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Luis de Guzman y Figueroa

Figueroa, Luis de Guzman y

Biography/WPA Writers' Project of Captain don Luis de Guzman y Figueroa, the fourteenth governor of New Mexico.

By Grace Meredith

Fourteenth Governor of New Mexico


WPA Biography Project

Captain don Luis de Guzman y Figueroa, the fourteenth governor of New Mexico reached Santa Fe in 1647. The exact date of his arrival is not now available, indeed the information regarding him is very sketchy; but it is assumed that his term of office began in the spring of 1647, shortly after the arrival of the caravan of the Mission Supply Service and that he came with this caravan.

It is not difficult to imagine that all the colonists in the province hoped for better conditions when a new governor arrived. If it is true however, that some of the governors of New Mexico were merely favorites of the viceroy and not appointed because of any particular ability or qualifications, or that they had been granted office as a direct result of outright bribery, then any hope for a better understanding or real justice was bound to be vain. Moreover, if these charges were true, they would of necessity have an exceedingly bad effect on the morale of the province and would surely hinder its development.

During this period, it would seem as if every governor in some way offended the Franciscans or were in some serious controversy with them. The Spanish colonists and soldiers were always divided in their opinions, some taking sides with one and some with the other, so that any man who was governor had a most difficult time, and Figueroa was no exception.

Friar Andres Suarez in a letter to the King of Spain on October 26th, 1647, accused Governor Figueroa of accepting a bribe from his predecessor in office, Arquello Caravjal, which had to do with the residencia (report and accounting) required of all administrative officers at the expiration of their term of office. In the same letter of general complaint regarding conditions existing at that time in New Mexico, Friar Suarez was quite explicit in his statement that some of the governors were mere creatures of the viceroy and owed their appointment entirely to the purchase of his favor.

Throughout this time of stress arid opposing ambitions on the part of both civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Spaniards, silent, watchful and waiting, were their wards, the Pueblo Indians. Is it to be wondered that these Indians found such difficulty in assimilating the spirit and beauty of the Christian religion? From the Indian viewpoint, which was the only one that mattered to them, something was wrong with it—else WHY such strife among the Christians themselves? Interfered with in their economic and religious activities, they frequently plotted how they might throw off the yoke of oppression. There was bitterness in their oppression, but of far greater importance, if an honored medicine man of one of the tribes who had been converted, endeavored to perform his age‑old ceremonials arid was caught, he was flogged for his, according to the Franciscans, sin!

The King of Spain writing from Madrid on November 30th, 1647, attempted to reconcile the conflicts between the civil and religious authorities but history proves that very little was accomplished.

Such serious charges were brought against Governor Figueroa that, while the date of departure is not now available, he did leave New Mexico before his term of office had expired; and it is stated that "such a man, who was an ex‑governor of New Mexico, was killed in a duel in Mexico in November 1650."


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