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Document Number: AJ-004
Author: Bustamente, Pedro de
Title: Declaration of Pedro de Bustamente, 1582
Source: Bolton, Herbert Eugene (editor). Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). Pages 137-150.
Pages/Illustrations: 16 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Pedro de Bustamante was a soldier in the Rodríguez expedition of 1581-1582. He was a native of Spain who spent approximately ten years in Mexico as a mine prospector and soldier before making this declaration. He was thirty-four years old at the time.

Spanish policy in the late sixteenth century made missionaries the principal agents for exploration of new lands and pacification of Native Americans. Franciscan friars who accompanied Francisco Coronado’s expedition in 1540 reported great potential for converting the Native Americans of the regions above northern New Spain. Franciscan lay brother Agustín Rodríguez organized an expedition forty years later in 1581 to search for mineral resources and to convert the residents reportedly living in large settlements along the upper Rio Grande river valley where inhabitants raised cotton and food.

The Rodríguez Expedition of 1581-1582

The expedition began June 5, 1581 from Santa Bárbara, Mexico. The expedition party consisted of three friars, nine soldiers, and several Native American servants. It proceeded north along the Conchos River to the Rio Grande and then northwest along the Rio Grande to central New Mexico. The expedition explored areas around present-day Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Bustamante describes the purpose and the route of the expedition and the different native villages and tribes they encountered on the way. He describes many of the pueblo homes and villages, the resident’s clothing in each of the settlements, and food grown, particularly, corn, peppers, turkeys, and game, as well as the presence of bison in the eastern reaches of their expedition. He also describes interactions between the expedition party and residents of the country as well as the mine prospects discovered.

During the yearlong expedition, the Tano tribe killed one priest. When the soldiers returned to Mexico (arriving at Santa Bárbara April 15, 1582), leaving behind the missionaries and servants, the Tiwa tribe killed the remaining two missionaries at the Puaray pueblo.

Document Note

Bustamante made this declaration on May 16, 1582, barely a month after returning from exploring New Mexico. The original copy of the declaration is in the Archivo de Indias in Seville, Spain. It was published in Spanish in Pacheco and Cárdenas, Colección de Documentos Inéditos, XV (Madrid, 1864-1884). The first English translation of the declaration was published in Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916).

Other Internet and Reference Sources

Aleman, Blanca and Rebecca Blancarte. “America’s First Highway: El Camino Real.” Borderlands: An El Paso Community College Local History Project. 17_americas_first_highway.htm

Long, Christopher. “Rodríguez, Agustín.” The Handbook of Texas Online.

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