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Diaspora from Northern New Mexico

By Samuel Sisneros

Twelve years after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, half of the refugees in El Paso del Norte returned to northern New Mexico. Those who stayed either remained in the refugee colonies or migrated further into Chihuahua and established new communities along the Camino Real. They opened and registered mines, settled large haciendas and strengthened trade connections that existed between New Mexico and southern Chihuahua especially with merchants in the southern most village of Parral. Migrations into central Chihuahua transplanted the legacies of several old stock New Mexican families including Chávez, Domínguez de Mendoza, Padilla, Ortega, Lucero, Gómez, Herrera, and others. These families became prominent in northern and central Chihuahua. Ironically, today many of their descendants are likely migrating from Chihuahua to New Mexico, reconnecting to their ancestral and historical roots. This recent immigration together with past migrations into and out of New Mexico demonstrates that the Camino Real had continuous movement as a result of the push and pull of war, famine, political loyalties, economic opportunities and family ties.

Indigenous migrations and Spanish expeditions previous to the Pueblo Revolt established the Camino Real as a road of migration and commerce. Communities in Chihuahua are at the nexus of travel between Meso-America and the greater Southwest. Native American groups including Apache, Chichimeca, Suma, Jocome, Humano, Manso and Ancestral Pueblo peoples traversed the northern Chihuahua and El Paso del Norte area prior to the arrival of Spanish. Centers of trade including Paquimé in present day Casas Grandes, Chihuahua were aligned with northern counterparts like Chaco Canyon and in the south with the great civilizations in and around Mexico City. Indigenous groups, both north and south were inevitably destined to encounter Spanish Conquistadores and missionaries. Early excursions in the area by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1534), Fray Marcos de Niza (1539) and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1540) opened the area to exploration and conquest. The quest for gold and silver lead to the establishment of mines in Santa Barbara, and other settlements in the southern region of Chihuahua such as Hidalgo de Parral in 1567. Hidalgo de Parral experienced its own silver mining boom in 1631. After expansion and settlement in southern Chihuahua a small party of Spanish soldiers and Franciscan missionaries (Rodríquez-Chamuscado expedition) , was sent from Santa Barbara in 1581 to explore lands to the north, becoming the first Spanish explorers to visit the El Paso del Norte area and interact with the native people. The Rodríquez-Chamuscado expedition and the Espejo expedition party of 1582, stimulated an interest in mining and missionary possibilities, which cleared the way for future Spanish/Mexican migration and settlement.

Nearly two decades later, the Viceroy of New Spain found a suitable candidate to colonize New Mexico for the crown. In 1595, Juan de Oñate from an elite family in Zacatecas, was given the contract for exploration and colonization. His father was a wealthy miner and his mother was the grand-daughter of Hernán Córtez and the great-grand-daughter of Moctezuma. In 1598 Juan de Oñate entered New Mexico near what would later become El Paso del Norte on the west side of the Rio Grande. Here he formally took possession of New Mexico. The Oñate colonizers, who were mostly from Mexico City, moved up river into northern New Mexico in search of gold for the crown and the souls for the church. El Paso del Norte remained a way station or paraje on the Camino Real for several years until Franciscan missionaries Fray Alonzo Benavidez and Juan Cabal gathered the surrounding Mansos Indians and built a small church in 1656. The parishioners of the church became the first inhabitants of El Paso del Norte now Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. From these humble beginnings, the mission church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was completed on January 15, 1668. El Paso del Norte was the midpoint between southern Chihuahua and Santa Fe and more importantly it was the river crossing and point of entry between north and south on a long established trade route. The El Paso area also became a refuge for the Piro Indians who abandoned the Salinas Pueblos of Quaray, Gran Quivira and Abó, in the Manzano Mountain because of drought and Apache raids. The Piro moved south first to the Socorro, New Mexico area and then to Senecú near El Paso del Norte.

While El Paso del Norte was having its slow beginning, the Spanish/Mexican/Mestizos that colonized northern New Mexico flourished for nearly one hundred years. Even though cultural and religious hybridization took place to various degrees with the native Pueblos and their Spanish/Mexican/Mestizo residents, especially the concept of compadrazco (deep extended ties through baptismal sponsorship) discord and conflict among the various tribes and pueblos eventually proved to be a strong deterrent to a harmonious coexistance. The Spanish crown's heavy-handed rule over its subjects especially towards the Pueblos escalated and propelled the Pueblo revolt of 1680. As a result of this conflict a significant number of Spanish/Mexican/Mestizo settlers were murdered causing those remaining along with Isleta Pueblo and other Indian allies to take flight down the Camino Real to the El Paso area.

The population of El Paso del Norte drastically increased by the mass exodus of refugees from New Mexico and resulting in the founding of the towns of Soccoro del Sur, Ysleta, San Lorenzo, and Senecú. Many arrived with only the clothes on their back and most endured hardships including famine and drought. Some never recuperated from this dislocation and yet, twelve years later, half of them decided to return and try their luck again in New Mexico. This "return migration" or reconquista as it is called was headed by Don Diego de Vargas Zapata de Luján Ponce de León in 1692. Newly recruited colonists from Zacatecas, some of whom were Mulatos, together with Native New Mexicans, returned to northern New Mexico. Those that remained in El Paso del Norte eventually contributed to the establishment of viable colonies along the Rio Grande and south along the Camino Real into central Chihuahua.

Some of the refugees had no intention to return to New Mexico because of the acquired elite status and economic mobility they had found in the El Paso area. The earliest New Mexican refugees to move out of El Paso del Norte and migrate further south were the Domínguez de Mendoza and Duran y Chávez families. Pedro Durán y Chávez II did not wait for the re-conquest of New Mexico but instead established a large hacienda in Tobaloapa (today Ciudad Guerrero, Chihuahua) by 1684. In the same year El Maestro del Campo, Tomé Domínguez de Mendoza II had a house at the Hacienda de los Sauces. Tomé Dominquez de Mendoza II and Pedro Durán y Chávez II, progenitors of many families in New Mexico, were related through marriage. Their extended Río Abajo families were among the elite in central New Mexico where they lived on large estancias in the area between Sandía and Isleta Pueblos. Even though Domínguez de Mendoza was accused of disserting the refugee colony in 1682, he, along with Pedro Durán y Chávez later attained permission to migrate farther into the interior of Nueva España. Other members of these families continued to receive permission to migrate south. Mateo Domínquez de Mendoza became the owner of the Hacienda de Basuchi south of Chihuahua City (San Francisco de Cuellar) as it was originally called.

Giving credence to some New Mexicans' growing social status in Mexico, almost all documents list the Chávez and Domínguez de Mendoza clans as Españoles. They were not necessarily from Spain but rather they were the elite who achieved this racial/social status of Spanish through military or political service or economic positioning. In 1709 Cristóbal Chávez and his wife Juana Cortez baptized their child Matea Gertrudes (Española) in the church of San Felipe de Cuellar (Chihuahua City). And in 1716 Andrea Gertrudes, was baptized also in the same church. She was listed as Española, daughter of don Pedro Ortiz de Escudero and doña María Páez Hurtado. Doña María was the daughter of the famed Juan Páez Hurtado. The godparent of the wedding was doña Magdalena Páez Hurtado, another daughter of Juan Páez Hurtado.

Juan Páez Hurtado was the expedition leader in 1695 that provided colonists from Zacatecas for the resettlement efforts of Diego de Vargas. Páez Hurtado became the Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico under the Vargas administration. In Santa Fe, it later surfaced that Páez Hurtado was involved in fraud back in Zacatecas where he enlisted colonizers under assumed names and collected payments for absent colonizers.

The elites and their children entered into both old and new kinship networks in Chihuahua through marriage contracts, which reflected the social and economic status of both bride and groom. Various marriages took place throughout Chihuahua from Casas Grandes, Janos, Cusihuiriachi, the village of Chihuahua, Santa Eulalia, and as far south as Hidalgo del Parral. The records reveal that prior to and after the Pueblo Revolt there were marriages of New Mexicans in Parral and other Chihuahua towns not only among the elite but also between other castes. At Parral in 1678 Pedro Ortiz, a Mestizo (half Spanish/half Indian) from New Mexico, married Andrea Hernández, a native Mulata (half Spanish/half African) from Parral. Other individuals who were either deserters of the refugee colonies or were not willing to wait in El Paso del Norte for the organized return to New Mexico also appeared in church records in Chihuahua. In 1681 Juan de Santiago, Indian of New Mexico and resident of San Bartolomé, Chihuahua married Lucia, a local Indian woman. And in 1683 Pedro de Isaguirre, Indian from New Mexico also married an Indian from New Mexico named Antonia de la Cruz.

As demonstrated in the above marriage contracts, those who remained and settled in Chihuahua represented the ethnic diversity that existed in New Mexico previous to the revolt. This pattern also continued during and after the settlement of the refugee colonies. The pattern is revealed by the appearance of New Mexicans in marriage books from the parish of San Antonio de Cusihuiriachic (central Chihuahua district). Capitán Francisco de Archuleta a resident of Casas Grandes is listed as a Spanish native of New Mexico. He married Antonia Ramirez Acheros in 1683. Other New Mexicans listed from this social/racial class were Don. Joseph de Alvisu, son of don Felipe de Alvisu and María Abendaño. A native of New Mexico, Joseph de Alvisu married María Campusano, also a native of New Mexico. The couple resided in Papigochic, Chihuahua at the time of the marriage in 1684. Also in the same year, at Casas Grandes, the son and daughter of prominent head officials from New Mexico married. They were Juan de Salazar, and María de Trujillo. Juan's father was Bartolomé de Salazar, past mayor of Zuñí Pueblo and his mother was María de Inojos, an Indian from the same Pueblo. María de Trujillo was the daughter of Diego de Trujillo, also a past mayor of Zuni pueblo. Her mother was known simply as María and was most likely Zuni Indian. Another marriage between New Mexican elites took place in Papigochic in the year 1685. Sebastían de Herrera the son of Sargento Mayor Sebastían de Herrera, and doña Juana de Aragón, married doña Antonia Chávez daughter of Pedro Durán y Chávez II and doña Elena Domínguez de Mendoza. These New Mexico elites were refugees who migrated throughout Chihuahua and became members of the local communities through marriage.

Native Indian persons were also among New Mexicans recorded in the Cusihuiriachi church marriage registries. In 1689, Marcela de Carbajal, an Apache women from New Mexico, married a local Indian man. A marriage between two New Mexican Apaches, Diego de la Cruz, servant of Capitán Diego Arias de Rivera and Margarita de la Cruz, servant of Gregorio Valdez was officially recorded. In 1691 a marriage took place between Miguel Cristóbal, a Tigua Indian and Antonia Márquez, the Indian servant of Sargento Mayor Bernabe Márquez, a native Spanish New Mexican. The above mentioned names are a small sampling of sacramental records throughout the Chihuahua area that document the lives of New Mexicans during the entire eighteenth century. The village of Chihuahua was officially founded in 1712, at which time was recorded the marriage of Pedro Gómez, native of New Mexico and servant of Francisco Luján. He married María Martín Barba, resident of the village of Chihuahua and daughter of Juan de Díos Martín Barba (treated later in this essay) and Polonia Brito. Also one year latter in 1713 Antonio Padilla, native of New Mexico married María Rosa Luján, resident of Chihuahua. The documents recorded that New Mexicans participated in social functions as demonstrated in marriage and baptismal church records. Other archives give testimony that New Mexicans established themselves economically in the region.

Some New Mexico refugees sought riches and their place in society through mining activities and other commercial ventures. Juan Domínguez de Mendoza, son of Tomé Domínquez de Mendoza was successful as a miner at San José del Parral. He also found and registered mines in Cusihuiriachi and lived in Santa Eulalia until his death in 1733. Other New Mexicans registered some of the first mines at San Francisco del Cuellar and surrounding areas. In 1716 Tomás de Chávez, son of Pedro Durán y Chávez, Sebastían Herrera along with Juan Domínguez de Mendoza were listed as owning mines in San Francisco del Cuellar. Earlier in 1712 it is noted that don Tomás de Chávez was also a merchant and slave owner attesting to his adaptation and exploitation of mining society. Juana María de los Dolores was baptized in 1719 and listed as a Mulata slave of don Tomás de Chávez. Also early documents reveal that other New Mexicans like Luis José Durán y Chávez and Cristóbal Luján registered mines in Santa Eulalia in 1713.

Cristóbal Luján and Juan de Díos Martín Barba not only settled and registered mines in Santa Eulalia and the town of Chihuahua but their story continues as local legend. Rubén Beltrán Acosta, Chihuahua historian and poet, expressed this in El Parto de la Montaña when he eloquently wrote: (original Spanish followed by author’s English translation)


En el año del Señor de Mil Setecientos Cuatro,

In the year of the Lord 1704,

ya moraba en la Montaña de plata

lived in the mountain of silver

un indio “de razón”

an Indian of reason

Que habia llegado de la Nueva Mexico;

who had come from New Mexico;

era Juan de Dios Martín Barba,

He was Juan de Dios Martín Barba

y con el, muy cerca de su alma,

and very close to his heart,

un medio hijo suyo

was a stepson of his

llamado Cristobal Luján.

named Cristóval Luján.



Estos, quizá por el instinto

Perhaps by instinct or maybe

o tal vez por el color de su corazón,

because of the color of their hearts,

eran muy bien queridos

they were very much adored

por todos los naturales

by all the natives

de la region inhóspita

of this inhospitable region

y por eso,

and because of this

en un dia como este, les llevaron

they took them

por el ampio camino de una mañana

on a road one morning

para que vieran con sus ojos

so that they can see with their own eyes

las muchas flores de plata que

the many silver buttons

prodigas brotaban de la tiera.

that came out of the earth.


Como buenos indios, que lo eran,

Like the good Indians that they were

y como Buenos Cristianos, que ya no recordaban

and like good Christians, being that they

a sus Dioses morenos,

no longer remember their dark skin gods,

dieron aviso a la autoridad

they notified the authorities

de la Misión de Nombre de Díos

from the Nombre de Dios Mission church

y llamaron a su mina, San Francisco

and christened their mine, San Francisco,

porque, aunque este varon nunca se entendio con la plata,

because even though this mine hadn’t produced much silver

su santo nombre era suficiente

its holy name was sufficient enough

para que la tierra se abriera amplia y generosa ofreciera su bonanza pura, sin tepetape,

that the earth would open up to offer generous, and ample riches without impurities

a los dos pobres solos

to the two poor souls

que eran en verdad los descubridores.

who alone were the true discoverers.



Beltrán Acosta’s poem continues with a description of how Martín Barba and Luján registered additional mines in the area. Apparently the only extant primary source for this story is from a 1753 report by Antonio Gutiérrez Noriega to the King of Spain. This report is believed to be the most reliable source relating to the discovery of mines in the Chihuahua city area. It is difficult to reconstruct the lives of Juan de Díos Martín Barba and Cristóval Luján in New Mexico prior to the Pueblo Revolt. But it is certain that individuals with these names appear in pre-revolt New Mexico. The documents also reveal that the Luján family from northern New Mexico was indeed of Mestizo and Indian ancestry.

A Miguel Luján, was among the Vargas returnees and served as the tower guard in Santa Fe just after its retaking. He barely escaped with a son Cristóval, perhaps the same Cristóbal who was sent to live with Juan de Díos Martín Barba and Polonia Brito in Chihuahua. Given this information, it is possible that Polonia was first married to a member of the Luján family before Juan de Díos Martín Barba took her as his wife and her son or nephew Cristóbal Luján as his step-son as he was called in early accounts. The Britos of New Mexico were also of the same Indian/Mestizo class as the Lujáns. The Britos apparently were among the Indians from Análco, a Tlaxcala colony of Santa Fe, who were brought from Mexico with the Oñate colonization. The aforementioned offers the only conclusion that can be made of the identities of Juan de Díos Martín Barba and Cristóbal Luján given the scant documentation that existed prior to the Pueblo Revolt. In addition to documentary evidence to support the legend of Martín Barba and Luján, additional sacramental records and municipal accounts reveal that many New Mexicans established themselves in Chihuahua permanently.

New Mexicans as well as other groups who have lived along the Camino Real in New Spain prior to, during, and after the 17th and 18th are emblematic of the diversity and cultural interplay that is attracted to arteries of trade and commerce. The Camino Real was the conduit for cultural hybridity that included early native indigenous groups of the Americas, Tlaxcala Indians, Spanish conquistadores and missionaries, Mestizos and cultures of every type looking for land, trade goods, gold, and opportunities of every kind. These seekers included those from New Mexico who escaped with their lives in 1680 to found new colonies in the El Paso del Norte valley only to return again to New Mexico after a decade in exile.

From the Spanish/Mestizo elite to the Indian allies and Mulato slaves, native New Mexicans of all classes traveled south by foot, horse or wagon on the royal road where they expanded into central and southern Chihuahua. There they settled and continued old family ties and also started new kinships and commercial networks, registered mines and established large haciendas. These are the displaced people of 1680 who took part in the New Mexican diaspora.  Their story is one among many in a long history of people who continue to cross borders on the ancient throughway, the Camino Real, into and out of New Mexico.


Sources used:

Chihuahua Municipal Archives Microfilm 49, Roll 1, UTEP. San Felipe Cuellar Church Records, Chihuahua, Mexico. LDS Film #0162689

Santa Rosa de Lima de Cusihuiriachic church records. LDS Film # 162458

Origins of New Mexico Families: A Genealogy of the Spanish Colonial Period, Fray Angélico Chávez, Revised Edition, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 1992.

El Paso : A Borderlands History, W.H. Timmons, University of Texas at El Paso, 1990.

El Parto de la Montaña, Ruben Beltran Acosta, Ayuntamiento de Chihuahua, 1998.

Haciendas de Chihuahua, Guillermo Porras Muñoz, Gobierno del Estado de Chihuahua., 1993.

Emigrants and Society, Extremadura and Spanish America in the Sixteenth Century, Ida Altman, University of California Press, 1989.

Minería y sociedad en el centro minero de Santa Eulalia, Chihuahua (1709-1750), Phillip L. Hadley, Fondo de Cultra Ecomomica, Mexico, 1979.