2. Colonization and Religion
In considering the promptitude with which the Mission Churches in New Mexico were founded, after the discovery and very first settlement of the country, we must bear in mind the intimate connection which then existed in all Spanish dominions between colonization and religion, and the important place which the conversion of the heathen held in all projects for exploration and conquest.
The ecclesiastical influence at that time, especially in Latin countries, was the dominating power, and had at least as much to do in shaping public events, as the civil authority; and in addition to this, it was the age of the high fide of the great religious orders, most of which had been founded not very long before, and were now in the full exercise of their vigor and enthusiasm; and after the discovery of a new continent, filled with a great heathen population awaiting conversion to Christianity, the desire to accomplish that work permeated the whole Spanish nation with almost as much force as the determination to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from the unbelieving Moslems had aroused all over Europe in the days of the Crusades.
The connection between Church and State was never stronger and closer than at that period. Pope Alexander VI, under a claim to universal dominion, had divided all of the newly found regions of the world between the sovereigns of Spain and Portugal, by establishing a line which gave to the latter country all of what is now Brazil, and to the former the remainder of the American continent; and this became the foundation of the claim to sovereignty over newly found regions more relied upon even than any right by discovery. The power thus bestowed was of course to be exercised for the establishment of ecclesiastical institutions as well as civil ones; and this idea of the “two authorities” was constantly expressed in formal documents, and was almost the first thing taught to the newly discovered races. “There is one God who rules in the Heavens above, and one Emperor who reigns upon earth,” in the time of Charles the Fifth, was the foundation of all the teaching to the natives, and of the organization of government.
“Sacred Caesarean Catholic Majesty: In-as-much as I, Panfilo de Narvaez, have ever had and still have the intention of serving God and Your Majesty, I desire to go in person with my means to a certain country on the main of the Ocean Sea. I propose chiefly to traffic with the natives of the coast, and to take thither religious men and ecclesiastics, approved by your Royal Council of the Indies, that they may make known and plant the Christian Faith. I shall observe fully what your Council require and ordain to the ends of serving God and Your Highness, and for the good of your subjects.”’’
“In behalf of the Catholic Caesarean Majesty of Don Carlos, King of the Romans and Emperor ever Augustus, and Doña Juana, his mother, Sovereigns of Leon and Castilla, Defenders of the Church, ever victors, never vanquished, and rulers of barbarous nations, I, Panfilo de Narvaez, his servant, messenger, and captain, notify and cause you to know in the best manner I can, that God our Lord, one and eternal, created the heaven and the earth. All these nations God our Lord gave in charge to one person called Saint Peter, that he might be master and superior over mankind, to be obeyed and be heard by all the human race where-so-ever they might live and be, of whatever law, sect, or belief, giving him the whole world for his kingdom, lordship, and jurisdiction. This Saint Peter was obeyed and taken for King, Lord, and Superior of the Universe by those who lived at that time, and so likewise have all
Having thus demonstrated the rightful power of the sovereign, the proclamation calls on them “to recognize the Church as Mistress and Superior of the Universe, and the High Pontiff, called Papa, in its name; the Queen and King our masters, in their place as Lords Superiors, and Sovereigns of these Islands and the main, by virtue of said gift. If you shall do so, you will do well in what you are held and obliged; and their Majesties, and I, in their Royal name, will receive you with love and charity. If you do not do this, and of malice you be dilatory, I protest to you that with the help of Our Lord I will enter with force, making war upon you from all directions and in every manner that I may be able, when I will subject you to obedience to the Church and the yoke of their Majesties.”
Unfortunately for Narvaez, this proclamation never was actually used, as this was the ill-starred expedition of which Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was treasurer, and which was destroyed on sea and land until only that historic man and his three companions
The history of all the subsequent expeditions shows the same religious character and influence. When the “Land of the Seven Cities” was to be explored from Mexico, it was Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan, who was placed in charge. Two years later, when Coronado started on his wonderful march, he was accompanied by a goodly number of Franciscan friars; and of these, two—Juan de Padilla a priest, and Luis a lay brother—remained in the newly discovered regions, one at Quivira and one at Cicuic, when the disappointed little army commenced its homeward march; and they soon received the crown of martyrdom which was their sure reward. The next to penetrate the New Mexican region were Friar Ruiz and his devoted companions, Francisco Lopez and Juan de Santa Maria, all three Franciscans; and their journey was exclusively a missionary pilgrimage, induced by their burning zeal for the conversion of the unknown tribes who lived in the Rio Grande Valley in heathen darkness. They penetrated the wilderness as far as Puará, near the present Bernalillo, and then the little guard of soldiers was afraid to proceed or even to remain; and so they separated; the soldiers of the king returned to the safety and ease of their garrison life, and the Soldiers of the Cross went forward, braving hardships and dangers, until they also joined the “noble army of martyrs.”
And when the actual settlement of New Mexico came, under Oñate, the colonists were accompanied by no less than ten Franciscan friars, for the conversion of the Indians. This expedition started from San Bartolomé, in Mexico, on January 20, 1598, and three months later encamped in a beautiful grove on the banks of the Rio Grande, a little below Paso del Norte, where Oñate raised the royal standard and took possession of New Mexico and the adjoining provinces for God and the king. The formal declaration made by Oñate on this occasion, is so characteristic of the time, and illustrates so well the union of the religious and the secular powers, that we present its essential parts, as of general interest. It reads as follows:1‘‘
“In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, and the undivided Eternal Unity, Deity and Majesty, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three persons in one sole essence, and one and only true God, that by his eternal will, Almighty Power and Infinite Wisdom, directs, governs and disposes potently and sweetly from sea to sea, from end to end, as beginning and end of all things, and in whose hands the Eternal Pontificate and Priesthood, the Empires and Kingdoms, Principalities, Dynasties, Republics, elders and minors, families and persons, as in the Eternal Priest, Emperor and King of Emperors and Kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the heavens and the earth, elements, birds and fishes, animals and plants and all creatures corporal and spiritual, rational and irrational, from1
“I wish that those that are now, or at any time may be, know that I, Don Juan de Oñate, governor and captain general, and Adelantado of New Mexico, and of its kingdoms and provinces, as well as of those in their vicinity and contiguous thereto, as settler, discoverer and pacifier of them and of the said kingdoms, by the order of the King, our Lord. I find myself today with my full and entire camp near the river which they call Del Norte, and on the bank which is contiguous to the first towns of New Mexico, and whereas I wish to take possession of the land today, the day of the Ascension of our Lord, dated April 30th, of the present year 1598; through the medium of the person of Don Juan Perez de Donis, clerk of his Majesty, and secretary of this expedition and the government of said kingdoms and provinces, by authority and in the name of the most Christian King, Don Felipe, Segundo, and for his successors, (may they be many) and for the crown
“And therefore, resting on the solid basis aforesaid I take the aforesaid possession, in the presence of the most Reverend Father Fray Alonzo Martinez of the order of our lord Saint Francis, Apostolic
“And immediately after he fixed and set in the same manner with his own hands the Royal Standard with the Coat of Arms of the most Christian King, Don Felipe, our lord; on the one side the Imperial Arms, and on another part, the Royal, and at the time this was being done, the clarinet sounded, and the arquebuses were discharged with the greatest demonstration of gladness.”’’
1. This translation is taken by courtesy of Hon. B. M. Read from Read'sIllustrated History of New Mexico.