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Suma Rebellion of 1711

Suma Rebellion-1711

by Rick Hendricks

During the first week of November 1711, General Antonio de Valverde y Cosío, captain of the presidio of El Paso and alcalde mayor of its jurisdiction, received a delegation of local Indians at his headquarters in El Paso. Their leader, the Suma cacique, Felipe, was seeking peace on behalf of two groups of Indians, one that had withdrawn into the mountains and another that was living in scattered villages. Although the Indians had rebelled against the Spaniards and fled, they had dispatched Felipe to inform Valverde that they had had a change of heart and wished to return to their homes. Another member of the delegation was Antonio, the leader of the Janos nation. Felipe and Antonio wanted to lead all the Christian and non-Christian Indians back to the El Paso area settlements. Valverde conceded that previous living arrangements had not always been to the Indians' best advantage and promised that they would be allowed to live wherever it suited them.

The Franciscan minister of Socorro, fray Gonzalo Sobens Barreda, offered a different view of the events. He believed that all the Sumas living in the pueblos really had wanted to join the Mansos and the Janos in rebellion. Fray Gonzalo had seen the Sumas selling the blankets they had been weaving and gathering their things. Passing through Socorro, Ysleta, and Senecú, Valverde noticed that most of the Suma families who lived there had departed, as had some Mansos and Janos. Most members of these groups had joined the rebels.

Valverde recalled men who were off on other missions, in an attempt to combine all available forces, and left for the mountains to find the rebel Indians. With presidial soldiers and citizen militia, he took along Tomás, the principal Manso, and Marcos, the governor of the Piros of the Guadalupe mission, who was a genízaro, part Piro and part Manso.

Valverde crossed the Rio Grande and went up into the mountains where the Indians had withdrawn to protect their noncombatants and horses. The Janos and Mansos had divided their forces. Valverde selected a detail of men to go after them, among them Juan de Ulibarrí and Juan de Herrera, a relative of Lorenzo, a former Manso cacique. When Valverde arrived, he spoke with Pascual, the Manso war captain and spokesman for the entire group of rebel Indians. Pascual indicated that the Indians had fled because a servant of Juan de Tafoya named Felipe, who had recently returned from Mexico City, had told them that a powerful judge was coming to kill them. The arrival in the area of a large horse herd belonging to the Spaniards reinforced this alarming news. Pascual also stated that a Manso had told everyone to flee to the mountains because some Sumas had said the world was coming to an end. Valverde assured the Indians that the judge was only coming to inspect the presidial troops and reminded them that the Spaniards had always protected them against their common enemy, the Apaches. Because their ancestors had proven their loyalty in the aftermath of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Spaniards thought highly of the Mansos. He urged them to return to their pueblos and not abandon their church, which they had built with the sweat of their brows. Finally, Valverde promised the rebel Indians that they would not be harmed for what they had done.

The governor of the non-Christian Janos and the rest of the Sumas were persuaded that they could return safely to their houses, but the Mansos still had doubts. Tomás de la Cruz, the principal Manso, repeated to Valverde much of what he had heard from other rebel leaders. The Sumas had convinced the Mansos that a judge was coming to kill them, which the moving of the horse herd seemed to confirm. Valverde explained that the horses had been gathered to save time. When Valverde asked Tomás to accompany him in an attempt to capture warlike Sumas, Tomás countered that the old cacique, Felipe, should be captured first. Tomás said that the people were not really afraid of the coming judge. The truth was that the Piro servant Felipe had caused them to flee. Tomás also told Valverde that he was not in favor of Sumas and Mansos living together. To promote good will, Valverde placed guards on the Indians' houses and ordered that nothing was to be removed from them.

Valverde soon learned from one of his Suma servants that a genízario who was part Suma and part Manso had been trying to stir up other Sumas who worked for Valverde by saying that the Mansos and non-Christian Janos wanted to join the Sumas who were in the Organ Mountains, some twelve leagues from the presidio of El Paso. They were even trying to enlist their traditional enemies, the Apaches, as allies in an attack against the Spaniards in El Paso.

Individuals continued to travel back and forth from El Paso to the mountains where the rebel Indians were ensconced. When Juan de Herrera returned from a trip to the mountains, he said that his cousin José, the Manso cacique, had conveyed Valverde’s wishes to his people. On his way back from visiting his cousin, Herrera met many Sumas heading to the mountains. Mansos and Janos were also leaving their houses. When he tried to persuade them to return, Pascual had threatened to shoot him. Even while negotiations to end the rebellion were under way, Indians continued to abandon El Paso to join the rebels in the mountains.

Christian Piros from Senecú informed Valverde that they had seen fires in the night in the Hueco Mountains ten leagues to the east. They could have been Sumas or Apaches on the way to join the Janos and Mansos. Valverde dispatched men from El Paso and Piros from Senecú to the Hueco Mountains to try to take a captive so that they could determine which Indians were involved.

Tomás, the Manso leader, and José, the Manso cacique, returned from the mountains with other Indians. José stated that Santiago, the former Manso governor, was to blame for the rebellion. In José’s eyes, Valverde bore some of the blame as well. Had he not confirmed Santiago’s election as governor, the revolt might have been avoided. This was because Santiago told Valverde one thing and his people something else. The Indians also feared the judge who was coming, even though they knew that Valverde would not do to them what Governor Domingo Jironza Petrís de Cruzate had done. When they sued for peace after an earlier rebellion in 1684, Jironza had executed their leaders.

After listening to him, Valverde warned José against joining the Janos and their Suma allies. The Spaniards considered José untrustworthy because Santiago was his brother. Santiago had left the Manso pueblo the previous year when Valverde was in Santa Fe carrying out a commission. People said Santiago had become an apostate and was living among the Conchos and rebel Sumas. Valverde sent soldiers and citizens from El Paso and Indians from Ysleta and Senecú to search the mountains for Apaches. If they found any, they were to scatter them to prevent the Mansos from uniting with them.

Valverde received word that the Indians in the mountains wanted to see him. The arrival of armed Piros and Tiguas, who were to accompany the Spaniards on the expedition to the mountains prompted José the Manso cacique, to ask that the expedition not be dispatched because sending troops to the Organ Mountains would only frighten the rebel Indians more. Little by little they had begun to return to their homes, so Valverde delayed the expedition to the Organ Mountains. By mid-November more Manso families had returned to El Paso, including that of the new Manso governor, Francisco el Chico. He warned Valverde about the Sumas who lived downriver from El Paso: the Mansos believed they were crazy.

A detachment under the command of Sergeant Domingo Mizquía left El Paso in pursuit of rebel Sumas. His orders were to seek and destroy the enemy, applying all necessary force. Valverde summoned José, the Manso cacique, and Juan de Herrera to inform them that the time had come to go bring the people down out of the mountains. José and Herrera were to proceed to the Organ Mountains where the rebel Mansos were, and Pascual was to go with them. They were to attempt to to bring down the Janos and Sumas as well. Most of José's people returned. Many Janos and Sumas came down too, to the rejoicing of the populace. Pascual returned to the mountains for those who remained, and they sent some family members down.

Sergeant Mizquía arrived at the El Paso presidio with two Suma prisoners; he had killed two others. One Suma was non-Christian and the other was a Christian named Miguel, alias Tilagua. They had stolen cattle after attacking and burning Valverde's ranch. Mizquía and his men scattered the Indians who burned the ranch into three groups, two mounted and one afoot. To protect the Camino Real, Valverde ordered Mizquía back to the field after a day of rest, directing him to patrol the nearby mountains. As soon as the return of the Mansos, Janos, and their Suma allies was consolidated, Valverde would go after the rest of the Sumas himself.

With order restored Valverde began to investigate the causes of the revolt and punish those responsible. Juan de Tafoya appeared before Valverde with Francisco Martín, an Otomí Indian, but Valverde informed Tafoya that Martín was not the servant he wanted to question. Tafoya claimed he did not have another servant. In truth, there were other Indians attached to Tafoya's household: a Keres from New Mexico, a Tigua, and a Piro from Senecú. The Piro Felipe was the one who had caused the rebellion.

Miguel Tilagua corroborated the role of Tafoya's Piro servant in fomenting the rebellion. He added that while the Piro had been spreading his lies about the coming of the judge to kill the Indians, the downriver Sumas had come to El Paso to request peace. When they heard what the Piro had said, they decided to postpone their request for peace and wait to see what developed. Francisco Padilla, a resident of Senecú, testified that Tafoya's Piro servant had a sister living in Senecú and that Padilla had overheard Tafoya say he had orders from the viceroy to take Juan de Ulibarrí to Mexico City under arrest, and that Ulibarrí would be sent to Pensacola or China. Tafoya further claimed that the viceroy ordered anyone with a complaint about local authorities in New Mexico to inform the judge who was coming. If they chose not to have recourse to the judge, they could not complain. The viceroy had exhausted his treasury on New Mexico, and no one in the colony had spent anything. All this expense was to see to it that the local authorities did not take advantage of the poor. According to Tafoya, there was no justice to be had in New Mexico. In exchange for this information, Tafoya tried to get the Indians to give him one buckskin from each hunt they went on. He also implored the local Spaniards to pay their share of his expenses.

General Antonio Bezerra Nieto, captain of Janos presidio, wrote Valverde informing him that a Manso had come to Janos to call on the Indians to join the rebellion in the mountains of New Mexico. The Janos Indians had revolted, and Bezerra Nieto needed information on the situation in the El Paso area, since he had also received word that the Janos Indians were returning from there to his presidio.

In late November, Pascual, the Manso war captain, arrived at the Casas Reales in El Paso with the rest of his people who had remained in the mountains, as well as most of the Janos and many Sumas. The Manso cacique, José, came too. Other Mansos were hunting at La Salineta. Sergeant Mizquía returned to report that he had not found the enemy he was seeking. The Indians he had been pursuing had broken up into small groups and dispersed to the four winds. Another group of soldiers and cow hands had managed to fight off a hundred Sumas and Conchos.

At the same time, Miguel Tilagua informed Valverde that Felipe the Piro had still not learned his lesson. Felipe had been sent down river to where the Sumas were living, presumably by his master, Juan de Tafoya. Felipe was to warn the Sumas so that what happened with Governor Pedro Reneros de Posada would not happen to them. Reneros de Posada had executed many Sumas in Ysleta in the late 1680s.

The Manso and Janos leaders informed Valverde that all but six families had left Janos presidio, and the soldiers were coming after them. The Janos leader wanted Valverde to advise the soldiers not to attack in order to prevent a disaster. Valverde allayed their fears, telling them that he would communicate with the captain of Janos and would return the Indians to Janos with an escort and a safe-conduct pass. Subsequently, a Suma named Francisco accompanied the governor of the Janos to El Paso. He told Valverde that the young children and some ill, old women had not returned to Janos, but all the other Janos Indians were back in their pueblo. Valverde informed Francisco that the non-Christians were welcome to leave, but that the Christians would have to remain with the Mansos.

Valverde’s investigation found that more than eighty Suma families who had been living at peace in the El Paso area communities participated in the rebellion. The Mansos and Janos had followed them on 9 November 1711. Valverde also learned that Juan de Tafoya had made critical remarks about the governor of New Mexico, the Marqués de la Peñuela, and other colonial officials. Upon review of the case in Mexico City, viceregal authorities ruled that Tafoya was to be imprisoned and held responsible for the Suma rebellion and every effort was to be exhausted to capture Felipe, his Piro servant.

In June 1712 Valverde ordered the arrest of Tayofa and Felipe the Piro, but it was not until six months later that he was able to re-open the investigation. Sergeant Mizquía testified that a few days before the revolt erupted, Tafoya told him that he had a letter from New Mexico saying that all its Indians wanted to revolt, but that the Franciscan custos, father Juan de Tagle, and the former governor of the Tewas, Domingo Romero of Tesuque Pueblo, had prevented the revolt by telling them to wait for Tayofa's return.

Valverde questioned some of Tafoya’s traveling companions. Diego Antonio Padilla, a Piro from Sevilleta, stated that one day while he was with Marcos, the governor of the Piros and Tiguas, Tafoya had told them that all the Indians needed to help him. A judge was coming and they should speak out against the officials who made them work for no pay. Tafoya was going to Santa Fe but would return in two weeks to meet the judge. They should gather the elders and speak to them patiently so that they would ask the judge for what they wanted. Even though the officials might want to kill him, Tafoya bragged that the viceroy would protect him. When Tafoya learned that they had not spoken with the elders, he exhorted them to do so, lest his trip to Mexico City and back be in vain. On another occasion Padilla met one of Tafoya's servants who asked him to help his master by speaking out against Valverde.

When Valverde ordered the arrest of Tafoya and Felipe, they were nowhere to be found in the El Paso area. The arrest order was then expanded outside of the El Paso jurisdiction. The new order was made public in the plaza of El Paso and a copy placed on the door of the Casas Reales, to be repeated every nine days for twenty-seven days.

General Bezerra Nieto was sent to El Paso from Janos presidio to conduct a secret investigation into Valverde’s conduct. From the testimony of Indians and Spaniards, a consistent story emerged. Felipe, who at that time was not really a Suma cacique, had demonstrated a lack of respect for the teniente of Socorro, for which he was beaten. Felipe had led the Sumas who were living among the Tiguas in Ysleta in refusing to clean the acequia that provided them water. Moreover he had killed his father in the time of Governor Reneros. Finally, at that time a hide from New Mexico circulated throughout the El Paso area. Painted on it were signs indicating an impending revolt. The hide painting had traveled as far south as Nombre de Dios. General Bezerra Nieto concluded that Valverde’s good conduct should be certified by viceregal authorities in Mexico City, and this was eventually done.

By 1 January 1713, the fugitives had not appeared, and the arrest orders were again made public. On 20 January Valverde subpoenaed the fugitives, and on the following day the charge and proof were made known. The proceedings were prepared for dispatch to Viceroy Linares, and Lieutenant Mateo de la Peña sent them to Mexico City on 27 February 1713.

The testimony against Tafoya assigned an important role to him, one of “rabble-rouser,” a traditional element of Indian revolts in New Mexico. Popé was held largely responsible for instigating the 1680 Pueblo revolt. Pedro de Tapia, an interpreter, was charged with spreading lies that led to the disruption of the apparent peace Governor Vargas forged during his ceremonial re-conquest of New Mexico in 1692. In the Suma revolt of 1711 Juan de Tafoya's Piro servant, Felipe, was most directly responsible for causing the uprising by frightening local Indians with his lie about a judge coming to kill them. Tafoya was found guilty of treason for having spread malicious rumors against most of the royal officials in New Mexico from the governor in Santa Fe down to the level of the local justices, for encouraging the various Indians leaders to join the revolt, and because he was ultimately responsible for the actions of his servant.

The testimony suggested that relations between the Tiguas, Piros (except for Felipe) and the Spaniards were good. The Tiguas and Piros had refused Tafoya's request for their participation in the rebellion. Even though they were known for their loyalty to the Spaniards, many Mansos abandoned their homes and joined the Sumas in the mountains because Felipe had fed them the lie that their former governor had been cruelly executed in Mexico City. The Sumas formed three recognizable groups: Christians and unconverted Sumas in the El Paso communities and a group consistently referred to as the ones from downriver that had refused to settle in any of the pueblos of the El Paso district.

Both Indians and Spaniards on the northern frontier considered rebellions by the former and reprisals by the latter as interconnected, at least from the time of the 1680 Pueblo revolt. The fear of a similar general revolt that could envelop the entire frontier is evidenced by the testimony about the hide painting auguring an impending widespread revolt. Time and again query and response noted how individuals of one or another Indian group had acted during a previous revolt or the inevitable military response to it. This awareness of history enabled Valverde to advance his efforts at personal diplomacy that eventually proved successful in heading off a full-scale rebellion in his jurisdiction. In the judgment of most Indian leaders, the general compared favorably with his predecessors. Valverde's fair treatment of the Indians over the course of many years, both in the capacity of royal official and hacienda owner, persuaded key Manso leaders to resist the call to rebellion. Their personal intervention on his behalf directly ended peacefully what might otherwise have been decided by bloodbath. The punishment Juan de Tafoya and Felipe the Piro received--if any--is unknown. Tafoya and his two brothers apparently petitioned unsuccessfully for land grants in New Mexico as late as 1724.

Sources Used:

Espinosa, J. Manuel, trans. and ed. The Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1696 and the Franciscan Missions in New Mexico: Letters of the Missionaries and Related Documents. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

Hendricks, Rick. "Spanish-Indian Relations in El Paso del Norte in the Early Eighteenth Century: The Suma Rebellion of 1711," Society for American Archaeology, 61st Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 1995.

Kessell, John L., Rick Hendricks, and Meredith D. Dodge, eds. Blood on the Boulders: The Journals of don Diego de Vargas, New Mexico, 1694-1697. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.

Reff, Daniel T. "The 'Predicament of Culture' and Spanish Missionary Accounts of the Tepehuan and Pueblo Revolts. Ethnohistory 42(1) (1995):63-90.