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Commerce of the Camino Real: Trade Between Nueva Vizcaya and New Mexico Before the Pueblo Revolt

By Rick Hendricks

The traditional view of trade with the commercial centers of Nueva Vizcaya and New Mexico is limited to the triannual mission supply caravan and some limited participation by New Mexico's governors. The reality is much more complex. Frontiers entrepreneurs from such communities as Parral and San Bartolomé were heavily involved in trade with New Mexico. Through their agents in Mexico City, they linked distant Santa Fe to the Spanish imperial trade system. All of New Mexico's pre-Revolt governors were active in this trade, which included locally produced goods and the infamous and lucrative traffic in Indian slaves. The Franciscan missionaries were also involved in this trade, moving woven goods produced in mission obrajes, as well as cattle on the hoof, to the mining centers of Nueva Vizcaya. A number of other prominent New Mexicans had an interest in this trade. In Nueva Vizcaya the Portuguese merchant, Francisco de Lima, was the dominate figure in the New Mexico trade. This essay will examine this commercial network from the perspectives of New Mexico and Nueva Vizcaya.

Sometime in the late 1640s or early 1650s, an unusual meeting took place in New Mexico. Present were fray Tomás Manso; his half-brother, Juan Manso; Juan's nephew, Pedro Manso de Valdés; and fray Juan González. What made this gathering of Spaniards notable was the fact that they had all been born in the small Asturian town of Santa Eulalia de Luarca, a port on the Bay of Biscay, and that out of this small group of paisanos would come a bishop and a governor who later became the epitome of a frontier entrepreneur.

Juan Manso began his career in New Spain working with his sibling in the New Mexico mission supply service, probably in 1652. Father Manso was named procurator and in this capacity managed the New Mexico mission supply system from about 1630 until around 1655. Wagon trains formed the lifeline between the missions and settlements of New Mexico and the northern trade centers in New Spain. Initially, agents acting for the viceroy purchased supplies and turned them over to the Franciscans for transport to New Mexico. This system resulted in goods of irregular quality and interruptions in shipments north. In 1631, the Franciscans and the government formalized a contractual arrangement whereby the Franciscan procurator general purchased a standard list of products to be shipped to New Mexico, usually every three years. The treasury in Mexico City paid for the wagons and labor costs on the trip to New Mexico, and the Franciscans paid to maintain the wagons and crews while there were in New Mexico. Financial responsibility for the mules to haul the wagons also fell to the Franciscans. The existence of this regular and secure transportation system attracted the attention of entrepreneurs and civil authorities who sent private wagons along with the mission supply caravan.

Four years after beginning work with the mission supply wagons, Juan Manso secured a much loftier position. From 1656 to 1659 he was governor of New Mexico, a period that is poorly understood because of the dearth of documentation available. After concluding his term of office, Manso lived for a time in Mexico City. In 1661, he departed the viceregal capital with a commission from the Inquisition to arrest New Mexico governor Bernardo López de Mendizábal (1659-61). Manso completed this task in the spring of 1663 and relocated to Parral in Nueva Vizcaya. From that year until his death in 1671, Juan Manso was the administrator of the New Mexico mission supply wagons. During this period he emerged as an important figure in the northern frontier commercial center of Parral.

Juan Manso, fray Tomás Manso's younger sibling, arrived in New Spain sometime between 1648 and 1652, probably in the company of his nephew, Pedro. Juan was a part-time resident of the frontier by 1652-53, at which time he in charge of the day-to-day operations of the New Mexico mission supply wagons. His half-brother, fray Tomás, who was in overall charge of the wagons in 1653, must have been instrumental in securing the job for his younger sibling. In 1656, having had no previous government service, Juan Manso became governor of New Mexico, at the relatively young age of twenty-eight. It seems probable that the considerable prestige of Juan Manso=s older brother, Tomás, must have weighed heavily in determining the selection of Juan Manso as governor of New Mexico. After completing his term in office in 1659, incoming governor Bernardo López de Mendizábal imprisoned Manso in Santa Fe.

In the fall of 1660, Manso escaped from New Mexico to Mexico City. Subsequently, Juan Manso was made alguacil, or constable of the Holy Office in New Mexico. It seems likely that he welcomed the opportunity to exact a measure of revenge on Governor López. Manso left Mexico City in the fall of 1661, bound en route for Parral. Manso did not return to the frontier empty-handed. In September 1661, Manso received slaves on consignment from Juan de Salinas an official at the royal treasury of Mexico City. He sold one of Salinas's slaves in Parral in early 1662. Manso may well have had additional slaves with him, since it was common for prominent travelers going north to consign slaves for the lucrative Parral market.

Even as a twenty-five-year-old foreman with the New Mexico mission supply wagons, Captain Juan Manso had been involved in the slave trade. New Mexico governor Juan de Samaniego y Jaca (1653-56) sent Apache slaves to Parral in the winter of 1653 with Captain Manso. As governor, Manso himself had enslaved an Indian named Juan Zuñi for ten years for allegedly serious crimes, thefts, and robberies he had committed at the Hopi pueblo of Awátovi. The services of such slaves could be sold or "transferred" for a customary fee of fifty to a hundred pesos.

The Pueblo Indian warriors and entrepreneurs of Picuris appear to have been particularly active in the Apache slave-catching business. Apache slaves whom the Picuris and other Pueblos captured or purchased were usually traded to Hispanic middlemen and Santa Fe governors for cattle and other livestock. Governor Juan Manso, for example, received Apache slaves from the Indians of Picuris; Juan Varela de Losada, alcalde mayor of Cochiti; and Luis Martín Serrano, alcalde mayor of the Tewa district. Numerous Apache, Ute, and Pawnee slaves from New Mexico were manumitted in the early 1660s in Parral and Sonora, including Apaches whom Governor López had allegedly stolen former Governor Manso. Each freed slave cost a governor fifty to a hundred pesos in lost revenue. Even after they had served the term of their sentence, former Indian slaves in the Parral district did not freely return to their homes. Many wound up working as ranch hands and laborers in silver refining haciendas where they spent the remainder of their lives doing backbreaking menial labor for four or five pesos a month. Not surprisingly, some turned to a life of crime.

Some of Governor Manso's Apache captives taken to Parral in early 1659 were distributed by Manso's Parral agent, the Portuguese merchant Francisco de Lima. Arguably, Lima, who had been born in Vila Viçosa, Portugal, about 1612, was the most important figure in the New Mexico trade. Vila Viçosa is located just west of Badajoz, in Extremadura and is about ninety miles northwest of Llerena, the hometown of the prominent New Mexican, Pedro Durán y Chávez, the elder. Lima had arrived in Parral as a pharmacist, and later became a successful merchant, farmer, and rancher. In addition to Manso, Lima served as the business agent in Parral of several other New Mexico governors and provided credit and financial assistance to several New Mexico-based traders, including Pedro Durán y Chaves the second.

When Juan Manso became administrator of the supply wagons he evidently concluded that the contract allowed him a fair amount of discretion in regard to the use of the wagons. Stating it simply, he planned to use many, if not most, of the mission supply wagons for commercial freighting. Historian France V. Scholes wrote that Manso was to be given twenty wagons and would be paid eight hundred pesos per wagon (sixteen thousand pesos) every triennium. At the time of his death in November of 1671, however, Manso controlled thirty-six wagons and 576 mules, which would have made a considerable difference in the sum of money he was paid per shipment. Perhaps the contract had been modified at some point between 1664 and 1671. The number of wagons provided had a direct bearing upon Manso's capabilities in the area of custom freighting. The more wagons he ran, the more leeway he had for commercial activities.

Because of their economic status, it was not uncommon for Juan Manso, Pedro de Andrade, José Mejía, and other prosperous freighters to have accounts with some of Mexico City's most affluent silver merchants and financiers, men such as José de Retis, Bonifacio de Arxiles, José de Quesada, Luis Sáenz de Tagle, and others. Andrade, Domingo de la Puente's conveyor, owed Retis sixty-one hundred pesos in 1676. José Mejía de Aguilar, a native of Jerez de los Caballeros--who owned thirty-four freight wagons, about twelve hundred mules, slaves, and so forth--owed Retis five hundred pesos that same year. In November of 1671, at the time of his death in Querétaro, Juan Manso owed more than three thousand pesos to the Mexico City silver merchant.

Interlocking genealogies and business alliances, such as those involving the Durán y Chávez, Baca, Jorge, and Lima families of New Mexico and Parral provide crucial insight into the workings of the social and commercial processes on the frontier. Pedro Durán y Chávez II, born about 1611 in New Mexico (the son of Pedro Durán y Chávez and Isabel Baca Bojórquez) was a resident of the Parral district during the early 1650s, where he had developed friendships and business dealings with individuals such as Toribio de Ebía and Antonio Rodríguez. Ebía was a native of San Julián, in Asturias, and the executor of his estate was Capt. Domingo Lorenzo, a close friend of Agustín Durán y Chávez of New Mexico during the 1660s.

Antonio Rodríguez, a native of Cuencamé, was also a business associate of Pedro Durán y Chávez II of New Mexico. Pedro Durán y Chávez's commercial benefactor in Parral during the early 1650s was Francisco de Lima. Durán y Chávez was described as a citizen of the Parral district in November of 1652 and a resident there two yeals later. Between early November of 1652 and December of 1654, Lima loaned Durán y Chávez more than two thousand pesos in cash and merchandise, presumably for trading expeditions to New Mexico.

By the early 1640s, Francisco de Lima had become an provisioner to several of Parral's silver refiners. Beginning around that time Lima participated in a commercial partnership with Capt. Domingo de Apresa y Falcón. According to Apresa=s 1675, he owed Lima eight thousand pesos from the proceeds of undisclosed mercantile activities.

Many, if not most, of the trading expeditions initiated by the New Mexico traders and merchants of Parral took place toward the ends of the Santa Fe governors' terms, when the latter were beginning to run low on merchandise. In February 1652, Francisco de Lima loaned Andrés López de Gracia of New Mexico more than two thousand pesos' worth of trade merchandise. López de Gracia, a freighter, sheep rancher, and Apache slave trader from New Mexico's Isleta jurisdiction, was acting for New Mexico governor Hernando de Ugarte y la Concha in the period 1649-53. As constable of Parral during the 1650s, it was Francisco de Lima's job to receive Indian slaves sent from New Mexico. Fray Juan Ramírez, who managed the New Mexico mission supply wagons from 1657 until 1664, appointed Francisco de Lima syndic for the Franciscans in early 1660. It appears that the two men also had a business partnership, for which Father Ramírez was later punished.

Francisco de Lima owned a substantial agricultural properties in the Parral region, including a sizeable farm at San Bartolomé and two cattle ranches. On one of them he pastured two thousand cattle. Ambrosio Sáez, possibly the cousin of Ambrosio Sáez of New Mexico, was Francisco de Lima's cattle foreman in 1675, a position that paid him a modest annual salary. Agricultural reports reveal that fray. Francisco de Ayeta, Custodian of New Mexico during the late 1670s, had miscellaneous livestock accounts with Lima's ranching operations.

Francisco de Lima was the friend and relative of Manuel Jorge of Parral, the father of Antonio Jorge de Vera, the elder, of New Mexico. Manuel Jorge was born about 1592, in Portuguese Tangier, North Africa, the son of Antonio Jorge and María Alvarez.17 He may have emigrated to the mining frontier of New Spain between 1615 and 1620, since, by the mid to late 1620s, he had become a merchant at Cuencamé. Sometime prior to 1632, Manuel Jorge married Ana de Vera of Cuencamé, the daughter of Capt. Gaspar de Vera (or Veira)18 and María Delgado. Gaspar de Vera had been constable of Cuencamé in 1604. Antonio Jorge de Vera, the eldest child of Manuel Jorge and Ana de Vera, was probably born at Cuencamé, around the year 1633. Manuel Jorge, Antonio's younger brother was born about 1636.

The silver discovery at Parral in 1631 led the Jorge family to relocate, and Manuel appears on a March, 1633 list of Parral retail merchants. Manuel Jorge and Ana de Vera baptized numerous children in Parral; Antonio Jorge de Vera had at least 9 siblings. Virtually all of the Jorge children's padrinos were individuals of Portuguese ancestry. Manuel Jorge lived in Parral for about 22 years, from 1633 until 1655. He wrote his will on 7 June 1655 and was buried in Parral on 18 September 1655. Francisco de Lima was one of the executors of Manuel Jorge's modest estate. According to Manuel's will, Antonio Jorge was already a resident of New Mexico by June 1655.  

At about age twenty, Antonio Jorge de Vera left Parral and emigrated to New Mexico during the term of Gov. Hernando de Ugarte. He had arrived in New Mexico by 1652 or 1653, at which time he married Gertrudes Baca, the cousin of Pedro Durán y Chávez II. Antonio Jorge de Vera, the younger, son Antonio Jorge de Vera, the elder, and Gertrudes Baca, was born around 1654 at El Alamo, four to five leagues south of Santa Fe. At some point prior to 1680, the Jorge family moved to Albuquerque's north valley, where they established a modest ranch in the vicinity of present-day Los Griegos.  

In late November 1644, Francisco de Lima was married in Parral to María Gonzales, the daughter of Capt. Domingo Gonzales and Regina de Vera. Regina was the sister of Ana de Vera, Manuel Jorge's wife; therefore, Francisco de Lima was Manuel Jorge's nephew by marriage. Domingo Gonzales and Regina de Vera acted as godparents for Ana Jorge de Vera, daughter of Manuel Jorge and Ana de Vera in1639. Capt. Domingo Gonzales, was born around 1592 in Portuguese Tangier. Some time before 1642, Captain Gonsales, became the business agent for fray Tomás Manso and fray Juan de Salas of New Mexico. Fathers Manso and Salas disposed of mission-manufactured clothing and inexpensive, low-end woven goods at Gonsales's store in San Bartolomé, the center of commercial activity in northern New Spain and principal market for New Mexican products before the 1631 silver strike in Parral. As administrative agents of the missions, Fathers Manso and Salas were acting essentially as businessmen, whose primary concern was the proper management of their accounts and the timely liquidation of their export goods.

The Mexico City agent for Manuel Jorge and Domingo Gonzales was Francisco Franco Moreira, the wealthy Portuguese merchant who was persecuted and expropriated by the Inquisition in the 1640s. Moreira and his associate, Amaro Díaz de Maturana, were among the many Mexico City brokers who exchanged refined silver for specie, which they shipped north to Parral.

In 1643 don Fernando de Argüello y Carvajal, not yet governor of New Mexico, rented an hacienda belonging to the aforementioned Simón Váez Sevilla, the Portuguese merchant, who had more than one hundred thousand pesos' worth of property confiscated by the Inquisition.

Countless individuals emigrated to the New World between 1580 and 1640, when Spain held Portugal captive, many part of the general of Iberian emigration, others fleeing anti-Jewish attitudes and policies. More than forty adult males of Portuguese ancestry in the Parral district---including the two from North Africa, Manuel Jorge and Capt. Domingo Gonzales---were compelled to register by the government in 1642. In some senses this registration was evidence of a wave of Lusophobia that swept the Spanish Indies in the 1630s and 1640s that grew out of the marked tendency in seventeenth-century Spanish America to confuse Portuguese with Portuguese New Christian and crypto-Jews. In another sense, the registration was an act of allegiance to the Spanish grown in light of the Portuguese restoration in 1640.

Although the evidence is circumstantial, it seems logical to conclude that some of the Portuguese of Parral had New Christian ancestry. Some may have been crypto-Jews. Indeed, many of Parral's most conspicuous Portuguese demonstrated their loyal to the Church in overt ways. Domingo Gonzales and Gregorio de Carvajal, assumed responsibility for the completion of the church in Parral, which might have been an effective survival strategy. Two of Francisco de Lima's sons, Lic. Domingo de Lima and Lic. Pedro de Lima, became prominent clerics. Two of the conservators of Francisco de Lima's estate were Father Joseph de Morón, a Parral priest, and fray Andrés de San Antonio. Nevertheless, in the minds of some of their Spanish neighbors, the simple fact that these individuals---Gonsales, Carvajal, Lima, et al.---were Portuguese made them suspect.

Francisco de Lima was a close associate of Capt. Domingo Lorenzo of Parral, a native of Caminha, Portugal and the husband of María Jorge, sister of Capt. Antonio Jorge de Vera of New Mexico. Caminha, Portugal, located on the northern coast opposite Tui in Galicia. Captain Lorenzo was established as a merchant in Parral at least as early as March of 1644. During the early to mid-1650s, he owned a smelting refinery at the outpost of San Antonio de Año Nuevo, which he appears to have acquired through foreclosure of the estate compadre, who owed him at least four thousand pesos.

By the mid-1660s Capt. Domingo Lorenzo had become alcalde mayor of San Francisco del Oro, near the town of Santa Bárbara, southwest of Parral. During the 1660s and 1670s, Capt. Lorenzo operated a smelting refinery at San Francisco, the Hacienda de Santo Domingo. However, as a result of financial reverses Capt. Lorenzo lost this hacienda in the fall of 1676. The Hacienda de Santo Domingo---a run-down facility employing 42 laborers in the late 1670s---was later acquired by a cousin of Sargento Mayor Ambrosio Sáez de Chávez of New Mexico.

Agustín Durán y Chávez, son of Don Fernando Durán y Chávez of New Mexico, witnessed the July, 1664 testamento of Capt. Domingo Lorenzo. Domingo Lorenzo was a close friend of Miguel de Noriega, a Parral merchant in the 1650s and a native of San Vicente de la Barquera, in the Spanish province of Santander. In 1652 in Parral, Capt. Lorenzo acted as godfather to Mariana Noriega, the daughter of Miguel de Noriega and Josefa de Chávez. That fall, Noriega and a Mexican freighter named José de las Mariñas brought almost four thousand pesos' worth of trade goods to New Mexico. This merchandise had been obtained from two Parral merchants, Juan de Salaíces (Gov. Peñalosa's agent) and Joseph López Noble.

Miguel de Noriega had mercantile accounts with Maestre de Campo Antonio Urrutia de Vergara of Mexico City, a business associate of Fernando de Valdés Llanos of Parral. Urrutia, whose father was a native of Vergara, in Guipúzcoa, was one of Mexico City's most prominent wholesalers and venture capitalists. Sometime before 1659, Miguel de Noriega became acquainted with the new governor of New Mexico, Bernardo López de Mendizábal, later serving nineteen months as López' governmental secretary in Santa Fe. Before long, Noriega grew weary of López' political tactics and, by 1660-61, had formed alliances with Juan Manso and Gov. Diego de Peñalosa. By the winter of 1664, he was again living in the Parral area, at which time he was teniente to the alcalde mayor of Santa Bárbara.

In many ways, Juan Manso was the embodiment of the European Spaniard in the New World in the seventeenth century. When Juan joined his older half-brother in New Spain--surely in pursuit of fortune--he was following a pattern well established among peninsular Spaniards. Through fray Tomás Manso's considerable influence, Juan gained a job as the leader of the New Mexico supply wagons. Like so many of his countrymen, Juan also sought advancement in public office. Relying once again on the growing influence of his brother, he secured the governorship of New Mexico. While he may have gained a certain prestige as a provincial governor, Manso found no riches in New Mexico. He then turned to commerce, a field where he quickly demonstrated his business acumen. His experience with the supply wagons serving New Mexico had taught him that the commercial capital of the north was Parral, and there he established contact with other Spaniards, notably with prosperous paisanos from Asturias and others from elsewhere in the north of Spain.

Ever the frontier entrepreneur, Manso was always in the thick of things, resourceful, and opportunistic. He did not scruple to engage in shady activities. From his early days in the north, he was involved in the Indian slave trade in what must have been its heyday in the 1650s. At the time of his death, he had been a successful, recognized member of the Parral commercial community for nearly twenty years. By almost any measure, his decision to try his hand at the Indies had proven to be a wise one.

Without the financial backing of Francisco de Lima, who, by the mid-1650s, was the most knowledgeable individual in Parral in matters pertaining to the New Mexico trade, and other Parral merchants, however, the dusty freighters and of New Mexico, such as Juan Manso, would have found it impossible to engage in profitable trading ventures. In that respect, the financial patronage of Parral's merchants and entrepreneurs, Portuguese and Spaniards, may well have been the single most important feature of seventeenth-century New Mexico commerce.