Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands

By Juliana Barr | Go to book overview

chapter four
Negotiating Fear with Violence:
Apaches and Spaniards at Midcentury

In July 1767, as the marqués de Rubí inspected the defensive capabilities of the northern provinces, riding up from Coahuila toward the Presidio San Sabá northwest of San Antonio, he passed through the Nueces River valley, where he found the remains of two missions, San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz and Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria del Cañón, established for Apaches a mere six years earlier. In the eight days it had taken him to travel from Presidio Santa Rosa (in Coahuila) to the missions, his expedition had passed numerous Apache rancherías, some in which the Indians were farming along the Rio Grande, others in which they were traveling to trade with Coahuila residents and soldiers. The farther north he moved into Texas, though, the fewer he had seen, finding instead abandoned encampments alongside the sad stubble of crops from years past. Upon reaching the river valley known as El Cañón where the missions had stood, he camped at the “unpopulated ruins” of Candelaria— consisting of only a house with a small chapel and a large hut—before proceeding on to inspect the twenty-one soldiers (from Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas far to the north along the San Sabá River) who were garrisoned at Mission San Lorenzo, a place he also found “to be without a single Indian.” He concluded that they could only be called “the imaginary mission[s] of El Cañón,” while the Apaches were a “never-realized congregation.” How had the project come to such an ignominious end in so little time?1

To associate Apaches with Spanish missions might seem rather strange. At midcentury, Spaniards and Apaches had been combatants far longer than allies. By the time Spaniards moved into Texas permanently in the 1710s, long experience in New Mexico had established in Spanish imaginations that Apache men were such fierce warriors that “in the end, they dominate all the other Indians.” Viceregal authorities had initially identified Apaches as such a powerful nation that the Spanish government needed to form with them a “perpetual and firm

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