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Settling the Estate of Bernardo Antonio Bustamante y Tagle

By Rick Hendricks

When death overtook Capt. Bernardo Antonio Bustamante y Tagle, lieutenant governor of New Mexico during the administration of Governor Juan Domingo de Bustamante, at the presidio of Guajoquilla at eight o'clock on the night of 15 January 1773, it set in motion a struggle over the division of his considerable estate that lasted twenty-seven years before its final resolution.[1] The documentation amassed in the Juzgado de Bienes de Difuntos in Guadalajara ran to more than two thousand pages. Although in some cases the testimony raises as many questions as it answers, an examination of it yields much about Bustamante y Tagle family history that would be otherwise unknown.

Three months before his death, Bernardo Antonio had made a will, but a number of irregularities made it invalid. Apparently, some parts of the document were added after his death. Given the legal struggle that ensued, there is every likelihood that the document would have been challenged even had it been properly prepared. This situation arose out of the fact that Bernardo Antonio left no undisputed heirs named in the faulty will.

Bernardo Antonio married Feliciana Laso de la Vega in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fray Manuel Sopeña and fray José de Equía offered testimony about the couple and their offspring. There was agreement that a daughter had died twenty days after her birth.  Bernardo Antonio stated that he and his wife had lost a daughter who had died very young. One witness offered uncorroborated testimony that Bernardo Antonio had fathered a child out of wedlock named José Miguel, whose mother was a woman from a pueblo near Santa Fe. If the boy was his, Bernardo Antonio failed to recognize him as a natural son in his will. No such person filed papers with the Juzgado de Bienes de Difuntos in Guadalajara.

Since his wife predeceased him, and because he acknowledged no other children, his estate was up for grabs, with a number of relatives pressing claims. In the course of the lawsuit, witnesses related many aspects of Bernardo Antonio's genealogy. Although some of this information is generally known, many surprising facts are revealed, some corroborated several times and others offered by a single witness. In reviewing the extensive testimony, a fairly clear picture emerges of Bernardo Antonio's immediate family and their claim on his estate.

Bernardo Antonio stated that he was a native of Madrid and from Bastón de Laredo. This would suggest that he had been born in the Spanish capital while his father, Lic. Juan Antonio de Bustamante Tagle, was serving there. Licenciado Bustamante Tagle was an abogado of the king's councils, consultor of the Holy Office, and capitán a guerra of Sepúlveda, Ciudad Real, Villarcayo, and Aranda de Duero. Bernardo Antonio's mother was María Antonia Bracho Bustamante (Calderón). In addition to Bernardo Antonio, Juan Antonio and María Antonia had seven other children: (1) Juan Alonso, (2) Pedro, (3) Pedro Isidro, (4) José (Antonio), (5) Josefa, (6) Juliana (Rosa), and (7) Ana María.

(1) Juan Alonso was married to Clara Rosa Velarde. Together they had a son, Juan Antonio de Bustamante y Velarde, who was a citizen of Villapresente in Santander, and a daughter named Jacinta. Manuel Antonio de Quijano y Terán, was the husband of Jacinta de Bustamante. They were citizens of Molledo, in the valley of Iguña, Santander.

(2) Pedro was a parish priest in Bexis (Begis) in the Bishopric of Segorbe. He died there on 16 April 1780. Father Pedro named Josefa Díaz de la Madrid, José Antonio de Bustamante, and the children of Antonia García de la Torre as his heirs. Ángel Moyeda was the father of Antonia García de la Torre's children and her husband. (María) Antonia García de la Torre, was the daughter of Domingo García de la Torre and María Sordo Piñera, citizens and natives of Villapresente. Antonia was a citizen of Cerrazo, real abadía of Santillana, Santander.

(3) Pedro Isidro, was treasurer of the Tribunal of the Holy Office in Mexico City. His wife was Josefa Montes de Oca Ladrón de Guevara, with whom he the following children: María Josefa, the wife of Gabriel de Arana y Corrales of Mexico City; Pedro Manuel; and José Ponciano.

(4) José (Antonio) was also in the Indies

(5) Josefa was married to Juan Díaz de la Madrid, of Comillas del Real, valle del Alfor de Laredo. Their children were: Josefa, who was named as one of Father Pedro's heirs; and her sister, María Díaz de la Madrid, the widow of Vicente de Oretegón. Josefa Bustamante y Tagle died around 1779.

(6) Juliana was married to Vicente de la Torre Bracho. She died in Sept. 1773 intestate and without heirs.

(7) Ana María was baptized in the church of San Juan Bautista in Villapresente, Puente de San Miguel y Veguilla on 20 February 1701. She had been born on 9 February. Her godparents were Juan Antonio Bracho Bustamante, prior in La Colegial in Santander, and Josefa de Tagle. She was the widow of Manuel Fernández de Velarde, the son of García Fernández and Antonia Velarde. He died on 27 September 1776. Ana María's son, Ángel Miguel Fernández de Velarde y Bustamante, was Oficial Segundo of the general administration of mails for the principality of Aragon. When Ana María died in Barcelona on 27 August 1776, her son, Ángel Miguel, entered the lawsuit as her heir.

The children of Antonia García de la Torre and Ángel Moyeda, who all used the Moyeda surname, were: José Joaquín; Juan Domingo; Josefa, the wife of Antonio Ruiz; María, the wife of Juan Cacho; and Antonia. Josefa and María were living in the Indies, while Antonia resided in Cerrazo, Santander.

The closest claimant to the scene was the lieutenant of the presidio of Guajoquilla, the alférez, José Antonio de Bustamante. José Antonio stated that Bernardo Antonio was his uncle because his father, Juan Alonso, was Bernardo Antonio's brother.[2] Other witnesses testified that Bernardo Antonio was his uncle on a transverse line, which meant that there were others who could assert a closer relationship to the late captain. Authorities in Guadalajara did not seriously consider his claim even though he claim seems to have been correct.

The serious participants in the lawsuit were Pedro Isidro's children, María Josefa de Bustamante and her siblings in Mexico City, versus Ángel Miguel Fernández de Velarde y Bustamante, who acted on behalf of the relatives in Spain.[3] The prize was well worth fighting for. In his forty years of service to the crown, Bernardo Antonio had accumulated an estate valued at approximately 39,000 pesos. In his will Bernardo Antonio stated that, while his wife was still living, they had built their fortune to 25,000 from his salary and their business activities together. Of that sum, she had requested 8,000 for the support of her nieces and nephews. Curiously, the will gives little hint at how Bernardo Antonio and Feliciana made their tidy little nest egg or how he increased it after her death. The key lies with his business partner. Bernardo Antonio was involved in a business arrangement with Mexico City resident José González Calderón, a member of a power merchant family, but there are no details on their activities. The scale of their operations was such that before the final accounting was rendered, it was estimated that Bernardo Antonio's estate could have been worth as much as 64,000 pesos. That it came to something more than half that amount indicates that they were successful, whatever it was that he and González Calderón were up to. Beyond that, his soldiers owed him some money, but not much. He had two outstanding loans in the amount of 5,000 pesos each and a house in the valley of San Bartolomé valued at 3,000 pesos. He had a modest herd of mixed livestock and a few household possessions. It was noted that because of the illness Bernardo Antonio had suffered from, his used clothing was deemed of little value and, therefore, difficult to sell. There was nothing to explain his very real wealth.

When the lawsuit was finally settled and money was dispatched to Spain in 1800, only the Spanish relatives participated in the hijuela, their claims having been upheld. Since the case had dragged on for more than two decades, death had taken many of the claimants. Those receiving shares were: Josefa Díaz de la Madrid, María Díaz de la Madrid, Juan Antonio Bustamante y Velarde, Joaquín de Moyeda, Juan Domingo de Moyeda, Antonia de Moyeda, Josefa de Moyeda, María de Moyeda, and Ángel Miguel Fernández de Velarde.


[1] Juicio de testamentaría del Capt. Bernardo Antonio Bustamante y Tagle, tramitado de 1781 a 1790, Biblioteca del Estado de Jalisco, Archivo del Juzgado de Bienes de Difuntos, C-113-5-839 (C-122-1-896).

[2] Instancia del sargento, cabos y soldados de la compañía del presidio de Guajoquilla sobre la satisfacción del legado que les dejó su capitán don Bernardo Bustamante, Biblioteca del Estado de Jalisco, Archivo del Juzgado de Bienes de Difuntos, C-107-3-790.

[3] Autos formados sobre la testamentaría de don Bernardo Antonio Bustamante, Biblioteca del Estado de Jalisco, Archivo del Juzgado de Bienes de Difuntos, C-163-1-1037.