||Oņate, Juan de, 1549?-1624
||Account of the Journey to the Salines, the Xumanas, and the Sea
||Bolton, Herbert Eugene (editor). Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). Pages 233-238.
||8 / 0
Juan de Oñate (1549?-1624) was the son of wealthy conquistador
and miner Cristóbal de Oñate. After the expeditions
of Rodríguez and Espejo (see AJ-004 to AJ-008), interest in the
mineral wealth of New Mexico convinced the Spanish viceroy to license
further expeditions. Espejo applied for a license, proposing a four-hundred-man
army to conquer and settle New Mexico, as did several other adventurers
and investors. The bidding process was long and drawn out, and the
lure of New Mexico was so strong that some parties embarked for
the north without permission. In 1593, Francisco Leyva de Bonilla
and Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña led one such unauthorized
expedition into New Mexico. They spent a year among the pueblos
and journeyed east into Quivira as far as the Platte River in Kansas
before Humaña murdered Leyva, and all but one survivor were
killed by Indians (see AJ-103).
Finally in 1595, the Spanish viceroy named Juan de Oñate
to be the governor of New Mexico, adelantado and captain-general
of the new province. Oñate was the son of Cristóbal
de Oñate, the conqueror of Nueva Galicia where he operated
mines, and one of the founders of Zacatecas. His wife was the granddaughter
of the famous conquistador Hernando Cortez and the great-granddaughter
of the Aztec leader Montezuma.
Oņates Expeditions, 1598-1604
Although rivals impeded planning for the governors great expedition,
Oņate recruited colonists by promising them privileges and exemptions.
In the spring of 1596, four-hundred settlers, soldiers, their families,
and servants assembled eighty-three carts and wagons for the trip
north with seven-thousand head of livestock. After splitting up
to traverse the great sand dunes south of El Paso, Oņate took formal
possession of the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico for King
Philip II of Spain on April 30, 1596. Oņate took a party of sixty
men north to subdue the pueblos. He established his first headquarters
at the Caypa pueblo, which he renamed San Juan, on August 18, 1596.
While a church was being built, Oņate met with chiefs of the surrounding
pueblos and convened a general assembly of all the chiefs and representatives
on September 9, 1596. At that convention the province of New Mexico
was formally established.
Next Oņate turned his attention to exploit other nearby lands.
He took sixty men to the Pecos River to hunt buffalo. He visited
salt mines near the Jumano and Zuni pueblos. He sent Captain Marcos
Farfán to explore Arizona near Moqui, finding abundant silver veins.
On one such expedition, in November 1598, Juan de Zaldívar was killed
at Acoma by the Hopi. Oņate retaliated by subduing Acoma in two
days of hand-to-hand fighting in which the Indians were punished
by fire and bloodshed, and the pueblo was completely laid waste
and burned. In 1601, Oņate explored the route taken by Humaņa to
the Platte River and Kansas eight years earlier. In 1604 he followed
a route to the Gulf of California and retraced the expeditions made
by Coronado, Espejo, and Humaņa during the previous decades.
This brief account describes Oņates trip that began October
6, 1598, from the first New Mexico capital at San Juan in Teguas
province, in hopes of visiting the South Sea (Gulf of
California). The first section of this trip lasted about a week,
bringing Oņate to Gallinas with its large expanses of salt
flats. He intended to chart a route to the South Sea that took
him past Los Alamos and the pueblo of Acoma. At Acoma, which
Oņate describes as a thriving village with five hundred houses,
the local Indians provided his party with a feast of turkey,
maize, and water.
From Acoma, Oņate traveled through the Zuni province, crossing
the Bad News (Malas Nuevas) River and climbing into the mountains
where it snowed abundantly. Horses stampeded in the snow and several
were lost. When they reached the Zuni pueblos of Cibola (also Granada),
the Zuni provided Oņates party with a feast of maize, tortillas,
and rabbit. Coronado had visited Cibola more than sixty years earlier
(see AJ-086) and the families of two Indians loyal to him still
lived there. Nearby, Oņate found more high-grade salt deposits that
he obediently dedicated to the king.
On November 8, 1598, Oņate headed north to Mohoqui to explore for
mineral deposits. The inhabitants of Mohoqui were at first generous,
providing the Spanish tortillas and sprinkling the men and their
horses with fine flour. Oņate sent Captain Marcos Farfán de los
Godos to search for mineral deposits reported by Espejo (see AJ-006
to AJ-008), which were described as being high-quality silver ore.
Despite his intent to travel to the South Sea, Oņate did not reach
it on this trip. His expedition was cut short when Indians at Acoma
killed several Spaniards, including Juan de Zaldívar. Oņate returned
to San Juan, leaving orders for Captain Farfán to avoid Acoma on
his return. The expedition returned to San Juan de Baptista by Christmas
Other Internet and Reference Sources
For more information on Oņate, see the "Handbook of Texas Online" to read the
biography and see more details about the expedition.
The standard biography is Marc Simmons The Last Conquistador:
Juan de Oņate and the Settling of the Far Southwest (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). Also see George Hammonds (ed.)
Don Juan de Oņate and the Founding of New Mexico (Santa Fe:
El Palacio Press, 1927). A wide selection of primary documents
are printed in George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds., Don Juan
de Oņate: Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595-1628 (Albuquerque: University
of New Mexico Press, 1953).