If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Pueblo uprising of 1680

KC‑1.2.III.B (KC)
Unit 1: Learning Objective F
WOR (Theme)
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?