Our cultural and spiritual landscape of El Norte, including Taos and Santa Fe and its pueblos and towns and villages, was forged by tremendous and cataclysmic circumstances that we now claim as our deep heritage, including the August 1680 Pueblo Revolt against the Royal Spanish Dominion.
On a beautiful summer day in August 2018, it is hard to remember or imagine that not so long ago there raged on our lands a fearful and bloody conflict between the peoples and their deities and civilizations from opposite sides of the world.
Indigenous peoples and cultures of the Western hemisphere have lived and thrived for tens of thousands of years, from South America to Mesoamerica to Mexico and to North America as well.
European Spaniards from the Eastern hemisphere brought Catholic Christianity to El Norte, settling here by 1598, and established their dominion. East and West thus made the fateful contact. And it has since been said that, “When Jesus came, the Corn Mothers went away.”
Although the Corn Mothers may have seemingly faded, they yet remain, and other of the ancient gods and spirits also persist. In the year 1680, these powerful spirits were invoked in Taos by the leader Po’Pay of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo to unite all the Pueblos in a rebellion against Royal Spanish rule. It is told that in a gathering of the Pueblo leaders, Po’Pay invoked the urging of three potent entities, Caudi and Tilini and Tleume, for the Pueblos to restore the ways things were before the Spanish arrival.
On Aug. 10, 1680, the bloody revolt began. It was successful, but at tremendous cost of many hundreds of lives killed in blood and fire. The Spanish were forced to flee. The revolt had been won — for the time being. In 1692, the Spaniards returned to restore their dominion, and all those involved then knew that their futures had merged in their mingled blood and water and lives. Jesus and the Corn Mothers and the ancient spirits and gods would thenceforth coexist.
The Pueblo Revolt continues to reverberate. Some present-day descendants of the revolt’s leaders and casualties on both sides still hold resentments. Yet there is a kind of “healing irony” now evident some 340 years later in the dynamic aftermath. More than a few of the strident activist voices for historical truth and reconciliation between Pueblo and Spanish cultures from both sides, are themselves individuals who now live in both worlds and whose very lifeblood is a genetic mixing of “old” and “new” worlds.
I recall the words of the cacique religious leader of a certain northern pueblo whom I would often visit in the 1990s. He was a centenarian and he preferred to speak with me in Spanish: “Muchos eventos grandes y trágicos han pasado entre nuestras gentes. Pero ahora somos hermanos y vecinos. Es major que siguemos así porque todos somos los hijos y hijas del mismo Creadór.” (“Many great and tragic events have happened between our peoples. But now we are brothers and neighbors. It is better that we continue that way because we are all the sons and daughters of the same Creator.”)
It is in the spirit of the cacique’s words, and in the spirit of our sincere quest for truth, peace and reconciliation, that we now honor and bless those who were the leaders and the religious men involved in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and who have passed on and/or who perished in that awful conflict.
In the names of the healing and reconciling spiritual lords Jesus and Poseueve, and by the intercession of the life-sustaining Corn Mothers and of Santa Maria and all the santos and the natural and supernatural spirits who inhabit and raise up our sacred land of El Nórte, may our peoples now have only peace from the blessing that has been given to us through our mutually spilled and mingled blood.
Davíd Fernández de Taos is a native Taoseño who is deeply involved in the spiritual and cultural life and heritage of El Norte. He is a radio commentator and a writer, and as a columnist he authors “The Blessing Way” and “Espíritu del Nórte.”