694. Was there any connection between the
two efforts to throw off white man rule? To the
historian, seemingly, there was not; but ask the
Navajo or Apache of the South about traders in
the North, and you will be astonished how the tra-
ditions of the tribes preserve legends of the Atha-
bascan stock in the North, from whom they claim
descent. Ask a modern Indian of the interior of
British Columbia about the Navajos, and he will
tell you how the wise men of the tribe preserve
verbal history of a branch of this people driven far
South " those other Denes," he will tell you.
Traders explain the wonderful way news has of
traveling from tribe to tribe by the laconic expres-
sion, " moccasin telegram."

Whether or not the infection of revolt spread by
" moccasin telegram " from Canada to Mexico, the
storm broke, and broke with frightful violence over
the Southwest. The immediate cause was religious
interference. All pueblo people have secret lodges
held in underground estufas or kivas. To these
ceremonies no white man however favored is ever
admitted. White men know as little of the rites
practiced in these lodges by the pueblo people as
when Coronado came in 1540. To the Spanish
governors and priests, the thing was anathema -
abomination of witchcraft and sorcery and secrecy
that risked the eternal damnation of converts' souls.


There was a garrison of only 250 men at the Pal-
ace; yet already the church boasted fifty friars, from
eleven to seventeen missions, and converts by the
thousands. But the souls of the holy padres were
sorely tried by these estufa rites, " platicas de
noche" " night conversations " the priests called
them. Well might all New Spain have been dis-
turbed by these " night conversations." The sub-
ject bound under fearful oath of secrecy was nothing
more nor less than the total extermination of every
white man, woman and child north of the Rio

Some unwise governor Trevino, I think it was
had issued an edict in 1675 forbidding the
pueblos to hold their secret lodges in the estufas.
By way of enforcing his edict, he had forty-seven
of the wise men or Indian priests (he called them
"sorcerers") imprisoned; hanged three in the jail
yard of the Palace as a warning, and after severe
whipping and enforced fasts, sent the other forty-
four home. Picture the situation to yourself I The
wise men or governors of the pueblos are always old
men elected out of respect for their superior wis-
dom, men used to having their slightest word im-
plicitly obeyed. Whipped, shamed, disgraced, they
dispersed from the Palace, down the Rio Grande
to Isleta, west to the city on the impregnable rocks
of Acoma, north to that whole group of pueblo cities
from Jemez to Santa Fe and Pecos and Taos.
What do you think they did? Fill up the under-
ground estufas and hang their heads in shame among

An adobe gateway of old-world charm in Santa Fe


men? Then, you don't know the Indian! You
may break his neck; but you can't bend it. The
very first thing they did was to gather their young
warriors in the estufas. Picture that scene to your-
self, too! An old rain priest at San Ildefonso,
through the kindness of Dr. Hewitt of the Archae-
ological School, took us down the estufa at that
pueblo, where some of the bloodiest scenes of the
rebellion were enacted. Needless to say, he took
us down in the day time, when there are no cere-

The estufa is large enough to seat three or four
hundred men. It is night time. A few oil tapers
are burning in stone saucers, the pueblo lamp. The
warriors come stealing down the ladder. No
woman is admitted. The men are dressed in linen
trousers with colored blankets fastened Grecian
fashion at the waist. They seat themselves silently
on the adobe or cement benches around the circular
wall. The altar place, whence comes the Sacred
Fire from the gods of the under world, is situated
just under the ladder. The priests descend, four
or five of them, holding their blankets in a square
that acts as a drop curtain concealing the altar.
When all have descended, a trap door of brush
above is closed. The taper lamps go out. The
priests drop their blankets; and behold on the altar
the sacred fire; and the outraged wise man in im-
passioned speech denouncing white man rule, insult
to the Indian gods, destruction of the Spanish rulerl

Of the punished medicine men, one of the most


incensed was an elderly Indian called Pope, said to
be originally from San Juan, but at that time living
in Taos. I don't know what ground there is for it,
but tradition has it that when Pope effected the cur-
tain drop round the sacred fire of the estufa in Taos,
he produced, or induced the warriors looking on
breathlessly to believe that he produced, three in-
fernal spirits from the under world, who came from
the great war-god Montezuma to command the
pueblo race to unite with the Navajo and Apache
in driving the white man from the Southwest. If
there be any truth in the tradition, it is not hard to
account for the trick. Tradition or trick, it worked
like magic. The warriors believed. Couriers went
scurrying by night from town to town, with the
knotted cord some say it was of deer thong,
others of palm leaf. The knots represented the
number of days to the time of uprising. The man,
for instance, who ran from Taos to Pecos, would
pull out a knot for each day he ran. A new courier
would carry the cord on to the next town. There
was some confusion about the untying of those knots.
Some say the rebellion was to take place on the nth
of August, 1682; others, on the I3th. Anyway,
the first blow was struck on the roth. Not a pueblo
town failed to rally to the call, as the Highlanders
of old responded to the signal of the bloody cross.
New Mexico at this time numbered some 3,000
Spanish colonists, the majority living on ranches up
and down the Rio Grande and surrounding Santa
Fe. The captain-general, who had had nothing to


do with the foolish decrees that produced the revolt,
happened to be Don Antonio de Otermin, with
Alonzo Garcia as his lieutenant. In spite of no
women being admitted to the secret, the secret leaked
out. Pope's son-in-law, the governor of San Juan,
was setting out to betray the whole plot to the
Spaniards, when he was killed by Pope's own hand.

Such widespread preparations could not proceed
without the Mission converts getting some inkling;
and on August 9, Governor Otermin heard that two
Indians of Tesuque out from Santa Fe had been
ordered to join a rebellion. He had the Indians
brought before him in the audience chamber on the
loth. They told him all they knew; and they
warned him that any warrior refusing to take part
would be slain. Here, as always in times of great
confusion, the main thread of the story is lost in a
multiplicity of detail. Warning had also come
down from the alcalde at Taos. Otermin scarcely
seems to have grasped the import of the news; for
all he did was to send his own secret scouts out,
warning the settlers and friars to seek refuge in
Isleta, or Santa Fe; but it was too late. The In-
dians got word they had been betrayed and broke
loose in a mad lust of revenge and blood that very
Saturday when the governor was sending out his

It would take a book to tell the story of all the
heroism and martyrdom of the different Missions.
Parkman has told the story of the martyrdom of the
Jesuits in French Canada; and many other books


have been written on the subject. No Parkman has
yet risen to tell the story of the martyrdom of the
Franciscans in New Mexico. In one fell day, be-
fore the captain-general knew anything about it, 400
colonists and twenty-one missionaries had been slain
butchered, shot, thrown over the rocks, suffo-
cated in their burning chapels. Pope was in the
midst of it all, riding like an incarnate fury on
horseback wearing a bull's horn in the middle of his
forehead. Apaches and Navajos, of course, joined
in the loot. At Taos, out of seventy whites, two
only escaped; and they left their wives and children
dead on the field and reached Isleta only after ten
days' wandering in the mountains at night, having
hidden by day. At little Tesuque, north of Santa
Fe, only the alcalde escaped by spurring his horse
to wilder pace than the Indians could follow. The
alcalde had seen the friar flee to a ravine. Then
an Indian came out wearing the priest's shield; and
it was blood-spattered. At Santa Clara, soldiers,
herders and colonists were slain on the field as they
workecj. The women and children were carried off
to captivity from which they never returned. At
Galisteo, the men were slain, the women carried off.
Rosaries were burned in bonfires. Churches were
plundered and profaned. At Santo Domingo, the
bodies of the three priests were piled in a heap in
front of the church, as an insult to the white man
faith that would have destroyed the Indian estufas.
Down at Isleta, Garcia, the lieutenant, happened to
be in command, and during Saturday night and Sun-


day morning, he rounded inside the walls of Isleta
seven missionaries and 1,500 settlers, of whom only
200 had firearms.

What of Captain-General Otermin, cooped up in
the Governor's Palace of Santa Fe, awaiting the re-
turn of his scouts? The reports of his scouts, one
may guess. Reports came dribbling in till Tues-
day, and by that time there were no Spanish left
alive outside Santa Fe and Isleta. Then Otermin
bestirred himself mightily. Citizens were called to
take refuge in the Palace. The armory was opened
and arquebuses handed out to all who could bear
arms. The Holy Sacrament was administered.
Then the sacred vessels were brought to the Gov-
ernor's Palace and hidden. There were now 1,000
persons cooped up in the Governor's Palace, less
than 100 capable of bearing arms. Trenches were
dug, windows barricaded, walls fortified. Armed
soldiers mounted the roofs of houses guarding the
Plaza and in the streets approaching it were sta-
tioned cannon.

Having wiped out the settlements, the pueblos and
their allies swooped down on Santa Fe, led by Juan
of Galisteo riding with a convent flag round his
waist as sash. To parley with an enemy is folly.
Otermin sent for Juan to come to the Palace; and
in the audience chamber upbraided him. Juan, one
may well believe, laughed. He produced two
crosses a red one and a white one. If the
Spaniards would accept the white one and withdraw,
the Indians would desist from attack; if not


then red stood for blood. Otermin talked abou*-
" pardon for treason," when he should have s^uck
the impudent fellow to earth, as De Vargas, or old
Frontenac, would have done in like case.

When Juan went back across the Plaza, the In-
dians howled with joy, danced dervish time all night,
rang the bells of San Miguel, set fire to the church
and houses, and cut the water supply off from the
yard of the Palace. The valor of the Spaniards
could not have been very great from August I4th
to 2Oth, for only five of the 100 bearing arms were
killed. At a council of war on the night of August
1 9th, it was decided to attempt to rush the foe,
trampling them with horses, and to beat a way open
for retreat. Otermin says 300 Indians were killed
in this rally; but it is a question. The Governor
himself came back with an arrow wound in his fore-
head and a flesh wound near his heart. Within
twenty-four hours, he decided whichever way you
like to put it " to go to the relief of Isleta," where
he thought his lieutenant was; or "to retreat"
south of the Rio Grande. The Indians watched
the retreat in grim silence. The Spanish consid-
ered their escape " a miracle.*' It was a pitiful
wresting of comfort from desperation.

But at Isleta, the Governor found that his
lieutenant had already retreated taking 1,500
refugees in safety with him. It was the end of
September when Otermin himself crossed the Rio
Grande, at a point not far from modern El Paso.
At Isleta, the people will tell you to this day legends


of the friar's martyrdom. Every Mexican believes
that the holy padre buried in a log hollowed out for
coffin beneath the chapel rises every ten years and
walks through the streets of Isleta to see how his
people are doing. Once every ten years or so, the
Rio Grande floods badly; and the year of the flood,
the ghost of the friar rises to warn his people. Be
that as it may, a few years ago, a deputation of
investigators took up the body to examine the truth
of the legend. It lies in a state of perfect preserva-
tion in its log coffin.

The pueblos had driven the Spanish south of the
Rio Grande and practically kept them south of the
Rio Grande for ten years. Churches were burned.
Images were profaned. Priestly vestments decked
wild Indian lads. Converts were washed in Santa
Fe River to cleanse them of baptism. All the
records in the Governor's Palace were destroyed,
and the Palace itself given over to wild orgies

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryAgnes C. (Agnes Christina) LautThrough our unknown Southwest, the wonderland of the United States - little known and unappreciated - the home of the cliff dweller and the Hopi, the forest ranger and the Navajo - the lure of the painted desert → online text (page 13 of 19)