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Pueblo uprising of 1680

The Pueblo people in the Southwest rose up against Spanish religious persecution and violence in 1680. 


  • The Pueblo people, Native Americans living in what is now New Mexico, rose up against Spanish conquistadores in the wake of religious persecution, violence, and drought.
  • The uprising aimed to reclaim Pueblo religious practices, culture, and land, which had been stripped away by Spanish conquistadores.
  • Although the Pueblo uprising ultimately failed to take back Santa Fe from Spanish colonizers, the Pueblo people made a lasting impact on the dominant culture of the Southwest.

Pueblo uprising in Santa Fe

Having found wealth in Mexico, the Spanish looked north to expand their empire into the land of the Pueblo people. The Spanish expected present-day New Mexico to yield gold and silver, but they were mistaken. Instead, they established a political base in Santa Fe in 1610, naming it the capital of the Kingdom of New Mexico. It became an outpost of the larger Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain, headquartered in Mexico City.
As they had in other Spanish colonies, missionaries built churches and forced the Pueblos to convert to Catholicism, requiring native people to discard their own religious practices entirely. They focused their conversion projects on young Pueblos, drawing them away from their parents and traditions.
The Spanish demanded corn and labor from the Pueblos, but a long period of drought impeded production, escalating tension in Santa Fe. The Pueblo also suffered increased attacks on their villages by rival native groups, which they attributed to the Spanish presence.
Popé, a Pueblo leader and medicine man led a response to the persecution and violence—a return to native customs. He popularized the idea that “when Jesus came, the Corn Mothers went away.” This was a succinct way of describing the displacement of native traditions by the culture and religion of the Spanish.
Taos Pueblo served as a base for Popé during the uprising. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
In 1680, the Pueblo launched a coordinated attack on the Spanish. Pueblos, Navajos, and Apaches from the region congregated and planned to strike Santa Fe when the Spaniards were low on supplies. They laid siege to the city for nine days and cut off the Spanish water supply. The uprising, also known as Popé’s Rebellion, killed over 400 Spaniards and drove the remaining 2,000 Spanish settlers south toward Mexico. Participants in the rebellion also destroyed many mission churches in an effort to diminish Catholic physical presence on Pueblo land. Pueblo historian Joe S. Sando calls the movement “the first American revolution.”
The Pueblo reestablished their religious institutions and a government of their own for the next 12 years of independence. However, as droughts and attacks by rival tribes continued, the Spanish sensed an opportunity to regain their foothold. In 1692, the Spanish military returned and reasserted their control of the area.

Longterm effects of Native American resistance

Although the Spanish regained Santa Fe from the Pueblos, their missionary vision was somewhat compromised by the sentiment stirred up during the uprising. Many Pueblo quietly resisted Catholicism and folded their own cultural practices into norms instituted by the Spanish. This produced religious syncretism—the amalgamation of the distinct religious cultures of the Pueblos and the Spanish. The Spanish also slowly decreased their labor demands and the harsh practices of the encomienda system. Over the course of the next few centuries, Pueblo and Spaniards intermarried. Pueblo customs started to shape—and continue to heavily influence—New Mexican culture.
This statue of Popé at the US Capitol building is one of two statues representing the state of New Mexico. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

What do you think?

Why did Spanish missionaries persecute the Pueblos and suppress their religious customs?
Did the Spanish succeed in suppressing Pueblo culture? Why or why not?
How did the Pueblo uprising contribute to the formation of a new ethnic identity in the Southwest?

Want to join the conversation?

  • female robot ada style avatar for user AJ Jones❤️
    This article talks a little bit about the pueblos being forced into Catholicism, but what religion did they originally practice before this? ( or did they even have a "so called religion?") Or did they have a religion based off of spiritual practices? ( I know they worshipped different gods, like sun gods, nature gods etc.) And also did all native Americans have the same beliefs before the Spanish came?
    (16 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Rachit Gupta
      The Puebelos did have a religion. They believed in ancestral spirits called Kachinas who brought rain and clouds to help the Puebelos. The Kachinas were believed to be people who once lived among the Puebelos, but were offended because nobody was paying attention to them. Pueblos had religious ceremonies and festivals to ask the Kachinas to bring rain. Pueblos prayed to the Kachinas in underground rooms called kivas. Different Native American tribes had different beliefs, but it was possible for them to share some beliefs with other tribes.
      (28 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user nokeke72318
    What impact did the pueblo revolt have on Native Americans.
    (7 votes)
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    • starky sapling style avatar for user ncordon
      The Pueblo Revolt was the largest and most successful Native American uprising in North American history. It pointed to problems inherent in the Spanish style of colonization, as well as to the power that Native Americans could wield through collective resistance
      (23 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user abidul347
    How did the Pueblo Revolt affect the USA, not right now, but back then?
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Dwight Chatman lll
    Why did Spanish missionaries persecute the Pueblos and suppress their religious customs?
    (6 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Let's back up and do a little history.
      In the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Spanish Empire was created by exploration and conquest of native peoples all around the world.
      The empire was about money and power.
      At home, in Spain, there was one "allowed" form of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church.
      Further north in Europe, the Protestant Reformation was rolling along. The Christians of Spain were very resistant to the Reformation.

      As the Empire was built (with money and power in mind), it co-opted the religion of Spain to get more staffing for the colonial project. Many missionaries went. They were in the colonies to spread both the Gospel and the Spanish Empire's control of territory.

      When the "Pueblo Indians" resisted the forces of empire represented by the missionaries, there was pushback and persecution. It was not based on Pueblos' resistance to the religious message of the missionaries, but on opposition to their role in the colonization and imperial expansion project. The missionaries, as often happens, were confused about what they were up to. They did wrong.
      (7 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user kajohnson
    when jesus came why did the corn mothers go away
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user tami.omotoso.25
    Answers to questions:
    1. The Spanish missionaries persecuted the Pueblos because they were easy to replace as sources of labor under the encomienda system and saw them as ethnically inferior. The Spanish also suppressed the Pueblo's religious customs as wanted to christianize them, believing that their culture was the reason that they weren't civilized
    2. The Spanish succeeded in suppressing Pueblo culture to a degree. Forcing the Pueblos to convert to Christianity and work on their plantations by using harsh forms of treatment would eventually backfire on them as the Pueblos revolted against the Spaniards that kept suppressing their culture. Some Pueblos would even use religious syncretism as a method to keep some of their culture without renouncing it for the Spanish's culture
    3. The Pueblo uprising contributed to the formation of a new ethnic identity in the Southwest as the aftermath when the Spanish regained control over it led to them relaxing their strict regulations and allowing Pueblo culture to coexist with Spanish culture, which led to Santa Fe being more culturally diversed
    (7 votes)
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  • leaf blue style avatar for user Altaic
    The article talks about how the Pueblo People's customs heavily affected New Mexico's culture. My question is which parts of New Mexico's culture were influenced? like was the language changed in some way or did some traditions start to rub off on today's culture?
    (3 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Please note that the lesson is about something that happened about 350 years ago, when there were few people of European ethnicity, and NONE of Anglo-European ethnicity in that part of the continent.

      The cultural situation then was considerably different from the cultural situation of the 21st Century, when almost the entire territory of what is now New Mexico has been overrun by modern white American culture.

      There is no connection to be made.
      (3 votes)
  • leaf blue style avatar for user Sophia Gospodinoff
    What is an explanation of one way in which the Pueblo Revolts differed from the Cossack Revolts?
    (5 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Joe Goode
    What does “when Jesus came, the Corn Mothers went away.” mean?
    (3 votes)
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  • sneak peak green style avatar for user Claire.Coulter
    ¿Por qué a veces es difícil entender el español y lo mismo con el inglés?
    (1 vote)
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