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 Gíusewa Pueblo Site

San José de los Jémez Mission

The Pueblo of Jémez is one of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos. Jémez is the only culture remaining that speaks Towa, one of the Tanoan language group. Traditional law forbids the language from being translated into writing, making it one of many indigenous languages and oral traditions considered at risk worldwide. Most of the 3400 tribal members reside in “Walatowa,” a Towa word meaning "this is the place."

 

In 1838, the Towa speaking people from the Pueblo of Pecos (located east of Santa Fe) resettled at the Pueblo of Jémez, their closest linguistic kin. Pecos Pueblo, once a large, prosperous trading center, had been decimated by over two centuries of European diseases and Comanche raiding parties. In 1936, both Jémez and Pecos were legally merged into one tribe by an Act of Congress.

 

Approximately 700 years ago, the ancestors of Jémez (Walatowa) Pueblo migrated from the Chaco Canyon/Mesa Verde area. They established several communities on the western flank of the Jemez mountain range in the 1300s, including a large pueblo in San Diego Canyon called Giusewa, established ca. 1350 A.D. "Giusewa" means "place of boiling waters" in Towa, which is a reference to the hot springs nearby. The pueblo consisted of several multistory structures, with as many as 1,000 rooms.

 

From Jémez Pueblo Website:

 

Having originated from a place called "Hua-na-tota," our ancestors, the Jémez Nation, migrated to the "Canon de San Diego Region" from the four-corners area in the late 13th century. By the time of European contact in the year 1541, the Jémez Nation was one of the largest and most powerful of the puebloan cultures, occupying numerous puebloan villages that were strategically located on the high mountain mesas and the canyons that surround the present pueblo of Walatowa. These stone-built fortresses, often located miles apart from one another, were upwards of four stories high and contained as many as 3,000 rooms. They now constitute some of the largest archaeological ruins in the United States. Situated between these "giant pueblos" were literally hundreds of smaller one and two room houses that were used by the Jémez people during spring and summer months as basecamps for hunting, gathering, and agricultural activities. However, our spiritual leaders, medicine people, war chiefs, craftsmen, pregnant women, elderly and disabled lived in the giant pueblo throughout the year, as warriors and visitors could easily reach at least one of the giant pueblos within an hours walk from any of the seasonal homes. In addition, impenetrable barriers were established with cliffs to guard access to springs and religious sites, to monitor strategic trail systems, and to watch for invading enemies. In general, the Jémez Nation resembled a military society that was often called upon by other tribal groups to assist in settling hostile disputes.

 

SPANISH ARRIVAL

 

When the Coronado expedition dispatched a party to explore the Jémez mountains in 1540, they found several Towa speaking communities along the Jémez Rivers and the canyons to the east. The villages surrounded a larger community known as Giusewa, located where Jémez Springs is today. Casteñeda, with the Coronado expedition, referenced ten villages. Later, the Espejo expedition cited seven and the Oñate expedition mentioned nine. According to both Jémez oral history and Spanish accounts from the Espejo Expedition, the Jémez nation was 30,000 strong in 1583, with Canon de San Diego’s population estimated at three times larger the population of Jemez Springs today.

 

The dynamic between the Spanish and the native population changed dramatically in 1598 with the arrival of Don Juan de Oñate. His expedition included an entourage of Franciscan priests determined to bring Catholicism to the new world. The priests were dispatched to large pueblos throughout the northern territory with orders to convert the locals. Though the priests claimed peaceful and pure intentions, and some priests were certainly more benevolent than others, the methods they used to convert and subjugate the Puebloans were brutal and exploitative. The priests believed native religions were demonic. They forced the conversion of native peoples to Christianity, restricting or banning traditional ceremonies and spiritual practices. They banned native rituals and destroyed religious structures. The missions built throughout northern New Mexico relied on forced labor, often women and children. Both the priests and the crown demanded tribute from communities struggling to provide food to sustain themselves. The first Franciscan assigned to Jémez was Fray Alonso de Lugo. He oversaw construction of the area’s first church in Guisewa (Jémez State Monument, where the ruins of the church of San José are found. Archaeologists believe he built a small chapel on the site around 1600, though there is no visible trace of the prior structure today.

 

Due to the need by Spanish civil and religious authorities for indigenous labor, missionary policy was geared towards consolidating small groups of people into larger villages. The practice was leveraged throughout the Spanish Empire, particularly in South America. The communities created were referred to as ‘reductions’ (reducciones de indios). The strategy was to gather native populations into concentrated populations so it would be easier to Christianize, tax, and govern them. In New Mexico people were already consolidated in pueblos. However, the small villages scattered along the Jémez river were too far away from one another for the Spanish to maintain adequate control so they consolidated the villages of the Jémez into three communities: Astialakwa, Patoqua and Giusewa. Giusewa, the largest of the three, was the focal point of missionary efforts in the area.

 

The people of Jémez pueblo are warriors, from a long line of warriors, that extends back as far as the stories of old are retold. They resisted the Spanish with ferociously. The frequency of revolts and uprisings made it a very unpopular, frequently fatal, assignment for Spanish priests. There were decades during the 1600s where the priests abandoned the pueblo entirely due to the consistent hazards associated with attempting to convert Jémez Pueblo. Many priests tried. All of them failed.

 

Fray Jerónimo de Zárate Salmerón was assigned to Jémez in 1617, though historians don’t believe he arrived in Giusewa until 1621. Zárate Salmerón founded a second congregation called San Diego de la Congregación in 1622, which coincided with construction of a new, larger mission using pueblo labor (forced). He may have upgraded the Lugo church or he may have demolished the smaller structure to build the new one. Regardless the massive, stonewalled structure was completed between 1621 and 1625. Fray Zárate Salmerón left the Jémez district shortly after construction on the mission was complete due to the constant conflict and instability in the region.

 

The church and its convento were in ruins and the congregation scattered when Fray Alonso de Benavides arrived in 1629 to compile a report on the missionary work in New Mexico. He noted in his report that the Jémez people had been "almost depopulated by famine and wars."

 

Benavides described San José de Giusewa as an extremely large structure compared to other missions in the region, with an unusual, rare octagonal bell tower. The church was 111 feet long and almost 34 feet wide. It was built of sandstone from the area, set in an adobe mortar. The walls are as thick as 6 feet on the west and 8 feet on the east. The walls extended 5-6 feet above the roof, which was likely for defensive purposes. The Navajo were enemies and having the Spanish in town did nothing to quell the mutual ambivalence and animosity between the two groups. Attacks were common. For the Spanish, churches that served as fortresses were commonplace in Mexico and Old Spain.

 

The nave is oriented north-south, with the main facade and entry facing south. The nave is lined with twelve low platforms, twelve by eighteen inches, which are believed to have once served as pedestals for sculpture or lighting units. The floor is stepped quite drastically in the chancel area, indicating that there were efforts to minimize excavation. A door in the east connects the nave with the convent. The burial ground is to the south of the church. It extended almost to the stream. Although the church was built of stone, its interior was finished with gypsum plaster. The windows of the church were made of selenite, a rock easily fractured to produce very thin, translucent panels.

 

There are few references to San José from 1630 to the 1680 pueblo revolt. The assumption is that the newer San Diego Mission, further down the canyon, became the base of operations for missionary efforts in the area. Unlike the mission in Giusewa, the San Diego Mission endured. Founded in 1622, it was burned in 1623 and was rebuilt by Martín de Arvide in 1626 or 1628.

 

PUEBLO REVOLT & RECONQUEST

 

Oñate’s arrival represented domination, a war using steel and religion to undermine traditional spiritual practices and indigenous culture. For 80 years the pueblos were subjugated and exploited, often caught up in the rivalry between church and state for revenue and resources. Abuse, cruelty, enslavement, greed, rape and murder were commonplace. Pueblos in close proximity to the newcomers were decimated by European borne diseases. Prolonged droughts in the late 1600s increased the frequency of raids by nomadic neighbors struggling to survive, including Apache, Ute and Comanche.

 

In August, 1680, the bitterness and festering anger in the pueblos mobilized and organized under the leadership of Po'pay, a medicine man from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (near Española). The pueblos of New Mexico united in opposition to the Spanish, marching on Santa Fe as one on August 10. The Pueblo Revolt successfully drove the Spanish back to El Paso and northern Mexico for 12 years.

 

Once the Spanish retreated, old rivalries re-emerged between pueblos. There was resistance towards eliminating everything related to the Spanish. Sheep, horses, fruit trees and other items had become part of the regional economy. When Po’Pay passed away, the fragile alliance shattered.  Drought induced raiding intensified. French fur trappers and the British were expanding west. The Spanish wanted to protect their extensive mining operations in northern New Mexico. With the collapse of a united front, the Spanish sent approximately 140 Spanish soldiers with Diego de Vargas to reclaim the northern territory. He gathered additional warriors from sympathetic pueblos, including 140 from Pecos Pueblo. With reinforcement from Puebloan allies, Diego de Vargas reconquered Santa Fe in 1692.

 

Diego de Vargas’ objective was different than Oñate. Conversion of the local population was secondary to establishing a barrier between Spanish mining interests in Mexico and the French and British expanding from the east. Vargas prioritized establishing settlers along the sporadic, fertile waterways, establishing a human shield of villages. Initially he focused his efforts on the region around Santa Fe to secure the capital.

 

Many of the pueblos further from Santa Fe were hostile to the return of the Spaniards, including Jémez Pueblo. They fought the Spanish, and all pueblos who allied with the Spaniards, relentlessly for two years until July 24, 1694, when Vargas launched a full-scale assault against Jémez Pueblo.

 

Jémez anticipated the attack and withdrew to their pueblo, Astialakwa, on top of Guadalupe Mesa, high above the Jémez River. The Jémez were outnumbered, armed with rocks and arrows compared to armor and muskets.  The Spanish soldiers, with help from Zia, Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos, attacked the mesa from two points, forcing the Jémez to split their defenses across two fronts. The mesa top stronghold fell by the end of the day. Many warriors jumped from the cliffs to evade capture. Of the 361 captured, 84 were killed. The stockpiled food was divided as spoils among the pueblos allied with the Spanish. Astialakwa was burned and abandoned. The remaining population was relocated to one village, Walatowa, where they reside today. Most of Jémez’s significant ancestral sites are on federal land, though they continue to pay tribute through religious offerings and prayers.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

The Mission San José de los Jémez is part of the Jémez Historic site in Jémez Springs. The visitor center contains exhibits interpreting historic events from the perspective of the Jémez people. A 1400-foot interpretive trail winds through the 7-acre site. The San Diego Mission is in Jémez Pueblo. Contact (575) 834-7235 or email tourism@Jémezpueblo.com.

 

 The Battle of Astialakwa by Matt Liebmann, published in September 2010 in the SAA Archaeological Record.

San José de Giusewa

 

RELATED

 

Mission San Esteban del Rey de Acoma

Mission San José de Laguna

Mission San Lorenzo de Picurís

Mission San Miguel

Mission Santo Domingo

San Jeronimo Mission

San Ysidro & San Buenaventura Missions

Contact Information

Mailing Address

Jemez Historic Site

On State Route 4

Just north of Jemez Springs, NM

Phone

(575) 829-3530

Hours

8:30 AM - 5 PM Wednesday - Sunday.

Fees

$5. Free to NM residents on the first Sunday of each month. Children 16 and under are always admitted free. Wednesday admission is free to New Mexico Seniors with ID. A combination ticket, good for admission to both Jémez and Coronado Historic Sites is available for $7.

Directions

From I-25, exit 242 take 550 west to San Ysidro, RT on Route 4 18 miles.

 

Dogs Allowed on a leash

San Jose de Giusewa, 1880

The ruins of the San Jose mission seen from an overlook across the valley.

John K. Hillers, Museum of New Mexico

Public Events

Nuestra Senora de Los Angelas Feast Day de Los Persingula | Pecos Feast Day of St. Persingula August 2nd

 

San Diego Feast Day

November 12th

 

Additional events open to the public occur throughout the holiday season. Information can be obtained at the Walatowa Visitor Center at the Pueblo of Jemez.

 

Cameras, video camcorders, tape recorders, sketchpads, alcohol and firearms are strictly forbidden at these and all events by the order of the Governor.

 

No authorized publication information regarding Pueblo activities allowed

THE VALLES CALDERA

New Mexico's supervolcano in the Jemez Mountains is a fantastic place to explore. There are activities for the outdoor enthusiast and an intense geologic past for the geek inclined.

HWY 4 | THE JEMEZ MOUNTAINS

A convenient day trip or weekend getaway from Albuquerque or Santa Fe. This route provides options: Bandelier, Jemez Monument, hiking, biking, camping, fishing...relaxation amidst beauty.

BANDELIER

Unlike many of the cave dwellings established during the 1200s, the people who occupied the cliffs in Bandelier stayed for a few centuries before relocating closer to the Rio Grande.

KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS

Tent Rocks is a popular destination for hikers in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The slot canyon is a mini version of Antelope Wells and the tent rocks are reminiscent of Cappadocia in Turkey.

CORONADO STATE MONUMENT
After Coronado sacked Hawikuh and pillaged the Zuni food reserves, the Zuni pointed him towards Kuaua, a community of farmers on the Rio Grande. He set up his winter camp with disastrous results.

PUYE CLIFF DWELLINGS
North of Bandelier, the ancestors of Santa Clara and San Ildefonso occupied the cliffs and mesas west of the Española valley. Probably established by migrants from Mesa Verde or Chaco.

New Mexico Nomad

The Pueblo of Jémez is one of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos. Jémez is the only culture remaining that speaks Towa, one of the Tanoan language group. Traditional law forbids the language from being translated into writing, making it one of many indigenous languages and oral traditions considered at risk worldwide. Most of the 3400 tribal members reside in “Walatowa,” a Towa word meaning "this is the place."

 

In 1838, the Towa speaking people from the Pueblo of Pecos (located east of Santa Fe) resettled at the Pueblo of Jémez, their closest linguistic kin. Pecos Pueblo, once a large, prosperous trading center, had been decimated by over two centuries of European diseases and Comanche raiding parties. In 1936, both Jémez and Pecos were legally merged into one tribe by an Act of Congress.

 

Approximately 700 years ago, the ancestors of Jémez (Walatowa) Pueblo migrated from the Chaco Canyon/Mesa Verde area. They established several communities on the western flank of the Jemez mountain range in the 1300s, including a large pueblo in San Diego Canyon called Giusewa, established ca. 1350 A.D. "Giusewa" means "place of boiling waters" in Towa, which is a reference to the hot springs nearby. The pueblo consisted of several multistory structures, with as many as 1,000 rooms.

 

From Jémez Pueblo Website:

 

Having originated from a place called "Hua-na-tota," our ancestors, the Jémez Nation, migrated to the "Canon de San Diego Region" from the four-corners area in the late 13th century. By the time of European contact in the year 1541, the Jémez Nation was one of the largest and most powerful of the puebloan cultures, occupying numerous puebloan villages that were strategically located on the high mountain mesas and the canyons that surround the present pueblo of Walatowa. These stone-built fortresses, often located miles apart from one another, were upwards of four stories high and contained as many as 3,000 rooms. They now constitute some of the largest archaeological ruins in the United States. Situated between these "giant pueblos" were literally hundreds of smaller one and two room houses that were used by the Jémez people during spring and summer months as basecamps for hunting, gathering, and agricultural activities. However, our spiritual leaders, medicine people, war chiefs, craftsmen, pregnant women, elderly and disabled lived in the giant pueblo throughout the year, as warriors and visitors could easily reach at least one of the giant pueblos within an hours walk from any of the seasonal homes. In addition, impenetrable barriers were established with cliffs to guard access to springs and religious sites, to monitor strategic trail systems, and to watch for invading enemies. In general, the Jémez Nation resembled a military society that was often called upon by other tribal groups to assist in settling hostile disputes.

SPANISH ARRIVAL

 

When the Coronado expedition dispatched a party to explore the Jémez mountains in 1540, they found several Towa speaking communities along the Jémez Rivers and the canyons to the east. The villages surrounded a larger community known as Giusewa, located where Jémez Springs is today. Casteñeda, with the Coronado expedition, referenced ten villages. Later, the Espejo expedition cited seven and the Oñate expedition mentioned nine. According to both Jémez oral history and Spanish accounts from the Espejo Expedition, the Jémez nation was 30,000 strong in 1583, with Canon de San Diego’s population estimated at three times larger the population of Jemez Springs today.

 

The dynamic between the Spanish and the native population changed dramatically in 1598 with the arrival of Don Juan de Oñate. His expedition included an entourage of Franciscan priests determined to bring Catholicism to the new world. The priests were dispatched to large pueblos throughout the northern territory with orders to convert the locals. Though the priests claimed peaceful and pure intentions, and some priests were certainly more benevolent than others, the methods they used to convert and subjugate the Puebloans were brutal and exploitative. The priests believed native religions were demonic. They forced the conversion of native peoples to Christianity, restricting or banning traditional ceremonies and spiritual practices. They banned native rituals and destroyed religious structures. The missions built throughout northern New Mexico relied on forced labor, often women and children. Both the priests and the crown demanded tribute from communities struggling to provide food to sustain themselves. The first Franciscan assigned to Jémez was Fray Alonso de Lugo. He oversaw construction of the area’s first church in Guisewa (Jémez State Monument, where the ruins of the church of San José are found. Archaeologists believe he built a small chapel on the site around 1600, though there is no visible trace of the prior structure today.

 

Due to the need by Spanish civil and religious authorities for indigenous labor, missionary policy was geared towards consolidating small groups of people into larger villages. The practice was leveraged throughout the Spanish Empire, particularly in South America. The communities created were referred to as ‘reductions’ (reducciones de indios). The strategy was to gather native populations into concentrated populations so it would be easier to Christianize, tax, and govern them. In New Mexico people were already consolidated in pueblos. However, the small villages scattered along the Jémez river were too far away from one another for the Spanish to maintain adequate control so they consolidated the villages of the Jémez into three communities: Astialakwa, Patoqua and Giusewa. Giusewa, the largest of the three, was the focal point of missionary efforts in the area.

 

The people of Jémez pueblo are warriors, from a long line of warriors, that extends back as far as the stories of old are retold. They resisted the Spanish with ferociously. The frequency of revolts and uprisings made it a very unpopular, frequently fatal, assignment for Spanish priests. There were decades during the 1600s where the priests abandoned the pueblo entirely due to the consistent hazards associated with attempting to convert Jémez Pueblo. Many priests tried. All of them failed.

 

Fray Jerónimo de Zárate Salmerón was assigned to Jémez in 1617, though historians don’t believe he arrived in Giusewa until 1621. Zárate Salmerón founded a second congregation called San Diego de la Congregación in 1622, which coincided with construction of a new, larger mission using pueblo labor (forced). He may have upgraded the Lugo church or he may have demolished the smaller structure to build the new one. Regardless the massive, stonewalled structure was completed between 1621 and 1625. Fray Zárate Salmerón left the Jémez district shortly after construction on the mission was complete due to the constant conflict and instability in the region.

 

The church and its convento were in ruins and the congregation scattered when Fray Alonso de Benavides arrived in 1629 to compile a report on the missionary work in New Mexico. He noted in his report that the Jémez people had been "almost depopulated by famine and wars."

 

Benavides described San José de Giusewa as an extremely large structure compared to other missions in the region, with an unusual, rare octagonal bell tower. The church was 111 feet long and almost 34 feet wide. It was built of sandstone from the area, set in an adobe mortar. The walls are as thick as 6 feet on the west and 8 feet on the east. The walls extended 5-6 feet above the roof, which was likely for defensive purposes. The Navajo were enemies and having the Spanish in town did nothing to quell the mutual ambivalence and animosity between the two groups. Attacks were common. For the Spanish, churches that served as fortresses were commonplace in Mexico and Old Spain.

 

The nave is oriented north-south, with the main facade and entry facing south. The nave is lined with twelve low platforms, twelve by eighteen inches, which are believed to have once served as pedestals for sculpture or lighting units. The floor is stepped quite drastically in the chancel area, indicating that there were efforts to minimize excavation. A door in the east connects the nave with the convent. The burial ground is to the south of the church. It extended almost to the stream. Although the church was built of stone, its interior was finished with gypsum plaster. The windows of the church were made of selenite, a rock easily fractured to produce very thin, translucent panels.

 

There are few references to San José from 1630 to the 1680 pueblo revolt. The assumption is that the newer San Diego Mission, further down the canyon, became the base of operations for missionary efforts in the area. Unlike the mission in Giusewa, the San Diego Mission endured. Founded in 1622, it was burned in 1623 and was rebuilt by Martín de Arvide in 1626 or 1628.

PUEBLO REVOLT & RECONQUEST

 

Oñate’s arrival represented domination, a war using steel and religion to undermine traditional spiritual practices and indigenous culture. For 80 years the pueblos were subjugated and exploited, often caught up in the rivalry between church and state for revenue and resources. Abuse, cruelty, enslavement, greed, rape and murder were commonplace. Pueblos in close proximity to the newcomers were decimated by European borne diseases. Prolonged droughts in the late 1600s increased the frequency of raids by nomadic neighbors struggling to survive, including Apache, Ute and Comanche.

 

In August, 1680, the bitterness and festering anger in the pueblos mobilized and organized under the leadership of Po'pay, a medicine man from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo (near Española). The pueblos of New Mexico united in opposition to the Spanish, marching on Santa Fe as one on August 10. The Pueblo Revolt successfully drove the Spanish back to El Paso and northern Mexico for 12 years.

 

Once the Spanish retreated, old rivalries re-emerged between pueblos. There was resistance towards eliminating everything related to the Spanish. Sheep, horses, fruit trees and other items had become part of the regional economy. When Po’Pay passed away, the fragile alliance shattered.  Drought induced raiding intensified. French fur trappers and the British were expanding west. The Spanish wanted to protect their extensive mining operations in northern New Mexico. With the collapse of a united front, the Spanish sent approximately 140 Spanish soldiers with Diego de Vargas to reclaim the northern territory. He gathered additional warriors from sympathetic pueblos, including 140 from Pecos Pueblo. With reinforcement from Puebloan allies, Diego de Vargas reconquered Santa Fe in 1692.

 

Diego de Vargas’ objective was different than Oñate. Conversion of the local population was secondary to establishing a barrier between Spanish mining interests in Mexico and the French and British expanding from the east. Vargas prioritized establishing settlers along the sporadic, fertile waterways, establishing a human shield of villages. Initially he focused his efforts on the region around Santa Fe to secure the capital.

 

Many of the pueblos further from Santa Fe were hostile to the return of the Spaniards, including Jémez Pueblo. They fought the Spanish, and all pueblos who allied with the Spaniards, relentlessly for two years until July 24, 1694, when Vargas launched a full-scale assault against Jémez Pueblo.

 

Jémez anticipated the attack and withdrew to their pueblo, Astialakwa, on top of Guadalupe Mesa, high above the Jémez River. The Jémez were outnumbered, armed with rocks and arrows compared to armor and muskets.  The Spanish soldiers, with help from Zia, Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos, attacked the mesa from two points, forcing the Jémez to split their defenses across two fronts. The mesa top stronghold fell by the end of the day. Many warriors jumped from the cliffs to evade capture. Of the 361 captured, 84 were killed. The stockpiled food was divided as spoils among the pueblos allied with the Spanish. Astialakwa was burned and abandoned. The remaining population was relocated to one village, Walatowa, where they reside today. Most of Jémez’s significant ancestral sites are on federal land, though they continue to pay tribute through religious offerings and prayers.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

The Mission San José de los Jémez is part of the Jémez Historic site in Jémez Springs. The visitor center contains exhibits interpreting historic events from the perspective of the Jémez people. A 1400-foot interpretive trail winds through the 7-acre site. The San Diego Mission is in Jémez Pueblo. Contact (575) 834-7235 or email tourism@Jémezpueblo.com.

 

 The Battle of Astialakwa by Matt Liebmann, published in September 2010 in the SAA Archaeological Record.

San José de Giusewa

 

RELATED

 

Mission San Esteban del Rey de Acoma

Mission San José de Laguna

Mission San Lorenzo de Picurís

Mission San Miguel

Mission Santo Domingo

San Jeronimo Mission

San Ysidro & San Buenaventura Missions

New Mexico Nomad

 Gíusewa Pueblo Site

San José de los Jémez Mission