November 4 (October 25, o.s.)

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 expedition campsite to Acoma with a cross and a letter to the people of Acoma explaining once more that he has come only to pardon them and bring them back to loyalty to Spain and fidelity to Christianity.  Ventura is accompanied by the Hopi man who also accompanied him to the pueblo before.

When the two men get to Acoma, Ventura delivers the letter to the leaders of the pueblo and also gives them a verbal account of the content of it.  The governor, Mateo, who speaks Spanish, then reads the letter.  Everyone present then kisses the cross sent by Vargas.  The Acoma leaders then tell Ventura to tell Vargas that they are very afraid and are feeling isolated.  Their only remaining allies are the Navajos, and they wish to consult with them before giving an answer to the Spanish.  They therefore ask that Vargas proceed on his way to Zuni and check back with them on his return, and in the meantime they will talk to the Navajos and make their decision.

The messengers return to the Spanish campsite around 10:00 am and deliver the reply to Vargas, who is getting increasingly frustrated with this stalling.  Deciding to try to stay at his current campsite rather than move on, he orders his men to clean out the shallow water hole in hopes of being better able to water the horses and other livestock.  While they are working, one of the officers, José de Madrid, reports that he has found another water hole nearby.  Vargas immediately mounts his horse and goes with his top officials to see how much water is in this one and if it will be more suitable for a possibly protracted stay.  They find, however, that there is very little water in it, so it won’t do as a replacement for their current campsite.

Vargas then decides to go back to Acoma and try once more to convince the people there of his good faith.  When he arrives at the foot of the mesa all of the people come to the ramparts to talk to him.  He gives them the same account of his mission and intentions that he conveyed in the letter he sent with Ventura, and does his best to cajole them into trusting him.  They remain skeptical, and he insists that he has not come to ask them to give him anything at all but just wants them to become Christians again.

At this point Mateo begins speaking directly to Vargas in Spanish.  He says that he has heard from some Apaches that Vargas is a liar and will shoot and hang everyone after convincing them that he has come in peace.  Vargas insists that it is the Apaches who are the liars, and that they only want to keep the Pueblos apart from the Spanish because they hate Christians.  He then says that if the people don’t trust him enough to come down to meet with him, they should open the gate and let him come up to meet with them in the pueblo.  He and his officials then dismount and walk to the gate, sitting down on the flat rocks right in front of it.  There is no response to this gambit, so Vargas stands up and demands that they come down if they won’t let him up.  This time they agree, and Mateo starts down the narrow footpath to meet with Vargas, who moves to the bottom of the footpath.

When Mateo reaches the bottom of the footpath, Vargas’s officials come up to him and greet him warmly.  More people begin to come down after seeing this.  Vargas, sensing an opportunity, quickly scrambles up the difficult footpath into the pueblo, calling to the priests to follow him, which they do.  The people who went down, upon seeing this, come back up.

When Vargas gets to the pueblo, he assembles the people and formally pardons them.  The priests then grant them absolution and baptize 87 people of all ages and both sexes.  When the baptisms are complete Vargas orders the people to put crosses around their necks and pray twice a day before a cross that they are to put up in hte plaza.  He then goes to see the church, which he finds very impressive in its size and state of preservation.

By this point it is already dark, so the Spanish take their leave and make their way back down the mesa, not without some difficulty, and return to their campsite.  They find that the men there have been quite successful in clearing the watering hole, and there is some water flowing in it.  Vargas therefore orders the men to assemble there the next day to water the animals before departing for the next water hole on the way to Zuni.

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Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)  

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