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Alfonso Rael de Aguilar Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Captain Alfonso Rael de Aguilar petitioned Governor Pedro Rodriques Cubero stating that the lands at the Pueblo of Cuyamunque had been uninhabited and in waste since the Tewa Indians had abandoned the Pueblo during the insurrection of 1696, and that he needed a tract of land upon which he could settle and raise his livestock. Therefore, he requested the governor to grant him six fanegas of corn planting land together with the pastures, woods, water, and other appurtenances of the Pueblo. Cubero, after having examined the application, granted Aguilar’s request on May 13, 1699, subject to the condition that the pastures be held in common.[1]

Since royal possession of the grant had not been given to Aguilar, he appeared on September 24, 1704, before Captain Juan Paez Hurtado, who was serving as acting governor pending the appointment of a new governor following Diego de Vargas’ untimely death, and requested the revalidation of the grant as a grant de novo in consideration of his twenty-one years of faithful military service. Captain Diego Arias de Quiros protested the revalidation of the grant on the ground that the land had previously been granted to him. Hurtado directed Quiros to present his grant papers to him for examination within three days. In response to this order Quiros appeared before Hurtado and stated that the land had been granted to him in November, 1698, by Cubero and had been sent to the Secretary of State and War, who at that time was Alfonso Rael de Aguilar, the adverse claimant, for authentication and recording. And, although he had frequently attempted to obtain a copy of the grant, he had been advised it had been stolen from the secretary’s office. Quiros then advised Hurtado that he planned to ask the Ecclesiastical Judge of New Mexico to threaten the thief with fulmination and execration if he did not return the grant. There­fore, he requested Hurtado to give him sufficient time to obtain the return of the missing papers. Quiros also presented oral testimony tending to prove that he had been wintering his livestock on the grant since 1700, and Aguilar had asked and received his permission to settle upon and cultivate a small portion of his grant. By decree dated September 25, 1704, Hurtado suspended further proceedings in the case for a period of fifteen days. On October 9, 1704, the proceedings were resumed and as a result of Quiros’ failure to exhibit any documentary evidence of his grant, Hurtado revalidated Aguilar’s grant to the extent of three fanegas of corn planting land to be measured from the house, which is built on the tract, downstream towards the dry Arroyo on the other side of the Cuyamungue River and directed Alcalde Cristobal de Arrilano to place him in possession of the premises. As an explanation of his actions, Hurtado stated that it would not be in the best interest of the province for one individual to hold enough land for a whole community while some poor people did not have enough land to plant a hill of corn. The decree closed with the recitation that Hurtado had executed it as a prerogative of his office without authentication since the petitioner was his Secretary of State and War. In obedience to Hurtado’s command, Arillano met Aguilar at the ruined Pueblo of Cuyamungue on the following day and proceeded to perform the customary ceremonies required to place Aguilar in royal possession of the premises which were defined as commending at and extending “from the house standing on the hither side of the Cuyamungue River towards the north to two dry arroyos which join same to serve as boundaries and on the east the same river and on the west the hills.”[2]

Jesus Maria Ortiz y Baca for himself and as an agent for the other inhabitants of the grant, petitioned [3] Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer on March 23, 1872, seeking the confirmation of the grant, which he described as covering three fanegas of corn planting land plus all of the pasture lands which had originally belonged to the Pueblo of Cuyamungue. He contended that under Spanish law each pueblo was entitled to a four square league tract of pasture lands surrounding its agricultural lands. He also pointed out that other portions of the pueblo’s agricultural lands had been granted to Burnardo de Sena and Juan de Mestas. By decision [4] dated February 16, 1874, James K. Proudfit noted that the Hurtado’s decree had limited the grant to three fanegas of land to be located within the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession. A preliminary survey of the grant was made by Deputy Surveyors Griffin & McMullen in November, 1877 for 36 acres.[5]

No further action was had with regard to the grant until March 3, 1893, when Vincente Romero, who claimed an interest in the grant by inheritance and purchase, filed suit[6] in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking the confirmation of the grant which he alleged covered a four square league tract of land with the pueblo at its center. Since the grant was located entirely within the Pueblo of Pojoaque Grant, which had been confirmed by Congress in 1858,[7] the government filed a motion to make it a party defendant. Realizing that the Court under Section 13 (2) of the Act of March 3, 1891,[8] was prohibited from recognizing the plaintiffs’ claim since a confirmation of the grant would interfere with a just and unextinguished Indian title, Romero announced that he no longer wished to prosecute his suit when it came up for trial on June 29, 1898. Whereupon, the court rejected the grant and dismissed the suit.[9]

[1] E Deed Records 408 (Mss., Records of the County Clerk’s Office, Santa Fe, New Mexico).

[2] Archive No. 733 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] The Alfonso Rael Aguilar Grant, No. 81 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Romero v. United States, No. 234 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[7] An Act to confirm the claim of certain pueblos and towns in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 5, 11 Stat. 374 (1858).

[8] Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chap. 539, 26 Stat. 854 (1891).

[9] 4 Journal 5 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).