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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

Unit Three: Security and Commerce After the Reconquest

Relations among groups in New Mexico always held an element of tension. While the Spanish colonists and the Pueblos maintained some kind of peace after the Pueblo Revolt, both groups had periods of peaceful trade punctuated by violent attacks and counter attacks with the Navajo, the Ute, the Comanche, and the different Apache groups. In turn, the Comanche and the Apache, the Navajo and Ute all struggled over resources and territory. What everyone did have in common was the need to survive in a land whose arid conditions could make agriculture and hunting difficult. Trade among groups was critical enough that everyone would lay down their arms.

In this unit, students will examine life in colonial New Mexico as seen through the twin challenges of commerce and security. Traffic from Mexico, carrying mail and manufactured goods, came up El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the royal road to the interior. This 2000-mile journey was not only physically arduous, it was dangerous. New Mexicans gathered in caravans each November to travel the dangerous Jornada del Muerto and the equally difficult Samalayuca dunes south of the Rio Grande. Nomadic tribes, such as the Apaches (earlier tribes, which were later reduced, include the Mansos, Jumanos, Conchos, and Tobosos), preyed on small bands and stragglers, or even approached larger bands to drive off the caballado, or the large herd of livestock the traders would drive.

Sheep and horses were easy to raise in the wide-open spaces of New Mexico, and some colonists, particularly in the Rio Abajo region (around Albuquerque) grew quite rich from this trade. Pueblos produced woven goods, and both the Spanish and the Pueblos produced pottery and wooden tools. Without sufficient mineral resources, much less the manufacturing technology for extracting and refining metal, New Mexicans were sorely short of iron for tools, nails, horseshoes, and implements. The missions imported the bulk of the manufactured goods, from the wine, beeswax, and paper necessary for conducting ecclesiastical business, to luxury items such as musical instruments, chocolate, dried fruits, linen, ornate services, and artwork. Descriptions of the missions from the 18th century show that many of the fine goods described in earlier years were gone, or were in tatters and rags. The difference between Benavides' descriptions in 1630 and Dominguez' descriptions in 1776 are remarkable.

Both the Pueblo and the Spanish traded regularly with the Plains tribes, who were rich in buffalo skins and meat, horses, firearms, and captives. The nomadic Comanche, in pursuing the game, established trade relations with French trappers established in Kansas, and provided a link to European technologies pushing from the Atlantic towards the west. In exchange for peaceful trade, they expected tribute from the Spanish, which the government provided according to its often slender means. Pueblo merchants offered produce and textiles, and the Spanish could offer manufactured goods and livestock. Trade fairs brought people from all over New Mexico to Taos, to pick up deals and news.

Often beleaguered colonists headed to Taos to buy back horses, sheep, and cattle that had been stolen during the previous year. Spanish families also purchased children, captured in raids on other tribes, to raise as Christian servants. While the colonists claimed that they were doing the children a favor by raising them as Christians and then releasing them as adults, the children had no rights, and the government archives from that time document numerous abuses over the decades. Raiding tribes for children to use as servants was illegal, but not unknown, and the Spanish raids often triggered retaliatory raids from the Navajo, Apache, or Comanche. The colonists built their houses so they could be defended, but chose to ignore governmnet orders to group the houses defensively around a plaza, instead fanning out along the length of the irrigable lands along the rivers.

After the reconquest, the governors granted land to communities of these Christian, Spanish-raised Indians. These new towns, such as Abiquiu and Valencia, lay at the frontiers of the occupied territories, where they served as a buffer for the internal towns, and a refuge for people who could not help but feel alienated from both the native and the Spanish cultures.


In completion of this lesson, students will analyze historic records to construct a picture of trade in colonial New Mexico.

Use historical documents to assess how the mission trade impacted the economy of colonial New Mexico.

Read and discuss sections from a report on the security of New Mexico, as well as other descriptions of security issues, particularly as they affect travel and commerce.

Draw conclusions about how security and commerce affected settlement in colonial New Mexico.


obvention: an occasional offering.

first fruits







altar breads








Spanish Vocabulary

alferéz: a second lieutenant in the Spanish Royal Army.

cañada: canyon or glen between the mountains

custodio: a church official responsible for oversight

fanega: measurement of grain and seed, approximately 2.5 bushels

fiscal: the leader of the church staff was the fiscal de la iglesia, the general steward and manager of the church assets.

frijol: beans

gení­zaro: a nomadic Indian ransomed by the Spanish and raised Catholic, also non-Pueblo Indians settled under Spanish control.

milpa: a field divided into sections through which crops are rotated over a decade

punche: native tobacco grown in New Mexico

presidio: fort

sierra: mountain or mountain range.

vara: Spanish yard, approximately 33 inches

visitador: an official inspector.

Activity I: Missons in New Mexico

Both of these maps were made by mapmaker Bernardo Miera y Pacheco. If your class is using the Roberts and Roberts textbook, there is a sidebar on this man on p. 151. The eyewitness accounts are both from reports filed by Franciscan priests sent to New Mexico from New Spain. Bishop Tamarí³n was the last bishop to visit New Mexico for many years, and made a large circuit around the state. Father Domí­nguez not only lived in New Mexico for several years, but explored large areas all around the lands Miera depicts in this map. Miera did accompany Father Domí­nguez as cartographer of his historic expedition to the Pacific, where they inadvertently discovered Utah instead.

Divide the class into four groups. Each group will complete a map analysis worksheet for their assigned map and region. The groups will analyze: Rio Abajo in the 1758 Miera map of NM; Rio Arriba in 1758; Rio Abajo in 1779, Rio Arriba in 1779.

Charge students with researching:

What role did missions serve in the development of the colony? What can we learn about daily life in New Mexico from those records? Factors students should consider:

Affluence of communities (Rich - Comfortable - Poor)

Number of Spanish settlements

Number of Pueblos/ language of Pueblos

Boundaries of New Mexico

Neighboring provinces

Communities with priests

Relationship to natives


Notable features

What do people eat?

What do they import?

Have these two groups share their findings:

Rio Abajo, 1758

Rio Abajo 1779

Both groups should be prepared to discuss regional changes during this period.

Have these two groups share their findings:

Rio Arriba, 1758

Rio Arriba 1779

Both groups should be prepared to discuss regional changes during this period.

Bishop Tamarón: Map which Don Francisco Antonio Marín del Valle, Governor and Captain General of this kingdom of New Mexico, ordered drawn (1758Miera) : 1758

Fray Atanasio Domínguez: Plano de la Provincia Interna de el Nuebo Mexico

Activity II: Security on the Northern Frontier

The Marquis de Rubí­ was tasked with reviewing the security of the northern border of Mexico. At the time, Spain was concerned with problems with French Louisiana and aggression from the natives, which they rightly suspected were connected. As a result of their review, a protective line of forts was constructed south of New Mexico, leaving it in effect, a buffer between the "wild tribes" and "civilization." LaFora and Urrutia were engineers with the expedition.

Read entries for the Jornada del Muerto, from El Paso to Socorro.

As a class, discuss: What challenges does Lafora describe? On the map it is shown as uninhabited, but how does Lafora describe it? Who is living there?

Read entries for communities from San Gabriel to Albuquerque.

As a class, discuss: Who is settling these communities? What challenges do they face? What advantages do they have?

Explain: Although we see New Mexico as a southwestern state, Mexicans of that time saw it as an island, connected with a tenuous line, on the far northern frontier.

Have students click on the media tabs to look at the maps Urrutia made of Santa Fe and El Paso. They should also reread Urrutia's explanatory text, included in the "eyewitness" text.

Have students zoom all the way out, and assess the geographical barriers between Mexico City and Santa Fe. If students double click the map on Mexico City to center on that place, then New Mexico is no longer visible.

As a class, discuss: Are Santa Fe and El Paso defensible? How can we know (e.g. protective landforms, concentrated dwellings, adequate manpower and weapons)? How are natural features used to protect the settlements? Should they be defended or is the cost too great to support such an operation?

Explain: Rubí­ recommended building additional presidios to defend El Camino Real and the Rio Abajo. Instead, the Spanish government elected to build a line of forts along the 30th parallel, well south of New Mexico. This line is on the map, marked "Linea de Defensa Proyectada."

As a class, discuss: What does this say about how New Mexico was seen by the Mexican and Spanish governments? Did they consider it important? Why or why not?

Joseph Ramon de Urrutia: Primera parte del Mapa, que comprende la Frontera, de los Dominios del Rey, en la America Septentrional (1771Urrutia) : 1771

Activity III: Game: Traveling El Camino

Lay out a game course, perhaps on a playing field; one end (goal) is Chihuahua, the other is Santa Fe. The class should be divided into two groups. The merchants' goal is to reach the other end with all their flags and balls. The natives' goal is to acquire as many flags and balls as possible; the team with the most equipment at the end wins. Mark out the "El Paso" and "Santa Fe" presidios with chalk or cones; El Paso should be a 10-foot square about 1/3 of the way from one end (80 feet on a football field) and around the end goal. One group, the "merchants" should attempt to travel from one end to the other, each with flags tucked into their belts/ pockets, and dragging flags on sticks or long strings behind them (to represent livestock). Merchants should have the option of carrying balls in their arms. The other group, the natives, try to seize as many items as possible. If the merchants touch the natives, that person has to retreat to the edge of the playing field before coming back, but can take the flag or ball, if they acquired one. The merchants have free passage through the presidios. Play this at least twice, switching the groups.

Discuss as a class: How would more presidios make it easier to travel? How many would you add? How closely would you space them? What is the best strategy for the "caravans"? What is the best strategy for the "natives?" How does it feel defending one's territory versus traveling through hostile space? Is it a better strategy to bring more goods, or to travel lighter? Is this a good simulation of actual events? What other factors might affect security on this trail?


A History of New Mexico, Unit 3 introduction, Chapter 7 & 8; particularly read the sidebar about Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, p 151.

A Journey Through New Mexico, chapter 7


Did the student:

Complete the map analysis worksheet satisfactorily?

Use the map to gather information, draw conclusions, and represent those conclusions?

Participate in discussions according to grade level standards?

Participate in the trade exercise?

Demonstrate understanding of the significance to New Mexicans of protecting El Camino Real?

Compare and contrast perspectives on New Mexican security from the New Mexican point of view and the Spanish point of view.


Key Ideas and Details:


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

Craft and Structure:


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).


Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.


Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

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