An Expedition to the Guaycura Nation
in the Californias

Chapter 2:
Misión Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores



The missions of Nuestra Señora de Dolores and San Luis Gonzaga still dominate our historical awareness of the Guaycuras, for it has been from the writings of the missionaries that we have derived most of what we know about them. It comes as a bit of a shock, then, to realize that this mission era in the Guaycura nation lasted just 47 years in contrast to the rancho era, which has already lasted more than 200 years, and the prehistory of the area which, no doubt, extends back many thousands of years. The Jesuit mission story centers principally around three Jesuit missionaries: Clemente Guillén, whom we have already met, Lamberto Hostell, and Jacobo Baegert.


Clemente Guillén

On Guilléns return from his expedition to La Paz, he confers with his superior Francisco María Píccolo. Píccolo wants him to take over the mission of Loreto when he dies, and he wants to establish a new mission between Liguí and La Paz. In 1702, Píccolo had written an enthusiastic description of California which hardly matched the facts of the matter. As Harry Crosby put it, he described the California peninsula "in terms that would make a modern real estate swindler blush,"1 and when it came to this new mission his enthusiasm had not abated. He writes on July 17, 1721: "a beautiful and spacious area has been found, suitable for a mission, because of the large number of natives living in the vicinity and the lands watered by nine springs which produce a large volume. And as Father Clemente also visited the place, I authorized him to plant some corn (since it was easy to secure irrigation water for it) and to prepare the area for establishing Mission Dolores. Thus, the missionary who goes there will find it off to a good start and with peaceful natives. I hope that you can send me Father Cristóbal Laris to take charge of this new mission of Dolores… it is most imperative to settle the area between these missions and El Pilar de la Paz, a distance, as all maintain, of more than 100 leagues. Recently, a contingent of 8 soldiers, who drove some colts and horses to Father Jaime at La Paz, took 29 days to reach him and 18 to return, traveling the entire time through the lands of unconverted Indians."2 The trip to La Paz actually took 26 days going, and 14 days returning, and, as Bravo has told us, there were 3 soldiers and 4 servants.

It is Guillén, however, who will actually found the mission of Los Dolores at Apaté in August, 1721, "in order," he writes later, "to reduce to the obedience of the Holy Church and His Majesty the numerous and barbarous Waicura nation."3 The mission is to be supported by a donation of 10,000 pesos by Marqués Joseph Villapuente, and he may have brought with him some of his converts from Liguí.4

Guilléns capsule summary of the objectives of the mission symbolizes the general Jesuit mission program and its drawbacks. The Indians are to be eventually encouraged to leave their scattered rancherías for the mission and its stations, or pueblos, where they will learn not only how to be Christians, but subjects of the Spanish crown. But the mission, sometimes poorly sited as was Liguí, itself, is then left with the intractable problem of trying to feed and clothe the Indians, which is a task they often cannot adequately carry out on their own for want of suitable land, sufficient water, and trained workers. This leaves them with the need for continuing subsidies in the form of supplies from the mainland that have to be shipped to California. The Indians thus gathered together begin to rapidly lose their own culture, and sometimes even their language, and become prime targets for European infectious diseases.

Despite Padre Píccolos fulsome praise, the mission site at Apaté was never an optimal one, but the springs and the bit of land that could be irrigated, together with its closeness to the sea which would facilitate communication with Loreto, induced Guillén to first put the mission there. The majority of the Indians, however, as he would soon discover, were up in the Sierra del Tesoro, in Chiyá, and beyond.


1725 Letter to Casafuerte

On Sept. 25, 1725 Clemente Guillén wrote from Loreto to the Virrey Marqués de Casafuerte in his new capacity as padre visitador, or superior of the California missions, a job he was to keep until 1728. The letter illustrates a basic trait of the Californian missionary enterprise, which is the close alliance of missionary activity with military force. "Experience alone has shown that, unless force backs up reasoning, missionaries can accomplish little or nothing."5 He wants 25 more soldiers to be added to the 25 that are stationed in California. This will further the cause of opening more missions in the south, and thus create a refuge for the Manila galleons, as well. To build his case he recounts recent problems and squirmishes with the Indians in order to demonstrate the need for this police force. Capitán Rodríguez, for example, had been fighting the Uchití around La Paz who had murdered several people. He had been "seriously wounded by an arrow which pierced through a leather jacket of six layers." But incidentally, we are also given some more facts about the land of the Guaycuras.

"On August 24 several Indians were seized in the mountains of Chiyá who had slain natives of other settlements. On the 25th of the same month, other Indians were arrested who were guilty of similar crimes. In the vicinity several such charges are being investigated.

"Most recently, on September 17, several Indians from the west came to Loreto complaining to the captain that the natives of the other settlements had slain one of their men. They insisted that either the captain would see to it that justice was done or they would take vengeance into their own hands. Nearby similar charges are being investigated."6

It may be that the Indians described as being from the west of Loreto were Cochimí, but it is also possible that they were Guaycuras whose territory in the west extended considerably further north than in the east, as we saw. Guillén also talks about the prevalence of stealing in the missions, and writes: "if elsewhere, the theft of a horse or a beef does not render impossible the administration of the Sacraments, here where pasture lands are so insufficient for the herds, and thefts so frequent, the time will come when the barbarous licentiousness of the Indians will render all orderly government difficult or utterly impossible."7


1730 Informe

In 1730 Guillén wrote an informe, or report on the state of his mission at the request of Padre Visitador General, Joseph Echeverría who had arrived on his rounds at Loreto on board El Triunfo de la Cruz on Oct. 27, 1729.8 As one of the more experienced missionaries, he also met with Echeverría and some of his fellow Jesuits at San Javier to discuss the creation of the post of procurador, or a procurator in charge of the material needs of the California missions who would be stationed at Loreto.9 This report comes in two parts: first a letter dated June 18 at Dolores,10 and then the official report dated June 19 at the same place.11 In the letter Guillén tells us that he has recently returned from Cunupaqui where he had performed 8 baptisms and regularized some marriages, and he had baptized others at Dolores. But the bulk of the letter is concerned with a gruesome murder case in which a couple, Thomas and Rosa Ivañes, were killed by an 18-year-old convert, Francisco de Borja, and his gentile companion from Chiyá. They were apprehended – the companion at La Resurrección – and sentenced to death. Guillén went to La Resurrección to confess Borja and baptize the Chiyá. Borja was hanged, but the job was botched by the Indian executioners under the direction of Cabo Acosta, and he revived when lowered to the ground. Guillén was unable to watch further while he was finished off. After this fiasco, the death sentence was suspended for the Chiyá.

In the process of telling this story, Guillén mentions two other soldiers named Espinoza and Gracián, as well as the rumor of an Indian uprising at Dolores. The Indians deny the conspiracy, but they flee because they were stealing and slaughtering steers, horses, mules, burros and goats; some 10 or 12 steers are missing, as well as many horses, oxen and mules, including one belonging to Padre Nicolás Tamaral which Guillén fears has already been converted into the substance of an Aniritugue Indian, or one from Acheme. Some of the thieves from Chiyá and Achére have been apprehended. Almost all the rancherías in this region are in need of punishment except Deverá and Cunupaquí, although they have other faults.

Guillén goes on to say that the Indians, as punishment, have started a road of 8 leagues but have not wanted to finish it.12 He also writes to the Visitador General that Juan Manuel, who had been lent to him, is now coming to Loreto with these documents, and Guillén hopes that his salary will be augmented because he has worked so well. Signed Clemente + Guillén

Guilléns official report covers a period from Feb. 19, 1722 to June 19, 1730. Why does it start in 1722 rather than August 1721 when the mission was founded? We dont know. Perhaps that is when Guillén started performing his first baptisms in the area, and thus initiated the mission book that registered these kinds of events. By far the most fascinating part of this report is a census of the rancherías in the territory of Los Dolores, giving us the names of its rancherías: Dolores, Akiá, Cunupaqúí, Deverá, Aripaquí, Atembabichí, Atiá, Cogué, Quaguihué, Guachaguí, Iriguái, Cuenyágueg, Michiricucurébe, Achéme, Chiyá, Achére, Atiguíri, Aniritúgue, Michiricuchayére, and Hnyaichiri. The names in italics are all located on the map of the Guaycuran rancherías. The location of the others are unknown. Later on we will look at the census numbers.

Guilléns informe might have been influenced by the letter he had written the previous day about the murder of Thomas and Rosa, for he begins it by talking about the "barbarous and murderous" nature of the Cubí that Echeverría, himself, had already experienced. They killed not only those of the other shore, i.e., the west coast, but each other. Of the 9 boy assistants at the mission, 7 claimed to have fathers who had been killed, and the Cubí killed not only men, but women and children, as well. They have wiped out a ranchería, and most of the ranchería of San Carlos, and have tried to do the same elsewhere. They are also great thieves, and "harmful to our people wherever they encounter them, and little fruit can be expected of the adults without subjecting them to reason and good law enforcement." In Guilléns judgment neither the Mexican nor the Peruvian Indians, or any other, lives in conformity to good reason and law, much less to Christianity if not by subjection and fear. Left to their own nature, without punishment and the lash, and the Spanish officials, "we would see what 200 years of instruction is worth."

He goes on to tell us he cannot call the Indians to his mission very often, because if he does he has to feed them, and he doesnt have the resources. Nor can the Indians bring the food with them, for they have to hunt it each day in the mountains. And even if he had the energy to make more frequent visits to their rugged sierras and cliffs, he couldn’t do it without doubling the cost of animals, servants and supplies. So each year he makes one or two visits to these many and distant rancherías, and if he can call them at most once or twice to the missions he can do no more – at least without a larger income. Thus, because of the barbarity and poverty of the mission, the number of Christians has grown very little. Each of the rancherías of the mission, although small, is divided into two or three parts, and they go their separate ways to live in different parts of the sierra, and so it has not been easy to determine the exact number of catechumens. They move around a lot, and one day they are at Chiyá, and the next at Achére, and although the minister will advise them to gather together where he is going to see them, only rarely does it happen "unless they know that a lot of food is to be distributed."

The Christian rancherías gather for doctrine, Mass and confession, and come the few times they are called, and notify the missionary when someone is sick, for they know they will be inevitably punished if they do not. The Christians and non-Christians hear doctrine and instruction when the missionary visits them. There is, despite this, one or another Christian delinquent who has fled from the assembly of the Church and the visit of the minister. To remedy this, a squad of soldiers from the Royal Presidio is stationed in the mission territory, along with other friendly Indians, the most faithful sons of the mission, who punish them. The Corporal in the fulfillment of his office has already punished some, and is continuing, and it is hoped that it will bring about much good for the Indians and the increase of Christianity.

For now, Guillén tells us, there is a decent chapel, and not a few Church ornaments which are being kept for the furnishing of the new Church which is being made.13 In the temporal sphere there is more lack than excess. There is a planting, although small, but it is hoped that time and work will increase it. Beyond the 20 rancherías of this mission and those of La Paz, the Cubí nation has more or less as many, which cannot be part of these missions. They are too far away and are at odds with each other. "Only some pertain to the mission, the 20 we have spoken of. All the rancherías together amount to 1,300 or 1,400 people, and it would be a great chore for the missionary to take care of them. Since the other rancherías are so distant, there ought to be a new mission. I have placed at La Resurrección the catechist Lorenzo and when I have finished instructing the few that are here I will go, God grant, to this other place in order to finish the instruction and baptize the others. (Signed) Clemente + Guillén"


"P.S. I have just received a letter from Cabo Rojas who tells me that the catechist is attending to his office of instruction with punctuality. See the letter with other news."

1731. On January 1, the Spanish soldier Pedro de Ribas arrives at Los Dolores on a cattle drive from La Purissima to San José del Cabo.14 In the same year the Uchití invite the Los Dolores Indians to a festival, and then attack them.


The Great Rebellion, 1734-1737

The great rebellion of the Pericú and some of the Guaycura in the area of La Paz and further south from July 1734 to January 1737 dominated the history of Baja California during those times, and its aftershocks continued to be felt in the years that followed. The history of the rebellion is well documented by the eye-witness account of Padre Sigismundo Taraval who had been the missionary at Todos Santos when it broke out. The Guaycuras in the La Paz region and the Pericú had never been as tractable as the Cochimí to the north, but this time they launched a full-scale attempt to free themselves from the yoke of the missions, an attempt that soon engulfed the four missions to the south: Nuestra Señora del Pilar at La Paz, Santiago de las Coras, San Joseph at Cabo San Lucas, and Santa Rosa at Todos Santos. The spark that set off the conflagration was when an Indian named Chicori from the ranchería of Yeneca near the Cape grew angry at the missionarys refusal to allow one of his wives to return to him after her baptism. He was joined by a shaman from Anicá near Todos Santos, and a former Indian governor, that is, leader of a ranchería, called Botón from Santiago who had been removed from office by its missionary.15

Two soldiers were murdered in September, and in the beginning of October Padre Lorenzo Carranco of Santiago and Padre Nicolás Tamaral of Cabo San Lucas were killed, and Taraval fled to Los Dolores. The whole mission of Baja California was in turmoil until 1737 when the rebellion was finally put down, and the mission of Los Dolores, still at Apaté, was thrust out of its obscurity and onto center stage, and so the history of the rebellion provides us with a small but important harvest of facts about our chosen area.

Los Dolores came to the forefront in virtue of its location as the southern-most mission still in Spanish hands, and therefore it became the headquarters for the attempts to regain the South. Its prominence was augmented by the fact that Clemente Guillén was the padre visitador when the rebellion broke out a term that ran from 1732 to 1735 and was to play a central role in this drama.

Taravel tells us that the mission at La Paz had 800 inhabitants belonging to 3 groups who lived in 7 rancherías. They were the Callejues who were related to the Indians of the mission of Los Dolores, the Uchití who, though they were supposedly a branch of the Guaycuras, spoke, according to him, an almost wholly distinct language. And there were the Island Pericú. The Uchití were further divided into the Aripes, Coras, Periúes, or Vinees, as well as those called the Uchití, themselves.16

Once Padre Taraval heard of the death of his fellow Jesuits, his soldiers urged him to flee across the potentially hostile Uchití territory to La Paz where they might find a canoe to go on to the Gulf islands and then up to Los Dolores, and this is what they did. The alternative was to try to reach Los Dolores by land. "This would entail severe hardships, since the distance there from La Paz is about 60 leagues over almost impassable roads…"17 When Guillén finally hears of the rebellion, he sends a canoe with some of his Indians and 2 soldiers who, Taraval tells us, "served as guards in the two pueblos of his mission."18 Just what pueblos, or visiting stations, were important enough to have soldiers we are not told. Capitán Esteban Rodríguez was stationed at Los Dolores with a squad of soldiers and one of Indian archers, and the mission was fast becoming the center of Baja California. Soon an advance base was set up at La Paz and Spanish troops and their Indian allies were on the road between the two missions.

"Los Dolores hummed with a babel of tongues and cultures. The heretofore sheltered Cochimí from San Javier and Comondú rubbed shoulders with Pericú from the region of Cabo San Lucas, Guaycura from the area of La Paz and the Magdelena plain, and Yaqui and Mayo from the Jesuit missions across the gulf in Sonora."19

The Spanish camp in La Paz was rife with rumors, including one that said the Callejues, who had remained loyal to Padre Taraval, were about to go over to the enemy and bring their relatives, the Indian allies from Los Dolores, along with them. When the Uchití attack, the rumor ran, the Los Dolores Indians will give their war cry and slaughter everyone inside the fortification. This story was confirmed by "Luis Gonzaga, interpreter and captain at the mission Dolores."20 Captain Rodriguez checked out the rumor and found it baseless, but the jittery soldiers insisted that Luis Gonzaga was young and a favorite of his father and might not know what was really happening. The overriding fear, in their mind, was that not only would Los Dolores fall to the rebellion, but the whole north would revolt, as well. Indians and soldiers travel by sea and by land from La Paz to Los Dolores to counteract this possibility.

As the rebellion progressed, the west coast became the only place that had not been searched for the rebels. This, we are told, was the ancestral home of the Uchití and their relatives still lived there. "Certainly down near the shore stood a ranchería whose inmates spoke the same language as did those of mission Dolores."21 The Spanish, therefore, decide to search this area and then proceed on to Los Dolores. They spy a band of Indians, but most of them successfully flee except for some women and children. They go on to Los Dolores, reaching the mission on April 6 after 15 days. In another expedition from La Paz 5 canoes under Sergeant Don Pedro de la Riva (Ribas) travel to Los Dolores in good weather in 3 days.

Rumors still persist that trouble is brewing at Los Dolores. Two messengers arrive from Padre Clemente. "They brought information to the effect that he had questioned not one but two Indians from the mission who had reported and confessed that all the natives at mission Dolores with the exception of two rancherías had rebelled and were making and supplying the rebels with arrows, and that others had assembled nearby to attack the mission." Pedro de la Riva examines one of the messengers with the help of "the most loyal interpreter available at mission Dolores, who was called (for the edification of the others) Antonio Xardón…"22 The rumors continue and Taraval comments: "There might be, as a matter of fact, a deep-seated unrest, for, after all, we are dealing with the Vaicuros, who are Indians among Indians, and it is a well-known fact that little or no reliance can be placed on what comes from their lips."23

Francisco Cortés de Monroy, alférez, or second in command under Capitán Rodríguez, arrives at Los Dolores to find that the unrest has deepened. The captain of the ranchería of Chiyá who was called Julián, had fought bravely alongside the Spaniards in La Paz and almost died when an arrow struck him in the mouth and came out near his ear. He spent his spare time making projectile points and bringing stones for the fortifications and gun carriage. When he returned to Los Dolores he tried to restrain his ranchería, but some of the men went out to where the livestock grazed and killed some animals. They devoured several horses. When Monroy arrived at Los Dolores he sent for Julián who was afraid to come before him because he feared that he would be blamed for the misconduct of the men in his band, which included his son. Monroy sought him out and reassured him, and learned the names of the ring-leaders, and Julián helped him capture some of them. He told Monroy that his son deserved to suffer with the others, but the Spaniards felt he was less guilty, so punished him less. Apprehending the other culprits was a difficult undertaking because of the rugged terrain around Chiyá, and the bravery of the Indians.24 Eventually 8 men were caught and shot since there was no means of executing them in some other way. "The sentence was carried out July 1, up in the sierras near the mission, and in fact almost in the heart of the conquest made in the Californias."25 The final ringleader who had escaped was captured a month later and executed. This was, indeed, draconian punishment for the eating of some horses, but it has to be seen against the Spanish fears of rebellion at Los Dolores. The Guaycuras, themselves, evidenced a certain stoic view of death. The 8 men who were to be executed asked some of the soldiers: "When are they going to kill us? What are they waiting for? Go on and kill us now!"26 Yet the relationships between the Indians and the soldiers had not always been grim. Before Monroy came the Indians had been treated as friends and played chess with the soldiers.27

Midway between La Paz and Los Dolores lived the unconverted Pecunes and Catauros who had not participated in any real way in the rebellion. They led the Spaniards to rebel rancherías, and eventually the soldiers captured a shaman of the Aripes who had with him "some of the implements of his trade," and who had played a leading role in the rebellion.28 His implements were broken, and since he, himself, would not cooperate in coming with them, they ordered the Pecunes and Catauros to shoot him with their arrows, which they did, and his body was strung up by way of warning.29 The Spaniards traveled along the Gulf and then along the Pacific coast, making a circle through the land of the Uchití, and finally returned to Los Dolores. Since they had rebel prisoners with them they learned about the water sources in these little explored Pacific regions which the Pecunes and Catauros appear to have shared with the Uchití.

Some of the friendly Callejues who had been prisoners of the rebels escaped when the Spaniards had attacked them with the help of the Pecunes and Catauros, and went to the ranchería of Uriguay and then on to Los Dolores. Taraval also tells us about a famous woman shaman who was honored and followed by both the men and women in her ranchería. "Our men seized all the appurtenances of her superstitious practices and all her trinkets, which consisted of bits of wood, sticks whose points were carved to represent faces with prominent noses, a long bent rod that was said to cause fruits to grow, a stick with holes so it could be entirely covered with feathers, another with a figure shaped like a ferule, another fan-shaped, and many others with hooks or points, and some whose purpose we could only conjecture. Our men secured many such objects which the commander ordered to be made into ramrods for guns, pistols, and blunderbusses for, being of wood, they were quite suitable for this purpose."30 Taraval also recounts how one of the former Indian governors of his mission at Santa Rosa was called Juan de Eguí.31


A New Mission

Miguel de Venegas, the first Jesuit historian of Baja California, tells us that Los Dolores, administered by Clemente Guillén, was the mission most in need in the south. It was very sterile and lacking in water, and "scarcely can succeed a very scanty sowing of a fanega (1.6 bushels, or 1.59 acres) of corn." Guillén "gets a little wine from a small vineyard that he has planted." On the other hand, there are many parishioners since the mission embraces all the Indians who live in those lands from the east coast to the west, which is called the contra-costa.32

Since Guillén came there he has been catechizing and baptizing the rancherías that are being discovered as his forces permit, but because of the extent and roughness of the land he has not been able to reach all of them "up until the past year of 1734," Venegas tells us, in which he spent several months among the gentile bands of the west, catechizing and baptizing their inhabitants, and leading to the faith the major part of those nations. But so excessive was his work that he became gravely ill. Indeed, as Guillen’s 1730 informe indicates, he realized that a new mission was needed as early as 1730, if not before.

Guillén, himself, wrote to Jaime Bravo sometime before June 27, 1734 asking for a leech, i.e., a doctor, for himself, who Bravo sent.33 These circumstances led the fathers to decide to divide the area in two, and to form another mission to be called San Luis in memory of its benefactor, Señor Conde de Santiago, Don Luis de Velasco. But the establishment of the mission was held up by the need to find a suitable place and the rebellion in the South. And what was needed, as well, was the right man for the job, Lamberto Hostell.


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