History in Review
Pueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico. By John L. Kessell. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2008. Pg. xii, 225. B & W Illustrations, Map.) ISBN: 978-0-8061-3969-2.
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - December 9, 2008
Seventeenth century New Mexico was a turbulent and often understood period in American and Spanish history. This is a period resplendent with stereotypes, myths, misrepresentations. In Pueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico, John L. Kessell separates the facts from the fiction and presents the first narrative history of this pivotal moment in Spanish Colonial history in the American Southwest. This is a book which will fascinate scholars and general readers alike. This book has everything a reader could want, both in terms of an authoritative history and in the realm of a rousing tale of adventure, intrigue, and complicated inter-cultural relations.
Kessell is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Mexico and he specializes in the American Southwest during the Spanish Colonial period. He is also the author of numerous books, including Spain in the Southwest: A Narrative history of Colonial New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and California. Kessell tells the story of this period by interweaving the personal stories of well known and lesser known personages of the period, and which were drawn from a range of classes and cultures. Some of the personages chronicled in this account include that of the conquistador Juan de Oñate, Diego de Vargas, Esteban Clemente, Bartolomé de Ojeda, Felipe Chistoe, Popé, Andrés Juárez, Francisco Gómez, Diego Romero, and Francisco de Anaya Almazán, to name but a few of the many people whose histories have contributed to this book. Throughout, Kessell's writing style is fluid and the material he is dealing with, so absorbing, that this book almost reads like a novel.
Within the scope of this text, Kessell traces the founding and growth of the first permanent, Spanish settlement near the Pueblos of the Rio Grande in 1598, he also covers the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the Spanish reconquest of the area in 1690. Throughout, he Kessell details the complicated and dynamic relationships that developed between the Spanish conquerors and the Pueblo Indians. Kessell also describes Spanish expectations for the region, and what life was like for the Pueblo Indians both before and during the Spanish occupation.
Pueblos, Spaniards, and the Kingdom of New Mexico is an insightful and readable account of this mettlesome period, and it helps to set the story straight about how whether or not the American Southwest was a 'Native American Eden' and if the 'Black Legend of Spanish Cruelty' was a myth or reality. Most important, Kessell describes how these two diverse cultures coexisted. In addition, this text, combined with Kessell's endnotes and bibliography, provides a solid foundation that can be profitably used to study this intriguing period of history in greater detail.
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