Sunday, October 23, 2016

WheN LeAves cHangE CoLor and the PUeBLo rEvOLt

Figure One - Painting from buffalo hide depicting Pueblo Revolt of 1680. 
Most  Americans believe the American Revolutionary War of 1776 was the first revolutionary war in the United States, but there was one that was much older, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Let me give you a summary of what happened.   

When the original Spanish conquistadors explored what would become New Mexico and Colorado in the late 1500s, tensions between the Spaniards and Pueblo Indians were palpable. The Spaniards had new and dazzling items that the Pueblo Indians could use and covet while the Indians had more than enough land and minerals to share with the Spaniards.

As the years advanced, the tension between the Pueblo Indians and the Spanish settlers rose.
As new Spanish settlers arrived in the New Mexico territory, they brought more cattle and an increased hunger for land and minerals. Then, the weather gods struck. At the beginning of 1660, a long sustained drought swept across New Mexico. Rivers dwindled into streams, and streams became dry washes. Winds carried desert sand high into the brown skies. Cattle suffered and crops failed. Famine swept across
Figure Two - Po'pay unveiled at
U.S. capitol. Cliff Fragua (artist).  
the Pueblo Indian nation. At the same time, raids on the Pueblo Indians from nomadic Indian marauders became more frequent and daring. The Spaniards provided little relief for the Pueblo Indians who expected the Spaniards to help them. Disease soon followed famine and in 1671 an epidemic killed many people and most of the remaining cattle.

The Pueblo Indians were highly religious. With drought and famine set upon them, they wondered why their gods were punishing them. Perhaps, they were being punished because of the Spaniards? The Spaniards were pushing to convert the Pueblo Indians from what the Spaniards thought was paganism to Christianity and Catholicism. The Spaniards went about this conversion by expunging the symbols and beliefs of the Pueblo Indian's religion. The destruction of the sacred Pueblo kivas and kachina masks in the Spanish-led purge in 1661 added to the growing discontent of the Pueblo Indians.        

By 1675, tensions between the Pueblo Indians and the Spaniards became insurmountable. Governor Juan Francisco Treviño ordered the arrest of forty-seven Pueblo medicine men, charging them with sorcery. The Spaniards convicted four of the medicine men to death. The Spaniards hung three of these men while the remaining medicine man took his own life. The Spaniards publically flogged the rest of the medicine men before sentencing them to jail. 
Outraged, the Pueblo Indians moved against the Spanish capital city of Santa Fe and forced the governor to release the surviving medicine men from jail. The Spaniards knew one of these medicine men as Po'pay. In the eyes of the Pueblo Indians, Po'pay was powerful magic. After his release from jail, Po'pay took up residence at Taos Pueblo. For the next five years, Po'pay and others planned the destruction of the Spaniards. 

Figure Three - Map of key Pueblos at
beginning of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  
Po'pay accomplished something that no other Pueblo Indian had ever done before. Po'pay united the separate nations of the Pueblo Indians. Most of the estimated sixty or more pueblos had fewer than four hundred individuals with a couple of pueblos have two thousand or more people. Each pueblo lived more or less autonomously. Po'pay created a coordinated and united front within the Pueblo Indians against the advanced weaponry and horses of the Spaniards.  

On August 10, 1680, the

Pueblo Revolt began.

My novel WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR commences thirty days prior to the start of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. In the scene below, a rich Spanish landowner named Juan Pablo Ortega is attempting to convince the Spanish government of New Mexico that they have pushed the Pueblo Indians too far. Here is how that went.  
The date was July 9, of the year 1680. The location was the province of Nuevo México, or New Mexico, in the provincial capital of Santa Fe. A distinguished elderly man with a white beard sat in an overly ornate chair in the provincial governor’s office. The massive chair dwarfed the white-bearded man, who sat across an opulent desk from Señor Governor Antonio De Otermín, the Spanish ruler over all of New Mexico. The governor had personally handled all of the details of decorating his spacious office. Governor Otermín imported from Spain the hand-carved chairs and the massive oak desk he sat behind, a far and costly journey for mere pieces of furniture. The white-bearded man was holding onto the last thread of his temper, taking out most of his pent-up anger on the wide brimmed sombrero twisting in his hands. His face could not disguise his frustration and fury as the governor continued to talk down to him, as if he were a child. Sitting to the right of the white-bearded man was another government bureaucrat, a man named Francisco Xavier, the arrogant Secretary of War. The white-bearded man had just concluded another intense argument with the governor. The old man’s face was flushed with anger, a stark contrast to his ghost-white beard. The governor sat smugly behind the king-sized desk, knowing that he made all of the final decisions related to the running of the province. Señor Governor Otermín glared at the white-bearded man with an expression somewhere between dislike and calloused indifference.

The white-bearded man was not going to give up easily. He circled around for another attempt at convincing the governor of his original argument. “Señor governor, we must allow the Indios de Pueblo the freedom to practice their beliefs…their religion, without interference from the Franciscan priests—”

“Señor Ortega, you are very wrong on this issue!” Secretary Francisco Xavier interrupted the white-bearded man. “We cannot let these people decide their religion for themselves! What they have is not a religion. The Indios de Pueblo do not even believe in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. How can you call what they have a religion when it does not include our Savior? What they have is nothing more than pagan rituals. The Indios believe in many gods, not one God! Our God! The priests…our priests are attempting to convert them to the right belief, that there is only one almighty God…our God…my God, señor.”
Juan Pablo Ortega avoided looking at Secretary Francisco Xavier. Juan Pablo had traveled to Santa Fe and the Governor’s Palace to meet with the governor, not one of the many lackeys the governor had surrounding him.

“The Indios de Pueblo are suffering from starvation and they need protection from the other tribes who are preying on them,” Juan Pablo continued. “Perhaps if we helped them with food and protection, they would be more open to looking at other religious beliefs.”

“My dear Juan Pablo,” Señor Governor Otermín jumped back into the debate, unable to disguise his contempt for Juan Pablo Ortega. “When the King of Spain gave this land to me…gave this land for me to rule over, one of my goals was to civilize the Indios. The only way to civilize them is to convert them to the one true religion, Catholicism. This is what the King of Spain intends for me to do and this is what I shall accomplish. I do not care if the Indios de Pueblo are hungry, in fact, this only makes them more dependent on me. I do not care if the Apache and the Comanche raid the pueblos. This only makes the Indios de Pueblo more dependent on me. This is exactly the way I planned it.”

I think you get the picture. The Pueblo Revolt throws the family of Juan Pablo Ortega into the raging fires of war. You will have to read WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR to find out what happens to the Ortega Family AND to New Mexico. You will be surprised at the outcome of this story.  

Figure four - WHEN LEAVES CHANGE COLOR by John Bradford Branney


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