Juan de Onate the last conquistador Essay

This essay has a total of 724 words and 4 pages.


Juan de Onate the last conquistador





In the late 1500's after the disappointment of Coronado's non-glorious expedition was
forgotten, Spain had a renewed interest in New Mexico. King Philip II needed a new
conquistador to go to New Mexico to obtain and claim the 3 G's (Gold, Glory, and God) for
the crown and for the country. The man chosen to fill this job was Juan de Onate. Being
of noble Basque blood it seems that Juan de Onate was destined to become someone of
importance. It is said that the Basque people were "Hardy, self-reliant, and stubbornly
strong" and "In New Spain won distinction as explorers, soldiers, and discoverers of mines
on the frontier." Juan's father Cristobal de Onate was one of those Basque people
described above. In 1546 Cristobal along with a few other Basque men discovered a silver
mine in Mexico, but was already rich due to his many encomiendas, his salary as a
lieutenant-governor, and many other businesses he owned. Given Juan de Onate's
tremendous wealth and outstanding family history King Philip thought that he had found an
excellent conquistador, but would soon find out that he was wrong.

Juan de Onate's problems started before he even left New Spain. Due to politics and other
circumstances Onate's expeditions were delayed many times. As a result of these delays
many of the settlers Onate had recruited lost interest and left. The issue of abandonment
of his settlers would continue to remain a problem. Abandonment by the settlers came as a
result of the bad conditions of the settlements. It was said that "Onate, instead of
trying to establish his colony upon a firm economic basis, with his captains, devoted
their time and exhausted their resources in explorations and the search for mines." On
September 12, 1598 four of Onate's men stole horses to leave back to New Spain. After
catching the four men Onate ordered them executed, with no trial. This perhaps began to
show that Onate was more a villain than a hero.

Onate would soon have bigger problems than abandonment to deal with. This time Onate's
problems would hit closer to home. On December fourth after the Spaniards asked the Acoma
Indians to "subscribe to the Act of obedience and Homage," the Acoma Indians attacked the
Spaniards. In this attack 13 Spaniards were killed. The most devastating to Juan de
Onate was the death of his nephew, Juan de Zaldivar. After being given an unfair and
biased trial Onate, once again showing the villain from within, issued brutal sentences to
the 500 captured Acoma Indians. All of the Indians 12 and older were sentenced to be
slaves for 20 years, and males 25 and older had one of their feet cut off.

Conditions continued to worsen for the settlers in New Mexico. The situation was so bad
that "by early 1601 life in New Mexico had been reduced to a simple formula - fending of
hunger and cold." This was more bad news for Onate. Due to the bad conditions of the
settlements and Onate's mistreatment of the Indians and of his own people, the Viceroy of
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