de laTeja on Knaut, 'The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico'

Andrew L. Knaut. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. xx + 248 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8061-2727-9.

Reviewed by Jesus F. de laTeja (Southwest Texas State University)
Published on H-LatAm (August, 1995)

The story of seventeenth-century New Mexico is a difficult one to tell, as the author of the present study, Andrew Knaut, himself points out. The destruction of most records during the Indian revolt of 1680 forces historians to rely on printed sources and records collected in Mexico City and elsewhere outside the province. Surviving documents regarding the period are one-sided products of Spanish officialdom. The preliterate Indians left no records, of course. Despite all this, the author asserts, it is important to attempt an exegesis of the documents that brings the peoples now known as the Pueblos to the fore.

Much of what is in The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 will be familiar to students of the region. Knaut's intention is not to present new evidence so much as to reinterpret it. The problems with the sources remains, however, a central issue. Much of what survives for the seventeenth century is evidence of dysfunctional activity: the squabbling between governors and clerics; the accusations and investigations of illegal or immoral behavior among the Hispanic residents; the naive or misguided interpretations of Pueblo society by missionaries. All of it, underscored by the rightfully paranoid suspicions of the tiny Hispanic settlers toward the overwhelming Indian population. The documents were the evidence of what was wrong in early Hispanic New Mexico. They failed to record, at least on the surface, how the region s people, Hispanic and Indian, got along on an everyday basis.

In the past, historians tended to separate the two groups. The Indians worked for the Hispanic settlers, absorbed Christianity in their own way, and were, by and large, docile until abuses in the 1670s led to the revolt. The small Hispanic population, frustrated by the poverty, remoteness, and alienness of the region often turned on itself--governors abused power, the missionaries abused their flocks, settlers went "native." Ramon Gutierrez s award-winning and controversial, When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846 (Stanford, 1991), takes the dysfunctional side of Pueblo-Hispanic relations, as portrayed in the records, to the limits.

Knaut points in a new direction, however. He attempts to read the documents between the lines in order to bring Pueblo and Hispanic worlds together. His aim is to understand the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 as a consequence of the long-term dynamics of Pueblo-Hispanic interactions on all levels. Hispanic economic and social demands on Pueblo society meant, among other things, tensions within the Indian communities. By the same token, the small size and isolation of the Hispanic population, meant increasing contacts and associations with the Indians, as well as continued economic dependence on them. The Pueblos learned to benefit from the fights among Hispanic factions, as they bided their time for the right opportunity to rid themselves of the foreigners. At times Pueblo hostility toward the Spanish colonial world erupted on an individual or community level, but only in the late 1670s were the contacts among the various Pueblo peoples sufficiently coordinated and the abuses sufficiently stark to result in a broad revolt.

Despite his efforts, Knaut is unable to overcome the limitations of the sources. We learn more about the Hispanic population than the Indian. We learn about which governors got into trouble and which missionaries misbehaved. We learn how some Pueblo practices found acceptance among the settlers. We learn about which Pueblos held a continuing grudge for the settlers, their religion, and their society. What we do not learn about is, for instance, why a substantial group of Piros and Tiwas decided to follow the Hispanic population into exile in 1680, or why the leaders of San Marcos, San Cristobal, and La Cienega pueblos decided not to participate in the insurrection. We also do not learn why the conspirators decided to exclude certain Pueblos from their plot. Certainly these decisions must have been based on long-term processes equal to those which were at work among those group that did decide to rebel. This problem also brings out the fact that although he stresses the need to abandon a monolithic model of "Indians versus Europeans" (p. xv), he often discusses events and actions in those terms. The author also devotes considerable attention to how Hispanic settlers absorbed Pueblo traits, but says almost nothing about acculturation in the other direction. It is significant, though it remains uncommented upon in The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, that in expelling the Hispanics and their ways, the Pueblos did not give up the sheep, cattle, horses, and various plants that the Hispanics introduced.

Despite the limitations, this book does a good job of synthesizing the story of seventeenth-century New Mexico. Making it accessible to an American readership which, Knaut rightly points out, knows precious little about this aspect of American history. It is part of a recent trend toward reexamining the non- English American colonial experience, giving the native populations roles as actors rather than mere victims or as obstacles to progress. Knaut's work should find its way into classrooms across the country.

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Citation: Jesus F. de laTeja. Review of Knaut, Andrew L., The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. August, 1995.

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