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The 6,000 or so people who inhabited Acoma Pueblo (west of present-day Albuquerque, New Mexico) had enjoyed peaceful relations with the Spanish since being visited by Francisco Coronado in 1540, but that peace came to an abrupt end in 1598.
In 1598, Acoma leader Zutacapan learned that the Spanish intended to conquer Acoma Pueblo. The Acoma initially intended to defend themselves, but knowledge of Spanish atrocities committed in the past led them to try to negotiate a peaceful solution instead. Accordingly, New Mexico Governor Juan de Oņate sent his nephew, Captain Juan de Zaldivar, to the pueblo to consult with Zutacapan. When Zaldivar arrived on December 4, 1598, he was initially treated with hospitality, but that hospitality ended when Zaldivar demanded that the Acoma provide food to his soldiers, food that the Acoma could not spare. A fight ensued, leaving Zaldivar and eleven of his men dead.
When Oņate learned of the incident, he ordered Juan de Zaldivar's brother, Vincente de Zaldivar, to lead an expedition to punish the Acoma. 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 next morning, with the Acoma unleashing a barrage of rocks, spears, arrows, and insults down from the mesa. The Spanish and Acoma skirmished inconclusively for two days before Zaldivar and twelve of his men successfully ascended the back side of the mesa with a small cannon, on January 24. By the time the firing stopped about 800 Acoma had been killed and 500 or so had been taken prisoner.
Acoma Pueblo as it looked in 1599.
After the battle at Acoma, Oņate ordered that every Acoma male above the age of twenty-five have his right foot cut off and be enslaved for a period of twenty years; only twenty-four men actually received amputations, however. 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 Jesuit missions. Two Hopi men were also taken prisoner at the pueblo, each of whom had one of his hands cut off before being released to spread the word of Spain's resolve. Oņate was later convicted of committing acts of cruelty and banished from New Mexico, but he appealed his conviction and was eventually cleared of all charges.
Over time many survivors of the Acoma Revolt/Massacre made their way back to Acoma, which was eventually completely rebuilt and remains to this day the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States.
Acoma Pueblo today.
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This page was last updated on May 17, 2017.