23. The Tehua Pueblos

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The Tehua pueblos are six in number, extending from San Juan to Tesuque, and embracing besides these two, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojuaque, and Nambé. They are compactly located in a district of moderate size, and really form one community, similar in language, customs, and traditions. In this matter of location they differ very much from the Tihua nation, which includes the Indians of Taos and Picuris in the north with those of Isleta in the south; or the Jemez-Pecos people, who before the abandonment of Pecos, lived in those far-separated pueblos, with many of different language and lineage between.

It was the Tehua nation that was first touched by the influence of Spanish civilization and the Christian religion; because Oñate, in selecting the choicest location for his colonization, placed both his first capital at San Gabriel and the permanent seat of government at Santa Fe within the territory of the Tehua Indians.

Down to that time we know practically nothing of their history. Coronado himself never visited the Tehua country, and his captains, like Barrio-Nuevo, only made rapid tours of exploration. Espejo

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and Castaño visited these pueblos, but nothing resulted from their expeditions. But Oñate settled in the midst of the nation, and found the people so hospitable and helpful that he gave the name of “Caballeros” to those with whom he came into most immediate contact.

We have seen in the preliminary chapter on Colonization, that the new settlement was established on July 12, 1598, by the advance guard of Oñate's expedition; that by August 18th the entire company had arrived; and that every one then took part in the building of their church, as the first and most important work. Its dedication, on October 8th, was made as elaborate and impressive as possible, and then followed the week of festivities, and the “universal meeting of all the Earth,” all intended to impress the Indian mind with the power and knowledge of the Spaniards and the beauty of their religion; and finally, settling down to systematic work, the Franciscan comisario, Padre Alonso Martinez, divided New Mexico into seven missionary districts and appointed one of his clergy to the charge of each.

To the province of the Tehuas was assigned Fr. Cristoval de Salazar and he proceeded without delay to the toilsome duties of his position; with the advantage, however, of the companionship of the comisario and other Spaniards at San Gabriel, which his brethren in more remote districts could not enjoy in their complete isolation. The succeeding history of the Missions at San Juan, Santa Clara,

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and Nambé will require separate chapters, but the other Tehua pueblos will be grouped together for consideration here.


Church building was evidently considered of primary importance and engaged the earliest attention of all the missionaries. When we remember that these Franciscan monks went alone into communities with whose language even they were not acquainted, without money or any other material inducement to offer, and succeeded not only in securing a hearing, but in persuading the people to give their time and labor to the building of temples for a new religion, their success is remarkable. Within thirty years, according to the report of Benavides, eight pueblos in this Tehua district had churches or chapels adequate for the service of the Christian religion, and in three places there were also conventos or houses for the residence of the priest and the accommodation of visiting clergy and lay helpers, all “very fine” he says,“ especially that at San Ildefonso on which the Religious who founded it expended great care.”

The two places having churches, in addition to the six Tehua pueblos still existing, were no doubt Cuyamangué and probably San Gabriel, in which the church built in 1598 was very likely still used by the Indians and adjacent settlers; and the three supplied with conventos, were very certainly, San Ildefonso, San Juan, and Nambé.

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The Mission at San Ildefonso became at an early day the center of Franciscan activity in the north, and the adjoining buildings which still existed there until recent changes, showed the number of persons that it was arranged to accommodate when necessary. However, all this does not seem to have had any effect in preventing the San Ildefonso Indians from joining with their racial brethren in the revolt of 1680 and the destruction of the Franciscans. Fr. Luis de Morales was at that time the priest in charge there and had lived among the people for a considerable time and apparently was much beloved, and with him as his assistant was a younger brother named Antonio Sanches de Pro, who had come from Mexico only three years before. The tradition is that both were massacred in the church while serving at the altar.

When De Vargas appeared for the reconquest in 1693, the Indians of San Ildefonso and the adjacent pueblos made a determined resistance, and all the warriors gathered on the summit of the Mesita which was practically impregnable to the arms of those days. A siege was unsuccessful, but was renewed in the succeeding spring, when the Spaniards attempted its capture on March 4th, having brought two of the cannon of that day across the country from Santa Fe for that purpose. Unfortunately, both pieces of artillery burst at the first attempted discharge. A furious assault was made on the natural fortress on the 11th, but was repulsed, and a week afterwards the siege was abandoned.

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Even after the general pacification of the province the Indians of San Ildefonso took part in the attempted uprising of 1696 and killed both their own priest and a visiting brother. Fr. Francisco Corvera was then in charge of the Mission and on June 4th received a visit from Fr. Antonio Moreno, then the missionary at Nambé. In the night while both were sleeping in the convento, the Indians barred the doors and windows of both that building and the church to which it was an adjunct, and then set fire to both buildings, and the two priests were suffocated by the smoke. Soon after the complete restoration of Spanish authority the church at San Ildefonso was rebuilt very near the site of the older structure, and a mound of earth still marks the location of the latter. The new church remained practically unaltered until a few years ago, when the prevailing spirit of change and innovation succeeded in making several substantial alterations. The old Mission is in possession of a number of interesting and valuable Spanish paintings, and two or three of the very rare pictures on elk skin or buffalo hide which were made in the early missionary days when it was impossible to obtain enough pictures on canvas for the use of the new churches.

Although near the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, San Ildefonso has never been overrun by tourists, and everything remains as in pristine days. The principal annual festival, which occurs on the saint's day of San Ildefonso, in January, is an interesting celebration, usually attended by a considerable number

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of tourists from Santa Fé The illustration of the pueblo which accompanies this chapter shows a ceremonial dance in full progress, on the level plaza in front of the church, and looks across the Rio Grande to the Jemez Mountains on the west.


Of Tesuque and Pojuaque there is not much to say. Both have been gradually losing in population during the last hundred years, until it has seemed that at least one of these old historic towns might follow the fate of Cuyamangué which was situated between them, and become extinct. In 1805, according to the census taken by Governor Alencaster, Tesuque contained 131 inhabitants, now reduced to almost an exact one hundred, and Pojuaque had 100, which have dwindled to a single dozen.

Their history has been similar to that of their neighbors, except that, being so near the capital and surrounded by Mexican ranches, they have been somewhat more influenced by their immediate environment.

At the time of the Pueblo Revolution of 1680 it was from Tesuque that the arrangements for the simultaneous destruction of all the Spaniards, which had been so carefully planned and their secrecy so well preserved, were revealed just in advance of the fatal day. Two Indians, named Catua and Omtua, gave the information to the Spanish officials; but their treachery was discovered by the other Indians of Tesuque on August 9th, and instantly swift messengers

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carried word to every pueblo that the secret was known and that the rising must take place without delay.

The very first blow was struck in Tesuque itself on the evening of that day, when a Spaniard named Cristobal de Herrera was killed there. The next morning, the Rev. Padre Juan Bautista Pio and a soldier named Pedro Hidalgo suffered a sudden attack. Tesuque was then within the parish of Santa Fé, and was served, in religious matters, by a priest sent out from the capital. For some time it had been in the spiritual charge of Father Pio and on the morning of August 10th he had started at daylight, with a soldier as a companion, to say mass in the pueblo. On arriving at Tesuque they were surprised to find the town deserted, and proceeded along the road in search of some explanation. About a mile from the pueblo they met some of the Indians of Tesuque with others from Cuyamangué, all armed and covered with war paint. Father Pio said “What does this mean, my children; are you crazy?” and went on ahead to summon some of the others to return. Soon he entered a ravine, and a few minutes later two Indians emerged, one carrying a kind of shield which belonged to the padre and the other spotted with blood. They and others approached Hidalgo and took from him his sword and hat, but being on horseback, he succeeded in shaking them off and escaped.

In the remarkable sermon preached in the cathedral in the City of Mexico, on March 20, 1681, before

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the viceroy, in commemoration of the Franciscan martyrs of the Pueblo Revolution, Dr. Isidro Sariñana y Cuenca, the most eloquent orator of the Seraphic Order, speaks especially of this martyrdom, placing the name of Father Pio at the head of the list of those killed, and adding “If confederated


cruelty was wickedly pursuing innocence, it is clear that there had to be a Pio as the first target of the arrows which infidelity and apostasy shot against the Christian religion.”

Tesuque is less than nine miles from Santa Fé, and therefore by far the most easily reached of all

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of the pueblos by the ordinary tourist. While the constant stream of visitors which this naturally brings to the village has turned the attention of some of the Indians from their regular agricultural pursuits to the furnishing of curios for the strangers who drive out to their village, and may have dulled somewhat the usual Pueblo spirit of hospitality, yet the pueblo itself has preserved all of its natural characteristics and should certainly be visited by all who cannot afford time to see one of the larger Indian towns. It gives an excellent idea of the peculiar architecture and customs of this ancient people, who have brought down to the twentieth century the life which their forefathers lived four hundred years ago, and thus present to our observation a living picture of American life as it was in the days of Ferdinand and Isabella, of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth.

The accompanying picture shows the Church of San Diego at Tesuque on a day when a number of tourists are visiting the pueblo.


The old church, perched on a hill-top, and a few surrounding houses of the ancient style, are all that remain of the once flourishing pueblo of Pojuaque. The adjacent road, which is the main thoroughfare from Santa Fé to the north, curves around the hill in order to escape a heavy grade, and so the pueblo and its Mission Church are often passed without being observed. But the view from the hill itself includes

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one of the greenest of agricultural valleys, with the picturesque river winding down from the mountains to the Rio Grande, and also the high peaks, snow-clad through most of the year, forming the eastern horizon.

The church is quaint and free from the vandalism of modern innovation, and thus possesses much more of interest to the intelligent and appreciative visitor than the most sumptuous structures of a recent day. No blood of priest or monk stains the history of this peaceful mission, no story of the martyrdom of some devoted minister of Christ comes to mar the record of the baptisms and marriages and deaths of the generations which here have lived and died. But history tells us that on the fatal August day, so long ago, the Spaniards residing in the valley, who were warned, fled to the capital and that those who remained were destroyed or made captive. Among those who suffered were Captain Francisco Ximenes and his family and a man named José de Goitia; and among the missing, that is, those who remained in captivity, were Doña Petronila de Silva and her children.

What remains of the pueblo of Pojuaque is situated eighteen miles from Santa Fé, close to the main highway which leads to the north. The visitor will be well repaid who will turn aside at least for a brief resting time, and visit the little known, but entirely unspoiled Mission Church of this ancient pueblo.

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