The Testimony of Hands

San Gabriel de Yunque

What happened to San Gabriel?

Spanish authorities decided that it was socially disruptive to have the capital of their new colony so close to existing Native American populations (including the Pueblo village of Ohkay Owingeh, directly across the Rio Grande). In 1609–1610 the authorities moved the capital to Santa Fe, which still serves as the capital of New Mexico. San Gabriel fell into ruin and lay undisturbed for the next three and a half centuries, until Florence Hawley Ellis' excavation.

It is tempting to call San Gabriel "the Jamestown of New Mexico" but San Gabriel was founded first (1598, as opposed to 1607 for Jamestown). Perhaps we should call Jamestown "the San Gabriel of Virginia."

What Happened to the People?

After the Spanish capital moved away, the people of Ohkay Owingeh continued to live in the east bank portion of their original village. For many years their village was known as San Juan but recently the Pueblo re-established its native name, Ohkay Owingeh, as its official name. Members of the Pueblo live exactly where their ancestors were living in 1598, when the Spanish arrived.

In contrast, San Gabriel's Hispanic population experienced a diaspora. Linda, a student in Sacramento, California, used the feedback page to write: "I traced one of my ancestors back to San Gabriel. Isabel de Pedraza was born there in 1606. Her parents were Juan de Pedraza from Niebla, Spain, and "an Indian woman." Linda's comment is a reminder that when the Spanish and Native traditions encountered each other in New Mexico, the process included cultural fusion as well as a cultural collision.

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