New Mexico

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New Mexico Tidbits

Pino's signature

Primary sources are always interesting but must be used with caution.


Don Pedro Bautista Pino, a New Mexican native, wrote his Exposicion of New Mexico for the Cortes of  1812. It has the usual survey of resources, population, and problems, and some interesting comments.It was supplemented by the Ojeada of Lic. Antonio Barreiro in 1832. Barreiro was a Mexican we moved in New Mexico.

For example, New Mexico was an exporter of wine, so the Gruet wines made famous by the Pot Thief novels were not the first on the scene.

Barreiro was not happy with the way the jail in Santa Fe was run: it seems to have been the predecessor of the one in Hogan’s Heroes:

There are only a few filthy rooms in the capital which may be called jails. Prisoners are rewarded rather than punished, whenever they are locked up in them since they are permitted to spend their time in noisy revelry (alegres triscas) and conversation. They take their imprisonment with the greatest nonchalance: at night they escape and go to dances; during the day they go to other forms of entertainment.

Pino has a low opinion of the Apaches:

Apache scouts

The Apache tribe is the most obnoxious and cruel of all…. They always go naked, they kill and rob most treacherously; they torture their prisoners in the most cruel manner, often scalping them alive; then they cut up their bodies into small pieces. Lastly, the Apache, roaming round in every direction, has no other check to his depredations than that of the fear of the brave and honest Comanche….[!]

Not everyone shared that assessment of the Comanches.


How Barreiro had this opinion of the buffaloes beyond me:

Buffalos are so gentle (tan docil) that they like the company of man and be easily domesticated

Pino’s racial attitudes are interesting:

In New Mexico there has never been known any caste of people of African origin. My province is probably the only one in Spanish America that enjoys this distinction. Spaniards and pure-blooded Indians (who are hardly different from us) make up the total population.

Pino’s most interesting remark is on a sensitive subject:

He laments this abuse:

The first abuse is the refusal of Indian women to give birth to more than four children; they succeed in this abuse by the use of certain herbs (brebages); consequently, the Indian population has not increased. There were large numbers of Indians here at the time of the conquest and only one hundred and forty Spanish families; now, however, there are more than twenty-four thousand Spanish settlers and only about sixteen thousand Indians.

Pino blames the Indians for their failure to increase in numbers. However, he goes on to use this lack of population to justify Spanish encroachment on the Indian lands guaranteed to them by the Crown.

The lack of democratic vitality among the Pueblo Indians has been noted by historians and anthropologists. The Navajos, on the other hand, give the Mormons a run for the money in the size of their families, and consequently number about 250,000 today.

Demographic vitality is necessary to the survival of a culture because the best way to hand down language and customs is in the family.

I have wondered why the Pueblos have so few children. Of course part of the population problem is disease. Even before the Spanish came, town dwelling was not healthy. Hunter-gatherers had a more varied diet and avoided contagious diseases. Pueblo dwellers had a restricted diet; before modern situation, towns provided an excellent vector for diseases and parasites.

Perhaps pueblo dwellers also deliberately restricted their families to avoid overburdening the land. Pino thinks Indian women used contraception. I have wondered whether the custom of periodic continence for men for religious purposes also had that effect. A traditional Pueblo once complained to me that young men were sneaking out of the kivas during the long preparation for dances to visit their wives and girlfriends.  As I said, it is a sensitive matter, and I have never asked a Pueblo Indian why their families have always been so small. It is none of my business; but I am concerned for the survival of their cultures.

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The Peripatetic Nun

The comparison (see previous blog) of Hinduism and Catholicism brought to mind what I had just read in John Kessell’s Kiva, Cross, and Crown, about the Pecos Indians of New Mexico. The Spanish tried various ways to convert the Indians to Christianity, but the friars despaired about the superficiality of the conversion. Indians said their prayers and came to church, but also continued their dances and mysterious goings on in the kivas.

On top of all this, the archbishop of Mexico City wrote a letter to the Franciscan friars telling them that a a Spanish Franciscan nun, María de Jesús Ágrada (1602-1665) had been miraculously transported to New Mexico to preach to the heathen Indians. The archbishop asked the friars to investigate.

My curiosity was piqued. One friar, who eventually visited her, said he was convinced by her descriptions of New Mexico – although there were ulterior motives for his interest in her.

Wikipedia explains about Sor María:

She is credited in her book Mystical City of God (Spanish: Mistica Ciudad de Dios, Vida de la Virgen María) with receiving directly from the Blessed Virgin Mary a lengthy revelation, consisting of 8 books (6 volumes), about the terrestrial and heavenly life of Blessed Mary and her relationship with the Triune God, the doings and Mysteries performed by Jesus as GodMan in flesh and in Spirit, with extensive detail, in a narrative that covers the New Testament time line but accompanied with doctrines given by the Holy Mother on how to acquire true sanctity.

Our Authoress Receiving Dictation

She is credited by having contributed in the evangelization of what is known today as Texas, New Mexico and Arizona by supernaturally appearing to early tribes in the region before official evangelization missions had even begun for that location, in what has been cataloged as bilocation as she never left the convent she resided for the time being,[2] which adds to other supernatural, and documented phenomena accompanying her history, as levitation during praying, and uncorrupted body even to this day, more than 300 hundred years after her death.

From an Authentic Seventeenth Century Photograph

Philip IV was, of course, the descendant of Joanna the Mad. The Hapsburgs had a certain problem with inbreeding.

Wikipedia also claims:

Giacomo Casanova mentions being compelled to read María de Ágreda’s book, Mystical City of God, during his imprisonment in the Venice prison “i Piombi” as a means of the clergy to psychologically torture the prisoners. He called it the work of an “overheated imagination of a devout, melancholy, Spanish virgin locked up in a Convent.” In it, Casanova argues that a captive’s mind can get inflamed with such aberrant ideas to the point of madness, which was purportedly the purpose of having been given the book to read.

Cruel and unusual punishment.

Clerical response to Sor  María was mixed. Pope Clement X declared her Venerable and the process for her canonization was opened in 1673, but has been stalled ever since. For a while her Mystical City of God was put on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1681 (no doubt to the relief of prisoners like Casanova).

If clerics sometimes have made grumpy statements about women it should be remembered that  they are the recipients of numerous claims from visionaries (almost all women) to have messages from God. Some learned theologian has to read through all the visions, which may recount what  Archangel Gabriel said to the Archangel Michael and what Mary had to say to that, to see if the visionary had snuck in the doctrine of redemptive transmigration or claimed that she was the fourth person of the Trinity.

Nor is this ancient history. A few years ago, in a certain city with which I am familiar, a seeresss claimed to be a stigmatic, to waltz with Jesus in heaven, etc. She gathered followers who had to wear special aprons. She announced that her guardian angel was 10 feet tall, taller than other people’s guardian angels, and that her followers should stand around him, wearing their special aprons, and look up at him and sing his favorite song, “Baby Face.”

I am not making this up – and some poor priest, who would rather be studying Scotus’ epistemology or at least playing golf, had to investigate it.

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