St. Lawrence Day MassacreBy Rubén Sálaz Márquez
of August 10, 1680
Like so many facets of NM history, the St. Lawrence Day Massacre of August 10, 1680, promoted in English as the “Pueblo Revolt,” is little known and rarely understood. Historical docum-entation proves it was a surprise Indian uprising and a savage slaughter in the worst sense. But because of the participants of the day and realities today, the “Pueblo Revolt” is touted as “the first American Revolution” and a blow for “Religious Freedom!” in some quarters. The historical facts don’t support any such conclusion, even if a representation of the Pueblo leader Popé, which in effect is celebrating the massacre, is going into Statuary Hall.
Let’s make a quick review of what happened. Governor Treviño (1675-1677) launched a campaign against Amerind idolatry and witchcraft after seven missionaries and various Hispano settlers had died from mysterious causes. Known sorcerers were executed and 47 medicine men who admitted practicing witchcraft were arrested, flogged, and destined for slavery. Armed Tewas then descended on Santa Fe and demanded the release of all prisoners or they would kill Treviño and all Hispanics in N.M. Governor Treviño released the prisoners.
One of those released is Popé, a medicine man from San Juan. He moves to Taos and begins plans for a province‑wide revolt. Popé confers with dissenters, caciques and war chiefs from various Pueblos, telling them their ancient gods will not return with happiness and prosperity until the Spanish and their Christian god are dead. He promises that “who shall kill a Spaniard will get an Indian woman for a wife, and he who kills four will get four women, and he who kills 10 or more will have a like number of women.” He continues to plan and build his coalition. Meeting secretly each time a village celebrates its feast day, Popé enlists other leaders like Luis and Lorenzo Tupatú (from Picurís), Antonio Malacate (Cochití), Francisco El Ollita and Nicolás Jonva (San Ildefonso), Domingo Romero (Tesuque), Antonio Bolsas (Santa Fe), Cristóbal Yope (San Lázaro), Alonzo Catiti (Santo Domingo), El Jaca (or Saca, from Taos), Domingo Naranjo (Santa Clara). The date for the surprise blow is set: the first night of the new moon, August 13, 1680, before the supply caravan arrives in September from Mexico City.
Meanwhile, Antonio de Otermín had become Governor in 1677. By around 1679, Hispanic N.M. had a population of around 2,400 to 2,500 people who live in homesteads from Taos in the north to Socorro and Senecú in the south; from Pecos in the east to Jémez in the west. Pueblo population totals are estimated at around 17,000.
By August 9, 1680, Popé has dispatched messengers to all Pueblos , knotted cords signifying that in four days all are to rise in revolt. The order is clear: no Hispano, whether man, woman, or child, is to be spared. By now all know that the god Poheyemo has appeared to Popé and appointed him as his representative, ordering him to kill all Christians and their missionaries and to destroy all vestiges of the Christian religion so that everyone can return to freedoms of the past. Any who disobey the representative of Poheyemo, “who was very tall and black, with frightful eyes that are large and yellow,” will be executed immediately. Further, three supernatural beings appear to Popé “in the form of Indians, most horrifying in appearance, shooting flames of fire from all the senses and extremities of their bodies” who instruct him as to how to carry out his plans. Pope’s son-in-law refuses to support the rebellion so Popé has him killed.
Two men from Tesuque, Nicolás Catua and Pedro Omtua, are arrested by Maese de Campo Francisco Gómez Robledo because they are found with knotted ropes in their possession. Caciques at la Ciénega, Tanos, and San Marcos oppose the revolt and inform Gov. Otermín of Popé’s plans for August 13. Popé learns he has been discovered so he puts out the word that August 10 is the day for immediate revolt. The order is the same: Kill every Hispano in New Mexico!
On August 10, 1680, unsuspecting Fray Juan Pío walks to Tesuque from Santa Fe to say Mass but the Pueblo is virtually empty when he arrives. When he finds the people the warriors are heavily armed and wearing warpaint. “What is this,” he asks, “are you mad? Do not disturb yourselves. I will help you and die a thousand deaths for you.” He is rewarded with a deadly shower of arrows, his accompanying soldier, Pedro Hidalgo, escaping to Santa Fe only because he is on horseback.
Popé’s genocidal instructions are carried out all over N.M.: DEATH to all Christian Hispanics and Christian wethead Indians! Roving bands of Pueblo Indians, who had never been grouped with marauding raiders, rampage throughout the province and everyone found in outlying ranchos is killed immediately, whether man, woman, or child. The carnage is horrendous. For example: Petronila de Salas and her family of ten sons and daughters, totally unaware that a rebellion was taking place, are murdered in their home. At the hacienda of Tomé Dominguez 38 people are butchered in that one place. The bodies of three missionaries are piled one on the other at the San Ildefonso church door. All Hispano homes are pillaged then burned, the smoke casting a deadly pall throughout the countryside. The Spanish Archives in Santa Fe are burned. Horses and mules are taken or killed so Hispanics will be unable to communicate with New Spain. Amerinds who refuse to give up their Christian doctrine are summarily killed.
The missionaries are special targets for gruesome tortures or immediate murder. There are tragic accounts of some of the missionaries’ last moments on this New Mexican earth: Fray Juan de Jesús at Jémez is captured and informed he will be “Knighted.” He is taken to the cemetery at night and stripped naked then, amid many candles as in a solemn Christian ceremony of knighthood, he is forced to mount a pig then beaten as he is challenged to have his stupid Christian God and his warrior St. James “come and save you now!.” Finally he is kicked off the pig and forced to get on all fours while warriors take turns mounting his back and whipping his naked flank with a quirt. Despite all this the valiant Fray Juan tells them “Do with me as you wish for this joy of yours will not last and in ten years you will consume each other.” This infuriates his tormentors even more so they bludgeon him to death with war clubs until his face is unrecognizable. (If you remember seeing the televised beating of Rodney King you can just imagine what our “Soldier for the Cross” went through before dying.)
At Oraibi, one of the Hopi villages, the warriors were wearing kachina masks when they broke into the priests’ house and murdered the two friars.
Fray Lucas Maldonado and Fray Juan de Val are seized at Acoma, along with an elderly Christian mestiza. All three are stripped naked, the woman is forced between the two friars and all are tied together with a rope. The trio is then led around the pueblo while they are beaten all the while. At the entrance of the convent the warriors invite everyone to finish them off with rocks and they are stoned by all villagers who wish to do so. Then as they lay dying their bodies are pierced time and again with warriors’ lances. Their bloody but now lifeless forms are then dragged around the pueblo and eventually thrown into the garbage pit.
The Pueblos take particular delight in destroying the churches and torturing missionaries who had forced them to destroy their own kivas and their own religious items. To add insult to injury, the enraged Indians urinate and defecate in chalices and on church altars, they tear up priest’s vestments, smash crosses and santos, rip apart altar screens, benches, confessionals, etc., then set fire to the rubble.
In a few hours some 400 Hispano settlers, 300 of which are women and children, and 21 friars lay dead as a result of “el Día de San Lorenzo,” the St. Lawrence Day Massacre (which will soon be commemorated in Statuary Hall). Aside from Santa Fe, Los Cerrillos villagers, led by Sargento Mayor Bernabé Márquez and other Márquez family members, are the only ones to hold their attackers at bay until they are rescued by a squadron of soldiers. [It has been estimated that there were about 170 colonists in N.M. who could bear arms against perhaps 8,000 warriors, including Apaches who were in the fight, for an approximate ratio of 47 to 1. Exact figures will never be known. Suffice it to say that the Christians were facing horrendous odds.]
Hispanic survivors from the Río Arriba gather at Santa Fe while those from the Río Abajo congregate at Isleta, which is attacked, under the leadership of Alonso García.
By August 13, Santa Fe is the only Christian settlement undestroyed but it is surrounded by thousands of mounted Pueblos and Apaches. Governor Otermín asks for peace “...and you will be pardoned.” The Indians jeer at the offer and demand that all Native Americans held by the Spanish be given up to them, along with the hated secretary of war Francisco Javier “...who is the reason we have risen....” Governor Otermín refuses and the battle for Santa Fe rages for nine days until the water supply is cut off.
August 14: News reaches the congregated settlers at Isleta Pueblo that all Christians in the Río Arriba area have been killed. A vote is taken as to what to do after which Maese de Campo Alonso García leads the settlers south toward El Paso in accordance with their vote.
August 20: The Indians around Santa Fe are heard shouting: Your god is dead, the god who was your father is dead and Mary who is your mother and your saints are pieces of rotten wood...
August 21: Governor Otermín gathers his forces and sallies out to do battle, believing it is better to “die fighting rather than of hunger and thirst...” In the fierce fighting Amerinds lose some 350 warriors while others are sent scattering but thousands of fighters remain and time is on their side. Pecos warriors in the fight return to their village where in retribution they slaughter the captives they had been holding there, mostly women and children.
Governor Otermín finally leads all colonists in a retreat out of Santa Fe toward Isleta where he hopes to link up with the colonists from the Río Abajo and return to quell the rebellion. The “warriors,” still smarting from previous losses in combat against New Mexican men who would defend themselves, thousands of warriors who might have killed everyone with a mass attack from all sides, merely allowed the New Mexicans to leave.
September 6: The survivors from Santa Fe and Isleta link up south of Socorro and continue to El Paso where they are saved by Fray Francisco de Ayeta who is leading the supply caravan to N.M. The refugees are in a state of shock. There are frantic searches for family members or friends who might have made it through the savage, sneak attack.
After defeat of the Christians, Popé and some of his captains like El Jaca of Taos, Alonso Catiti of Santo Domingo, and Luis Tupatú of Picurís, travel throughout the province, instructing all people to live according to their ancient customs in order to engender peace, harmony, and prosperity. At Santa Ana a large feast is prepared from the kitchens of the missionaries and served in the Hispanic manner. Popé sits at the head of the table, Catiti at the other end. Using chalices taken from churches they toast curses to the Christians and their hated religion. Popé toasts Catiti: To your health Reverend Father, and Catiti replies: And to yours, Excellency.
Churches are razed, including the massive Pecos church, the grandest in N.M., crosses and images are hacked to pieces, vestments are torn up, chalices are fouled with human excrement. The Spanish Archives in Santa Fe are thrown into the public square and burned. Estufas, kivas, are to be rebuilt and masks for use in kachina dances are to be made. Couples married in church are permitted to leave their spouses and take whomever they wish. Christian names are abolished and only traditional ones are used. [Upon baptism, Native Americans were given Christian, i.e., Spanish, names.] Baptism is “washed away” with yucca‑root soap. Anyone who speaks Spanish is punished with a severe whipping. Hispanic crops are outlawed and all Hispanic seeds are ordered destroyed.
Aside from the 400 or so ordinary people slaughtered on St. Lawrence Day, (3 out of 4 of whom were noncombatants like those at the Twin Towers on 9-11), the 21 Franciscan missionaries killed by their charges include: Juan Bernal, José Espeleta, José Figueroa, Juan de Jesús María, Francisco Lorenzana, Lucas Maldonado, José Montes de Oca, Antonio Mora, Luis Morales, Juan Pedrosa, Juan Bautista Pío, Matías Rendón, Antonio Sánchez, Agustín de Santa María, Juan Talabán, Manuel Tinoco, José Trujillo, Tomás Torres, Juan del Val, Fernando Velasco, Domingo Vera. A list of civilian casualties still has to be compiled. Neither have been commemorated due to the cultural bias that exists in NM. Hispano history, which is either ignored or skewed to make Spanish people appear to be villainous, even when they are slaughtered through no fault of their own as on St. Lawrence Day, hasn’t been a priority in our homes, schools, or communities.
In our own day writers like Robert Silverberg (“The Pueblo Revolt”) and A.L. Knaut (“The Pueblo Revolt of 1680”) continue to denigrate the pioneering Hispano communities of that era. It can’t be denied that abuses occurred during that period of history but books like those are more a study in cultural bias than in documented history. For example, no mention is made that when Diego de Vargas brought us back to NM the Pueblo people, guilty of a savage massacre waged mostly against unsuspecting noncombatants, were not exterminated in reprisal. That is what happened on the east coast under the English and in the USA, for example, against the Sioux until Custer was avenged.
Unfortunately, cultural bias is alive and well in the present day. A newspaper quoted some Token Tom Toady “Hispanic” spokesman as saying “We got what we deserved!” in the “Pueblo Revolt.” This reflects a total lack of knowledge of NM history or perhaps the psychology of “personal acceptance at any price.” Putting Popé in Statuary Hall is like commemorating Osama bin Laden because of 9-11. No such precedent exists in the history of the USA. Truly great and Indian leaders like King Philip, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Chief Joseph, etc. have not been honored in Statuary Hall or any such place. But Popé is going into Statuary Hall merely because historically it is permissible to kill Hispanic people.
It would be interesting to write a comparative history of Popé, who fought (1680) Spanish New Mexicans, and Pontiac, who fought (1763) the English east of the Mississippi. Despite being deposed by the Pueblos themselves for his tyrannical rule and appropriation of women from various villages, Popé is now depicted as a leader for freedom and religious toleration, an heroic personality representing all New Mexicans. Pontiac is portrayed in history as the “Satan of the forest” while Popé is going into Statuary Hall. As a New Mexican, how does the psychological difference affect your life and that of your family?