27. Santa Cruz

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Santa Cruz was never a mission nor the site of an ancient pueblo. After the Spanish colonization, a settlement gradually developed there on account of its excellent situation and fertile lands, but without any organized government and under the religious charge of the missionary at San Juan. At the Pueblo Revolution in 1680, the Spanish population was destroyed, some being killed, a few reserved as captives, and others succeeding in joining their countrymen at Santa Fé or on the retreat to El Paso. During the twelve years of Pueblo control the houses and fields abandoned by the Spaniards were occupied by Tanos Indians from the pueblos of Galisteo, San Lazaro, and San Cristobal, and they had established quite a large community at the time of the reconquest under De Vargas.

In 1694, when the families of the refugees at El Paso returned to Santa Fé, together with new colonists from Mexico, the governor was much embarrassed to find suitable accommodations for them and to arrange for their permanent settlement. Sixty-six families arrived on June 23, 1694, and had to be temporarily sheltered in the crowded houses of the capital, to the great discomfort of all concerned. As

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the best solution of the difficulty, and in the line of the permanent colonization that was desired, it was finally decided to establish another villa, or Spanish town with a regular municipal government, and Santa Cruz was selected as the most desirable place. This made it necessary to remove the Indians who were then located there, and this entailed many difficulties and long negotiations not necessary to be narrated here. The location was exceedingly desirable and the Indians strenuously objected to a return to their own pueblo or even to the vicinity of Chimayó; but De Vargas was firm in the matter and all that could be conceded was a delay so as to make the removal less distasteful.

This was the first Spanish town established after the founding of the capital at Santa Fé, and has been referred to somewhat in the chapter on Albuquerque, which was the only subsequent villa. In the journal of De Vargas, he says: “And I constituted it as the first new settlement and gave it the honorary title of Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de los Espanoles Mejicanos del Rey Nuestro Senor Carlos Segundo.”

As matter of favor the actual occupation of the town by the new settlers was postponed until the next spring. On April 19, 1695, Governor De Vargas issued a proclamation commanding all the colonists to leave Santa Fé on the next Thursday at 10 A.M. and added, “and I will then have in the plaza of the city the pack-mules I now have and will also furnish some horses to mount in part those who

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may need them, and I will aid them in all things, assuring them that a ration of beef and corn shall not be wanting as well as half a fanega of corn to each family for planting.”

This proclamation was “published” in the two plazas of the city by Sebastian Rodriguez, negro drummer, in a loud and intelligible voice, in presence of a large concourse of people. On the appointed day, April 21st, the migration took place and the new settlement was established; being known in all documents of the time and for a century thereafter as “La Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de la Cañada.” The priest who accompanied the settlers and was placed in charge of the new villa was Rev. Antonio Moreno; and he lost no time in stirring up the people to perform their first public duty by erecting a church.

From its foundation down to the time of the American Occupation in 1846, Santa Cruz enjoyed the distinction of being one of the very few villas in New Mexico—only two till the founding of Albuquerque in 1706, and three thereafter. During much of that period it was the headquarters of the Northern District of the Territory, and especially during the Mexican era, from 1822 to 1846, was of much political importance.

Probably the church built by the first settlers was not very substantial, as we find in the archives an order from the governor dated June 15, 1733, giving to the inhabitants of Santa Cruz permission to build a new church “at their own cost, the present one

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being in ruins.”cords preserved in this parish, however, extend back of this date and must have been made in the original church and parish house erected in 1695.

special feature of interest in Santa Cruz is its great church, which many consider the best existing specimen of the early Franciscan Missions. We can confidently assume that it was built in accordance with the official action of 1733 and probably finished by the end of that year. Not only the building itself but its varied contents are of great interest, and the set of church records preserved in this parish is among the most perfect in the Southwest.

course occasional changes are made in the arrangement of pictures and other ornaments, but the following description, prepared by the author some years ago, is believed to be complete, and everything mentioned therein can be found by the interested visitor, though perhaps not in the precise place then indicated.


This church is considered the largest in New Mexico, and is full of objects of interest to the antiquarian and the artist, as well as the devout Christian. The present edifice is built in the usual form of a cross, consisting chiefly of the church proper and two chapels, of Our Lady of Carmel on the north, and of San Francisco on the south, the sacristy and baptistery being behind the chapel of Our Lady of Carmel.

In the nave, until recently, were six very fine old

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Spanish paintings on one side, and an equal number of Mexican pictures just opposite, forming a most marked contrast. The former have now been placed in other positions. The Mexican pictures, which are still on the north side, consist of seven in all. The lower tier represents Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Joseph, and St. Stephen; above them is a representation of the crucifixion with a saint on each side, and surmounting all, a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On the opposite side, in a niche fifteen feet long by eight feet high, is a representation of Christ in the Tomb; and near it are two figures, one of Our Lord, and one of Our Lady of Carmel, the latter in an embroidered silk robe. Neither of these possesses artistic merit; but near them is the most beautiful specimen of antique wood carving in the Territory, being a statuette of St. Francis. It has, unfortunately, lost the hands, but is a most interesting example of Spanish seventeenth century art. The altar piece consists of a number of separate paintings. In the center is a statue of the Virgin and Child, and above them a large cross. On the south side of the statue are pictures of Santa Teresa, with a dove, and St. Joseph and the Child; and on the north San Francisco Javier and Santa Barbara. Above the former is a Holy Family, including San Joaquin and Santa Ana; and above the latter two angels. To the south of the altar is a picture of King Ferdinand; and on the north, St. Jerome.

In the Chapel of St. Francis, sometimes called the

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chapel of the Penitentes, is a wooden statue of St. Francis three and one-half feet high, and a small Mexican picture of the nativity. In the Chapel of Our Lady of Carmel is a beautiful modern image of the Virgin, crowned; and on each side a painting on metal, one of St. Anthony of Padua, and one of St. Joseph. Behind the statute, and partially hidden from view, is a picture of Our Lady of Carmel.

The doors which lead to this chapel are very curious, being made in elaborate panels, and painted blue, red, and yellow. In the sacristy attached to this chapel are a great many ornaments of Mexican manufacture, which, with the growth of a more refined taste, or from their becoming broken, have been discarded from time to time. Among them are two angels of the Last Judgment, with long trumpets, said to have been made at Chimayó, and a number of paintings on wood, including a Holy Family, San Francisco, Señora de Guadalupe, etc. The walls of the chapels are four and one-half feet thick, and those of the church in some places still thicker.

In the main sacristy are several of the Spanish paintings which were originally in the nave of the church; and many other interesting articles. Among these are:

Two companion pictures of large size—one of the Virgin and Child, and one of St. Joseph and the Child; the Archangel Gabriel; Our Lady of Sorrows; a smaller picture of San Joaquin; the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin by the Holy Spirit. All of these pictures are of artistic merit, and probably

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were brought from Spain at an early day. Several, and especially the last, bear evident traces of the school of Murillo. The Banner of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament; two ancient candlesticks of tin, each eight feet high; a baptismal font of beaten copper, two feet in diameter, with a silver conch-shell; a matraca of wood, used instead of a bell to call the congregation during the last three days of Lent; a pyx of solid silver, heavily gilt; magnificent sacerdotal vestments embroidered in gold and silver. Among the most interesting books preserved in the church are the following:

1. “Libro de Casamientos de la Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz, Año 1726.”

Record of marriages of the new town of Santa Cruz. This was commenced by “Padre Predicator fray Manuel de Sopena,” and the frontispiece is a picture, in elaborate pen-and-ink work, of the marriage of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph.

2. Libro de Difuntos de la Mission de San Diego de los Jemez.

The record of deaths at Jemez, beginning August, 1720. This was kept by Father Francisco C. J. Delgado, “Notary of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.”

3. Record of deaths at Santa Cruz, 1726, with three title-pages in curious penwork.

The book contains many interesting documents, as, for example, a letter from the king of Spain as to Indian affairs, in 1769.

This church was the central seat of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Carmel, and contains a register

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of all of its members, “made by authority of the Pope and the Bishop of Durango,” in 1760, and a curious record of its property and expenses, dated 1768.

The two illustrations accompanying this chapter are from recent photographs, one showing the exterior of the venerable church with its immediate surroundings, and the other, the interior as now existing. The latter is somewhat marred by the presence of modern stoves with long and rather unsightly pipes extending to the roof, but this disfigurement must be charged to the account of the desire for personal comfort which the latter-day church attendants seem to consider necessary.

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