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Juan de Eulate, Biographical Sketch

Governor Juan de Eulate, 1618-1625: Another Look

By Rick Hendricks

In the opinion of most historians, Governor Juan de Eulate is best described in a quote from France V. Scholes, whom John L. Kessell considered the historian who knew Eulate best: [Eulate] was "a petulant, tactless, irreverent soldier whose actions were inspired by open contempt for the Church and its ministers and by an exaggerated conception of his own authority as the representative of the Crown."[1] Fray Pedro Zambrano Ortiz referred to Eulate as "a bag of arrogance and vanity without love for God or zeal for divine honor or for the king our lord, a man of evil example in word and deed who does not deserve to be governor."[2] Lansing B. Bloom, the other historian who wrote extensively about Eulate, had a similarly negative view. This depiction of Eulate, however justified, is the product of a reliance on Franciscan documents, and there was no love lost between Eulate and the Franciscans. As one might imagine, Eulate had a very different view of his own service in New Mexico. His characterization of his long term as governor has been preserved in a series of documents he and his brother presented to the Council of the Kingdom of Navarre. Even though they are obviously self-promoting, these documents offer an interesting counter to some of the charges leveled against Eulate by the Franciscans of New Mexico. As will be seen, Eulate's military superiors considered him a most honorable soldier. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was something of a war hero during his service in Flanders during the period of the Dutch Revolt. Royal officials believed him worthy of promotions and titles, and doubtless he believed it too. These documents also provide considerable detail about Eulate's family history. Additionally, the explosion of interest in genealogy in recent years has made available much more information about Eulate.

Juan de Eulate, the second son of Juan Álvarez de Eulate and doña Juana Martínez de Yarza, was born in 1583.[3] He was the owner of his ancestral home, the Palacio del Cabo de Armería de los Álverez de Eulate, in the place of Eulate, which was a community of fifty householders in the Valle de Amezcoa Alta. Eulate was located in the Kingdom of Navarre, one league from the Valle de Arana in Castile, two leagues from Álava, and three leagues from Guipúzcoa.[4]

Eulate began his royal service in Flanders where he went at his own expense in 1602. The Archduke Alberto gave him six escudos in addition to his regular salary, and he enlisted in the company of don Rodrigo Alonso Flores, of the tercio (mixed infantry formation) of Durango. The Archduke subsequently raised his supplemental pay to ten escudos because of his bravery. He participated in most of the siege of Ostend and fought on numerous occasions at his captain's side. He took part in other actions, notably on the day of the great enemy sally and when the dike of the Bredeño quarter was won. The day the platform was set fire Eulate was one of those chosen to put out the flames at great personal risk. He also took part in the capture of the ravelin called the Porcupine on 29 May 1604, where he demonstrated that he was among the most daring soldiers.[5] When the enemy set fire to the wooden poles of the second half-moon revelin, where there were three artillery pieces, he was one of four soldiers from his company selected to remove it. When the enemy set fire to the head of the dike that was next to the Porcupine, Sargento Mayor Bartolomé Hernández selected him to find out if there was any damage, and he returned with a favorable report. During the relief of Buena Vista, while he was on guard Eulate was wounded in the right hand by a musket shot. Later he was shot in the right upper back when he was a sentinel close to enemy lines in the Caballeros de Lemón.[6]  Eulate was alferez of the Company of Spanish Infantry of Captain don Bonifacio de Ceva. He then served with augmented salary in the two expeditions Marquis Ambrogio de Spinola made to Friesland; notably in the actions at Donsel, Singun, Groll, Rheinberg, at the fortresses of Belquerin, the relief of Groll, and all the labors of the Rhein, always acting with valor. In 1608 when there was a lull in warfare, the archduke granted Eulate permission to return to Spain. His superiors certified that he was a very honorable soldier who served with great punctuality and attention to duty.

After returning to Spain, the Council of War made him a captain in the fleet where he served until 1617 when he sailed to New Spain as an artillery captain. Having arrived in Mexico City, the Viceroy Marqués de Guadalcazar named Eulate governor and captain general of New Mexico on 31 December 1617. He was assigned a salary of two thousand pesos and given authority to place in encomienda as many Indians as he saw fit. The following year he journeyed to New Mexico taking with him, at his expense, some soldiers and priests. Whether Eulate's family accompanied him to New Mexico is unknown. He was married to doña María de Albizu y Díaz de Jáuregui and with her had three children: Juan Álvarez de Eulate y Albizu, baptized 23 July 1612; María Álvarez de Eulate y Albizu, baptized 27 April 1617; and Yerónimo Álvarez de Eulate y Albizu, baptized 14 May 1630.[7]

When he arrived in Santa Fe, Eulate found no Casas Reales, so he had them built at his own expense. This much improved the looks of the place. In New Mexico, Eulate destroyed the great pueblo of the Jumanos and pacified them. He also reduced the Jemez and Picuris to obedience. He personally calmed the province of Zuni, which was undergoing civil war among its peoples and left them at peace. Eulate brought from Zuni many Christian Indians whose faith was waning. He reduced the peñol of Acoma whose inhabitants had been in rebellion for twenty-six year, overcoming the obstacle of their impregnable fortress. They had been working to draw Christian Indians to the peñol and receiving fugitives. All the Indians paid their tribute punctually.

Eulate learned that on the plains, some 130 leagues distant from Santa Fe, there were buffalo, which had many advantages to the cattle of Spain. The meat and wool were better, as was the lard and tallow. Eulate went out on the plains with men  weapons to protect themselves from Indian attack. They took along a large goat herd so that in the event it was not possible to bring back adult buffalo, they could take newborns and raise them with the goatherd. After many hardships they captured fourteen bull calves and two females and returned to Santa Fe with them. After six months the young buffalos died because the goats' milk did not nourish them sufficiently. Eulate prepared another buffalo hunt but fell ill the day of its departure. By the fourth or fifth day he was so ill that his captains urged him to return to Santa Fe. He went on and brought back another dozen buffalo calves, males and females. Later, he took some of the buffalo with him to New Spain, three females and a male. He left them at Metepeque, six leagues from Mexico City because he had no way to ship them to Spain. Eulate had traveled with the buffalos for nine months over 550 leagues. He had planned to ship them with the fleet returning to Spain, but there had been no space available. Viceroy Marqúes de Gelves wrote to Eulate after seeing the buffalo to tell him that he thought they were a most appropriate gift to the King and worth all the effort to get them. Eulate should be the one to introduce them into Spain.

On 20 June 1626, more than six months after Eulate ceased to be governor of New Mexico, the cabildo of Santa Fe certified that Eulate had delivered to his successor a province at greater peace than it had ever enjoyed. They judged Eulate worthy of any honor the king might see fit to bestow on him and selected Eulate to be their Procurador General. Some native leaders also certified before the justicia of Santa Fe that during his time in government, Eulate defended them against their common enemy. He also supported them in the many problems the Indians had with the priests who imposed intolerable labor demands on them.

In his residencia of his seven-year term as governor of New Mexico only four charges were leveled publically, one that condemned him to pay four hundred pesos, which he did. None of the other public or secret charges were upheld, and Eulate was found to have been a good governor and captain general.

In 1630, Juan de Eulate was named governor of the island of Margarita, which is located off the coast of present-day Venezuela. He was granted permission to take four servants with him: his son, don Juan de Eulate; Pedro de Ayerra; Diego de Berganza and Ambrosio García de Eulate.[8] He served in this capacity for eight years during which he fostered the development of the pearl fisheries and trade.[9] He also oversaw the construction of five fortresses and garrisoning of eleven others. He dispatched forces to reconnoiter Tortuga and sent aid to the governors of Cumaná and Guiana to evict the Dutch from Tobago.[10]

In 1633 Eulate foiled an English attempt to establish a fortified trading outpost at Punta de la Galera on the northeast extremity of the island of Trinidad. In March of that year he sent his son, Juan Álvarez de Eulate, with three companies of Spanish infantry and fifty Indian archers to expel the English from the island. Young Eulate defeated the interlopers, burned their establishment, and returned to Margarita with prisoners, arms, and other spoils of war. In reporting his success to the king, Juan de Eulate stated that he had rendered "one of the most outstanding services to the Crown performed in this region for many years." Had the English built a fortification at Punta de la Galera, they would have been strategically positioned to disrupt trade in area ports and made exploitation of the pearl fisheries impossible. A war fleet would have been required to dislodge them.

Juan de Eulate left Margarita in 1638 and returned to Spain. In 1640 he was granted membership in the Order of Santiago called to the court of the Kingdom of Navarre. He was given the title of Maestre de Campo and named castellan of Pamplona.[11]


[1] John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross, and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840 (Abluquerque: University of New Mexico, 1987), 105.

[2] Ibid., 108.

[3] "Acostamiento pretendido por don Joan de Eulate, de que ay razon en el libro primero de consultas del consejo de Navarra," in Libro primero de la nobleza del reino de Navarra en que se comprehenden las familias, que por su calidad y servicios llebarban acostamientos de las rentas reales de su magestad, mandado recopilar por don Isidoro Gil de Jaz, oidor del Real y Supremo Consejo de dicho reino, 147-56,; and "Álvarez de Eulate, Casas de Eulate, Bargota, Aras Moreda (Álava) y Los Arcos, 28 October 2010).

[4] Acostamiento pretendido por don Joan de Eulate, de que ay razon en el libro primero de consultas del consejo de Navarra," 16.

[5] John L. Motley, The Complete Works of John L. Motley, Vol. 10, History of the United Netherlands from the Death of William the Silent to the Twelve Years' Truce, 1609 (New York: Society of English and French Literature, 1900), 393.

[6] It has not been possible to indentify all the places mentioned in Eulate's account.

[7] Juan Álvarez de Eulate, Petition, Eulate, 17 October 1629, AGI, Contratación, 5405, N. 44; and "Álvarez de Eulate, Casas de Eulate, Bargota, Aras Moreda (Álava) y Los Arcos.

[8] Juan de Eulate, Petition, Cádiz, 4 April 1630, ibid.

[9] Luis F. Larrañaga, "Juan Álvarez de Eulate y Ladrón de Cegama," (accessed 28 October 2010).

[10] Eleanor B. Adams, "An English Library at Trinidad, 1633," The Americas 12:2 (July 1955): 26.

[11] Larrañaga states that after a few years in Pamplona, Eulate went to the Canary Islands as governor and captain general and died in office there around midcentury. It has not been possible to verify this assertion.