The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest

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9780743255172: The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest

The dramatic and tragic story of the only successful Native American uprising against the Spanish, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

With the conquest of New Mexico in 1598, Spanish governors, soldiers, and missionaries began their brutal subjugation of the Pueblo Indians in what is today the Southwestern United States. This oppression continued for decades, until, in the summer of 1680, led by a visionary shaman named Pope, the Puebloans revolted. In total secrecy they coordinated an attack, killing 401 settlers and soldiers and routing the rulers in Santa Fe. Every Spaniard was driven from the Pueblo homeland, the only time in North American history that conquering Europeans were thoroughly expelled from Indian territory.

Yet today, more than three centuries later, crucial questions about the Pueblo Revolt remain unanswered. How did Pope succeed in his brilliant plot? And what happened in the Pueblo world between 1680 and 1692, when a new Spanish force reconquered the Pueblo peoples with relative ease?

David Roberts set out to try to answer these questions and to bring this remarkable historical episode to life. He visited Pueblo villages, talked with Native American and Anglo historians, combed through archives, discovered backcountry ruins, sought out the vivid rock art panels carved and painted by Puebloans contemporary with the events, and pondered the existence of centuries-old Spanish documents never seen by Anglos.

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About the Author:

David Roberts is the author of twenty-four books on mountaineering, adventure, and the history of the American Southwest. His essays and articles have appeared in National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and The Atlantic Monthly, among other publications. He lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

At dawn, frost silvered the yellow cottonwood leaves strewn in the dirt in front of the visitor center. The men had built a bonfire to warm their morning's play. A fusillade of sharp reports -- stone knocking upon stone -- rang echoless in the cold, clear air. I sat just outside the circle of men, witnessing a cultural paradox whose roots stretched more than five centuries into the past.

It was October 1994. Near the end of three years of research for a book about those prehistoric geniuses of the Southwest, the Anasazi, I had come to Jemez Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Nine of the ten men laboring before my eyes were from Jemez and its neighbor pueblo, Zia, ten miles to the south. As Puebloans, they were direct descendants of the Anasazi who had built such wondrous villages as Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The tenth man was an Anglo archaeologist named Bruce Bradley, who lives in Cortez, Colorado. The paradox lay in the fact that, at the moment, Bradley was teaching his protégés how to make arrowheads.

At the time of Coronado's landmark entrada into the Southwest, in A.D. 1540, every Zia and Jemez man knew how to flake and chip formless lumps of chert and obsidian into sleek points that -- hafted to straight sticks that were fletched with bird feathers, sent winging from a well-flexed bow -- could bring down a deer in the forest or an enemy on the trail. Gradually, however, during the decades after the Spanish conquest of New Mexico in 1598, under Don Juan de OÑate, the Puebloans lost the art of arrowhead making. There was no reason to keep that craft alive, once the men had learned how to use harquebuses (the small-caliber muskets of the day) and, later, rifles.

Through twenty years of trial and error, Bradley had taught himself to flint-knap so well that he could turn a core of creamy chert into any kind of projectile point he wished, from the long, fluted Clovis point favored by Paleo-Indians 9,000 years ago to the tiny triangular arrowheads Puebloans reserved, in the years just before the Spanish came, for killing rabbits. On that chilly October morning, the Zia and Jemez men had assembled under Bradley's tutelage not out of some atavistic yearning for a golden age before the Europeans had come and changed everything, but simply because they had formed an archery club.

Beside me sat another Anglo, Bill Whatley, who was serving as official archaeologist for Jemez Pueblo. It was Whatley who had arranged my visit. Evidently the paradox before our eyes had set him musing, just as it had me, for now, out of the blue, he leaned close and whispered in my ear, "Do you know that these guys still have Spanish documents they seized during the Pueblo Revolt, which no Anglos have ever seen?"

Electrified in that moment by Whatley's revelation, I have been haunted by it through the ten years since that October morning in front of the visitor center. In 1994, despite all the research I had done for my Anasazi book, I possessed only a vague understanding of the Pueblo Revolt. In 1680, I knew, the various pueblos scattered along the Rio Grande and to the west had united, for the first and only time in their history, to make a lightning strike that drove all the Spaniards out of New Mexico. Inevitably, I knew, the Spaniards had returned and accomplished the reconquest, but not before the pueblos had enjoyed twelve years of freedom. Yet about how the Revolt had been organized and pulled off, about the eighty-two years of tribulation under the Spanish yoke that had preceded it, about how after 1680 Puebloan unity had fallen apart and allowed the reconquest, and above all about what had happened in New Mexico during those twelve years without the Spanish, I knew next to nothing.

Two years ago, I scratched the old itch and returned to the Pueblo Revolt, as I began work on this present book. The mild sense of guilt I felt about my ignorance was shared, as I soon learned, by many a Southwest savant. Archaeologists and anthropologists who had toiled in New Mexico for two or three decades confessed to me a kindred ignorance of the details of the great uprising of 1680. A handful of books purported to cover the Revolt, but to my mind they did so in an unsatisfying fashion, leaving the central questions unanswered. All kinds of myths had attached themselves to that stunning interlude in New Mexico history, but it seemed impossible to test the truths that lay at their core. Most surprisingly of all, I began to suspect that even among today's Puebloans, the living memory of the Revolt was dim.

This struck me as a strange state of affairs. As one historian justly observes, the Pueblo Revolt remains "the point of highest drama in New Mexico's long history." From the Indian point of view, the Revolt, in its complete eradication of the European oppressor from the people's homeland for more than a decade, far outmatches in terms of lasting impact the famous massacre of Custer's army by the Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Big Horn in 1876. In its tragic dimension, the Revolt and reconquest took a toll among the Puebloans every bit as dolorous as the better-known campaigns of the Cherokee Trail of Tears or the Navajo Long Walk to Bosque Redondo.

As I immersed myself in research on the Pueblo Revolt, I discovered that the Spanish record of that conflagration was voluminous and vivid. Yet the documents preserved in archives in Seville and Mexico City represent but a portion of the testimony recorded at the time by friars and governors, for great piles of those documents were burned by the Puebloans during the Revolt. And who knows how many pueblos today still hoard, in secret repositories, long-lost chronicles seized from the oppressor in 1680? What would a scholar not give to be able to peruse the documents Bill Whatley told me about that October morning at Jemez!

Watching the men strike flakes of chert free from their cores, I mused further -- about just what value those hoarded documents must possess for the Jemez. As I would come to see, in struggling to fathom photocopies of records from the archives in Mexico City, the orthography of handwritten Spanish in the seventeenth century is so arcane that only experts in a field called paleography ("old writing") can read it. It seemed doubtful that anyone at Jemez could decipher the records seized in 1680 and guarded so zealously ever since. In Ladakh, I had seen Buddhist monks reverently curating ancient scrolls that they had no idea how to read. But that veneration could be explained by faith: the scrolls had the power of holy relics. Perhaps for the Jemez, the three-century-old scribblings that they kept hidden away from the eyes of prying scholars were relics in a reverse sense: talismans of the tyrannic power the Puebloans had wrested from the Spanish in 1680, charms against the oppression they had borne ever returning in full force.

In any event, all kinds of knowledge of what scholar France V. Scholes called "troublous times in New Mexico" vanished in the bonfires and seizures of 1680. Santa Fe, for instance, was founded in 1610, yet the earliest surviving map of the town was drawn only in 1767. Of course there were earlier maps, but they have disappeared. As a consequence, we do not know precisely where the climactic battle in August 1680 between the Puebloans and Spanish, culminating in the siege of Santa Fe, took place.

In another respect, the Spanish record is fundamentally unreliable. So sure were the officers and settlers in New Mexico that they carried a superior civilization into the midst of benighted savages, so arrogant were the friars in wielding the absolute truth of their Catholic faith to wipe out the "hideous apostasies" of the native religion, that it is frequently impossible to read between the lines of Spanish dogma to figure out just what was going on at Taos or Jemez or Acoma.

As for the Pueblo record of the Revolt, it looms for the Anglo scholar of today as a yawning void. An old truism of the Southwest has it that Spanish persecution in New Mexico was so severe that it drove the Pueblo religion (and indeed, the very culture) underground. Underground, it remains today. Yet the secrecy that lies at the heart of Puebloan life goes far deeper than a response to the Spanish. In basic ways, it long predates European contact, forming an intrinsic feature of the culture. In 2004, moreover, it has become harder for an outsider to learn anything new about the Pueblo belief system or Pueblo history than at any time since the 1870s, when Anglo ethnographers began working in the Southwest.

At the time of Coronado's entrada in 1540, Spain was at the height of its glory, the most powerful nation in Europe and perhaps in the world. Its monarch, Charles I, had been elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1519; as the Hapsburg Charles V, by 1540 he presided over a domain that stretched from the Netherlands to North Africa, from Austria to Mexico and Peru. Charles's reign provided the seedbed for an unprecedented florescence of Spanish culture, bringing forth in subsequent generations such writers as Cervantes and Lope de Vega, such painters as El Greco and Velázquez.

In contrast, by the 1670s, on the eve of the Pueblo Revolt, Spain had become a distinctly second-rate power. She had suffered not only the crushing decimation of her Armada by the British fleet in 1588, but had lost one war after another, in France, in Holland, in Italy, and elsewhere. Catalonia and Portugal had successfully revolted against Castilian rule. Under the feckless Charles II, Spain suffered an irreversible decline. The Venetian ambassador to Spain characterized Charles's reign as "an uninterrupted series of calamities." Thanks to warfare and the exodus of Spaniards to the colonies, the population of Castile itself declined from 6.5 million in 1600 to 5 million in 1680. Beginning in 1677, earthquakes, plague, and crop failures dealt further blows to the mother country. In cultural terms, the vaunted "Golden Century" had come to its close.

The decline of Spain had a bitter relevance for New M...

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The dramatic and tragic story of the only successful Native American uprising against the Spanish, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. With the conquest of New Mexico in 1598, Spanish governors, soldiers, and missionaries began their brutal subjugation of the Pueblo Indians in what is today the Southwestern United States. This oppression continued for decades, until, in the summer of 1680, led by a visionary shaman named Pope, the Puebloans revolted. In total secrecy they coordinated an attack, killing 401 settlers and soldiers and routing the rulers in Santa Fe. Every Spaniard was driven from the Pueblo homeland, the only time in North American history that conquering Europeans were thoroughly expelled from Indian territory. Yet today, more than three centuries later, crucial questions about the Pueblo Revolt remain unanswered. How did Pope succeed in his brilliant plot? And what happened in the Pueblo world between 1680 and 1692, when a new Spanish force reconquered the Pueblo peoples with relative ease? David Roberts set out to try to answer these questions and to bring this remarkable historical episode to life. He visited Pueblo villages, talked with Native American and Anglo historians, combed through archives, discovered backcountry ruins, sought out the vivid rock art panels carved and painted by Puebloans contemporary with the events, and pondered the existence of centuries-old Spanish documents never seen by Anglos. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780743255172

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