Symbolic Discourse and Exterminatory Movements: The 1680 and 1696 Pueblo Revolts of New Mexico and the 1780-1782 Great Rebellion of Peru and Upper Peru


The Exterminatory Dimension of the Pueblo Revolts and the Great Rebellion



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The Exterminatory Dimension of the Pueblo Revolts and the Great Rebellion

Both the Pueblo revolts and the Great Rebellion were exterminatory efforts to escape Hispanic oppression and reclaim native culture, traditions, religion, and lands. Although the Spaniards endeavored to dominate and exploit the natives while eliminating much of their culure, they did not intend to exterminate them. Nevertheless, in New Mexico and throughout the continent, the conquest and ensuing Spanish rule resulted in a demographic collapse. The Pueblo population had plummeted from about 130,000 in 1581 to approximately 60,000 in 1600. The implosion continued, and by 1638 the Pueblo population stood at about 40,000; by 1678 it had continued to decline to about 15,000.93 Most Indians there and elsewhere perished from diseases brought by the Spanish to which they had no immunity, and also from overwork and suicide. The consequence was genocide, irrespective of intention, and the revolts studied here erupted in such a context. The native-led genocide was, however, planned and was the means to achieving a nativistic, millennial utopia.94 Indeed, the promised land could only be reached through the elimination or removal of the Hispanic population; the two were antithetical.


While perpetrators and victims of genocide will often offer divergent views concerning the objectives of a conflict, this was not the case in the Pueblo Revolt or the Great Rebellion. A few days before the Pueblo uprising, the Pecos chief Juan Ye reported to the Hispanics that there was a conspiracy well underway to “to kill all the Spaniards and religious.”95 When it erupted, a native messenger from the town of Tesuque arrived on August 10 in San Diego de Jemez convoking the inhabitants to “kill the Spaniards and friars who are here,” and insisting that as a result of the rebellion “none of the Spaniards will remain alive” there or elsewhere in the area.96
Just before the rebels arrived at the outskirts of Santa Fe, two loyal Indians whom the governor had sent to reconnoiter the Keres and Tano regions hastened back to report that scores of Indians were “on the way to attack it and destroy the governor and all the Spaniards,” adding that they planned to “sack the said villa all together and kill within it the señor governor and captain-general, the religious, and all the citizens.”97 The cabildo98 of Santa Fe would later write that during the siege, “many times…the revolting Indians …declared that not one [Hispanic] in the entire kingdom should escape with his life.”99 While interrogating the Indian prisoners just before they abandoned the Santa Fe, many captives told the Hispanics that Popé had commanded that the rebels kill “the priests and the Spaniards, so that only the women and children would be left. They said that all the remaining men must be killed, even to the male child at the breast, as they have done in other parts where they have been.”100
On their way south, the Hispanics captured a Tiwa named Jerónimo, who also stated that Popé had ordered the Indians to kill all priests and Hispanics.101 As they continued southward, an Indian whom they captured testified that rebels from Tesuque had told those in San Cristóbal that the ”Indians want to kill the Custodian, the Fathers and the Spaniards, and have said that whoever kills a Spaniard shall have an Indian woman as wife, and whoever kills four shall have as many wives, and those killing ten or more shall have as many wives. They have said that they will kill all the servants of the Spaniards and those who talk Castilian, and have ordered everyone to burn their rosaries.”102 Another Indian captured around this time was a Tewa Indian named Antonio whom had been a servant of the Hispanics, endured the siege of Santa Fe with them, and fled as they abandoned the town. Asked why he had fled, he said it was “because he thought that the Spaniards would all be killed,” and that the insurgents had decided that “the Spaniards must perish”103 He also reported that the insurgents were planning to trap them “at the junction of the hills and the Rio del Norte near the house of Cristóbal Anaya, and [would] there attack the Spaniards when they attempted to cross over, and annihilate them.”104 In Jemez, in Rio Abajo, a rebel called upon the residents to kill all the Hispanics they found, assuring them that among those who had already fled south “not one of them will escape.”105 During the trip south led by Lieutenant Governor García , they found the pueblo of Santa Ana inhabited only by women, who boldly told him that the men “had left to kill the Spaniards.”106
During an entrada back to the region in 1681 the Hispanics interrogated several Indians concerning the revolt and its consequences. One, a Tano, stated that Popé had “given them to understand that the father of all the Indians, their great captain, who had been such since the world had been inundated, had ordered the said Popé to tell all the pueblos to rebel and to swear that they would do so; that no religious or no Spanish person must remain.”107 Similarly, the rebel Pedro Naranjo stated that the insurgent leader Alonso Catiti ordered the inhabitants of San Felipe “to assemble in order to go to the Villa to kill the governor and all who were with him.”108 Another testified that those of San Felipe had journeyed to Santo Domingo “to kill the friars, the alcalde mayor109 and the other persons who were there.”110 The elderly Indian Pedro Ganboa stated that he “has heard…that the Indians do not want religious or Spaniards” and in attacking Santa Fe they sought to “destroy the governor…and all the people who were with him.”111
Twelve years later, in September, 1692, when Governor Vargas arrived in Santa Fe, the Indians from Galisteo who had taken over the town assured him that “they were ready to fight for five days, [and that] they had to kill us all, we must not flee as we had the first time, and they had to take everybody’s life.”112 As he continued in his efforts to pacify the area in 1693, the natives at Ciéneguilla defiantly told Vargas that they “would fight…until they left us all dead, once and for all.”113 When Vargas finally reoccupied Santa Fe in December, 1693, it was only after the natives promised that they would “fight until all of the Spaniards die.”114
As fears increased prior to the outbreak of the 1696 rebellion, the friar Francisco de Vargas informed the governor that “the missionaries are afraid” because they know that the natives were plotting to “take the lives of both the religious and the Spaniards.”115 Similarly, a loyal Tano told the friar José Diaz that “at the next full moon they planned to kill the Spaniards,” while in Cochiti, a native woman warned friar Alfonso Jiménez de Cisneros to “’Take notice, Spaniards, the Indian has not said once that there will be a revolt and that they plan to kill all of the Spaniards. Do not tire, because what the Indian says once, he always carries out, so do not trust them; when the least you expect it they will strike you over the head.’ These are the exact words said by the Indian woman.”116
Just after the 1696 uprising, the rebel Diego Umviro of Pecos said he wanted to kill “because the Spaniards were of a different blood.”117 The native Francisco Témprano from Tajique later stated that the residents of San Cristóbal announced that that “the day had come when the fathers and Spaniards had to die” and that they must be prepared to “kill all the religious and whichever Spaniards might be in those pueblos at that time.”118 Similarly, a Keres Indian prisoner who refused to give his name stated that the Tanos had convoked Indians to rebel, stating that “the Spaniards had to die now.”119 In San Juan de los Caballeros, the rebel Juan Griego announced that “Everyone in all the pueblos was going to rise up that night and kill all the religious and Spaniards, and they had to do the same thing.”120 Such testimony concerning the genocidal objectives of the rebellions was not fiction, but rather expressed in actions by the rebels as they killed almost all of the Hispanics they could in the region, except for some women and girls whom they kept as slaves.



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