Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Like other colonialist countries, Spain has a history of slavery.  In Nuevo Mexico the practice resulted in the creation of a hybrid population group known as “Genizaros” who today make up a significant portion of the populations of northern New Mexico,  southern Colorado, and the South Valley of Albuquerque.  And Genizaros founded the towns of San Miguel and San Jose, as well as Abiquiú – site of a witchcraft outbreak and trial from 1756 to 1766, and two centuries later the home of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
The definition of who is a Genizaro is however not precise.

Fray Angelico Chavez, O.F.M. (1910-1996) – archivist of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and “oppositional historian” who wrote about the non-Anglo, Hispano roots of New Mexico past’s – defined Genizaros as, “Indians of mixed tribal derivations living among [Hispanos]…having Spanish surnames from their former masters, Christian names through baptism in the Roman Catholic faith, speaking a simple form of Spanish, and living together in special communities or sprinkled among the Hispanic towns and ranchos.”  In practice the category came to be applied more generally to Indians who had lost their tribal identity, spent time as captives or servants, and were living on the margins of Spanish society.
 The initial legal basis for compelling such enslavement was the “encomienda” – a system designed to meet the needs of the mining economy in the early Spanish colonies.  As defined in 1503, an encomienda consisted of a grant by the Spanish crown to a conquistador, soldier, official, or others for a specified number of Indians living in a particular area. The “encomendero” (or recipient of the grant) could then exact tribute from the Indians in gold, in kind, or in labor.  In turn the encomendero was required to protect the natives and instruct them in the Catholic faith.  (The practice was based upon a similar system of exacting compensatory payment from Muslims and Jews during the Reconquista (“Reconquest”) of Muslim Spain in 1492.)            
The original intent of the encomienda was to reduce the abuses of forced labor (repartimiento) that the Spanish colonists employed shortly after the discovery of the New World.  However in practice it had the reverse effect and became a largely means of enslavement.  The Spanish crown attempted to end the severe abuses of the system by passing the Laws of Burgos (1512–13) and the New Law of the Indies (1542) – but both failed due to heavy colonial opposition.  Instead a revised form of the repartimiento system was revived after 1550.  The Spanish government’s view of slavery shifted pro and con over time and the encomienda itself was not officially abolished until the late 18th century.

When the Spanish Conquistadors first came to New Mexico, Spanish law explicitly forbade servitude.  However an ambiguity in the rules, the Recopilacíon de Leyes de Reynos de las Indias of 1681, allowed the capture and enslavement of unconverted Indians for the purpose of Christianizing them.  This practice was given further sanction in 1694 when a group of Navajo brought a group of Pawnee children to New Mexico to sell to the Spanish.  When the Spaniards refused to purchase them, the Navajo beheaded their captives.  After learning of this Charles II, King of Spain, ordered that royal funds be used if necessary to avoid another such atrocity.
The Spanish government had authorized this practice as a means of saving the souls of the heathen Indians by converting them to Catholicism.  However local government officials, landowners, and some members of the clergy often placed more emphasis was on the amount of work Genízaro servants performed, while teaching their servants Christian doctrine was often ignored.
The standard wage for a Genízaro was three to five pesos per month, depending on the length of their service.  And once the process of Christianization had occurred and Genízaros had earned enough to pay off their ransom, they were supposed to be freed.  This part of the law was also not always followed by the slaveholders.
Genízaros were purchased at annual trade fairs held at Pecos, Taos, and Abiquiú where they were considered one of the most profitable commodities; the “richest treasure for the governor,” in the words of the Fray Pedro Serrano.  The value of Genízaro servants varied: fifteen mares (about one hundred fifty pesos) were paid for an Apache captive in 1731, and eighty pesos were paid for Pedro de la Cruz who in 1747 was brought to trial for planning to escape enslavement and escape to the Comanche.  Pedro may have also fled (and been recaptured) a year earlier with four Genizaro women.  He is reported as saying at that time that his destination was, “the infidel nation of Comanches.”
In the 1747 trial a servant name Manuel George testified that Pedro told him he was determined to escape to “la Nacion Comanche” with Maria de la Luz – and then “return in the company of Comanches and take out the Espanoles by their hair” (i.e. scalp them).  Other witnesses, among them Geronimo Martin who was described as “a rational Indian with known good intentions,” also said they knew that Pedro wanted to flee to the Comanche.  De la Cruz was found guilty of planning to “apostate to the Comanches”   and sentenced to five years of labor as a personal servant in the obraje (wool cloth processing plant) of Antonio Tivurcio in the Pueblo of Nuestra Senora del Socorro at a salary of three pesos a month.
Genízaros were marked with a very low social status because they were neither Spanish nor Indian; thus, it was difficult for them to obtain land, livestock, or other property required to make a living.   “The primary elements of Genizaro status were servitude or captivity and Indian blood.  Within these two factors there were numerous variations, the defining characteristics being quite elastic.  When the Genizaro category is expanded to include mestizos (mixed Indian-Spanish) who were captives of Indians, and then lived as Spaniards after their release…while retaining their mestizo status, additional permutations of what constitute a Genizaro emerge.”   Such a person was Juana “La Galvana” Hurtado, who was able to leverage her experience and contacts in both the Hispanic and Native American worlds to acquire land, livestock, and a substantial amount of material goods, although still retaining her Genízara status.
Juana Hurtardo was living as the daughter of Andrés Hurtardo and a Zia woman servant of his at Santa Ana Pueblo, which he held in encomienda.  Even though her father was probably an elite member of Spanish Society, Juana still would have been considered a coyota, (mixed Indian-Spanish) mestizo or Genizara.  A few months before the Pueblo Revolt in August 1680, at the age of seven Juana was taken captive by a band of Navajo with whom she lived until 1692 when her brother ransomed her.  By that time Juana had given birth to at least one and possibly two children with Navajo fathers – and probably had been adopted into a Navajo clan.  This close relationship with the Navajo continued as members of that tribe made frequent trading tips to Juana at the rancho where she now lived.  Juana also continued a relationship with a Zia man named Galvan (hence the “La Galvana” in her name) with whom she had four more children. 
The trade business that Juana brought to the Zia, and her relationship with Galvan generated such strong loyalty to her from the Zia people such that in 1727 when Spanish Official Alcaide Ramon Garcia charged her with “scandalous behavior” and planned to put her in stocks, the Zia “threatened that the whole pueblo would move to the mesa tops, rather than have her mistreated.”
When Juana died in 1753 she owned a ranch with three houses and extensive herds of cattle and sheep.  Her funeral costs – which were paid from her estate – totaled 229 pesos, paid in-kind with: four cows with calves; several goats with kids; several sheep; one “fine” mare; one horse; one embroidered manta (cloth); and one cotton manta.  The remainder was distributed among her four Galvan children.  The majority, 1,222 pesos including land and a house at Zia Pueblo, went to Lorenzo Galvan to whom she referred as “her legitimate son and heir.”  Matias, Diego, and Juan Galvan received 1,101, 823 and 480 pesos respectively.  Fifteen-year old Juan’s share was held by older brother Diego who was charged with teaching his younger sibling the rudiments of the Christian religion – indicating that the children may have been raised more as Zia than as Spanish Catholic.  The balance of 1,855 pesos was paid to unmade creditors.
Juana Hurtardo was a woman with one foot in the world of her Spanish conquistador father, and the other in the Indian world of the Zia and the Navajo.

The size of her estate and the amount of her funeral expenses place her in the same category as other women of property in eighteenth-century New Mexico.  But Juana Hurtardo was consistently referred to as a coyata throughout her estate proceedings.
Some Genizaros assimilated and became full-fledged Spanish citizens through marriage to Spaniards.   Others such as Manuel Mestas and Pedro Lujan were able to acquire “vecino” (property owner, freeman) status by actively engaging in the same business of slave trading from which they came.  But despite her success as a mother and independently wealthy woman in her own right – in the end, as an Hispanicized Indian, “La Galvana”, was still considered just a Genizara.


The Witches of Abiquiu by Malcom Ebright & Rick Hendricks, University of New Mexico Press
New Mexico Office of the State Historian –

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