THE SPANISH ARCHIVES OF NEW MEXICO, VOLUME ONE
FOREWORD TO THIS EDITION
Estevan Rael-Gálvez, PhD
New Mexico State Historian
In what follows can be found the doors to a house of words and stories. Some doors open to the outside; some open inward; and some inevitably open other doors like nesting dolls, one inside the other. Each opening holds a time-that-was as if it were happening now; holds places, ancient and destroyed, imagined and real; holds the reflections of the magnificent complexity of the human condition. Each time these doors are opened something old is seen new again. From the vantage point of these doors an individual can become wise and a community more whole.
This house of words and stories is the Archive of New Mexico and the doors are each of the documents contained within it. Like any house, New Mexico’s archive has a tale of its own origin and a complex history. Although its walls have changed many times, its doors and the encounters with those doors hold stories known and told and others not yet revealed. Susan Wallace, author, First Lady of New Mexico, and wife of author and Governor Lew Wallace tells of the moment she first found the key and entered into this house of words.
I paused at the entrance to let the ghosts fly out; and several minutes passed before my eyes, accustomed to the darkness of this treasure house . . . I had entered the historic room of New Mexico! Tumbled into barrels and boxes, tossed on the floor in moist piles, lay the written records of events stretching over a period of more than three hundred years, the archives of a Province known as Nueva España, large as France.1
While I too had peered through many of these doors as a young scholar, in 2001, when I first opened the door to the New Mexico Archive, the enchantment was equally as riveting as that moment expressed by Susan Wallace. Indeed, ghosts still fly out and ask for company. Old men and women, governors and slaves, the famous and the unknown, all beg my indulgence, each opening doors inviting me to listen, to see and finally to learn from their legacy. The work of archivists, historians and the public have over the years created, preserved, and sustained this house. They have created the keys to its potential, revealing the treasures that exist within. Among these individuals, the work of Ralph Emerson Twitchell is noteworthy.
In the Archives, there are thousands of doors (4,481) that open to a time of kings and popes, of inquisition and revolution. “These archives,” writes Twitchell, “are by far the most valuable and interesting of any in the Southwest.”2 Many of these documents were given a number by Twitchell, small stickers that were appended to the first page of each document, an act of heresy to archivists and yet these stickers have now become part of the artifact. These are the doors that Ralph Emerson Twitchell opened at the dawn of the 20th century with a key that has served scholars, policy-makers, and activists for generations. In 1914, Twitchell published in two volumes The Spanish Archives of New Mexico, the first calendar and guide to the documents from the Spanish colonial period. These two volumes also have their mistakes, left for other scholars to correct or re-interpret. Below, I briefly summarize in narrative form, each of these two distinct, yet intricately related collections organized by Twitchell in volumes One and Two.
Landing and Mapping: Volume One
Volume One of the Spanish Archives of New Mexico focuses on the collection known as the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Series I, or SANM I, an appellation granted because of Twitchell’s original compilation and description of the 1,384 documents identified in the first volume of his series. The Spanish Archives of New Mexico was assembled by the Surveyor General of New Mexico (1854-1891) and the Court of Private Land Claims (1891-1904). These offices were charged with investigating claims of property ownership in New Mexico and reporting to the U.S. Congress for the purpose of adjudicating land titles pursuant to the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The collection consists of these civil land records of the Spanish period governments of New Mexico and materials created by the Surveyor General and Court of Private Land Claims during the process of adjudication. More noteworthy still, it includes the original Spanish colonial petitions for land grants, land conveyances, wills, mine registers, records books, journals, dockets, reports, minutes, letters, and a variety of other legal documents.
Each of these 1,384 documents tells a story, sometimes many stories. For example, document number “1” dated March 26, 1685, a registration of the mine, Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza, reveals early efforts in land use and law. The bulk of the records however accentuate the amazingly dynamic nature of land grant and settlement policies. A closer look at the complexity of these documents reveals that while the stories of población, or the settlement of lands is significant, it is also important to recognize that población often comes hand in hand with despoblación, the displacement of people. While the documents reveal the broad sweep of community settlement and its reverse effect, hundreds of last wills and testaments are included in these records that are scripted in the most eloquent and spiritual tone at the passing of individuals into death. These testaments also reveal a legacy of what colonists owned and bequeathed to the next generations.
While most of the documents are about the geographic, political and cultural mapping of New Mexico, many reflect the stories of that which is owned both in terms of commodities and human lives. While the ownership of people is much more pronounced in the second series of these archives, here last wills and testaments show the generational acceptance of a tolerated yet illegal ownership of American Indians; however, one document in this collection stands out. The final document in this series is number “1,384,” Bartholomé Lobato’s 1703 suit against Xptóbal de Arellano over an Apache slave in Santa Fe. Although not well known, this story of American Indian slavery is foundational in the history of New Mexico. While this suit reveals a dispute between two men over a debt, what should not be lost is that it treats the Apache woman, whose origins are irrevocably obscured, as a piece of property. Equally obscured is what happens to this woman, who perhaps becomes a mother, perhaps a matriarch of a family in New Mexico that imagines itself Spanish three centuries later.
This amazingly rich documentary resource, the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, is currently being held in trust in Santa Fe under the care of the State Records Center and Archives of New Mexico. Much of the story of series I of the Spanish archives of New Mexico is recounted by Twitchell in his “prefatory note” in this first volume and reprinted in this second edition, and greatly extended by former State Historian Robert Torrez.3 In 1855, the Surveyor General of the United States of America, removed the Spanish Archives of New Mexico from the other territorial records and placed them under Federal custodianship. When Twitchell assembled this catalogue in 1914, these particular documents were still under the custody of the Federal Government.
From the moment that these documents were first conveyed under Governor Meriwether in 1855, they remained in the custody of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Santa Fe throughout much of the 20th century. The land grant records had come under BLM authority when the General Land Office and Surveyor General were subsumed by the new Bureau of Land Management. In 1956, the National Archives authorized BLM officials to transfer the records to the Federal Records Center in Denver, Colorado. By 1959 the State Commission of Public Records was created and the State Records Center and Archives was established for the purpose of assuming the care and custody of New Mexico’s governmental records and archives. As the State Records Center and Archives had already assumed the custodianship of what would be recognized as the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Series II and many other historical archival documents, many efforts were initiated in the 1960s to recover and place these land records within the custodianship of the State of New Mexico. It was not until 1971 however that the State Commission of Public Records protested what appeared to be an imminent transfer of these records to Denver and with the assistance of the State Congressional delegation that the United States Archivist, James B. Rhoads, agreed to place the land grant records in State custody. The records were formally accepted by the commission on January 5, 1972 and in a last symbolic gesture, on April 10, 1972, BLM Director Burton W. Silcock handed New Mexico Governor Bruce King document number 1,027, the last will and testament of Governor Diego de Vargas.
Since 1972, the diligent staff of the State Records Center and Archives has preserved and provided access to these critically important records. One of the most pressing policy issues of the 20th century in the Southwest has been the question of land tenure following the U.S. annexation of this region in 1848. While this remains an important contemporary issue in New Mexico, the Office of the State Historian recognizes that the full understanding and appreciation of the issue can only be found through detailed examination and research of the written record. These documents and Twitchell’s work with them has been as instrumental in contemporary public discourse and debate as they were in his own time. The difference, however, is that power relations have shifted greatly in the past one hundred years. A great deal has changed in the past century since Twitchell’s first volume was published and yet questions of land tenure and dispossession of land continue to be issues of cultural and political significance in New Mexico. Archives inevitably, and these archives more than most, help to shape current debates about dispossession, the colonial past, and the postcolonial future of New Mexico. For this reason, the task of understanding the role of archives, archival documents, and the kinds of stories that emanate from them has never been more urgent.
Leaves Unbound: Volume Two
Volume Two focuses on the second of these collections: the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Series II, or SANM II, an appellation granted because of Twitchell’s original compilation and description of the 3,097 documents in the second volume of his series. This collection consists of administrative, civil, military, and ecclesiastical records of the Spanish colonial government in New Mexico, 1621-1821. Records include correspondence between officials in Santa Fe, Mexico and Spain. The materials that document Spanish rule in New Mexico span a broad range of subjects, revealing information about such topics as domestic relations, political intrigue, crime and punishment, material culture, the Camino Real, relations between Spanish settlers and indigenous peoples, the intrusion of Anglo-Americans, and the growing unrest that resulted in Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821.
As is the case with SANM I, each of the 3,097 documents of SANM II tells many stories. For example, document number “1” dated January 9, 1621, is addressed from the Hapsburg Monarch of Spain, King Felipe III to Fray Estebán de Perea, Custodio of the religious order in charge of New Mexico’s ecclesiastical affairs. Although tangential to the specifics of New Mexico, they reveal the global nature of these archives. The names of two popes are invoked by King Felipe III in this document: Pope Leo X, of the famous Italian Medici family, best known for challenging Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences) and Pope Adrian VI, best known for having attempted to launch a Catholic Reformation as a defense against Protestant Reformation. This royal decree addresses the division between Church and State and reflected the 17th century disagreement as to whether the civil or ecclesiastical authorities were supreme. Contained in the five pages of the document are the instructions to Fray Estebán de Perea on the treatment of New Mexico’s indigenous populations and at one point, addresses the authority and procedures for the Pueblo Indians to carry out elections on an annual basis—an autonomous act of sovereignty that has continued to the present day.
Equally telling, is the last document in this series number 3,097 that describes a revolution in Monterrey, Mexico reflecting the already shifted tide of power that had occurred with Mexico’s Independence from Spanish rule. The array of material found between these two documents includes detailed census reports, witch trials, expeditions, and numerous other openings. The documents point to the local events and people and include an order made in 1757 that Esteban Rodríguez, son of Sebastian, of Angola, Africa report to Santa Fe, as he was the only one in the entire province that could beat a drum. Here too global events are revealed that suggest that New Mexican officials were not as isolated as has previously been thought. Included in this material is a 1795 order for the Governor of New Mexico is to announce immediately that peace had been made with France. Also found among these records is the order proclaiming the boundary between Louisiana and New Mexico and another order from King Charles IV noting that negotiations with James Monroe had failed.
Colonial rule has many implications and lest the scholar forget, archives were part of this colonial enterprise. The archive and its documents reflect the creation and maintenance of colonial society in New Mexico; itself founded upon the casting and construction of colonizing categories, including that of the “civilized” vis-à-vis the “savage.” The archive represents underpinnings of the construction of knowledge. Decisions made by popes, kings and viceroys thousands of miles away from New Mexico defined the lives of everyday citizens, as did the reports of governors and clergy sent back to their superiors. The colonial archives, of which these documents are part, represent the history of imperial power, conquest, and hegemony. Michel Foucault rightly points to the colonial archive as a “monument to particular configurations of power,” and describes much of what is contained therein as “documents of exclusion.”4
Indeed, though the stories of indigenous people and women can be found in these documents, it may be fair to assume that not a single one of the thousands of documents was actually scripted by a woman or an American Indian during that time period. Societies with either oral or expressive traditions are excluded from a colonial archive; their lives and perspectives deemed inferior and/or illegitimate. But there is another silence in this particular collection and series that is telling. A colonial archive is also represented by what is absent. Few pre-Revolt (1680) documents are contained in this collection. While the original colonial archive may well have contained thousands of documents that predate the European settlement of New Mexico in 1598, with the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680, all but four of those documents were destroyed. For historians hoping to interpret this period, the tragedy cannot be calculated. Nevertheless, this absence and silence is important in its own right and is a part of the story, told and imagined.
The Spanish Archives of New Mexico II has its own long and convoluted story, very distinct from that of the land grant records. Much of the story of Series II is recounted by Twitchell in his “prefatory note” in the first volume and reprinted in this second edition. Notwithstanding the neglect and effacement of the archives in the early part of the 19th century, the collections that had been seen by Susan Wallace in the Palace of the Governors, had by 1888 been moved to the recently completed Territorial Capitol Building. In 1892, when the new capitol was destroyed by fire, the action of librarian Facundo Pino and historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell saved this collection and a great deal more from complete destruction. Ultimately, the neglect and abuse would prompt the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putman, and others to eventually remove the documents to Washington D.C., where they remained from 1903 to 1927. In 1927 they were returned to New Mexico, where they were cared for by the Historical Society of New Mexico until 1959 when they were transferred to the State Commission of Public Records and on October 21, 1960, were physically moved from the Palace of the Governors to State Records Center and Archives.5 Here they have been maintained and preserved for nearly fifty years.
In preparing this foreword to the second edition of the 1914 Spanish Archives of New Mexico, I thought about the philosophy espoused by the Western Apache: “wisdom sits in places.” While this philosophy reflects the imaginative force of words and names, it also reifies places; building a deeply storied landscape from indigenous memory that touches the present. Can a place built from words themselves be similarly imagined? Certainly an archive contains the words that account for time, people, place and stories, but the sensibility evoked by the Apache is about a process deeply embedded in language, memory, and stories. It is about how someone becomes wise by looking at what can be seen (including the absent and the invisible), listening to what can be heard (including the silent) and learning by remembering the legacy of the past that is history incarnate. While an archive has been largely imagined as holding singular truths and conclusions the origin of the word archive (from the Greek arkhē) originally embodied the sense of a beginning. In this way, this archive and this two volume set by Ralph Emerson Twitchell are houses of words with many doors and many keys all signaling a beginning in a search for knowledge.
Since these two volumes were first published in 1914, whole generations of scholars have emerged, looking for knowledge through these doors whether to the past or to the future. Many efforts have been made over the years to preserve these records and to make them more accessible. In 2008 a commitment was made by the Office of the State Historian with the assistance of the State Legislature to begin the digitization of New Mexico’s premier collection of land grant documents. The New Mexico Digital History Project was initiated to facilitate this project. The mission of the Office of the State Historian—to foster and facilitate an understanding and appreciation of New Mexico’s history and culture through education, research, preservation and community outreach has been made manifest in the State’s official history website www.newmexicohistory.org. While access to resources and information remains limited, especially in rural communities, this project proposes to eventually make these collections and history generally available to students and policy makers, to scholars and world citizens. The interactive, multimedia, and interdisciplinary website aims to engage the New Mexico public, students as well as world citizens in a journey that not only explores New Mexico history and culture but also allows them to enter into dialogue with other participants, present and past. The goal of the project is to preserve New Mexico history and culture, but also make it accessible and meaningful. Let this effort and the key provided by Twitchell open the doors wide for knowledge to be useful today and tomorrow.
1 Susan E. Wallace, The Land of the Pueblos (facsimile of 1888 edition, Sunstone Press, 2006) pp. 108-114.
2 R.E. Twitchell, “Prefatory Note,” The Spanish Archives of New Mexico (original edition, The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1914).
3 The most comprehensive history of the archives has been written by former State Historian Robert Torrez. See Robert Torrez, “A History of New Mexico’s Spanish and Mexican Archives,” on file in the State Records Center and Archives and viewable at www.newmexicohistory.org.
4 See the introduction to Carolyn Hamilton, Verne Harris, Jane Taylor, Michele Pickover, Graeme Reid and Raizia Saleh, eds., Refiguring the Archive (Cape Town: David Philip, 2002), 8.
5 Torrez, Ibid.