History
Written in New Mexican pueblo of San Ildefonso, this anxious letter of the Franciscan friar Francisco Corbera warns of imminent uprising of Pueblo Indians against the Spanish. It was one of the many warnings colonial officials would receive during the winter of 1695–1696. Just three months later, in June of 1696, the pueblos of New Mexico did revolt. Yet in contrast to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680—which Corbera mentions in the letter—the 1696 uprising was short–lived. Even before the year drew to a close, the Spanish regained political control and friars once again established themselves in the pueblos.
Visual Culture
In this letter Corbera singles out the kiva (he calls it an estufa, or stove) as where the people of San Ildefonso meet nightly. Although he does not describe the kiva's appearance, he makes clear the central role the building plays in the cultural and political life of the pueblo. Corbera's letter also implies that Christian buildings—the chapels and churches built under the supervision of friars—occupied tenuous ground in 17th century New Mexico pueblos since they failed to displace the indigenous forms of public architecture that remained vital to Pueblo communities. The ways that kivas and monasteries coexisted in the 17th century in New Mexico can be seen in the Vistas gallery photographs and plans of San Gregorio in Abó and Nuestra Señora de los Angeles in Pecos.

The specter of martyrdom Corbera raises was part of the everyday life of Spanish America. Painted and sculpted images of martyred saints and saintly martyrs were the familiar inhabitants of churches, monasteries and convents across the Viceregencies. The stories of martyrdom told by these works and in printed leaflets and books were meant as models and inspiration for all Catholics, not only those who served in Spanish American frontier missions.

See a Franciscan church with a kiva in the Vistas Gallery.






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