What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680?

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1999-02-25
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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What caused the Pueblo revolt of 1680? This now-famous revolt marked the end of 80 years of peaceful coexistence between Spaniards and Pueblos; historians have long struggled to understand the complex reasons for the sudden and dramatic breakdown of relations. In this volume, five historians examine the factors that led to the unprecedented collaboration among tribes separated by distance, language, and historic rivalries that resulted in the destruction of Spain's New Mexico colony. Searching through what little remains of the written record, the essays present a variety of interpretations, with different emphases on culture, religion, and race.

Author Biography

DAVID J. WEBER is Robert and Nancy Dedman Professor of History and director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. He has written many books, including The Spanish Frontier in North America (1992), and was a Fulbright lecturer at the Universidad de Costa Rica. He is a past president of the Western History Association and the only American historian elected to membership in both the Mexican Academy of History and the Society of American Historians.

Table of Contents

  A Note for Students
  The Pueblos in the Sixteenth Century and Their Language Groups (Map)
  Spaniards and Pueblos in New Mexico: A Chronology
  Pueblos, Spaniards, and History
    Pueblos and Spaniards
    Historians and the Pueblo Revolt
  1. Did Pueblos revolt to save their traditions?
    Henry Warner Bowden, Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict, and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680
  2. Did Francisicans invite martyrdom?
    Ramón A. Gutiérrez, Franciscans and the Pueblo Revolt, From When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846
  3. Did Pueblos revolt to save their lives?
    Van Hastings Garner, Seventeenth-Century New Mexico, the Pueblo Revolt, and Its Interpreters
  4. Did the right leader make the revolt possible?
    Angélico Chávez, Popé-yemo's Representative and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680
  5. Did the Spaniards' loss of authority encourage the revolt?
    Andrew L. Knaut, Acculturation and Miscegenation: The Changing Face of the Spanish Presence in New Mexico, From The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico
  Making Connections
  Suggestions for Further Reading


(Excerpts from the Introduction) On Spanish rule in New Mexico

In 1680, in a swift and bloody revolt, Pueblo Indians overthrew the Spaniards who had occupied their lands for more than eighty years. Since 1598, when Juan de OÒate brought a small group of colonists into the mesa and canyon country of northern New Mexico, Spain had asserted its sovereignty over the Pueblo peoples. Spanish officials had demanded that Pueblos pay tribute to the Spanish Crown by working for encomenderos, a small number of privileged Spaniards to whom Spanish officials entrusted the Pueblos and their labor. At the same time, Spanish priests established missions in the Pueblos' farming villages and demanded that the Indians abandon their religion in favor of Christianity. Pueblo Indians, who vastly outnumbered their Spanish overlords, tolerated this arrangement for several generations.

On Pueblo culture and Christianity . . .
The Pueblos, whose own cultural tradition went back at least to the time that Europeans believed the son of their god, Jesus Christ, walked on the earth, seemed ideal subjects for conversion. Like the Iberians, the Pueblos lived in towns, farmed nearby fields, and wore what Spaniards recognized as clothing. Although they were not a homogeneous people and spoke several discrete languages, Spaniards named these Indians "Pueblos" because they lived in permanent towns (pueblos) of stone or adobe, in contrast to the nomads and seminomads whose lands Spaniards traversed to reach New Mexico. For Franciscans, who insisted that Indians lived like Spaniards and tried to congregate them into towns if they did not, the apartment-dwelling Pueblos seemed a godsend. Although Franciscans failed to plant missions among Apaches, Navajos, and other seminomads who surrounded the Pueblo country, they succeeded among the Pueblos.

On Spanish brutality . . .
Until 1680, Pueblos tolerated the outsiders. An agricultural people, rooted to fertile valleys in a high desert land of little rain, Pueblos had no other place to go. Some tried to rebel, but revolts remained isolated affairs easily quashed by Spaniards. The autonomous Pueblo towns, separated by several hundred miles and at least six different languages and countless dialects, had no central government to unify them. Moreover, Pueblos knew that rebellion invited hideous retaliations. How could Pueblos forget the burning of the Pueblo of ¡coma when it offered resistance in 1598 and the punishments meted out to the survivors by Spaniards with swords of steel? Treating Indian miscreants as brutally as they treated one another, Spaniards cut the right foot off every male ¡coman over twenty-five years of age.

On the events of the Pueblo Revolt . . .
Then, in a few weeks in the late summer of 1680, Pueblos destroyed the Spanish colony of New Mexico. Coordinating their efforts as they had never done before, Pueblos launched a well-planned surprise attack. From the kiva at Taos, Pueblo messengers secretly carried calendars in the form of knotted cords to participating pueblos. Each knot marked a day until the Pueblos would take up arms. The last knot was to be united on August 11, but the rebellion exploded a day early. Tipped off by sympathetic Pueblos, Spaniards had captured two of the rebel messengers on August 9. When leaders of the revolt learned that they had been betrayed, they moved the attack up a day. Despite the warning, the revolt caught Spaniards off guard. They could not imagine the magnitude of the planned assault. Scattered in isolated farms and ranches along the Rio Grande and its tributaries, Spaniards were easy prey for the rebelsÖ.Governor OtermÌn estimated that the Pueblos had killed more than four hundred of New Mexico's Hispanic residents, whose total numbers did not exceed three thousand. The rebels desecrated the churches and killed twenty-one of the province's thirty-three Franciscans, in many cases humiliating, tormenting, and beating them before taking their lives.

On historians and the Pueblo Revolt . . .
Although scholars of American history have slighted Pueblos and Spaniards, historians who study southwestern America or Latin America have long regarded the Pueblo Revolt as an important event: one of the most successful uprisings against Europeans in the New World. The Pueblo Revolt pales next to the more enduring victory of the Araucanians, who maintained autonomy for two centuries after destroying seven substantial Spanish towns in south-central Chile in 1598-1603, but the Pueblos' achievement was significant and unusual. It marked one of the rare moments in more than three hundred years of colonial rule in the Americas that Spaniards suffered a thorough defeat by natives whom they had long subjected. Moreover, most scholars believe that the Pueblos' act of defiance assured them of a measure of freedom from future Spanish efforts to eradicate their culture.

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