11. Pueblo of Cochití

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The pueblo of Cochití is situated about thirty miles southwest of Santa Fé, on the west bank of the Rio Grande, three miles north of the town of Pea Blanca. It contains about 350 Indians of the Queres stock and several Mexican families who have been settled there since 1828. It has always been closely associated with Santo Domingo and San Felipe, which are its neighbors on the south. The country to the north is quite rough, consisting of a plateau deeply indented by a series of deep caons or gorges, through which the heavy rainfall on the Jemez Mountains rushes to the Rio Grande. The high areas of tableland between these caons, each narrowing near the river to a point which we would call a cape if it were surrounded by water, are called “potreros,” and each has a distinctive name. This whole section of the country, from Cochití north almost to the Santa Clara River, was once thickly inhabited, and is covered with the remains of houses and with some of the most interesting ruins on the continent. Travelers and archæologists of the highest character declare that a square area of territory, thirty miles from north to south and with an equal width from east to west, situated in this section, contains

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far more ruins than the whole continent of Europe.

Here is the Painted Cave (Cueva Pintada) and here are the celebrated Stone Lions of Cochití which certainly constitute the most important piece of aboriginal sculpture in the United States. Professor


Bandelier lived in the pueblo for a number of months in 1881, and located the scene of his remarkable book,The Delight Makers,in the Caada de Cochití and the Rio de los Frijoles.

This is one of the most interesting of the pueblos

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and is easy of access either from Santa Fé or Albuquerque. If going by rail, the tourist will stop at Domingo station, and then take a wagon to the pueblo. The two pueblos of Santo Domingo and Cochití can very well be visited on the same trip; and if one is spending the summer in New Mexico it is easy to arrange to be present at the great annum festival at each of these pueblos, as that of Cochití is held on the 14th of July and that of Santo Domingo just three weeks later, on August 4th.

The patron saint of Cochití is San Buenaventura, and this fixes the time of the festival, which is on his saint's day. The Indians of Santo Domingo, Cochití, San Felipe, Santa Ana, and Zia are all of the same family, or “Nation,” as the old Spaniards always expressed it; and all of these pueblos can be visited on the same general tour. If considerable time is available, the itinerary can be arranged so as to include a visit to the pueblo of Jemez as well as the remarkable Jemez Springs, and bring the traveler to Santa Ana in time for the annual festival there on July 26th.

The pueblo of Cochií is rather irregularly laid out, probably on account of the inequalities of the surface of the ground on which it is built. A deep arroyo or gulch, dry during nearly all of the year, but carrying a violent and boiling stream of water when the heavy rains occur in the mountains, divides the town, about three-quarters of the houses being on the north side and the remainder, looking rather isolated and lonesome, on the south. The houses, while built

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principally of adobe, have stone foundations, and usually a row of stones on the top of each wall as a protection against destruction by the elements. The older houses are two stories high and similar in form to those usual in all of the Rio Grande pueblos; but the new ones are but one story in height, and in many cases are entered by doors and lighted by windows which tell of another civilization, for they are the result of the rapid work in some modern steam planing mill.

As is usual in the Pueblo towns, the church is the one large and conspicuous building, the desires of the people as to their residences not having gone beyond the necessaries and a few of the plain comforts of a simple peasant life. The patron of Cochití is San Buenaventura, the eminent follower of St. Francis, to whom it was natural that the pious Franciscans should dedicate one of their central Missions; and two statues of this saint, one of which is four feet high, with a cross in the right hand and a book in the left, and the other much smaller but oddly dressed in a robe of brilliant green, are to be seen on the altar. The principal picture, in the central and highest place on the wall above, is also of this saint, and the other paintings which constitute the reredos represent scenes in the life of our Lord — the Nativity, the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, and three connected with the Crucifixion. In one of these Jesus is clad in a scarlet robe, while one Roman soldier places the crown of thorns on his head and another presents the hyssop to his lips; and the others

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are of scenes on the way to Calvary. Several of these paintings are of real merit and value, though they show too plainly the signs of age and neglect. The ceiling above the chancel is grotesquely painted with geometrical figures in high colors, red and yellow and black, while representations of moons, horses, etc., are interspersed without any apparent design. Nothing could be more incongruous than the impressive features of touching scenes painted by master hands and these crude efforts of Indians entirely untrained in art. But those responsible for this modern improvement were evidently proud of their achievement, as the names thus to be immortalized are conspicuously exhibited: “Agustin, Gov; Juan Antonio, 1871.”

The church is thirty-four feet wide, outside measurement, by almost exactly one hundred feet in length, and the chancel measures fourteen by twentytwo feet. There are thirty-eight great vigas which support the roof, two or three of them being especially large, and nearly all are ornamented with more or less carving. The only means of lighting the church when the door is closed is by one window on the south side and one in the chancel.

There is a gallery over the entrance, fifteen feet wide and supported by a very strong cross timber which in turn rests on two posts with the usual carved capitals. A balustrade runs along the edge of this gallery, both for beauty and protection. The gallery does not possess the modern convenience of stairs but is reached by a ladder which is curious

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and interesting because it was made by the Indians of the pueblo entirely of wood, without the use of a single nail or piece of metal of any kind.

The interior does not differ materially from that of the churches in other pueblos; on the side walls are the usual stations of the cross in modern form; but of more interest to the tourist are ten of the wall candlesticks, made of tin with the peculiar ornamentation which was in vogue before the American Occupation, and which were brought from Chihuahua in the days of the Santa Fé Trail.

As before stated, the church is well provided with statues, all of wood, and all of them representing San Buenaventura, the patron saint of the pueblo; the only disadvantage of such a goodly number being that they bear no resemblance to each other. This, however, seems not to detract at all from the reverence with which they are all regarded.

The first is a really beautiful statue of the modern French type, fully five feet high, with a purple robe over a brown gown, and carries a pen in the right hand and a book in the left. This was a gift to the church from the good Sisters at Santa Fé, and was received with much ceremony and great rejoicing on the part of the Indians, in 1901.

The second is a trifle smaller, about five and a half feet high, with a circular halo around the head, which adds largely to its saint-like appearance. This statue also carries a book in the left hand, but instead of a pen has a bunch of flowers in the right. There are also flowers fastened in its breast. This statue

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has special local interest, as it was made in the pueblo itself some years ago by an Indian who came from Old Mexico.

The third is much smaller and more antique. It is but eighteen inches high and is dressed in a lavender gown with a purple cord, and is decorated with many strings of beads.

The first of the “santos,” as statues of this class are always called, has a thoughtful, shaven face, and is a fine piece of French workmanship. The second has a smooth, oval countenance, like that of a girl. The third — the small one — has rather a hard and forbidding expression and its visage wears a black beard and a well developed moustache.

It would be difficult to imagine three figures more dissimilar; and while the last is far from being attractive in its appearance, we are told that it is much the most popular among the Indians, probably because it is the oldest and has represented the patron saint through many generations.

The Cochití festival is one which it is always a delight to attend. While the population is much smaller than that of Santo Domingo, and consequently the number of dancers is not so large, yet these people are so hospitable and good natured that there is always a feeling of “being at home” that does not exist elsewhere.

The festival itself is of the same general character as that in its larger and prouder neighbor, the chief feature being a “tabla” dance of the usual type, which lasts from the time of the church service to

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the end of the day. A booth is prepared in advance in the principal plaza of the town, covered with branches without and lined with gorgeous blankets within, and in this is an improvised altar made of a table covered with more of the finest blankets in the pueblo.

At eight o'clock the tall standards are displayed at the two estufas, and an hour later the capitan de la guerra—the war captain—who in these peaceful days is the master of ceremonies at all public functions, makes formal proclamation in the name of the governor of the pueblo.

This is followed by the religious ceremonies of the church, which are conducted by the clergy from Peña Blanca, within whose parish Cochití is situated. This is quite similar to the services on like occasions in other pueblos, so that no special description is necessary. At its conclusion, a procession is formed, which marches from the church to the booth in somewhat the following order, the object being to carry the “santos” to the altar prepared for them there:

First comes the cross-bearer, who is generally an Indian, not in native costume, but in “citizen” clothes with the exception of a coat.

He is followed by two bearers of giant candles, placed on standards fully six feet in height.

Then comes the canopy, a square frame covered with cloth and supported by poles at the four corners, the whole being carried by the Indians who are honored by selection for that purpose.

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Under this are carried all three of the statues of the patron saint, San Buenaventura.

This is followed by the attending priest or priests, and then by girls chanting an anthem, and general procession.

The church bells ring continually and guns are discharged, until the “santos” are safely placed on the altar in the booth. The priests then retire, but the people come to the booth all through the day, kneeling and kissing the hems of the garments of the “santos,” and leaving their offerings of loaves of bread, melons, and of fruit and vegetables of all available kinds.

The procession is not very long, for this is a busy day and everyone is fully occupied. Those who are to take part in the dance require time for the necessary preparation, for the dresses have to be ceremonially correct; and on these occasions all of the most gorgeous blankets and beautiful jewelry of silver, turquoise, and coral, which constitute the riches of the people, are displayed; and others are busy welcoming the visitors who crowd all of the houses, and arranging the food to which everyone is welcome on this day of universal hospitality.

Soon the dance begins, each estufa being represented by about forty participants, half men and half women; the two sides dancing alternately throughout the day. Each side has its orchestra of sixteen musicians who chant the prayers that are the central motive of the whole affair; and to amuse both old and young, each estufa contributes its quota of Delight

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Makers, grotesquely painted and full of harmless jokes, as characteristic a feature on all such occasions among the Pueblo Indians as are the clowns in the circuses among the Caucasian race.

Of the dancers the women all wear “tablas,” the high wooden head dress made of thin boards painted green and cut into various shapes; the men have green feathers on top of their heads.

The musicians are dressed in baggy white cotton pantaloons, with white cotton shirts hanging nearly to the knees and bound around the waist by a bright colored belt, and a vest open in front. Moccasins on the feet, a band of brilliant red around the head, and a tuft of red worsted braided with the back hair, complete the toilet.

All through the afternoon the dancers from the two estufas relieve each other, until near the setting of the sun. Half an hour before the closing, both bands of dancers appear at the same time, each with its own standard and its own musicians. They dance separately but close together and occasionally form one long line of all the participants.

Suddenly one division stops dancing and is drawn up in a double line at the south end of the plaza, with its standard erect. The other division forms opposite to the first. Then the drum ceases to sound and is carried away, and the two divisions unite, with both standards in front.

A gun is fired. The church bell rings loudly. The “canopy” is raised and the three “santos” taken from the booth and placed beneath it. All form in

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procession and the line of march is taken to the church, where the statues are restored to their places.

The great ceremonial dance is ended!

During the Pueblo Revolution of 1680, Cochití was in the storm center, as Santo Domingo on one side and Jemez on the other were among the most determined of the pueblos in their opposition to the Spaniards. At the same time it was one of the few pueblos in which the priest was not killed on the 10th of August.

There is a tradition current in the pueblo as to the reason that the resident priest was not murdered here at the beginning of the rebellion of 1680, as so many of his brethren were, at Jemez, Santo Domingo, and other pueblos.

It is said that the sacristan of the church, who was an Indian, and consequently acquainted with the conspiracy, was greatly attached to his spiritual master, and could not bear the thought of having his blood upon his head. So just on the eve of the uprisinghe informed the priest that that night every Spaniard found in the village would be massacred. The padre in consternation asked how it was possible to escape, and was informed that it was impossible except through some disguise, as every attempt to leave the town would only hasten his destruction. “But,” said the sacristan, “I have a plan. Take these zapatos [Indian sandal shoes], throw this manta over your shoulders, and carry this tenaja [water jar] in your hand. Go down to the river at

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dusk, as if for water. No one will suspect you while so dressed and carrying the tenaja. Then cross the river and fly for your life.” The priest followed the advice, and escaped to San Felipe, where he met a body of friends and so was saved.

When De Vargas came on his first expedition in 1692, he found the pueblo of Cochití deserted, although the fields were cultivated; but the people had moved to what they considered a place of safety, with many other Indians from San Marcos and San Felipe. After some negotiations and promises of immunity they were induced to return to their pueblo on October 20th. However, before the second expedition of De Vargas in the succeeding year, the pueblo was again deserted and the people had established themselves in a very strong position on the Potrero Viejo above the Cañada de Cochití. San Felipe, Santa Ana, and Zia were now friendly to the Spaniards, but the potrero was occupied by the combined forces of Cochití and Santo Domingo, with additions from San Marcos and Jemez. It is a bold and picturesque rock jutting out above the cañon, at a height of seven hundred feet, and was considered impregnable. Here occurred the decisive battle of the reconquest on the night of April 21, 1694, when the combined armies of the Spaniards and their Indian allies finally captured the fortress-like town, with no less than three hundred and forty-two women and children;—a victory which was followed by the burning of the mountain pueblo and the enforced

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return of the people to the old village by the river.

The church, which had been desecrated in 1680, and was in ruins, was rebuilt or repaired, no change being made in its location, and there it remains to this day.

A glimpse into the life of these people more than a hundred years ago can be had by looking into the old parish registry books of baptisms and marriages and deaths. You will find some of them, yellowed with age, and bound in wrinkled leather or vellum, at the house of the priest in charge. Outwardly they are not inviting, but the pages within show the careful record of each event, formally set forth, and in so concise a hand that four or five of the full entries are found on a single page. These are not the oldest books of registry, for unfortunately those are missing, and the principal set of those remaining begins May 18, 1776, just before our American Declaration of Independence, when the volumes were formally presented to the priest in charge by Mariano Rodriguez de la Torre, vice custodian; and the first act of the recipient appears to have been to number the leaves and certify on the first page that the book contained just so many “including the first and the last,” so that no interpolation or destruction could falsify the record. The priest at that time was Fr. Estanislao Mariano de Manulanda, with whom spelling was evidently not the strongest point, but who added to his name a most elaborate rubric. Then,

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in April, 1778, came Fr. José Madrano, who wrote a flowing hand and was satisfied with a simpler hieroglyphical sign manual; and after him, in January of the next year, came Fr. Antonio Cavallero, who ministered to these poor people for many long years and recorded the deaths of almost a generation. His was a round, careful hand, each letter being perfect by itself, and we watch it through the old volumes till age brought a tremor to the good man's writing, and after seeing the beginning of the new century he ended his labors in June, 1801.

Each record begins “En esta Yglesia y Mission de San Buenaventura de Cochití de los Queres,” and the Christian names of the parties are always Spanish while the surnames are pure Indian, represented as well as the padre could do it, in our letters; and when in case of marriages either of the parties had been married before, the former partner is named. Thus under date of January 12, 1779, we have Juan Roque Saiguitigua, widower of the late Cathalina Hiuiu, married to Maria Iqutaquia, widow of the late Miguel Zayatigua; while the next record tells of the union of two younger hearts in the persons of Miguel Huic and Ana Maria Sihai, a bachelor and a maiden.

To show the general style of Cochití names, comparatively few of which are heard now, the following have been collected from these records: Atziotza, Aitihiza, Cayatiza, Cuco, Cautlungua, Chigua, Catzuitza, Chapana, Cubuatigua, Capisi, Caitigua, Cauca, Camuya, Cutzuxi, Cautiguiatza, Giguez, Hayzi, Juguatz, Kaiguiya, Kaizero, Kaina, Munré, Machugue,

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Onagre, Quillaytza, Quinya, Quiastigua, Quiaguada, Raiguitigua, Baiti˜i, Ruisiba, Saya, Siyaguiugui, Satague, Taatigua, Tullatza, Tiguatigua, Taquiaya, Tzitizuguuitza, Uaucitigua, Uxitigua, Zuzico, Zaiquiutegua, Zahaha, Zuesa, Yutiza.

The frequency of the termination “tigua” or “tegua” among these names, is noticeable and suggestive.

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