Espejo ExpeditionEspejo Expedition, 1582
by Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint
Justified as a mission to rescue fray Agustín Rodríguez and fray Francisco López, the expedition to New Mexico led by Antonio de Espejo was in reality primarily a prospecting enterprise. Espejo, a native of Córdoba in Spain, had come to New Spain in 1571, in his early 30s, in the entourage of fellow Córdoban Dr. Pedro Moya de Contreras, the first inquisitor of the viceroyalty. Espejo served for a time as a functionary in the tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Mexico City. During his tenure as a familiar, or arresting officer, of the Inquisition, Espejo aided in the apprehension and jailing of an English sailor, one of John Hawkins's crew on an illicit slave-trading voyage of 1567-1569.
With his brother, Pedro Muñoz de Espejo, don Antonio de Espejo acquired and operated several estancias, or cattle ranches, north of the capital city, near Querétaro and Celaya. In the course of their cattle operations, the brothers had several run-ins with the law. In 1578, for example, Antonio seized cattle at the Mexico City slaughterhouse that he claimed had been stolen from him. As a result, he was arrested but afterwards released. Three years later, in 1581, Pedro was arrested, charged, and tried for the murder of one of his vaqueros. He was found guilty of the killing, and Antonio was fined as an accessory. To avoid paying the fine, although he was quite well-to-do, don Antonio fled north to the mining frontier at Santa Bárbara, in what is now southern Chihuahua.
Thus, it happened that Espejo was present when the surviving members of the Chamuscado-Rodríguez expedition returned to their starting point in April 1582. The expeditionaries had left behind in New Mexico, at their own insistence, two Franciscan friars, fray Agustín and fray Francisco. Some of their brethren on the frontier became very vocal in their concern that the two missionaries might be killed by the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, as their companion fray Juan de Santa María already had been. In particular, fray Bernardino Beltrán of the Franciscan convent at Durango raised a hue and cry and offered to travel to New Mexico himself to rescue the two zealous missionaries. Don Antonio pledged funds to underwrite the cost of a small party that would accompany fray Bernardino. Furthermore, Espejo would join the company himself, as its leader.
Recent royal provisions, the Ordinances concerning New Discoveries of 1573, had mandated an involved and lengthy petition process in order to obtain approval for any expedition of reconnaissance and pacification of new territory. Not uncommonly though, the ordinances were circumvented by organizing small parties with limited objectives authorized by religious orders. Such was the case in this instance. Juan Ontiveros, an alcalde mayor, or royal administrator, acting at the request of fray Bernardino, issued a document instructing don Antonio to travel to New Mexico with a small force of men-at-arms and two Franciscans for the purpose of "succoring and bringing out the friars and other people who had remained there." Other contemporaneous versions of events report that is was Juan de Ibarra, lieutenant governor of the province of Nueva Galicia, who issued the permit, and that it was a fray Pedro de Heredia who made the request.
In any event, Espejo recruited 14 laymen and "provided these men or most of them with arms, horses, munitions, provisions, and other necessities." In the end, only one friar joined them, fray Bernardino himself. In November 1582, less than seven months after the return of the Chamuscado-Rodríguez party survivors to Santa Bárbara, Espejo and his company set out on their "rescue" mission, despite the receipt of information that the two friars they were going to rescue had died months before.
Comprised of an estimated 40 to 50 persons, including at least two women and several children, the expedition followed the same route to New Mexico as had the Chamuscado-Rodríguez party just over a year earlier. Thus, it descended the Río Conchos to the Rio Grande, which it followed upstream to New Mexico. En route, the expeditionaries were told that, contrary to the earlier report, fray Agustín and fray Francisco were still alive. As the company pursued its journey toward the pueblos, it was routinely accompanied by Indians it met, just as Sánchez Chamuscado and Rodríguez had been.
At the beginning of February 1583, Espejo, Beltrán, and their companions arrived at the most southerly pueblos of New Mexico, those of speakers of the Piro language. From these seemingly friendly people the expeditionaries learned that the two friars who had stayed at the pueblo of Puaray had indeed been killed. Further, the Tiwa-speaking people of Puaray and the neighboring pueblos were prepared to resist the expedition by force.
Confronted by this information, the expeditionaries discussed what their course of action should be. The conclusion of their council was that they would proceed upstream to the area that had been known as Tiguex to the Coronado expedition, the area between modern Albuquerque and Bernalillo, where Puaray was located. Along the way, they found all the pueblos recently abandoned. When they reached Puaray, they found it empty, too. Today the site of Puaray is generally thought to be a ruin on the east side of the Rio Grande, south of Sandia Pueblo.
Although the expeditionaries waited at the pueblo for three days, no one returned. They took food supplies from the stores of Puaray and then proceeded farther north in response to messengers from the Keres people. The reception afforded the expedition by these Puebloan people was friendly enough that Espejo and his company stayed among them for several days before moving on. Apparently from Keres informants, the expeditionaries became convinced that fray Antonio and fray Francisco had been killed at Puaray. They also understood, by means of signs, that many years before the Coronado expedition had been among the Tiwas and had destroyed at least one pueblo.
The ostensible mission of the expedition, the rescue of the two friars, was now futile. Some members, therefore argued for a return to Santa Bárbara, but Espejo insisted that they continue to reconnoiter New Mexico. Without going farther north, the expedition turned out of the Rio Grande Valley. Don Antonio, with a pair of companions, rode east to the Tompiro pueblos of the Estancia Basin. From natives there, he learned that was where fray Juan de Santa María of the Chamuscado-Rodríguez expedition had met his end. Returning to Puaray, Espejo rejoined the remainder of the expedition. Together, they then set their course west to Zia, the Jemez pueblos, Acoma, and Zuni. They were received amicably at each of those communities.
Zuni was a collection of six pueblos, the same province known to the Coronado expedition as Cíbola. There, Espejo saw and conversed with three Indians from western Mexico who had come with the Coronado expedition and had stayed behind when the expedition returned southward in 1542. The Zunis told of the existence of metallic ores found in the vicinity of a large lake. This piqued the interest of many of the laymen with don Antonio. Fray Bernardino and a small group of others, though, had different thoughts. To them it seemed only right that the expedition should return south, since it could no longer do the work it had come to do. This made sense particularly because they had learned from the survivors of the Coronado expedition that it had also failed to locate precious metals in New Mexico.
Fray Bernardino and his party put off their departure until don Antonio could make a trip to the Hopi pueblos. There, he and his companions, as well as some 80 Zuni warriors, were well received with gifts of food and cloth. The Hopis also told about a large mineral deposit. Espejo then split his party of 10 Europeans, sending five men back to Zuni and going with the remaining four to see the mineral source. After six days of travel, don Antonio and his companions were led to the potential source of metal. The surviving documents are contradictory as to whether the examination of ore there produced encouraging results, but it seems unlikely. Espejo had evidently reached the area of modern Jerome, Arizona.
On returning to Zuni, don Antonio found fray Bernardino ready to depart for Santa Bárbara. Espejo argued once again that everyone should stay in New Mexico to search for mineral sources. The friar and his party were not swayed. They said their goodbyes and embarked on their return journey, by way once again of the Rio Grande and Río Conchos. Espejo, considering the split tantamount to mutiny, decided to return to the Rio Grande himself because "there were reports of mines there." Then he and his companions also would return south, but using a different route, by way of the bison plains and the Pecos River.
During Espejo's return to the Rio Grande, hostilities flared with the people of Acoma and with a band of semi-nomadic Querechos, or ancestral Apaches. Without being able to restore peace, don Antonio and his small party continued to the Rio Grande. When they reached Puaray for a second time, it was still nearly entirely deserted, except for some 30 Pueblo men, who jeered at and taunted the expeditionaries. In no mood for what they saw as abuse, Espejo and his party attacked the pueblo and were able to capture most of the Indians. They set fire to the pueblo, burning some people alive, and garrotted 16 others. Some, though, "who did not seem to belong to [Puaray] were set free."
The intimidation resulting from the killings at Puaray, made obtaining food supplies from other pueblos relatively easy as the reduced expedition made its way to the Pecos River in early July 1583. With a Pueblo captive as guide, don Antonio and his companions visited Cicuique, or Pecos Pueblo before reaching the Pecos River. At Cicuique, the expeditionaries again encountered a Mexican Indian who had come to New Mexico 40 years before with the Coronado expedition. Once along the Pecos River, the expeditionaries kept up a steady pace until reaching the valley of San Bartolomé on the tenth of September. Fray Bernardino and his adherents had arrived "many days earlier" and "had gone on to the town of [Durango]."
With thoughts to his later usefulness, Espejo placed his Pecos Pueblo guide under the instruction of fray Pedro de Oroz in Mexico City. Over the next several years the former guide, now renamed Pedro Oroz after his teacher, learned the Nahuatl language and was indoctrinated in the Catholic Faith. He himself became a teacher of Indian converts. One of his pupils, Juan de Dios, traveled to New Mexico in 1598 with the colonizing expedition led by Juan de Oñate.
Don Antonio de Espejo, himself, took ship for Spain, intending to petition the king for the right to mount a new and full-fledged expedition back to New Mexico. However, he died en route, at Habana, Cuba. Information about New Mexico provided to King Felipe II by members of the Espejo and Chamuscado-Rodríguez expeditions, convinced him of the wisdom of settling New Mexico permanently. As a consequence he issued instructions to the viceroy of New Spain to contract with a suitable person for that purpose. Nearly 15 years later, those instructions led to the launching of Juan de Oñate's expedition that brought New Mexico under Spanish dominion.
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