The excerpts below are from a book written by Marie Oralia Duran Trujillo in 1999. El Escritorio in Pueblo, Colorado published her book, “Autumn Memories…My New Mexican Roots & Traditions”. (Permission granted by El Escritorio and Dr. Lorenzo A. Trujillo, PhD., 2/16/05 to use the following excerpts from the book).
“Before Spain became a country under the rule of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, it consisted of many small kingdoms. Spain had a history of being conquered by the Celts, Romans, French, Visgoths, Moors, Portuguese and others. As each ethnic group conquered, they became mixed peoples with the residents of that Province. In 1492, after almost 800 years, the Moors lost their last stronghold in Granada. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand unified Spain into one country.
The story begins when my ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than a century before English-speaking people docked at Jamestown in 1620. New Mexico quickly became known to the early Spanish explorers and later to the colonists. Two natural highways allowed easy entry for northward travel, moving Spaniards to expand the frontiers of the viceroyalty of New Spain. These river access routes were the Rio Pecos and Rio Grande del Norte.
Spanish expectations of rich cities, possible duplicates of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), led to rapid scouring of the land in anticipation of material wealth. After being shipwrecked near Galveston and lost for seven years, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, gave his account of the area to the viceroy of Mexico and created much excitement. An exploring party, led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, went there in 1540. When no great civilizations, nor rich cities developed, these explorers headed back to Mexico two years later. Thereafter, interest in New Mexico waned for decades.
History often tells us that the first Spanish settlers of New Mexico came in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola in search of gold. Others were adventurers and some saw an opportunity for wealth and Indian labor. One of the biggest incentives was the promise of hidalguia (petty nobility).
Also, may of the young Spaniards who traveled to the New World came in search of self-development in the hopes of becoming landowners and merchants. Along with the young men who were seeking their fortunes, were missionaries who came to Christianize the Indians.
As the mining frontier of Central Mexico expanded northward, Spanish interest in the area of New Mexico rekindled. Subsequent explorers made formal petitions to the viceroyalty of Spain and awaited royal permission while others took unauthorized action. In 1590, Gaspar Castano de Sosa, Lieutenant Governor of Nuevo Leon, led a group of colonists up the Pecos River to Pecos Pueblo near present day Santa Fe. However, it was not until 1598 that an authorized entry occurred under the leadership of Juan de Onate.
Onate’s expedition established the first permanent settlement in New Mexico with its initial headquarters near modern-day Espanola. He established this settlement with 400 men, 130 families, several Indian auxiliaries and black slaves, eight Franciscan priests, and thousands of head of livestock. Onate consolidated his authority over the Indian pueblos, distributing Franciscan priests among the pueblos to Christianize the natives. He also directed expeditions east of the Pecos River to the buffalo plains and went to the Colorado River and the Gulf of California looking for fabulous treasures. Eventually, discontent with Onate’s leadership, forced his resignation as governor. Don Pedro de Peralta was then appointed governor, and in 1610, the capitol moved from San Gabriel to Santa Fe.
(Interesting side bar… Many native New Mexico Indians do not revere Onate today because of the Spaish occupation and there were several Indian revolts against the Spanish conquerors during the 1600’s. In research information collected by John Hogg in his search of the “Ancestors of Ruth Edna Montoya,” Hogg wrote of Filepe Montoya born in Mexico ca 1652. Filepe died before 1699 in New Mexico, at age unknown. “When Filepe was age unknown and Maria de Paredes was age unknown they became the parents of Maria Montoya est 1679 in New Mexico. There were several adult Montoyas who escaped the Indian massacre of 1680, but, because of insufficient data, they cannot be linked for certain with their respective parents of pre-revolt times. Bartomome de Montoya…Antonio de Montoya…Diego de Montoya…Filepe de Montoya declared in 1680 that he had 4 sons. He was 29 in 1681 when he was described as a native of New Mexico, married, of a good slender stature, and having an aquiline face scarred by smallpox, and a thick beard. From later marriages of two children, Maria with Cristobal Martin, and Clemente with Josefa Lujan we learn that his wife was Maria de Paredes, of the Dominquez de Mendoza clan, hence, Filepe was closely related to Antonio and Diego, perhaps a brother”).
During the eighteenth century, Spain became firmly entrenched in the Rio Grande valley as France ceded the Louisiana Territory to Spain in 1762. By the 1770’s settlers had penetrated eastward to the Pecos and Canadian Rivers and westward along the Rio Puerco.
By 1800 the Spanish towns of New Mexico had changed only slightly from the pattern established earlier. Fear of attack by Indians continued to dictate a concentration of population along the banks of the upper Rio Grande. (Attacks by Apaches and Utes forced Questa villagers in 1854 to erect a 6-foot defensive wall around the village to provide some protection).
In 1880, the Louisiana Territory was transferred back to France by Spain. The United States purchase the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803. Since France and Spain had not formalized their boundaries the boundaries were very ambiguous. The following years were filled primarily with border disputes between the United States, Spain, and Mexico.
In time, many descendants of the first colonizers moved northward from Albuquerque to the Taos area. By 1820 when the Santa Fe Trail opened, the families had established farms along narrow valleys flanked by the two-mile high mountains known as the Sangre de Cristo. At the same time Mexico won its independence from Spain and New Mexico was now under Mexican rule.
By the time the first United States flag was raised over Santa Fe in 1846, the people of New Mexico had almost three centuries of Spanish and Mexican rule behind them.
(On January 19, 1847 a revolt took place, which took the life of Governor Charles Bent. Bent’s wife was Ignacia Jaramillo).
The Revolt of 1847 lasted almost three weeks. Americans were also killed at Arroyo Hondo and Mora. The revolt started to spread, but an Army led by Colonel Sterling Price marching from Santa Fe stopped them at La Canada and Embudo. The New Mexicans retreated and set up a defensive position centered around the church of San Jeronimo at the Taos Pueblo. After a furious two day battle that began on February 3, the insurrection was broken and many prisoners taken away. A series of tragic trials followed and some of the men were tried for murder and treason. It didn’t make sense. They were protecting what was their land and they were being tried for treason. During the following weeks, nearly two dozen New Mexicans were hung. Not all the American occupation was bloodless as we are often led to believe.
In 1850, New Mexico barely missed achieving statehood, going so far as to draft a constitution and hold state elections. Several political reasons plus the untimely death of President Zachary Taylor thwarted the bid for statehood in spite of a population of 60,000. Instead, territorial status was conferred as part of the Compromise of 1850. Acquisition of the territory of New Mexico after the Mexican-American War made the United States responsible for protecting the area against Indians. It was necessary to station troops in Indian country and for this to happen a large number of military posts were built. Many of these posts existed for only a short time to fill an immediate need. When the emergency had passed, they were abandoned as their garrisons moved elsewhere.
After operating for sixty-two years under territorial laws, New Mexico became the forty-seventh state in 1912. My ancestors were there when it was under Spanish rule, followed by Mexican rule, then as a territory under the United States, and finally statehood.”
Interesting note: Marie Oralia Duran Trujillo's grandparents were Maria Virginia Juana Montoya (sister of my grandfather, Florencio Montoya) and Jose Incocencio Duran. Marie Trujillo's parents were Jose Repito Duran and Maria Rebecca Gallegos. Marie married Fibert G. Trujillo. Marie died March 18, 2003. She wrote in her book, "If I become too old, when other members of my family become interested in our family history I will have my knowledge written down." (I feel the same way today. Fidel "Butch" Montoya)
The following is a must read site for those wanting to understand more about early New Mexico history:
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