Donated by A. Lee Martinez
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In 1600, about 80 soldiers arrived in support of the
new colony at San Gabriel. One of the captains who came with this group
was Cristobal Vaca, 33 years of age. With him was his wife, Doņa Ana
Oritz. Another officer of note, who served under the command of Captain
Cristobal Vaca, was Juan Lopez Holguin. Both men were great-grandparents
of Doņa Maria de Vera Ortiz. Cristobal Vaca is what I call a "super-ancestor."
He is my 12th GGF 4 times over, my 13th GGF five times over, my 14th
GGF twice, and my 15th GGF twice! That’s 13 separate lines of descent!
On my pedigree chart, I denote this as 12*4/13*5/14*2/15*2GGP. To put
it another way, both my parents are descendants of this man. So are
all 4 of my grandparents. So are all 8 of my great-grandparents. As
are 10 out of my 16 great great grandparents!
New Mexicans descend from many of the original settlers through multiple
lines. The practice of cousins marrying cousins in our family history
appears to be quite prevalent, and can be seen over several centuries.
I think there are three, possibly four general reasons for this. First,
the population of Northern New Mexico was quite small during this time,
and travel was difficult. By 1680, nearly a century after the colony
was established; there were only about 2,500 Spanish inhabitants in
the entire province.
Second, Colonial Spanish society was dominated by a caste system. At
the top of the hierarchy were people who had been born in Europe (sometimes
called Gauchupines). Most administrative officials belonged to this
group. The Creoles were people of pure Spanish descent who had been
born in the Americas. Creoles did not occupy the top administrative
posts, but they dominated the Catholic Church and political bureaucracies,
owned land and mines, and were often encomenderos. (Under the encomienda
system, the Spanish government gave rights to Indian labor to its colonists.
Land was not part of the encomienda. Encomienda labor might be used
for agricultural work or personal service to the encomendero.) Below
the Creoles were mestizos, people of mixed Indian, European, and often
Negro descent. Mestizos were considered racially inferior, and although
"free," they were usually without power. In Mexico, the system was so
elaborate that 16 classes of mestizos were distinguished. New Mexico,
being on the fringe of things, had a more simplified system. In terms
of government, the Spanish system was not at all democratic. Power was
in the hands of European-born Spaniards and the Creoles. Most of the
Spanish colonists in New Mexico were Creoles or mestizos. From the ancestors
that we have been able to identify so far, several lines succeeded in
maintaining a close European ancestry clear into the 18th century.
Third, bonds were formed among many families that had to endure the
6-month journey to the frontier together, bonds that would later be
strengthened in New Mexico by matrimonial alliances.
A good example of a matrimonial alliance follows: As we look at our
pedigree, (see page 11) we can see that Doņa Maria de Vera (Ortiz),
the great-granddaughter of Captain Cristobal Vaca, married twice. She
married Manuel Jorge, son of Juan Jorge, and grandson of Juan Jorge
Griego (the Greek) giving us our ancestor Juana Baca Ortiz. Juana is
the ancestor of both Grandpa and Grandma Martinez (our paternal grandparents).
Manuel Jorge is mentioned as the armorer or blacksmith imprisoned by
Governor Mendizabal in 1661. If there is one thing our ancestors seem
to have in common, it is the shared anomosity of this Governor. Manuel
was married at the time. In 1658 he received pay as official Armorer
of New Mexico, having been appointed in 1655 to succeed Gaspar Perez.
Doņa Maria de Vera married her second husband, Diego Montoya, son of
Bartolome Montoya, giving us two additional ancestors: Lucia de Montoya,
who married Diego Robledo– Grandma Archuleta’s ancestor, and Diego de
Montoya, Grandpa Archuleta’s ancestor through the Valdez line (Thus,
our maternal ancestors).
So the confusion begins. It is obvious why it is not practical for us
to draw out a traditional looking family tree, where one would expect
the number of new ancestors to double every generation. This simply
doesn’t work for most Native New Mexicans, it creates too much duplication
of names and family lines. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to call what we
have a family briar patch. It gets more complicated as we move through
Among Juana Baca Ortiz’s children, we find two daughters. One is Dad’s
ancestor, eventually merging into the Madrid line; the other is mom’s
ancestor, merging into the Roybal line. To mix things up even more,
a Madrid and a Roybal eventually marry two Cusa Y Lisonda sisters, making
the subsequent children 1st cousins, as opposed to just 4th cousins
(Mom and Dad are 6th cousins – their common ancestor being Manuel Antonio
CUSA Y LISONDA). The subsequent form of this pedegree chart would be
a circle, with the Cusa Y Lisonda family acting like a keystone.
In the colonial period, it was necessary for couples to present their
petition of marriage to church officials. The purpose of the pre-nuptial
investigation, or 'diligencia matrimonial' , was to ensure that there
were no impediments to the desired union, in particular impediments
of consanguinity. If a couple were related within the 4th degree of
consanguinity (blood relatives) or affinity (related by marriage), a
dispensation to marry from the bishop was required since it was too
far to acquire a dispensation from the Pope. Any person with information
concerning any possible impediment to the proposed union would have
had the opportunity to share the information as part of the prenuptial
The Spanish Inquisition & The Sephardim Question
Spanish Jews are called Sephardim; Up to the fifteenth century, "Sephardi"
was used primarily to refer to the Jewish community in the Iberian Peninsula
itself, or to someone who was born there.
In March, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decreed the expulsion
of the Jews from Spain. Many Jews converted or left the Iberian Peninsula;
other Jews went to Portugal, where Judaism could still be practiced
freely. But Portugal expelled its Jews in 1497, and the tiny kingdom
of Navarre followed suit in 1498. Judaism could be practiced openly
nowhere in the Peninsula.
Many Spanish Jews converted to Catholicism in the late fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, especially in the aftermath of the Edict of Expulsion
in 1492. These "conversos," often called "New Christians," included
many who became devout, believing Catholics, or at any rate educated
their children to be. Others, however, preserved Jewish practices and
did their utmost to retain some sort of Jewish identity. Most knew little
or nothing about the Jewish religion and beliefs of their ancestors;
some may have developed an interest in Judaism only after threatened
by or actually charged by the Inquisition. Scholars debate the percentage
of New Christians who were loyal to Judaism; some believe it was very
low. Nevertheless, a steady stream of conversos and their descendants
returned to the open practice of Judaism throughout the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, and even afterward; often their communities were
called "Spanish-Portuguese." Conversos or their descendants who were
believed to continue Jewish practices or to hold Jewish beliefs were
called "Marranos," a derogatory term meaning "swine."
It has been suggested that some of those who settled in Spain's American
colonies were conversos or descendants of conversos. When Spain established
the Inquisition in her New-World colonies, inquisitors soon found evidence
of "Judaizing." Whether from loyalty to Judaism or fear of the Inquisition
(which confiscated property first and conducted hearings only afterwards),
many New Christians found their ways to remote areas. According to this
foundation narrative, these families married primarily among themselves.
Research has been conducted on specific families that are most likely
to have Jewish roots. This research (called the Sephardic Legacy in
New Mexico research project) is ongoing, and is under the direction
of Stanley M. Hordes, PhD, former New Mexico State Historian. Working
with Dr. Hordes is Richard Salazar, former Director of the NM Records
Center and Archives in Santa Fe. Two of our ancestral lines already
discussed – the Romeros and Bacas, are included in their "short list"
of specific families that are most likely to have Jewish roots.
The family briar-patch is a sign of all Native New Mexicans. How many
super-ancestors have you found so far? Who holds the title of supreme
super-ancestor on your family tree? E-mail me your stories at