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Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco

Born: 8-4-1713 - Died: 4-4-1785

By Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint. Additional information by Rick Hendricks

Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco was born on 4 August 1713 and baptized on 13 August in Santibáñez in the Valle de Carriedo in the province of Santander in Spain. On his mother\'s side, he was grandson of the royal governor of Navarra, don Antonio Pacheco. What brought him to emigrate to the Americas and when are not known. But he settled in El Paso in 1743, having married Estefanía de los Dolores Domínguez de Mendoza on 20 May 1741 in the church of Janos Presidio. She was a member of a family that had lived in New Mexico before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, but had not returned north after the Spanish re-conquest of the 1690s. The couple had evidently lived in Chihuahua, perhaps near her family, before resettling to El Paso. Bernardo and Estefanía had two sons, Anacleto and Manuel.

Miera y Pacheco served in the El Paso presidio as a military engineer and cartographer for a dozen years. During that time, he participated in five military campaigns originating from the El Paso presidio. Included among those was the attempt in the late 1740s of fray Juan Miguel Menchero to resettle Navajos to the vicinity of Mount Taylor, near modern Grants, and to establish a mission there. Miera y Pacheco also put his hand to other work as well. For example, he carved the statue of San Felipe Apóstol in the church at San Felipe Pueblo, and he was a charter member and first secretary of the lay religious society known as the Cofradía de Nuestra Señora de la Luz in Santa Fe.

Exercising the skill for which is most known, in 1749, Miera y Pacheco mapped the Rio Grande from El Paso to its junction with the Río Conchos.

It may have been, as John L. Kessell has suggested, that Governor Francisco Antonio Marín del Valle brought Miera y Pacheco to Santa Fe in 1756 because of his talent for cartography. Whether or not it was a carrot offered by the governor, the cartographer, upon moving to Santa Fe, was given the position of alcalde mayor, or chief judge and administrator, of Pecos and Galisteo.

The very next year, 1757, Governor Marín tapped Miera y Pacheco to collect the necessary data for a detailed and thorough map of New Mexico. The viceroy in Mexico City had ordered each of the governors of northern provinces to provide him with such a map to more readily understand their reports and requests. Over a period of five months in 1757, don Bernardo toured the province with the governor, collecting and recording geographical, social, and political information that would be necessary for the map he planned.

During the spring of 1758, when Miera y Pacheco was back at his desk in Santa Fe, he drafted what has become one of the best known and most published maps of the region from the Spanish colonial period. It depicts all of the Spanish settlements within the province and the territories occupied by the various indigenous tribes. It also portrays in a general way the topography of the reino, or kingdom, as it was called, and delineates the courses of its major rivers. Lengthy marginal texts on the map record statistics about the province, such as: in the "sixteen settlements of Spaniards and non-Indian citizens" there were 3,297 children; the 22 Indian pueblos had a total population of 8,694. The governor also prepared a lengthy narrative describing the status of relations between Spaniards and Indians in the province, which was to accompany the map when sent to the viceroy.

The original of Miera y Pacheco\'s 1758 map vanished from the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City sometime after 1930, when it was photographed by Lansing Bloom, secretary of the Historical Society of New Mexico. A carefully traced and redrawn version of the map based on Bloom\'s photographs was prepared in the 1970s and has been published as an appendix to John L. Kessell\'s book on Pecos Pueblo, Kiva, Cross, and Crown.

In 1775, a 35-year-old Franciscan friar, Francisco Atanasio Domínguez, was dispatched from the Mexico City headquarters of the Franciscan province to inspect the missions of New Mexico. Two years earlier, 25-year-old fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, was sent to New Mexico to minister at Zuni Pueblo. Domínguez was commissioned not only to report on the missions, their population, and conversion success, and to audit their books, but also to seek a way of linking New Mexico with the new province of Alta California.

Whether or how the two friars knew about each other prior to Domínguez\'s arrival in New Mexico is unknown. Evidently Domínguez was already aware or found out after his arrival that Escalante was actively engaged in projecting a route to the California capital of Monterey. In April 1776, Domínguez called Vélez de Escalante to join him in Santa Fe, so the two could collaborate on that task. They met in Santa Fe that June.

Once Domínguez and Vélez de Escalante had joined forces, they quickly pulled together the personnel, equipment, and supplies necessary for an attempt to reach Monterey that summer. Among the group of eight men recruited, "persons who might be useful” to the enterprise, was don Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, listed as a "retired captain of militia and citizen of the Villa of Santa Fe." He would have responsibility for taking latitude readings and estimating longitude, mapping the party\'s route, and helping to navigate across the many hundreds of miles, then largely unknown to Spaniards and other Europeans, between the two provincial capitals.

Just as the expeditionary caravan was about to get underway, a message arrived with an Acoma runner from fray Francisco Garcés. He had recently traversed the territory between California\'s San Joaquín Valley and the Hopi pueblos in northern Arizona, potentially obviating the need for Domínguez and Vélez de Escalante\'s trip. But they decided to go ahead: "because the knowledge we could acquire of the lands through which we traveled would represent a great step forward." As events unfolded, the trek consumed four months, from July until November of 1776. In the end, fray Francisco wrote that "in none of the nations [we encountered] did we find any information whatsoever about the Spaniards of Monterey."

During the long and arduous trip Miera y Pacheco was repeatedly ill with stomach and intestinal troubles. He also proved to be very independent, often to the consternation of his companions. On at least one occasion he deliberately took a different course from that of the rest of the group and stayed away so long that another man was sent out to search for him. However, don Bernardo was evidently the senior member of the expedition, and others often turned to him for practical information including the identification of metals encountered along the route. In what is now Utah, Miera y Pacheco\'s calculations led him to believe that Monterey was only a week\'s travel farther on and that the expedition should press onward to the west, to claim the glory of opening a practicable route, despite the imminent onset of winter in early October. Against his pleading, and that of several other expeditionaries, Domínguez and Vélez de Escalante determined instead, to turn back. They however left the final decision to the casting of lots, which ultimately supported their decision. Had the group continued toward Monterey, it would have been without Domínguez and Vélez de Escalante, leaving Miera y Pacheco as the group’s sole and authoritative leader. This was made clear by the retreating friars.

During the return trip to Santa Fe, Miera y Pacheco suffered from the bitterly cold weather. Domínguez and Vélez de Escalante wrote that he "was ready to freeze on us," and they feared that he "could not survive such cold." But survive he did, and from the data he had compiled along the way, he drew, two years later, a two-sheet map of the lands the expedition had covered. Miera y Pacheco mapped the route from Santa Fe northwest to Lake Provo, southeast to Glen Canyon, and back to Santa Fe through the Hopi pueblos and Zuni. Like his 1758 map, it is crowded with representations of landforms and various types of native settlements. Plotted according to latitude, are the nightly stops, or parajes, where the expedition camped. The dense style is uniquely that of Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco.

In 1779 Miera y Pacheco prepared yet another well-known map of New Mexico at the request of the province\'s new governor, Juan Bautista de Anza. It focuses especially on the internal political divisions within New Mexico, tracing the perimeters of each of the eight then extant alcaldías, or judicial/administrative jurisdictions: Taos, Santa Cruz de la Cañada, Santa Fe, Los Queres, Sandia, Albuquerque, La Laguna, and Zuni. In the marginal text don Bernardo argues that, in accordance with Governor Anza\'s order, New Mexicans should rearrange their homes in compact fortified villages, rather than being strung out along irrigation ditches, each separated from the other.

Just four years after production of this last great map, Estefanía died in Santa Fe in 1783, and don Bernardo followed her less than a year and a half later on 4 April 1785. Without doubt, Bernardo Miera y Pacheco was the most prolific cartographer of eighteenth-century New Mexico. His work adds greatly to an understanding of life in the province at that time.

Sources Used:

Adams, Eleanor B. and Fray Angélico Chávez, trs. and eds. The Missions of New Mexico, 1776: A Description by fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez with Other Contemporary Documents. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1956; reprinted, 1976.

"Bernardo Miera y Pacheco," (accessed 14 April 2011).

Brooks, James F. Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Chávez, Fray Angélico. Origins of New Mexico Families in the Spanish Colonial Period. Santa Fe: Historical Society of New Mexico, 1954.

Kessell, John L. Kiva. Cross, and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987.

Warner, Ted J., ed. and Fray Angelico Chavez, tr. The Domínguez-Escalante Journal: Their Expedition through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico in 1776. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1995.