In Spring 1835, the citizens of New Mexico met their new Governor, sent from Mexico City this time instead of being appointed from the men of the province.
Governor Albino Perez and the new laws he’d been ordered to enforce didn’t sit well with his constituents, especially those living in Rio Arriba, along the upper Rio Grande. After years of essentially self-rule, New Mexico’s elected town councils would now be appointed by the Governor. He would also be collecting taxes that had never been required before.
The governor also simply rubbed people the wrong way. He had an autocratic manner, he dressed flamboyantly, and he wasn’t from New Mexico. Perhaps most importantly, when people began to complain about the new laws, he didn’t listen.
The result was a rebellion that exploded in early August 1837. Janet Lecompte’s book Rebellion in Rio Arriba provides a clear narrative of what happened before, during, and after August 1837 and also includes translations of key documents. Lecompte does an excellent job of evaluating and sorting out the various accounts of the revolt. Although it’s concise, this book is a treasure trove of valuable material. I’ve used it extensively as a resource for my forthcoming novel, No Secret Too Small.
The 1837 revolt is an important episode in New Mexico’s history that I believe has lessons for us today. A little less heavy-handedness and a little more communication could very well have resulted in a workable solution for everyone, instead of death for so many. I highly recommend Rebellion in Rio Arriba.