November 3 (October 24, o.s.)

New Mexico: Governor Vargas and his expedition leave their campsite at El Pozo water hole at 11:00 am and continue on their way toward Zuni.  After having gone for some distance, they see off in the distance the mesa atop which sits the still-unpacified Pueblo of Acoma.  As they get closer, they see smoke rising from it, indicating that, unlike many of the pueblos they have passed by, it has not been abandoned.  Vargas decides to go toward it.

He first changes horses, then orders his officials and military leaders along with five squads of soldiers to come with him toward the mesa, sending the rest of the group ahead to the next water hole to make camp.  The group bound for Acoma first reaches a nearby mesa, where Vargas orders his men to follow him as he approaches the pueblo and to repeat after him when he calls out a prayer.

When the group reaches the base of the mesa of the pueblo, Vargas calls out the prayer, which his men repeat.  The people atop the mesa respond with the customary reply, and Vargas begins to talk to them through an interpreter.  He explains that he has come only to pardon them, as he has done at many other pueblos, and when they express suspicion of his sincerity he puts forth his rosary and the image of the Virgin Mary on his standard as witnesses to what he has said.  He asks that they come down from the mesa to see him and be pardoned.  They are still resistant, so he sends up three Indian allies from his group, two of whom, a man from Zuni named Ventura and a Hopi, joined the group at Jemez Pueblo on October 25.  The Hopi man also has his sister, whom he recently reclaimed from captivity among the Apaches, come up.  All four tell the people of Acoma about the events at the other pueblos, where Vargas was true to his word and only pardoned the people and had them agree to return to Spanish loyalty and Christian practice.

After speaking to the messengers for a while, the people of Acoma tell Vargas to go around to the back of the mesa, where the path up to the pueblo is.  He complies, and begins to ascend the mesa from the back, but when he gets to the gate he finds it blocked off with stones apparently put in when the people saw him and his men approaching.  He asks the people, who are guarding the ramparts above, to send back the Indians from his group, since they clearly don’t believe his protestations of his good intentions.  One of the men on the ramparts replies that he will go get them, since they are talking to people elsewhere in the pueblo.  He leaves but is gone a very long time, and Vargas repeats his request three more times.

Eventually the four do come back down.  Ventura comes carrying a melon, a cooked squash, and some tortillas.  He says they are gifts to Vargas from the people of Acoma, who also send the message that they will talk over the night and send him an answer in the morning.  Vargas and his officials continue to ask the people to answer immediately, but they are firm in their reply that they will talk over the situation overnight and answer in the morning through Ventura.

While this talk is going on, one of Vargas’s men from the group that went on to the water hole arrives at the pueblo gate with a prisoner, an Acoma man who was out gathering firewood and was captured by the Spanish troops.  In full view of the people in the pueblo, Vargas makes a show of shaking the man’s hand, embracing him, and letting him go, telling him to tell his people not to be afraid.  Even this isn’t enough to reassure the people, however, and the insist once more on discussing the situation overnight and giving an answer in the morning.  They tell Vargas to be careful, since the Apaches are waiting to kill him and all his men.  Vargas replies that he is not afraid of the Apaches and will await their reply in the morning, when he will wait at the watering hole and send Ventura to them to receive their answer.  Since it is already past sunset, he and his men depart and go to the watering hole to camp for the night.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (2)  


  1. […] New Mexico: At dawn Governor Vargas sends Ventura, the Zuni man who went up to the Pueblo of Acoma the previous day in a futile attempt to persuade the people there to make peace with the Spanish, off from the […]

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