Massacre was fought in January 1599 between Spanish
conquistadors and Acoma Native Americans in what is now New Mexico.
After twelve soldiers were killed at
Acoma Pueblo in 1598, the Spanish
retaliated by launching a punitive expedition, which led to the deaths
of around 800 men, women and children during a three-day battle.
Several hundred survivors were also enslaved or otherwise severely
4 See also
6 Further reading
In the late 1500s, the Spanish began their conquest of the Pueblo
people in northern
New Spain and in 1595 the conquistador Don Juan de
Oñate was granted permission from King Philip II to colonize Santa Fe
de Nuevo México, the present-day New Mexico. Relations between the
Spanish and the Acoma people had been mostly peaceful for several
decades after the two groups first came into contact around 1540. In
1598, the Acoma leader, Zutacapan, learned that the Spanish intended
to conquer Acoma Pueblo. Initially, the natives planned to defend
themselves; however, their belief that the Spanish were immortal and
their knowledge of Spanish atrocities committed in the past led the
Acoma to try to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Accordingly, Don Oñate sent his nephew, Captain Juan de Zaldívar, to
the pueblo to consult with Zutacapan. When Zaldivar arrived on
December 4, 1598, one of the first things he did was to take sixteen
of his men up the mesa on which the pueblo was located to demand food
from the natives. After being denied the food they had demanded,
the Spaniards allegedly attacked some Acoma women. A fight ensued,
leaving Zaldivar and eleven of his men dead.
When Oñate learned of the incident, he ordered Juan de Zaldivar's
brother, Vicente de Zaldívar, to lead an expedition to punish the
Acoma and set an example for other pueblos. Taking about seventy men,
Vincente de Zaldivar left San Juan Pueblo in late December or early
January and arrived at
Acoma Pueblo on January 21, 1599.
The battle began the following morning, January 22. For the first two
days the Spanish and Acoma skirmished inconclusively until Zaldívar
developed a plan to breach the pueblo using a small cannon. On the
third day, Zaldívar and twelve of his men ascended the mesa and
opened fire on the pueblo with the cannon. After some time, several
Acoma homes caught on fire and were destroyed while the conquistadors
stormed through the settlement. There were an estimated 6,000 natives
living at or around the
Acoma Pueblo in 1599, at least 2,000 of whom
were warriors. Of the 2,000, about 500 were killed in the battle,
along with about 300 women and children. Some 500 prisoners were taken
and later sentenced to a variety of punishments. Don Oñate ordered
that every male above the age of twenty-five would have his right foot
cut off and be enslaved for a period of twenty years. However, only
twenty-four men actually received amputations. Males between the age
of twelve and twenty-five were also enslaved for twenty years along
with all of the females above the age of twelve. Many of these natives
were dispersed among the residences of government officials or at
Franciscan missions. Sixty of the youngest women were deemed not
guilty and sent to
Mexico City where they were "parceled out among
Catholic convents". Two
Hopi men were taken prisoner at the pueblo;
after each had one of his hands cut off, they were released to spread
the word of Spain's resolve.
When King Philip heard the news of the massacre, and the punishments,
Don Oñate was banished from
New Mexico for his cruelty towards the
natives and later returned to
Spain to live out the remainder of his
life. Several Acomas escaped capture by the Spanish in 1599 and by
1601 they had rebuilt their pueblo, which still stands.
The massacre remains a sensitive issue in the United States. In 1998,
during the 400-year anniversary of Spain's founding of New Mexico
colony, a group of Acomas cut off the right foot of Oñate's
twelve-foot statue in Alcalde, New Mexico. They later issued a
statement about the incident: "We took the liberty of removing
Oñate's right foot on behalf of our brothers and sister of Acoma
Pueblo ... We see no glory in celebrating Oñate's fourth
centennial, and we do not want our faces rubbed in it." One Acoma man,
Darrell Chino, said, "It was funny when it happened to the statue, but
it wasn't funny when it happened to the real people." At the Oñate
Monument and Visitors Center, Estevan Arrellano, the director of the
site, supervised the attachment of a new foot to the statue. He later
said, "Give me a break – it was 400 years ago. It's okay to hold a
grudge, but for 400 years?" On April 21, 2007, an eighteen foot tall
statue of Don Oñate – the largest bronze equestrian statue in the
United States – was erected at El Paso. Members of the Acoma tribe
attended the dedication ceremony and protested against the statue's
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^ "Oñate, Juan de".
New Mexico Office of the State Historian.
^ Knaut, Andrew. The
Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Oklahoma: The University
of Oklahoma Press: Norman, 1995, p. 69.
^ a b c Kessel, p. 16
^ Brooke, James (February 9, 1998). "
Conquistador Statue Stirs
Hispanic Pride and Indian Rage". The New York Times.
Kessel, William B.; Robert Wooster (2005). Encyclopedia of Native
American Wars and Warfare. New York: Infobase Publishing.
Knaut, Andrew L. (1995). The
Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Oklahoma:
University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 97808061