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Biography of Don Luis de Rosas

Captain Don Luis de Rosas became the tenth governor of New Mexico in 1637.

By Grace Meredith

Tenth Governor of New Mexico

WPA Biography Project

Captain Don Luis de Rosas became the tenth governor of New Mexico in 1637. It is assumed that he traveled from Mexico City with the caravan of the Mission Supply Service in 1636 and arrived in Santa Fe and took over the duties of governor in 1637.

The Mission Supply Service from 1631 had been ably managed by Fray Tomas Manso, the procurator‑general of the custodia of New Mexico. Because of his personal experience and first‑hand knowledge of New Mexico affairs, Manso was frequently called upon for advice and he was assigned difficult and delicate missions. In 1638 he was one of a very small group of friars who was consulted by the commissary‑general of the whole Franciscan Order of New Spain, concerning the advisability of establishing a bishopric in New Mexico. Beginning about 1640, Manso held the office of custodio of New Mexico in addition to his office of procurator‑general. Later (about 1644) he was appointed special investigator by the Franciscan Order to report upon the situation which had arisen from the conflict between the ecclesiastics and Governor Rosas.

Almost from the beginning of Rosa term as governor, discontent and strife ran riot in New Mexico. This was due to what colonial authorities regarded as a "levantamiento" (uprising) among the Spaniards themselves— Accusations and denunciations by the Franciscans against Governor Rosas, and those made by Governor Rosas against the Franciscans fill pages in historical documents. Some of these have already been translated and published, and some have yet to appear.

One of these documents sent to the Marques de Cadereita, viceroy in Mexico City at this time, states that on January 14th, 1639, the cabildo (town council) of Santa Fe prepared a signed statement showing the arrogance, the severity and injustice of the Franciscans which was declared to be of very long standing toward the citizens and soldiers both before and after Rosas became governor. It was stated in these papers and records from the Santa Fe town council that the friars had refused the people the sacraments and the benefits and comforts of confession; that some had even been excommunicated and placed under the interdict. It was declared that in the case of one penitent, he was conducted through the streets of Santa Fe with a gag in his mouth made of a stick half a yard long, taken before the altar at high mass, and made to disavow his sins. It was said too that others did not escape so easily (?), that they were sent as prisoners to Mexico City for trial and that this had even included some of the governors of the provinces.

On the side of the Franciscans, it was declared that Governor Rosas "persecuted" them. They also accused him of complicity in the capture of friendly Apache Indians some of whom were sold as slaves in New Spain, and others forced to work in the governor's own workshop in Santa Fe. Further, the friars declared that Rosas had accepted a bribe from his predecessor in office, Governor Fransico de Baeza, and that therefore "bribery was employed to thwart justice and that more than one governor went free on this account."

Quoting from New Mexico History and Civics by Bloom and Donnelly:

"Under the persecutions of this governor, the missionaries had withdrawn from their various missions and were gathered at the convent in Santo Domingo. Even in Santa Fe there were none except a renegade Franciscan, unfrocked by his own Order but being used by Rosas, who had made him "royal chaplain" and had fixed up a chapel for him at the palace in a hall formerly used for a shoeshop!"

"Fray Bartolome Romero, who had been serving in the Zuni country, ventured to go to Santa Fe with one companion in order to minister to those who were still obedient to the missionaries. Rosas heard that they were at the Convent of San Miguel and came in a fury with a band of soldiers. He stormed at them with words and then, as Fray Bartolome knelt in the road, he beat him severely with a cane and had the soldiers drag him off to prison in the palace."

"It seems incredible that such a state of affairs could have existed for nearly four years, even on the frontier, but later, in a long account sent to Spain, the commissary general of the Order explained it by stating that Rosa was a creature of the viceroy, Marques de Cadereita (1635‑1640), who took everything that Rosas wrote Has Gospel truth."

During this period, Father Perea wrote to the Inquisition in Mexico City on September 15th,1638 that he was quite ill, and it is probable that he died during the autumn of 1638. His death and burial are supposed to have occurred at the mission at Sandia. This conclusion having been reached due to the fact that in the reports of the quarrels between Rosas and the Franciscan Order in 1639 and thereafter, Perea is not mentioned as being among the active friars.

Friar Juan de Salas was the Custodian in 1638. Father Salas was founder of the mission at Isleta and in 1629‑1630 was leader of the friars sent to the Jumano country. He had served as Custodian in 1632 or 1633 when he was succeeded by Friar Juan de Gongora; thus he was serving a second term as Custodian from 1638 to 1641.

In 1638 Father Salas sent a number of friars to the country of the Ipotlapiguas, southwest of Zuni, and Salas appointed Fray Antonio Arteaga as Commissary of this group. Governor Rosas led this expedition accompanied by some of his soldiers from Santa Fe. It may be of interest to note here, that Father Perea‘s last active efforts for the Inquisition were in the summer of 1638 when he investigated the reported actions of Governor Rosas in connection with this expedition to the Ipotlapigua country which had occurred in the spring of that year (1638).

France V. Scholes in his Civil Government and Society in New Mexico in the Seventeenth Century, in writing of the confusion and controversy of this period, states:

"In 1639 the cabildo of Santa Fe addressed an appeal to the viceroy in which it was stated that the friars had more stock than the citizens; that they had horses in plenty although some of the soldiers had none; that each mission friar had one to two thousand sheep, whereas there were few laymen who had more than a hundred. The friars always defended their use of lands for both cultivation and for range on three grounds: (1) that all of their food had to be raised on the spot and that they had the right to a certain amount of cultivable land and range on that account; (2) that in case of famine they frequently fed large numbers of Indians and Spaniards from their reserves of food and livestock; and (3) that only by exporting cattle and other livestock could they obtain the funds necessary for the purchase of those ecclesiastical ornaments, vestments, and other church furnishings not supplied by direct subvention from the Crown. They always asserted also that the complaints made by the laymen were greatly exaggerated."

This was in a letter to the viceroy in Mexico City from the town council of Santa Fe dated February 21st, 1639.

Lansing B. Bloom in the New Mexico Historical Review of July 1935, gives a most interesting document pertaining to this period in New Mexico history, that was recently given to him by Sr. José G. Rocha, the editor of a newspaper in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, when Sr. Rocha visited Santa Fe in April 1935. This is a "Trade-Invoice of 1638--For Goods Shipped by Governor Rosas from Santa Fe."

Matters between the civil and religious jurisdictions became worse and worse, and in Leading Facts of New Mexico History, Twitchell relates: "—the matter was reported to the King in 1640, including an Indian revolt, as well as scandalous quarrels between the friars and secular authorities. It appears that Governor Rosas was stabbed, perhaps while under arrest awaiting his Residencia, by a man who accused him of intimacy with his wife, but the woman had been put in his way that an excuse might be found. Antonio Vaca is named as a leader in this movement."

In 1640 a new viceroy, Don Diego Lopez Pacheco, duke of Escolona, arrived in Mexico City. He was the first grandee of Spain to become viceroy and a Knight of the Golden Fleece, a direct descendant of the great Braganza of Portugal, King Manuel of the Golden Age.

Pacheco, the new viceroy, gave orders that the regime of Rosas be thoroughly investigated and justice be done. He appointed General don Juan FLores de Sierra y Valdes to this task and hurried him north to become governor of New Mexico. In consequence, Rosas was placed under arrest and it was during his imprisonment and while he was in a cell that he was murdered, stabbed to death.


New Mexico History and Civics by Lansing B. Bloom, A.M. and Thomas C. Donnelly, Ph.D. University Press, Albuquerque. 19733.

The Coming of the White Man by Herbert Ingram Priestley. The Macmillan Co. New York 1929.

Historical Documents relating to New Mexico, Nueva Viscaya and Approaches Thereto to 1733, collected by Adolph F.A. Bandelier and Fanny R. Bandelier. Edited with Introductions and Annotations by Charles Wilson Hackett. Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. Volume 1.

Some Strange Corners of Our Country by Charles F. Lummis. The Century Co. New York 1903.

Caballeros by Ruth Laughlin Barker. D. Appleton‑Century Co. New York and London 1934.

New Mexico Historical Review January 1932, April 1929, April 1930, January 1935, July and April 1935.

Leading Facts of New Mexico History by Ralph Emerson Twitchell. Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 1911.

History of Arizona and New Mexico by Hubert Howe Bancroft. The History Co. San Francisco 1890.

Misiones de Nuevo Mejico; Documents del Archive general de Indies, Seville, publicados por primera vez y anotados. For el P. Otto Maas O.F.M. Madrid; Hijos de T. Minuesa de los Rios. 192