James H. Defouri.

Historical sketch of the Catholic Church in New Mexico online

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Very Rev. James H. Defouri,

Pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Fe.

McCoEMiCK Bbos., Pbintees, 410 Sansomb Stbeet,










|^alho% «^l|^siri|K «tl^ ^^ Jil ^^^^^


FiBST Attempt to Found a Mission.

It is customary for a certain class of men to assert at all
times and places, that this continent is indebted entirely- 1&
the Saxon or Anglo-Saxon race for its population, its civiliza-
tion and its progress.* These men, doubtless, forget that.this
is an injustice of the gravest nature. Many others who do not
think for themselves, follow them, ascribing to the Anglo-
Saxon people the honor of winning for civilization and the-
glorious destiny being worked out here, a continent which is;
the inspiration and spur of both. The world forgets too oft-
en that it was a child of the Latin race, a stanch Catholic, a
pious hero, who conceived the idea jof the Western continent,

* Statdsfieians place the population of America at 57,000,000 souls; na-
tive whites 38,601,676; native Negroes 6,566,776; native Indians 64,587;
Germans 1,966,742; Irish 1,854, 5r2; British 917,598; Canadians 275,000;
Scandinavians 449,262; French 106,971; Chinese 104,468, making a total
of 50,907,652. I call " natives" the sons of any of these nationalities,
who are born in the United States. The other 7,000,000 are of scattered
nationalities, such as Italians, Mexicans of old Mexico, Spaniards, etc. .
How many Anglo-Saxons are there ?


and it was a Spauish Sovereign, a stout Catholic, Isabella sur-
named " the Catholic," who placed at his disposal the means
necessary to pursue his researches in the pathless and un-
known Western Ocean..

^ Latei', the Spanish people won through the gallantry of Cor-
tez the Mexico of to-day, and' the splendid Territory ol New
Mexico is but the hopeful progeny of the civilization he
planted there. If we consult the best historians of those times.
We find the hero Cortez, after burning his vessels, for he must
conquer or die — marching at the head of his five hundred war-
riors, preceded by a banner, on which was wrought in gold,
a beautiful cross on a black field, and beneath the cross these
memorable words: Amici Seqaamur Grucem, " Friends, let us
follow the Cross."* Horror-stricken at beholding the human
sacrifices offered everywhere by the natives, he destroyed their
idols satiated with human blood, and in their stead he planted
the Cross and built churches, where devoted priests sacrificed
themselves to the welfare of the Indians.

Soon after the death of MoDtezuma,f the last of the Incas,
the Spaniards were attracted towards what is now New Mex-
ico, by the wonderful tales they heard from the Indians, of its
great riches in gold and silver. ^

* The best periodical in the whole West, the Monitor, published in
San Franeisco by the true hearted S. J. MoCormick, in its No. of Decem-
ber 29, 1886, has the foUo^ying: The Standakd or Cobtez. — Among the
prized relics which are shown in the National Museum at Mexico, is the

, banner under which Cortez conquered the Empire of the Montezumas.
It is of red damask, with a very beautiful picture of the Blessed Virgin
painted upon it. She wears a gold crown, and is encircled by twelve gold
stars; a blue cloak and red dress, her hands united, as if to implore her

■ Son to aid in overthrowing the idolatrous dynasty. On the otherside are
the arms of Castile and Leon. It is about threfe feet square, and was
■preserved in the University in a frame under glass to prevent decay. A
few years ago it was removed to the National Museum for better preserva-
tion. Its authenticity is sustained by a series of accounts, beginning with
that of Bernal Diaz, who describes how it was borne iu the procession
when Cortez returned thanks to God at Cuyoaoan for the capture of the
city of Mexico in 1519.

+ Some writers consider the history of Montezuma mythical. Others
consider him as a powerful monarch; it is all an error. Mexico was a

confederacy, and he was the principal chief, or president, Montezuma
-means the " Great Chief ," or " Worthy Chief." He receiTed a tribute

rom all the States or Provinces of the Confederacy.


When Cortez conquered Mexico in 1521, he came across
traditions among the Aztecs, who had founded the city of
Mexico in 1325 — traditions •which still exist among the Pueb-
los of New Mexico, as well remarks Hon. W. G. Ritch, ex-Sec-
retary of New Mexico, in his " Chronological Annals of New
Mexico," that they came originally from Salt Lakes, Lagunas
Saladas, far to the north, and that Montezuma, mounted upon
an eagle, subsequently led them from Pecos, where he was
born, or at least where he dwelt, to the city of Mexico. They
called what is now New Mexico, the '' Seven Cities," relating in
glowing terms the wealth and greatness, as well as the beauty
of that country.

Among these " Seven Cities" was one, pre-eminent even in
those remote times, called Tiguex or Tegua, now Santa Fe.*
That it was renowned at the time of the founding of the Aztec
Confederacy in 1426, is very plain from the taxes it had to pay
toward the general government, an account of which I have
read but cannot now find. It belonged to the Province of the
Tajnos (or Tanos) which contained forty-thousand inhabitants.
Tiguex played a prominent part at the time of the expedition
I of C|,ronado in 1541. The land of the "Seven Cities" was
called also by the name of Cibola. Under this name, the origin
of which is uncertain, it was known by the Spaniards, ten years
before the expedition of Caronado. Davisf says it means "The
Buffalo," but searching Spanish lexicons he finds it translated
" a quadru^d, called the Mexican bull;" Mexico was then
known as the country of the buffaloes.

It would carry us too far back to speak in detail of the vari-
ous expeditions sent from Mexico to Cibola. Nuno de Gusman
was the first to start, but he' never reached it, and after num-
berless difficulties he founded the Kingdom of New Galicia,
establishing the seat of his Government at Xalisco and Tolona.
After eight years he was deposed by the Viceroy, Don Anto-
nio De Mendoza, and thrown into prison. Subsequently Fran-

* More than one writer doubts the identity of Tiguex with Santa Fe.
But so far nothing has been brought forward, but mere assertions. On
the other hand Eaany others are of the opinion which I follow. I regret
the loss of the "List of taxes imposed upon the various pueblos," as it was
a document of real value which would go far towards proving my opinion.

t Conquest, p. 110.



■oisco Vasquez Caronado, a gentleman from Salamanca, in
Spain, but for some time established in Mexico, was appoint-
■ed Governor of New Galicia. It was at that time that Cabeza
•de Vaoa gave Mendoza so bright an account of Cibola, that a
new expedition was decided upon.* This expedition was
placed by Mendoza, under the direction of a Franciscan friar,
aiamed Marcos de Nizza, an Italian by birth, of the city of
Nice. He was a man full of zeal and inured to hardship and
-danger. Marcos and his little army set out. from Culiacaa,
Friday, 7th of March, 1539. He went no further than Cibola;
-deterred as he was by the dangers surrounding him, for he
bad been threatened by the Indians, if he proceeded on his
journey. He planted a cross and took possession of the coun-
try, " In the name of Mendoza, for his Majesty the Emperor,"
and called the country. El Ifiievo Reyno de San Francisco —
TThe new kingdom of St. Francis.

After the return of Marcos, Caronado grew excited at the
accounts of the Friar, set out for Mexico, and was appointed
Captain-general of a new expedition. A number ot priests
Joined Caronado, and Castaneda, the historian of the expedition,
was probably one of them. In any case, he was a man of educa-
tion and accustomed to writing, and his narrative is far
superior to most of the histores composed at that period.
His book was translated into French by Ternaux Campans, in

Coronado having appointed his officers, mailed to the
place of rendezvous, Campostella, in the State of Xalisco, in
separate columns, and arrived there on Shrove-Tuesday, 1541.
Soon after leaving Campostella, the troops which had started
in high sf)irits, became discouraged. The soldiers did not
know how to pack horses; the most refined gentlemen were
obliged to be their own muleteers, and necessity obliged the
noble and low-born to perform the same menial services. Dif-
ficulties increased, but Father Marcos, who was the very spir-
it of the expedition, encouraged the troops; thus they advanc-
ed by slow journeys to the New Kingdom of Saint Francis.

* Cabeza de Vaca had, as is well-known, crossed with four companions
the whole Oontinent from Florida to the Pacific Ocean. The learned
-Bendelier is of opinion that he never crossed Oibola, but far more to the
south. Be this as it may, he nevertheless spoke as if he had visited the


Soon Caroaado quartered bis troops at Cibola, and sent before
him Hernando Al\arado, who with twenty men was to accom-
pany some Indians who had come from Tiguex and Cicuye, to
invite them to visit their pueblos. .Alvarado treated the
pueblo of Tiguex, in a very harsh manner, compelling them to
leave their houses, and forbidding them to take anything with
them; he sent ivord to Caronado to come there to make his win-
ter quarters. This action of Alvarado, was the commence-
ment of that terrible hatred of the Indians for the Spaniards^
which, after centuries of suffering, culminated in the overthrow
of the Spanish rule at Tiguex and of the whole of the territory.

In the Spring of 1542, Caronado set out for Cicuye and^
thence proceeded on the plains, and reached the river of
" Seven Leagues," " covered with vessels," as told by the In-
, dians. It appears he reached Missouri, at the plaice where
now stands Fort Leavenworth; when, discouraged at not find-
ing the gold he sought, he started on his homeward journey,
foot sore, tired and soiled by travel, he reached again Tiguex
for the winter of 1542, and wintered there. \

Many soldiers and even officers, unwilling to return to Mex-
ico, deserted the service and remained at Tiguex, and formed
the first white settlement in that renowned place. These
events happened at the beginning of April 1543, a date to
which we can well assign, the foundation of Santa Fe as a
Mission, although it was not called by that name until 1598,
when we see it called so by Juan de Onate in his Discurso de
las jornadas que hizo el Capritan de su Magestad desade la
Nueva Esperna, a la ptovincia de la Nueva Mexico, Septenjber
9,1598; alo/ciudad de San Franoisco de losUspanoles que al
presente se Edifiean. (Discourse of the journeys made by the
Captain of His Majesty from New Spain to the Province of
New Mexico, September 9, 1598, the city of Saint Francis of
the Spaniards, which they are now building.) It was then
that the city took the name of Santa Fe; some authors say
that for five years it was called Yonque, but this is'probably a
mistake; this was the first attempt at founding a mission.*

" It is possible that iu 1543 was built the celebrated church of San
Miguel, which stands to-day, at least as far as the lower walls are con-
cerned, for it was destroyed by the Indians in 1680.



History of the Mission of Santa Fb, 1543.

When Caronado returned from his expedition to the Mis-
souri river, in the Fall of 1542, he was perfectly discouraged ;
all discipline was at an- end, and thus he passed the Winter at

Early in'the Spring he met with a serious accident, being
thrown senseless from his horse, and was confined to bed tor
a long time, with his life in great danger. When recovering,
hearing of the revolt of some Indians who had been goaded to
it by the conduct of some of his officers in their regard, he was
seriously affected and bad a relapse. Anxious to return to
Mexico, he caused his officers and soldiers to petition him to
lead them back to New Spain. Soon the soldiers regretted
this petition, they preferred to remain at Tiguex, and they
begged of him to.revoke it, but he sternly refused, and shut
himself up, not wishing to see any one. They resolved to
steal the petition they had given him in writing, but he kept
it about his person day and night. The desertion of officers
and soldiers became almost a stampede, and Caronado had
not a hundred men to return to Mexico, which he reached only
to find the Viceroy much displeased with the manner in which
be had conducted the expedition. Soon afterwards he was
deprived of his province, and fell into disgrace.

The Spanish settlement at Santa Fe- dates, therefore, from
the leaving of Caronado in the Spring of 1543. This is so
, true that Caronado left with the deserters Blathers Juan de
Padilla and Juan de la Cruz, with a Portuguese named An-
dres de C8,mpo, to wait on them. Father Juan de la Cruz
went on a mission to Cibola, and was killed by the Indians.
Juan de Padilla remained for some time at Tiguex ; soon he
extended the sphere of his missions, and hearing of the good
disposition of the Indians of Quivira, he went to visit them;
but he was killed by Tejas Indians while on his knees at
prayer. The Tejas did not wish him to go to Quivira, because
they were at war with that pueblo.

Father Juan de Padilla was afterwards buried in the church
of the Pueblo of l|ja Isleta. His coffin was made of a hollow


alamo, and a strange rumor of him is current among the men of
the Pueblo, and the country about. It is said that no matter how
deep he is buried, he always rises in his cofQn to the very sur-
face of the ground; thus he was found two or three times.
His body is within the sanctaary, on the Gospel side, between
the wall and the altar platform. Whatever be the cause of
this, it is worthy of investigation, as there is but little doubt
that he died the death of a martyr.

Thus, for a while, the Spanish deserters and new settlers,
the first Catholic mission at Tiguex, and for all that, in the
whole of New Mexico, were left without the means of prac-
ticing their religion. They were not long without priests. The
Franciscan Order sent more Eeligious to search for the lost
Spaniards and to convert the Indians. Among many others
are named Fathers Augustine Ruiz, Francisco Lopez and Juan
de, Santa Maria. They were accompanied by twelve soldiers
who came with them as far as the pueblo of Sandia, near
Bernalillo. There they abandoned the Fathers and returned
home. Father Juan de Santa Maria came 'to Tiguex; he at-
tended to the wants of the settlers, converted a number of In-
dians who had returned to their houses. He succeeded so well
that he set out for Mexico to call more priests, and to give an
account of his micision; but be was killed by the Teguas Indiana
neara pueblo called SanPablo, in the neighborhood6fElPaso.
Father Lopez also was killed while at his devotions outside of
the pueblo of Paruay, on the Rio Grande, and Father Ruiz re-
mained alone mourning the loss of his companions. Still hewas
notdiseouragedandresolvedtocontinue his mission. Thegovern-
or of Paruay, much affected by the death of Lopez, resolved to
to save Ruiz by removing him to pueblos farther. up on the
river; but his death was resolved, and it was impossible to
save him. He was killed a few days afterwards and his body
thrown into the river, then in flood, as food for the fishes.
Thus, the Teguas Indians completed their bloody and unholy
work, putting to death three men of God, who had come only
with the strength of their charity and their zeal for the salva^
tion of souls.

Here is the time for saying, " Fear not, little flock, for it is
well known that the blood of martyrs is the seed of salvation."
The work of saving souls was progressing everywhere, and-
priest sucesded priest in this arduous work. Old chroniclers


tell jns that by the year 1629, there were baptized, thirty-four
thousand six hundred and fifty Indians, and many others
■were in a state of conversion, and at that time there were al-
ready forty three churches in New Mexico, all built by the In-
dians, except San Miguel, in Santa Fe, built possibly about or
soon after 1543, and afterwards destroyed and rebuilt again, and
Our Lady of Guadalupe, also in Santa Fe, which may have been
built by the Spaniards about 1598, as also other churches,
now forgotten. A sure fact is that in February 1614, the body
of Lopez was disinterred and solemnly deposited in the church
of the pueblo of Sandia, with great ceremonies. " A number
of priests" having come from Santa Fe, and the surrounding
pueblos, " all marching on foot and dressed in full vest-

The Frsinciscan Order, alarmed at the return of the soldiers
to Mexico, knowing well that their priests were without help
in a heathen country, immediately appealed to men of good
will to go out and rescue -them. Antonio de Espejp, a man
of courage and faith, offered his services to the Franciscans;
they accepted them, and with the royal permission, an army
was fitted out, which left San Bartolomeo, in Mexico, on the
10th of December, 1582.

Espejo everywhere pacified the Indians; everywhere the
numerous priests, who accompanied him, made'coaversions.
He destroyed no property, and persuaded all of the In-
dians to stay in their houses and be friendly with the Span-
iards. All over he built churches, erected crosses, and
formed settlements of white people, alongside of the Indian
settlements. Espejo did much for the pacification of the In-
dians. Having fulfilled his engagement with the Franciscans, -
the three Fathers having been put to death as we have seen
above, he nevertheless remained in New Mexico, visiting many
provinces, making stanch friends of the Indians, establishing
parishes and forming Settlements. He returned to Mexico in
the beginning of July, 1584. He there wrote the relation of
his journey for Conde de Caruna, the Viceroy, who for-
warded the same to the King of Spain and the lords of the
council for the Indians. These documents, with many others
before and after, were deposited in the royal library of Se-
" ville, and I understand that the government of Spain is about

* See Davis, Conquest.


to publish the whole, with magnificent charts, under the name
of Cartas de las Indias.

It would be out of my purpose to write in detail the suc-
cessive expeditions of Humana, who on account of his cruel-
ty, had his army almost annihilated by the Quiviras; of Juan
de Onate, who brought over three hundred families to settle
them in the territory, and established most^ of them in the
country about Santa Cruz and Santa Fe, but obtained permisr
sion to reduce " the nativeg to a slate of obedience, which
he interpreted by reducing them to slavery." All these facts
were written by Padre Geronimo de Yarate Salmeron, a Fran-
ciscan who remained eight years in New Mexico, visited all
the Pueblos, and went personally to Mexico to lay before his
superiors the result of his mission. His journal was approved
in the year 1629 by Father Francisco de Apodaca, his Su-

It seems that all or nearly all the Indians being Christians,
as well as their rulers, the Spaniards, things should have gone
on smoothly. The simple-minded natives were generally of
an amiable disposition, helping the Spaniards in the cultiva-
tion of their fields, and performing other menial duties. But
in a few years the Spaniards began to assume the prerogatives
of masters; a rule of tyranny and slavery was established. In-
stead of letting the_ priests alone to see to the conversion of
the Indians, fanatical Spaniards tried to convert them with
the sword. In a short time they looked upon the Spaniards
with intense hatred; low murmurs followed, and then open
revolt. They were arrested and severely punished, but never
resigned. Thus it went on for centuries; the Church suffered
much ip those times, and the conversion of the Indians was
greatly retarded. Finally it culminated in the great Rebellion
of 1680, which shall be treated separately.



The Gbbat Revolt of 1680.

In the year 1680, Pope, a native of the pueblo of San Juan,
a man of decided ability and great eloquence, visited all the
pueblos of New Mexico and pictu«ed to them the wrongs they
were suffering, and roused them to a desire of throwing off the

Pope enjoined absolute secrecy on all; the pueblos were all
invited, except that of Piras. Helping Pope in his endeavors
were Catite, a half-breed Queres Indian, Tacu of San Juan,
Taca of Taos, and Francisco of San Ildefonso. San Juan,
however, remained faithful to the Spaniards, and was on that
account called San Juan de los Gaballeros — The gentlemanly San
Juaners. Nicholas Bua, governor of San Juan, Pope's son-in-
law, was put to death at the hand of Pope himself, for fear he
would betray him to the Spaniards.* The time fixed for the
Rebellion was the 10th of August; all preparations were made
to massaci:e every Spaniard — priest and layman in the country.
But the Indiana of Tezuque, a few miles from Santa Fe, al-
though they had participated in the plot,- came to the govern-
or two days before, and divulged the scheme. The Indians,
being apprised of this, resolved upon the work of destruction
without delay, and all Christians, priests and seculars, wom-
en and children fell under their blows, except a few of the
handsomest maidens whom the warriors reserved for wives.
General Otermin, the governor, was unprepared and paralyzed
with fear; the capital was besieged by an army, and Otermin
with a few followers, unable lo defend Santa Fe,, resolved to
leave it to its fate, and with all the Spaniards fled, and never

* Pop^ visited Bua at night, and under the pretext of communicating lo
him important secrets, drew him out of the pueblo into a dark spot, and
while speaking to him, plunged a knife in his heart. Bua did not expect
such a treatment, and was unarmed. He fell with a,faint cry, and was soon
dispatched and buried secretly by the treacherous Pop^. It was re-
ported that he had gone to Santa' F^ to confer with the Spaniards. When
he did not return, it was said he was held in captivity by the authori-


rested till he reached El Paso, where the Franciscans support-
ed him and his followers for a whole winter. Some of the
Spaniards settled in Socorro, desiring to return to Santa Fe in
a short time.

In the meanwhile, Santa Fe was given up to pillage. The
churches were desecrated and partly pulled down. San Miguel
and the Castrense church suffered much; Guadalupe being
somewhat out of town fared better for awhile, but was sacked
the following year. The Indians, putting on priestly vest-
ments, were seen riding about the city, drinking from sacred
vessels, which could not be carried away. In other pueblos
and villages, the priests and Spaniards, not being aware of the
rising, remained quietly in their houses, and were all mas-
sacred with great cruelty and wantonness; then the churches
were razed to the ground; the worship of the serpent, with its
dances, including the indecent cacMna, were prescribed anew
to all good Indians, the estufas were reopened, and they were
ordered to abandon even the names of their baptism, and take
new ones. It was decreed in solemn council that " God, the
Father, and Mary, the Mother of the Spaniards were dead, and
that the Indian gods alone remained." They made offerings
of flour, feathers, corn, tobacco and other articles to propitiate

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Online LibraryJames H. DefouriHistorical sketch of the Catholic Church in New Mexico → online text (page 1 of 14)