Why is it so easy to believe the narrative that the Spanish were a marauding force and oppressed the Pueblo people, yet simultaneously believe that the American colonization of New Mexico was somehow peaceful and good?
We’ve gotten to the point in our community’s history where we venerate aspects that we believe are good and vilify aspects that we believe to be bad. Yet, history has largely neglected the Mestizo psychology and would rather place people into simple boxes that can easily be labeled as good or bad. To frame this boxing of people, I look to the removal of the Entrada history pageant from the Santa Fe Fiesta and the limitations placed on it in our Santa Fe Public Schools.
To wit: The “bad” Spanish with their “bad” Catholicism oppressed the “good” Pueblo people, and this oppression should not be celebrated. Good Americans thus decided to eliminate the celebration of the Entrada and other Fiesta activities.
Indulge me this: If we want to believe that somehow the Spanish were “bad” and the Pueblo people were “good,” perhaps we should ask descendants of the genízaro people their feelings. The genízaro were Native people sold to the Pueblo Indians as slaves. Yes, it’s a historical fact: Plains Indians would bring captive slaves taken during their wars with other tribes to trade with the Pueblo people, who would then trade those acquired slaves with the Spanish.
That’s a fact: The Pueblo people kept slaves as commodities. As the genízaro population grew, the Spanish government realized that the genízaros needed a path to freedom. Those who were freed were established within Barrio de Analco in Santa Fe, near the San Miguel Church. During the Pueblo Revolt, Pueblo warriors wiped out nearly all the genízaros in the area. Yet, no one mentions this bloodshed in discussing Pueblo oppression at the hands of the Spanish during the “reconquest.”
What’s also been lost to history is the uprooting of people that weren’t part of a “tribe” during the American colonization. This uprooting of people is not vilified or even discussed very much at all. American governmental representatives grouped Pueblo people into their reservations and removed people from those reservations who weren’t official tribal members. The uprooted people did not speak English nor did they understand the American legal system, yet they were told to leave the only land and homes they knew for a life within a system they didn’t know much about.
Yet the American colonization and conquest of the area is celebrated every year on the Fourth of July.
The sad truth of human history is that groups of people have always conquered and oppressed other groups of people, and the winners are the ones who generally tell the history. The Pueblo people actually made out pretty well after the American colonization and capture of New Mexico. The mestizo didn’t and still have not. We are a people of mixed blood and culture, and we have been marginalized by our inability to fit in with any single group. We are not fully Spanish, we are not fully Native, and many of us are not even a little Anglo.
The Pueblo Revolt was bloody. The Pueblo people kept and traded slaves. We cannot and should not continue to believe in a narrative that says one group is “good” and another group is “bad,” even if the “good group” is the Pueblo people. Fine, eliminate the Entrada. But also ask the genízaro and the mestizo peoples of New Mexico how we feel about New Mexico history.
Juan Blea is an award-winning author from Santa Fe and blogs at jblea1016.com.