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Bernardino de Zavallos

The fourth governor of New Mexico was Admiral Don Bernardino de Zavallos.

By Grace Meredith
Field Worker

Edited by:
Carlotta Warfield
Ina Sizer Cassidy

WPA Biography Project

Fourth Governor of New Mexico, 1614‑1618

The fourth governor of New Mexico was Admiral Don Bernardino de Zavallos. Historians differ on the spelling of his name. For example, Cevallos, Coballos, Caballos, are all used in different books; the authority for the spelling used here is George P. Hammond, Ph.D., in his Don Juan de Onate and the Founding of New Mexico Historical Society of New Mexico, Publications in History, Volume II, October, 1927. It seems necessary to state, also, that while fragmentary though interesting items have been found after long and arduous search through different historical works, in so far as Zavallos is concerned, there are now no records of him available save the scant ones which follow.

According to Dr. Hammond, the date of Zavallos nomination as governor of New Mexico, as given in a report by Martin Lopez de Gauna, May 20th, 1619, was August 5th, 1613. He was appointed by the Marquis of Guadalcazar, who was then the viceroy in Mexico City.

As was usual with a new governor, he brought with him a supply train when he arrived in Santa Fe, sometime early in the year, 1614. It is interesting to know at this time that men practically bought this office; moreover, they had to pay back to the King a tax known as the media annata— actually meant half a year’s salary.

It was during this year (1614) that the Padre Alonso Peinado was succeeded by Padre Estevan Perea. Continuing from the term of the preceding governor, almost incredible controversy and often bitter and open hostility existed between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. While it is undoubtedly a fact that by 1617 eleven churches had been built and fourteen thousand converts to the Holy Catholic Faith were In the province, this did not in any way lessen the envy, the rivalry for power, antagonism, and the usually unwarranted selves concerning both church and state

To understand even slightly the slow growth (if such it could be called) of New Mexico during this period, it is necessary to bear in mind these facts; and not in any way to discount the apparent neglect and disinterest on the part of the government officials in Mexico City. The Spanish authorities there deemed New Mexico for the most part merely an outpost of Spanish power in the far north, to be used as a base of operations for further explorations in the new land. Miners and adventurers in eager search of wealth or honor came to the colony, along with ex‑convicts and riff‑raff. Franciscans looked upon it only as a new and fertile field to be won for the Holy Catholic Faith. It is of interest that at this time the Franciscans were receiving from the government a small amount of support and assistance in the way of supplies for the missionaries and their wards—and yet some historians say that in 1617, there were less than fifty Spaniards in the whole of New Mexico. This statement is still open to controversy.

In the beginning of his term as governor, Zavallos did his utmost to maintain and promote friendly relations with the clergy; but unfortunately, a year had not yet passed when very serious difficulties arose between them.


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