Tomás Vélez Cachupín

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Tomás Vélez Cachupín
47th Spanish Governor of New Mexico
In office
Preceded by Joaquín Codallos
Succeeded by Francisco Antonio Marín del Valle
52nd Spanish Governor of New Mexico
In office
Preceded by Manuel Portilla Urrisola
Succeeded by Pedro Fermín de Mendinueta
Personal details
Profession Judge and governor of colonial New Mexico

Tomás Vélez Cachupín was a colonial judge, and the Spanish colonial governor of Santa Fe de Nuevo México province (present day New Mexico), located in the northern Viceroyalty of New Spain (colonial México), from 1749 to 1754 and 1762 to 1767.


Cachupín's courage and compassion during the War of San Diego Pond won him great respect among the Comanches, Utes, and Apaches. Because of this, he was able to maintain peaceful relations with nomadic tribes in the province. He created practical solutions for keeping the peace between the Amerindians and the Spanish. He also protected the right to the possession of lands by the people of New Mexico, including the Amerindians, fining and imprisoning those who occupied the lands of others under the theory that these lands were property of their inhabitants.

First Term[edit]

Vélez Cachupín was appointed governor of New Mexico in early 1749 and assumed the office in May of that year. After settling in New Mexico as governor, he noticed the frequent attacks the Comanches launched against the province's Spanish settlements. These attacks were not only dangerous because they resulted in kidnappings and the killing of settlers and their descendants in the province, they also impeded economic growth. The Indian population was higher than that of white people. To remedy this situation, Vélez Cachupin decided to improve the quality of life of the indigenous people, hoping that they would respect him. In addition, he hoped that peaceful trade with the nomadic tribes would help the economy of New Mexico.

As a result, in July 1750, a group of approximately 130 Comanches came to New Mexico and settled there temporarily in tents. Forty of them settled in Taos to trade hides and slaves with white traders. Although the governor agreed to the trade, he threatened to declare the war if, after trading with them, the Comanches attacked Pecos and Galisteo. This mistrust was normal because the Spanish of the province considered the Comanches of the southwestern United States to be their main enemy. The Comanches' chiefs agreed to this, but another group of Comanche armed with bows, spears, and guns, attacked Pecos in November.

After hearing this news, Vélez Cachupin led an army against the Comanches and began a search for them which lasted six days. He found a group of 145 Comanches, who unexpectedly attacked him, starting the Battle of San Diego Pond. At dusk, the Comanches retreated to the center of the lake, despite its extremely cold temperature. The governor ordered his army to murder any Comanche they saw. However, hearing the screams of women and children, he called off the attack and, with the help of an interpreter, offered to spare the lives of any Comanches who surrendered. At first, the Comanches were determined to fight until, at midnight, a wounded boy aged sixteen, left the pond and holding a cross made of reeds, asked Vélez Cachupin for mercy. Only when his companions saw that he was well treated by Vélez Cachupin did most of the Comanches decide to follow his example. After this incident, only the chief and seven other men wanted to keep fighting. The fight lasted until three o'clock, but the Comanches were defeated. At dawn, Velez Cachupin saw that his army had 49 prisoners and 150 horses and mules. The rest of the Comanches were killed. He released all but four men giving them snuff and ten arrows for hunting. Vélez Cachupin forced them to refrain from attacking Spanish settlements, warning them that if they did, he would find and destroy their villages. His courage in battle and his compassion for Native Americans earned him a reputation among the Comanches. They called him the "astounding Captain". This also boosted the peace between the Spanish and Criollos and the Utes and Apaches (who became its principal allies).

In 1754, the governor issued a price list for commonly traded goods and set regulations governing the buying and selling at trade fairs in order to reduce misunderstandings between the Comanches and settlers. The governor spent a great deal of time studying the best way to interact with the Comanches, Utes and Apaches. In fact, in a letter to his successor, he provided a more detailed explanation of how the new governor should relate to the Indians to help keep the peace. [1]

Also in 1754, because of the threat posed by the Navajo and the Plains Amerindians to the Spanish population in New Mexico, (which he knew through an inspection in the province), he established a program that promoted the communities that had been abandoned. These areas were established in strategic places, and resettled creating: Abiquiu, Las Trampas, Ojo Caliente and Truchas. He redacted information about conditions in New Mexico in his inspection of 1754.[2]

Confrontation with the friars[edit]

Although Vélez Cachupín negotiated peace with warring nomadic Indians, he was unable to maintain peaceful relations with the Franciscan friars. During his first term enmity developed between himself and Franciscan Friar Andres Varo. The two men sent numerous letters to the viceroy complaining of each other’s behavior. Vélez Cachupín supported the Franciscans’ attempts to Christianize the native population, but was opposed to certain practices and specific priests. The Franciscans attempts to remove Vélez Cachupín from office failed. The Franciscans opposed his reappointment. [1]

Second term[edit]

After completing his first term in 1754, Vélez Cachupin returned to Spain. He requested a new term as governor of New Mexico, and King Charles III granted his wish on 14 March 1761. He was appointed for another six years. However, when he returned to New Mexico, he again faced many of the problems he had solved during his previous term, as his successor had not followed his advice on to how to interact peacefully with the native peoples.

When he began his second term as governor, Vélez Capuchin freed six Comanche female prisoners as a gesture of good will to the Comanches. Because of this, nine warriors and six female Comanches traveled to Taos to negotiate with the Spanish governor and verify that he had returned to the province. The governor banned the sale and purchase of Comanche genízaros because he knew the importance of trading captives when negotiating peace with the Comanches. He also ordered Comanche captives be held near Santa Fe, in case they were needed for prisoner exchange with the Comanches. Another era of lasting peace with the Amerindian nomads began.

In addition to his military duties, the governor also attended to the economic and judicial affairs of the people of the province including the Spanish, Creoles, and mestizos as well as the indigenous community. The governor was the highest ranking civil and criminal judge of New Mexico and he was also the judge of some serious municipal cases.

In November 1750, French traders, Paul and Pierre Mallet, visited New Mexico from New France. They had previously visited New Mexico in 1739 and, on this second visit, the Governor gave them a cool reception. This was because the French had started a trade war with New Mexico and were trying to occupy most of northern Spanish Texas, making France one of its main rivals. The governor seized the French traders' possessions and auctioned them to raise funds to pay four guards who escorted them to Mexico City.[1]

In 1762, after learning that an Ute had been found in possession of a silver ingot, Vélez Capuchin ordered Spanish explorer Juan Maria Antonio de Rivera Joaquín Laín, Gregorio Sandoval and Pedro Mora, to Colorado to locate where the ingot had come from.[3] Locating gold and silver was a priority in order to replenish the royal coffers. The expedition traveled through southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah (which belonged to Spain at this time),[4] establishing sections of future Old Spanish Trail.[5]

In 1764, Vélez Cachupin gave land to the Amerindians and later convinced the Suma Amerindians to settle in San Lorenzo[disambiguation needed], on land near to that he had given the Amerindians in 1764, promising to protect them. He also banned inhabitants from El Paso (which was by this time a city) from entering Amerindian land for any reason including grazing sheep, or gathering firewood. In addition, any person who cut trees on the Sumas lands would be punished with a fine of 40 pesos or imprisonment for two years. Additionally, he would confiscated their carts and oxen. These fines were to be used to purchase agricultural tools for the Sumas. In 1766, he banned the inhabitants of Atrisco from occupying land in San Fernando, because they were to be used only by the native inhabitants. Whoever broke the ban would have to pay a fine of 30 pesos for each infraction. He also protected the lands of the Genizaros of Belen and of Santa Clara, and San Ildefonso Pueblo.[6]

In November 1765, a viceregal ban was issued implementing a tobacco monopoly that forbid growing tobacco in New Mexico. However, the governor tried to prevent enforcement of the law, because it could disrupt the local economy and adversely affect the good relations with the province's nomadic tribes who got their snuff from New Mexican farmers. In January 1766, the governor outlined in a report to the viceroy the negative effects that would result from the ban. However, in the end, he was obliged to enforce the law in the spring. His predictions proved true.[1]

He was replaced by Francisco Antonio Marín del Valle as governor of Santa Fe de Nuevo México province in 1767.

Court cases[edit]

While he was in his second term as governor of New Mexico, Cachupin pronounced a sentence on some Genizaro Amerindians of Abiquiú who were accused of practicing witchcraft. The governor was interested in the case because he had established the Genizaro land in Abiquiu. The case resulted in over 100 pages of testimony. Vélez Cachupin sentenced some of the defendants to work for Spanish families. In addition, he sent a troops to Abiquiu to destroy relics including a stone with hieroglyphics.[1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e New Mexico Archives. Office of the State Historian: Cachupín, Tomás Vélez. Posted by Suzanne Stamatov between 2004–2010 Consulted 4 April 2011, to 23: 36 pm.
  2. ^ Ebrightm, Malcolm (2014). Page 196.
  3. ^ SFGateThe Hispanic Role in America: A chronology. Compiled by Dr. Juan Manuel Pérez. Hispanic Division. Library of Congress. Retrieved in Juny 15, 2014, ar 18:25.
  4. ^ Aton, James M.; McPherson, Robert S. (2000).
  5. ^ Historical Buckley, Jay H.; Rensink, Brenden W. (2015). Page 175.
  6. ^ Ebrightm, Malcolm (2014). Pages 219 - 230.


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