The Artisan Families of Mexico City that Settled New Mexico in 1694

by José Antonio Esquibel with photos by Paul Rhetts

The cultivation of New Mexico Hispano traditional arts in recent decades has fostered an increased appreciation for Hispano culture among Hispanos and others who are attracted to New Mexico’s distinct cultural expressions. The heritage of Nuevomejicanos is rooted in an intricate and complex web of influences reaching back in time through numerous generations of people who made the frontier region of New Mexico their home. One significant aspect of this complexity is the social and cultural foundation established by the diverse groups of Spanish citizens that re-established New Mexico between 1693 and 1695.

The heritage of Hispano New Mexicans is generally described as beginning in 1598 when don Juan de Oñate and his colony arrived in the area, and little attention is given to the critical events of re-shaping New Mexico’s Spanish society that began in December 1693. This era of restoration, lasting until at least 1700, had a great impact on the development of the New Mexico’s Hispano cultural heritage. In particular, the artisan families that came from Mexico City to Santa Fe in 1694 infused New Mexico’s frontier society with aspects of urban refinement, literacy in particular, and artisan expertise. Among these families were carpenters, painters, weavers, tailors, blacksmiths, brickmasons, stonemasons, a cabinetmaker, a filigree maker, a shoemaker, and a coppersmith. Their artisan skills were valuable in the re-establishment of New Mexico’s frontier society and were essential for renovating and constructing buildings, as well as practical for producing the utensils and clothing for daily living.

There are a number of notable descendants of the artisan families of Mexico City that feature prominently in the history of New Mexico’s artisan trades and that made important contributions to the form of expression of Hispano culture in New Mexico. Pedro Domínguez, the carpenter who carved the doors of the Santuario de Chimayó, was a second great-grandson of Ignacio de Aragón, a weaver and native of Mexico City. The well-known santeros José Aragón and Rafael Aragón were very likely also descendants of Ignacio de Aragón. The wife of Rafael Aragón was a descendant of the weaver Miguel García de la Riva, a native of Mexico City who was one of the leaders of the artisan families. One of the descendants of Nicolás Ortiz, also a weaver and a native of Mexico City, was Antonio José Ortiz, a patron of religious art for churches and chapels in Santa Fe and Pojoaque, particularly the altar for the Rosario Chapel in Santa Fe. Among the descendants of the tailor Juan de Dios de Sandoval, another native of Mexico City, was the santero José Dolores López.

The santero José Anastacio Casados, a contemporary of the Aragón santeros, was a direct descendant of Francisco Casados, a native of Cadiz, Spain, who came to New Mexico with the artisan families of Mexico City in 1694. The chest maker of the Velarde area, Manuel Valdés, was apparently a descendant of Juan Ruiz de Valdés, a native of Oviedo, Spain, who was married to Mexico City native María Hernández de Cabrera in 1690 and came to New Mexico in 1694 with the artisan families. Bernardino de Sena came with the artisan families as a young boy with his foster parents, don José del Valle and Ana de Rivera, and learned the blacksmith trade. In 1758 Sena bequeathed his Santa Fe blacksmith shop to his son Tomás Sena. The blacksmith skills and trade were diligently passed from one generation to the next in several branches of the Sena family until the 1930s, representing the best documented case of the transmission of an artisan trade from the late seventeenth century into the twentieth century. Sena Plaza in Santa Fe, near the Cathedral of St. Francis, was the property of one of Bernardo de Sena’s descendants.

The above named individuals would not have influenced New Mexico’s Hispano society and culture if not for the Pueblo Indian uprising of August 1680. This decisive event altered the developmental course of New Mexico’s seventeenth-century frontier society. Prior to the uprising, the artisans in New Mexico— such as painters, blacksmiths, carpenters, weavers, and brickmasons — tended to be Mexican Indians or Pueblo Indians. The social hierarchy of seventeenth-century New Mexico was based on the feudal-like social system of the encomienda. The upper-class citizens were the encomendero families, and the heads of these households were granted authority to exact tribute from Indians placed in their care. Although the number of encomiendas in New Mexico was set at thirty-five, there were more than thirty-five encomenderos because many encomiendas were spilt in half or less. The encomendero class were land owners and often maintained ranching estancias, relaying on the lower-class citizens — generally Indians, mestizos, mulatos, and Africans — for labor and the production of local goods.

Some of the Indian artisans of seventeenth century New Mexico are known through surviving records. Francisco “Pancho” Balón, an Indio Mexicano (Indian from the Valley of Mexico), was a well known blacksmith (herrero) of Santa Fe in the 1620s. In the 1650s, Antonio de la Serna, an Indian of unspecified origin, was a shoemaker (zapatero), and an Indian identified only as Juan was a blacksmith who made knives, linked pairs of shackles, latches, keys, rings, and “other works.” In the same time period, an Indian named Francisco Quasín was a coletero, a leather-jacket maker. The Indians of the Pueblos of Sandía, Alameda, and Isleta were well-known carpenters (carpinteros) and made as many as thirty carts and wagons (carretas and carros) in the last years of the 1650s, and the Indians of the Pueblo of La Cienega made socks. An Indian named Matías Morán served as a carpenter for the wagon trains, a necessary occupation for repairing carts that broke down in transport. He made ten carts and three wagons in the late 1650s. After returning from a trading trip to Parral, he fell sick and died without being compensated for his products and services. Juan Chamizo, another Indio Mexicano, was a brickmason (albañil) living in New Mexico from at least the 1650s until the Pueblo Indian uprising in August 1680 when he fled south with his large household of twenty people, including his wife, children, grandchildren, and servants. Hernán Martín Serrano, himself part Tano Indian and part Spanish, operated a textile factory in Santa Fe in the mid-1600s that employed Indian labor. Presumably, the textile goods were not only sold locally but were exported to the south for trade.

In the field of the visual arts, ten Tewa and Tano Indians were active painters of elkskin hides in the 1650s and early 1660s, one of whom was a pintor mayor, a master painter who probably trained other Indians. Francisco Pachete, another Indian painter of the 1660s, was given instructions by don Pedro Manso to ask for a Bible from which Pachete could copy some of the medallions as he had copied others in the past. This is a clear reference to the common practice of producing works of art by copying images from printed sources and a direct reference to the fact that Indians were trained to copy images. Unfortunately, there are no works of art that can be attributed to Indian painters of seventeenth-century New Mexico.

The culmination of strife between civil government officials and their supporters and the Franciscan friars and their supporters eroded the political stability of New Mexico by the 1670s. This was coupled with the growing resentment felt by the Pueblo Indians from the demands placed on them for labor. The energy of discontent was harnessed by Pueblo Indian leaders to carry-out a well-planned uprising in August 1680, forcing the Spanish citizens to abandon their homes and settlements. This noteworthy event marked the passing of one era and set the foundation for the next, forming the cradle for New Mexico’s Hispano culture and heritage as inherited today.

When the Spaniards fled for El Paso del Norte in August 1680, the Indian artisans of Santa Fe and those employed by encomenderos and estancia owners also presumably sought refuge in the south. This was certainly the case for the Mexican Indian brickmason, Juan Chamizo. The surviving historical records are silent about the fate of this man and other Indian artisans. The government leaders of New Mexico had a brief opportunity to regain control of New Mexico in December 1681 through diplomacy, but the vengeful actions of Governor Antonio de Otermín extinguished the sparks of reconciliation and set the course for twelve more years of exile for the Spanish citizens of New Mexico. The difficult and challenging years of exile, augmented by several failed attempts to regain New Mexico by diplomacy or force, diminished the expectations of New Mexicans about ever returning to their homes in the north. The colony struggled at El Paso del Norte and a number of disappointed families left to establish themselves in communities further south in what are today the Mexican States of Chihuahua and Durango.

The arrival of don Diego de Vargas as governor of New Mexico in 1692 marked the beginning of the critical episode of New Mexico’s restoration, which would result in a remarkable reconciliation between Pueblo Indians and Spanish citizens. The numerous complex factors of this joint achievement are found in detail in the Vargas Journals published in a series of important books by the University of New Mexico Press and edited by John L. Kessell, Rick Hendricks, and Meredith D. Dodge. The detailed accounts of the Vargas Journals provide an excellent source for studying and understanding the social and political dynamics that influenced the re-establishment of Spanish government in New Mexico between 1692 and 1697, dynamics that shaped the future history of New Mexico as we know it today. The policy of the Spanish government to abolish the encomienda system in New Mexico was of particular importance. In place of the encomienda system, the government purposefully fostered a pastoral society among the people that resettled New Mexico. Settlers were granted lands and given grain and livestock with the expectation that they would sustain themselves as farmers and ranchers.

Don Diego de Vargas was endowed with a remarkable sense of loyalty and sincerity in his service to God and king. In service to the king, he hoped and asked for special privileges and titles of nobility. In service to God, he was a religious man who bound himself to Pueblo Indian leaders through the spiritual relation of compadrazgo and regarded these individuals as family. He was probably unaware that the future cultural development of New Mexico rested squarely on his decisions and deeds as an architect of the restoration of New Mexico. The initial success of Vargas in gaining the confidence of Pueblo Indian leaders in 1692 and securing an agreement for resettlement of New Mexico was a cause for community celebration in Mexico City. Responding to Vargas’ request for pobladores (frontier settlers), the viceroy of New Spain issued a decree in mid-March 1693 that was read in the various plazas of Mexico City. The viceroy promised to transport volunteer families to New Mexico at the expense of the royal treasury and to provide for them until they were able to sustain themselves. In addition, they would be accorded the privileges of pobladores and receive grants of land. Here are the very roots of New Mexico’s land grants, many of which are today disputed by the U.S. government. By mid-April 1693 as many as twenty families came forward to register their intent to re-locate to the northern frontier.

Viceregal stipulation required only families be recruited as settlers, and no single men were to be allowed to enlist as pobladores. Furthermore, only couples that were españoles (Spanish), legitimately married, and of “good character,” were to be accepted by the recruiters. The majority of the men who enlisted with their wives and children were artisans, most if not all trained in the various guilds of Mexico City. They were carpenters, painters, tailors, weavers, blacksmiths, and stonemasons. Although they were respectable and honorable tradesmen, they lacked social mobility and opportunities to own land in Mexico City. Spaniards of seventeenth-century New Spain highly valued honor and social status, and the chance to obtain all honor and privileges of the lower Spanish nobility certainly influenced the artisan families to uproot themselves from their familiar urban environment and settle in a frontier region that was distant and hostile.

By May 28, 1693, twenty families consisting of seventy individuals were accounted for as volunteer frontier settlers. The group swelled to sixty-eight families with a total of 235 individuals by the time the wagons left the Plaza de Guadalupe in Mexico City in early September 1693. The anticipated 122-day journey became a nine-month adventure on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro for these urbanites. With all their belongings packed into ox-drawn wagons, they endured a trek of nearly 1,500 miles. They slept on the ground or in wagons for approximately 283 consecutive nights, sang songs, told stories, laughed, had quarrels, celebrated mass, shared meals and belongings, played games, cried at burials, rejoiced at births, shared secrets, petitioned patron saints for protection and blessings, took precautions against attacks, suffered lack of provisions, mended broken wagon wheels, sewed torn clothing, milked cows and goats, slaughtered livestock, complained about the weather when it was bad, praised God when the weather was favorable, and all the while wonder with anticipation about the new life they would have in New Mexico.

Entering Santa Fe at 9:00 a.m. on June 23, 1694, the artisan families of Mexico City were greeted enthusiastically by other settlers, including the pre-Revolt New Mexico families brought by Vargas in December 1693. Of the original 235 individuals who left Mexico City, 217 completed the journey, 129 adults and 88 children under the age of 15. Many of the artisan families were among the founders of the settlement of Santa Cruz de la Cañada in April 1695, families such as the Atienza (Atencio), Bustos, Cortés, Jaramillo, Mascareñas, Ortiz, Sandoval, Silva, Quintana, and Valdés. In 1697, fifty-one of the sixty-three artisan families of Mexico City were still living in the Santa Cruz de la Cañada area. Over the course of the next five years, some of these families returned to live at Santa Fe because of difficulty adjusting to a pastoral lifestyle.

Trade occupations are known for thirty of the fifty-seven male heads of households that made the trip from Mexico City to Santa Fe. These individuals are identified below by artisan categories, and those whose surnames are highlighted in bold are known to have descendants living in New Mexico today.

Blacksmiths (herradores)
Antonio de Silva
Manuel Vallejo González

Brickmasons (albañiles)
José Jaramillo Negrete
Juan Lorenzo de Medina
Antonio de Moya

Cabinetmaker and Carpenter (ebanista y carpintero)
Simón de Molina Mosquera

Coppersmith (calderero)
José Bernardo Mascareñas

Filigree artisan (filigranero)
Juan Fernández de Atienza

Painters (pintores)
Tomás Jirón de Tejeda
Nicolás Jirón de Tejeda

Shoemaker (zapatero)
Juan Cortés

Stonemasons (canteros)
Andrés de Betanzos
Diego de Betanzos y Sosa
Tomás Palomino

Tailors (sastres)
Antonio de Aguilera Ysasi
José Cortés del Castillo
Juan Antonio Esquibel
Francisco González de la Rosa
Diego Márquez de Ayala
Juan de Medina Ortiz
José Rodríguez
Manuel Rodríguez
Juan de Dios Sandoval

Weavers (tejedores)
Ignacio de Aragón
Andrés de Cárdenas
Miguel García de la Riva
Diego Jirón de Tejeda
Nicolás Ortiz
Francisco de Porras
Antonio Rincón

The social and cultural influences introduced into New Mexico’s frontier society by the artisan families of Mexico City are in need of in-depth study. These families transported the culture of New Spain, particularly that of Mexico City, to New Mexico. As educated and highly skilled individuals, consideration needs to be given to the cultural stimulus of this group that was blended with other influences to form the foundation of New Mexico’s distinct Hispano traditions and heritage. For instance, Juan de Paz Bustillos (aka Juan de Bustos), a native of Mexico City, was teaching school at Santa Fe as early as the year 1700. One of the earliest known secular teachers, he was still living at Santa Fe as late as 1721. Miguel de Quintana, also a native of Mexico City and a founder and a long-time resident of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, wrote religious poetry. His writings reveal the influences of the spiritual and intellectual milieu of Mexico City in the latter part of the seventeenth century. The seven Góngora siblings who accompanied their widowed mother to New Mexico were great-grandchildren of one of Mexico City’s gifted literary masters, Bartolomé de Góngora ( 1578, Éjica, Andalusia, Spain – d. 1659, Mexico City), whose writings reveal he was an extremely well-read individual who drew from varied sources including the Bible, the classics (Ovid, Seneca, Aristotle, Virgil, and Horace), the early Church Fathers, Christian ascetics (St. Teresa, Fray Domingo de Baltanáns), Spanish histories, biographies, and New World epics and histories. His great-grandson, Cristóbal de Góngora, served in New Mexico as a lawyer, representing clients in a variety of judicial cases. José Bernardo de Mascareñas, a coppersmith, was the son of Bachiller don Felipe de Mascareñas. The title of ‘Bachiller’ indicates that his father held a degree from a university.

The ultimate success of the artisan families of Mexico City was the sheer number of descendants that increased over the course of the eighteenth century. These growing families spread northward from Santa Cruz de la Cañada to Quemado, Las Trampas, Santa Bárbara, El Llano, San Rafael del Guigue, Embudo, El Rito, Taos, San Pedro de Chama, Abiquiú, and southward to Bernalillo, Albuquerque, Belén, and Tomé. Today, many of the artists that participate in the annual Spanish Market in Santa Fe are descendants of one or more of the artisan families of Mexico City. Some still carry the surnames of their ancestors, although many do not.

There is one astounding example of a long thread of connection of the artisan families of Mexico City that settled New Mexico in 1694 to a present-day artisan. Among the very old documents preserved in the family of award-winning potter Debbie B. Carrillo (neé Trujillo) is a one-page fragment of a previously unknown muster-roll of the families of Mexico City that enlisted as pobladores. This fragment contains information not found on other preserved lists of these families. The information on the fragment can be confidently dated to a time period between May 17 – June 28, 1693, Mexico City. The fragment is a part of one of the earlier lists that are mentioned in historical documents but which were presumed lost over time. Although it is most likely a copy of the original document made in Mexico City, the very fact that a New Mexico family of the 21st century possesses a fragment of this 1693 list indicates an apparent act of preserving the memory of the origins of one lineage of Debbie Carrillo’s ancestry over the past three-plus centuries.

Seventeenth-century New Mexican society was structured in such a way that artisan trades were occupied predominantly by Indians. This structure was dramatically altered by the event of the 1680 uprising of the Pueblo Indians. The need to re-populate New Mexico with Spanish citizens as a result of the successful reconciliation between the Spaniards and Pueblo Indian in 1692-1693 brought many new settlers of diverse geographic and social backgrounds. The Spanish resettlement of New Mexico in the 1690s also constituted an opportunity to restructure New Mexican society based on agrarian and pastoral means for sustenance and economy, as opposed to the encomienda system. Although some Indians continued to serve as artisans, many of the settlers of late seventeenth-century New Mexico were artisans themselves. The social and cultural influences introduced to New Mexico’s frontier society by the individuals of the unique group of artisan settlers from Mexico City are partially recognized in this article. The dynamics of these influences are in need of further study. Such a study is likely to unveil an influential endowment to New Mexico’s Hispano culture in the areas of social customs, religious traditions, expression of faith, commerce, trade skills, and education, as well as in art, music, medicine, and oral folklore.

Bibliographic Sources
The best published source for records related to the recruitment of the artisan families of Mexico City is To the Royal Crown Restored: The Journals of Don Diego de Vargas, New Mexico, 1692-1604 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995), edited by John L. Kessell, Rick Hendricks and Meredith D. Dodge. The most comprehensive historical and genealogical account of the artisan families is The Spanish Recolonization of New Mexico: An Account of the Families Recruited at Mexico City in 1693 (Albuquerque: Hispanic Genealogical Research Center of New Mexico, 1999), by José Antonio Esquibel and John B. Colligan, which also includes Spanish transcriptions of all known muster rolls of the Mexico City families that enlisted as settlers.

Information on the Indian artisans of seventeenth century New Mexico was extracted from these primary sources: Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), Inquisición (Inq.), t. 356, f. 308 (Jan. 30, 1626); AGN, Inq., t. 356, f. 314 (May 29, 1626); AGN, Inq., t. 356, f. 293 (Jan. 27, 1627); AGN, Inq., t. 304, f. 187 (Sept. 28, 1628); AGN, Inq., t. 372, f. 8 (Mar. 25, 1631); AGN, Tierras, t. 326 (Oct. 21, 1661); AGN, Galería, Concurso de Peñalosa, vol. I, exp. 605, f. 232/379 (1661); AGN, Provincias Internas, t. 37, f. 112 (Oct. 2, 1680).

]For information on New Mexican Indian painters of the 1650s and 1660s see: José Antonio Esquibel, “Pintores Sin Obras: Thirteen Painters of New Mexico Without Known Works, 1659-1768,” Tradición Revista, Volume 7, Issue 2, Summer 2002, 76-77; and Charles W. Hackett, Historical Documents Relating to New Mexico, Nueva Vizcaya, and Approaches Thereto, to 1773, (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1937), Vol. III., 284 (Declaration of don Pedro Manso, December 10, 1665).

José Antonio Esquibel, an independent historian and genealogical researcher, has authored numerous articles related to Spanish colonial genealogy and history with particular regards to New Mexico. As a research consultant he contributed to the third volume of the Vargas Project, To the Royal Crown Restored: The Journals of Don Diego de Vargas, New Mexico, 1692-1694 (John L. Kessell, Rick Hendricks, and Meredith D. Dodge, eds., Albuquerque: UNM Press, 1995), and has also served as a research consultant for El Camino Real Project. With Christine and Douglas Preston he is co-author of The Royal Road: El Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe (UNM Press, 1998). He is a former vice-president of the Historical Society of New Mexico.

First published in Tradicion Revista, Volume 8, No. 1, Spring 2003.
Copyright 2003. May not be reproduced in any form without written permission.