Book Review: Los Capitalistas

Book Review: Los Capitalistas
UNM Press, 1997, ISBN: 0-8263-2235-2


What picture comes to your mind when you hear the words “Santa Fe Trail”? American merchants with wagons full of merchandise heading west and returning with money in their pockets, right? Well, there’s more to that story, and Susan Calafate Boyle’s book Los Capitalistas helps to provide that additional information.

So they did. By 1840, Hispanos were major participants in the trade along the Santa Fe Trail, with extensive trade and financing relationships as far east as New York, London, and Paris. Los Capitalistas explains those relationships and the types of merchandise New Mexican merchants conveyed back and forth and, in the process, expands our understanding of New Mexico. 

The ricos of New Mexico saw pretty early on that hauling merchandising over the Trail could work both ways. After all, they were already taking wool, woven goods, and other items to Chihuahua, Sonora, and other points south. Extending their freighting operations east was the next logical step.

Los Capitalistas is written in a clear, matter-of-face style that conveys a great deal of information and provides a glimpse of New Mexico that most of us haven’t seen before, and is an important book for understanding the history of the Southwest as well as an enjoyable read. I recommend it!

Railroad Finally Reaches Albuquerque!!!!

Railroad Finally Reaches Albuquerque!!!!

On Monday, April 5, 1880, after almost 30 years of waiting, the New Mexico and Southern Pacific railroad, a subsidiary of Atchison, Topeka And Santa Fe, arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Territory’s first hope for a railroad that connected it to both coasts had been in 1853, when a survey was completed from Albuquerque toward Arizona and California. But then the nation got caught up in the conflict that would lead to the Civil War and nothing happened.

After the war, all eyes were on the transcontinental rail link which lay to the north, along the 32nd parallell. When that final spike was pounded into place at Ogden, Utah in 1869, the next logical place to build was on or near the southern border. Surely now it was New Mexico’s turn.

In the early 70s, it looked like that turn had come. Various rail lines built steadily west across Kansas and Colorado.

Then came the financial Panic of 1873. Once again, everything ground to a halt. Ranchers and farmers in New Mexico must have fumed as Texans loaded cattle and Californians boxed up grapes and pears and sent them east by rail while New Mexico still received its mail via stagecoach and had to use Santa Fe Trail freight wagons for anything larger.

Albuquerque in 1889. Source: U.S. Library of Congress.

But then the great day finally arrived and a train chugged into Albuquerque. The new track was positioned over a mile east of the town plaza. This resulted in a flurry of real estate,  commercial, and other activity. Albuquerque took on the characteristics of a boomtown, with brawls, thefts, and shootings and the inevitable ad hoc vigilante groups to try to keep them under control.

Was the arrival of the railroad a good thing? I suspect not everyone thought so.

Sources: David L. Caffey, Chasing The Santa Fe Ring, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2014; Lawrence A. Johnson, Over The Counter And On The Shelf, Country Storekeeping in America, 1620-1920, Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1961; Morris F. Taylor, First Mail West, stagecoach lines on the Santa Fé trail, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000.

Charles Beaubien Requests Mexican Citizenship

On Sunday, February 22, 1829, Charles Hipolite Trotier Sieur de Beaubien (aka Carlos Beaubien) submitted his application for Mexican citizenship. One of the first French-Canadian trappers to settle in New Mexico following Mexican independence, Beaubien had already married Paula Lobato, a member of a prominent family, by the time he formalized his decision to stay there.   

Beaubien and Lobato made there home in Taos. In early January 1841, he and then-Secretary of State Guadalupe Miranda asked  the Mexican government to give them a swath of land east of Taos. The property was granted to them in January 1843, although they didn’t leave  Taos to take possession of it until Wednesday, February 22 that year.

Although they don’t seem to have made much effort to settle the grant, the two men held onto it through the final years of the Mexican period. After the 1846 American occupation, they began the lengthy U.S. process of confirming title, an procedure that wasn’t completed until  1860, almost 28 years after Beaubien became a Mexican citizen.

Charles Beaubien

In that time, he’d been, sequentially, a citizen of the United States, then Mexico, and then the U.S. again. He’d been a successful Taos merchant and a judge under both the Mexican and American systems, lost a son during the insurrection of 1847, and given his daughter Luz in marriage to the mountain man Lucien B. Maxwell.

When Beaubien died in February 1864, Luz and Lucien moved quickly to buy out her sibling’s inherited portions of the grant, as well as Guadalupe Miranda’s share, and take full control. They would sell it in 1870 to the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company, a group which became infamous for its treatment of the people Lucien and Luz had allowed to live, ranch, and mine on their holdings.

But it had all started on that February day in 1829 when Charles Hipolite Trotier Sieur de Beaubien became a Mexican citizen.

Sources:  Don Bullis, New Mexico Autobiographical Dictionary, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque: Rio Grande Books, 2007; Harriet Freiberger, Lucien Maxwell, Villain or Visionary, Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 1999; Victor Westphall, Mercedes Reales, Albuquerque:UNM Press, 1983.

Rebel Leaders Executed in Santa Fe

On the morning of Wednesday, January 24, 1838, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Governor Manuel Armijo followed through on a threat he’d made the previous October.

He’d said then that if the insurgents in northern New Mexico menaced the capital again, he’d have the four rebel leaders in the Santa Fe jail executed. Now, despite the fact that the central government had sent dragoons and artillery men to support Armijo’s administration, the rebels were gearing up for another attack.

So at 9 o’clock that winter morning, outside the sentry-house on the road north of town, former Santa Cruz Alcalde Juan José Esquibel, rebel leader Juan Vigil, and the brothers Desiderio Montoya and Antonio Abad Montoya were decapitated. Armijo announced the event in a printed circular later that day and Santa Fe alcalde José Francisco Ortiz y Delgado pinned a copy on the door of the Palacio on the north side of the plaza.

Antonio Abad and Desiderio Montoya’s signatures. Source: New Mexico State Archives

The rebel leaders’ deaths were clearly meant as a lesson for their followers. And even for those who weren’t followers. At least one set of siblings—seven-year-old José Francisco Perea and his five-year-old brother Joaquin—were taken to the execution, perhaps as a way to impress them with the importance of obeying the law and subjecting themselves to authority.

Francisco, at least, seems to have learned that lesson thoroughly. He would fight on the side of the Union during the American Civil War and serve as New Mexico’s delegate to the American Congress in the 1860s.

In late January 1837, however, it wasn’t clear whether the rebels would hear what the governor was trying to tell them. Would they finally disperse, or would Armijo have to use the tools Mexico City had sent him? 

Sources: Allison, Old Santa Fe Magazine, Vol. II, Santa Fe: Old Santa Fe Press, 1914-1915; Janet Lecompte, Rebellion in Rio Arriba, 1837, Albuquerque: UNM Press, 1985; Benjamin Read, An Illustrated History of New Mexico, Santa Fe: NM Printing Co., 1912; David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846, Albuquerque: UNM Press, 1982.

Churches of Northern New Mexico

I know Christmas is over, but this has been a tumultuous year, so a video about the churches of northern New Mexico with some peaceful music in the background seemed appropriate. At minute 27:30, you’ll see the Santa Cruz de la Cañada church which Alma and her mother and brother attend with Señora Ortega in No Secret Too Small.

The church retains the altar pieces and much of the character it had in 1837. There are differences though. Back then, the floor was hard-packed dirt and there were no pews. You’ll have to use your imagination for that part. Happy Holy Days! Wishing you a peaceful New Year!

New Mexico’s Rebellions

My new Old New Mexico novel No Secret Too Small is set during what is commonly called the Chimayó rebellion of 1837. However, this wasn’t the only time the people of New Mexico let the ruling elite know they weren’t happy. This video provides a great overview of New Mexico’s tradition of forceful protest. Enjoy!

Drop Spindle Spinning

My new Old New Mexico novel No Secret Too Small debuts tomorrow!

This book is set in 1837 against the backdrop of what is commonly known as New Mexico’s Chimayó revolt. However, the story is centered on the relationships of the Locke family. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot here, but I will say this: when Suzanna and the children leave the valley, they end up at Chimayó for a while, where Suzanna gets instruction from a master weaver in both spinning and weaving.

My primary source for the weaving scenes in this book was Chimayo Weaving by Helen R. Lucero and Suzanne Baizerman. However, I had trouble visualizing how drop spindle spinning is done. This video of Navajo weaver Clara Sherman came to my rescue. I hope you learn as much from it as I did!

Saloons in Old New Mexico

I thought I’d do something different this month and share some video about a historical even instead of a written piece. In this particular case, there are several events reenacted in this Colores presentation about saloons in Old New Mexico, including speeches by Benito Juarez and the Clay Allison-Pancho Griego gunfight in Cimarron. Enjoy!