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Fernando de Villanueva y Armendaris

Governor Fernando de Villanueva

by Rick Hendricks, Ph.D

Fernando de Villanueva y Armendaris was born in San Sebastián in the Spanish Basque province of Guipúzcoa to Fernando de Villanueva y Armendaris and Clara de Irigoyen.[1] Nothing is known of his childhood, but he was probably still a teenager when he enlisted as a soldier in the Royal Armada of the Ocean Sea in 1630.[2] That he received extra pay in the amount of two gold escudos was testament to the status of his family. He continued in that post until 1634 when he became an alférez in the Army of Catalonia. He was a participant in the defense of Leocata in Catalonia against the besieging French until the army he was serving in withdrew, and his company reformed. With the permission of his commanding general, the Duque de Cardona, Villanueva went to serve in the Royal Armada of the Indies under the command of Carlos de Ibarra in April 1637, enlisting as a soldier. In that capacity he participated in the pacification of the Algarve in southern Portugal. From that engagement, Villanueva went to the presidio on the island of San Martín in the Caribbean Sea, carrying a letter related to the royal service for the island's governor.[3]

The governor ordered Villanueva to remain on San Martín as a soldier. Because of his valor and bearing, the governor named him alférez and later sargento mayor of the island's presidio. On four occasions Villanueva traveled some 150 miles to the island of Puerto Rico to obtain much needed supplies. Three of these voyages resulted in fights with the enemy during one of which he received two wounds. On another occasion he dismantled the enemy fortification on the island of Anguilla, carrying off two artillery pieces. Villanueva undertook reconnaissance of the surrounding islands on numerous occasions. Once he discovered an enemy ship hiding in a cove on San Martín. The governor sent Villanueva in a launch with fifteen soldiers to confront the enemy. He captured the ship and returned to port with his prize, which mounted eight cannon. He sold the ship and armament in Puerto Rico with the proceeds going to the Crown.

Leaving San Martín, Villanueva set out for Nueva Vizcaya. There he took up the post of justicia mayor and capitán a guerra of the mines of Guanaceví and San Pedro on the Tepehuán frontier. Through prudence and an infusion of his own funds, Villanueva made peace with the rebellious Tepehuán Indians. As a result he was able to increase the royal fifth, a tax on mining production. When warfare broke out he fulfilled his duty and did as ordered. This was borne out in his residencia, the official review of his term in office. Although some charges were lodged against him, he was found to have been a good judge. With the permission of the governor of the province, Villanueva returned to naval service, enlisting in the Armada de Barlovento, the fleet assigned the role of protecting Spain's New World possessions.

When the Armada de Barlovento returned to Spain Villanueva traveled to Catalonia where he participated in the relief of Lérida in 1644, a campaign in the Thirty Years' War. The following year he served as a self-financed adventurer for the Crown. Upon his return the king issued a royal decree that Villanueva should be consulted regarding any posts that became vacant. On 22 March 1646, he reenlisted as a soldier in the Armada de Barlovento.[4] When the fleet arrived in Veracruz, Villanueva became ill and remained there with the permission of the commanding general.

On 14 September 1647, the viceroy of New Spain, the Conde de Salvatierra, named Villanueva alcalde mayor and capitán a guerra of the provinces of Autlán and the ports of La Navidad and El Cabo. In consideration of his services in these posts, the king recommended Villanueva to the Conde de Alba de Aliste, then viceroy of New Spain, in a royal cedula dated 14 May 1651, ordering the viceroy to employ Villanueva in positions in which he could honorably advance the royal service. On 25 August 1653, a new viceroy, the Duque de Alburquerque named him captain of the soldiers of the presidio of the villa and province of San Sebastián Chiametla and Acaponeta in Nueva Vizcaya.

Because the Indians were at war in Chametla and Acaponeta, on 21 November 1654, Villanueva departed San Sebastián with a contingent of presidial soldiers on campaign. In that year and the following year, Villanueva made a tour of inspection of the pueblos in his jurisdiction because priests had informed him that there were Indians who wanted to rebel. He calmed them down, which lead Jesuit priests to remark that in the previous twenty-three years no one had inspected those pueblos, certainly not in the season of rain and rising rivers over very rough roads as was the case with Villanueva.

On 12 September 1659, Viceroy Alburquerque named Villanueva judge protector of the Guachichil (one of the Chichimeca tribes) and Tlaxcaltecan Indians settled in Saltillo. He served in that post from 15 November 1659 until 1 December 1661. During that period was did not absent himself from the town. In addition to his job as protector of the Indians, Villanueva was responsible for the royal warehouses in Saltillo. He performed his duties all the while keeping the peace on the frontier, protecting the Indians from the great invasions of rebel frontier Indians. When such uprisings occurred, he sallied forth to punish those who had killed and robbed. He sent out five companies with troops made up of Spaniards and Indians in pursuit of the perpetrators, capturing some native children. The children were subsequently returned in exchange for the promise of peace. All this was done at no expense to the royal Crown and considerable to Villanueva. To ensure the peace he doled out clothing and supplies to forty-five captives before returning them to their homes.

 In consideration of this service, the viceroy of New Spain, the Marqués de Mancera, named Villanueva governor and captain general of the Provinces of New Mexico on 14 January 1665. Villanueva was to fill the vacancy created when Governor Juan de Miranda was removed from office because of complaints lodged against him by leading New Mexicans such as Tomé Domínguez de Mendoza.[5] Villanueva took up the governorship on 10 March 1665 and served the post for three years and 265 days, from 10 March 1665 to 29 November 1668. During his time in office in Santa Fe, Villanueva discovered what he described as a plot that the Pueblos and Apaches had been hatching for a decade to carry out a general uprising throughout the colony. The rebels aimed to kill the governor and priests and take as servants the Christianized Indians. According to Villanueva, the Indians had named a captain general of their own and begun to worship another man, following the evil doctrine of their ancestors. All this they had done with such art that had the governor not found them out it would have brought about the ruin of the colony. Five soldiers and six Christian Indians died at the rebels' hands in the Magdalena Mountains.[6] Another half-dozen individuals were poisoned.

As soon as Governor Villanueva learned of their plans, he arrested the principal plotters. Without consideration of the inclement weather, his advanced age, or his illness he made his way to the Piro pueblo of Senecu will all possible stealth and alacrity because most of the harm emanated from that pueblo. There he had the six leaders of the planned uprising shot, and he punished other conspirators, burning their many idols, instruments of witchcraft, and poisons.[7] Likewise he punished the people of Socorro Pueblo because they were complicit in the planned revolt. After punishing Senecu and Socorro, Villanueva offered a general pardon to all others who were involved in the rebellion. He returned to Santa Fe and then went on to visit all the pueblos in his jurisdiction in order to leave the province at peace and cleansed of idolatry.

 In light of his exploits, either Governor Villanueva himself or the cabildo of Santa Fe at his instigation suggested that he should be granted the honorific title of Restorer of the Kingdom for his efforts in averting a disastrous Indian rebellion. Villanueva's residencia as governor of New Mexico declared him to be a good, clean, and upright judge who did not fail to fulfill his duty in administration, justice, or war.

Villanueva went on to become alcalde mayor of Huauchinango, a large jurisdiction in what is now northern Veracruz and in the northeastern part of the present-day state of Puebla, until 1678.[8] Books in his possession at the time of his death and included in the inventory of his estate that was prepared following his death indicated that Villanueva was collecting and recording tribute payments from the pueblos of Zapotitlán.[9] The inhabitants of these pueblos were and are still Totonac people.

Villanueva died in Mexico City on 17 May 1679. In his will he named Bachiller Juan de Alzola, a fellow Basque, and Antonio Entrecanales as his executors and made several small bequests of a devout nature: one peso for the beatification of Gregorio López, one thousand sung masses for himself, his parents, and others in his charge; one hundred pesos to the Archicofradía del Santísimo Sacramento of the cathedral of Mexico City, of which he was a member; one hundred pesos to the Jesuit residence house in Mexico City; and one hundred pesos to the Congregation of La Purísima in the Colegio de San Pedro y San Paulo, S. J.

Villanueva left Antonio de Entrecanales y Zevallos jewelry, household belongings, clothing, a writing desk, and a tobacco pouch. He also bequeathed him eight hundred pesos and the outstanding debt owed by Huauchinango, which amounted to an additional two hundred pesos. His estate was in the hands of José Navarro. Villanueva had several outstanding debts. He was not current with the payment of the sales tax. He owed the abbot of Camargo, Spain, Domingo de la Puente, for the loan of one hundred pesos. He also owed Juan Díaz de la Calle y Madrigal for another one-hundred-peso loan that had enabled Villanueva to travel to New Spain. Finally, he owed the sectetary of the Conde de Medillín, Domingo Ruiz de Masmela, for the loan of three hundred pesos.

 Villanueva gave Father Alzola 75 pesos so that over the course of three months he would say masses for the repose of his soul at the rate of one peso per mass. Since Villanueva had no heirs, he provided that what remained after his estate was settled should pay for masses for San Antonio de Padua and other saints and the souls in Purgatory at the rate of one peso per mass.

The inventory of Villanueva's estate was prepared on 17 July 1679.[10] It included the following:

2   old trunks more than a vara in length with hardware, locks, and keys
3   old Brittany shirts
3   pairs of old, white Brittany underpants
3   used white Brittany jerkins
3   used bed sheets of superfine cotton cloth from Rouen
    a pillow and a small, used pillow of cotton cloth from Rouen
1   dress of black Chinese satin, old underpants, doublet, and sleeves
    Another used dress of black taffeta
    Another dress of black Castilian wool, old underpants and doublet
2   black capes, one of baize, the other of wool, both old
3   shirts of superfine cotton cloth from Rouen with torn sleeves of Brittany
2   used pairs of detachable Brittany sleeves
2   Italian satin jackets worked in shades of dark green with false gold buttons
1   used wool-filled, hemp cloth mattress
2   old bed sheets of cotton cloth from Rouen, a small cotton bedspread with small, delicate embroidery, burned in places
1   small battered trunk for chocolate with hardware and key of about a half vara in length
1   dress of locally made faded, eighteen-count wool, underpants and an overcoat lined in orange baize from Castile and a cape of the same
1   used, long, black, hooded cassock locally made
2   pairs of used silk stockings, one black and one orange
1   old Vizcayan set of a sword and dagger with fine silver hilts
2   black hats lined in taffeta
2   old brass candelabras
    a small copper box for chocolate
3   silver spoons
1   silver drinking tankard
1   small flask carrier with lock and key broken in many places and within it eight glass flasks with six lead screws
6   Chinese porcelain cups
2   writing desks made in Huauchinango[11] and one foot of the writing desk inlaid in lapis lazuli and orange with hardware, locks, and keys more than a vara in length
2   small, well-cared-for flintlocks
1   canvas of the painting of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Romana a half vara with its frame inlaid in cyan and orange with small rod and curtain of red taffeta
1   very old, burnt camp bed
1   ordinary wooden desk two varas long
2   old chairs in red sheepskin
     Debts without paperwork:
105 pesos   owed by fray José de Bernera San Agustín, minister of the pueblo of Xicotepec[12] for the loan of a she mule
26 pesos   Gaspar de San Juan, Indian governor of Huauchinango
24 pesos   Pablo Manrique de Castilla, casique of Huauchinango
    Agricultural products that form part of his estate:
    30 and a 1/2 fanegas of fine tobacco
    6 and a 1/2 wild tobacco
    600 cotton sheets of five varas and other smaller ones
    3 half-page books bound in parchment that belong to the pueblos of Zapotitlán in the jurisdiction of Zacatlán and Olintla of tribute payments in his possession




[1] Fernando de Villanueva, Will, Mexico City, 14 April 1679, Archivo General de Notarías, Mexico City, Notary Pedro de Castillo Grimaldo, 114, fol., 53r-55v.

[2] Captain Fernando de Villanueva, Service Record, Madrid, 1671, Archivo General de Indias, Indiferente 113:8.

[3] After the expulsion of the Spaniards, the island was divided between France and the Netherlands. Today it consists of the Collectivité de Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten.

[4] According to a certification of his service provided by the accountant of the Armada de Barlovento, Villanueva enlisted as a sargento mayor in the infantry company under the command of Captain Fabián de Ávila y Salazar on 7 March 1646. Captain Pedro Alonso Valdivieso, Certification, Sanlúcar de de Barrameda, 22 March 1646, Archive General de Indias, Indiferente 113:8.

[5] France V. Scholes, Troublous Times in New Mexico, 1659-1670 (New York: AMS Press, 1977), 220.

[6] According to Diego López Sambrano's testimony given in 1681, one of the Spaniards was the alcalde mayor of that district who was killed by an Indian called El Tanbulita, who was subsequently hanged. Charles W. Hackett, and Charmion Shelby, Revolt of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Otermín's Attempted Reconquest, 1680-1682 (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1942), 2: 299.

[7] López Sambrano stated that the six were hanged and that others were sold into slavery. Ibid.

[8] The scribe who recorded Villanueva's will recorded Guachinango, instead of Huauchinango. Guachinango was a colonial a mining center in the present-day Mexican state of Jalisco. Fernando de Villanueva, Will; and Peter Gerhard, A Guide to the Historical Geography of New Spain (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), 116.

[9] This community is now called Zapotitlán de Méndez and is not to be confused with the Zapotitlán located in the far south of the State of Puebla."Zapotitlán de Méndez," Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, (accessed 14 September 2010).

[10] When this document was consulted it was in the Archivo Judicial del Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal in Mexico City. Subsequently, this collection was moved to the Archivo General de la Nación. Inventory of the Estate of Fernando de Villanueva, Mexico City, 17 July 1679, Archivo Judicial del Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito y Territorios Federales, Sección Histórica.

[11] The scribe who recorded the inventory of Villanueva's estate also recorded Guachinango, instead of Huauchinango.

[12] Spaniards founded San José Xicotepec in 1570 among Totonac people. "Xicotepec," Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México, (accessed 14 September 2010).