Let's not cast blame for wrongs of ancestors - Albuquerque Journal

Let’s not cast blame for wrongs of ancestors

Popé killed my great-grandma.

I’m not kidding.

Of course, you have to go back 12 generations from me to get to her.

Her name was Damiana Dominguez de Mendoza, and she was killed on Aug. 12, 1680 – the third day of the Pueblo Revolt.

She wasn’t a soldier or a threat to anyone. She was, for those times, an old lady.

Perhaps if I had been educated in the modern way of thinking, because of this offense 336 years ago I would hate the Pueblo people and their traditions and find offense in their feast days – especially their annual celebrations of Popé that have sprung up in recent years.

But I don’t. I couldn’t. The very idea is anathema to me.

So is the idea of disrupting a solemn ceremony with the yelling of insults and loud noises, as some protesters did during the recent Fiestas de Santa Fe. All I could think of was, “shame.”

A statue of Popé, leader of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, was installed in the halls of Congress. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
A statue of Popé, leader of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, was installed in the halls of Congress. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Great-grandma Damiana was born on Oct. 4, 1628, in Mexico City to Juan Bartolome Dominguez of Cartagena de Levante, Spain, and Elena Rodriguez de Mendoza of Veracruz, New Spain – my 13th generation grandparents in this particular line.

After marrying Alvaro de Paredes, Damiana and her husband ventured north to the frontier of New Mexico. There, in 1655, they had a daughter named Maria de Paredes.

Unfortunately, Alvaro de Paredes died in June 1662 after being struck by lightning in Santa Fe.

At some point, Damiana married Agustín de Carvajal.

On Aug. 12, 1680, according to several genealogy sources, both Damiana and her husband were killed during the Pueblo Revolt at their home in Angostura, near present-day Algodones. She was 51, and he was 55.

Damiana’s daughter, Maria, who had given birth to Maria Antonia Montoya de Paredes in 1679, was able to escape with her young daughter. Most of the refugees fled south to El Paso.

Of the 2,800 or so settlers in northern New Mexico at the time of the Pueblo Revolt, 21 Franciscan priests and 380 other men, women and children were killed by the revolutionaries.

Of those who escaped the bloodshed, fewer than 1,200 survived the arduous flight to El Paso.

Of course, hundreds of Pueblo fighters also died in the revolt. Death is the unfortunate side effect of war. People who understand history understand that.

But conditions change, and only the foolish would consider events that happened centuries ago and hold them against their contemporary neighbors.

In 1692, Don Diego de Vargas reconquered New Mexico for Spain – that’s the event commemorated annually in the Fiestas de Santa Fe.

Maria de Paredes was able to return to New Mexico, where she died in 1703.

Her daughter, Maria Antonia, gave birth to Catalina Martin in Chimayó in 1699.

And that line of my mother’s side of the family has remained in northern New Mexico through today, if you consider Albuquerque to be north.

New Mexico remained under Spanish dominion until 1821 and then was under Mexican rule until 1848, when the Americans took over.

And we – all of us New Mexicans – have remained under American rule ever since.

The Pueblo Revolt kept the New Mexico colonists – or conquering forces, depending on your point of view – away for just 12 years, but the effects were substantial.

The colonizers learned a lesson and began treating the tribes with greater respect and dignity. By the time the Americans came along, it was impossible for them to handle the Indians in the same devastating way they had in the East, or would along the West Coast.

The 1680 revolt is one big reason that in New Mexico you still find Native Americans living on ancestral lands, speaking ancestral tongues and practicing their ancestral religions.

That’s Popé’s true accomplishment. That’s why he deserves a statue in the halls of Congress, joining one of Sen. Dennis Chavez, a civil rights pioneer.

And that’s one reason why I just can’t understand the thinking by some people today that it is OK to disrespect another’s cultural heritage by calling them racist and other names for celebrating who they are. Aren’t all people entitled to be proud of their roots?

It wouldn’t hurt to remember that over the centuries there were marriages between Pueblo and non-Pueblo people. Love is the great, uncontrollable connector.

At some point in my life, I have visited every Pueblo in New Mexico, from Acoma to Zuñi, and have met genuinely friendly people wherever I have gone.

My family has been invited into homes at several pueblos for food and conversation, sometimes by total strangers. Or, to stay after the dances, when at some pueblos things are thrown off the rooftops of homes to much merriment. What you catch, you keep – but watch out for water balloons!

I have watched dancers from Taos to Ohkay Owingeh to Paguate, being quietly respectful and in awe of how much I can’t comprehend.

And I just can’t imagine shouting insults at the gracious people there today who had nothing to do with the death of great-grandma Damiana.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to editorial page editor Dan Herrera at 823-3810 or dherrera@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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