Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés

By Rick Hendricks

The individual known to history as Francisco Cuervo y Valdés first appears in the historical record in the Americas in 1678 as an infantry captain in San Juan Bautista in Sonora. At that time of his life, don Francisco styled himself Cuervo de Valdés. The details of his early career are quickly told, largely because the detail is lacking. In 1681 he was inspector general of Sonora, alcalde mayor of San Juan Bautista in Sonora, and lieutenant governor of Sonora. At the time he was accused, perhaps falsely; sentenced; and later absolved of charges made by the alcalde mayor of Ostimuri. He was either the owner of or shareholder in two stores, despite the prohibition against participation in commerce by persons filling such posts. In 1684 Cuervo y Valdés was an infantry captain in Nueva Vizcaya

His first important move up the career ladder came in 1687 when he was named interim governor and captain general of Nuevo León. The following year he was listed as an agent of treasury of Guadalajara. About this time an unsavory character named Toribio de la Huerta placed a serious obstacle in the path of Cuervo y Valdés career advancement. De la Huerta filed suit against Cuervo y Valdés, and the case made its way to the Council of the Indies. De la Huerta alleged that when Bartolomé de Estrada and don José de Quiroga were governors of Sonora and Sinaloa Cuervo y Valdés to travel through the area aving delegated all their powers to him. Cuervo y Valdés was charged with having ruined the real de minas of San Juan Bautista, where to killed more than twenty Indian caciques, and caused the rest to revolt by imposing various taxes on them and taking most of their wealth.

By doing this, de la Huerta claimed, Cuervo y Valdés had lost Sonora. Moreover, he defrauded the king of more than 200,000 pesos and caused de la Huerta great harm because he was operating seven mines in the province. He reported all this to the Audiencia of Guadalajara and got himself appointed to investigate. As a result, he arrested Cuervo y Valdés but then posted 200,000 pesos in bail. Cuervo y Valdés fled the Guadalajara jail. Although the details are sketchy, Cuervo y Valdés must have made his way to Spain, presumably to defend himself before the Council of the Indies and king, if necessary. He was imprisoned in Madrid, which probably meant he was confined to the city rather than in a jail cell, from 1689 until 1695, when the matter was decided in his favor.

A resourceful don Francisco somehow managed to arrange to marry Margarita de Alderete y Soto, daughter of Luis de Alderete y Soto and Margarita de Járegui. Don Francisco and doña Margarita presumably wed in 1695 after his release from prison. She brought neither dowry nor any wealth to the marriage, although she did bring her husband an enormous amount of prestige by way of membership in the Order of Santiago. Her father had been granted membership in one of the three military orders, but he passed the grant along to his daughter's future spouse as an inheritance. The union between Francisco and Margarita produced several children, but only two survived: Alonso Cuervo de Valdés, who, like his father, became an official of the Royal Treasury of the city of Guadalajara, and don Francisco Cuervo de Valdés (born about 1700). At some point that has yet to be determined, Cuervo y Valdés lost his wife, doña Margarita, to death.

By 16 June 1696, he had secured the futura for the governorship of Coahuila and served in that post from 28 May 1698 to 28 May 1703. Cuervo y Valdés immediately embarked on an ambitious program of founding new missions and pueblos. On 26 October 1698, he established the mission of San Antonio Galindo de Moctezuma for 170 Zapas, Cenisos, and Esmalquios Indians. On16 November 1698 he founded the mission of San Felipe Valladares for 220 Acafes, Quejamos, Ocanes, Molia, Canoa, Pactalo, and Patacal Indians. The following day he established the pueblo of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe where he settled sixteen families of Tlascaltecan Indians from Saltillo. On 13 December 1698, he set up the mission of Santo Nombre de Jesús for ninety-five Chantafes, Paco, and Pasaguas Indians. On 14 December 1698, he established the mission of San Francisco Javier for two hundred Hieripiamos Indians.

In July 1699 Cuervo y Valdés informed the king of his plan to found a villa. In making this notification, he was carefully following the rules governing town founding. His plan was approved the following August, but this founding did not take place.

On 13 February 1701, Cuervo y Valdés established the mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe for seventy-three Timamares Indians. Finally, on 6 April 1701, he set up the mission of Santo Cristo for a thousand Tredocodames Indians. A review by the Council of the Indies on 4 October 1701, resulted in a commendation from the king Cuervo y Valdés for his founding efforts, which followed the laws of the Indies as set out in title 7, book 4 of the Recopilacion.

In commenting on Cuervo y Valdés's 1703 residencia, the official review of his term in office, the Duque de Alburquerque noted that the outgoing governor had sponsored five weddings of couples living in sin, all at his own expense (including appropriate attire). He had founded six new missions and one town. He had constructed twenty-five houses and gardens and assisted citizens at his own expense. He had built a new presidio, guardhouse, and chapel of Our Lady of Zapopan. He had given bells to three churches. When storehouses were taken from old and new missions, which were on point of being abandoned, he provided two hundred fanegas of corn and thirty horses, which enabled them to get harvest in. He took new settlers to villa of Monclova at his own expense. He provided furnishings for newly established churches. He set up the cabildo of villa of Santiago de Monclova, capital of Coahuila. Finally, Alburquerque concluded by saying that "I declare him a good, faithful, loyal administrator and that he has fulfilled exactingly and superabundantly the duties corresponding to the posts of military governor and lieutenant captain general.

After Gov. Diego de Vargas's last years in New Mexico, from 1698 to 1704, Cuervo acceded as provisional governor of New Mexico on 10 March 1705. While he was interim governor of New Mexico, he was the holder of the power of attorney in Santa Fe of Luis Saenz de Tagle, one of the richest and most powerful merchants in Mexico City in that period.

Cuervo y Valdés handed over the governorship of the province of New Mexico to his successor, the Marqués de la Peñuela, José Chacón Medina y Salazar, on 1 August 1707. He tarried in Santa Fe for three months, presumably to undergo a residencia, the official review of his term in office. The viceroy of New Spain, the Duque de Albuerquerque, granted permission for Cuervo y Valdés to depart New Mexico for Mexico City on 3 October of the same year.

On the way to the viceregal capital, Cuervo y Valdés stopped in Parral in what is now the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Beginning in the 1640s, Parral had been somewhat of an outpost of opulence on the northern frontier because of important silver strikes, but by 1707, it was past its prime. Nevertheless, on Christmas Day Cuervo y Valdés took part in the investiture of Sargento mayor Manuel de Iriarte in the military Order of Santiago. Parral still boasted men of power and position, including fellow knights of Santiago. One such individual, Juan Cortés del Rey, the scion of one of the north's most illustrious families, joined Cuervo y Valdés it buckling the spurs on Iriarte's boots. Doubtless, the ceremonies reminded Cuervo y Valdés of his own investiture. That act took place in the convento of San Francisco in Monterrey in the province of Nuevo León sometime before 1703. In attendance on that occasion was the governor of Nuevo León, don Francisco de Vergara y Mendoza.

In the viceregal capital he took up residence in his house on the Calle del Colegio. There the forty-six-year-old widower set up his household with a single woman, María Francisca García de las Rivas, daughter of Capt. Miguel García de la Riva y Micaela Velasco. Miguel, a native of Mexico City, married Micaela Velasco on 25 January 1671 in the parish of Santa Catalina in Mexico City. They came to New Mexico in 1693 as part of Diego de Vargas's recolonization effort. They had numerous children, including Juan, Miguel, María, Antonia, María Francisca, and Teodora. Juan was alcalde of Santa Fe in 1716, but he must have returned to Mexico City soon after that, because he died and was buried in Mexico City in September of the following year. Apparently other family members returned to Mexico City earlier, perhaps with Cuervo y Valdés.

With María Francisca, Cuervo y Valdés had two natural children: Francisco Antonio Cuervo (born about 1707) and Ana María Cuervo. Ana María was baptized in Mexico City on 14 March 1713. The baptismal entry indicated that she had been born to unknown parents on 2 March. Tellingly, her godparents were Simón de Soria and María Ignacia García de la Riva, the latter doubtless a relative of Ana María's mother.

Cuervo y Valdés and his new family then disappeared from view. A notable gap appears in the historical record from 1707 until 1710. In July of that year, Cuervo y Valdés, who was described as a judge and official of the Royal Treasury of Guadalajara, resident in Mexico City, obligated himself as one of the guarantors for a redeemable loan of 25,000 pesos against two pieces of land in Tacuba. When the properties were resold, he renewed his obligation for the same amount, this time as the sole guarantor. These business transactions indicate that his personal wealth–or credit–was considerable.

By 1711 Cuervo y Valdés had received the corregimiento of Zacatecas (a post he never took up), with the right for his son, Francisco. Another larger lacuna exists following these transactions. Perhaps Cuervo y Valdés and his second family lived peacefully in Mexico City from his apparent wealth. The next notice of him is from 7 April 1714. On that date he was ill in bed and made his will before the royal scribe, Jacobo Gómez Paradela. Cuervo y Valdés's feeble signature gave silent testimony to the seriousness of his malady. He lingered for several weeks until death overtook him. He was buried on 23 April 17 in the church of the Third Order of St. Francis at the convento of San Agustín with the permission of the Archbishop of Mexico. The convento had two churches that were reconstructed after the disastrous fire of 1676. It occupied a large block a few blocks from the Zócalo, the principal plaza in Mexico City.