And if your famous Majesty|
Should wish to see the end of this story
I beg upon my knees that you will wait
And pardon me, also, if I delay,
For 'tis a thing difficult for the pen
to lose all shyness instantly,
Having to serve you with the lance.
-Canto XXXIV, 383-389
Eventually, criticism of Oñate's management style reached the viceroy, who considered abandoning the enterprise entirely. But the Franciscans, arguing on behalf of the many newly converted Indian people, persuaded him to maintain the settlements in New Mexico. The man who had led the colonists to those settlements, however, would have to be recalled.
On August 24, 1607, Oñate resigned as governor of New Mexico, and while he waited to be ordered back to Mexico some of his colonists moved south to a new site that they named Santa Fé (Holy Faith). A few years later, Oñate was recalled to Mexico City to face charges of abuse of authority. The residencia, or official review of his term of office, took two years, and in the end Oñate was disciplined. The first governor of New Mexico was sentenced to perpetual banishment from his distant settlement and four years' banishment from Mexico City and its environs. He also lost the coveted title of adelantado and was fined six thousand pesos - the exact amount that the government had given him to help finance the expedition.
Several of Oñate's officers also were implicated, among them Villagrá, who was sentenced to six years' banishment from New Mexico and two years' from Mexico. He also was barred from government service for two years and ordered to pay court costs. Villagrá wrote his poem, served his sentence and died in 1620 while traveling back to the Americas from Spain to be mayor of Zapotitlán, Guatemala.
Oñate took a different path, appealing his sentence and, after the death of his wife in 1621, pursuing his appeal from Mexico to Spain where he pleaded his case before the Council of the Indies. The Council recommended to King Felipe IV that Oñate be absolved of all charges, and the King partially concurred. On August 11, 1623, King Felipe reversed the results of the residencia by restoring Oñate's title and reimbursing him the fine, but he refused to lift Oñate's banishment from New Mexico, which was considered a serious affront to a soldier's honor.
The ever-loyal Oñate spent his last years in Spain, serving as Royal Inspector of Mines and during his tenure paid for the publication of new Spanish mining regulations under the title Nuevas leyes y ordenanzas, or New Laws and Ordinances.
During that time, Oñate also commissioned pre-eminent poet Francisco Murcia de la Llana to compose a poem about his only son, Cristóbal, who had been with him on the expedition to New Mexico. The poem meant to immortalize his son was published in 1623, 13 years after La Historia de la Nuevo Mexico, Villagrá's homage to Oñate. (There is no evidence that Oñate ever read the record of his exploration, but many others have since its numerous republications and citings by lecturers and writers. Among them is acclaimed Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who sees such poetic journals as the basis of the magical realism so prevalent in current Hispano-American works, including his own The Time of the Hero and The War and the End of the World, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, written by Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature.)
Oñate was admitted into the Order of Santiago in 1626, and he died that same year at the age of 76, in the town of Guadalcanal in southern Spain. The founder of New Mexico was an ocean away from the land he once claimed for God and King with these words, transcribed by Villagrá:
I say that in the voice and in the name of the most Christian King Don Felipe, our lord, only defender and protector of the Holy Mother Church and its true son, and for the crown of Castile and of the kings who of his glorious stock may reign in it, and for the aforesaid my government I take and seize one, two, and three times, one, two, and three times, one, two, and three times, and all those which I can and ought, the Royal tenancy and possession, actual, civil, and criminal, at this aforesaid River of the North, without excepting anything and without any limitation, with the meadows, glens, and their pastures and watering places. And I take this aforesaid possession, and I seize upon it, in the voice and name of the other lands, towns, cities, villas, castles, and strong houses and dwellings, which are now founded in the said kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico, and those neighboring to them, and shall in future time be founded in them, with their mountains, glens, watering places, and all its Indian natives, who in it may be included and comprehended, and with the civil and criminal jurisdiction, high and low, gallows and knife, mere mixed power, from the leaf on the mountain to the rock in the river and sands of it, and from the rock and sands of the river to the leaf on the mountain.
Historian and Palace of the Governors Director Thomas E. Chávez, Ph.D, is the recipient of the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities 1997 Humanities Service Award. Chávez has published four books -- Manuel Alvarez (1794-1856): A Southwestern Biography, Conflict and Acculturation: Manuel Alvarez' 1842 Memorial, Quest for Quivera: Spanish Explorers on the Great Plains, 1540-1821, and An Illustrated History of New Mexico - and is working on three more.