Snow covers the ancient trail

1682.  Southern New Mexico.

Snow covers the ancient trail.  Carts in the caravan are falling apart.  Mules are dying.  Men on horseback — head south on the trail — adrift without a home. They take note of the in-between places: the parajes of San Diego, Robledo, Robledo El Chico, Yerba del Manso (named after one of the plants that grows at the river bank)[1], and Doña Ana – the places where they rest and sleep in the winter cold

From Doña Ana, the men ride east toward a mountain range called Los Organos in search of trees for wood to build homes; they find only small pines.  They see signs of people living in the area, well-worn paths taken by others.  They enter a cave (perhaps, La Cueva) where Apaches have recently camped, and where others have lived in the distant past.  Campfires burn at this ranchería.   

On the tenth of February, three men sign a declaration summarizing this portion of a long expedition.[2]  It is the earliest record that references the paraje of Doña Ana and the marshy areas (charcos de Fray Blas, Estero Redondo and Estero Largo) south of Doña Ana on the way to Paso del Norte.

From this written record, we know of the river wetlands and bosques in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert of southern New Mexico.  We know that the paraje of Doña Ana was named before or during the era of the Pueblo Revolt, and that this place was in the Apachería. 

(Photo of the Organ Mountains, with La Cueva, courtesy of Patrick Alexander.)


[1] Also known as Anemopsis californica and Yerba Mansa.  The plant has medicinal qualities.  Rudolfo Anaya wrote about the healing plant in his novel Bless Me, Ultima

[2] Declaration of Luis de Quintana, Joseph de Ugarte, and Juan de Echeverria, dated February 10, 1682, from Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico ramo Provincias Internas, tomo 34, expedientes 2-3, fol. 129r/123/98, in Craddock, J. R. (2016). Antonio de Otermín’s Attempted Reconquest of New Mexico Winter 1681-1682, at 131 and 268. UC Berkeley: Research Center for Romance Studies, Cibola Project. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/41d6w72g (transcribing and attaching documents pertaining to an expedition into New Mexico and the taking of testimony of Pueblo witnesses of the Pueblo Revolt.)