New Mexicans established many of the pueblos of Paso del Norte in about 1680 and 1681.  (Read summary here.)  The Paso region straddles parts of New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua.  The river serves as a border; it shifts, wanders and meanders.


Above, a section of Paso del Norte (map courtesy of the Mapoteca Manuel Orozco y Berra)





Photos of Paso del Norte, including one of the bridges over an acequia.  Click photos to enlarge.  (Photos courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress)

The official observations of U.S. personnel when they entered New Mexico during the U.S. War on Mexico were often times focused on how New Mexicans were dressed, what crops New Mexicans grew, what food they ate, and whether New Mexicans were “good looking.”  Every one in New Mexico was a specimen of whatever cultural or racial category was in the heads of these outsiders.

“Mr. Stanly accompanied me, for the purpose of sketching one of the women as a specimen of the race. I told the alcalde our object, and soon a very beautiful woman made her appearance, perfectly conscious of the purpose for which her presence was desired. Her first position was exquisitely graceful, but the light did not suit, and when Stanly changed her position, the charm of her attitude was gone.”


Click image to enlarge.

(Above page from Lt. Col. W.H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnoissance, lithographs by C.B. Graham and drawings by John Mix Stanley, Ex. Doc. No. 41, Thirtieth U.S. Congress (1848), courtesy of the Prelinger Library)

It is almost common knowledge in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest that a significant number of indigenous persons in North America were forced or otherwise coerced into involuntary servitude. Modernly, since the 1970s, fourth grade students in California have been taught, reductively, that the Spanish mission system was bad because the Franciscan friars enslaved the “Indians.”

The history of the indigenous, mestizo and Hispanic populations of North America, however, remains largely ignored by U.S. East Coast book publishers. Big narrative history in the U.S. is usually told from East to West – not West to East – not from Mexico to New Mexico. Race is usually discussed in terms of “black” and “white,” with African persons often times described as objects. In such a marketplace, Andrés Reséndez’s book on Native American slavery begins:

“The very word ‘slavery’ brings to mind African bodies stuffed in the hold of a ship or white-aproned maids bustling in an antebellum home.”

Perhaps, Reséndez wrote this sentence as a point of reference for a ‘white’ audience. His title The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America may have been crafted for the same audience. It is an odd title. When slavery resonates as close family history, it is “our slavery” or maybe “another slavery”, rather than the “other slavery.”

Parral archive document on taking Apaches from New Mexico, cited by Reséndez

Document on transporting Apaches from New Mexico, cited by Reséndez.  Courtesy of Parral Archive, Fondo Colonial, AHMP.FC.A08.012.  Click to enlarge.

Many talented scholars and writers have explored the subject of Native American slavery, as Reséndez’s endnotes show. Yet, given the marketplace, Reséndez pitches his book as the never-before-told story on slavery in the Americas. He should not have to do this.

Reséndez’s book is a big deal. It is a big deal not because of the big event pitching. It is a big deal because Reséndez effectively and creatively synthesizes the many sources on the important subject of Native American slavery. It is a difficult task to encapsulate five hundred years of unruly, complex, insane circumstances into one tight book. Reséndez does this well.

In broad stroke, Reséndez writes about certain indigenous nations in the Americas who practiced captive-taking and slavery, and engaged in slave trading with other indigenous nations and with Spaniards. Despite the prohibitions of the Spanish monarchy, Spaniards imposed slavery and indentured servitude on Native Americans working in households, mines and on farms. Later, other Europeans and U.S. citizens, who encroached into Spanish and Mexican territories, engaged in the same activities.

The strongest parts of his book are those that tell the stories of individuals: the “Indians” Maria, Pedro, Beatriz, Catalina and others who moved (or were taken) to Spain and filed lawsuits in the hope of gaining their freedom; the Spanish monarchs Philip, Mariana and Charles who each issued orders prohibiting Indian slavery.

Reséndez considers New Mexico as having been a focal point of North American slave activity, with the territory infiltrated by Spaniards for the purpose of finding slaves for the silver mines of northern Mexico. Several governors of the province, he explains, were involved in the slave business. Reséndez posits that the 1680 Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico was, to a large extent, a revolt against slavery. This is a credible characterization.

Readers may find it troubling that Reséndez concludes that the [Pueblo Revolt] “rebels did not engage in … indiscriminate killing,” when he summarizes the killing of women, children, and servants by the same rebels. A few speculative assumptions may also annoy. Reséndez uses a 1680 muster roll of New Mexican households to suggest that most of the survivors of the revolt were slave owners. He makes no distinction between slave and servant, and assumes that all servants in New Mexico were indigenous (none being Spanish or part Spanish). By ignoring the details and distinctions, Reséndez has missed an opportunity to bring even more depth to his work.

A research copy of the 1680 muster roll of New Mexican families (from Hackett & Shelby, Revolt of the Pueblo Indians), cited by Reséndez is available HERE.


Sonja Sonnenburg de Chávez


In 1795,[1] without leaving the continent of Europe, Juan Lopez of Spain created a map titled Mapa Geográfico del Gobierno de la Nueva Granada ó Nuevo México con las Provincias de Nabajo y Moqui.[2] The title seemed to suggest a sense of adventure, that it was fine to embrace uncertainty and the unknown.  (Click images below to enlarge.)


Although his map reflected locations of Spanish influence, Juan Lopez did not exaggerate the influence. His map reflected areas of coexistence, violence and potential violence.

From thousands of miles away, Lopez charted out vast regions controlled by indigenous nations. He imagined the “Apachería,” the “Teguayo,” the “Provincia de Nabajo.” He imagined Spanish missions and settlements within the lands of the Piros and Queres.

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Nicolas Lafora kept a diary while he was traveling with a military inspection team in Mexico, from Tepozotlán to New Mexico between 1766-1768.  He also made a series of maps.  His diary and maps reflected his overall impression that the settlements and pueblos of “Nueva España” were predominately and diversely indigenous.  His diary was copied a few times, and then bound into books.  One of these books (dated 1768) is maintained at the Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE) in Madrid and was recently digitized and made available online — click HERE.


The title page, translated into English, says “Report of the Journey which by Order of the Most Excellent Viceroy, the Marquez de Cruillas, made by the Captain of Engineers Don Nicolas de Lafora, in Company of the Field Marshall Marquez de Rubi, commissioned by His Majesty to review the Interior Presidios Situated on the Frontier of the Part of North America belonging to the King.”


Below is one of the several pages on New Mexico (click to enlarge).  Based on Lafora’s estimates and observations at the time, New Mexico had 37 settlements, 2,703 families of Teguas, Genizaros, Tiguas, Abiquius, Pecuries, Taos, Pecos, Tanos, Zuñis, Acomas, Moquinos, Queres, Xemes, Sumas, and Piros, amounting to 10,524 persons.  The number of “Spanish” came to 9,580 persons, distributed among 1,487 families.  The total number of “souls” was 20,104.  According to Lafora, the “Indios” as well as the Spanish were well prepared for war, as they learned to use weapons and ride horses when they were young.  They did this to defend themselves against the “Naciones Gentiles” (probably referring to those persons who he called “Apaches Gileños” and “Pharanoes”) who surrounded them, except to the south near Nueva Viscaya at a place called Las Boquillas.


(Courtesy of the Biblioteca Nacional de España)

The Cíbola Project is one of the most important scholarly projects on New Mexico in my lifetime. With the mission of creating access, the Cíbola Project team locates significant documents from the Spanish colonial period and expertly transcribes those documents using their high-level paleographic skills. These transcriptions are then published — along with copies of the original documents — as downloadable PDF packets. These packets are available free to the public via the University of California’s California Digital Library:












(Above left, archive document from the proceeding against María de Zamora, Ana Ortiz and María.  Above right, excerpt from Jerry Craddock’s transcription of the same document.  Click to enlarge.  From Cibola Project’s Witchcraft in San Gabriel: The Trial of María Zamora, New Mexico, 1607)

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