Celebration and Reflection at Doña Ana — May 15, 1845

It was a special occasion: women, men and children abruptly leaving their work in the fields or the shade of their jacales[1] and adobe homes to greet the Bishop; the Bishop who months earlier left Durango with his companions to travel on a multi-stop tour of Chihuahua and New Mexico, who reached this humble place called Doña Ana, between the river and the mountain ranges, a place he journeyed through several years before[2] when it was just a dangerous camp site — and now was a place where crops were growing and where pobladores[3] offered him water, food and smiles — basic human comfort.

The pobladores later gathered for Mass and Confirmation to be officiated by the Bishop, on May 15, 1845. Blessings, prayers and readings, signs of peace, wine and bread, blood and body.  Some of the pobladores were not in attendance, having been killed or taken captive by Apaches.  For them, more prayers.

Either the bishop or one of the priests wrote down on a sheet of paper the names of the confirmed, their parents and padrinos, then tucked the paper into a notebook, where it would remain for generations.

This record faded over time, yet some names still remain: Montoya being the most common.[4] 

[1] Jacales (jacal, singular) were homes made of poles, sticks, mud, grasses, hides — whatever could be found and used to create shelter. The word jacal is derived from the Nahuatl word Xacalli. See Nahuatl Dictionary at https://nahuatl.uoregon.edu/content/xacalli.   The historical record reflects the use of jacales as homes by the indigenous and mestizos in Chihuahua and New Mexico.  See, e.g., search results for the word “jacal” within the Cibola Project.

[2] Bishop José Antonio Laureano de Zubiría y Escalante first traveled to New Mexico in 1833.  See Andrés Resendez, Changing National Identities at the Frontier: Texas and New Mexico, 1800-1850, at pp. 74-76, Kindle edition, (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 74-76.

[3] Pobladores (poblador or pobladora singular) means inhabitants or settlers in Spanish (Diccionario de la Lengua Española), and was the word used in historical records to describe the early inhabitants of Doña Ana.  See e.g., Transcription of records within the Report of the Surveyor-General of New Mexico regarding the Doña Ana land grant in New Mexico, in Senate Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Public Documents and Executive Documents: 14th Congress, 1st Session-48th Congress, 2nd Session and Special Session. United States, n.p, 1874., 3-87. 

[4] Record of Confirmations officiated by Bishop José Antonio Laureano de Zubiría y Escalante at (the place he called) Colonia de Santa Maria de Doña Ana, May 15, 1845, within records at the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe, Paso del Norte (now Juarez), Chihuahua.  See photographs of documents above.)