Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mission On Two Rivers

Continuing our theme of Spanish colonial missions in New Mexico these are images of the magnificent La Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de Porciuncula de Los Pecos mission at the Pecos Pueblo just east of Santa Fe. Brevity was not a distinguishing trait of our Spanish brethren.

The Cicuye people arrived in a valley rimmed by snow capped peaks at the confluence of the Pecos and Glorieta Rivers .  There they built two dozen mud and stone villages in the early 1100s.  By 1450 over 2,000 people lived in a five story high complex.  A vibrant economy developed as the Cicuye brokered a robust trade between the Indians of the Rio Grande and those of the buffalo plains to the east.
Pursuing a so-called vision quest in 1540, the conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado discovered the Cicuye Pueblo later named Pecos.  Unlike the Zuni whom he fought and vanquished the Cicuye welcomed the Spanish. Coronado was told of amazing riches to be found farther east in Kansas but found nothing but poor villages.  His Indian guide confessed that he had lured Coronado’s army to the plains to perish and he was strangled for his deceit. 

In 1598 after Don Juan Onate conquered the Pueblo tribes he assigned a friar to Pecos, the most powerful of New Mexico Pueblos.  Episodes of idol smashing and abuse bred understandable animosity until a seasoned missionary, Fray Andres Juarez, arrived from the south.  Juarez directed the construction of a monumental adobe church that was completed between 1621 and 1634.  It was the most imposing of New Mexico’s mission churches and its remains reflect that grandeur.

Still, seething resentments led to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when the Spanish were driven from northern New Mexico.  But the victory was short lived as Spain’s Diego de Vargas conquered the pueblos again just twelve years later.
By the 1780s disease and inter-tribal warfare had reduced its population to less than 300 and the last survivors had left for the Jemez Pueblo by 1838.


Daryl A. Black said...

Pecos lends itself so well to both color and black and white photography. Your first black and white image is stunning, and it draws you into the place and times - both today and yesterday.

The angle, color, and composition of the third photo shows every element beautifully, including the sky.

Nicely done.

Rich Niemeyer said...

A nice collective on Pecos. Actually there is more to the story. The Spanish were a bit harsher than many texts suggest. Had the Spanish not had more horses and weapons beyond the capacity of the Pueblos upon their return, we all could be speaking Tewa instead...