Antonio de Espejo

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Antonio de Espejo was a Spanish explorer who led an expedition into New Mexico and Arizona in 158283. [1] [2] The expedition created interest in establishing a Spanish colony among the Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande valley.

New Mexico State of the United States of America

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

Rio Grande River forming part of the US-Mexico border

The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.



Espejo was born about 1540 in Cordova, Spain, and arrived in Mexico in 1571 along with the Chief Inquisitor, Pedro Moya de Contreras, who was sent by the Spanish king to establish an Inquisition. Espejo and his brother became ranchers on the northern frontier of Mexico. In 1581, Espejo and his brother were charged with murder. His brother was imprisoned and Espejo fled to Santa Barbara, Chihuahua, the northernmost outpost of Mexico. He was there when the Chamuscado-Rodriguez expedition returned from New Mexico. [3]

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Pedro Moya de Contreras Roman Catholic archbishop

Pedro Moya de Contreras, prelate and colonial administrator who held the three highest offices in the Spanish colony of New Spain, namely inquisitor general, Archbishop of Mexico, and Viceroy of Mexico, September 25, 1584 - October 17, 1585. He was the 6th Viceroy, governing from September 25, 1584 to October 16, 1585. During this interval he held all three positions.

Inquisition group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy

The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. It was a type of government institution within the Catholic Church whose main goal was to eliminate heresy. Other groups investigated later included the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges. The term Medieval Inquisition covers these courts up to mid-15th century.

En route to New Mexico

Espejo, a wealthy man, assembled and financed an expedition for the ostensible purpose of ascertaining the fate of two priests who had remained behind with the Pueblos when Chamuscado led his soldiers back to Mexico. Along with fourteen soldiers, a priest, about 30 Indian servants and assistants, and 115 horses he departed from San Bartolome, near Santa Barbara, on November 10, 1582. [4]

Frederic Remington's imaginative painting of a Spanish expedition on the march Coronado-Remington.jpg
Frederic Remington's imaginative painting of a Spanish expedition on the march

Espejo followed the same route as Chamuscado and Rodriguez, down the Conchos River to its junction (La Junta) with the Rio Grande and then up the Rio Grande to the Pueblo villages.

Along the Conchos River, Espejo encountered the Conchos Indians "naked people ... who support themselves on fish, mesquite, mescal, and lechuguilla (agave)". Further downriver, he found Conchos who grew corn, squash, and melons. Leaving the Conchos behind, Espejo next encountered the Passaguates "who were naked like the Conchos" and seemed to have had a similar lifestyle. Next, came the Jobosos who were few in number, shy, and ran away from the Spaniards. All of these tribes had previously been impacted by Spanish slave raids." [5]


Mesquite is a common name for several plants in the genus Prosopis, which contains over 40 species of small leguminous trees. They are native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. The mesquite originates in the Tamaulipan mezquital ecoregion, in the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, located in the southern United States and northeastern Mexico. It has extremely long roots in order to seek water from very far underground. The region covers an area of 141,500 km2, encompassing a portion of the Gulf Coastal Plain in southern Texas, northern Tamaulipas, northeastern Coahuila, and part of Nuevo León. As a legume, mesquite is one of the few sources of fixed nitrogen in the desert habitat.

<i>Agave</i> A genus of flowering plants closely related to Yucca (e.g. Joshua tree). Both Agave and Yucca belong to the subfamily Agavoideae.

Agave is a genus of monocots native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Some Agave species are also native to tropical areas of South America. The genus Agave is primarily known for its succulent and xerophytic species that typically form large rosettes of strong, fleshy leaves. Plants in this genus may be considered perennial, because they require several to many years to mature and flower. However, most Agave species are more accurately described as monocarpic rosettes or multiannuals, since each individual rosette flowers only once and then dies ; a small number of Agave species are polycarpic.

Near the junction (La Junta) of the Conchos and the Rio Grande, Espejo entered the territory of the Patarabueyes who attacked his horses, killing three. Espejo succeeded in making peace with them. The Patarabueyes, he said, and the other Indians near La Junta were also called "Jumanos". -- the first use of the name for these Indians who would be prominent on the frontier for nearly two centuries. To add to the confusion, they were also called Otomoacos and Abriaches. Espejo saw five settlements of Jumanos with a population of about 10,000 people. They lived in low, flat roofed houses and grew corn, squash, and beans and hunted and fished along the river. They gave Espejo well-tanned deer and bison skins. Leaving the Jumano behind, he passed through the lands of the Caguates or Suma, who spoke the same language as the Jumanos, and the Tanpachoas or Mansos. He found the Rio Grande Valley well populated all the way up to the present site of El Paso, Texas. Upstream from El Paso, the expedition traveled 15 days without seeing any people. [6]

La Junta Indians is a collective name for the various Indians living in the area known as La Junta de los Rios on the borders of present-day West Texas and Mexico. In 1535 Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca recorded visiting these peoples while making his way to a Spanish settlement. They cultivated crops in the river floodplains, as well as gathering indigenous plants and catching fish from the rivers. They were part of an extensive trading network in the region. As a crossroads, the area attracted people of different tribes.

Bison genus of mammals

Bison are large, even-toed ungulates in the genus Bison within the subfamily Bovinae.

The Manso Indians are an indigenous people who lived along the Rio Grande, near Las Cruces, New Mexico, from the 16th to the 17th century, and were the one of the groups settled at the Guadalupe Mission in what is now Cd. Juarez, Mexico. Some of their descendants remain in the area to this day.

The Pueblos

Taos Pueblo today still resembles the towns Espejo visited in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. Taospueblo.jpg
Taos Pueblo today still resembles the towns Espejo visited in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico.

In February 1583, Espejo arrived at the territory of the Piros, the most southerly of the Pueblo villagers. From there the Spanish continued up the Rio Grande. Espejo described the Pueblo villages as "clean and tidy". The houses were multi-storied and made of adode bricks. "They make very fine tortillas," Espejo commented, and the Pueblos also served the Spanish turkeys, beans, corns, and pumpkins. The people "did not seem to be bellicose". The southernmost Pueblos had only clubs for weapons plus a few "poor Turkish bows and poorer arrows". Further north, the Indians were better armed and more aggressive. Some of the Pueblo towns were large, Espejo described Zia as having 1,000 houses and 4,000 men and boys. In their farming, the Pueblos used irrigation "with canals and dams, built as if by Spaniards". The only Spanish influence that Espejo noted among the Pueblos was their desire for iron. They would steal any iron article they could find. [7]

Espejo explored the Verde River valley of Arizona looking for silver mines. Verde River-Arizona.jpg
Espejo explored the Verde River valley of Arizona looking for silver mines.

Espejo confirmed that the two priests had been killed by the Indians in the pueblo of Puala, near present-day Bernalillo. As the Spanish approached the Pueblo the inhabitants fled to the nearby mountains. The Spanish continued their explorations, east and west of the Rio Grande apparently with no opposition from the Indians. Near Acoma, they noted that a people called Querechos lived in the mountains nearby and traded with the townspeople. These Querechos were Navajo. The closely related Apache of the Great Plains during this period were also called Querechos.

Espejo also visited the Zuni and Hopi and heard stories of silver mines further west. With four men and Hopi guides he went in search of the mines, reaching the Verde River in Arizona, probably in the area of Montezuma Castle National Monument. He found the mines near present-day Jerome, Arizona, but was unimpressed by their potential. He heard from the local Indians, probably Yavapai, of a large river to the west, undoubtedly a reference to the Colorado. [8] Among the Hopi and the Zuni, Espejo met several Spanish-speaking Mexican Indians who had been left behind by, or escaped from, the Coronado expedition more than 40 years earlier.

The priest, several of the soldiers, and the Indian assistants decided, despite Espejo's entreaties, to return to Mexico. [9] It is possible that the priest was offended by the high-handed tactics of Espejo in dealing with the Pueblos. Espejo and eight soldiers stayed behind to look for silver and other precious metals. The little force had a skirmish with the Indians of Acoma, apparently because two women slaves or prisoners of the Spanish escaped. The Spanish recaptured the women briefly, but they had to fight their way free. A Spanish soldier was wounded. In aiding the escape of the women, the Acomans and the Spanish exchanged volleys of harquebus fire, stones, and arrows. The Spanish, thus, were placed on notice that the hospitality of the Pueblos had limits. The Spanish then returned to the Rio Grande Valley where at a village they executed 16 Indians who mocked them and refused them food. [10]

The Spanish quickly departed the Rio Grande and explored eastward, journeying through the Galisteo Basin near the future city of Santa Fe and reaching the large pueblo at Pecos, called Ciquique.

Return journey

Rather than return to the now unfriendly Rio Grande Valley, Espejo decided to return to Mexico via the Pecos River which he called "Rio de Las Vacas" because of the large number of bison the Spaniards encountered during the first six days they followed the river downstream. After descending the river about 300 miles from Ciquique the soldiers met Jumano Indians near Pecos, Texas, who guided them across country up Toyah Creek and cross country to La Junta. From here they followed the Conchos River upstream to San Bartolome, their starting place, arriving September 20, 1583. The priest and his companions had also returned safely. [11] Espejo was the first European to traverse most of the length of the Pecos River.

Espejo died in 1585 in Havana, Cuba. He was en route to Spain to attempt to get royal permission to establish a Spanish colony in New Mexico. [12] A chronicle of his expeditions was later published by Spanish historian and explorer Baltasar Obregón.

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  1. Antonio Espejo - Catholic Encyclopedia article
  2. pg 189 - David Pike. Roadside New Mexico (August 15, 2004 ed.). University of New Mexico Press. p. 440. ISBN   0-8263-3118-1.
  3. Hammond, George P. and Rey, Agapito, The Rediscovery of New Mexico, 1580-1594. Albuquerque: U of NM Press, 1966, 16-17
  4. Bolton, Herbert E. Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916, 163-164; Riley, Carroll. Rio del Norte. Salt Lake City: U of Utah Press, 1995
  5. Hammond and Rey, 155-160, 215-216
  6. Hammond and Rey, 169, 216-220
  7. Hammond and Rey, 172-182
  8. Flint, Richard and Shirley Cushing, "Espejo Expedition" New Mexico Office of the State Historian, accessed 4 Nov 2012
  9. Flint, Richard and Flint, Shirley Cushing "Espejo Expedition," New Mexico Office of State Historian., accessed, Apr 1, 2010
  10. Hammond and Rey, 201-204
  11. Hammond and Rey, 229
  12. Handbook of Texas Online,, accessed Apr 1, 2010