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The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest (Book Review)

Originally published on Published Online: June 12, 2006 
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Reviewed by Luc Nettleton
By David Roberts
Simon & Schuster, New York, 2004

The frontier fear, often exaggerated, of different Indian groups combining forces to drive away the white settlers actually came true way back in the explosive summer of 1680. The many different Pueblo villages of New Mexico were separate entities that had never acted together before. But that summer, under the direction of the leader Popé, they secretly joined forces and drove the Spaniards from the Pueblo homeland. Some 400 settlers and Spanish soldiers were killed during the lightning strike. As is often the case with people everywhere, the unity did not last. For a dozen years, the Puebloans operated without being overseen by Spanish rulers in Santa Fe. Then came the reconquest, but it is the Pueblo Revolt itself that attracts the most interest to this day.

"From the Indian point of view, the Revolt, in its complete eradication of the European oppressor from the people's homeland for more than a decade, far outmatches in terms of lasting impact the famous massacre of Custer's army by the Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Big Horn in 1876," writes David Roberts in the prologue to his clearly written 279-page book. Doing the research was no easy task, considering how many Spanish records were burned during the revolt, how "fundamentally unreliable" the existing record is, and how little information could be obtained from the Pueblo point of view. Roberts states that it was not his intention to write another quasi-objective history of the revolt. What he did was travel over these old grounds, contemplating ruins and getting a feel for the land. The result is a book that is more sympathetic to the Puebloans than the Spanish religious overlords. But knowing that up front, this reader had few complaints, though one wishes there was more information about Popé, a 45-year-old shaman from San Juan Pueblo, and how he secretly hatched the plan with other shamans and war captains to free all the Pueblo villages.

Trying to explain how the Puebloans fared between 1680 and 1692 without the Spanish was perhaps a more difficult task, and despite Roberts' best efforts, plenty of mystery still remains about the Pueblo ruling years. Even harder to gage is how many Puebloans took off to continue to live free during the Spanish reconquest, completed in 1696. Apparently the Hopis, living on the mesas of what is now Arizona, had a hand in what Roberts calls "the Puebloan diaspora." In the end, a reader might suspect that a lot more can be learned from oral history and an insider's view (Pueblo and Hopi) on these 17th-century happenings, but apparently secrecy still reigns in Pueblo country.

5 Responses to “The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest (Book Review)”

  1. 1
    Ruben Salaz M. says:

    The review above is in keeping with "Tree of Hate" hispanophobia so prevalent in American historiography.
    Of the 400 or so dead, more than 300 were non-combatant women and children. This was the true essence of the Pueblo Revolt, something most writers don't seem to find troublesome due to their Hispanophobia. Try doing valid history for a change, instead of typical cultural bias promoted as history.
    Ruben Salaz M.

  2. 2
    Allen Garcia de Noriega says:

    This was not a "Revolt." This was a massacre of women and babies. The PC Native American liberal slant is given to this historical event in almost every accounting. The Indians did not fare well in the absence of the Spanish, in fact, the foundered to the point of starvation. They also continued to massacre each other and essentially their communities fell apart. Vargas's return with the founding Spanish families saved the Indians from themselves. That is why it was a "Bloodless" reconquest. The Indians were so happy to have the Spanish back they welcomed them with open arms!

  3. 3
    Gail says:

    I am sick and tired of hearing catholics being referred to as Christians or that they are a Christian church! People who believe this are sadly deluded and deceived…Christianity and catholicism are two totally different religions altogether… Christians follow Jesus and his teaching, the bible alone…Catholics worship and follow the Pope and his false teachings which are contrary to scriptures all together! When they behave as heretics against the Almighty God and worship the Pope and obey the Pope instead of God Himself then do there evils..they tend to give us true Christians a bad fact they disgrace the name of Jesus! it is no wonder with catholics calling themselves Christians ( which they are NOT ) Christianity has a bad name attached to it…then non believer are disgusted with Christianity because of Catholics and their history of evils! In this book abut the pueblo revolt I see author David Roberts use the term Christians when referring to Catholics..he is wrong here to the max…but I guess he is just writing what most deceived people believe! So in this way I can not blame him . What happened to those Friars or catholic priests was God's justice against their arrogance in thinking they represent God in any way ,shape of form. This is justice for the evils they stood for.. God allowed it oviously and they are no martyrs either… What has me puzzled is that New Mexico is mostly Catholics ! I can't figure this out…!!! Why I ask myself….They need to wake up and take off the blinders and leave that false religion behind once and for all! Talk about brainwashing..even after what the Catholics did to the native people and how evil they were and can anyone believe anything they teach and still go along with it? Mind boggling!!!!

    • 3.1
      pat says:

      Who are you to judge, God made us all the same if you have a problem with Christianity and Catholics then I dont know who your God is, the only one here with a bad name is you, and apperantly you don't go to Church, you would know not to slander others. God made us all the same he didn't choose a color in his eyes we are all equal, not one better then the other. you know I often wonder why someone like you has so much hatered in there heart to say the things you do about others, and I am a Catholic and I follow God and his word, Thru his son Jesus name. He did'nt say this one will be Catholic, this one will be a sabath, this one will be a pentecostal, etc. he came to teach his word. and his last word was to love one another. I don't know you, and you don't know me, and I believe you are the evil one saying the things you have about a religion you know nothing about, If I was you I would kneel down and ask God for forgiveness. and maybe New Mexico isn't the state for you to live in, you should keep moving and go somewhere you could speak your mind, and tell someone who cares about your oppinions, we don't need anyone with your negotivity in our state.

  4. 4
    Gail says:

    Allen Garcia de Noriega , Give me a break !!!! I call it self defense and standing up for your people against greed and oppression ! I would get sick of the slavery and watching those fat Spaniards living filthy rich using me to do there work!!!! I am white and I wish I was there to take a stand against the evil and greed of the Spaniards…makes me sick to my stomach !! if I had to fight or do what the natives did it would be equal justice in my eyes! raping native women etc… the abuses!!!!! Sick ! All in the supposed name of God? Give me a break!
    The native were doing fine before the Spaniards came and lived simple lives….the Spaniards on the other hand could not get enough and never satisfied..they want more and more power and possessions… this is not God's way!!!!! If they welcomed the Spaniards back it was out of being desperate..after all the Spaniards destroyed their way of life and it was hard to get it back….what choice was left to survive? I cannot type here what I think of greedy humans who think they can take something not theirs by force and power and mistreat others…. especially in the name of God!!!! You are a twisted human and have very little understanding of what it must have been like for the Pueblos to have their lives torn apart, to be slaves to the greedy, to have women raped and their people abused by the greedy humans..So put yourself in the pueblo peoples shoes before you make such wicked and arrogant statements… Makes me sick to be a white person when I see statements like yours!!! Search your soul!! get some Jesus in your heart!!!! Other people have the right to live in peace and freedom with out having their way of life threatened by white greedy folks… I would ratter live like a Pueblo than like a rich greedy white man any day… Jesus says to lay up your treasures in heaven not on earth!!! White man destroys the earth and the environment in the so called name of progress? What is the purpose of progress when we won't have an earth to live on….disease, wars, natural disasters etc… pollution ! White man is not as smart as he thinks he is… pure selfish arrogance…The higher you climb the harder you fall!! remember that when you boast of what white people have done!

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