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Juan de Samaniego y Jaca, 1653-56

By Rick Hendricks

Born to Lorenzo de Samaniego y Jaca and Catalina Díez de Ulzurrun y Roncal in Estella in the Basque province of Navarra, don Juan de Samaniego y Díez de Ulzurrun Jaca y Roncal, donned the habit of the Order of San Juan de Jerusalén in 1637 after establishing the nobility of blood of his four surnames. Although nothing is known of his career before his arrival in New Mexico, he must have distinguished himself in his military career to warrant membership in a prestigious military-religious order, whose members were also known as Knights Hospitaliers.

Viceroy Francisco Fernández de la Cueva appointed Samaniego y Jaca governor of New Mexico. The viceroy issued what he considered appropriate instructions to Samaniego. Historian France Scholes noted that even though Samaniego had been described as “a virtuous and exemplary gentleman,” Franciscans in New Mexico denounced him, listing seventeen complaints against him.[ii]

During his during the administration Apaches raided the Jumano village east of Abó and carried off twenty-seven women and children.[iii] The governor sent an expedition under the command of Juan Domínguez de Méndoza to rescue the group. Reportedly, Domínguez rescued the captives and severely punished the Apache raiding party.

The year after the expedition against the Apaches, Navajos attacked Jemez, killing nineteen and carrying off thirty-five people.[iv] Samaniego dispatched a retaliatory expedition, again under the command of Domínguez de Mendoza. The Spanish troops surprised the Navajos during a ceremonial, killed several, captured 211, and released the captives taken from Jemez, which included a Spanish woman.

At some point Samaniego ran afoul of fray Antonio de Ibargary who seized the governor and threatened him. The cause of the Franciscan's ire was that he believed Samaniego had "trampled the church under foot" when he meted out punishment to the enemy Indians without first consulting with the priests.[v]

Samaniego's predecessor, Governor Hernando de Ugarte y la Concha, had dispatched Captains Hernán Martín and Diego del Castillo in 1650 on an expedition to travel among the Jumanos and explore the Jueces River region.[vi] Martín and Castillo returned to New Mexico after spending six months among the Jumanos. While there they gathered fresh water pearls, which they took back to Santa Fe. Governor Ugarte y la Concha sent the pearls to the viceroy in Mexico City with fray Antonio de Aranda. After consulting with the audiencia and his fiscal, the viceroy ordered the governor of New Mexico to send out another expedition to explore and report on the area that Martín and Castillo had visited. It fell to Samaniego to implement the viceregal order, and in 1654 Samaniego sent Diego de Guadalajara Bernardo de Quirós in command of an expedition of exploration to the Nueces River.

Bernardo de Quirós, a native of Oaxaca, had been imprisoned by Gov. Fernando de Argüello in the mid-1640s, but the early 1650s, however, he had become a sargento mayor and a general.[vii] The expedition consisted of two hundred Pueblo auxiliaries and thirty Hispanic soldiers. When Bernardo de Quirós and company arrived in Jumano country, the Jumanos asked them to join them in a military campaign against their Indian enemies to the southeast:  the Cuitoas, Aihados (Ayjados), and Escanjaques (of Escarjaquez) of central Texas.[viii]  Capt. Andrés López de Gracia, one of Bernardo de Quirós's commanders, attacked the Cuitoas, and confiscated two hundred bundles of skins and buffalo hides.

López and his men also took captives, one of whom ended up in Santa Fe with Bernardo de Quirós. The captive in question was a seven-year-old female slave, whom he had named Angelina. Her physical description indicated that she had a blue stripe in the middle of her forehead and miscellaneous tattoos on her lips and hands. The documents establishing the terms of her indenture papers had been drawn up in Santa Fe on 12 August 1654. On 17 December 1654, Bernardo de Quirós transferred Angelina doña Antonia de Alarcón Fajardo, the wife of Juan Lorenzo Bernardo de Quirós.[ix] Juan Lorenzo---a native of Argete, in the kingdom of Toledo---was one of Governor Samaniego's business agents in Parral.[x] Although the nature of his relationship to Diego de Guadalajara Bernardo de Quirós of New Mexico has not been determined, they were almost certainly close kin. In September 1655, Alarcón sent Angelina to Mexico City to Andrés de Fraga, a city councilman, in exchange for payment of a hundred pesos.  

 In 1656 when Samaniego was on his way out of New Mexico and headed for Mexico City, he tarried at the Manso mission in El Paso on All Soul's Day.[xi] He noted that the friars had established a church were services were held. There he confessed and took communion. Since this predates the founding of the mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the church to which Samaniego referred must have been subsequently replaced.

The former governor of New Mexico continued on his way south, stopping in Parral. In January 1657 he wound up his business relationship with Lorenzo Bernardo de Quirós who had received 1,785 skins from New Mexico from Samaniego, which had been forwarded to Juan Navarro de Pastrana in Mexico City in February 1655 in wagons belonging to Francisco de Maldonado. While in Parral, Sarmiento  granted power of attorney to Valerio Cortés del Rey, who had been his financial guarantor during his term of office in New Mexico.[xii]

Samaniego’s paternal grandparents were Martín de Samaniego and Inés de Jaca. His maternal grandparents were Martín Díez de Ulzurrun y Margarita Roncal. Fernando Muñoz Altea, Blasones y apellidos (Mexico City, Rey de Armas de la Real Casa de Borbón Dos Sicilias, 2002), 716; Aurea Lucinda Javierre Mur, Pruebas de ingreso en la Orden de San Juan de Jerusalén (Madrid: Patronato Nacional de Archivos Históricos, 1948), 190.

[ii] France V. Scholes, "Civil Government in New Mexico," New Mexico Historical Review 10:2 (April 1935): 89.

[iii] Donald E. Worcester, "The Bennings of the Apache Menace of the Southwest, New Mexico Historical Review 16:1 (January 1941): 9.

[iv] Frank D. Reeve, "Sweventeenth Century Navaho-Spanish Relations," New Mexico Historical Review 32:1 (January 1957): 46.

[v] John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico 1640-1840 (Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1979), 205.

[vi] S. Lyman Tyler and H. Darrel Taylor, "The Report of Fray Alonso de Posada in Relation to Quivira and Teguayo," New Mexico Historical Review 33:4 (October 1958): 295-96.

[vii] Chávez, Origins,  42-43.  Hackett, Historical Documents, vol. 3, p. 183.  AHP, 1645B, 550a, Francisco Domínguez' trip to Mex. City with a letter to the viceroy re. "Capt. Guadalajara."

[viii] The Ayjados may have been a Caddoan-speaking people who occupied the region between the Colorado and Brazos Rivers of central Texas. Benavides, Memorial of 1630, 278-79, n. 56.

[ix] Doña Antonia was the daughter of General Diego Alarcón Fajardo and Francisca de Torrez Quijada of Parral.  Antonia and Juan Lorenzo received a 10,000-peso dowry in November of 1654.  A Mexico City marriage entry of 6 September 1648 shows Gen. Diego Guajardo Fajardo, Governor of Nueva Vizcaya, marrying María de Silva y Salazar, the daughter of Gen. Fernando Nieto de Silva, Knight of Santiago, and María de Salazar.  Fernando mmay have been a relative of  Francisco Manuel Silva y Nieto,  governor of New Mexico from 1629 to 1632. 

[x] Juan Lorenzo Bernardo de Quirós, Will, Parral, 14 November 1654, Archivo Histórico de Hidalgo del Parral, r. 1669A, 518b-521a.

[xi] France V. Scholes, "The Supply Service of the New Mexican Missions in the Seventeenth Century, Part II, 1631-1664," New Mexico Historical Review 5:2 (April 1930): 194-95.

[xii] AHP, 1656A, 581b.