Vanished Worlds, Enduring People
Opening a Transatlantic World
Villagrá was an officer and chronicler of Juan de Oñate’s expedition to conquer and colonize New Mexico. A formidable group of soldiers, colonists and livestock crossed the Rio Grande in May 1598, and Oñate (ca. 1550-1626) established the headquarters of this first European settlement west of the Mississippi at San Juan pueblo that July. Failure to discover precious metals quickly diminished the size of the expedition, and native resistance produced a series of skirmishes, culminating in a pitched battle at Acoma pueblo where some 800 Indians died. In 1613, Oñate returned to Mexico City to account for his conduct. He was fined and forever banished from New Mexico for using excessive force during the Acoma rebellion. Villagrá’s chronicle of these events was composed in epic verse.