New Mexico’s Black History Runs Deep | Local news

Did you know that the history of Africa in New Mexico began in 1539?

In 1539, Esteban, an African Moor, was Spain’s first official representative to the natives of New Mexico in Zuni. He was an adventurer, explorer, and original member of Cuba’s ill-fated Pánfilo de Narváez expedition to explore the Florida coast in 1527.

Esteban was shipwrecked with Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and others on present-day South Texas, and wandered the Southwest for almost 10 years. He was one of the leaders of the 1539 Fray Marcos de Niza expedition to Cíbola, present-day New Mexico. He is believed to have been killed during the expedition.

Álvaro García Holgado was one of the settler soldiers of the Oñate expedition in 1600. He was an Afro-Mexican, described in documents as dark-skinned and also a mulatto, just like his wife Juana de los Reyes. They had three sons and possibly a fourth daughter, and are cited as the ancestors of many New Mexicans.

García Holgado was not the only person of African descent to settle during this period in New Mexico’s history. Documents from the period dealing with accusations of witchcraft record women of Mulatto ancestry, or of mixed African and Spanish ancestry, as part of the community.

Sebastian rodriguez, originally from Guinea, Africa, arrived as a settler in New Mexico in 1692. He was the drummer and town crier for that year’s Vargas Expedition. He was one of the first black settlers of New Mexico and cited as a common ancestor to many.

Sebastian arrived in Guadalupe del Paso in 1689. He married Juana Apodaca in Santa Fe in 1697. A son, Esteban, followed in his father’s footsteps as pregonero (town crier) and drummer in Santa Fe, while another son, Melchor, was an early settler in Las Trampas.

The families from Mexico City who came to New Mexico in 1693 to recolonize the area under the leadership of Diego de Vargas were technically believed to be Spanish. However, at least two families, the Fernández Valerio and Arroyo Sagayo families, had African ancestors.

Many of the settlers who were recruited from Zacatecas, Mexico, to settle in New Mexico in 1695 were mulattoes, that is, half African mixed with Spanish or native blood. In the 1770s in Cochiti, a priest named Fray Mariano de Marulanda described local non-natives as mulattoes in baptismal records.

Matrimonial diligence, or Marriage Surveys, from the 1680s to the mid-1850s show that many people are described as Mulattoes and Moors (Quarter Africans), as are the 1750 and 1790 censuses for New Mexico. People of African descent were an important part of New Mexico’s demographic history during the colonial period.

When Pedro Bautista Pino was chosen to represent New Mexico and report to the King of Spain about his homeland in Cadiz, Spain, in 1812, he told officials in attendance that New Mexico was unique in to have no person of African caste, that the province was populated only by Spaniards and Aboriginals, who were almost alike. Obviously he was wrong, having had a historic amnesia attack.

During the Territorial Period of the United States, the African-American cowboy George mcjunkin was born in Midway, Texas, to slaves in 1853. By 1868, George was living in New Mexico, a free territory of the United States at the time, working as a cowherd on various ranches. He became a foreman on a ranch near Folsom, NM McJunkin was a cowboy, bison hunter, historian and even played guitar and violin.

What he’s best known for is his 1908 discovery of prehistoric bison bones at Folsom after a devastating rainstorm that exposed both animal remains and human debris. The animals had been killed using Stone Age weapons.

This discovery by McJunkin extended our knowledge of human presence in the region from about 7,000 years ago to 9,000 BC.

New Mexico state historian Rob Martinez monthly chronicles the state’s rich past in The New Mexican.

Edward K. Thompson