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Ellos Pasaron Por Aqui: Bullis recounts the 1694 Battle of Astialakwa

Don Bullis

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Many historians have touted the notion that following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Spanish re-conquest of New Mexico was bloodless, that the Pueblo Indian leadership caved in to Spanish demands.

It is true that the 1692 negotiation between Pueblo leaders and Spanish Gov. Diego de Vargas (1643-1704) was generally peaceful, but the actual return of the Spanish in the years following was anything but bloodless, including the Battle at Astialakwa on July 25, 1694, on what is now on Jemez Pueblo land.

Astialakwa, a Jemez Pueblo village, was the scene of an attack by Vargas and about 120 Spanish soldiers, supported by about 100 Zia Pueblo Indians under the command of Bartolomé de Ojeda.

Joshua Madalena of Jemez Pueblo wrote this about the battle: “When the attack was at hand, the Jemez leaders were unaware of the situation that had occurred on the north rim (of the mesa). The few Keresean allies (traitors), who had arrived the night before and volunteered to watch the north rim, made it clear for the Spanish to work their way up the mesa to the village of Astialakwa.

“The Jemez warriors were impenetrable on the south rim; even the cannons the Spanish were firing had little effect. The warriors were caught off guard when the Spanish soldiers did a surprise attack from the north.

“The body armor the Spanish soldiers wore and the armor on their horses made it difficult for some of the weapons (of the Jemez warriors) to penetrate; still the Jemez defended themselves.”

The Spanish soldiers and their allies won in the end. More than 80 Jemez people and their allies from Santo Domingo and Cochiti pueblos were killed, and 360 were captured and taken to Santa Fe.

Jemez War Chief Diego was sentenced to 10 years hard labor in the mines at Nuevo Viscaya, said to have been owned by Vargas.

Madalena tells what happened then: “The Jemez leaders and their allies went to Santa Fe to meet with Gov. Vargas and to negotiate the terms for the release of their people. Gov. Vargas told the Jemez leaders they had to help the Spanish conquer the San Ildefonso people held up on Black Mesa before he could release them.

“The Jemez then assisted the Spanish…. The women and children held captive in Santa Fe were released into the hands of the War-Captains of Jemez on Sept. 11, 1694.”

(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 and ’19 Rio Rancho Observer Readers’ Choice contests. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui” is translated as “They Passed by Here.”)

Don Bullis’s latest book, “New Mexico Historical Chronology,” is available from RioGrandeBooks.com.

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