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Biography of Juan Flore de Sierra y Valdes

General Don Juan Flore de Sierra y Valdes, eleventh governor of New Mexico, was appointed to office by the new viceroy, the Duque de Escalona, in Mexico City in 1641.

Eleventh Governor of New Mexico
1641‑1641

WPA Biography Project

General Don Juan Flore de Sierra y Valdés, eleventh governor of New Mexico, was appointed to office by the new viceroy, the Duque de Escalona, in Mexico City in 1641. Because of the serious disputes between the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions and the confusing reports from both authorities, Valdes was given definite instructions to hasten north to Santa Fe and make a full investigation, to report on the matter and to see that justice was done.

It was a long, hard journey and an arduous task that Valdés had been set and physically, he was none too fit, but immediately after his arrival in Santa Fe during the spring of 1641, he attempted to carry out the orders given him.

The general powers of the governor were defined in the general legislation on colonial administration, and in particular by the instructions given him at the time of his appointment to office. Valdés placed Luis de Rosas, his predecessor as governor, under arrest; and started his Residencia (the official investigation). Each governor was obliged to submit to this official investigation at the end of his term of office; it was required of all important administrators and the King of Spain had written very definite regulations concerning it. In most cases it was a very serious matter.
 

It was declared that Valdés desired to leave some of the friends of Rosas in the town council of Santa Fe, but that he found many of them were persons of mixed blood, that is not pure Spaniards. The result of this finding was that the town council passed into the control of encomenderos who were in a way, friendly to the Franciscans and were also, generally speaking, opposed to Rosas. The town council had an influence which extended far beyond the limits of the villa of Santa Fe. It was really the spokesman for the entire community, both in pleas to the governor in office, and in petitions to the viceroy in Mexico City and to the King of Spain. At times, the town council was given authority by the viceroy to act in certain matters when it was feared that the governor might not obey instructions. It was also intended as a sort of advisory council for the entire province of New Mexico; and in the case of the absence or the death of a governor, control was assumed by the town council or by a lieutenant appointed by the governor in office at that time.

It seems apropos to mention here a few of the prominent families of New Mexico, at this time. Some were descendants from the loyal associates of Onate, the first governor, or from those who had migrated to the province early in its history. Loyal service to the Crown was one of their proudest boasts and some of these men enjoyed the rank of hidalgo, which had been granted those who had served a term of years in New Mexico. To mention a few of these families:

There was the Dominguez de Mendoza family from which the most distinguished soldier in New Mexico of the seventeenth century was descended. This was Juan Dominguez de Mendoza who held every military rank open to a citizen of the province; was often the commander of troops went out to the frontiers against the Apaches; was lieutenant‑governor four times and leader of the expedition sent to the Jumano country in what is now central Texas. Others were the Marquez, Baca, Lucero de Godoy, Romero, the Duran and Chaves lines, and the Gomez clan fiercely loyal to the civil authorities in case of any conflict with the ecclesiastical.

The lengthy and difficult journey of over fifteen hundred miles from Mexico City to Santa Fe, had taken much of the none‑too‑great strength of Valdés, and in the midst of his investigation of Rosas, he became seriously ill. Realizing after a brief time, that he had little chance of recovery, Valdés appointed the well known soldier, Sergeant Francisco Gomez to act as lieutenant‑governor in his place, and to proceed with the investigations and reported activities of Rosas while he was governor.

Valdés died in the autumn of 1641.

Though Sergeant Gomez had been regularly appointed under the law, after the death of Valdés, the town council of Santa Fe flatly refused to allow Gomez to act as governor. The reasons for this action on the part of the town council are not known, but it is thought that the council feared that the friends of Rosas might attempt to restore him to power. At this time Rosas was in prison at Santa Fe and almost immediately after the death of Governor Valdés, Rosas was stabbed to death in his cell under very peculiar circumstances. It was declared that he had been on too intimate terms with the wife of one of the soldiers, and whether or no this was true, she was discovered in his cell—this compromising situation however, was doubtless due to the desire to be rid of Rosas and it is generally conceded that he was "framed."

This unfortunate affair and the quarrels between the religious and civil authorities, did not pass un‑noticed by the Indians and certainly had a tendency to weaken their respect for the Spaniards.

News of the death of Valdés and the murder of Rosas reached Mexico City sometime in November of 1641; and the viceroy took immediate action by appointing another man as governor of New Mexico and hurrying him north to Santa Fe. Meanwhile, the town council had assumed full authority for the government of the province.

Thus the term of Valdés was the shortest of any Spanish governor from the spring of 1641 to the autumn of the same year.

REFERENCES:

Spanish Institutions of the Southwest, by Frank W. Blackmar, Ph.D. The John Hopkins Press 1891.

The Memorial of Fray Alonso de Benavides 1630. Translated by Mrs. Edward E. Ayer. Annotated by Frederick Webb Hodge and Charles Fletcher Lummis. Privately printed in Chicago 1916.

New Mexico History and Civics by Lansing B. Bloom, A.M. and Thomas C. Donnelly, Ph.D. University Press, Albuquerque 1933.

"Problems in the Early Ecclesiastical History of New Mexico." Reprinted from the New Mexico Historical Review January 1932.

The Coming of the White Man 1492‑1348 by Herbert Ingrain Priestley. Macmillan Co. New York 1929.

A History of New Mexico by Charles F Coan, Ph.D. The American Historical Society, Inc. Chicago and New York. 1925.

Quivira by Paul A. Jones. McCormick‑Armstrong Co., Wichita, Kan.