Manso Indians

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The Manso Indians are an indigenous people who lived along the Rio Grande, [1] 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.

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pre-Columbian inhabitants of North, Central and South America and their descendants

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.

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.

Las Cruces, New Mexico City in New Mexico, United States

Las Cruces is the seat of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 97,618, and in 2017 the estimated population was 101,712, making it the second largest city in the state, after Albuquerque. Las Cruces is the largest city in both Doña Ana County and southern New Mexico. The Las Cruces metropolitan area had an estimated population of 213,849 in 2017. It is the principal city of a metropolitan statistical area which encompasses all of Doña Ana County and is part of the larger El Paso–Las Cruces combined statistical area.


The Mansos were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers who practiced little if any agriculture although farming Indians lived both upstream and downstream from them. They had a life style similar to the Suma and Concho Indians who lived nearby.

Hunter-gatherer human living in a society in which most or all food is obtained by foraging (collecting wild plants and pursuing wild animals)

A hunter-gatherer is a human living in a society in which most or all food is obtained by foraging. Hunter-gatherer societies stand in contrast to agricultural societies, which rely mainly on domesticated species.


Only a few words of their language were recorded. Various theories have been put forth concerning the relationship of their language, including that they spoke a Uto-Aztecan, [1] Tanoan, or Athabaskan (Apache) language. [2] The scant facts about their language indicate that they spoke the same language as the Jano and Jocome peoples who lived to their west, most likely a Uto-Aztecan language related to the Cahitan languages of northwestern Mexico. [3]

The Apache are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, which include the Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Salinero, Plains and Western Apache. Distant cousins of the Apache are the Navajo, with which they share the Southern Athabaskan languages. There are Apache communities in Oklahoma, Texas, and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Apache people have moved throughout the United States and elsewhere, including urban centers. The Apache Nations are politically autonomous, speak several different languages and have distinct cultures.


The first account of the Mansos is from the expedition of Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo in January 1583. Traveling up the Rio Grande in search of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, Espejo encountered a people he called Tampachoas below El Paso. "We found a great number of people living near some lagoons through the midst of which the Rio del Norte [Rio Grande] flows. These people, who must have numbered more than a thousand men and women, and who were settled in their rancherias and grass hunts, came out to receive us…Each one brought us his present of mesquite bean…fish of many kinds, which are very plentiful in these lagoons, and other kinds of food…During the three days and nights we were there they continually performed …dances in their fashion, as well as after the manner of the Mexicans." [4]

Spanish Empire world empire from the 16th to the 19th century

The Spanish Empire, historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy and as the Catholic Monarchy, was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World and the Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies". It also included territories in Europe, Africa and Oceania. The Spanish Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Portuguese Empire. It was the world's most powerful empire during the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, reaching its maximum extension in the 18th century. The Spanish Empire was the first empire to be called "the empire on which the sun never sets".

Antonio de Espejo was a Spanish explorer who led an expedition into New Mexico and Arizona in 1582–83. 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.

The approximate location of Indian tribes in western Texas and adjacent Mexico, ca. 1600 West Texas Indian Tribes1 -- 1600.jpg
The approximate location of Indian tribes in western Texas and adjacent Mexico, ca. 1600

However, The Chamuscado and Rodriguez Expedition had passed by the same lagoons in July 1581 and had found them uninhabited. [5] The inference is that the Manso were nomadic, living only part of the year along the Rio Grande and passing the remainder of the year hunting and gathering food in the surrounding deserts and mountains. They seemed to have lived along the Rio Grande from El Paso northward to Las Cruces, New Mexico and in the nearby mountains. They may have shared their range with the Suma who their history parallels closely. [6]

Espejo's Tampachoas were probably the same people who Juan de Oñate found in the same area fifteen years later in May 1598 and called Mansos. Onate and his large expedition forded the Rio Grande near Socorro, Texas assisted by 40 "manxo" Indians. Manso meant “gentle" or "docile" in Spanish. Their name for themselves is unknown. [6]

Juan de Oñate Spanish Conquistador, explorer, and colonial governor

Juan de Oñate y Salazar was a conquistador from New Spain, explorer, and colonial governor of the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México in the viceroyalty of New Spain. He led early Spanish expeditions to the Great Plains and Lower Colorado River Valley, encountering numerous indigenous tribes in their homelands there. Oñate founded settlements in the province, now in the Southwestern United States.

Socorro, Texas City in Texas, United States

Socorro is a city in El Paso County, Texas, United States. It is located on the north bank of the Rio Grande southeast of El Paso, and on the border of Mexico. El Paso adjoins it on the west and the smaller city of San Elizario on the southeast; small unincorporated areas of El Paso County separate it from the nearby municipalities of Horizon City to the north and Clint to the east. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 27,152. By the 2010 census, the number had grown to 32,013. It is part of the El Paso Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is El Paso County's second-largest municipality, after El Paso. It has a council-manager type of government with five city council members. Socorro is the 93rd largest community in the state of Texas.

In 1630, a Spanish priest described the Mansos as people "who do not have houses, but rather pole structures. Nor do they sow; they do not dress in anything particular; but all are nude and only the women cover themselves from the waist down with deerskins." In 1663, a Spaniard said of them, "The nation of Manso Indians is so barbarous and uncultivated that all its members go naked and, although the country is very cold, they have no houses in which to dwell, but live under the trees, not even knowing how to till the land for their food." [6] The Mansos were also said to eat fish and meat raw. But they were described somewhat favorably as "a robust people, tall, and with good features, although they take pride in bedaubing themselves with powder of different colors which makes them look very ferocious." [7]

The Mission to the Manso was established in 1659. The mission built by the Manso still exists and is located in downtown Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de los Manso.jpg
The Mission to the Manso was established in 1659. The mission built by the Manso still exists and is located in downtown Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

During the 1660s, hundreds of Mansos had converted to Christianity. [1] The Spanish established a mission among the Mansos but they were of minor concern until the 1680s when the survivors of the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico took refuge in the new settlement of El Paso. In El Paso the Manso established close relations with the refugee Piro and Tiwa (Tigua) Indians. The stress on the region of supporting the 2,000 Spanish and Indian refugees was doubtless considerable. The Manso living at the Mission may have been a minority of the tribe as Manso were also mentioned as being "trouble-makers" along with the Apaches and Sumas still living in the mountains and the deserts. [8]

In 1682, the Governor in El Paso reported that the Manso and the Suma had revolted and attacked Janos. On March 14, 1684, friendly Tiwas and Piros told the Governor Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate of a Manso plot to kill all the Spaniards in El Paso. The Mansos were “tired of everything having to do with God and with the church, which is why they wanted to do what the Indians of New Mexico had done.” [9] The Spanish took the ringleaders of the plot prisoners. They included an Apache and a Quivira Indian (probably a Wichita). Ten of them were executed and later, in November, the Spanish garrison of 60 men plus friendly Indians was used to attack a gathering of hostile Indians who apparently intended to carry out the plot. [10]

Following the revolt the Manso increasingly melted into the de-tribalized atmosphere of El Paso. Disease and Apache raids decimated their numbers, although many may have joined the Apache. By 1765, El Paso had 2,469 Spanish inhabitants and only 249 Indians, tribes unspecified. [6] IN 1883, however, Adolph Bandelier found a dozen families of Mansos living across the Rio Grande from El Paso. [11] The Manso have survived as members of the combined Piro-Manso-Tiwa (PMT) tribe. In the 19th century members of the group migrated to Las Cruces, New Mexico from where members helped found the Pueblo of Guadalupe in 1910. [12] [13] There are two groups claiming descent from the Mission Indians of Paso del Norte who have applied for federal recognition as an Indian Tribe: the Piro/Manso/Tiwa Tribe of San Juan de Guadalupe and the Piro/Manso/Tiwa Tribe of Guadalupe. In 2000, there were 206 members of the PMT tribe of San Juan de Guadalupe. [14]


  1. 1 2 3 Reynolds 1
  2. Gerald, Rex E. "The Manso Indians of the Paso del Norte Area." Apache Indians III. New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1974, p. 122
  3. Beckett, Patrick H and Terry L. Corbett The Manso Indians 1992.
  4. Bolton, Herbert Eugene. Spanish Explorations in the Southwest, 1542-1706. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916, 175
  5. Hammond, George P. and Rey, Agapito. The Rediscovery of New Mexico, 1580-1594. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1966, 80
  6. 1 2 3 4 ”Foraging Peoples: Chisos and Mansos." Texas Beyond History. Accessed May 11, 2010
  7. "Life on the Margin". Accessed May 10, 2010
  8. Forbes, Jack Douglas (1957). "The Janos, Jocomes, Mansos and Suma Indians". New Mexico Historical Review. 32 (4): 319334, page 325.
  9. Polt, John H. R., ed. “Investigation of the Rebellion of the Manso Indians and their Allies carried out by Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate, Governor of New Mexico…from 15 March to 3 November 1684,” 66., accessed May 11, 2010
  10. Polt, 88, 95-99 [ permanent dead link ], accessed May 11, 2010
  11. Gerald, Rex E. "The Manso Indians of the Paso del Norte Area." Apache Indians III. New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1974, p. 122
  12. Beckett, Patrick H and Terry L. Corbett The Manso Indians 1992
  13. Campbell, Howard. “Tribal synthesis: Piros, Mansos, and Tiwas through history.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 12, 2006. 310-302

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