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Document Number: AJ-008
Author: Espejo, Antonio de
Title: Account of the Journey to the Provinces and Settlements of New Mexico, 1583
Source: Bolton, Herbert Eugene (editor). Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). Pages 163-195.
Pages/Illustrations: 35 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Antonio de Espejo arrived in Mexico in 1571 with his brother Pedro Muñoz de Espejo in the company of chief Inquisitor Pedro Moyas de Contreras. The Spanish king sent this party to Mexico to establish an independent Inquisition of religious conversion in New Spain. In addition to their duties in the Inquisition, they became successful ranchers by exploiting their royal connections. In 1581, when his brother killed a man in a brawl, Antonio de Espejo received only nominal punishment and moved north to start a ranch at Santa Bárbara. From there, Espejo became involved in this expedition into New Mexico.

Because of the loss of the friars and laity in the 1581-1582 Rodríguez Expedition (see AJ-004 to AJ-007), the local Franciscan friars at San Bartolomé sought to rescue Fray Rodríguez whom they believed was left behind at the New Mexico pueblos. Although it was likely known that Fray Jhoan de Santa Maria was killed on that expedition, Fray Bernaldino Beltrán of the Durango Monastery agreed to lead the campaign financed by Antonio de Espejo.

Espejo Expedition of 1582-1583

The expedition of twelve soldiers, Espejo, the friars, servants, 115 horses and mules, left San Bartolomé November 10, 1582. In addition to their mission to find if any friars remained alive, Espejo also hoped to investigate the mining prospects in the region. Espejo’s account details several grass-hut rancherías of the Indians of the Conchos valley that subsisted by hunting rabbits, hares, and deer using bows and arrows, and by cultivating melons, gourds, maize, and the Maguey cactus used to make mescale. Espejo and Fray Beltrán proceeded to the Pazaguantes village, similar to the Conchos, living in grass-hut rancherías. They found silver ore while on the way to the Toboso villages, a tribe they befriended and for whom the Spaniards erected a cross for Christian worship.

The expedition next encountered the Jumanos, whom the Spanish call the Patarabueyes. There were five Jumano pueblos, with permanent buildings and a population of nearly ten thousand. The nearby tributary of the Conchos River provided the Jumanos with water for gardening and habitat for fish. Espejo traveled north from the Jumanos to encounter a band of Indians converted to Christianity by Alonso Núñez Cabeza de Vaca or on the Coronado Expedition decades before (see AJ-070 to AJ-072, and AJ-086).

Their travels continued from Texas into New Mexico and among the numerous pueblos along the Upper Rio Grande. In these pueblos lived tens of thousands of Indians raising turkeys, and growing maize, beans, gourds, melons, and peppers. The Spanish friars reported that the Indian religious shrines and grottoes reminded them of similar Roman Catholic religious shrines.

Espejo continued north to the Tiguas provinces and the Pualas (Puruay) pueblo where Fray Francisco López, Fray Augustín Ruiz, and their four converts were killed the year before. This was the same province where the Pualas killed nine soldiers and forty horses during the Coronado Expedition in 1540-1542. Here the Espejo Expedition split up, in part because they feared that they would be attacked. Espejo and Beltrán took a small party to Maguas, a highly populated pueblo, where Fray Jhoan de Santa Maria was killed during the Rodríguez expedition.

The party followed the Jemez River northwest to the province of the Emexes. There they visited Acoma, which is one of North America’s oldest inhabited communities. Acoma is built on a rock rising nearly 350 feet above the plateau. Its cisterns catch rain to serve the large population, and cultivate gardens located on a nearby river. The Acoma presented Espejo with their snake and flute ceremonies, which he described as “many juggling feats, some very clever, with live snakes.” While in Acoma, Espejo learned of Coronado’s campaign there, and the Indians also told him that a lake of gold existed further west in Arizona.

Following that lead, Espejo visited Mohoce in the Hopi region of Arizona, which other Indians warned them not to visit because the Spaniards might be killed. Espejo successfully convinced the Moqui they posed no threat and was welcomed with hundreds of woven cotton mantas, or blankets. Again, Indians told Espejo about the fabled lake of gold found further west. Although Espejo never found the lake of gold, he did extract silver ore from several regional locations that produced high-grade silver.

Indian guides showed Espejo a shortcut passage back to the pueblos where he regrouped with the rest of his party. They returned to San Bartolomé, bringing with them one Mohoce (Hopi) woman and another Indian from the Tamos pueblo. Espejo’s expedition is marked by his violent attacks on Indians at Puaray and Tiguex in which dozens of inhabitants were executed and their pueblos burned.

Espejo arrived back at San Bartolomé on September 20, 1583, and later reported to both the Spanish viceroy and the king about his discovery of mines in Arizona and New Mexico. Espejo’s expedition prompted interest in New Mexico among several Spanish adventurers in New Spain and led to the appointment of Juan de Oñate as governor of the New Mexico province fifteen years later.

Document Note

The principal published source of information regarding the expedition is Espejo’s own account written at Santa Bárbara after his return from New Mexico. This was published by Pacheco and Cárdena in the Colección de Documentos Inéditos, XV, 101-26 (Madrid, 1864-1884) under the title “Relation del viage, que yo Antonio Espejo, ciudadano de la ciudad de México, natural de Cordoba, hize con catorce soldados y un relijioso de la orden de San Francisco, á las provincias y poblaciones de la Nueva México, a quien puse por nombre, la Nueva Andalucía, á contemplacion de mi patria, en fin del año de mill e quinientos e ochenta e dos.” In Mendoza’s History of the Kingdom of China (translated in Hakluyt Society Publications, London, 1854, II, 228-52) is another contemporary account of the Espejo expedition; also in Hakluyt, Voyages (London, 1599-1600), III, 383-96.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

For more information on Antonio de Espejo, see the “Handbook of Texas Online” to read the biography and see more details about the expedition.

To see how one community of Native Americans looks back on these events, see the Pueblo of Jemez web site at

Modern photos of the region through which the Espejo Expedition traveled can be seen at; these may take a significant amount of time to download.

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