Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

By James F. Brooks | Go to book overview

4
LOS MONTAÑESES
TRAVERSING BORDERLANDS

Thrusting south between the plains and plateau landscapes across which were emerging the borderland societies of los llaneros and los pastores was a chain of mountain ranges that descended from the alpine massifs of Colorado into New Mexico for some two hundred miles. Breaching timberline for much of their length, the source for many of the creeks and intermittent streams that provided life to agricultural peoples along their courses, the Sierras de Sangre de Cristo, Jémez, Sandía, and Magdalena seemed a substantial geologic barrier between the histories unfolding to their east and west. But these thickly timbered, well-watered, and relatively temperate heights may better be seen as linking landscapes and societies than separating them. Even before the advent of Spanish colonialism, mountain-nestled pueblos like Taos, Picurís, Pecos (Cicúye), and Jémez had served as centers for trade and exchange between the Río Grande valley and the plains and plateaus. And, while the core of the Spanish colony would form in the valley itself at San Gabriel del Yunque, Santa Cruz de la Cañada, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, after 1700 much of the colonial population would migrate up tributaries and across hills to found new villages in the mountains. Crucial to our story, however, is that these settlements on the outer fringes of the colony would often be formed by peoples that were themselves on the margins of that social core. Poor or landless pobladores, genízaros, fugitives, and cultural renegades composed a substantial proportion of these villagers. These marginal types along with their Pueblo, Jicarilla, and Ute Indian neighbors would create a mixed society that simultaneously stood apart from the colonial center and played prominent roles in stitching together the plains and pastoral borderlands, producing a wide network of intercultural relations in the Greater Southwest.

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