Mexico Declares Its Independence!

On Saturday, February 24, 1821, halfway between Mexico City and Acapulco, General Agustin de Iturbide published the Plan of Iguala and effectively established Mexico’s independence from Spain and set the stage for American conquest of New Mexico, California, and the land in between.

Feb24 illustration.Iturbide.Twitchell
General Augustin de Iturbide. Source: R. E. Twitchell

The plan of Iguala maintained the Catholic Church as the official religion of Mexico, created an independent limited monarchy, and established equal rights for Spaniards and creoles. The new government also reversed the Spanish policy which forbade foreign merchants to enter New Mexico, thus opening the door for William Becknell and his mule train of goods as well as the many trappers and traders who would follow him down the Santa Fe Trail.

However, the new relationship with the United States was fraught with complications. Within a few years, Mexican officials realized that the Americans were taking every opportunity to keep from paying customs duties on the goods they brought into and the furs they took out of nuevomexico. Although officials tried various measures to control the Americans, nothing was really effective. The American trappers and traders continued to be a thorn in the side of the Mexican government. In fact, it could be argued that the Americans that the Mexicans allowed in after 1821 would turn out to be a major factor in the lack of resistance to the American invasion in 1846, 25 years later.

Sources: Paul Horgan, Great River, The Rio Grande in North American History, Wesleyan Univeristy Press, Middletown, CT, 1984; : Ralph E. Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexico History, Vol. II, The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, 1912; David J. Weber, The Taos Trappers, David J. Weber, U of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1970.

Advertisements

Taos Gets New Mexico’s First Press

When New Mexico’s first printing press arrived in Taos in late November 1835, its new owner Padre Antonio José Martinez didn’t waste any time putting it to work. On Friday, November 27, he announced that the press was be available to residents to use to publish “literary contributions.”

Antonio_José_Martínez
Padre Antonio Jose Martinez circa 1848

The press and its printer, Jesús María Baca of Durango, Mexico, had arrived in Santa Fe in 1832, brought there by Don Antonio Barreriro, a barrister and governmental deputy from Mexico City, apparently at the behest of nuevomexico Legislature’s Secretary, Don Ramón Abreu.

Barreriro used the new press to print a short-lived newspaper El Crepúsculo de la Libertad (The Dawn of Liberty), the first newspaper in New Mexico and possibly the first paper published west of the Mississippi. Abreu may have also used it to publish the first book printed in New Mexico, a spelling primer titled Cuaderno de Ortografía.

Following Barreriro’s return to Mexico, Ramón Abreu sold the printing equipment to Padre Martinez, the priest assigned to Taos’ Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel, who moved it to Taos. Once it and its printer were in place, Martinez put them to work, with output ranging from diligencia matrimonials (the standard forms for pre-nuptial investigations) to religious books. And hopefully Taos residents’ “literary contributions,” as well!

Sources: Fray Angelico Chavez, But Time and Chance, Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, NM 1981; Richard W. Etulain, New Mexican Lives: Profiles and Historical Stories, UNM Press, Albuquerque 2002; Rubén Saláz Márquez, New Mexico A Brief Multi-History, Cosmic House, Albuquerque, 1999.

OLD BILL – 6 of 6

He had found it.

Old Bill stood on the rocky mountain ridge, hat in hand, and peered into the long green valley below. This was the larger section Three Hands had spoken of, sure as shootin’. Meandering streams glinted in the autumn light and the clouds overhead betokened more rain.

Old Bill laughed aloud, replaced his hat, and scrambled down from the rocks. His credit-bought beaver traps rattled slightly as the new mule carefully followed him down the mountainside. There’d be beaver here, he could feel it in his bones. If not in the valley itself, then surely in the streams flowing out of it through the mountains to the east.

“C’mon mule,” he said. “We’re gonna ’cuperate my losses and make us our fortune. All we gotta do is stay outta the way of  the Injuns and the Mexicans chasin’ ’em.” He chuckled. “Not to mention catamount an’ bear.”

from Moreno Valley Sketches

OLD BILL – 5 of 6

“Señor, you are still unwell.” The young man assisted the older one back to the fireside chair.

“Don’t know what I woulda done if you hadna found me.”

The younger man shrugged. “Any good Christian would have done the same.”

“Ain’t many good Christians in this world, then. You feedin’ me an’all.”

A young woman materialized behind them and spoke to the young man in Spanish. He smiled. “She says you do not eat enough to maintain a grasshopper.”

“Soon’s I get my strength back, I’ll be outta your hair.”

“Where will you go, if I may ask?”

“Back t’the valley.”

“The valley you spoke of?”

“Aye. It’s a beaut’ and worth the trouble, I’m thinkin’. There’s beaver somewheres there or I’m a bobcat.”

The younger man stared at him quizzically.

“You’re thinkin’ I’m still outa my head.”

“Oh no, señor.”

Old Bill laughed. “Oh yes, señor!” he chuckled.

from Moreno Valley Sketches

OLD BILL – 4 of 6

Well, he’d got hisself away from the Ute war party, but with only his rifle, one beaver trap, and the clothes on his back. As he headed west into the foothills, Old Bill considered his situation. He was moving into the snow, not away from it, and the cold was devilish fierce. The wind howled into his face, bringing dampness with it. No one but a fool would head into this storm, toward the peaks, ’stead of down. He hoped the Utes would think so, anyways.

He gripped his rifle, resettled the trap looped over his shoulder, and lowered his head, battered hat tilted against the wind. And he’d thought he’d been cold before he entered that valley. He began to climb steadily, careful to conserve his energy, his long legs eating the mountainside.

When he finally stopped to rest, he could see nothing below but blowing whiteness.

from Moreno Valley Sketches

 

Spanish Encounter, III

Juan de Ulibarri strode through the Spanish camp in full regalia, helmet and breastplate gleaming in the mountain sunlight. He stopped abruptly beside the fire where Elizio and his compadres were crouched. They sprang to their feet.

Ulibarri gestured impatiently for them to relax. “The Apaches wish peace,” he said. He nodded to Elizio. “You did well to come for me.” His eyes swept the other men. “He kept them from the camp until I was informed,” he said. “Even with those who seek peace, it is well to be cautious.” He nodded abruptly to Elizio and swept on.

“It is an honor,” Elizio’s friend Tomás murmured behind him.

Elizio turned. “I told them to stay because I was afraid,” he said guiltily. “I thought they might capture me if they came farther. I didn’t know they truly meant peace.”

Tomás chuckled. “You think like el capitán general,” he said.

Elizio stared down the path that Ulibarri had taken toward his tent. “I was afraid,” he said again.

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Spanish Encounter, II

Elizio was assigned the third watch, that time in the night when the darkness begins to lighten to dawn.

The sun came differently in this mountain valley than it did on the plains, he noted. Its light cast a glow onto the western peaks even while the eastern slopes still lay in shadow. If you didn’t know better, you would think the sun was rising in the west. He shook his head and blinked his eyes, allowing them to adjust.

A mist had risen from the streams meandering along the valley floor, creating mysterious shapes and shrouding the long grasses. Elizio squinted. A figure rose from the mist and came toward him. An Apache warrior. Hands shaking, Elizio lifted his spear. Another figure emerged, then another. Elizio opened his mouth to call for help, but the first man’s hands were empty, palms up to show he had no weapons. The others also.

“Peace,” one of them said. “We would speak to el capitán.”

Elizio lowered his spear and thrust out a hand, palm toward the warriors. He forced his voice calm. “You wait here,” he ordered. “I will go for him.”

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson