Church and Crown


The organizers of this symposium had two related topics in mind: the invention of the "Southwest" and the marketing of the "Southwest" as a product. Both are firmly rooted in the viceregal period of Mexico's history.


Well never know how the Indian populations of what we now call the "Southwest' conceptualized or labeled this region if, indeed, they labeled it at all. We do know, however, that the earliest Spaniards to come here, those of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were not the inventors of the "Southwest." They never lived to hear of it. For Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, and other sixteenth-century European sojourners, this was the uncharted American Septentrional&emdash;the northern regions&emdash;a land in the direction of the polar constellation of the seven plow oxen.1
Don Juan de Oñete's 1598 vision was merely that of a new Mexico. Three hundred ninety-two years ago, in the name of that most Christian king, Don Philip II of Spain, he declared to his assembled followers, who had just arrived with him at El Paso del Norte:
I take and seize tenancy and possession, real and actual, civil and natural, one, two, and three times, one, two, and three times, one, two, and three times, and all the times that by right I can and should, at this said Río del Norte,without excepting anything and without limitations, including the mountains, rivers, valleys, meadows, pastures, and waters. In his name I also take possession of all the other lands, pueblos, cities, towns, castles, fortified and unfortified houses which are now established in the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico, those neighboring and adjacent thereto, and those which may be established in the future, together with their mountains, rivers, fisheries, waters, pastures, valleys, meadows, springs, and ores of gold, silver, copper, mercury, tin, iron, precious stones, salt, morales, alum, and all the lodes of whatever sort, quality, or condition they may be, together with the native Indians in each and every one of the provinces, with civil and criminal jurisdiction, power of life and death, over high and low, from the leaves of the trees in the forests to the stones and sands of the river, and from the stones and sands of the river to the leaves in the forests.2
It is this occasion which is now being touted in Texas as the first Thanksgiving in America, one that preceded by twenty-three years the Anglo colonists' mythicized first sit-down dinner with local Indians. Some El Pasoans appear to be intent on creating a new mythology.3
The portion of the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century "Southwest, of Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, which included the peninsular half of California, was Nueva Vizcaya, or New Biscay.4 It was apparently Kino himself, as evidenced in his maps and his many writings, who defined the area in which he lived from 1687 until his death in 1711 as the "Pimería Alta," the land of the northern Piman Indians.5 It was after 1711 that the political boundaries of Sonora, which were initially defined in 1648, were extended northward, however vaguely, to encompass the Pimería Alta.6
Throughout the viceregal epoch, the period of marriage of Church and Crown in New Spain, what we in the United States have since invented as the "Southwest" was northern New Spain. But in 1776 it became more than that when the Provincias Internas, or Interior Provinces, were segregated from the viceroyalty to become a comandancia general, or general commandancy. The administrative jurisdiction over these lands was taken from the hands of the viceroy and placed in those of a conunandant general. The presence of so many hostile Indians in these interior provinces, including Comanches, Apaches, Seris, Yumans, and apostate Yaquis, Pimans, and Tarahumaras, seemed to the Spaniards to dictate the need for an administration that was basically military. The lands that became the Provincias Internas were those of Nueva Vizcaya, Coahuila, Texas, New Mexico, Sinaloa, Sonora, and, to a lesser extent, the two Californias.7 Not coincidentally, this is the region norteamencano academicians, following the 1943 lead of ethnologist Ralph Beals, have come occasionally to conceptualize as the "Greater Southwest," a so-called "Southwest", that embodies the southwestern United States and much of northern Mexico.8 It is a nationalistic conceptualization not appreciated by our Mexican colleagues, and quite properly so. But no one, including Miguel León-Portilla, who proposed "Mexican-American West,"9 has yet found a satisfactory label for this vast region in which we perceive common environmental, cultural, and historical foundations.
The Provincias Intemas, and their mid-nineteenth-century descendant, the Southwest, were born of cultural conflict: that of an urbanized European power imposing itself on nonagricultural band peoples, as well as on small-scale farmers who subsisted largely through the fruits of gathering and hunting.10 In the eighteenth century the Indians often gathered Spaniards' crops and hunted Spaniards' cattle and those of more settled Indians, an unfailing recipe for warfare. And while these provinces, now states in two separate nations, no longer exist as a political entity, the idea that there is something cohesive about them has enjoyed enormous staying power. It is reasonable to suggest that "The Southwest", was born on August 22, 1776, when by direct order, King Charles III of Spain created the Provincias Internas.


The year is 1703. Father Eusebio Kino pens a letter to the Viceroy of New Spain. Kino hopes the Crown will provide support for additional missionaries and new missions for the Piman-speaking Indians of the Sonoran Desert, a land he refers to as the Pimerí:a Alta, today's northern Sonora and southern Arizona.
"By the boundless mercy of God," Kino assures the Viceroy, "it would be easy to effect in this northern region both the conversion of the countless inhabitants to our Catholic faith and the winning over of very numerous and unheard-of tribes to the obedience and advantageous fealty of our Sovereign. Likewise, it would be no difficult task to acquire very rich valleys watered by bounteous and fertile rivers, and densely populated by well-disposed and docile natives, long inured to work."11
One can hear the echoes in a contemporary maquiladora program designed to provide a low-cost supply of well-disposed and docile laborers who become subject to taxes by their government.
"Nor to be overlooked," continued Kino, "are the mining possibilities. All this wealth could be a source of profit and renown to the royal Catholic dynasty and to our mighty monarch, Philip V (whom I pray God may protect); yes, and to your Excellency also, for I regard both of you as the very pillars that uphold this newly-won world that constitutes this northernmost rim of empire as yet scarcely explored.... Here in Pimería, the Lord be thanked,. . . the land is fertile and of as high quality as the best in Europe."12
By way of continuing his promotion, Kino's collection of diary-like entries and reports sent to the Father General of the Society of Jesus and dedicated to King Philip V of Spain, he called the Favores Celestiales, or the "Celestial Favors," a way of conceptualizing the and Sonoran Desert that should be the envy of every contemporary real estate developer in the Southwest.13 Had Father Kino been writing advertising copy for Charles Keating, Jr., American Continental Corporation and Lincoln Savings & Loan might yet be afloat atop the corporate waters.
By whatever name, this region as commodity during Spain's hegemony, like so much else that happened in the Spanish period, foreshadowed later European attitudes and events in the same region. What drew non-Indians here were hopes and aspirations&emdash;dreams, if you will. Europeans ventured into these lands inspired by God, glory, or gold&emdash;the particular inspiration depending on the particular individual. In the case of Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, it was a dream of Pánfilo de Narvaez of conquest of an unknown Florida that eventually brought Núñez, shipwrecked, to the eastern coast of Texas. His 1528 to 1536 odyssey in the Southwest was unintended, but its published version captured the imagination of his contemporaries. The saga is one that charms, challenges, and enlightens its readers to the present day.14
In the case of Vásquez de Coronado, he is said to have come here in quest of seven golden cities. His hopes fell into ruins at the Zuni villages known to Spaniards as the cities of Cibola. No cities of gold were these, but stone and mud structures housing people whose wealth lay in their crops of corn, squash, and beans. But dreams die hard. Reports came of the seven cities of Quivira. This time Don Francisco and his men were lured onto the Great Plains, but again in vain.15
Oñate's motivation seems clear enough: the glory that comes with the power to define and to control other men. His was to be a new Mexico and all that it contained, both animate and inanimate. So were Kino's motivations unconcealed. His was a conquest for the glory of God. If he had to appeal to his supporters on the basis of a potential worldly wealth in minerals and commercial products, so be it.
Most of the first European arrivals were energized by desire rather than reality, possibly a major element in most human migrations. Those who chose to remain set out to do what immigrants and emigrants have done since: to mold the region into a familiar reality. The reality for Kino, "a dreamer of dreams,"16 was the Promised Land into which Moses led the Israelites, an Old Testament "land of brooks of water, fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness. Thou shalt not lack anything in it, a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills thou mayest dig copper."17
By the early eighteenth century Kino was able, straight-faced, to describe his Sonoran Desert as "a most fertile country" where there were "already very rich and abundant fields, plantings and crops of wheat, maize, frijoles, chick-peas, beans, lentils, bastard chick-peas, etc. There are good gardens, and in them vineyards for wine for masses, with cane-brakes of sweet cane for syrup and panocba, and, with the favor of Heaven, before lonig for sugar. There are many Castilian fruit trees, such as fig trees, quinces, oranges, pomegranates, peaches, apricots, pear trees, apples, mulberries, pecans, prickly pears, etc., with all sorts of garden stuff, such as cabbages, lettuce, onions, leeks, garlic, anise, pepper, mustard, mint, Castilian roses, white lilies, etc., with very good timber for all kinds of building...."
[There] are," he continued, "'the plentiful ranches which are already stocked with cattle, sheep, and goats, many droves of mares, horses, sumpters&emdash;mules as well as horses&emdash;pack animals necessary for transportation and commerce, with very rich and abundant pastures all the year, to raise very fat sheep, producing much tallow, suet, and soap, which already is made in abundance.
"The climate of most of these lands ... is very good and pleasant, ... with neither too great heat nor too great cold.
"In these new nations and new lands there are many good veins and mineral lands bearing gold and silver; and in the neighborhood and even in sight of these new missions and conversions some very good mining camps of very rich silver ore are now being estabished."18
In due course, however, new definitions tempered by reality set in. In the present case, the reality is an and region, one located far from the world's great centers of commerce and population. In 1692 Diego de Vargas, the recolonizer of New Mexico, called this northern land remote sin ygual, remote beyond compare.19 His unfortunate predecessor in New Mexico, Antonio de Otermín, repeatedly referred to the place as "this miserable kingdom," a view shared earlier by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés who wrote that he had "never seen so much want, misery, and backwardness" in his life as when he arrived in Santa Fe in 1704. More than a century later, in 1815, Governor Alberto Maynez continued the theme. "The country," he wrote quite simply, "is inherently miserable.20
As for Sonora, while Kino lauded his affable, docile, hard-working, and tractable Indians, later Jesuits were less complimentary. Father Ignaz Pfefferkorn, who beginning in 1756 spent eleven years among the Indians of northern Sonora, wrote of them "that the pursuit of idleness is the[ir] favorite occupation. . . . They would not move for the whole world from the position where they sit, lie or stand were they not brought to it by some sport, by some pleasurable thing, by some necessary labor, or some other such case.
"Imagine a person," he continues, "who possesses all the customary qualities which make one disgusting, base, and contemptible; a person who proceeds in all of his actions blindly, without consideration or deliberation; a person who is untouched by kindness, unmoved by sympathy, unshamed by disgrace, not troubled by care; a person who loves neither faith nor truth and who has no firm will on any occasion; a person not charmed by honor, not gladdened by fortune, nor sorrowed by misfortune; finally, a person who looks only at the present and the sensual, who has only animal instincts, who lives indifferently, and who dies indifferently. Such a person is a true picture of a Sonoran.21
Finally, we have the example of the peninsula of California. Father Kino was ecstatic to be sent to Baja California in 1683. Father Jakob Baegert, who was serving there when the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain in 1767, was glad to leave it behind him. "I can assure and solemnly declare," he wrote, "that the Catholic King would show no great favor to the man whom he would make feudal lord of California.... It would be far more profitable for any man to receive a village of one hundred peasants or to be the mayor of a small market town than to be Grand Duke or Hospodar of California."22
"If," said Baegert, "I wished to describe California (of which it has been said in jest that of the four elements it received only two: air and fire) in a few words, I could say with the prophet in the Sixty-second Psalm that it is a waterless desert, impassable because of rocks and thorns . . ., or that it is a long rock jutting out of the sea, overgrown with extraordinary thrn bushes, and almost devoid of grass, meadows, forests, shade, rivers, and rain."23
As for Baegert's Californians, much like Pfefferkom's Sonorans, they were "stupid, awkward, rude, unclean, insolent, ungrateful, mendacious, thievish, abominably lazy, great talkers to their end, and naive and childlike so far as actions and intelligence are concerned. They are an unreflecting people, without worries, unconcerned, a people who possess no self-control but follow, like animals in every respect, their natural instincts .... In a country as poor and infertile as California, . . . [t]here are ... very few Californians, and in proportion to the size of the country their size is negligible; yet they decrease annually. The world misses little thereby and loses nothing of its splendor."24
As for the vermin of California, Baegert tells us there were "snakes, scorpions, centipedes, horrible spiders, toads, bats, wasps, ants and locusts. Of the first named [i.e., the snakes] there are twenty kinds in California, and every year thousands of them are buried in the stomachs of California Indians."25


What was New Spain's role in the invention and marketing of the Southwest? First of all, I suggest.that it was the Spaniards who, with the creation of the Provincias Internas in 1776, invented the Southwest. It is a broad regional conception of which, whether consciously or not, we are the inheritors. And secondly, it appears that then, as now, the region as commodity has had its promoters and its detractors. The promoters described it in glowing, optimistic, and probably ultimately unrealistic terms. Its detractors&emdash;frequently persons who were sent here through no clear choice of their own or who were merely passing through&emdash;seem to have been more aware of potential limits imposed by an and environment. A literary tradition that begins with Pfefferkorn, Baegert, and other mid-eighteenth-century Jesuits continues with the likes of a nineteenth-century J. Ross Browne and a twentieth-century Edward Abbey, John Nichols, or James Byrkit.26 What is paradoxical about the detractors is that their less-than-romantic views of the region have added to its mystique, and their writings-however revisionist, cynical, or vituperative&emdash;have in themselves become a part of a romantic image of the Southwest.
A literary tradition begun with Kino and like-minded representatives of Spain on the northern boundaries of her New World continues in countless nineteenth- and twentieth-century books&emdash;both fiction and nonfiction&emdash;not to mention economic development and department of tourism booklets.
A key element in our invention of the American Southwest/Mexican north, it appears, is that of historical continuity. Whatever ideas have shaped our conception of ourselves and the conceptions of us by outsiders were planted in the days of Church and Crown.


  1. On many sixteenth-century maps, America Septentrional was contrasted with the more southerly America Meridional. Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio, the Abraham Ortelius map of 1570, additionally indicates such fabulous names as "Tolm," "Tototeac," "Quivira,' "Astatlan," and "Marata" in the region today encompassed in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The bibliography concerning sixteenth-century journeys into the region is extensive, but a convenient compilation of the Vásquez de Coronado and Núñez Cabeza de Vaca accounts is that edited by Hodge and Lewis (1984).
  2. Hammond and Rey (1953: 335).
  3. The El Pasoans' claim made the pages of many newspapers in November 1988 via an Associated Press wire release. The story is covered in the Southwestern Mission Research Center Newsletter 23, no. 78 (March 1989): 3. See also Bragg (1989).
  4. The history of Nueva Vizcaya and its extent at various periods of history are outlined in Jones (1988).
  5. A bibliography of Kino's writings is in Fox (1966); his maps are reproduced in Burrus (1965).
  6. Almada (1952: 749). A synopsis of early eighteenth-century Sonoran history is in Ortega Soto (1985).
  7. An outline of the early history of the Provincias Internas is in Bringas de Manzaneda y Encinas (1977: 8-9).
  8. Beals (1943).
  9. León-Portifla (1972: 83).
  10. Spicer (1962: 12-15) has proposed a classification of the Indians of northwestern New Spain as rancheria peoples, band peoples, nonagricultural band peoples, and village (pueblo) peoples.
  11. Kino (1961: 24).
  12. Ibid., 24, 32.
  13. Kino (1948).
  14. See Hodge and Lewis (1984: 1-126) for the Buckingham Smith translation of the narrative. An important literary achievement based on the narrative is that of Haniel Long (1985).
  15. Weber (1988: 2-4).
  16. Bolton (1960: viii).
  17. Deuteronomy 8: 6.
  18. Kino (1948: II: 265-66).
  19. Kessell (1989).
  20. Simmons (1988: 228).
  21. Pfefferkorn (1989: 166, 201).
  22. Baegert (1952: 15).
  23. Ibid., 24-25.
  24. Ibid., 53, 80.
  25. Ibid., 40.
  26. Abbey 1976; Browne 1974; Byrkit 1989: xviii-xxvii; Nichols 1974.


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      1972"The Norteñio Variety of Mexican Culture: An Ethnohistorical Approach." In Plural Society in the Southwest, edited by Edward H. Spicer and Raymond H. Thompson, 77-114. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
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