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October 26, 2007

Yaqui River Missions
Power Struggle Between Secular and Jesuit Authorities

264. [YAQUI RIVER MISSIONS]. QUIROZ Y MORA, Miguel de. Contemporary manuscript copy of Quiros’ letter, written as Chief Magistrate of the province of Ostímuri, to Cristóbal de Guarrola, Captain General of the Yaqui River. Río Chico, November 26, 1734. 12 pp., in Spanish. 8vo (21.5 x 15.5 cm). Light vertical crease where formerly folded, minor edge wear, a few small wormholes touching a few letters, otherwise fine and in a legible secretarial hand.

            Quiroz acknowledges receipt of Captain General Guarrola’s letter, twenty-two ears of corn, and list of names; he sends supplies and two hoes with this letter. He notes that the workers to be provided by Juan Bautista de Echavé y Barrutia were not acquired, and that he does everything possible to maintain good order, observing the laws and royal wishes, but that no person is obliged to do the impossible. The province needs a new conquest to bring justice and allow the truth to appear. He is happy that there are no natives on the Yaqui River who wish to volunteer for work in the mines, and he prays to God that the same would be true among the other towns and missions, for the Indians should be working in their own industries. He wishes that they be occupied in the missions and well instructed in the Catholic faith by the Society of Jesus. These are the wishes of the King and all of his officials and the laws of the Indies; they must speak Castilian and be treated as the King desires, as children of Jesus and not as animals. The governor of Vícam, Simón Huitoriamea, notified him that he sent fifty-six of his people to California, but he does not know how, or why, or when.

            Quiros comments (paraphrase in translation):

Is this done against my authority and that of the King and the missionaries; is your monarchy that of the Río Yaqui? Do you do this knowing that I am the representative of royal authority in this province? Let us see to the matter of the prisoners Juan de Oviedo and Ciprián González; you must arrest them as I ordered, and if necessary they may be killed. The same must be done with all of the mulattos, Blacks, and half-breeds who have come here without work; they must be sent to work in the mines, since they claimed that you were recruiting them for the war in California, and they were to repopulate the area. You have sent Indians as troops to Chihuahua, Sinaloa and other places in Sonora, causing great harm. You are ordered to go out into the brush and swamps to recruit vagabond and lazy Indians who have left their towns and bring them in, and to bring me the lists of the Indians sent to California with their numbers, names, and towns, and if you do not, I shall declare you insubordinate and order you to receive 100 lashes and removal from office. Also, regarding the letter of the governor of Huírivis, Simón Huitoriamea, regarding the removal of a large number of Indians, he stated that it reached seventy-six; this must be in conformity with the law of four percent, and for this reason I have asked you for the census rolls of the seven towns under your command.

Río Chico, established c. 1690, was a Spanish mining settlement on the Río Névome, the upper Río Yaqui, and became the center of government for the province of Ostímuri c. 1720. It was a secular curate, not under Jesuit mission jurisdiction. The discovery of silver on the western slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Sonora in the late seventeenth century brought in a large number of prospectors at a time when the Society of Jesus was beginning the expansion of missions in the region. This led to an almost century-long conflict between Jesuit missionaries and miners, the former wishing to evangelize and acculturate the Yaqui, and the miners wishing to use them as assigned forced labor in the mines. In 1734, the Pericú of the cape region of Baja California rebelled against the Jesuit missions, and when the presidial troops were unable to halt the war, aid was requested from Sonora and Yaqui Indian auxiliaries were employed in defeating the Pericú between 1734 and 1737.

             This letter addresses several problems in the governance of Sonora-the protectorate over the Yaqui established by the Society of Jesus, the question of sending Yaquis as soldiers to Baja California, the problem of the influx of a vagabond population, and the question of royal authority. It appears by the handwriting that the letter was copied by a Jesuit as evidence of secular support, because of its sympathy toward the Jesuit cause. Nevertheless, problems such as outlined here led to a general revolt of the Yaqui in 1740. ($750-1,500)

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