The Jesuits In Sinaloa And Sonora
The Jesuit advance up the slope.—The advance up the Pacific coast mainland was led throughout the seventeenth century by the Jesuit missionaries, supported by presidial soldiers and small citizen colonies. In 1591 the Jesuits entered Sinaloa. Beginning in the valley of the Petatlan and Mocorito rivers, their progress was gradual but steady, river by river, tribe by tribe, to the Fuerte, Mayo, Yaqui, and Sonora valleys, till by the middle of the century they had nearly reached the head of the last named stream.
Fathers Tapia and Pérez.—The first missionaries sent were Fathers Gonzalo de Tapia and Martin Pérez, who began their work among the tribes of the Petatlan and Mocorito rivers, near San Felipe, then the northern outpost of Sinaloa. From time to time they were joined by other small bands of missionaries. The natives were generally friendly at first, here as elsewhere, and were assembled in villages, baptized, and taught agriculture and crafts. Father Tapia was murdered in 1594 and was succeeded as rector by Father Pérez. By 1604 there had been 10,000 baptisms, the Jesuits had a school for boys at San Felipe, and Father Velasco had written a grammar in the native tongue. In 1600 regular missionary work was begun in Topia. What was done there is a good example of the way the Spaniards often uprooted native society by trying to improve it. Villages were transplanted at will, the chiefs replaced by alcaldes, and native priests suppressed.
Captain Hurdaide, defender of the Faith.—The year 1600 was marked also by the appointment of Captain Diego Martinez de Hurdaide, as commander of the presidio of San Felipe. By the Jesuits he was regarded as the ideal defender of the Faith, and for a quarter of a century he and his soldiers made way for and protected the missionaries in their northward advance.
Sinaloa and Sonora in the Seventeenth Century (From Bancroft, North Mexican States and Texas, 1208).
Missions in the Fuerte valley.—The subjugation of the Suaques and Tehuecos by Hurdaide opened the way for missions in the Fuerte River valley in 1604. Among the founders was Father Pérez de Ribas, later famed as the historian. The initial success of these missions was remarkable, but it was followed by apostasy, revolts, an increase of military forces, and wars of subjugation. This, indeed, was quite the typical succession of events. Apostates fled to the Yaquis, who defeated Hurdaide in three campaigns. Having shown their mettle, in 1610 the Yaquis made peace and asked for missionaries. The Yaqui war was followed by the establishment in 1610 of the new presidio of Montesclaros near the site of the former San Juan. In spite of this new defence, the Tehuecos, led by native priests, revolted. Hurdaide went to the rescue in 1613 with forty soldiers and two thousand allies, restored order, and reëstablished the missions.
In the Mayo and Yaqui valleys.—In the same year Father Méndez and some companions advanced the mission frontier to the Mayo valley, where success was gratifying. Four years later Fathers Pérez and Pérez de Ribas founded missions among the Yaquis, where eight pueblos soon flourished. By 1621 missions had reached the Nevomes and Sahuaripas in the upper Yaqui River valley. A revolt among the Nevomes in 1622 was put down by Hurdaide. The Mayo and Yaqui valleys were now made a separate rectorate.
Several of the pioneers now left the scene. In 1620 Ribas went to Mexico as provincial; in 1625 Father Pérez died, after thirty-five years, of service, and in 1626 Hurdaide was succeeded by Captain Pérea. One of the great monuments to the work of these Jesuit pioneers is Father Pérez de Ribas's history, The Triumph of the Faith, published in 1644.
In the Sonora valley.—By 1636 Jesuit missions were extended to Ures, in Sonora River valley, a step which was aided by the discovery of mines. Pérea was made captain and justicia mayor of the Sonora district, called Nueva Andalucía, and established his capital at the mining town of San Juan. By 1650 mission stations had reached Cucurpe and Arispe in the upper Sonora valley. Of the northern district the new rectorate of San Francisco Xavier was now formed. In 1679 thirty missionaries in the Mayo, Yaqui, and Sonora valleys were serving about 40,000 neophytes in seventy-two pueblos.
Spanish settlements.—By the end of the seventeenth century Sinaloa had passed beyond the frontier stage. The population of pure Spanish blood numbered only six hundred families in 1678, but the half-caste Christian population was much larger, there being twelve hundred persons of Spanish or mixed blood at San Felipe alone. In Sonora the people of Spanish or mixed blood numbered about five hundred families. Mining and stock-raising were the principal and by no means inconsiderable industries in both districts.
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