These men, women, and
children chose to participate in this expedition for different reasons. They all
had varied work, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. They went forth to New
Mexico wanting to make it their new home.
The size of the expedition was
fairly large. The provisions and supplies for the journey included three pieces
of artillery and seven thousand head of livestock, comprised of: oxen, beef
cattle, donkeys, horses, pack mules, goats and sheep. Additionally, they took
materials to set up camps along the trail, and establish homes once they reached
their destination. They hauled all of these supplies in eight covered wagons and
ox carts, and two luxury coaches (which were owned by Oņate, himself).
It is estimated that
upwards of 500 people participated in this excursion. An exact count cannot be
tallied since, during his inspection, Inspector Salizar listed only the men of
fighting age. Therefore, none of the men who did not fall into this category,
and none of the women and children were counted. However, a large share of the
colonists consisted of soldiers or relatives of the soldiers. For example,
Ensign Juan Perex de Bustill brought his two sons, seven daughters and his wife
along on the trip.
In addition to the Spanish
soldiers and their families, other people accompanied the expedition. As
mentioned before, several Franciscan monks went along to help convert indigenous
peoples to Catholicism. Additionally, others made the journey as hired hands.
Some of the colonists were packers, drivers, and herders. Some were the personal
servants of others on the expedition. These people were of varied ethnicities
and included, mulattos, mestizos and Mexican Indians. Oņate even brought along a
few of his Chichimeca slaves.
All in all, a large caravan
of men, women, and children with varied ethnicities and backgrounds entered New
Mexico in May, 1598. They all came from different places, and chose to
participate in the journey for different reasons. Many, were prepared to
colonize New Mexico. Others wanted to find riches. Some even thought they might
locate the Seven Cities of Gold in New Mexico.
This expedition, sent to
colonize what later became part of the United States, was a huge contrast to the
English expedition which established Jamestown, Virginia nine years later. The
Jamestown expedition was financed by 56 commercial firms from London, and over
659 individual investors. They sent 120 men and boys to establish a trading post
in the hopes that these Englishmen could profit from the vast amount of gold
they hoped to find in this new land.
Unlike the Oņate
expedition, the English traveled by ship. They did not intend on colonizing the
area, only profit from it. The English travelers consisted of young men with
personal or financial ties to the shareholders of the Virginia Company. They
were not used to, or prepared for, living off the land.
In Virginia, these young
men did not find the gold they expected to harvest. They did, however, find much
hardship. Although the earlier settlers from Oņate's expedition continually
overcame hardship, the English traders were down to only 38 surviving men after
only nine months in America. The Spanish expedition to New Mexico started with
over 500 people.
The English entered the New World
quietly. The Spanish expedition arrived in grand ceremonial style. The soldiers
from Oņate's group entered New Mexico wearing full armor. The men wore helmets,
face masks, breast plates, gauntlets (for arms) and greaves (for legs). Even
some the horses wore full or partial armor. And the men carried daggers, swords,
and pole arms. Although armor was out of vogue in Europe at this time, it
remained in style amidst the colonial Spanish soldiers. It also provided them
with extra protection in the case of Indian warfare. This picture of hundreds of
men wearing armor, brandishing swords, and flying flags was in great contrast to
the few Englishmen who got off their boat in Virginia nine years later.
The Spanish, like the
English, hoped for financial gain, but they went about it in a different manner.
The Spanish planned to look for gold, but also to establish permanent
settlements and extend the Spanish empire. They wanted to conquer New Mexico.
Like the English, they wanted immediate wealth, but they also wanted fame,
respect, power, and to establish colonies in order to leave their children a