Scope of Project
This project identifies individuals involved in the assassination of former New Mexico governor, Luis Rosas, January 25, 1642.
In the Spanish province of Santa Fe Nuevo México, relations between the civil authorities, the military, and the clergy were frequently stormy, and in the late 1630s, with the governorship of Luis de Rosas, the trouble was brought to a head. Each side blamed the others for the dismal state of the colony and the discontent of the Indians. All attempts to resolve the problems had been in vain. When Fray Bartolomé Romero and Fray Francisco Núñez were sent to Santa Fe in 1640 to meet with the governor and attempt a reconciliation, he physically attacked them, calling them liars, pigs, traitors, and heretics, and he then had them imprisoned. The friars were later released, but their church was closed and its bells removed. The culmination of the disputes between church and state was the razing of San Miguel in 1640, the adobes were taken down and the materials were reused in other construction. The drama did not end with demolition, it only precipitated a turmoil that resulted in the murder of the excommunicated former governor. A young soldier, Nicolás Ortiz, became the friars’ means of revenge.
Born in Zacatecas, Ortiz had first appeared in Santa Fe about 1634 as a teenaged member of an armed escort; he stayed on and married María de Bustillo. After the new Governor, Luis Rosas, arrived in Santa Fe in 1637, Nicolás was again assigned to do escort duty, departing for Mexico City with the caravan that had brought Rosas to New Mexico. He would not appear in New Mexico again until 1641, when he arrived, escorting the train conveying the next governor, Sierra y Valdez. Unfortunately, upon Ortiz’ return to Santa Fe, he found his wife María living in Rosas’ home and visibly pregnant. Later she would testify that she had been Governor Rosas’ mistress for four years.
After the sudden death of the new governor, Sierra y Valdez, an anti-Rosas faction, led by Antonio Baca, grabbed control of the government, confining Rosas, and seizing his property. It was then, on a cold January 25, 1642, that Nicolas Ortiz finally avenged his shame. Out of the darkness with a party of masked men, he burst into the house where Rosas was being held and dispatched the notorious ex-governor with a dozen thrusts of his sword.
Antonio Baca was chosen to preside over the murderer’s trial. Ortiz was quickly found innocent of all charges. And, was then dispatched with the record of the proceedings to Mexico City. However, the luckless Ortiz was soon taken into custody enroute to be retried by the governor of Nueva Vizcaya in Parral. This time he was found guilty and Ortiz was condemned to be hanged, after which his severed head and sword hand were to be displayed on the gibbet. Amazingly, Ortiz was able to escape and was never seen again. Antonio Baca was not so lucky.
Along with his brother-in-law Juan de Archuleta and several other relatives and associates in the anti-Rosas clique, the incredulous Baca found himself in the summer of 1643 confined by order of the new governor, Alonso Pacheco y Heredia, and sentenced to be beheaded. The Custos (head friar) Hernando de Covarrubias insisted on administering the last rites to the eight men facing death. Father Covarrubias and the New Mexicans who carried out the gory business on the morning of July 21 must have experienced conflicting emotions, but the punishments were carried out. Covarrubias later reported that when Francisco de Salazar’s punishers tried to behead him with his own dagger, they made a bad job of it. “For God’s sake,” he screamed, “sharpen that thing and put me out of my misery!” Then, claimed Covarrubias, Salazar’s severed head recited the entire true and essential creed of the Roman Catholic faith. As a mute warning to associates of the executed eight, Antonio Baca’s head was nailed to the gibbet. The governor also told the assembled people that he had ordered the traitors’ property seized; the proceeds would pay for a peacekeeping force of thirty men enlisted that very day.
Most of the persons involved in the assassination plot were close family of Nicholas Ortiz.
Biography of Francisco de Salazar Hachero with description of the assassination.
The Rosas Affair by Lucero, Donald L. Publisher: SUNSTONE PR Language: English EAN: 978-0865346819 August 2008 - 328 Pages Paperback
This book forms the centerpiece of Lucero's trilogy about New Mexico's colonial history. It tells the story of his forebearers and their bitter conflict with Luis de Rosas, the most interesting governor to serve prior to the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680.