[The following is an earlier version of the essay published under the title “Begetting the Mexican American” in Seeds of Struggle, Harvest of Fatih, LPD Press, c. 1998, pp. 345-72. Permission from Publisher and my own as author to use for educatonal purposes.]
PADRE ANTONIO JOSE MARTINEZ:
BROKER FOR NON VIOLENT CONQUEST
AND THE TAOS UPRISING OF 1847
Rev. Juan Romero
The year 1998 will mark the fourth centennial of the founding in northern New Mexico of the second oldest European settlement in what is now the United States. This importance of this anniversary is highlighted because of its close proximity to two other significant events: the 150th anniversary of the 1846 American occupation of New Mexico, and the coming of the new millennium which is upon us. Antonio José Martinez, born in Abiquiu, New Mexico when it was still a Spanish province, was about seventeen years old when Padre Miguel Hidalgo in 1810 uttered his cry for independence from Spain. By the time independence was realized in 1821, Martinez had become a young widower and was studying for the priesthood in the Durango seminary. The influence of Padre Hidalgo upon Padre Martinez was shown by a sermon the New Mexican priest preached at the cathedral in Santa Fe. This took place in 1832, eleven years after Mexican Independence and sixteen years before the American occupation of New Mexico. Padre Martinez praised Padre Hidalgo for his role in the independence of the Mexican people. Martinez compared Hidalgo to the Macabees of the Old Testament who unsuccessfully fought so valiantly against their Greek conquerors in order to keep their language, religion, and cultural identity.
Y 2 K: THE MILLENIUM BUG I. What is the Problem The year 2000 problem has resulted from the common practice of using two digits to designate the calendar year instead of using four. When the year 2000 arrives, 2 digit year dates may be interpreted incorrectly causing many problems. Computer hardware and software may not recognize "00 as an actual date and will not run properly or not at all. ...
Padre Martinez grew up in Taos, and served as its priest for forty-two years. He witnessed many changes culminated in the transitions brought by Mexican American War, specifically the Taos Rebellion of 1847. As mediator during the uprising, Padre Martinez begot a new people by bridging Mexican-American divergence in language, culture, religion, politics, and way of life. Although he was not one of the principal arquitects of the Taos Rebellion, as his enemies alleged, Martinez was certainly a key actor in those events surrounding the battles. Padre Martinez was, in fact, much more a peacemaker and reconciler than warmonger. With his priestly prestige and political savvy, he was willing and able to broker the various interests, as well as bridge the tensions and conflicts inherent in a major socio-political transformation which was to have profound cultural and economic ramifications. The life of Padre Antonio José Martinez, Cura de Taos, may serve as a thread weaving together various important elements of the fabric of New Mexico’s rich history. It may also offer insight into aspects of its future and that of Hispanics in the Catholic Church within this country.
Padre Martinez was a witness to the demographic shifts which were taking place in the Santa Fe and Taos area as a result of Mexican independence and the more liberal border policy of the Mexican government. This was in contrast to the more strict immigration policy which the Spanish government had observed. Padre Martinez took over as the priest of Taos in 1826, the very year that sixteen year old Kit Carson came to town. By 1829, Virginia born Charles Bent made his home in Taos and became a wealthy man through trapping and trading buffalo and beaver fur. He established Bent’s Fort along the Arkansas River, on the American side of the border with Mexico, near what is today the town of La Junta in southern Colorado. Charles Bent is a significant person in New Mexican history because he was to become the territory’s first governor under United States’ rule. Within four months he was to be the first and most prestigious victim of the Mexican American War as it impacted upon New Mexico in the Taos Rebellion of 1847.
Use of American Indian Images in the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls Taking into consideration such organizational movements as the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, we may focus our attention on these organizations usage of American Indian images. Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls use American Indian images pretty often in various kinds of activities and specific to the organizations staff. One of the ...
Padre Martinez was of the opinion that the presence and commerce of the foreigner was often prejudicial to the well being of the native American and New Mexican settler. Since 1832 he used to complain that Anglos, “besides useful articles,” were selling alcohol to the Indians along these forts, such as Bent’s Fort, erected on the Arkansas River. He claimed that this “forbidden article has extremely demoralized the [Indian] nations.” Furthermore, the liquor contributed to their incursions and stealing horses, and “several…among our own people…have taken the choice of becoming horse thieves themselves…..”
Mexican fear of foreign immigrants into their northern territory was becoming severe by the spring of 1843. In November of that year, Padre Martinez wrote to President Santa Ana and publicly criticized foreign encroachment into Mexican territory. He complained to the President about the “lack of tact on the part of the Mexican governors in having granted to the strangers of North America,’’ such as Bent and others, “permission to build forts along the Napeiste [Arkansas] and Chato rivers with the object of establishing in said forts commerce with the said tribes.” Padre Martinez maintained that the immigrant strangers were themselves the cause of Indian incursions because they “furnished them with arms and liquor.” Martinez unfavorably compared the policies of the Mexican government to some of those of the Spanish government. He complained to Santa Ana that at least under Spanish rule it was never permitted to furnish Indians with arms and liquor for fear that “los estrangeros” (American foreigners) might pervert the Indians and encourage them to revolt.
As a faithful churchman, as well as Mexican patriot, Padre Martinez also advised his ecclesiastical superior Bishop Antonio Zubiría of his opinions in regards to the American take-over of New Mexico which he knew was inevitable. In his letter to Bishop Zubiría, three years before the occupation of Santa Fe, Martinez stated that he was constantly observing the movements of the Americans who were approaching rapidly. He saw that their principal aim was the annexation of the country to the United States of America, and he lamented that the Mexican authorities were very slow in taking the necessary steps to stop this. He could see that the Americans would finally take this land which seemed left without resources to stop the intruders. Padre Martinez furthermore decried that the native New Mexican people were in fact abandoned by their own Mexican national government, and he predicted that the consequence of such negligence on the part of his government would be the annexation of his country to the United States of America.
Los Angeles is well known for being the center of fashion, media and entertainment, but also serves as the home for many diverse populations: one of them being the Mexican Americans. Since their arrival, the Mexican Americans has been the target of racism from the white men in the United States. Mexican Repatriation resulted in the voluntary or involuntary migration of Mexicans during 1929-1937, ...
As I am observing what is going on in this part of the country, I will venture to predict that sooner or later this Department will become a portion of our neighbor Republic of America. There, every religion is tolerated according to its constitution. What inclines me to believe that the time of this inevitable change is not far off, is the clear anxiety shown by the Americans to effect the annexation, and the dangerous negligence of our Government…..
As I have said, this time is quickly approaching, and our government is not taking steps to overcome this intrusion. I am prepared, as I always have been, to protest in the adoration which I owe Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to His Holy doctrine, to His moral [code], and His dogmas. I am ready with my humble knowledge and the confidence of my resolution, for which I thank God, to face and preach against the great diversity of sects which this government will introduce into this country, and so maintain myself in the grace of God and obedience of His Church…..It is the general talk here that the American govenment will soon take control of this Department…..
Although Padre Martinez had warned Durango’s Bishop Zubiría of the coming of the Americans with their Protestantizing influence, Martinez nevertheless eventually came to favor the American occupation before it actually took place.
In an 1819 treaty between Spain and the United States, two years before Mexican independence, both countries formally recognized that Spain’s northernmost border extended to the Arkansas River. Under Spanish rule, the border had been virtually closed to Americans of the United States and to Canadians. However, for trade purposes, the Mexican government pursued the policy of a more open border with the United States. The border of which we speak was at Bent’s Fort along the Arkansas River in what is now southern Colorado. The Arkansas River, running southeasterly between Pike’s Peak on the east and the Continental Divide on the west, has its source deep within the spine of the Colorado Rockies.
You might have heard of South Padre Island or perhaps heard of Padre Island, but who is the Padre, and what connection does he have with the island? Padre Island got its name from Jose Nicolas Balli a Catholic priest from Spain who owned it for nearly thirty years. Padre is a word defined as a traditional form of address for Catholic priests. After being granted the island by King Carlos III Padre ...
It was along this Arkansas River, called Río Napiste by the Spanish, that in 1829 Charles and William Bent built their fort on the ruins of a previously founded French fort. Bent’s Fort marks the place where an old Navajo trail and the Santa Fe Trail both met, and is located about seven miles away from the town of La Junta. The fort was built on the north (American) side of the river and about one hundred miles west of today’s Kansas-Colorado border. Bent’s Fort was a boundary point for American soldiers escorting goods from St. Louis and the environs. From Bent’s Fort, Mexican soldiers transported these goods to Taos and Santa Fe. Later it became the focal point to which many French Canadians were drawn. It also served as the headquarters for the very large and contentious Maxwell land grant in which Charles Bent had an interest. Padre Martinez came to oppose American ownership of that extensive property on legal and moral grounds. Bent’s Fort later became the rendezvous point and headquarters for General Stephen Watts Kearny, leader of the American army of occupation of New Mexico which gathered there in July of 1846, immediately before descending upon Santa Fe.
MAXWELL LAND GRANT
Although Padre Martinez neither instigated nor led the Taos Rebellion of 1847, he shared the perception of both Native Americans and native New Mexicans that their ancestral lands were being stolen by a coalition of new immigrants. These newcomers, mostly from Canada and the United States arrived at New Mexico in large numbers during the quarter century between Mexican Independence and the American take over of Santa Fe. Journalist-historian William A. Keleher in 1942 wrote about the close connection between the Maxwell Land Grant and the 1847 Taos Rebellion.
The Mexican War: Imperialism or Manifest Destiny Liana R. Prieto (Fall 1995) In the 1840 s American pioneers were settling further west than they previously had. Congressman J. E. Belsen of Alabama, when speaking of our westward expansion, said, "They might as well try to stop Niagara." (Nevin, 19). The country was in agreement with this statement when, in 1844, it elected James K. Polk to the ...
The quarrel in 1844, under Mexican rule, between Padre Martinez, of Taos, and Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda, over the Maxwell Land Grant and its boundaries was undoubtedly one of the most important contributing factors to the Taos Massacre of January 18, 1847. Representing his people in Taos, Martinez had claimed, but Beaubien and Miranda had denied, that Charles Bent was interested in the ownership of the Grant…..Subsequent to 1846 no secret was made of Bent’s claim to part ownership in the Grant…..
The large land grant had been made by Governor Armijo to Charles Beaubien and to his associate Guadalupe Miranda on January 11, 1841. Beaubien arrived to the U.S. from Canada during the War of 1812 and he settled at New Mexico in 1823 at the same time that several French-Canadian fur trappers were also making their way to Taos. There he married Paula Lovato, who was the daughter of a prominent New Mexican citizen. The fifty square miles of land in the Beaubien-Miranda Grant later became known as the Maxwell Land Grant. The transfer of this enormous territory of more than 1.7 million acres was made according to Mexican law. On February 22, 1843 , Don Cornelio Vigil the Justice of the Peace at Taos, ratified the grant giving possession of those lands to Guadalupe Miranda and Carlos Beaubien.
Padre Martinez from the beginning was, nevertheless, strongly opposed to the Beaubien-Miranda Land Grant, and he challenged it on legal and moral grounds. Keleher reports:
The plan of Miranda and Beaubien to take over and occupy the land [grant] met with active resistance on the part of Rev. Antonio José Martinez, Curate of Taos, who had always opposed large grants of land to wealthy persons, claiming that the lands should be granted to poor people. Father Martinez vigorously contended in papers filed in Santa Fe and elsewhere that a part of the land granted to Miranda and Beaubien conflicted with lands claimed by Charles Bent, and that a large portion of the land involved belonged to the people of Taos, and other towns, that such lands had been long known as commons and the people had for generations grazed their live stock on them. Martinez claimed among other things that the land had been granted to foreigners, apparently referring to Beaubien and Charles Bent.
Even though the American culture and Mexican culture have similarities, they are more different than alike. Me being Mexican-American and living so close to the Mexican-American border, I’m very familiar with these two cultures. Some differences are sports, form of speaking, and even dinner time. These might be shocking, but very true. One of the major differences is sports. In the Mexican ...
While the territory of New Mexico was still under the Mexican flag, Padre Martinez obtained a stay of the Beaubien-Miranda Land Grant. He appealed to the supreme government of Mexico and asked for an investigation into the grant given by Governor Armijo. For a brief time Don Mariano Chavez became interim Governor of New Mexico. During this interlude, at the end of February 1844, Chavez signed the order suspending the grant. However, within six weeks, Armijo was back at the helm, holding the office of civil and military governor of New Mexico. Martinez’ legal maneuvering, however, did have the effect of complicating Bent’s claim to the land grant.
It is clear why Charles Bent did not like the meddling priest of Taos. Martinez challenged his interests in the Beaubien-Miranda [AKA Maxwell] Land Grant. It is also easy to fathom why enemies of the Padre were later so willing to ascribe to the Padre the assassination of the American governor Charles Bent. Since Martinez was such a well known enemy of Bent, Martinez was a likely suspect for having manipulated the assassination.
French Canadians and Anglos who had been arriving in Taos were marrying native New Mexican women and were thereby qualifying to become property owners under Mexican law. Charles Bent and Kit Carson became brothers-in-law by marrying the politically well-connected Jaramillo sisters. Immigrants were aware that it would be to their advantage to learn Spanish and adopt Catholic religious ways. Carson did both, but Bent never did become Catholic. Tensions between the foreigners and old time settlers were growing severe. Conflicts sometimes erupted between the new settlers and their native New Mexican and Indian neighbors who were the long established inhabitants. Charles Bent, one of these newcomers, came to feel that his plans and ambitions were challenged and even thwarted by the Padre of Taos. Consequently he developed a strong personal antagonism against the priest.
This antipathy of Charles Bent for Padre Martinez was reflected in correspondence to Manuel Alvarez whom Bent selected as the appropriate recipient of his most strident complaints against Padre Martinez. Alvarez functioned as U.S. ambassador to Mexico since 1839 from Santa Fe, and was serving as American Consul in New Mexico. In an especially sarcastic letter that Charles Bent wrote to Manuel Alvarez on January 30,1841, Bent lavished vituperative epithets upon Padre Martinez. Among his hateful and sarcastic appellations were “the Calf,” “Mr. Priest,” and the “The greate literry Martianes.” [sic ] This last insult is especially ironic since Bent’s letter contrasts so powerfully to Padre Martinez’ true literary merits. Martinez had published spelling books on his own printing press for the Taos elementary school which he had founded as a young priest. Yet the future governor of the territory could not even spell simple words correctly.
…..He says that he is considered by all whoe he had the opportunity of conversing with, as one of the greatest men of the age, as a literary, an eclesiastic, a jurist, and a philanthoripist and moreover as he has resided in one of the most remote sections of this province intirely dependent on his own resorses for such an immense knoledge as he has acquired, it is astonishing to think how a man could possibly make hiself so eminent in almost every branch of knollidege that can only be acquired by other men of ordiary capasitys in the most enlightened part of the world, but as he has extraordinary abillities, he has been able to make himself master of all this knollidge by studying nature in her nudest gise, he is a prodigy, and his greate name deserves to be written in letters of gold in all high places that this gaping and ignorant multitude might fall down and worship it…..whenever the wise rulers of this land heare of the greate fame of this man they will no doubt doe somethng for theas people in considersation for the greate care of this more than Solomon.
The source of Bent’s antipathy for Martinez, however, was much deeper than their respective disparate levels of formal education or literary expression. A deeper cause of Bent’s great hatred of the Padre was the latter’s opposition to Bent’s alleged share of the Maxwell Land Grant, originally called the Beaubien & Miranda Grant. Because of Charles Bent’s public contempt for the priest, many have assumed that the Padre may indeed have been a perpetrator of the rebellion which made Bent its first victim.
THE MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR
The Mexican American War of 1846-48 was a momentous event which served as the context for the border war known as the 1847 Taos Rebellion. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought that war to a close in 1848. As a result, significant portions of North America were politically re-configured. By terms of the treaty, Mexico ceded to the United States parts of the Mexican territories of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, and most of Arizona, as well as all of the present states of California, Nevada, and Utah. The war had its roots in the expansionist dreams of the United States which saw as its “Manifest Destiny” that its national boundaries become coextensive with the east and west coasts of the continent. Some went so far as to hope and dream that United States territories should even include all of North America (including Canada) and all of Mexico.
Texas was the center stage of the first part of the struggle. General Santa Ana in 1836 successfully defended and kept the Mission of San Antonio de Valerio—better known as “The Alamo”— for the Republic of Mexico. The Mexican general was subsequently roundly defeated in the battle of San Jacinto, and Texas became its own independent Republic of Texas until the United States annexed it in 1845.
A moderate rehearsal for the 1847 Taos Rebellion took place ten years earlier, in 1837, at the village of Chimayo, about sixty miles south of Taos. In order to replete its coffers strained by the defeat of President Santa Ana at San Jacinto in Texas, the Mexican government decided to impose new taxes on its northern outposts. General Albino Perez was sent from Mexico to Santa Fe in order to enforce the tariffs. Like any tax collector from time immemorial, he was not well received. A dispute between some Indians in Chimayo, insignificant in itself, lit the fuse of resentments which exploded in a minor war which literally cost the head of General Perez. For a time after the decapitation of General Perez, Pedro Montoya, a Taos Indian, proclaimed himself governor and sat in the Santa Fe Palace of the Governors. Although the Mexican government failed to collect war taxes from New Mexico, the people of New Mexico remained Mexican citizens until the American occupation.
RESISTANCE TO AMERICAN INCURSION
To occupy and possess the land west of the Mississippi river became a serious goal for the United States. The U.S. tried to buy Texas, but its offer was too paltry. With the continuing influx of Anglos into New Mexico, and the development of commerce fostered by the Santa Fe Trail and Bent’s Fort, westward expansion through military might became, by 1845, a very powerful force in New Mexico.
The American intention to invade New Mexico, however, was not passively accepted by the descendants of the original Spanish settelers who, without moving anyplace, were now residing on land which was part of Mexico. On July 11, 1846, New Mexican Governor Manuel Armijo asked Pascual Martinez, the brother of Padre Martinez, to invite ten principal citizens of New Mexico to meet with him in Santa Fe. The purpose of that meeting was to strategize on the best way to deal with the impending incursion of a foreign army. Four of the ten who were invited to the meeting were priests, and the first one on the list to be invited was Padre Martinez of Taos. However, he chose not to come. It seems that the well-regarded Priest no longer favored the path of resistance as he had in previous years.
By 1846, Padre Martinez had effectively changed from being a Mexican nationalist to becoming an enthusiastic American citizen. He quickly accepted the personal invitation of General Kearny to come to Santa Fe and to swear allegiance to the United States of America. Padre Martinez seems to have come to the conclusion that Mexican resistance to American might was not militarily viable in New Mexico. Padre Martinez’ pleas for action in the face of the coming of the Americans went unheeded by his Mexican president General Santa Ana and his ecclesiastical superior Bishop Zubiría. Consequently Martinez may have judged that the future for New Mexicans would be better served by their encroaching American neighbors rather than by the distant Mexican center of power which had historically neglected its own northern frontier and its people. In light of Padre Martinez’ previous strongly expressed opinions resisting American influence, his favorable reactions upon the arrival of General Kearny into Santa Fe must have come as a surprise or even shock to many who knew him rather well.
Manuel Armijo’s meeting to strategize resistance to the American army took place less than a month before Kearny’s entrance into Santa Fe. The majority of those who attended the meeting were influenced by Padre Martinez’ noticeable absence, and the decisions were inconclusive. The clear preference of the majority reflected that of their leader Padre Martinez who was not present. His absence was interpreted as a pragmatic option not to squander New Mexican blood by attempting to resist the inevitable American occupation. It was also seen as an option in favor of a new political order for New Mexico under the United States of America.
It is likely that the assessment of Benjamin Read, a native New Mexican historian, would closely parallel the thinking of Padre Martinez. Read had a family connection to the Padre: his brother Larkin was married to Martinez’ niece. Benjamin Read also obtained from the Martinez family many of the papers and documents of the priest which were used in the Illustrated History of New Mexico which Read published in 1912, the year of New Mexico’s admittance into American statehood.
The people of New Mexico in submitting to the American army deserve no censure for its apparent lack of patriotism or civic valor, but are rather worthy of admiration for having foreseen that if that war would inevitably have to result in the defeat of Mexico, and the economical material, industrial conditions of the Territory demanded, as a prudent and necessary thing, the step taken by the people in declaring in favor of the American government, insuring thus the happiness and higher civilization of the inhabitants of the Territory. The change was furthermore made necessary because of the contempt and abandonment with which the Spanish and Mexican governments had treated the inhabitants of New Mexico.
In hindsight it was a mistake for Padre Martinez not to have personally attended the strategy meeting called by General Armijo to plan resistance to the United States’ occupation. Martinez might have directly expressed his opinions and tried to thoroughly convince the other New Mexican leaders of his viewpoint and reasons for them. Without the presence of the more moderate voice of Padre Martinez, the well articulated minority of persuasive nationalist voices, although in the minority, held sway: that they should indeed steadfastly resist the enemy invaders.
As soon as it was learned in Santa Fe that the American army was encamped at Bent’s Fort, a private meeting was held in the City of Santa Fe, in which the principal citizens took part with the object of discussing the steps that should be taken…..The majority of the persons present preferred to surrender without resistance; the others…held that the enemy should be fought against.
Charles Bent had for some time known General Stephen Watts Kearny, the leader of the Army of the West. On hearing of the projected American invasion, Bent and his partner Ceran St. Vrain decided to visit with the general, who was at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the headquarters for the United States’ operations against Mexico. While there, Bent invited Kearny to camp out at his fort before going into Santa Fe and the General accepted the invitation. In 1846, the Army of the West under General Kearny set out from Fort Leavenworth toward Bent’s Fort. The cavalry regiment and 500 volunteers were under Colonel Doniphan, and Colonel Sterling Price followed with another division of 1800 men. The two armies of Colonels Doniphan and Price consisted of a total of 3500 men, including infantry, cavalry, and artillery.
Just before departure from Bent’s Fort, General Kearny issued a proclamation to the citizens of New Mexico in which he declared that he was entering New Mexico looking for union and to better the conditions of those who were living there. He also urged the people to be at peace. The armies under Kearny’s leadership departed from Bent’s Fort on July 31, 1846.
While many were preparing to embrace the new order of things under the American government, the forces of resistance were still strong. Although in the minority, the Mexican nationalists presented to General Armijo on August 7 the recommendation to resist American military presence by force of arms and might. On the following day, Armijo issued a ringing patriotic call which he may have already intuitively recognized as little more than political posturing and hallow rhetoric:
…if we are not able to preserve the integrity of our Territory, all this country would very soon be the prey of the greed and enterprising spirit of our neighbors of the north, and nothing would remain save a sad remembrance of our political existence. But for God’s sake it must not be so! The Mexicans of today are yet those of the year 1810.
Two days later, Armijo followed that plea with seemingly bold action. He asked New Mexico’s Departmental Assembly to appropriate funds for maintaining their military strength against the invaders; the Assembly approved this request on the same day, August 10. However, in an attempt to either appease or negotiate with the superior forces of the American enemy, Armijo vacillated and on the next day rescinded his request for funds to wage war.
On August 12, together with leaders of the New Mexican resistance, Armijo attended a decisive secret meeting with James Magofin and Capt. Philip St. George Cooke who were delegates of General Kearny. Kearny’s delegates traveled from their headquarters at Bent’s Fort to the town of Las Vegas in northeastern New Mexico for this sequestered conference with Governor Armijo and a few of his key advisors. Armijo discovered that his unpaid soldiers had little enthusiasm for active resistance and this helped convince him of the futility of such a course.
In order to save face and possibly also his life, Armijo fled to Durango, Chihuahua. He realized that if he had made vain attempts at resistance, he certainly would have been killed. According to Mexican law, Cornelio Vigil was the rightful successor to Armijo as governor, but there was no regard nor recognition of Vigil’s claim. There was now to be a new political order.
“BLOODLESS” OCCUPATION OF SANTA FE
After more than two weeks of weary travel through Mora and Glorieta Pass, General Kearny and his soldiers entered Santa Fe on August 18, 1846 to occupy New Mexico in the name of the United States of America. Kearny took formal and peaceful possession of the city of Holy Faith. For the prior quarter century, this capital had belonged to the Republic of Mexico, and for the previous two and a half centuries, it had been part of New Spain. Kearny issued a proclamation shortly after his entry into this country and promised to respect the customs, language, and religion of the people. He assured them that their lands and properties would be respected and kept safe. Furthermore, he notified all the inhabitants that those who were willing to become American citizens could do so by making a simple declaration in favor of the American government. Those, however, who wished to remain citizens of Mexico could also do so by also declaring themselves as such.
By the time of the occupation, Padre Martinez seems to have come to terms with it, not only tolerating it as inevitable but even accepting it somewhat enthusiastically. General Kearny offered Padre Martinez a personal invitation to become an American citizen. Kearny ironically dispatched to Taos an escort of twelve soldiers led by Captain Charles Bent, the priest’s enemy, in order to personally extend the invitation. The Padre, his two brothers, and other prominent citizens came to visit with the general in Santa Fe. During the visit, all three Martinez brothers—the Padre Antonio José, José María, and Pascual—were sworn in as American citizens.
Padre Martinez offered his printing press to the general for the publication of official notices. The press was taken from Taos to Santa Fe and the first law book of the American Southwest, entitled Kearny’s Code of Laws, was printed and issued by General Kearny. From this time on, New Mexico was governed by the new code. General Kearny promulgated the new laws, and then proceeded to enumerate to the new citizens of the United States their Declaration of Rights.
On August 30, two weeks after the occupation, General Kearny attended High Mass at the main church of Santa Fe in order to symbolize his respect for the customs and beliefs of the New Mexican people. He promised the people that they, their lands, their customs, and their religion would remain intact despite their changed citizenship. Enthusiastic about his new American citizenship, Padre Martinez returned to Taos determined to learn English better and to promote it among his students. In the early fall he exhorted them: to be competent citizens and to study the English language.
Although things seemed peaceful immediately after the American occupation, it did not take long for serious conflict to develop. Within a month after his arriving at Santa Fe, Kearny called a council of the Indian Nations in Santa Fe, but few of the chiefs came. He wanted to officially proclaim that fighting between Indians and Mexicans would no longer be tolerated, but there was little interest in hearing that message. The U.S. Army engaged in skirmishes with Indians along the Rio Grande and Chama Rivers for several months.
Although the Indians renewed and intensified hostile activity, Kearny was confident that his soldiers would well enough handle the turmoil with the Indians in New Mexico. On September 25 he left for California to shore up the military operation of John C. Fremont on California theater of the Mexican American War. Meanwhile, from the beginning of autumn 1846 until November 25, Major William Gilpin stayed in the Abiquiu area fighting with Indians. The departure of General Kearny from New Mexico proved to be premature and disastrous for the new American government which had been so recently and tenuously established there.
NEW POLITICAL ORDER
On September 22, Kearny—now promoted to Brigadier General—made some new political appointments. In his first official proclamation after the occupation, he expressed his joy at having taken possession of New Mexico without firing a shot or shedding a drop of blood. Next on the agenda was to establish a new political structure. The promises of General Kearny to protect property and lives of the Nuevo Mexicanos was very appealing, since the Mexican government had seemed impotent in this regard.
The most significant appointment that General Kearny made at this time was Charles Bent as the first governor under the new American rule. Kearney also named three new justices of the supreme court. They were Charles Beaubien, his son Naracisso, and Joab Houghton.
Within a few weeks, the Mexican nationalists and Taos Indians revived their plans for resistance and determined to put them into practice. The situation was about to heat up and explode in Taos. One of the protagonists of anti-American sentiment was Padre Manuel Gallegos. Padre Martinez had long been his teacher and mentor. These two priests, born a generation apart in the same village of Abiquiu, were nevertheless divided on the necessity of a bloody revolution for the life and freedom of their homeland.
On December 12, 1846, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexican independence from Spain, Gallegos and his companions re-ignited the revolutionary movement. Together with other Mexican patriots, they followed up on previous meetings, arrangements and agreements made “among several Mexican citizens residing at Las Vegas, Mora and Taos…..Their plan was, neither more nor less than the assassination on the 19th of the same month [December], of all the Americans that might be found in New Mexico.”
At a midnight meeting held in Santa Fe on December 16, 1846, the conspirators made a decision to postpone their deadly intent from December 19 to Christmas Eve. However, on the 21st, Charles Bent somehow uncovered the plot to assassinate all Americans in New Mexico. As a result, the assault was again secretly delayed—this time until January 19, precisely a month after the revolution was originally scheduled to have taken place.
Colonel Don Diego Archulelta, who had been second in military command to Governor Armijo when he abandoned the territory to the Americans, was one of the instigators of the revolt. When this was discovered, he also fled to Mexico where he joined Armijo. Both Armijo and Archuleta were later pardoned by the American government, and Archuleta eventually returned to his family in New Mexico where he resumed public life as a legislator and lawyer.
What is called the Taos Rebellion of 1847 was in reality a combination of several events and battles. The first was the violent assassination of Governor Charles Bent and the killing of fifteen to seventeen other Americanos or their sympathizers in the middle of January 1847. Five Americans and two Mexican partisans died in Taos. Besides Governor Charles Bent, the American casualties at Taos included Narciso Beaubien, who was the son of Judge Charles Beaubien, and Stephen Louis Lee, the sheriff of Taos. Another nine Americans were killed at Turley’s Mill in Arroyo Hondo, twelve miles north of Taos, and only one American casualty at the altercations in the Santa Cruz-Embudo areas.
Knowing that Charles Bent was a prime target, the Governor nevertheless seemed unafraid. Since there was no attack by the end of December as had been anticipated, Bent was lulled into mistakenly believing that everything had been fully appeased. In spite of warnings to the contrary, Bent decided to leave Santa Fe on January 14 in order to have a post-Christmas visit with his family in Taos. Very early in the morning of January 19, 1847, while Bent was in his house sleeping, Taos Indians forced their way into the house and made the assault. They broke down the door, fired a rifle through it, wounding the Governor in the chest and stomach. Then they proceeded to pierce him with arrows, and scalp him.
Governor Bent was married to María Ignacia Jaramillo and their daughter Teresina always vividly recalled the terrible and traumatic event of her father’s assassination which took place before her own eyes.
Hearing the noise, he [Gov. Bent] went to the door and tried to pacify the crowd yelling outside…..We children were trembling with fear…..While my father was parleying with the mob, Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Boggs, aided by an Indian woman who was a slave (peon), dug a hole through the adobe wall which separated our house from the next. They did it with only a poker and an old iron spoon. I still have the poker that they used. We children were first pushed through the hole and then the women crawled through after us. My mother kept calling to my father to come also, but for quite a while he would not.
When he did try to escape he was already wounded and had been scalped alive! He crawled through the hole, holding his hand on the top of his bleeding head. But it was too late. Some of the men came after him through the hole and others came over the roof of the house and down into the yard. They broke down the doors and rushed upon my father. He was shot many times and fell dead at our feet.
The newly appointed district attorney, J.W. Liel, was also scalped alive, and then dragged through the streets. Sheriff Stephen Lee was killed on his own housetop on the south side of the plaza. Narcisse Beaubien hid in an outhouse, but was turned in by a woman, servant to the family. Narcisse, whose mother was New Mexican, was the son of Judge Carlos Beaubien. He had been studying for five years at Cape Girardeau college, below St. Louis, and was proficient in French and Spanish as well as English.
Pedro Sanchez was married to the favorite niece of Padre Martinez in his private chapel after the Padre’s rift with the new French Archbishop. Sanchez’ family memories of the priest never mention the conflict with Bishop Lamy, but his account of the Taos Rebellion is vivid. The description by Pedro Sanchez of the uprising, written twenty-six years after that of Santiago Valdez, reflects the living memory of many people whom Sanchez knew well.
One cold morning in January, 1847, a revolt exploded in Taos. Padre Martínez was awakened by a mob of people in his plazuela [courtyard] screaming, “Open for the love of God, open! The Indians are killing Don Carlos Bent, Don Luis Lee, and others!” The priest in his underclothing ran and opened the door. He bade the desperate and terrorized people to enter. There peaceful citizens of Taos assembled. Among them were the families of the Americans who had perished at the hands of the insurgents and families of those who were absent from the village. All were there without distinction of race, color, or creed, in the house of the priest whose heart was full of compassion and the spirit of consolation and peace…..He gave them food and provided arms for those who could handle them. He had fortlets constructed on the roof of his house and placed sentries on guard for the protection of the people against the insurgents who kept up a barrage of words, yelling, “Traitors, traitors!” Father Martinez placed himself at the head in defense of his guests, until the arrival of Colonel Price.
Some prominent American citizens of Taos, who otherwise certainly would have perished, were out of town during the days of the uprising. Territorial supreme court justice Charles Beaubien, partner with Charles Bent in the Maxwell Land Grant, was away on a shopping expedition in Santa Fe. Both Kit Carson and Colonel St. Vrain were together at Bent’s Fort during those fateful days. They all would soon return to do their part in the swift and harsh retaliation against the uprising.
Padre Martinez was not a participant in the plans to overthrow American rule in New Mexico. In fact, the Padre showed himself very humanitarian in the heat of battle when he gave hospitality to Elliot Lee who ran for cover to the priest’s home. With several other family members of murdered Americans, Lee found shelter and ample protection at the Padre’s house.
It is nothing but just to bear testimony to the humanitarian action of Padre Martinez, first, because a man is worthy of praise who, in such critical moments, gives shelter to the persecuted, though in so doing, he might have to expose his life; and in the second place, because many writers, with an inborn prejudice, have attempted to stain the name of Padre Martinez, charging him with being one of the movers of the vile and cowardly attack.
Most accounts of the events in Taos during the year 1847 are presented from the point of view of the American victors. However, Santiago Valdez, a putative son of the Padre Martinez, furnishes us with a unique perspective of the Taos Rebellion in his 1877 biography of Padre Martinez. Following are excerpts from his manuscript written ten years after the death of the Padre and thirty years after the rebellion:
While the mob was committing their treacherous work, Padre Martinez was on his way to church to say Mass, but was stopped by the howling of someone running…..He remained motionless to await and see the cause of it, and saw that it was an American named Eliah Lee who was hotly pursued by the mob. He was imploring his [Padre Martinez’] protection, and Padre Martinez immediately spoke to the crowd. Upon hearing what they had been doing in town, he reprimanded them bitterly, and denounced them as murders. Accompanied by the American whose life he had saved, he [Padre Martinez] went back from that spot to his home.
After Bent’s assassination, the crowed asked Padre Martinez for his approval of their action, but he reprimanded them and directed himself especially to their leader Pablo Montoya:
My dear Christian brothers, I am indeed very sorry to see that my parishioners and brothers in Christ have been the principal agents of this fearful crime. You have provoked the anger of this powerful government. You have made yourselves guilty of such an anti-Christian and barbarous act. There is no difficulty, my brothers, in attacking and killing defenseless individuals especially while they are asleep. However, it is very difficult to attack and kill civilized troops which are well armed.
Although the leaders of the revolution were angry and disappointed in their priest,
they knew that he had an American under his roof, and they did not dare attempt to say anything ill about him. This is sufficient testimony that Padre Martinez was highly respected even at the most critical moments. In spite of his reprehensions, he was always looked upon as the most respected man of the community.
The rebels of the Taos Pueblo are surprised by the negative reaction of their priest to their entreaties for his support. They do not seems to be aware that their pastor is now an American citizen. This may explain somewhat why their priest chastises them and gives unheeded advice to Pablo Chavez, one of the pueblo leaders:
You and your followers are the reason that these families are gathered here to escape your treacherous hands. The many privations and sufferings which they have been undergoing is on account of your inhuman atrocities, and for all this you have to render a strict account before Almighty God. You have been misled by the blindness of ignorant and ambitious people, and you have committed an unpardonable blunder. You have stained your hands and souls with the blood of your innocent victims, thus following not the law of God, but the law of Satan. For the law of God says: “Every man must obey his superiors, as his power and authority derives from God, and he who disobeys his superiors will disobey God.” But as you take no heed of God’s commandments, you will very soon be confused, abject, and destroyed, and the day of your punishment is fast approaching. You will be sorry for all you have done, and for the sufferings of these families.
The strong pro-American slant reflected in the account of Santgiago Valdez can be better understood in light of the fact that Valdez is well situated in the new system. He was a successful New Mexican politician of the late nineteenth century who wrote the account thirty years after the American occupation.
At about the same time as the explosion at Taos, fireworks were also taking place at Turley’s Mill in Arroyo Hondo, about twelve miles north. Besides Governor Charles Bent, another of the targets of the Taos Rebellion was Simon Turley, who was proprietor of the mill which bore his name. He was a long time merchant in northern New Mexico, and had become especially wealthy through the sale of Taos Lightning, his powerful home-brewed local whiskey which was widely used by the mountain men and also sold to Indians. Padre Martinez had expressed himself against the occupation of land for the manufacture of whiskey and its distribution to Indians. Although Turley thought of himself as a good friend of the people, he nevertheless incurred the hostility of several including Pueblo Indians. This may have been related to his trafficking in alcohol and the dependence it occasioned among the Indians. [Padre Martinez referred to this in his letter to Bishop Zubiría.] The melee lasted for a couple of days shortly after the murder of Governor Bent. About a dozen men were killed: seven whites and five Indians.
Simon Turley’s house, mill, and still lay at the foot of a gradual slope in the sierra, which was covered with cedar-bushes. The house was located behind the still. It had a garden enclosed by a fence, and a small wicket-gate which opened from the corral. In front ran the stream of the Arroyo Hondo, about twenty yards from one side of the square, and on the other side was broken ground, which rose abruptly and formed the bank of the ravine.
Although Turley thought that he would not be molested, he nevertheless agreed to make preparations for defense. He closed the gate of the yard which surrounded the buildings of his mill and distillery. A few hours later, a large crowd of Mexicans and Pueblo Indians armed with guns and bows and arrows advanced with a white flag. They told Turley to surrender his house and the Americans in it and guaranteed him that his own life would be saved. At the time, eight well-armed men with plenty of ammunition were in his house. They included Americans, French Canadians, and Englishmen.
When it became clear that Turley and his men would rather fight than surrender, the attackers scattered and concealed themselves under the cover of the rocks and bushes which surrounded the house. Arrows and bullets were traded in a battle which continued into the night. The Indians and New Mexicans tried to break down the wall of the main building, used as a fort for defense, but the strength of the adobes and logs effectively resisted all their attempts.
The first assailant who tried to cross over into Turley’s house was the Pueblo chief. He was shot and instantly fell dead in the center of the intervening space. Soon there would be seven dead Indians. Three more were immediately killed in their vain attempts to retrieve the body of their dead chief, and another three were killed almost immediately afterwards.
So far there were no white men killed, but “after the fall of the seven Indians…the whole body of assailants, with a shout of rage, poured in a rattling volley, and two of the defenders of the mill fell mortally wounded.”
The survivors of the little garrison held a war council and decided that, when night came, it would be up to each to escape as best he might. Turley himself succeeded in escaping from the mill, and seemed to be on his way to safety. However, he was shot to death, it is said, by someone whom he knew well and had been friendly toward him. Turley’s house and mill were sacked and gutted and all the gold concealed about the house was discovered and taken.
Padre Martinez apprised Colonel Sterling Price of the situation in Taos after the murder of the governor. Price, a graduate of Hampden Sidney College, was elected to the Missouri Legislature in 1843. The following year, he was elected to Congress and became speaker of the House of Representatives. In 1846, Price resigned his seat to accept a commission as colonel of the Second Regiment of Missouri Volunteers which he raised to help fight the war against Mexico. The Missouri outfit of Colonel Price gained a reputation for being an undisciplined group of racist, whiskey-fueled fighters:
They were good shots and their courage and self confidence (mainly a bloodless sense of superiority over the “greasers”) were never in doubt, but their discipline left everything to be desired. Once the Missourians came into contact with Turley’s famous “Taos Lightning” they were uncontrollable.
Colonel Ceran St. Vrain was one of the first Americans who had come to New Mexico from Missouri. After his return from Bent’s Fort where he had been at the time of the uprising, St. Vrain went to Santa Fe and raised a voluntary company of sixty-five men to fight against the rebels. He then accompanied Colonel Price who was in command of the regular army of 350 men that marched up to Taos in late January.
SKIRMISHES AT LA CANADA AND EMBUDO
Price’s men passed through Santa Cruz, near Española, and Embudo, now called Dixon, where there were skirmishes against the revolutionaries who were coming down from Taos to engage them. Price’s superior forces and fire power brought a quick end to this battle fought on January 24, 1847. Thirty-six of Montoya’s men were killed at Santa Cruz, while only two men of the Colonel were lost. Jesús Tafoya, one of the New Mexicans’ principal leaders, was fatally wounded there. Within a week, the Indian Pablo Montoya was publicly hanged on specially constructed gallows near the Taos Plaza.
Victorious over the small group at La Cañada, Colonel Price proceeded to easily defeat the ill equipped and smaller group of warriors—the second company— at the battle of Embudo, near present day Dixon. Within a half hour, twenty Indians were killed, while there was only one loss by Colonel Price. Some of the insurgents fled back to their homes, and their leaders and families sought refuge in the mountains. Others came back to Taos, where they made their fortification to resist the American troops. A few went home without involving themselves further in the conflict. These took advantage of the amnesty which Padre Martinez on the very morning of the Taos Rebellion promised he would request for the rebels who desisted from their revolutionary activity, and which colonel Price granted.
Meanwhile, the American forces under Colonel Sterling Price continued their upward trek toward Taos. On February 2, nearly 500 American soldiers with their wagons and artillery of four mountain howitzers arrived at the village of Río Chiquito, now known as Talpa, near Ranchos de Taos. The villagers received an abrupt introduction to the physical power of the United States Army from these soldiers who camped there for the night.
PUMMELING OF THE TAOS PUEBLO
The massacre at the Taos Pueblo and the military’s willful destruction of its venerable Catholic church—established since 1598— is a sad chapter in American history. The Indians fully expected that their taking refuge in the church would be respected within a tradition of sanctuary.
Colonel Price arrived at Taos at 10 o’clock a.m., and proceeded at once to the Indian Village [Pueblo], three miles north of here, but did not give the Indians battle. He only skirmished and returned to the town. The Indians and their companions believed that they were victorious, and were flattering themselves for having defeated the American troops. Price made his quarters at Padre Martinez’ house and told him in the night,
“I skirmished lightly at the Indian pueblo, and then retreated so as to make them believe that I was afraid, and thus prevent their leaving the village during the night.”
The next day, Colonel Price proceeded early in the morning with his forces, and renewed the attack on the Indian pueblo. The fight commenced at 9:00 o’clock a.m. The Indians had made pretty strong fortifications; they had built a strong adobe wall around the village. The Americans surrounded the pueblo and attacked all around it with artillery and cavalry, while the infantry advanced at the front. After a hot fight, the Americans were victorious and captured the Indian Village, and the Indians surrendered at 1:00 o’clock p.m. Colonel Price then sent for Padre Martinez to gather the vestments and things belonging to the church of the pueblo which was burned during the fight, and to bury the dead.
Colonel Price reached Taos about noon on February 3, and presented himself to Padre Martinez at his home which he used as his headquarters for his Taos campaign. He learned that the insurgents were entrenched in the church of the Taos Pueblo, about three miles away. Although his men were exhausted from the hard march and winter fighting, Colonel Price nevertheless decided to attack immediately. That evening he reconnoitered the pueblo-church fortification, and ordered a strategic shelling of a few rounds of artillery for several hours. The battle was hotly contested until night when two white flags of surrender were hoisted, but were shot down in disregard. At the approach of darkness, the Americans retired to the village in a ploy to make the Indians and other rebels think that they were leaving. Colonel Price stayed that night at the home of Padre Martinez.
When it became clear that the inhabitants of the pueblo could not defend themselves against American firepower, they appealed for peace. However, peace was to be granted on the condition that their chief Tomasito Romero be delivered over to the Americans. After some hesitation, Chief Tomasito surrendered in order to prevent the complete genocide of his people. The Chief was killed shortly afterwards by a bullet fired by Private Fitzgerald who was supposed to be guarding the chief in a make-shift cell at Taos. The spirit of vengeance among U.S. soldiers and their disproportionate retaliation is evident:
When the breach was made in the church, whither the enemy had retreated as a last resort, the dragoons attacked with bombs, holding the shells in their hands until the fuses were nearly burned, and then tossing them in to do their work of devastation. The first two Americans who entered the breach fell dead…, and Fitz was the fifth…..His brother…murdered by Salazar while a prisoner in the Texan expedition against Santa Fe…..In the fight at the Pueblo, three Mexicans fell by his hand; and, the day following, he walked up to the alcalde and deliberately shot him down. For this cold-blooded act, he was confined to await a trial for murder.
Private Fitzgerald was jailed for that personal and premature execution, but escaped from his jail cell while awaiting court martial. He was never tried for the murder of the Taos Pueblo Chief Tomás Romero. Maybe in Fitzgerald’s thinking, the death of one governor deserved the death of another. However, the “score” was never even. Over two hundred Indians—-including a great part of the Pueblo population of women and children—-and Mexicans had been seeking sanctuary in the pueblo church of San Geronimo. More than one hundred and fifty came to be blown up by canon fire! This disproportionately contrasts to the much smaller number of seven Americanos who were killed in the Taos altercation.
Ceran St. Vrain had deputized a posse of mounted volunteers whose task it was to guard the exits of the Taos Pueblo in order to prevent fugitives. With men posted on the opposite side of the church, fleeing defenders of the pueblo were cut off, and the revolt at Taos was over. After three days of desperate combat, the Indians discretely surrendered.
The classic of the far west by Lewis H. Garrard, WAH-TO-YAH AND THE TAOS TRAIL offers a curious perspective of the events occurring in Taos during the year 1847, the same year the work was first published. It chronicles the travels of a young adventurer of seventeen years who traveled the Santa Fe Trail with Ceran St. Vrain from St. Louis to Taos through Bent’s Fort. The timing of the journey of Garrard is serendipitous because his travels precisely coincided with climactic moments in New Mexican history. Garrard visited the scene of devastation, and inspected the various places of sacrilegious destruction of a holy place and callous disregard for sanctuary:
We…passed to the west side, entering the church at the stormers’ breach, through which the missiles of death were hurled. We silently paused in the center of the house of Pueblo worship. Above, between the charred and blackened rafters which leaned from their places as if ready to fall on us, could be seen the spotless blue sky of this pure clime…..
It was truly a scene of desolation. In the strong hope of victory they made no provision for defeat; in the superstitious belief of the protection afforded by the holy Church, they were astounded beyond measure that, in the hour of need, they should be forsaken by their tutelar [sic – titular] saint [San Geronimo]—-that los diablos Americanos should, within the limits of consecrated ground, trample triumphant, was too much to bear…..
Up until 1847, there had been no need for a courthouse in Taos. Justice had been meted out by a system including the alcalde and other officials of the community. In the new order, a new justice system had been set up. It was tested almost immediately. Garrard’s gives a vivid description of the fate of the condemned revolutionaries to which he himself was an eyewitness:
About nine o’clock, active preparations were made for the execution, and the soldier mustered. Reverend padres, on the solemn mission of administering the “blessed sacrament” and spiritual consolation, in long, black gowns and meek countenances, passed the sentinels…..
The priests who would have accompanied the prisoners before their execution would certainly have included Padre Martinez in the first place. In addition, other priests who were very likely there include the Vicario Felipe Ortiz, Padre Manuel Lucero of Arroyo Honodo who was friend and neighbor of Padre Martinez, and possibly Padre Manuel Gallegos. Gerrard records the sentiments of one of the condemned:
…..his speech was firm assertion of his own innocence, the unjustness of his trial, and the arbitrary conduct of his murderers. With a scowl, as the cap was pulled over his face, the last words he uttered between his gritting teeth were, “Caraho, los Americanos!” The atrocity of the act of hanging that man for treason is most damnable [emphasis mine]; with the execution of those for murder no fault should be found…..
Garrard had moral qualms about the military and judicial retribution suffered by the Pueblo Indians and New Mexican settlers. This gnawed at him because at root his sense of justice was keen.
Court assembled at nine o’clock…..It certainly did appear to be a great assumption on the part of the Americans to conquer a country and then arraign the revolting inhabitants for treason…..
After an absence of a few minutes, the jury returned with a verdict of “guilty in the first degree”…..Treason, indeed! What did the poor devil know about his new allegiance?…..
I left the room, sick at heart. Justice! Out upon the word, when its distorted meaning is the warrant for murdering those who defend to the last their country and their homes. [Emphasis mine.]
It was clear to Garrard that everyone who was part of the jury or legal counsel, or the justices themselves were all people who were related to Charles Bent by blood or business relationship. “Mr. St. Vrain was the interpreter.” It was hardly an impartial jury system. The trial of the war criminals took place in the spring. Charles Beaubien was a resident of Taos and one of the three Chief Justices appointed by Governor Kearny on September 22, 1846. However, since his own son Narciso Beaubien was one of the victims of the uprising, it was appropriately decided that Beaubien not preside at the trial. Another of Kearny’s appointees, Judge Joab Houghton, was named to serve as judge for the trial. He had never been trained in law and was a close friend of the slain governor.
Between April 5 and 24, fifteen out of seventeen men of the Taos Pueblo were convicted of murder, one for each American or American sympathizer who had perished in the various battles of the Taos rebellion. One out of five were convicted of high treason, and six out of sixteen for larceny. “The executions for murder were carried out on an improvised gallows with borrowed lariats and tether ropes.”
On October 3, 1848, the eve of the feast of St. Francis, two years after the Taos revolution and about eight months after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which finally brought cloture to the Mexican War, Padre Martinez again wrote some of his reflections to Bishop Zubiría .
Some prejudiced Mexicans started a revolution here in Taos against the Americans, similar to that of 1837 and ’38, but were badly defeated by the latter in two encounters on their way to Santa Fe. After these encounters, a conservative force was organized by the most respectable citizens. The rebels took to the Indian Village [of Taos] and made that place their headquarters. There they were again attacked and decidedly defeated by the American troops, this being the last attack. The church of the Village was completely destroyed, and the vestments, etc. pertaining to the church were gathered by the American Commander and delivered to me. The rebels after suffering a terrible loss were captured. I still keep at my own [Guadalupe, Taos Plaza] church the ecclesiastical property which was delivered to me…..At the early part of last year, a newspaper undertook to attack our Religion and its ministers, and I answered the unjust charges and defended our cause. I will do the same, with the help of God, at any time when circumstances may require it…..
Santiago Valdez, author of Padre Martinez biography, is a close relative of the priest, and was brought up with him in his own household. He was “un familiar,” either an adopted son or real son, whose own children used the Padre’s family name. Valdez was named as an heir in the priest’s last will and testament, and he remained a Catholic all his life, following the political path of his famous relative. The Martinez clan was wealthy, and the priest had his personal family wealth which he generously used in helping poor people. By his wealth, priesthood and political positions, he belonged to the privileged class. He nevertheless was committed to service of all his parishioners with a preferential option for the poor.
Like any parent who sees his children at odds or fighting, he wants to see peace and reconciliation between them. But the really good parent knows that true reconciliation will not develop by discounting differences. They need to be dealt with justly. As a good Padre, Martinez must have been deeply disturbed by the death of so many of his parishioners from the Pueblo, and the execution of several, including the Indian Chief Tomacito Romero and Pablo Montoya.
Padre Martinez was a brilliant and compassionate man caught in between vying factions: Mexican nationalism and American expansionism. He valued both, but ultimately opted for American citizenship and the changes which the new order was bringing. It had to have been very confusing and even painful for New Mexico’s people when their leaders may seemed to have suddenly developed and changed perspectives and opinions from Mexican nationalists to American citizens. This pain and confusion is a part of the on-going painful clash of cultures that is necessary in the birth of a new people. That clash expressed the ambiguities of life on the border, the frontier between two colliding worlds and their peoples’ cultures.
Today there would be some sympathy for the view that the Indians and Mexicans of 1847 were appropriately defending their homeland against foreign invasion. In spite of prior rhetoric pledging to kill all the Americans, relatively few were actually killed in the Taos rebellion. The relatively few who did die—between 15 and 17—were were almost all specifically targeted, and no women nor children were among them. The seven people who were killed in Taos, including two native New Mexicans, were all closely related to the American interests of the new order. The other nine or so Americans who were killed in some of the other battles were the unfortunate victims of war. The number of Americans killed contrasts strongly to the disproportionate and indiscriminate retaliation of the American troops by which between 250 to 300 Taos Pueblo Indians and New Mexicans. All of these were killed in a series of small battles leading up to and including the massacre which took place at the Taos Pueblo at the beginning of February. The majority of these were blown up by canon fire as they sought sanctuary in their ancient Church of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo. Another number, between 17 and 22, were later expeditiously sentenced to death for their part in the rebellion, and then executed in the Taos Plaza. With historical and moral hindsight, the American retaliation to the Taos Rebellion of 1847 would very likely today be judged immoral because of the significant disproportion in the number of people killed. The overwhelming American military response to a people defending the sovereignty of their own land would today certainly be considered gravely immoral.
The Taos Rebellion was the focal point of the New Mexico theater in the Mexican American War. The Taos Pueblo massacre was the culmination of American retaliation against the Taos Rebellion. This conflict easily elicits a variety of serious topics which are important to students of Latino history in the United States. Among these are themes of the possession of land and their borders, national sovereignty, the tensions of commerce, labor, and immigration. There are also deep dimensions of culture and religion, especially as affected by demographics and intermarriage. The whole gamut of economics and politics, relationship of church and state were all part of the drama and various issues involved in the Mexican American war, and specifically in the Taos Rebellion. The central figure in all of this eventful transition is Padre Martinez.
In that climactic moment of history, that transcendent epoch of the Taos Rebellion, Padre Antonio José Martinez did not act as a Mexican nationalist, nor a vacillating Hamlet, nor as an opportunistic pawn of the new American forces. His reactions, although perhaps surprising or disappointing to some, were principled actions born of reflection and decision. He took the unpopular stand of choosing to affirm the American occupation in spite of the bloodshed. He had foreseen it, and made every effort to avert it, but it nevertheless took place.
This was a defining moment for the priest who had, as the record clearly shows, advocated for the poor and championed the cause of self determination for all of the people of New Mexico which had such strong historical and cultural ties to both Spain and Mexico. The change in political leadership was a harbinger of changes in ecclesiastical leadership which were soon to follow. However, Padre Martinez continued his own powerful influences in the unfolding stages of American history in both the church and state of New Mexico. Positive developments of the future will have had their foundation in the life and work of Padre Antonio José Martinez, Cura de Taos.
Padre Martinez was proud to be an American citizen without ever loosing his cultural or religious identity in the new secular and multicultural society. He also knew he had a powerful contribution to make—with the richness of his cultural heritage—in both the church and state of the new New Mexico. Padre Martinez can justly be called the Father of the Mexican American for the role he played in the events surrounding Taos Rebellion. May those of us who identify as Mexican Americans and Catholic follow the good example he gave to us. It is my hope that American history and the Catholic church will rightly recognize the important positive role Padre Martinez played in the formation of the history of a Catholic Mexican American people of New Mexico and the United States.