Early Settlers of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, 1695-1715

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Sierra Azul Monograph No. 1 (2015)

José Antonio Esquibel

On April 22, 1695, don Diego de Vargas, Governor de Vargas, founded the Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de los Españoles Mexicanos with families recruited as frontier settlers from Mexico City. The intent was to firmly establish Spanish citizens on the frontier to help preserve New Mexico as part of the Spanish empire. The settlers from Mexico City were joined by families that previous owned land in the area prior to 1680. After a difficult first decade, the town and jurisdiction of the Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz developed into a stable community and served as the springboard for establishing additional settlements in northern New Mexico, such as Abiquiú, Ojo Calients, Las Trampas, Embudo, and Taos.

Early Settlers of Santa Cruz de la Cañada, 1695-1715 is the most comprehensive historical account of the Spanish citizens that persevered in making a dangerous frontier their home. The names of numerous early residents of the    town and jurisdiction of the Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz between 1695 and 1715 are found in various records.  This monograph includes lists of residents of from the years 1695, 1696, 1697, 1704, 1707, and 1712, including the census of 1707 and the tool distribution list of 1712. Of particular value is the rare compilation of marriage records of Santa Cruz residents for the years 1695 through 1715 extracted from surviving prenuptial investigation records.

The history of the early residents of the town and jurisdiction of the Villa de Santa Cruz reveals that, despite hardship and uncertainty, their aspirations overcame their fears. Their willingness to persevere in the face of great challenges and danger deserves recognition as a foundation for the firm establishment and development of Nuevomejocano culture of northern New Mexico.

As the descendants of the early settlers of the Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz increased in the 1700s and 1800s, families intermarried with each other and with the local Indians, founded new settlements, and actively transmitted the cultural traditions of previous generations, infusing their own innovations with each subsequent generation to the present day.


“Genealogists as well as New Mexico history enthusiasts will find in this monograph a wealth of documentary history culled and collected from various sources, making research into these Nuevo Mexicano pioneers easier and much more accessible than ever before.”              —Robert D. Martínez

“This is an important piece of work that José Antonio Esquibel has compiled about the area we know as Santa Cruz de la Cañada.  It is an account of a historical-familial sequence of events that culminated in generations of people to follow.  Many readers will see names they recognize, marriages they have heard about, and a timeline of events that can be treasured by all researchers.” —Henrietta Martinez Christmas