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Juan de Oñate Essay

Juan De Oñate was a famous Mexican explorer, “colonial governor of the New Spain province of New Mexico, and founder of various settlements in the present day American Southwest” (Shi & Mayer, 2010). Juan De Oñate struggled to gain support for his explorations due to his birth background as a criollo. King Phillip II was hesitant to support his expedition at first, but because of Juan De Oñate’s family wealth King Phillip II agreed to support him financially. Oñate acquired his wealth from his father Cristobal de Oñate who was a conquistador/silver baron Spanish explorer from Spain. Some of Oñate’s wealth also came from marrying “Isabel de Tolosa Cortes de Moctezuma,” the granddaughter of the Spanish conqueror and great-granddaughter of the Aztec emperor” (Shi & Mayer, 2010). Juan De Oñate had two children from his marriage with Isabel de Tolosa Cortes de Moctezuma and after her death it motivated his decision to explore and govern New Mexico (“Juan de Oñate,” n.d.).

In our opinion, we believe that any man that had great wealth could easily influence the King, particularly when he promised to increase the king’s wealth. As we read in this document Oñate pursues the king, and any wealthy Spaniard, to contribute to his exploration promising the contributors riches and other rewards. Also, everybody wanted a piece of the new world’s wealth as it was a hot commodity to them. Juan De Oñate at first seemed like a good person, but later showed his true colors. In his letter, he mentions all the wealth that someone could gather if they decide to join him. Oñate lets them know that anything that they could ever want would be at their fingers.

He also mentions that he would give “liberty and favor to all” (Shi & Mayer, 2010), who decide to join him. He declares that he would make this happen, by opening the door wide open. Have you ever heard the expression, “if it sound too good to be true, then it probable is.” Well it turns out that liberty and favor was only for the people who share the same believes and views as Oñate. Oñate soon gained a reputation as a stern ruler of both the Spanish colonists and the indigenous people (Unknown, 2010). Oñate did not have a good relationship with the Acoma tribe. In one occasion, Oñate demanded goods from the Acoma tribe and the Acoma tribe were not happy about that. The Acoma responded to the demands by killing twelve Spaniards including Oñate’s nephew. Oñate responded by attacking the Acoma tribe and “amputated the left foot of every Acoma man over the age of twenty-five. Eighty men had one of their feet amputated though other commentators put the figure of those mutilated at twenty-four” (Shi & Mayer, 2010).

Review Questions

1. How do Oñate description of the land and its people reflect his cultural notion of what is common and uncommon, right and wrong? He explains that the pueblos had no streets, but rather alleys that are two or three time the height of a man. Some houses had four or seven stories. He also mentions that all the community dress in bright white or black cotton mantas and some of the clothes are made up thread. People also dress in buffalo hides. The land had and abundance of animals likes the buffalo, turkey, lions, and bears. The land also had an abundance of vegetables and fruits. The natives resemble much of the same culture expect that they had different languages and worship many idols. The apaches punish treason with death in a fortress call Acoma. The cocoyes which is another nation hunted buffalo and grew crops.

2. What was Oñate’s argument to the Count of Monterrey, Viceroy of New Spain, for increase support of his expedition? What of his supporting evidence appears to be based in fact and what is fancy? Oñate tries to influence the Count of Monterrey by letting them know that province would bring many riches. The great wealth which the mines reveal, the proximity of the south sea, and the wealth of the abundant saline (Salt) are the facts supporting evidence. The traffic of pearls and increase of vassals and tributes is base in fancy.

3. How did Oñate propose to give “liberty and favor to all” in the new territory? He proposed this through the preaching of the holy gospel and opening the door to all religious beliefs. He promised religious freedom and property and wealth to all.

David E. Shi, H. A. (2010). Juan De Onate From Letter from New Mexico (1599). In H. A. David E. Shi, For The Record (pp. 6-8). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Unknown. (2010, September 08). Juan De Onate. Retrieved September 19, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_de_O%C3%B1ate Unkown. (n.d.). Juan de Onate Expedition,1598. Retrieved September 19, 2012, from Geni: http://www.geni.com/projects/Juan-de-Oñate-Expedition-1598/5321

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