Western Trips

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Black Mesa / NM Pueblos

One of the most historic sites in New Mexico which dates back to the days of Spanish rule in the province is just a short 23 mile drive north of Santa Fe. Black Mesa looms above the Rio Grande and was at one time the scene of a great standoff between the Native Americans and the Spanish Conquistadors.

black mesa new mexico
Black Mesa New Mexico
The Pueblo Revolt 

During the Spanish rule of Nuevo Mexico, the most significant event was the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. This was a rebellion by the Pueblo Indians who after decades of servitude finally were unified for one purpose. As an example of the Spanish rule and their goal of Christianizing the pueblo Indians, in 1676, several Indians were accused of sorcery and jailed in Santa Fe. This type of subjugation finally led to the 1680 Revolt. The rebellion resulted in a Spanish retreat from the entire region. It was a violent and bloody revolt that cost the lives of most of the Franciscan friars among many others and resulted in the Spaniards retreating from the area for twelve years. A reconquest of the NM pueblos however was in the future.

The Reconquest and the Refuge of Black Mesa

The reconquest turned out to be successful for the Spaniards under Diego de Vargas although there remained some resistance. De Vargas was the appointed n to be the appointed governor and captain-general of New Mexico. He was given the appointment in 1688 and was able to assume the position in 1691. By 1694, the new Spanish settlers had re-occupied Santa Fe although this village was Spain's lone outpost in New Mexico. In 1694, there were only four pueblos that had sided with the Spaniards. De Vargas made plans to bring the remaining ones in line, most residing around the Rio Grande. This was the action that resulted in the  battle at the Black Mesa.

san ildefenso pueblo in new mexico
Black Mesa is on the San Ildefenso Pueblo
It was at this very mesa shown on the photos in this article that the Indians of San Ildefenso along with other pueblo people resisted the Spaniards during their reconquest of Nuevo Mexico in 1694. The San Ildefenso Pueblo was considered among the very last to recognize the Spanish reconquest. When the Spaniards headed north to the Rio Grande, the Indians in turn climbed to the top of Black Mesa which served as a natural defensive position. Scaling the walls as you can see in the photos is not an easy task. This was not the first time that the San Ildefenso Puebloans had fled to Black Mesa as a defense against threats. When the Spaniards attempted to scale the mesa with ladders and along pathways they were met with rocks falling upon them. The Spaniards never could successfully ascend Black Mesa. Eventually, the Indians had to surrender to the Spaniards led by de Vargas. The Indians would have to return down to the valley after starvation set in. Time was obviously on the side of the Spaniards.

The new Spanish rule in Nuevo Mexico was successful in a large part because of the relative freedom the pueblo Indians had been given. The Spanish rule after the reconquest was not nearly as harsh as what had gone on prior to 1680. Because of this, the Spaniards were able to occupy this region successfully until the Mexican Revolt in the 1820's. The Mexican's had a relatively short tenure in New Mexico losing the territory to the U.S. in the late 1840's as a result of the Mexican American War.

Two additional Western Trips articles and photos you'll be interested in are Museums of History in Los Alamos and a Trip to Jemez Springs New Mexico. Both of these articles are about sites near to San Ildefenso and are excellent trip planner additions.

puye cliff dwellings in new mexico
Old Harvey House at Puye Cliff Dwellings
The Pottery of Maria Martinez

Black Mesa in New Mexico is at the site of the San Ildefenso Pueblo. This is one of the most visited of all the northern New Mexico pueblos. The Native population has resided in this area along the Rio Grande since 1300. Their ancestors had migrated to the area from present day southern Colorado.

Many people have heard of the San Ildefenso native Maria Martinez. Maria learned the art of pottery making as a child. because of her reputation as an excellent pottery artist, Maria, as a married adult, was commissioned to replicate some pottery that had been unearthed in an excavation during the first decade of the 1900's. Maria and her husband Julian had already displayed some of their artistry at expeditions such as the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 and the California-Panama Exposition held in San Diego. The pottery style that maria and Julian invented became world known. They had a technique that would give parts of the pottery a matte finish with other areas of the pottery piece to be a glossy jet black. Maria Martinez passed away in 1980. As the years pass, the pottery of Maria and her family have become more collectible and are considered rare artistic finds and fine pottery representations of New Mexico art.

Visit San Ildefenso Pueblo

If you're making a list of what to see in New Mexico, The San Ildefenso Pueblo is a site to add. The pueblo has long welcomed visitors. There is a fee to enter and for photo and/or film taking and sketching. All of the information to help plan your visit to San Ildefenso Pueblo as well as the other northern New Mexico pueblos can be found on the website www.indianpueblo.org.

The above photo of the old Harvey House at the Puye Cliff Dwellings is another excellent site to visit. The Puye Cliff Dwellings are located about 10 miles west of the Black Mesa area and make a great companion trip while visiting San Ildefenso Pueblo. Bandelier National Monument with it's cave dwellings and many hiking trails is only 24 miles from the Puye Cliff Dwellings and is another good site to add to your trip planner.

An excellent book on the subject of the Pueblo Revolt is...The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest, by author David Roberts.

(Photos from author's private collection)

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