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Francisco Martínez de Baeza, Biographical Sketch

Governor Francisco Martínez de Baeza, 1634-1637

By Rick Hendricks

Not much is known about the early life of Francisco Martínez de Baeza, although it seems probable that he was from the city of Seville.[1] He departed Mexico City on 4 July 1634 and arrived in New Mexico in late November 1634 when he took possession of the governorship.[2] According to France V. Scholes, Martínez de Baeza's principal aim as governor was personal enrichment by exploiting the Indians and Hispanic settlers. The Franciscans charged that the governor was neglecting his duties by organizing trading ventures and using Indian labor. Martínez de Baeza had the Indians out gathering piñón nuts, trading for hides, and weaving cotton mantas. His demands were so onerous that some pueblos had to trade with others to obtain sufficient cotton to produce the required cloth. He paid very poor wages and assessed a value on finished goods that was far below local market value. By the end of 1636 Martínez de Baeza had amassed enough of these products to fill nine wagons to be sent south to New Spain to trade.[3]

The Franciscans also charged the governor with neglecting the missions. He did nothing to facilitate conversion of the Indians or to enforce discipline. He forced Indians to work on religious feast days and demonstrated an utter lack of regard for the Franciscan authorities. Taken together, Martínez de Baeza's actions produced a very bad demonstration effect and led Indians and colonists alike to disdain the Franciscan's activities.

The most serious point of contention between the governor and the Franciscans related to the question of providing military protection for the Franciscans' missionary efforts. On 24 September 1636, Franciscan custodian, fray Cristóbal de Quirós, informed the governor of plans to reestablish the missions at Zuni and demanded military escorts for the friars who would be traveling there. Insulted by Father Quirós's tone, Martínez de Baeza refused to comply and demanded that the request be made in a more respectful manner. The resulting request from the Franciscan custodian did not strike a conciliatory tone and even escalated the situation by laying out what he considered to be the governor's responsibilities. The Franciscan stated that encomiendas had been granted and tribute required of the Pueblos in order to provide the means to pay for military escorts for the missionaries. The governor roared back that Father Quirós should present the proof of his assertions. He stated that the Franciscans themselves had maintained that conversion should be the product of apostolic means not military force.

In November 1636 the Franciscan custodian, fray Cristóbal de Quirós sent a packet of letters of protest against Governor Martínez de Baeza to the Viceroy Marqués de Cadereyta in Mexico City.[4] Fray Antonio de Ibargaray, writing from Pecos Pueblo offered a scathing critique of the governor.  

From the moment he became governor he has attended only to his own profit, causing grave damage to all these recently converted souls. He has commanded them to weave and paint great quantities of mantas and hangings. Likewise he has made them seek out and barter for many tanned skins and haul quantities of piñon nuts. As a result he has now loaded eight carretas with what he has amassed and is taking them and as many men from here to drive them to New Spain, thwarting everything His Majesty has ordered in his royal ordinance.

Thus, not since this governor took office, has a single pueblo been baptized. He has refused to lend support to the Faith. Instead he has sought in every way to insult with the ugliest words every minister His Majesty employs here in his royal service converting the natives. Likewise he has sought by force and violence to use the citizens of the villa of Santa Fe and its cabildo [municipal council], because they are poor people, to make utterly untrue reports against the religious of these provinces solely to discredit us with Your Excellency.[5]

Father Ibargaray added that one Sunday he had gone to preach at one of his charges to say Mass. Late the night before, the governor and some soldiers had arrived unexpectedly and unannounced. Unaware that the governor and his men were present, the Franciscan went ahead with the service. This caused Governor Martínez de Baeza to fly into a rage.

The governor did not sit idle while the Franciscans inveighed against him. Instead, he gathered evidence against his nemesis, the father custodian.[6] He alleged that Father Quirós and other Franciscans excommunicated people who did not attend mass on feast days. It was very inconvenient to track down the custodian to obtain absolution. He might have added that it was also humiliating.

Martínez de Baeza handed over the reins of government to his successor, Luis de Rosas, on 18 April 1637 and made his way to Mexico City. There, on 11 December 1639, he made his last will and testament.[7] He named as his executrix María Bribiesca, the widow of Pedro de Palencia. Palencia, a community north of Valladolid in central Spain, might well have been the ancestral home of the Martínez de Baeza family.[8] In his will, Martínez de Baeza left a bequest in the amount of fifty pesos to the Cofradía del Santísimo Sacramento of the parish of San Marcos in Seville. He also acknowledged debts owed to Sevillian merchants.


[1] Lorenzo Martínez Tejada, petition, Mexico City, [November, 1642], AGI, Contratación, 408-A, N.1, R.3.

[2] France V. Scholes, "Church and State in New Mexico," New Mexico Historical Review 11:3 (July 1936): 291 n. 7b.

[3] Ibid., 286-87.

[4] John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987), 155.

[5] Fray Ibargaray to the viceroy, 20 November, 1636, Archivo General de la Nación, Provincias Internas, 35, exp. 3. Ibid. The letter was published in Autos sobre quejas de los religiosos franciscanos del Nuevo México, 1636, ed. Vargas Rea (Mexico City, 1947),  25-28. Fernando Ocaranza, Establecimientos franciscanos en el misterioso reino de Nuevo México (Mexico City, 1934), 57-62, summarized the several friars' letters.

[6] "Church and State in New Mexico," 294 n. 19.

[7] Lorenzo Martínez Tejada, petition, Mexico City, [November, 1642].

[8] "Capitán Francisco de Baeza," (accessed 26 October 2010).