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Franciscans on the Silver Frontier of Old Mexico

  • Philip Wayne Powell (a1)

Extract

To the English-speaking world the conquest of Mexico was the achievement of Hernán Cortés, thanks largely to the entertaining account by William Hickling Prescott. The brilliance of the Cortesian exploits, plus Prescott’s popularity, have combined to cause this historical distortion by overshadowing the fact that there were many conquests of Mexico, just as there were, and are, “many Mexicos.” Hernán Cortés merely began the subjugation of Mexico by his victory over the Nahua Confederacy. Some later conquests were more difficult, more expensive in lives and mgney, and far more time-consuming than that of Cortés, but they lack their Prescotts.

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1 The allusion is to Lesley Byrd Simpson’s brilliant synthesis of Mexican history which he has aptly titled Many Mexicos (New York, Putnam’s; 1941, 1946).

2 The rush to Zacatecas assumed epic proportions in 1549, thus making it difficult to resist the allusion to the “forty-niners” on our own frontier three centuries later.

3 Before two decades of the war had passed, the Chichimecas were using horses, at least on a limited scale, in attacks upon the Spaniards. Even earlier in the warfare the Chichimecas began to ride herd on livestock captured from Spanish ranches and wagon trains. By the 1590’s Chichimeca use of horses seems to have become extensive, but by that time they were being pacified. A few years of delay in this pacification might well have been disastrous to the Spaniards, for the Chichimeca on horseback could have become as formidable as the later Apache and Comanche. Some references to Chichimeca use of horses are: Hernando de Vargas, “Descripción de Querétaro,” in Velázquez, Primo Feliciano, ed., Colección de documentos para la historia de San Luis Potosí (4 vols., San Luis Potosí, 1897–99), I, 21 (hereafter cited as DSIP); “Información sobre lo de la guerra con los Chichimecas,” 1582, Archivo General de Indias (AGI), Patronato, 2-2-2; Jesuit Carta Anua (1595) from San Luis de la Paz, in Herbert E. Bolton transcripts, Bancroft Library.

4 There were several important “confederations” of the Chichimecas after 1560 for this purpose. Probably the most widespread and the most nearly successful one came in 1561, when the tribesmen almost completely stopped traffic and supplies from reaching Zacatecas and other mining towns. This league of the tribes is described in detail in “Información acerca de la rebelión de los indios Zacatecas y Guachichiles a pedimento de Pedro de Ahumada Sámano,” 1562, in Santiago Montoto de Sedas, ed., Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de Ibero-América [Vol. I of the Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de Hispano-América (14 vols., Madrid, 1927–1937)], pp. 237–568. For further references to material on this and later Chichimeca confederations see my “The Chichimecas: Scourge of the silver frontier in sixteenth-century Mexico,” Hispanic American Historical Review, XXV (1945), note 5, p. 317.

5 The Augustinians were active only along the southern and eastern fringe of the Gran Chichimeca and the Jesuits did not become active among the Chichimecas until the 1590’s and then only on a small scale, primarily at San Luis de la Paz.

6 “Con un costalillo de maíz al hombro para comer andan muchas leguas á pie y trabajosamente; y desta manera hacen fructo en aquellas bárbaras naciones.” Juan de Torquemada, “Servicios que las tres Ordenes han hecho…,” Icazbalceta, Joaquín García, Nueva colección de documentos para la historia de México (5 vols., Mexico, 1886–1892), V, 202–203. Velázquez, DSLP, I, 141, contains the story of one friar, Pedro de Almonte, who spent some four or five years among the Chichimecas, eating only roots. This friar came to know many of the Chichimeca languages and on a number of occasions brought many of the natives in peace to the city of Zacatecas.

7 See my “Chichimecas,” HAHR, XXV (1945), pp. 315–338, for more information and sources on Chichimeca religious practice and other aspects of their life.

8 Basalenque, Diego, Historia de la provincia de San Nicolás de Tolentino de Michoacán, del orden de N.P.S. Augustín (3 vols, in 1, Mexico, 1886; 1st ed., Mexico, 1673). p. 421 .

9 Torquemada, Juan de, Primera segunda, tercera parte de los veinte i un libros rituales e monarchia indiana, … (3 vols., Madrid, 1723), Libro V, Cap. 22, p. 641 uses this phrase in describing a woman murdered by the Chichimecas; “la mataron, y dexaron en aquellos Montes, tan quajada de Flechas, como Eriço de espinas.”

10 There is much evidence in support of this opinion on Chichimeca aggressiveness in fighting, some of it given in my “Chichimecas,” loc. cit., pp. 334–335.

11 Spanish accounts are unanimous in reporting widespread drunkenness among the Chichimecas, especially just before and just after engaging in battle. On Chichimeca use of the drug peyote see Urbina, Manuel, “El peyote y el ololiuhqui,” Anales del Museo Nacional, VII (1900–1903), pp. 2548.

12 The word “hatchet” is used here to avoid a complicated discussion of Chichimeca cutting instruments. Their equivalent of the tomahawk of our own frontiers seems to have been a wooden handle with an inserted or fastened obsidian blade. They probably used a type of obsidian knife for scalping purposes. Gallegos, Hernando, “Descripción de Tequaltiche,” Noticias varias de Nueva Galicia, intendencia de Guadalajara (Guadalajara, 1878), p. 357 . Kirchhoff, Paul, “Los recolectores-cazadores del norte de Mexico,” El norte de México y el sur de Estados Unidos: Tercera reunión de mesa redonda sobre problemas antropológicos de México y Centro América (Mexico, 1943), p. 139 . de la Torre, Medina, “Monumentos arqueológicos,” Boletín of the Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística, Junta Auxiliar Jalisciense, III (1934), pp. 219, 222, 223.

13 Powell, “Chichimecas,” loc. cit., pp. 336–337.

14 Velázquez, DSLP, I, 169–170.

15 Ibid., I, 125, 135. Viceroy the Marqués de Villamanrique describes the death of one of the Franciscans under these circumstances; the friar was the brother of one of the most famous captains on the frontier, Rodrigo del Río de Loza (letter to the King, May 10, 1586, AGI, Audiencia de Mexico, 58-3-9; transcript in Ayer Collection, Newberry Library).

16 Velázquez, DSLP, I, 137.

17 See especially, “Información de los méritos y servicios prestados por don Fernando de Tapia en la conquista y fundación de Queretaro y provanza del cacicazgo de don Diego de Tapia,” Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), Boletín, V (1934), pp. 34–61. The commission of another Otomí chieftain, don Nicolás de San Luis, is in AGN, Boletín, VI (193 5), pp. 203–206. See also, “Monumentos de la dominación española” (Mss. in Bancroft Library); Barlow, Robert H. and Smisor, George T., eds. and trans., Nombre de Dios, Durando: … (Sacramento, California, 1943), contains data on the Spanish use of Mexican and Tarascan allies in that area.

18 See my “Presidios and towns on the silver frontier of New Spain, 1550–1580,” HAHR, XXIV (1944), pp. 179–200.

19 A full description of the way this patrol system functioned in the Comanja-León area is contained in “Provanza de los méritos y servicios de Gonzalo de Cartagena” (1620), Archivo General del Gobierno, Guatemala, Probanzas de Méritos: (A. 1–29), legajo 1723, expediente 11525. See also my “Spanish warfare against the Chichimecas in the 1570’s,” HAHR, XXIV (1944), pp. 589–590.

20 See Silvio Zavala’s interesting article on these policies, “Los esclavos indios en el norte de México, siglo XVI,” in El Norte de México, pp. 83–118.

21 Torquemada, op. cit., Libro V, Cápitulo 22, p. 642.

22 Ibid., Ill, 471.

23 Wigberto Jiménez Moreno, “Colonización y evangelización de Guanajuato en el siglo XVI,” El Norte de México, p. 28. Eduardo Enrique Ríos gives a short sketch of the life of this friar in his Fray Juan de San Miguel: Fundador de pueblos (Mexico, 1943).

24 De la Maza, , San Miguel de Allende, p. 27.

25 Moreno, Jiménez, “Colonización,” loc. cit., pp. 3031.

26 An example of this is the Franciscan participation in the discovery of the San Luis Potosí mines in the early 1590’s described in Velázquez, DSLP, I, xxv-xxvi.

27 Fray Angel de Valencia and other padres to the Emperor, Guadalajara, May 20, 1552, García Icazbalceta, Nueva colección. II, 216–219.

28 Thus called by the Indians; his full name was Jacinto de San Francisco (Velázquez, DSLP, I, 141). For an account of his frontier activities see his letter to the king, July 20, 1561, García Icazbalceta, Nueva colección, II, 235’247.

29 Mecham, J. Lloyd, Francisco de Ibarra and Nueva Vizcaya (Durham, N. C., 1927), p. 191.

30 For an account of this uprising see “Relación hecha por D. Pedro de Ahumada …,” Orozco, Francisco Jiménez, , ed., Colección de documentos históricos, inéditos o muy raros, referentes al arzobispado de Guadalajara (6 vols., Guadalajara, 1922–1927), V, 102116 (also published in Barlow and Smisor, op. cit.). A more complete description is in “Información acerca de la rebelión de los indios Zacatecas y Guachichiles a pedimento de Pedro de Ahumada Sámano,” 1562 (see note 4, above, for full citation). For the foundation of Nombre de Dios see Barlow and Smisor, op. cit.

31 Many places came to be named “del Fraile” in these years in memory of Franciscan martyrdoms at the hands of the Chichimecas; there are still a number of places called “Arroyo del Fraile,” or “Puerto del Fraile,” in this area. Velázquez, DSLP, I, 135, 151. Moreno, Jiménez, “Colonización,” El Norte de Mexico, p. 37.

32 Archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras to Juan de Ovando, August 31, 1574, del Paso, Francisco Troncoso, , comp., Epistolario de Nueva España (12 vols., Mexico, 19391940), XI, 179.

33 Viceroy Gastón de Peralta, Marqués de Falces, made a strong effort to persuade the Chichimecas to settle in peace, in the first months of 1567; the failure of this attempt resulted in official decision to return to war “a fuego y assangre” (Zavala, “Los esclavos indios,” El Norte de Mexico, pp. 89–90).

34 Pedro de Ayala to the King, Tasasalca, May 16, 1567, in Orozco y Jiménez, Colección, I, 336.

35 Mecham, Ibarra, p. 236 (Based on Martín Enríquez to the King, April, 1572, AGI, And. Méx., 58-3-8).

36 Powell, “Spanish warfare,” HAHR, XXIV (1944), pp. 582–593.

37 Powell, “Presidios,” ibid., XXIV (1944), pp. 179–200.

38 Zavala, “Los esclavos indios,” op. cit., pp. 90–96.

39 There is much evidence to show that Chichimeca raiding became even more widespread and damaging than ever, starting just as Enriquez left office. Even the Pames of the Sierra Madre Oriental began to murder at this time whereas before they had confined themselves to livestock raiding. One of the most complete accounts of this renewed fury of the Chichimeca raiders is contained in a lengthy petition for viceregal aid drawn up by the estancieros (livestock ranchers) on the frontier in 1582. This document is contained in “Información sobre lo de la guerra con los Chichimecas,” 1582, AGI, Patronato, 2-2-2 (microfilm copy made available to me through the courtesy of Professor Carl O. Sauer, Department of Geography, University of California).

40 Fray Jacinto de San Francisco to the King, Mexico, July 20, 1561, García Icazbalceta, Nueva colección, II, 244–247.

41 Pedro de Ayala to the King, Guadalajara, October 29, 1568, Orozco, Jiménez, , Colección, I, 360361. “Relación [de los Franciscanos de Guadalajara],” November 8, 1569, Icazbalceta, García, Nueva colección, II, 172173.

42 “Memorial que envió … Mendieta al Reverendísimo Padre General Fray Francisco de Gonzaga … (1582),” ibid., IV, 245-247; V, 5–6.

43 “Carta de varios franciscanos de … Jalisco pidiendo ayuda de otros treinta religiosos,” March 23, 1583, Orozco y Jiménez, Colección, III, 219.

44 “Lo que v. s.a en nonbre de su mag. concede a los yndios de xilotepeque que se an de poblar en el camino rreal de las çacatecas en vn sitio adelante de san miguel,” May 29, 1560, AGN, Mercedes, V, pp. 91–93.

45 “Capitulaciones del virrey Velasco con la ciudad de Tlaxcala para el envío de cuatrocientas familias a poblar en tierra de chichimecas—1591,” Velázquez, DSLP, I, 177–183; “Repartimiento de los tlaxcaltecas y su asiento en la villa de Saltillo—1591,” ibid., I, 204–210; “Asiento y congregación de los indios en San Miguel Mexquitic y Tlaxcalilla—1617,” ibid., I, 211–225.

46 AGN, Indios, V, fols. 136v-137f; 141.

47 “Cuenta por sus nombres de los indios de Tlaxcala que vinieron á poblar entre los Chichimecas—1591,” Velázquez, , DSLP, I, 184203 . Mendieta to Viceroy Velasco, May 14, 1592, Icazbalceta, García, Nueva colecció, V, 114115.

48 “Traslado del memorial que el Marqués de Villamanrique envió al virrey don Luis de Velasco…,” February 14, 1590, AGI, Aud. Mex., 58-3-15; “Copia de los advertimientos que el Virrey don Luis de Velasco dexo al Conde de monterrey para el govierno de la nueva españa,” October (?), 1595, AGI, Aud. Mex., 58-3-13 (transcripts in Ayer Collection, Newberry Library).

49 This was the practice of at least two of the great frontier captains of the 1580’s, Francisco de Urdiñola and Miguel Caldera. The Franciscan friars at Sichú were distributing cloth to pacified Chichimecas at least as early as December, 15 83 (AGN, Mercedes, XIII, fol. 3 8f) based on funds ordered for the purpose by the Viceroy Conde de Coruna. “Libramito de treinta p°s en diego serrano Para conprar sayal pa los yndios de paz de sichu,” October 25, 1584, AGN, Mercedes, XIII, fol. 121f-v.

50 The Viceroy Marques de Villamanrique believed that the peace by purchase system would reduce military expenses to about 14-15,000 pesos per year as compared with the 200,000 pesos needed to keep up the presidio system (Villamanrique to the King, November 25, 1589, AGI, Aud. Méx., 58-3-11; transcript in Bancroft Library). His successor, Viceroy Velasco, thought that the expenses of purchased peace would never rise as high as war costs and, even if they did, the purchase method would be by all odds preferable (Velasco to the King, December 22, 1590, AGI, Aud. Méx., 58-3-11; transcript in Ayer Collection, Newberry Library).

51 The principal distribution points for which I have found records were: Acaponeta, Zacatecas, Colotlán, El Venado, Santa María Atotonilco, Saltillo, San Pedro Tulimán, Sichú, Río Verde, San Luis de la Paz (Jesuits in charge here). Shipments were most frequently made (at least up to about 1615) to Acaponeta, Zacatecas, and San Luis de la Paz; after about 1615, Río Verde became a major distribution point. These observations are based largely on documents which I recently located in the Archivo Histórico de Hacienda (Mexico), in the ramo (branch) of Tesorerías (see note 52, below).

52 Archivo Histórico de Hacienda, Tesorerías, legajo 1513, fols. 68v-69v; leg. 1514, fols. 428v-429f; leg. 1515, fols. 265f-266v, 286f-287v, 299f-300f, 350f-v; leg. 1516, fols. 134f-135v, 273v-274f, 338f-339f, 358f-359v; leg. 1519, fols. 121f-v, 14f-v, 161f; leg. 1520, fols. 246f-v, 258f, 260f, 273v; leg. 1521, fol. 174f-v; leg. 1526, fols. 21f-v, 29v-30v.

53 Velázquez, DSLP, I, 371–377.

54 Ibid., IV, 7.

55 Ibid., I, 134; II, xxviii-xxx; IV, 7–10.

* This article was developed from an address delivered at the Formal Session of the Academy of American Franciscan History, Washington, D. C, October 10, 1946.)

Franciscans on the Silver Frontier of Old Mexico

  • Philip Wayne Powell (a1)

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