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Juan Medrano y Mesia: From the WPA Writers Project

Twenty-second Governor of New Mexico, 1668-1671.

WPA Writers Project

By Grace Meredith

Captain Don Juan de Medrano y Mesia was the twenty‑second governor of New Mexico, and unfortunately only a little information concerning him and his activities, is to be found in any of the historical works now available.

Persistent raids and hostilities of the Apaches during this period not only caused fear and worry among the colonists, but was the reason for the abandonment of Chilili and of all the pueblos about the Salinas.

The Inquisition was likewise active in New Mexico during this time. Priestley gives an example of this as follows:

"Besides arraigning the governors the Inquisition had plenty to do with the common folk. Take for example, a case of unauthorized supernaturalism. A certain German trader, Bernardo Gruber by name, who went into New Mexico from Sonora with a pack train of merchandise in 1668, was arrested for sorcery. It appears that one day the alcalde mayor of Las Salinas was surprised to see his ten‑year‑old son demonstrating with a great sliver of wood that he was impervious to wounds. The good alcalde promptly reported this witchcraft to the friars, who set upon Gruber as an alien and a sorcerer. He had, it was found, gone into the choir of the Church when mass was being sung and offered the boys some scraps of paper bearing cabalistic characters and crosses. He declared he did this in imitation of a custom he had learned in Germany; that he who ate such paper as the first mass of the Nativity was being sung became so potent that for twenty‑four hours no weapon could harm him. Gruber was imprisoned, but managed to escape; the thrifty alcalde consoled himself by seizing over forty of the trader's mules end horses. There were numerous other trials for more worldly offenses, especially bigamy, for it was then, as now, a low‑caste New Mexican practise to leave one's encumbering mate behind when faring forth to new fields. There was a considerable traffic in charms, albeit they did not always work,"

Governor Medrano was not free from the rivalry among his own countrymen and the continued controversy among them both lay and ecclesiastical. It is stated that such very serious charges were instigated against him that, "like a madman he fled the house in which he lived at a time when there was half‑a‑vara (vara means thirty‑two inches) of snow on the ground, a Cristo in his hands, lance and cloak on his shoulder, shouting that he was leaving for Mexico to seek justice from God and the King against a people abandoned by God."

That Medrano must have reached Mexico safely is made certain by the fact that about 1673, when the future policy of the Mission Supply Service had not been definitely decided, he made a bid for the contract. At this time two bids were received: one from the Franciscan Order and the other from Medrano. Medrano’s was the more favorable, but in 1674 it was definitely decided that the wagons be sold and all accounts settled. Thus the regular journeys of the caravans, organized for the particular purpose of transporting supplies to New Mexico, and the contracts under friars and one layman, came to an end. While this was not the end of the supply service, thereafter it continued as the procurator‑general arranged; and Medrano failed to receive the contract.


New Mexico Historical Review for October 1930.

New Mexico Historical Review for April 1935.

Missions and Pueblos of the Old Southwest, by Earle R. Forrest. The Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland 1929.

The Coming of the White Man by Herbert Ingram Priestley. The MacMillan Company, New York, 1929.

Spain in America, by Edward Gaylord Bourne, Ph.D. Harper & Brothers, New York & London, 1904.