The Bourbon Reforms on the Northern Frontier
The eighteenth century in New Mexico was ushered in by the beat of war drums; drums that beat continually for the rest of the century. The century had been ushered in by the reconquest, but as the Pueblo Indians admitted their defeat and openly submitted to Spanish authority, New Mexico's españoles shifted their attention to the indios bárbaros, the nomadic Indians. Mounted, armed, and masters now of equestrian hitand-run tactics, these nomads submerged the province in endless war. The Spaniards defended themselves as best they could and always avenged their losses. New Mexicans said that they simply were chastising Indian obstinacy. But the number of Apache and Comanche prisoners pressed into slavery gave this justification a hollow ring.
New Mexico's defense became an acute preoccupation for the Spanish crown in the eighteenth century primarily because the silver-producing provinces of northern New Spain were at risk. By the middle of the eighteenth century two-thirds of the world's silver was being extracted from the northern Mexican provinces of Nueva Galicia, Nueva Vizcaya, and Nuevo León, and that extraction was keeping Spain solvent. So some solution to the marauding Indians who inhibited orderly trade and communication between the northern provinces had to be found. Equally troubling, though undoubtedly less vexing, was the increasing penetration of its American empire by foreigners, particularly in northern Mexico, at the margins of its most valuable terrain. Spain's xenophobia was noticeably increased in 1763, when, at the end of the French and Indian War ( 1754-63), Spain acquired from France the trans-Mississippi West and the English took everything east of the river. Spain and England were now face-to-face in North America. Already the French had armed the Comanches and driven them south from Illinois into Apache hunting