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Antonio de Otermín, Biographical Sketch

By Rick Hendricks, Ph.D.
New Mexico State Historian

At present, little is known of the origins of Antonio de Otermín, although some information exists about the family. The House of Otermín was based in the Consejo of Gaintza, municipality of Araitz in the Basque province of Navarre.[1] The community is located in the Sierra de Aralar, which forms the natural boundary between Navarre and Guipúzcoa, and there were family members living in both provinces.

Apparently Otermín's first post in the Indies was as captain of the presidio of Sinaloa. A short series of letters between a Jesuit priest and the captain shed light on Otermín´s early years in the royal service.[2] In Father Alvaro Flores de Sierra, S.J. reported in November 1672 that he had just met Capt. Antonio de Otermin, who gave new excuses, all of them really frivolous, for not having brought to heel the Seris.[3] One reason Otermín gave was that he had an order from the viceroy to send to Mexico City as a prisoner anyone who opposed him. Flores de Sierra stated that far from opposing Otermín, all the people living in the interior had beseeched him and the squad leaders for assistance. In addition to the Seris, Father Flores de Sierra was of the opinion that Yaquis, Tecoripas, Tepaves, and Mobas need to be brought under control.

Otermín expressed his disapproval of the decision to grant leave to all the soldiers, given the attitude of the Seris.[4] He would have preferred that eight or ten remain to protect those Indians who were settled at peace. He reminded the father visitor that viceroys of New Spain had issued orders that the soldiers were not to go out to inspect the Indians of the province without an urgent need. A squad with one captain and the other leaders would be sufficient to provide protection and to punish any Indians who tried to cause harm.

Father Flores related his concerns to Otermín regarding the various Indian groups waging war in the area on 1 December 1672, including the Seris in Sonora.[5] He stated that he had informed Otermín several times about the great risk being faced in Sinaloa and neighboring Sonora. He was aware that the viceroys' orders required extraordinary conditions to warrant mounting a campaign. In the Jesuit priest's opinion, those conditions had been met.

Otermin responded to Father Flores a few days later, stating that his information from Sonora wa that the Seris had been quiet and peaceful. He was surprised to hear Father Flores say otherwise.[6] The blame lay, according to Otermín, with troublemaking Indians who spread rumors. He was merely following the Viceroys' orders, which were to send out forces only in case of great and manifest necessity.

As December 1672 drew to a close, Flores de Sierra penned a scathing letter castigating Otermín for not doing his job in protecting the province.[7] Flores resented the fact that Otermín paid no heed to the missionaries who inhabited the province of Sinaloa.

Otermín departed Mexico City for New Mexico with fray Francisco Ayeta on 27 February 1677.[8] Also in the train were fifty convict soldiers, their commander, and a sergeant. The soldiers were meant to serve as reinforcements and were supplied with one hundred harquebuses, one hundred hilts for daggers and swords, fifty saddles and bridles, and a thousand horses. Seven men failed to complete the journey, and the rest passed muster in Santa Fe in December 1677.

Otermín was in Mexico City in January 1685 when he acted as guarantor for Juan de Cangas, a resident of the viceregal capital who was departing for Guadalajara.[9] Otermín promised to pay Pedro Ruiz de Castañeda, a citizen of Mexico City, the sum of 1,844 pesos in eight month's time.

Otermín was living in Mexico City in 1691 when he responded to orders from the Viceroy of New Spain, the Conde Galve, to report on a potential mercury mine in Hopi country, the legendary Sierra Azul.[10] The former governor stated that he thought that fifty or sixty well-armed soldiera and a hundred Indian allies could safely undertake an expedition to locate the rumored source of mercury. He further counseled a surprise dawn attack on the first Hopi pueblo, which would need to be disarmed before proceeding on to the other four pueblos. Care should be taken not to leave El Paso exposed to attack when the expedition departed. For that reason Otermín thought that soldiers should be sent from presidios in Sonora to protect El Paso while the expedition was in the field.

In October Otermín granted power of attorney to collect on debts to Cristóbal Sersati del Castillo, alcalde mayor and citizen of Guadalajara. Sersati was to appear before the judge of Bienes de Difuntos in Guadalajara in the matter of the death of Ignacio de la Campa, who had died intestate in Sombrerete.[11] De la Campa's goods were in the possession of Juan de Gainza, a citizen of Sombrerete and Domingo Dionis Vela, alcalde ordinario of Sombrerete. Otermín wanted Sersati to ask the judge to order that those executors pay into the Caja de Bienes de Difunto so that Otermín could be paid the hundred pesos from the rescate of Parral that De la Campa owed him. He also empowered Sersati to collect from the goods of the late Juan de Canga, who had also died intestate in the Real y Minas de los Frailes, 2,415 pesos in silver, which Otermín had loaned him in October 1689.

In March 1692 in Mexico City, Otermín purchased Antonio José, a slave from the Congo, from José Hidalgo for three hundred pesos.[12] Otermín was still living in the viceregal capital when he married Ana María Ladrón de Guevara in the Asunción Sagrario church on 24 May 1692.[13] Nothing more is known about Antonio de Otermín or his wife.



[1] "Toponomía Oficial de Navarra," http://toponimianavarra.tracasa.es/listaTopo.aspx?lang=cas&pag=0&nRes=20&Muni=&Patr=otermin%25&Enti=&Ofic=&Fuen=&Orig=&Etim= (accessed 17 June 2011).

[2] Jesuit Missionary Collection. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

[3] Alvaro Flores de Sierra to the Father Provincial, Toro,[Sinaloa], 2 November 1672,

[4] Antonio de Otermín to Alvaro Flores de Sierra, Villa [Sinaloa], 6 November 1672, Jesuit Missionary Collection, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

[5] Alvaro Flores de Sierra to Antonio de Otermín, Toro,[Sinaloa], 1 December 1672,

[6] Antonio de Otermin to Alvaro Flores de Sierra, Villa de Sinaloa, 5 December 1672,

[7] Alvaro Flores de Sierra to Antonio de Otermín, Toro,[Sinaloa], 22 December 1672,

[8] Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown, 223.

[9] Juan de Cangas and Antonio de Otermín, Obligation, Mexico City, 27 January 1685, Registro de Fernando Veedor, 685-4629, 1685, Archivo Histórico de Notarías de la Ciudad de México.

[10] John L. Kessell, Rick Hendricks, and Meredith D. Dodge, eds., By Force of Arms: The Journals of don Diego de Vargas, New Mexico, 1691-1693 (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1992), 166-70.

[11] Antonio de Otermin to Cristóbal Sersati del Castillo, Power of attorney, Mexico City, 31 October 1691, Registro de Fernando Veedor, 687-4633, 1691-92, Archivo Histórico de Notarías de la Ciudad de México.

[12] José Hidalgo to Antonio de Otermín, Slave sale, Mexico City, 11 March 1692, Registro de Fernando Veedor,687-4633, 1691-92, Archivo Histórico de Notarías de la Ciudad de México.

[13] Antonio Otermín and Ana María Ladrón de Guevara, Marriage, Mexico City, 24 May 1692, LDS, Asunción Sagrario, 0035270.