Tupatu and Vargas Accords, 1692

 Orchestrating Peace in a Time of Uncertainty, 1692-1696

By José Antonio Esquibel

This essay is based on the historical lecture given on the occasion of the 2004 Santa Fe Fiesta. José Antonio Esquibel researches and writes about the history of early New Mexico families. He has contributed to four anthologies on New Mexico history and served as a research consultant for the Vargas Project (University of New Mexico) and El Camino Real Project.

 During the cold days of October 1692, a Tewa Indian named Juan and a Tiwa Indian named Francisco traveled in the company of don Diego de Vargas, Governor of New Mexico, as part of the group of soldiers, Pueblo Indian allies, and attendants seeking reconciliation with Pueblo Indian leaders of northern New Mexico. Vargas and his men cautiously traveled to the various pueblo communities soon after securing accords of peace with the influential Tewa leader Luis Tupatú. In a short space of time at least seven Pueblo Indian allies and seven soldiers were reunited with members of their family, having been separated since the Pueblo Indian uprising of August 1680. Juan found his sister-in-law, Isabel, as well as a niece and nephew. We can only imagine the emotions Francisco experienced in being reunited with his mother, Elena, three brothers, and a sister. Francisco Márquez, a soldier, found his aunt, Lucía, who was part Tewa from Nambé Pueblo, and her grown daughter. Sargento Mayor Juan Ruiz de Cáceres took into his care two Pueblo Indian cousins, Tomé and Antonia. These individuals, and others who desired to be reunited with family members, returned to El Paso del Norte with the hope that all those who were living in exile would be able to return to their homes and families in New Mexico with peace reestablished between leaders of the Spanish crown and the Pueblo Indians.

Underlying the efforts to restore New Mexico to the Spanish crown in 1692 and 1693 was a process of mending broken bonds of family, friendship, religion, and government between Pueblo Indians and returning settlers. The task of achieving peace and stability in frontier New Mexico was formidable and involved several years of constant effort by Pueblo Indian and Spanish leaders. Principle Indian leaders who boldly contributed to reconciliation included Luís Tupatú, Domingo of Tesuque, Cristóbal Yope, Antonio Bolsas, Bartolomé de Ojeda, and  Juan de Ye. In cooperation with Governor Vargas and others, these leaders diligently strove to overcome distrust in resolving conflict. The accords of peace negotiated between Tupatú and Vargas also reunited family members and compadres and set the foundation for the future course of New Mexico’s social and cultural history.

On the chilly afternoon of September 15, 1692, while encamped just north of Santa Fe, Vargas and his soldiers caught sight of a group of Indians riding on horseback on the road from Tesuque. Vargas had traveled from El Paso with his soldiers and Pueblo Indian allies on the rough remnants of the camino real with the hope of securing a peaceful agreement for reconciling the pueblo communities as part of Spanish government. The approaching Indians rode to the old Villa of Santa Fe, which had been transformed into a fortress and was defended by Tewa and Tano Indians loyal to Luis Tupatú, who was also known as Luis el Picurí. Some of the Indians of the fortress joined the Indians on horseback and together they walked to Vargas’ camp. An Indian approached Vargas seeking permission to receive Luis Tupatú. Vargas memorialized this decisive meeting in his journal:

 Don Luis dismounted from the horse he had come on and walked with his escort, all dressed in animal hides, as is their custom. On his forehead, near the crown of his head, he was wearing a palm-straw band that looked like a diadem.

He showed me a small, silver image of Christ he had in his hands with a small piece of taffeta, which I saw had a printed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He was also wearing a rosary I had sent him. In his pouch he had an Angus Dei, which I was told he wore. I welcomed him through the interpreters and gave the peace, telling him he would be safe. So that he might better understand my good intentions and that I was not going to harm him, I showed him the image of the Blessed Lady, which was on a royal standard; the holy cross of the rosary, and the one I had sent him, all of which I took as my witnesses that the peace I was offering him in the name of the two majesties [God and King] was sure. He replied that he believed it was so. I ordered him to enter my tent, greeting him kindly with warm words and chocolate, which he drank with the fathers, the others who were present, and me.

The following day Tupatú returned to negotiate further with Vargas, successfully securing the governor’s pledge to attempt to unite in peace the Pecos Indians and Taos Indians, who were hostile to his people and friendly with his people’s enemy, the Faraones Apache. Tupatú’s intent in negotiating was “so that his people might be free and safe from the enemy.” A month later the ceremony of the formal appointment of Luis Tupatú as governor of thirteen northern pueblos occurred at Santa Fe. Swearing the oath of office, Tupatú received his written title and a cane as the sign of his authority. The negotiation of peace under the leadership of Tupatú and Vargas ranks among the most significant events that shaped the development of Pueblo Indian and Spanish societies in New Mexico.

A constellation of complex factors contributed to the Tupatú and Vargas accords. Unrelenting attacks on pueblo communities by the Apache limited farming and hunting activities. Fighting among the various pueblo tribes was also detrimental to the well-being of pueblo communities. Tupatú apparently viewed Vargas and the Spanish government as a lesser threat and a potential ally to assist in the preservation of his people. Another factor often overlooked is the fact that among the settlers that fled to El Paso in 1680, and within the ranks of soldiers under Vargas’ command in 1692 and 1693, were people who were relatives of Pueblo Indians. As is the case in most wars, the uprising of 1680 separated family members, including the family of Luis Tupatú.

Luis Tupatú was a leader of the 1680 uprising and served as governor of the Picuris Pueblo. His wife belonged to an extended family of Tewa Indians, Creole Spaniards, and mestizos. Her uncle, Captain Miguel Luján, was among the soldiers that accompanied Vargas in 1692. Luján and his brother-in-law, Sargento Mayor Juan Ruiz de Cáceres, spoke the Tewa language and served as interpreters. Both were described as having relatives among the Tewa of the Pueblos of San Juan and Picuris.

The members of the Luján and Ruiz de Cáceres family and their Tewa relatives, which included the Tupatú family, formed a kinship group that crossed cultural boundaries. Members of this clan inherited aspects of Spanish and Pueblo heritages, creating a family that was distinctly New Mexican. One of the tragic outcomes of the 1680 uprising for this extended family and others of similar constitution included the breaking of familial and social bonds. After thirteen years of forced separation this clan experienced a long-overdue reunion in the months of September and October 1692. When Vargas left northern New Mexico in December 1692 to return to El Paso several Tewa relatives of Miguel Luján and Juan Ruiz de Cáceres, including a sister of the wife of Tupatú, made the long journey south to be with other relatives.

Vargas was an individual endowed with a remarkable sense of loyalty and sincerity in his service to God and king. In service to the king, he was a skillful diplomat and military strategist, and as an able leader he fostered trust and loyalty in others. In service to God, he was a religious man who relayed on his faith to guide his actions, and he bound himself to Pueblo Indian leaders through the spiritual relationship of compadrazgo, regarding these individuals as family.

In 1693 Vargas secured the commitment of settlers desiring to return to New Mexico. In October 1693, he led the exiled settlers northward from El Paso, arriving at the gates of Santa Fe in early December. Tupatú extended a sign of good will by having twenty-three sacks of maize delivered to Vargas, but Tupatú was troubled by rumors of ill-intent. Relaying on the sincerity of his religious faith, Vargas reassured Tupatú of his intention for peace while presenting a rosary with a crucifix and the image of the Virgin Mary. Items such as these embodied the ideals of a will greater than their own and activated powerful psychological and spiritual forces related to higher principles of humanity. As a result, Tupatú’s anxiety was calmed, at least temporarily.

The return of settlers stirred mixed reactions among Pueblo leaders. Those who were pleased about this return related that they would be able to sow fields further away from the Pueblos and go hunting for deer because assaults by the Navajo and Apache kept them close to their dwellings. Those who were displeased initially prevented Vargas and the settlers from entering Santa Fe and then formed a faction that over the next several years resisted reconciliation in favor of complete autonomy.

The return of the settlers also brought about the reunion of numerous cousins, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents and children, and in-laws. During the tense days of December 1693, when Tewa and Tano Indians blocked Vargas’ entrance into Santa Fe, as many as ten settlers were allowed entry to be with Indian relatives. Additional reunions occurred away from Santa Fe. Lucía, the widow of the soldier Pedro Márquez, returned to live with her family at Nambé Pueblo. The wife of Luis Tupatú requested to see her sister, who had left with her uncle, Miguel Luján, in the previous year.

The reunion of family members served as one contributing factor to the successful effort of reconciliation. The inner resolve and the strength of character that was required of individuals to mend broken bonds and to overcome division were repeatedly challenged by disagreements. Strife during the years of 1694 and 1695 culminated in the Pueblo Indian revolt of June 1696. Nonetheless, decisive leaders such as Luis Tupatú, and families such as the Luján, persevered. Following the revolt of June 1696, peace and stable relations were established in New Mexico through cooperation between Pueblo Indians and settlers and were maintained for many generations.

Underlying the resolution of conflict were principles of love, peace, charity, reconciliation, and faith. Repeatedly, the records of Vargas’ journals illustrate how these aspects of humanity, rooted in human spirituality, overcame hatred, distrust, anger, and violence to restore broken bonds among people in conflict. The task of orchestrating reconciliation in uncertain times was daunting. It took several years of diligent effort by the ancestors of modern-day New Mexican Hispanos and Pueblo Indians to establish a peaceful co-existence that allowed them to worship together in a shared faith and to live and work side by side to the benefit of our historical and cultural heritage.

Note: The main sources of historical information for this essay are from the journals of Don Diego de Vargas edited by John. L Kessell, Rick Hendricks, Meredith D. Dodge and Larry D. Miller and published by the University of New Mexico Press, in particular, By Force of Arms: The Journals of Don Diego de Vargas, 1691-93 (1992) and To the Royal Crown Restored: The Journals of Don Diego de Vargas, 1692-1694 (1995).

This essay is used courtesy of  the author and EL Palacio, Spring 2006, Vol. 111, No. 1: 16-18


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