ELEVEN national monuments in the States of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado illustrate the history of our southwest from the times when pre-historic man dwelt in caves hollowed in desert precipices down through the Spanish fathers’ centuries of self-sacrifice and the Spanish explorers’ romantic search for the Quivira and the Seven Cities of Cibola.
The most striking feature of the absorbing story of the Spanish occupation is its twofold inspiration. Hand in hand the priest and the soldier boldly invaded the desert. The passion of the priest was the saving of souls, and the motive of the soldier was the greed of gold. The priest deprecated the soldier; the soldier despised the priest. Each used the other for the realization of his own purposes. The zealous priest, imposing his religion upon the shrinking Indian, did not hesitate to invoke the soldier’s aid for so holy a purpose; the soldier used the gentle priest to cloak the greedy business of wringing wealth from the frugal native. Together, they hastened civilization.
Glancing for a moment still further back, the rapacious hordes already had gutted the rich stores of Central America and the northern regions of South America. The rush of the lustful conqueror was astonishingly swift. Columbus himself was as eager for gold as he was zealous for religion. From the discovery of America scarcely twenty years elapsed be-fore Spanish armies were violently plundering the Caribbean Islands, ruthlessly subjugating Mexico, overrunning Venezuela, and eagerly seeking tidings of the reputed wealth of Peru. The air was supercharged with reports of treasure, and no reports were too wild for belief; myths, big and little, ran amuck. El Dorado, the gilded man of rumor, became the dream, then the belief, of the times; presently a whole nation was conceived clothed in dusted gold. The myth of the Seven Cities of Cibola, each a city of vast treasure, the growth of years of rumor, seems to have perfected itself back home in Spain. The twice-born myth of Quivira, city of gold, which cost thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of Spanish ducats, lives even to-day in remote neighborhoods of the southwest.
Pizarro conquered Peru in 1526; by 1535, with the south looted, Spanish eyes looked longingly north-ward. In 1539 Fray Marcos, a Franciscan, made a reconnaissance from the Spanish settlements of Sonora into Arizona with the particular purpose of locating the seven cities. The following year Coronado, at his own expense, made the most romantic exploration in human history. Spanish expectation may be measured by the cost of this and its accompanying expedition by sea to the Gulf of California, the combined equipment totalling a quarter million dollars of American money of to-day. Coronado took two hundred and sixty horsemen, sixty foot-soldiers, and more than a thousand Indians. Besides his pack-animals he led a thousand spare horses to carry home the loot.
He sought the seven cities in Arizona and New Mexico, and found the pueblo of Zuni, prosperous but lacking its expected hoard of gold; he crossed Colorado in search of Quivira and found it in Kansas, a wretched habitation of a shiftless tribe; their houses straw, he reported, their clothes the hides of cows, meaning bison. He entered Nebraska in search of the broad river whose shores were lined with goldthe identical year, curiously, in which De Soto discovered the Mississippi. Many were the pueblos he visited and many his adventures and perils; but the only treasure he brought back was his record of exploration.
This was the first of more than two centuries of Spanish expeditions. Fifty years after Coronado, the myth of Quivira was born again; thereafter it wandered homeless, the inspiration of constant search, and finally settled in the ruins of the ancient pueblo of Tabira, or, as Bandelier has it, Teypana, New Mexico; ‘ the myth of the seven cities never wholly perished.
It is not my purpose to follow the fascinating for-tunes of Spanish proselyting and conquest. I merely set the stage for the tableaux of the national monuments.
The Spaniards found our semiarid southwest dotted thinly with the pueblos and its canyons hung with the cliff-dwellings of a large and fairly prosperous population of peace-loving Indians, who hunted the deer and the antelope, fished the rivers, and dry-farmed the mesas and valleys. Not so advanced in the arts of civilization as the people of the Mesa Verde, in Colorado, nevertheless their sense of form was patent in their architecture, and their family life, government, and religion were highly organized. They were worshippers of the sun. Each pueblo and outlying village was a political unit.
Let us first consider those national monuments which touch intimately the Spanish occupation.