Francisco Leyva de Bonilla and Antonio Gutierrez de HumanaBy Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint
Promulgation of the Ordinances concerning New Discoveries of 1573 established procedures by which persons desiring to lead expeditions in the Americas were to apply for and receive royal permission. Unauthorized parties, nevertheless, continued to launch slaving and reconnaissance forays along the frontiers of New Spain throughout the rest of the century. One of the most daring and ambitious of such entradas occurred in 1590-1591. Gaspar Castaño de Sosa attempted to transplant the entire population of Almadén in Nuevo León to New Mexico without official license. Even his subsequent arrest, prosecution, and stringent punishment, did not put an end to illicit expeditions.
One such freelance entrada into New Mexico in 1593 began as an officially sanctioned punitive expedition against Toboso and Gavilán Indians who then lived north and northeast of the mining town of Santa Bárbara, in what is today the extreme south of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Diego Fernández de Velasco, then governing the province of Nueva Vizcaya from its capital at Durango, assigned Captain Francisco Leyva de Bonilla to lead the expedition. The captain, though, had larger designs that he discussed with the men of his company and other people in the region.
Leyva de Bonilla's hope was to track down the rumored sources of silver, gold, and other metals in New Mexico, far to the north. Governor Fernández de Velasco caught wind of the captain's plans and promptly sent him a warning through Pedro de Cazorla to give up any such thoughts under threat of the most severe of penalties. Leyva de Bonilla went ahead anyway with an unknown number of men he had recruited on the frontier, including both Spaniards and Indian allies. They would not be heard of again until more than five years later.
The renegade action of Leyva de Bonilla was duly reported to officials in the viceregal capital of Mexico City. Such behavior could not be tolerated within the imperial government. Thus, when, in 1595, King Felipe II, through Viceroy Luis de Velasco, appointed Juan de Oñate governor and captain general of New Mexico, the appointment included the provision that Oñate was "to go personally in pursuit of Captain Leyva and his soldiers, apprehend them, and do whatever should be ordered and commanded to you by my viceroy."
Even three years later, when Oñate was finally able to launch his colonizing expedition, Leyva de Bonilla's transgression of the royal ordinances was still on the governor's mind. In August 1598, he reached San Juan Pueblo, which was destined to become Spanish New Mexico's first capital. From San Juan, Oñate immediately made several inspection and prospecting trips through the pueblos of the Rio Grande region. In the course of those trips, Oñate asked for any news of Leyva de Bonilla and his outlaw party.
No word was forthcoming, but report of the governor's inquiry eventually reached a Mexican Indian living at Pecos Pueblo, who called himself Jusepe Gutiérrez. For reasons that will probably never be known, in February 1599, twenty-seven-year-old Jusepe walked to San Juan and identified himself as the only survivor of Leyva de Bonilla's entrada. Governor Oñate ordered that a formal recording of Jusepe's testimony be made. Accordingly, on February 16, 1599, Jusepe responded to the governor's questions through an interpreter, Juan de Caso Barahona. Had it not been for information provided by Jusepe, the fate of the Leyva de Bonilla expedition would have been forever unknown.
As Jusepe told it, he had been engaged as a servant by Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña, who later shared leadership of Leyva de Bonilla's unauthorized expedition. Jusepe's arrangement with Gutiérrez de Humaña had been entered into at Culhuacán, or Culiacán as it was more commonly known, the Indian's hometown. Culiacán, though it had once been included in the province of Nueva Galicia, was now under the jurisdiction of the governor of Nueva Vizcaya and therefore accessible to Leyva de Bonilla and his associates. From there, he and Gutiérrez de Humaña traveled to Santa Bárbara, where other participants in the expedition to New Mexico were gathered.
The timetable of the entrada is unknown because Jusepe revealed no such details. Evidently, in 1593, Leyva de Bonilla's company followed what had become by then a well-known route to New Mexico, down the Río Conchos and up the Rio Grande to the Pueblo world. The little band of expeditionaries seems to have spent as much as a year along the Rio Grande, primarily at San Ildefonso Pueblo. Clearly, though, what they found in New Mexico was not what they had hoped.
Like all other known sixteenth-century expeditions to New Mexico, Leyva de Bonilla's small group heard stories of various semi-nomadic people who lived on the Great Plains to the east and subsisted by hunting bison. Although Jusepe did not use the name Quivira, it is clear that was one of the places he and the other expeditionaries heard about from Pueblo informants. The stories were enticing enough that Leyva de Bonilla and company decided to move on in that direction. From Jusepe's descriptions, it seems that they traveled eastward during the summer, probably of 1595.
The little expeditionary force traveled first to Pecos Pueblo, situated on the upper reaches of the river of the same name. This leg of their march would have taken them through Glorieta Pass, one of several routes to the plains routinely used by the Pueblos of New Mexico and their semi-nomadic neighbors. Without halting more than briefly, the expeditionaries pushed on, reaching the first herds of bison a month after leaving San Ildefonso. In that same area they encountered rancherías, or encampments, of Querecho, or Apache, Indians, just as the Coronado expedition had in 1541 and Oñate would in 1601.
As the expeditionaries continued to the northeast, the bison herds became larger and larger. After traveling among bison for two weeks, they came to two sizable rivers, probably the modern Canadian and Arkansas. Some distance after reaching the second river, Leyva de Bonilla and his companions came to a "very large settlement which must have extended for ten leagues," or about 25 miles. This same vast encampment, which was known as Quivira, would also be visited in 1601 by Governor Oñate.
This aggregation of Wichita Indians has been determined in modern times to have been located north of the Arkansas River in south-central Kansas. The hundreds of houses there had walls and roofs made of thatch attached to a domed framework of poles. In addition to their reliance on hunting bison, these people also grew crops of corn, beans, and squash. Beyond this "great pueblo," there were still more bison, even more abundant than before.
Again according to Jusepe, when the expeditionaries had traveled three days beyond the "great pueblo," the two leaders, Leyva de Bonilla and Gutiérrez de Humaña, exhibited open hostility toward each other. Jusepe's employer, Gutiérrez de Humaña, spent a full afternoon sullenly in his tent, writing. Then he had Leyva de Bonilla called to the tent. As his fellow leader approached, Gutiérrez de Humaña came toward him. When the distance between the two men closed, Gutiérrez de Humaña pulled out a knife and plunged it twice into the other man. The wounds were severe enough that Leyva de Bonilla quickly bled to death.
Gutiérrez de Humaña showed documents to the other Spaniards that he had evidently just finished drawing up to justify the killing. Jusepe, of course, did not know their content. As Jusepe understood Gutiérrez de Humaña's motive, he had attacked his partner to prevent a threatened assault on himself by Leyva de Bonilla. After the murder, some of the Indian allies who had participated in the entrada now wanted nothing further to do with it. Six of them, including Jusepe, fled and made their way back toward the Pueblos of New Mexico. Jusepe believed that he himself was the only one to survive the return trip. He spent a year living with Apaches on the plains and then returned to Pecos Pueblo. There, he heard that more Spaniards had arrived in New Mexico and were anxious to find Leyva de Bonilla and Gutiérrez de Humaña.
In 1598, the fall before Jusepe gave his testimony, Vicente de Zaldívar had made a trip from San Juan to the plains where the bison were found. With him had been several other colonists, all of whom had been guided by "a former servant of [Gutiérrez de Humaña], one who had accompanied their party as guide and interpreter." With the guide's assistance, Zaldívar and his company were able to identify two locations where Leyva de Bonilla and Gutiérrez de Humaña had camped. Even after three years, horse dung and traces of their fires remained. Whether this guide was Jusepe himself or another survivor of the illegal entrada cannot be determined from the later sketchy testimony of Zaldívar and his companions.
Still seeking conclusive evidence of the outcome of the Leyva de Bonilla-Gutiérrez de Humaña expedition in 1601, Governor Oñate questioned Indians of Quivira when he made a trip there in that year. Oñate understood from them that not only had Gutiérrez de Humaña killed Leyva de Bonilla, but he and his remaining companions had also later died at the hands of local Indians. For the governor, that closed the book on the unsanctioned entrada. He had fulfilled the king's charge to track down the renegades.
Whether the stories that had been told to the outlaws at San Ildefonso were exaggerated by Pueblo informants in order to lure the Spaniards and their companions away from the Rio Grande cannot be determined with certainty from the scanty documentary evidence. Judging, though, from Leyva de Bonilla and Gutiérrez de Humaña's deadly anger with each other, it is likely that the reality of Quivira did not match their expectations and was sorely disappointing. Certainly, in this respect, their story is strongly reminiscent of the experience of the Coronado expedition in its trip to Quivira earlier in the century. Perhaps the same Pueblo ploy succeeded with the Leyva de Bonilla-Gutiérrez de Humaña expedition, where it had not with the earlier, much larger force.
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