Spanish and Portuguese
Colonial Possessions

After Columbus showed that you could get somewhere by sailing across the Atlantic (1492-1493) and Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope all the way to India (1497-1498), it was clear that European sailing technology was ready to go anywhere in the world. In 1493, Spain and Portugal got Pope Alexander VI to literally divide the world between them, a settlement adjusted slightly in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. This basically gave the Western Hemisphere to Spain and the Eastern to Portugal. For the next century, this is pretty much how things operated, and both Spanish and Portuguese denied that other European powers had the right to have ships in "their" waters. The English, French, Dutch, etc. ran of the risk of being treated like pirates, even when they weren't.

In the present time, when "enlightened" opinion has turned liberal guilt into leftist self-hatred, with hatred spilling over for America, Christianity, Israel, most other religion (except ʾIslâm and maybe Buddhism, as long as it has been properly denatured), and the West, the "Age of Discovery" comes in for its share of vitriol. We are told, after all, that you cannot "discover" a place that is already inhabited, as were the Americas and most other places touched by European explorers. However, if the inhabitants don't know where they are, you can discover them. They are, in a sense, lost. And none of the inhabitants of the Americans or the Pacific Islands had any idea of the form of planet Earth or its geography. The Greeks had uniquely determined that the Earth was round, and that it was a finite body floating in space, with a rough idea of the arrangement of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Not even the science of India and China had gotten that all worked out.

So when Columbus set sail to the West, he was acting on a supposition originally expressed by Aristotle, with confidence that Asia could be reached across the Atlantic. As it happened, the Greeks had also determined the size of the Earth to some accuracy, which would have put Asia out of reach of the provisions stocked by Columbus. He might have starved in mid-ocean. His own confidence was based on a revised size the Earth, from Arab philosophers, who thought it much smaller. Unfortunately, the Arabs were wrong, and the Greeks right, but, fortunately, no one anticipated that there were whole unknown continents right where Asia was supposed to be. The Vikings, who had gotten to Newfoundland, if not to Maine, didn't really know where they were either.

Columbus himself died before getting this all figured out. When it was, Magellan ambitiously realized the original project, although the Pacific Ocean still seemed a lot larger than it was supposed to be, and personally he only made it as far as the Philippines. It is perhaps not so remarkable, in the expanse of the Ocean, that no islands in Polynesia or Micronesia were spotted in the crossing. When his crew returned to Portugal in 1522, they were puzzled that their reckoning of time was off by a day. There was not yet an International Date Line to correct their error. That very error, however, proved in its own way that the Earth is round.

There is no minimizing or disparaging these achievements, whose very conception was beyond the reckoning of all the native inhabitants of those lands from the Bahamas West to the Philippines. It even occasioned some sober reflection and adjustment in India and China.

The attack now on Christopher Columbus in particular focuses on his practice of enslaving and otherwise mistreating the Indians. However, there really was nothing that Columbus did that the "Native Americans" weren't already doing to each other. There is nothing admirable about that now, but the Leftist picture that Columbus and Spain destroyed an Eden of peaceful and happy natives is nonsense. War, slavery, rape, torture, and cannibalism were standard operating procedure among "indigenous peoples."

However, when Columbus sent Indian slaves back to Spain to be sold, Queen Isabella overruled the practice, freed or redeemed the Indians, and sent them home, forbidding future such enslavement -- except of those like the cannibalistic Caribs. And activists sometimes mispresent Columbus when they have him talking about slaves, when he actually used the term "servants" (servidores), not "slaves" (esclavos). But this kind of dishonesty is not unusual in such "scholarship."

In fact, current accounts of Spanish practices in the New World sound like modern additions to the "Black Legend," la leyenda negra española, the Protestant propaganda of the 16th and 17th centuries about the evils of Spanish and Catholic rule. The "Black Legend" in its own terms may be attacked by scholars as "Hispanophobia" and added, as anti-Latino (or "anti-Latinx") racism, to the list of political crimes compiled by the modern Academy. But these accusations can be dismissed in light of the urgent need now to add the modern crimes of Imperialism, Colonialism, and Racism to the content of the original, merely anti-Catholic "Black Legend."

Reading a lot of recent historians, one might think that Rudyard Kipling had invaded Mexico, or that Montezuma was hurriedly consulting his copy of Lenin's Imperialism [1917]. The anachronism, and self-righteous "virtue signalling," is palpable. We know that Marxists have actuallly ghost-written modern testimonials of the "indigenous." None of their intentions are salutary.

That Old World diseases devastated many of those newly discovered populations may now be attributed to the malignant evil of Columbus and all European explorers. But any contact, of any kind, would have done the same thing. New World populations simply did not have immunity to Old World diseases, and nobody had any idea how devastating that could be. The diseases made their way to Peru before the Incas even knew about the Spanish.

But the Old World had not been immune from such effects. Somehow the Black Death, which followed the Mongols, and which wiped out about half the population of Europe, does not occasion quite the same kind of indignation and self-righteousness. Racist and, yes, imperialist Mongols. That tells the tale. You never get a break when self-hatred is involved. Meanwhile, no one asks the Mongols, or for that matter the conquering Arabs, to apologize. They're all rather proud of it.

Representative of the kind of venom we see is a book, Unsettling Truths: the Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah [IVP Books, 2019]. Since the "Unsettling Truths" begin with "You cannot discover lands already inhabited," we have a clue what kind of "truths" these are going to be. The idea of the "doctrine of discovery" is explained as, "In the fifteenth century, official church edicts gave Christian explorers the right to claim territories they 'discovered'." This is certainly a reference to the Treaty of Tordesillas, without the specificity that the "official church" meant the Catholic Church, while "Christian explorers" only meant the Spanish and the Portuguese.

But who cares about the Spanish and the Portuguese when the United States is the real enemy and the real target? The "Black Legend" doesn't do ideologues any good unless America can be "blackened" by it. So we go directly from the universal authority claimed by the Popes to: "This was institutionalized as an implicit national framework that justifies American triumphalism, white supremacy, and ongoing injustices." A nice leap there from Alexander VI to, I suppose, George Washington.

And, let me guess, "ongoing injustices" is going to mean, say, captialism? And, again, "white supremacy" is going to mean, say, capitalism? -- and also, we learn now, the rigors of mathematics? At the same time, Americans of Asian derivation or ancestry, who may work hard following a Confucian cultural ethic, are themselves thereby "white supremacists." So, Charles and Rah are simply more of the communist liars and ignorant fools who now infest American universities like rats in the subway.

But since the Ottoman Sulṭân and Caliph, and the Emperors of China and Japan, claimed authority comparable to that of the Popes, but did not have fleets acknowledging their authority ranging around the world, an issue like "white supremacy" wouldn't have meant much to them.

The Chinese almost had their own Age of Exploration, as Admiral Hé sailed to Indonesia, India, Arabia, and Africa; but this was cut short by Chinese xenophobia. The "isolationist" Court faction didn't want any contact, of any kind, with foreigners. And, as we know, "isolationists" are the worst kinds of racists, Neanderthal troglodites, and sexists. The most intriguing thing about this period, however, may be the discovery of what looks like a Chinese anchor off Southern California. The records of Admiral Hé were later destroyed, and so we might wonder if a record of New World voyages also was destroyed.

Today, however, we do see Chinese "Han Supremacy" operating in the colonization, slave labor, torture, and genocide of the Tibetans and Uighurs. This is rarely noticed by the Left, which regards criticism of Communist China as "racism" -- but who nevertheless are despised by the Chinese as .

Instead, the authors, Charles and Rah, in their bizarre, trendy self-hatred, want America discredited at its roots. And there is no blanket delegitmization as thorough as telling everyone that they don't have a right to be where they are -- which actually would seem to include at least part of the heritage of a "Mark Charles," and all of that of a "Soong-chan Rah," whose name looks Korean to me -- and his school, the Christian North Park University in Chicago, is likely on "unceded" indigenous lands. While Rah is actually a professor of "Evangelism," this book seems to betray a replacement of religious purposes with radical political ones, as is characteristic of leftist religious activists.

I might direct them to the Turkish conquest and colonization of Anatolia, culminating in "ethnic cleansing" of Greeks after World War I, not to mention the Armenian genocide during it. And the Turks are still at it against the Kurds, who aren't even Christians.

But we might wonder about some other things. What do the Hopi really think about the late arrivals, the migrants, probably not before about 1500, the Navajo, surrounding and hemming them in on their isolated Mesas? What right do the Navajo have to that land? Inquiring minds want to know. Unlike the Spanish, they hadn't even been given the land by the Pope.

They had, however, been given the land, the Dinétah, by their own gods, the Diyin Dine'é or "Holy People," whose creation and people were autochthonous, not migratory -- and this is in the "Fourth World" of the Navajo universe, the "White World," which obviously reflects "white supremacy." Those Navajo. Racist and colonialist Navajo.

With their own similar creation stories, many Native Americans resent the claim of anthropologists that they migrated from Asia thousands of years ago. Racist anthropologists.

At the same time, the Aztecs, the Mexica, remembered that they themselves were migrants. When they arrived in the Valley of Mexico, after some conflict with the locals, they found an island to settle in Lake Texcoco, perhaps in 1325. An omen appeared: An eagle, perched on a cactus, had caught a snake. Much as Brigham Young announced, "This is the place," coming down to the site of Salt Lake City, this was the sign foretold by the god Huitzilopochtli. Images of the eagle and snake continue to be used in the arms and flag of Mexico, reminding us that the Aztecs did not claim to be autochthonous. Since the regime of the Aztecs was not loved by their neighbors, this bears remembering.

Curiously, a similar omen of an eagle and snake was observed at the founding of Constantinople.

Governors of New Mexico

The Navajo Conception of Hózhǫ́

Portuguese Possessions
  • Madeira Islands (1419-present)
  • Azores (1431-present)
  • Portuguese Guinea (1446/1879-1974)
  • Cape Verde Islands (1462-1975)
  • São Tomé and Príncipe (1485-1975)
  • Brazil (1500-1822)
    • Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro
    • Captaincy of Minas Gerais
    • Captaincy of São Paolo
    • Captaincy of Santa Catarina
    • Captaincy of Rio Grande
      do Sul
    • Captaincy of Espirito Santo
    • Captaincy of Goiaz
    • Captaincy of Baía
    • Captaincy of Sergipe
    • Captaincy of Pernambuco
    • Captaincy of Piaui
    • Captaincy of Maranhão
    • Captaincy of Rio Negro
    • Captaincy of Para
    • Captaincy of Mato Grosso
  • Mozambique (1505-1975)
  • Socotra (1506-1511)
  • Portuguese India
    • Cochin (1502-1669)
    • Goa (1510-1961)
    • Calicut (1510-1616)
    • Bombay (1530-1664)
    • Diu (1535-1961)
    • Hooghly (1537-1640)
    • Surat (1540-1615)
    • Damão/Daman (1558-1961)
    • Bhatkal (1560-1637)
    • Masulipatam (1570-1605)
  • Malacca (1512-1641)
  • Moluccas (1512-1621)
  • Ceylon (1518-1658)
  • Portuguese Timor (1520-1975)
  • Java (1522-1596)
  • Portuguese China
    • Ning-po (1533-1545)
    • Fu-chou (1547-1549)
    • Macao (1557-1974/1999)
  • Ormuz (1515-1622)
  • Bahrain (1515-1622)
  • Muscat (1550-1650)
  • Angola (1574-1975)
Captains-major of Macao
Francisco Martins1557-1558
Lionel de Sousa1558-1559
Rui Barreto1559-1560
Manuel de Mendonça1560-1561
Fernão de Sousa1561-1562
Pero Barreto Rolim1562-1563
Diogo Pereira1563-1565
João Pedro Pereira1565-1566
Simão de Mendonça1566-1567,
Tristão Vaz da Veiga1567-1568,
António de Sousa1568-1569
Manuel Travassos1569-1571
João de Almeida1572-1573,
António de Vilhena1573-1574
Vasco Pereira1575-1576
Domingos Monteiro1576-1579,
Lionel Brito1579-1570
Miguel da Gama1580-1581
Inácio de Lima1581-1582
Aires Gonçalves de Miranda1583-1585
Francisco Pais1585-1586
Jerónimo Pereira1587-1589
Anrique da Costa1590-1591
Roque de Melo Pereira1591-1592
Gaspar Pinto da Rocha1593-1594
Manuel de Miranda1595-1596
Rui Mendes de Figuieredo1596-1597
Nunho de Mendonça1598-1599
Paulo de Portugal1599-1603
Gonçalo Rodrigues de Sousa1603-1604
João Caiado de Gambôa1604-1605
Diogo de Vasconcelos de Meneses1605-1607
André Pessôa1607-1609
Pedro Martin Gaio1611-1612
Miguel de Sousa Pimentel1612-1614
João Serrão da Cunha1614-1615
Martim da Cunha1615-1616
Francisco Lopes Carrasco1616-1617
Lopo Sarmento de Carvalho1617-1618,
António de Oliveira de Morias1618-1619
Jerónimo de Macedo de Carvalho1619-1620
Governors of Macao
Francisco Mascarenhas1623-1626
Filipe Lôbo1626-1629
Jerónimo da Silveira1630-1631
Manuel da Câmara de Noronha1631-1636
Domingos da Câmara de Noronha1636-1638
Sebastião Lôbo da Silveira1638-1644
Luís de Carvalho de Sousa1645-1646
Diogo Coutinho Doçem1646
João Pereira1647-1650
João de Sousa Pereira1650-1654
Manuel Tavares Bocarro1654-1664
Manuel Coelho da Silva1664-1666
Álvaro da Silva1667-1670
Manuel Borges da Silva1670-1672
António Barbosa Lôbo1672-1677
António de Castro Sande1678-1679
Luís de Melo Sampaio1679-1682
Belchior do Amaral de Meneses1682-1685
António de Mesquita Pimentel1685-1688
André Coelho Vieira1688-1691
Francisco da Costa1691-1693
António da Silva e Melo1693-1694
Gil Vaz Lôbo Freire1694-1697
Cosme Rodrigues de Carvalho e Sousa1697-1697
Chamber Senate1697-1698
Pedro Vaz de Sequeira1698-1700,
Diogo de Melo Sampaio1700-1702
José da Gama Machado1703-1706
Diogo do Pinho Teixeira1706-1710
Francisco de Melo e Castro1710-1711
António de Sequeira de Noronha1711-1714
Francisco de Alarcão de Souto-Maior1714-1718
António de Albuquerque Coelho1718-1719
António da Silva Telo e Meneses1719-1722
Cristóvão de Severim Manuel1722-1724
António Carneiro de Alcáçova1724-1727
António Moniz Barreto1727-1732
António do Amaral Meneses1732-1735
João do Casal1735
Cosme Damião Pinto Pereira1735-1738,
Manuel Pereira Coutinho1738-1743
António José Teles de Meneses1747-1749
João Manuel de Melo1749-1752
Rodrigo de Castro1752-1755,
Francisco António Pereira Coutinho1755-1758
Diogo Pereira1758-1761
António de Mendonça Corte-Real1761-1764
José PlÁcido de Matos Saraiva1764-1767
Diogo Fernandes Salema e Saldanha1767-1770,
Alexandre da Silva Pedrosa Guimarães1777-1778
João Vicente da Silveira e Meneses1778-1780
António José da Costa1780-1781
Francisco de Castro1781-1783
Bernardo Aleixo de Lemos e Faria1783-1788,
Francisco Xavier de Mendonça Corte-Real1788-1789
Lázaro da Silva Ferreira1789-1790
Vasco Luís Carneiro de Sousa e Faro1790-1793
José Manuel Pinto1793-1797,
Cristóvão Pereira de Castro1797-1800
Caetano de Sousa Pereira1803-1806
British Occupation
William O'Brien Drury1808
Lucas José de Alvarenga1808-1810,
José Onório de Castro e Albuquerque1817-1822
Paulino da Silva Barbosa1822-1823
Government Council, 1822-1825
Joaquim Mourão Garcês Palha1825-1827
Government Council, 1827-1830
João Cabral de Estefique1830-1833
Bernardo José de Sousa Soares de Andrea1833-1837
Adrião Acácio da Silveira Pinto1837-1843
José Gregório Pegado1843-1846
João Maria Ferreira do Amaral1846-1849
Government Council, 1849-1850
Pedro Alexandrino da Cunha1850-1850
Government Council, 1850-1851
Francisco António Gonçalves Cardoso1851-1851
Isidoro Francisco Guimarães1851-1863
José Rodrigues Coelho do Amaral1863-1866
José Maria da Ponte e Horta1866-1868
António Sérgio de Sousa1868-1872
Januário Correia de Almeida1872-1874
José Maria Lôbo de Ávila1874-1876
Carlos Eugénio Correia da Silva1876-1879
Joaquim José da Graça1879-1883
Tomás de Sousa Rósa1883-1886
Firmino José da Costa1886-1888
Francisco Teixeira da Silva1889-1890
Custódio Miguel de Borja1890-1894
José Maria de Sousa Horta e Costa1894-1897,
Eduardo Augusto Rodrigues Galhardo1897-1900
Arnaldo de Novaes Guedes Rebelo1902-1903
Martinho Pinto de Quierós Montenegro1904-1907
Pedro de Azevedo Coutinho1907-1908
José Augusto Alves Roçadas1908-1909
Eduardo Augusto Marquês1909-1910
Álvaro de Melo Machado1910-1912
Aníbal Augusto Sanches de Miranda1912-1914
José Carlos da Maia1914-1916
Manuel Ferreira da Rocha1916-1917
Fernando Augusto Vieira de Matos1917
Artur Tamagnini de Sousa Barbosa1918-1919,
Henrique Monteiro Correia da Silva1919-1922
Luís Antonio de Magalhães Correiaacting,
Rodrigo José Rodrigues1923-1924
Joaquim Augusto dos Santosacting,
Manuel Firmino de Almeida Maia Magalhães1925-1926
Hugo Carvalho Lacerda Castelo Brancoacting,
João Pereira de Magalhãesacting,
Joaquim Anselmo da Mata e Oliveira1931-1931
António José Bernardes de Miranda1932-1935
João Pereira Barbosa1935-1936
António Joaquim Ferreira da Silva Júnior1936-1937
José Rodrigues Moutinhoacting,
Gabriel Maurício Teixeira1940-1946
Albano Rodrigues de Oliveira1947-1951
Joaquim Marquês Esparteiro1951-1957
Pedro Correia Barros1957-1958
Manuel Peixoto Nunes1958-1959
Jaime Silvério Marques1959-1962
António Adriano Faria Lopes dos Santos1962-1966
José Manuel de Sousa e Faria Nobre de Carvalho1966-1974
José Garcia Leandro1974-1979
Melo Egídio1979-1981
José Carlos Moreira Camposacting,
Vasco Almeida e Costa1981-1986
Joaquim Pinto Machado1986-1987
Carlos Melancia1987-1990
Francisco Murteira Naboacting,
Vasco Rocha Vieira1991-1999
20 December 1999,
Returned to China
The Portuguese had many more small possessions than are shown or listed (yet), but the Portuguese empire fell on hard times when Philip II seized the Portuguese throne in 1580. Portuguese interests got neglected, and when the Dutch and English, especially, got energetic at the beginning of the 17th century, Portuguese holdings withered considerably. Even renewed Portuguese independence in 1640 did not make possible a comeback.

Ironically, a British foothold in India began with the dowry of Catharine of Braganza, daughter of James IV, when she was betrothed to Charles II of England in 1661 -- Bombay, which soon became the base of British trade in India.

Portuguese Eastern Hemisphere holdings then remained more or less static until the overthrow of the Fascist government inspired Portugal to shed its possessions in 1975. Exceptions to that were Goa and the other two Portuguese cities in India, which the Republic of India took by force in 1961, and Macao, which the Chinese had Portugal administer until 1999.

Otherwise, the greatest Portuguse colonial possession was actually in the Western Hemisphere, namely Brazil, which became independent in its own unique way. The heir to the throne of Portugal itself followed the precedent of the other newly independent South American countries, and made himself Emperor of Brazil in 1822. Even today, Brazil is the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world. The Portuguese heritage in India is still conspicuous in the Portuguese names (e.g. D'Souza) of many Indian Catholics.

Although not the first or the most important of the possessions of Portugal or Spain, Macao does end up being, not only the longest lasting, but the last of them all, missing the 21st century by a few days. Macao acquired a claim to fame before it was even properly founded, since St. Francis Xavier died nearby in 1552, after carrying his Jesuit mission all the way to Japan. His reportedly incorruptible body, however, was transported back to Goa, where it remains -- and is displayed periodically.

After Napoleon occupied Portugal itself in 1807, there was a brief British occupation of Macao (1808); but then the Portuguese government itself relocated to Brazil, as an ally of Britain, so no durable British presence resulted. In World War II, the Japanese completely surrounded Macao, and their troops entered the city several times; but since Portugal not only was neutral in the War but was under a Fascist dictatorship friendly to Germany, Japan had good reason to avoid any more aggressive actions.

With the establishment of democracy in 1974, Portugal intended to divest itself of all its colonies. Curiously, the Chinese didn't exactly want Macao back. Like Hong Kong, the colony was a Chinese window on the larger world and a good source of foreign currency. In 1979, there was an agreement that Macao was simply a Chinese territory administered by Portugal. Then in 1987 it was agreed that the Portuguese would leave in 1999, two years after Hong Kong would revert to China. By then, China had opened itself directly to the larger world, embraced (some kind of) capitalism, and no longer needed the colonial intermediaries. So at long last the day of European colonies in East Asia passed.

Portuguese trade with China had one curious and durable result, contributing the word for a fruit, the sweet orange, to many languages. This is discussed, appropriately, under the Princes of Orange.

The list of Governors of Macao is from a page at the World Statesmen site.

Spanish Possessions
  • Canary Islands (1404-1420, 1479-present)
  • Melilla (1497-present)
  • Viceroyalty of New Spain (1521-1821)
  • Mariana Islands (1521/1668-1898)
  • Caroline Islands (1527-1899)
  • Marshall Islands (1529-1898)
  • Viceroyalty of Peru (1533-1824)
    • Presidency (Audiencia) of Cuzco
    • Audiencia of Lima
    • Captaincy General (Audiencia) of Chile
  • Galapagos Islands (1535)
  • Juan Fernández Islands (1563)
  • Philippines (1570-1898)
  • Ceuta (1580-present)
  • Viceroyalty of New Granada (1739-1819)
    • Captaincy General of Caracas
    • Audiencia of Santa Fé
    • Captaincy General (Audiencia) of
    • Presidency (Audiencia) of Quito
  • Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata (1776-1816)
    • Audiencia of Bueno Aires
    • Presidency (Audiencia) of Charcas
  • Spanish Guinea (1778-1827, 1884-1968)
    • Río Muni
    • Fernando Póo
    • Annobón
  • Spanish Sahara (1509-1524, 1860-1976)
  • Ifni (1476-1524, 1860-1970)
  • Easter Island (1770)
  • Spanish Morroco (1912-1956)

The Spanish Conquistadores, fresh from the Reconquista in Spain itself, not only conquered many new lands, they were in the unique position to overthrow a couple of entire civilizations, those of the Aztecs (the Mexica) in Mexico and of the Incas in Peru. That someone would deliberately do this now seems unbelievably criminal and horrifying. There are some things to keep in mind about it, however.

The Spanish of the 16th century are now nearly as remote and exotic as the Aztecs and Incas themselves. Conquering Granada and converting the Moors was of a piece with conquering America and converting the Indians. That there was moral objection and dissent over this in Spain itself, and in the Church, does give us some hint of the values of liberal modernity, but the entire terms of the debate were still foreign.

To the Spanish ariving in Mexico, the religion and the culture there were works of the Devil. The Aztec priesthood, without exception, was massacred, for this tatooed and bloody hierarchy consisted of conscious agents of Satan. And, to tell the truth, even now one might wonder, given the practices of Aztec religion, whose daily sacrament was human sacrifice, and whose priests often dressed in the flayed skins of victims. What was normal and customary in Aztec religion now would only be represented in the most disturbing of horror films, as acts perpetrated by maniacs or, indeed, by those in the supernatural grip of evil.

Nor was this all simply accepted in the context of Mexico itself. The Aztecs were not loved, and their "empire" was a collection of subjugated tributary states, much of whose tribute was human. Several of them went over to the Spanish and provided essential aid in the overthrow of the Aztecs -- most significantly the Tlaxcalans, whose good services were rewarded by the entire tribe being made hidalgos, i.e. nobility, in the Spanish system, with self-government.

With two close allies, Texcoco and Tlacopan, Aztec Tenochtitlán ruled something much more like the Athenian "empire" of the League of Delos than a unified imperial state.
Aztec Tlatoani
Moctezuma I1440-1469
Moctezuma II1502-1519
Spanish Conquest, 1521
Nevertheless, while other scholars shy away from calling the rulers of Constantinople, Japan, or Ethiopia "Emperors," we still get other historians, like Victor Davis Hanson, calling the Aztec Tlatoani "Emperor." And, as with the League of Delos, Cortés was able to lure away both Aztec enemies and allies into joining his own army against the hated Mexica.

The Aztec leader, the Tlatoani, which means something like "Speaker," was an elected and very nearly secular, mutatis mutandis, official. The list of the traditional Tlatoani is given here. Unlike the Aztec state, the domain of the Incas was a tightly centralized monarchy, with a divine and hereditary ruler, the Inca. Moctezuma (or Montezuma) II, vividly remembered afterwards, was killed by a mob of his own people, who were furious at his inability to resist the Spanish (although sometimes it is claimed that the Spanish had killed him). But the whole Aztec Nation was unable to resist the Spanish.

Indeed, Moctezuma's problem was that, as Cortés advanced, over months, into the interior of Mexico, the Aztec leader was kept well informed about the weapons and behavior of the Spanish. He knew that resisting them would be a hopeless business. However, after his death, resistence it would be. On June 30, 1520, the people of Tenochtitlán drove the Spanish out of the city, with great loss of life. Cortés was away at the time, dealing with his own problems with the Spanish government.

Regrouping and preparing for conquest took until the following May, while smallpox struck the Aztecs, carrying away Cuitlahuac, Moctezuma's successor. The assault on Tenochtitlán then took four months, and it wasn't until August 13 that Cuauhtémoc, the new Tlatoani, surrendered. Thousands or even hundreds of thousands had been killed; and the Aztecs fought with the disadvantage that individual (Homeric) prowess continued to be valued over coordinated attack, and warriors still tried to capture enemies for sacrifice, rather than killing them outright. This exposed the distracted warriors to simple slaughter by the Spanish -- whose own Indian allies, however, also wanted to capture Aztecs for their own sacrifices and cannibalism.

It was a battle like Stalingrad, street by street and block by block. Since the Aztecs used the canals -- Tenochtitlán, like Venice, was built on islands, many artificial, in Lake Texcoco -- to mount attacks, Cortés ordered that they be filled in with rubble from each demolished neighborhood. The defenders could often clear them during the night, the way the defenders of Constantinople would repair the great walls.

Nevertheless, the resistance was ground down, and Spanish fury only increased, as they could actually see captured Spaniards (abut 500 of them) sacrificed on the Aztec pyramids. Since the captured city was then all but destroyed, Cortés decided to complete the destruction. The canals were filled in again and the character of the city was erased. Eventually, all of Lake Texcoco disappeared. Cuauhtémoc was later executed, in the treacherous manner often characteristic of the Spaniards.

Besides the incommensurable moral paradigms at the time, the Aztecs and the Incas were in an extraordinarily vulnerable position. For all the centuries that civilizations had existed in Central and South America, they were still neolithic cultures. In their isolation they had progressed at a very slow rate technologically.
The Incas
Manco Capac Ic.1200
Sinchi Roca
Lloque Yupanqui
Mayta Capac
Capac Yupanqui
Inca Roca
Yahuar Huacac
Pachacuti Yupanqui1438-1471
Topa Yupanqui1471-1493
Huayna Capac1493-1525
Dies of measles or smallpox
Civil war
Spanish Conquest, 1533
Manco Capac II1533-1544
Sayri Tupac1544-1561
Titu Cusi1560-1571
Tupac Amaru I1571
Tupac Amaru IIrebellion,
The wonder of their gold and silver work distracts from but cannot conceal the fact that the tools of industry and war were all stone.

The Aztecs fought, not with swords, but with clubs studded with obsidian blades. These could inflict nasty injuries, but they simply broke on Spanish armor; and Spanish swords could cut through the padded protection used by Mexican warriors.

With no draft or pack animals, except the llama in the Andes, neither culture had the wheel (except, curiously, on toys). Deficient in livestock, such as sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, or cattle, some argue that cannibalism in Meso-America was a compensation for this lack of protein sources. Victor Davis Hansen mentions that the adopted Nahuatl word for "chicken," caxtil, was also their new word for "Castile" -- so Cortés had come from "the land of the chickens" [The End of Everything, Basic Books, 2024, p.238].

Similarly, the sine qua non of the Old World civilizations, writing, didn't even exist among the Incas, and was still a very imperfect instrument in Central America. Only now, indeed, is the writing of the Mayans becoming better understood, but its level of development never got much beyond what the Egyptians had in the Archaic Period.

After the Maya mysteriously abandoned their cities, no further progress in writing was made at all, and the system the Aztecs inherited was less sophisticated. We only know as much as we do about the history of the Aztecs and Incas because of the living memories that could be recorded after the arrival of the Spanish -- though, of course, the many Maya and Aztec codices burned by the Spanish would have been a help.

Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru, 1846, John Everett Millais (1829–1896), Victoria and Albert Museum

For all the hopelessness of the encounters, what would one not give to have been with Cortés when he first entered the Valley of Mexico and saw the extraordinary sights there? Later, there would be much fiction and romance about "lost" civilizations, but this was the real thing, an entire world hidden from Ptolemy, Marco Polo, and Admiral He alike. And so, naturally, the Spanish destroyed it, usually with a treachery and ruthlessness nearly as appalling as the practices of Aztec religion.

Indeed, while the Spanish can be reproached (anachronistically) for practices like torture and slavery, there was no disagreement about these from Native Americans, anywhere, who freely engaged in both themselves. The woman, La Malinche (originally Malintzin, then Marina), who was the translator and then mistress of Cortés, had been sold into slavery by her own mother and was among a group of women gifted to the Spanish. Her status only improved when it was realized she spoke both the Aztec Nahuatl and Maya. Until she learned Spanish, translations were awkwardly conducted through a Spaniard who had been a slave among the Maya and knew their language.

La Malinche had five children with Cortés, one of whom, Martin Cortes "el Mestizo," joined the Court of King Philip II, was made a marquis, and was endowed with lands in Mexico, which he returned to govern.

Moctezuma had been made hostage by Cortés, and Pizarro began his encounter with the Incas by treacherously seizing the Inca Atahuallpa, who had arrived without military preparations, despite leaving a large army nearby. Unlike Moctezuma, Atahuallpa did not have any intelligence about the Spanish and so had no clue about their weapons, intentions, or behavior. He was totally surprised and blind-sided and could not imagine that the few Spaniards posed any real threat.

Nevertheless, the Spanish had, after a fashion, already arrived, since their diseases had spread ahead of them. The Inca Huayna Capac had already died of one of them -- a mysterious business until later. While Moctezuma died after being stoned and shot by his own people, Atahuallpa was held to ransom by Pizarro, and then murdered when the ransom was paid -- and the sacred virgins of the Inca all raped.

After the debacle with Moctezuma, and needing to fight their way out of Tenochtitlán, Cortés and his men, as we've seen, with their many Indian allies, attacked and destroyed the Aztec state. With the Incas, the centralized state was decapitated with the murder of Atahuallpa. At first, the Spanish hoped that a puppet Inca, converted to Christianity, would be a good means of Spanish rule. But the chosen instrument, Manco Capac II, soon rebelled, and resistance continued for many years, until the last of the imperial family was hunted down, captured, and killed in 1571. Thus, where Mexico had been conquered with fierce street fighting in one city, Peru became a matter of extended guerrilla warfare over decades in and out of precipitous mountains, valleys, and jungles. The result was the same; and the last Inca, Túpac Amaru, a nephew of Atahuallpa, was excuted according to the fraudulent conceits used by the Spanish.

This all leaves a curious heritage. Few Mexicans or Peruvians want to adopt Nahuatl or Quechua as their language, or revive the old religions, but the manner in which the Spanish language and the Catholic religion arrived and were imposed still can rankle. Indeed, the remaining Marxist ideology of revolution in Mexico (and elsewhere) has tended to focus on the poverty and plight of unassimilated Indians. Sadly, since the solution offered for their plight is collectivism and command economics (i.e. the paradigm of Cuba), they can be sure of remaining in poverty.

Ironically, the imperial language of the former Spanish colonies is promoted in the United States, without irony, as the medium of the downtrodden; and activists demand, in that language, Spanish, that "Europeans" leave, presumably so that the oppressed can enjoys the benefits of the cellphones and refrigerators that grow naturally on the land, ripe for the harvest. Karl Marx himself was not so stupid as to subscribe to the sort of Cargo Cult economics we find among the radicals. Yet, as in the United States, people vote for the mirage of "socialism," and then they end up with poverty and tyranny in a communist police state, as in Venezuela.

Both the Aztecs and the Incas were heirs to much older civilizations, which are largely known only from archaeology. In South America there was no written language at all, not even by the time of the Incas. In Central America, there was indeed a written language, originated by perhaps the greatest civilization of the Americas, that of the Maya.

Spanish possessions endured rather better through the 17th and 18th centuries than the Portuguese did. The annual voyages of the treasure fleets from Vera Cruz to Spain and from Acapulco to the Philippines were the lifeblood of Spanish finances and the perennial temptation of enemies and pirates. They also established the silver Spanish dollar not only as the common currency of trade in the New World (adopted by the young United States), but in the Far East as well. Both the Japanese Yen and Chinese Yuán were originally versions of the Mexican dollars brought to the Philippines.

Governors (Captains General)
of Cuba, in Havana
Diego VelázquezDeputy,
Juan AltamiranoDeputy,
Gonzalo de GuzmánDeputy,
Juan de VadilloDeputy,
Manuel de RojasDeputy,
Hernando de Soto1537-1542
Juanes de Avilainterim,
Antonio de Chaves1547-1548
Gonzalo Pérez de Angulo1548-1553
Diego de Mazariegos1555-1564
García Osorio1564-1567
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés1567-1574
Gabriel de Montalvo1574-1577
Francisco Carreño1577-1579
Gaspar de Torres1579-1580
Gabriel de Luján1580-1588
Juan de Tejada1588-1593
Juan Maldonado Barnuevo1593-1600
Pedro de Valdés1600-1608
Gaspar Ruiz de Pereda1608-1616
Sancho de Alquiza1616-1619
Jerónimo de Querointerim,
Diego de Vallejointerim,
Francisco de Venegas1620-1624
Juan de Esquivel Saavedrainterim,
Cristóbal de Aranda
Damián Velázquez de Contreras
Juan Alonso Fernández
Lorenzo de Cabrera y Corbera1626-1630
Juan Bitrián de Beamonte y Navarra1630-1634
Francisco de Riaño y Gamboa1634-1639
Alvaro de Luna Sarmiento1639-1647
Diego de Villalba y Toledo1647-1653
Francisco Jelder1653-1654
Juan de Montaño Blázquez1654-1657
Juan de Salamanca1657-1662
Rodrigo Flores de Aldana1662-1663
Francisco de Avila Orejón y Gastón1663-1670
Francisco Rodríguez de Ledesma1670-1680
Luis Fern ndez de Córdova1680-1685
Diego Antonio de Viana Hinojosa1685-1689
Severino Manzaneda Salinas y Rozasinterim,
Diego de Córdova Lasso de la Vega,
Marquis of the Bao del Maestre
Pedro Benítez de Lugo1702
Luis Chacóninterim,
Nicolás Chirinointerim,
Pedro Alvarez Villarín1706
Laureano de Torres y Ayala,
Marquis of Casatorre
Luis Chacón and Pablo Cavero1711-1713
Vicente de Raja1716-1717
Gómez de Maraverinterim?,
Gregorio Guazo y Calderón1718-1724
Dioniso Martínez de la Vega1724-1734
Juan Francisco Güemes Orcasitas1734-1746
Juan Antonio Tineo y Fuertes1746
Diego Peñalosainterim,
Francisco Cagijal de la Vega1747-1760
Pedro de Alonso1760-1761
Juan de Prado Portocarrero1761-1762
Ambrosio de Funes Villalpando,
Count of Ricla
Diego Antonio Manrique1765
Pascual Jiménez de Cisneros1765-1766
Antonio María Bucarelli y Ursúa1766-1771
Felipe Fondesviela,
Marquis of la Torre
Diego José Navarro García Valdés1777-1781
Juan Manuel de Cajigal1782-1783
Luis de Urizaga1783-1785
José de Gálvez,
Count of Gálvez
Bernardo de Troncoso1785
José de Ezpeleta y Galdeano1785-1788
Domingo Cabello1788-1790
Luis de las Casas1790-1796
Juan Procopio Basecourt,
Count of Santa Clara
Salvador de Muro y Salazar,
Marquis of Someruelos
Juan Ruiz de Apodaca1812-1816
José Cienfuegos Jovellanos1816-1819
Juan Manuel de Cajigal1819-1821
Nicolás Mahy 1821-1822
Sebastián Kindeláninterim,
Francisco Dionisio Vives1823-1832
Mariano Ricafort1832-1834
Miguel Tacón Rosique1834-1837
Joaquín Ezpeleta1834-1840
[?] Príncipe de Anglona1840-1841
Jerónimo Valdés1841-1843
Francisco Javier Ulloa1843
Leopoldo O'Donell1843-1848
Federico Roncali,
Count of Alcoy
José Gutiérrez de la Concha,
Marquis of La Habana
Valentín Cañedo1852-1853
Juan de la Pezuela1853-1854
José Gerónimo de la Concha1854-1859
Francisco Serrano1859-1862
Domingo Dulce1862-1866,
Francisco Lersundi1866,
Joaquín Manzano1866-1867
Blas de Villate,
Count of Valmaseda
Antonio Caballero de Rodas1869-1870
Francisco de Ceballosinterim,
Cándido Pieltain1873
Joaquín Jovellar1873
Arsenio Martínez Campos1876-1879,
Ramón Blanco1879-1881,
Luis de Prendergast1881-1885
Ramón Fajardo1885-1887
Slavery Abolished, 1886
Sabas Marín1887-1889,
Manuel Salamanca1889-1890
Camilo Polavieja1890-1892
Emilio Callejas1892-1895
Valeriano Weiler y Nicolau1896-1897
Spanish-American War, 1898;
American Occupation,
Republic of Cuba
Tomás Estrada PalmaPresident,
American Occupation,
William Howard TaftGovernor,
Charles Edward Magoon1906-1909
José Miguel GómezPresident,
Mario García Menocal1913-1921
Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso1921-1925
Gerardo Machado1925-1933,
Alberto Herrera y FranchiProvisional President,
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y QuesadaProvisional,
Ramón Grau1933-1934
Carlos HeviaProvisional,
Manuel Márquez SterlingProvisional,
Carlos MendietaProvisional,
José Agripino BarnetProvisional,
Miguel Mariano Gómez1936
Federico Laredo Brú1936-1940
Fulgencio Batista1940-1944
Ramón Grau1940-1948
Carlos Prío Socarrás1948-1952
Fulgencio Batista1952-1959
Anselmo Alliegro y MiláProvisional,
Carlos Manuel PiedraProvisional,
Manuel Urrutia Lleó1959
Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado1959-1976
Fidel Castro1976-2008
Raúl Castro2008-2018
Miguel Díaz-Canel2018-present
Cuba, whose governors are at right, was one of the earliest Spanish colonies, and one of the last. The visit of the United States battleship
Maine to Havana in 1898 was meant to show some U.S. disapproval of the measures that Spain was taking to suppress discontent and revolt against Spanish rule. When the Maine blew up and sank, probably from an internal explosion, Spain was immediately blamed and war was urged by many in the United States hungering for foreign adventure, imperialism, or something. The war was duly joined, and Spanish forces were crushed in Cuba and the Philippines. This was the end of a Spanish presence in the New World, 406 years since Columbus had landed.

What followed was a kind of love-hate relationship between Cuba and the United States. Cuba today represents the relationship as pure hate, with the country suffering under the most durable dictator of the 20th century, Fidel Castro. After being one of the most prosperous countries in Latin Ameria in the 1950's, Cuba now has been reduced to a per capita annual gross domestic product (GDP), adjusted for purchasing power, of $1700, only 5% of that of the United States [The Economist Pocket World in Figures, 2003 edition, Profile Books, 2002]. This is better than most Sub-Saharan African counties, where Tanzania, for instance, only has 1.5% of GDP of the United States ($520), but it is at the bottom of the list for Latin American states. It barely beats out Haiti ($1470). Meanwhile, Mexico has an adjusted per capita GDP of $8,790, 25.8% of the United States. Cubans have told foreign reporters that just to make a living, everything they do breaks the law.

Despite this miserable record of poverty, Castro was still nevetheless the darling of international "progressives," and was regularly visited by fawning celebrities, such as, in 2002, Steven Spielberg -- the sort of people who wouldn't give the time of day to the despised former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet. The modern Left has different ways of rationalizing this love affair. Since the promise of Communism to produce wealth has failed, this now can be interpreted as a virtue and Cuban poverty (except for Castro's own comfortable lifestyle, of course) construed as a noble ecotopia -- i.e. an ecological utopia. This is, indeed, the most progressive approach, since enlightened leftist opinion now regards the abundance of commercial cultures, and the consumer choice of market democracies, as the Rape of the Planet.

Since most people don't buy the idea that poverty is good and that we should go backing to living at a neolithic, or paleolithic, level of culture, it always helps to have another rationalization ready. Thus, the American economic boycott of Cuba can be blamed for its poverty. There are two problems with that explanation. One is that it doesn't follow from Castro's own ideology. Communist and "progressive" economics have long recommended economic self-sufficiency and autarchy. They simply don't know why trade is necessary, and now would tend to regard it as an evil, not just because it will be based on market prices, which are evils in themselves, but because, like Plato, it is seen as the engine of "unnecessary desires," which stimulate overconsumption and so the Rape of the Planet. The other problem with blaming the boycott is that the United States is the only major country boycotting Cuba. If Americans want Cuban cigars, all they have to do is drive to Canada or Mexico.

The United States has a very large economy, 31% of world GDP, but that leaves 69% of the world economy, including Europe and Japan, to help out Cuba. It doesn't help for one simple reason:  Cuba is a Communist country. There is no private property and most productive economic acitivities are illegal. Since leftist opinion still doesn't understand what was wrong with Communism, it still can't accept that Cuba's problems are self-inflicted, or Fidel-inflicted. They a sort of Cargo Cult notion of economics, that wealth consists of "resources," which need to be divided up in equal shares for all (or not divided up at all, since they shouldn't be used, since this results in the Rape of the Planet).
Viceroys of New Spain, Nueva España
Hernán Cortés1519-1524
Alonso de Estradaco-governor,
Rodrigo de Albornozco-governor,
Alonso de Zuazo co-governor,
Luis Ponce de León1526
Marcos de Aguilar1526-1527
Government by the Audiencia,
under Nuño de Guzmán
Government by the Audiencia,
under Sebastián Ramírez de Fuenleal
Antonio de MendozaViceroy,
Luis de Velasco y Alarcón1550-1564
Government by the Audiencia,
under the licenciate Francisco de Ceynos
Gastón de Peralta,
Marquis of Falces and of Peralta,
Count of Santisteban de Larín
Luis Carrillo and Alonso Muñozinterim,
Martín Enríquez de Almansa1568-1580
Lorenzo Suárez de Mendoza,
Count of La Coruña
Pedro Moya de Contrerasinterim,
Álvaro Manrique de Zúñiga,
Marquis of Villamanrique
Luis de Velasco y de Castilla1590-1595,
Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo,
Count of Monterrey,
Señor of Viedma and of Ulloa
Juan Manuel de Mendoza y Luna,
Marquis of Montes Claros
Francisco García Guerrainterim,
Diego Fernández de Córdoba
y Melgarejo de las Roelas,
Marquis of Guadalcázar
Diego Pimentel y Enríquez de Guzmán1621-1624
Rodrigo Pacheco y Osorio,
Marquis of Cerralbo
Lope Díez de Aux y Armendáriz,
Marquis of Cadereyta
Diego López Pacheco Cabrera y Bobadilla,
Grande de España
Juan de Palafox y Mendozainterim,
García Sarmiento de Sotomayor
y Enríquez de Luna,
Count of Salvatierra
Marcos Torres y Ruedainterim,
Government by the Audiencia,
under Matías de Peralta
Luis Enríquez de Guzmán,
Count of Alba de Liste and of Villaflor
Francisco Fernández de la Cueva y Enríquez,
Duke of Alburquerque
Juan de la Cerda de la Lama
y de la Cueva de Leiva,
Marquis of Ladrada
Diego Osorio de Escobar y Lamasinterim,
Antonio Sebastián de Toledo Molina y Salazar,
Marquis of Mancera
Pedro Nuño Colón de Portugal,
Duke of Veragua
Payo Enríquez de Riverainterim,
Tomás Antonio de la Cerda y Aragón,
Count of Paredes, Marquis of La Laguna
Melchor Portocarrero y Lasso de la Vega,
Count of Monclova
Gaspar de la Cerda Sandoval Silva y Mendoza,
Count of Galve
Juan de Ortega y Montañésinterim,
José Sarmiento y Valladares1696-1701
Fernando de Láncaster Noroña y Silva,
Duke of Linares
Baltasar de Zúñiga y Guzmán,
Duke of Arión
Juan de Acuña y Bejarano,
Marquis of Casa Fuerte
Juan Antonio de Vizarrón y Eguiarrietainterim,
Pedro de Castro Figueroa y Salazar,
Duke of the Conquista
Government by the Audiencia,
under Pedro Malo de Villavicencio
Pedro Cebrián y Agustín,
Count of Fuenclara
Juan Francisco de Güemes
y Horcasitas Gordón Sáenz de Villamolinedo
Agustín de Ahumada y Villalón,
Marquis of las Amarillas
Government by the Audiencia,
under Francisco Cagigal de la Vega
Joaquín de Monserrat y Ciurana,
Marquis of Cruïlles
Carlos Francisco de Croix,
Marquis of Croix
Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa1771-1779
Martín Díaz de Mayorgainterim,
Matías de Gálvezinterim,
then full,
Government by the Audiencia,
under Eusebio Beleño
Bernardo de Gálvez,
Clunt of Gálvez
Government by the Audiencia,
under Eusebio beleño
Alonso Núñez de Haro y Peraltainterim,
Manuel Antonio Flórez Martínez
de Angulo Maldonado y Bodquín
Juan Vicente Güemes Pacheco
de Padilla y Horcasitas,
Count of Revilladiego
Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca,
Marquis of Branciforte
Miguel José de Azana1798-1800
Félix Berenguer de Marquina y Fitz-Gerald1800-1803
José Joaquín Vicente de Iturrigaray1803-1808
Pedro de Garibayinterim,
Francisco Javier Lizana y Beaumont1809-1810
Government by the Audiencia,
under the licenciate Pedro Catani
Francisco Javier Venegas de Saavedra1810-1813
Félix María Calleja del Rey1813-1816
Juan José Ruiz de Apodaca1816-1821
Pedro Francisco Novellainterim,
Juan O'Donojú y O'Rian1821
Independence of Mexico, 1821
First Mexican Empire, 1821–1823;
First Regency Council, 1821-1822;
Second Regency Council, 1822
Augustin I Emperor,
Provisional Government 1823–1824;
First Republic, 1823-1853
Guadalupe VictoriaPresident,
Vicente Guerrero1829
José María Bocanegra1829
Pedro Vélez1829
Anastasio Bustamante1830-1832
Melchor Múzquiz1832
Manuel Gómez Pedraza1832-1833
Valentín Gómez Faríasrotating,
Antonio López de Santa Annarotating,
Texas War of
Independence, 1835-1836
Miguel Barragán1835-1836
José Justo Corro1836-1837
Anastasio Bustamante1837-1839
Nicolás Bravo1839
Anastasio Bustamante1839-1841
Francisco Javier Echeverría1841
Antonio López de Santa Anna1841-1842
Nicolás Bravo1842-1843
Antonio López de Santa Anna1843
Valentín Canalizo1843-1844
Antonio López de Santa Anna1844
José Joaquín de Herrera1844
Valentín Canalizo1844
José Joaquín de Herrera1844-1845
Mariano Paredes1845-1846
Nicolás Bravo1846
José Mariano Salas1846
Valentín Gómez Farías1846-1847
War, 1846-1848
Antonio López de Santa Anna1847
Pedro María de Anaya1847
Antonio López de Santa Anna1847
Manuel de la Peña y Peña1847
Pedro María de Anaya1847-1848
Manuel de la Peña y Peña1948
José Joaquín de Herrera1848-1851
Mariano Arista1851-1853
Juan Bautista Ceballos1853
Manuel María Lombardini1853
Antonio López de Santa Anna1853-1855
Martín Carrera1855
Rómulo Díaz de la Vega1855
Juan Álvarez1855
Ignacio Comonfort1855-1857
Benito Juárez1857-1863
First Civil War, 1858-1861;
Second Mexican Empire, 1863–1867
Maximilian Emperor,
Second Republic, 1867-1916
Benito Juárez1867-1872
Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada1872-1876
José María Iglesias1876
Porfirio Díaz1876
Juan Nepomuceno Méndez1876-1877
Porfirio Díaz1877-1880
Manuel González Flores1880-1884
Porfirio Díaz1884-1911
Second Civil War, 1911-1917
Francisco León de la Barra1911
Francisco I. Madero1911-1913
Pedro Lascuráin1913
Victoriano Huerta1913-1914
Francisco S. Carvajal1914
Third Republic, 1916-present
Venustiano Carranza1914-1920
Pancho Villa, raids
Columbus, New Mexico;
U.S. invasion of Mexico, 1916-1917
Adolfo de la Huerta1920
Álvaro Obregón1920-1924
Plutarco Elías Calles1924-1928
Emilio Portes Gil1928-1930
Pascual Ortiz Rubio1930-1932
Abelardo L. Rodríguez1932-1934
Lázaro Cárdenas del Río1934-1940
Manuel Ávila Camacho1940-1946
Miguel Alemán Valdés1946-1952
Adolfo Ruiz Cortines1952-1958
Adolfo López Mateos1958-1964
Gustavo Díaz Ordaz1964-1970
Luis Echeverría1970-1976
José López Portillo1976-1982
Miguel de la Madrid1982-1988
Carlos Salinas de Gortari1988-1994
Ernesto Zedillo1994-2000
Vicente Fox2000-2006
Felipe Calderón2006-2012
Enrique Peña Nieto2012-2018
Andrés Manuel López Obrador2018-present
This isn't even good
Marxism, since Marxist theory holds that value is created by labor and so does not pre-exist in "resources." What emerges from all this confusion is simply the conviction that Castro must be a good guy and Cuba's poverty has got to be someone else's fault -- unless, of course, it is good in itself. The best of both worlds then would be to embrace both, that poverty is good and that it is the fault of the United States.

Unfortunately for fans of Castro, they may have helped elect George W. Bush President of the United States. In 1999 little Elián González, after his mother died at sea, fleeing Cuba, was brought ashore and placed with his relatives in Florida. However, in 2000, he was seized by Federal agents and sent back to his father in Cuba -- actually, of course, to slavery and brainwashing. Cuban-Americans in Florida, a generation of refugees from Cuba, were (like any sensible people), outraged that the Clinton Administration and Attorney General Janet Reno would do something like that. In the close Presidential election of 2000, when the vote in Florida decided the outcome, it is doubtful that Democrat Al Gore received many Cuban votes. Janet Reno then tried running for Governor of Florida and was easily defeated by George Bush's brother Jeb. George Bush carried Florida again in 2004 without difficulty. Those who have ever since bewailed Gore's loss of Florida in 2000 should congratulate themselves -- and they may just have Elián González to thank for it.

After the 2014 Congressional elections (when it would no longer hurt Democrats running for Congress), Barack Obama, proceeded to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba. This meant legitimizing the Castro regime, which has certainly been the heartfelt desire of the Left for years. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry justified this by saying that now American technology and aid can connect all Cubans to the Internet. They overlooked the problem that connecting to the Internet would land Cubans in jail. The problem is not lack of technology, but lack of freedom. Since Obama and Kerry really cannot be ignorant of this, their whole pitch is a tissue of lies; and their whole initiative is exposed as no more than a payoff to their friends on the Left. Indeed, this now exposes the real program of the Democratic Party as little more than to turn the United States into the equivalent of Cuba, i.e. an impoverished, totalitarian police state. Everything they do is directed to that end; and now they can openly pal around with the Castros, with Pope Francis joining in, to celebrate their victories over freedom, democracy, and capitalism.

New Spain begins with the Conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés in 1519-1521. It is made a Viceroyalty in 1535, and so was promoted in status beyond the earlier Spanish outposts of Hispañola and Cuba.

The Audiencia (or Audenica) was a governing court that consisted of judges, prosecutor, and other officials, under the Viceroy, a Captain General, or a President. Where "Government by the Audiencia" is indicated, it is under a President who is not a formally appointed Viceroy or governor. Government by the Audiencia in this way, or by acting or interim Viceroys is indicated where it occurs.

The racial hierarchy in Spanish America is noteworthy. At the top are European born Spaniards, the "peninsulars," gachupines (now generally used derogatorily). Next come pure blooded Spaniards who nevertheless have been born in America. These are the criollos. This can be translated "Creoles"; but that is a little bit misleading. Creoles in French colonies could be of mixed blood, but in Spanish America those would be mestizos, not criollos. Mestizos were then a major cut in social status below both the peninsulas and criollos -- although intermarriage was approved in 1514, the rights of mestizos were officially curtailed in 1549 and 1576. Below them all, of course, were pure Indians and African slaves. Mixed marriages with Africans produced mulatos (from mulo, "mule"), a word simply borrowed into English with the same sense ("mulattoes"). Runaway slaves became cimarrones.

New Spain included all Spanish America north of Panama, but it broke up when Mexico became independent. That began with the revolt of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810. Independence was achieved by Augustín de Itúrbide in 1821. Itúrbide ruled as Emperor for a couple of years and then was overthrown. A Republic was declared in 1824, although its history would be marked by several episodes of dictatorship.

At independence, the population of New Spain was 1,230,000 peninsulars and creoles, 1,860,000 mestizos, and 3,700,00 Indians.

Mexico, with one of the wealthiest and largest economies in Latin American, with reasonable (but not great) growth and economic freedom, nevertheless must endure comparisons, with only 25% of income purchasing power parity, with its gigantic neighbor, the United States. Those benefiting the least from Mexico's economy often cross the border, illegally, into the United States. While many political interests in the United States favor this immigration, rendering the major parties both unable to really do anything about it, either to legalize or prevent it, a political preference for legality is rarely stated in the proper terms of free trade and free immigration. Instead the dynamic created is a grave danger to American politics. This is true for at least three reasons:  (1) the Democratic Party wishes to maintain or legalize the illegal immigration to curry favor with a Hispanic ethnic constituency both to inflate the population of already Democratic electoral districts, giving them greater representation for smaller numbers of actual voters, or to actually steal elections through fraudulently registering illegal voters. The election laws are now loose enough that this is quite possible, and may have just occurred on a large scale in the election of the Governor of the State of Washington in 2004.

Since Democratic policies are statist and socialist, ideas otherwise being discredited in American politics, this is all a dangerous tendency. (2) Hispanic immigrants have often been politicized in their own homelands, whether in Mexico or Central America, with leftist and communist indoctrination (Cubans, of course, are immune to this).
Viceroys of Perú
Francisco Pizarrogovernor and
captain general
of Nueva Castilla,
Diego de Almagro "el mozo"self-proclaimed
Cristóbal Vaca de Castrogovernor of Perú,
Blasco Núñez de VelaViceroy,
Government by the Audiencia,
under Diego Cepeda
Gonzalo Pizarronominated,
Pedro de la GascaPresident,
Government by the Audiencia1550-1551
Antonio de Mendoza1551-1552
Government by the Audiencia1552-1556
Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza
y Fernández de Bobadilla,
Marquis of Cañete
Diego López de Zúñiga y Velasco,
Count of Nieva
Government by the Audiencia1564
Lope García de Castrointerim,
Francisco de Toledo1569-1581
Martín Enríquez de Almansa1581-1583
Government by the Audiencia1583-1585
Fernando Torres Portugal y Mesía,
Count of Villa don Pardo
Andrés García Hurtado
de Mendoza y Manrique,
Marquis of Cañete
Luis de Velasco1596-1604
Gaspar de Zúñiga Acevedo y Fonseca,
Count of Monterrey
Government by the Audiencia1606-1607
Juan Manuel de Mendoza y Luna,
Marquis of Montes Claros
Francisco de Borja y Aragón,
Count of Mayalde y de Ficalho
Government by the Audiencia,
under Juan Jiménez de Montalvo
Diego Fern ndez de Córdoba
y Melgarejo de las Roelas,
Marquis of Guadalcázar
Luis Fernández de Cabrera
Bobadilla de la Cerda,
Count of Chinchón
Pedro de Toledo y Leyva,
Marquis of Mancera
García Sarmiento de Sotomayor
y Enríquez de Luna,
Count of Salvatierra
Luis Enríquez de Guzmán,
Count of Alba de Liste, Grande de España
Diego de Benavides y de la Cueva,
Count of Santiesteban del Puerto
Government by the Audiencia,
under Bernardo Iturrizarra
Pedro Antonio Fernández
de Castro Andrade y Portugal,
Duke of Taurizano
Government by the Audiencia1672-1674
Baltasar de la Cueva y Enríquez1674-1678
Melchor de Liñán y Cisnerosinterim,
Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull,
Duke of la Palata
Melchor Portocarrero Lasso de la Vega,
Count of la Monclova
Government by the Audiencia1705-1707
Manuel de Sentmenat-Oms
de Santa Pau,
Marquis of Castell-Dos-Rius
Government by the Audiencia1710
Diego Ladrón de Guevarainterim,
Government by the Audiencia1716
Diego Morcillo y Rubio de Auñóninterim, 1716;
Carmine Nicola Caracciolo,
Prince of Santo Buono
José de Armendáriz,
Marquis of Castelfuerte
José Antonio de Mendoza
Caamaño y Sotomayor,
Marquis of Villagarcía
José Antonio Manso de Velasco
y Sánchez Samaniego,
Count of Superunda
Felipe Manuel Cayetano Amat
y Junyent Planella y Vergós
Manuel de Guiror y Portal de Huarte,
Count of Guiror
Agustín de Jáuregui y Aldecoainterim,
Francisco Teodoro de Croix,
Count of Croix
Francisco Gil de Taboada
Lemos y Villamarín
Ambrosio O'Higgins,
Marquis of Osorno
Gabriel de Avilés y del Fierro,
Marquis of Avilés
José Fernando de Abascal y Sousa,
Marquis of la Concordia
Joaquín de la Pezuela Griñán
y Sánchez Muñoz de Velasco,
Marquis of Viluma
José de la Serna y Martínez de Hinojosa1821-1824
Independence of Chile, 1818;
Independence of Peru, 1820-1824
the Presidents and dictators of Peru should continue here, but there are just too many of them, with many overthrown in less than a year. What it was like can be seen in the lists for Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina.
Legal or illegal, if they become politically active, they thus tend to be drawn to movements of the most leftist and anti-American cast. And (3) no movement is more dangerous for them or America than a simple Mexican nationalism which wants to take over the Southwestern States and perhaps reunite them with Mexico. Why anyone would flee the poverty and corruption of Mexico and then want to turn their refuge into Mexico is perplexing, but then the people involved in such a movement exhibit irrationality to high degree -- not to mention a lunatic fringe leftism that passes over into the kind of fascism and racism that, as leftists, they love to accuse their opponents (i.e. mainstream American politicians and citizens) of practicing. In the contemporary world, when the lunatic fringe left has allied itself with
Islamic terrorism, this is a dangerous development indeed. Although their rhetoric is emerging in Democratic Party politics, what such people and their allies really want is violence, war, and slaughter, i.e. Marxist revolution -- nothing short of that, indeed, is liable to detach the Southwest from the United States. There is little that is honest or revealing said about this in American politics or the news media.

These lists of Viceroys, with some other governors of Spanish America, were sent to me by Daniel Ruiz-Castillo Galán. I have reproduced the Viceroys of the four Viceroyalties and the Governors of Cuba (since they start early and last all the way to 1898). Mr. Ruiz-Castillo Galán lists his sources as Crónica de América, Guillem Burrel y Floriá (director) [Plaza & Janés Editores, SA (1990), Barcelona, pp. 702-717] and Los virreyes españoles en América; Relación de virreinatos y biografía de los virreyes españoles en América, José Montoro [Editorial Mitre, SA (?), Barcelona]. I have left out some detail from Mr. Ruiz-Castillo Galán's information, like Viceroys who declined the office or died before taking it up.

Spanish Peru was established with the Conquest of the Incas by Francisco Pizarro. It initially consisted of all Spanish territories in South America, except for parts of Venezuela, which belonged to New Spain. Peru became a Viceroyalty (the second) in 1543. New Granada (1739) and the Río de la Plata (1776) were later detached from it.

Independence began when José de San Martín defeated the Spanish at the battle of Chacabuco in 1817. Chile then became independent under Bernardo O'Higgins in 1818. San Martín captured Lima in 1821. The Viceroy was finally defeated by Antonio José de Sucre at the battle of Ayacucho in 1824.

At independence, the population of Peru and Chile consisted of 465,000 persons of European blood (peninsulars and creoles), 853,000 mestizos, and 1,030,000 Indians.

The Economist of December 14th-20th 2002 reported that the economy of Peru had grown by 7.3% from a year earlier, with 1.5% inflation. This was the best economic performance in Latin America. If all that Peru did was follow the advice of their brilliant home grown economist, Hernando de Soto (cf. The Other Path, the Economic Answer to Terrorism, Basic Books, 1989), the future would have been secure. Of course, whether such advice would continue to be followed depended on other political factors. Chile had been on a similar track, but it only showed 1.8% growth, with 3.0% inflation, a performance not markedly superior to several other Latin American countries.

In 2003, The Economist of July 26th-August 1st now reports Peru with only 1.8% growth from a year ago, and 2.2% inflation. Things thus seem to have begun to go wrong, with even a revival of the Maoist terrorists of the Sendaro Luminoso, the "Shining Path." I await Professor de Soto's report on what the problems have been. Meanwhile, Chile is reported to have 3.8% growth and 3.6% inflation, a more promising performance.

Viceroys of New Granada,
Nueva Granada
Government by the Audiencia1550-1564
Antonio Díaz Venero de Leivacaptain general,
Gedeón de Hinojosa1574
Francisco Briceño1574-1575
Government by the Audiencia1575-1577
Lope Díez Aux de Armendáriz1578-1580
Juan Bautista Monzóninterim?
Juan Prieto de Orellana1582-1585
Guillén Chaparrointerim?
Antonio González1590-1597
Francisco de Sande1597-1602
Government by the Audiencia,
under Nuño Núñez de Villavicencio
Juan de Borja1605-1628
Government by the Audiencia1628-1630
Sancho Girón,
Marquis of Sofraga
Martín de Saavedra y Guzmán1637-1644
Juan Fernández de Córdoba y Coalla,
Marquis of Miranda de Auta
Dionisio Pérez Manrique,
Marquis of Santiago
Juan Cornejo1659-1660
Diego Egües Beaumont1662-1664
Government by the Audiencia1664-1666
Diego del Corro y Carrascal1666-1667
Diego de Villalba y Toledo1667-1671
Melchor de Liñán y Cisneros interim?
Government by the Audiencia1674-1678
Francisco del Castillo y Concha1678-1685
Sebastián de Velasco1685-1686
Giláde Cabrera y Dávalos1686-1703
Government by the Audiencia1703-1708
Diego de Córdoba y Lasso de la Vega 1708-1711
Francisco Cossío y Otero interim?
Government by the Audiencia1711-1713
Francisco de Meneses de
Saravia y Bravo
Government by the Audiencia1715-1717
Nicolás Infante de Venegasinterim?
Francisco del Rincóninterim?
Antonio de la Pedroza y Guerrero1718-1719
Jorge de VillalongaViceroy,
Antonio Manso y Maldonado1724-1731
Government by the Audiencia1731-1733
Rafael de Eslava1733-1737
Government by the Audiencia1737-1738
Antonio González Manrique1738
Government by the Audiencia1738-1739
Francisco Gonz lez Manrique1739-1740
Sebastián de Eslava
Alzaga Berrio y Eguiarreta
Juan Alfonso Pizarro,
Marquis of Villar
José Manuel de Solís
y Folch de Cardona
Pedro Messía de la Cerda,
Marquis of la Vega de Armijo
Manuel de Guirior y Portal de Huarte1772-1775
Manuel Antonio Flórez Martínez
de Angulo Maldonado y Bodquín
Juan de Torresar y Díaz Pimientainterim,
Juan Francisco Gutiérrez de Piñeresinterim,
military and
the Audiencia,
Antonio Caballero y Góngorainterim,
then confirmed,
Francisco Gil de Taboada
Lemos y Villamarín
José de Ezpeleta
y Galdeano Dicastrillo y Prado,
Señor de Beire
Pedro de Mendinueta y Muzquiz1797-1803
Antonio Amar y Borbón
Arguedas y Vallejo de Santa Cruz
United Provinces of New Granada, 1810-1816
Benito Pérez de Valdelomarcapital in
Francisco Montalvocapitan general,
in Santa Marta
and Cartagena,
Juan de Sámano1818-1819
Juan de la Cruz Mourgeóncapitan general,
Independence of Colombia,
Venezuela, and Ecuador as Gran Columbia, 1819, 1823
Simón Bolívar1813-1819, President, 1819-1930
Domingo Caycedo1830, 1831
Joaquín Mosquera1830, 1831
Rafael Urdaneta1830-1831
Republic of Venezuela, 1811, 1830
José Antonio Páez1830-1835
Andrés Narvarte1835
José María Vargas1835
José María Carreño1835
José María Vargas1835-1836
Andrés Narvarte1836-1837
José María Carreño1837
Carlos Soublette1837-1839
José Antonio Páez1839-1843
Carlos Soublette1843-1847
José Tadeo Monagas1847-1851
José Gregorio Monagas1851-1855
José Tadeo Monagas1855-1858
Pedro Gual Escandón1858
Julián Castro1858-1859
Pedro Gual Escandón1859
Manuel Felipe de Tovar1859-1861
Pedro Gual Escandón1861
José Antonio Páez1861-1863
Juan Crisóstomo Falcón1863-1868
Manuel Ezequiel Bruzual1868
Guillermo Tell Villegas1868-1869
José Ruperto Monagas1869-1870
Guillermo Tell Villegas1870
Antonio Guzmán Blanco1870-1877
Francisco Linares Alcántara1877-1878
José Gregorio Valera1878-1879
Antonio Guzmán Blanco1879-1884
Joaquín Sinforiano de Jesús Crespo1884-1886
Antonio Guzmán Blanco1886-1887
Hermógenes López1887-1888
Juan Pablo Rojas Paúl1888-1890
Raimundo Andueza Palacio1890-1892
Guillermo Tell Villegas1892
Guillermo Tell Villegas Pulido1892
Joaquín Sinforiano de Jesús Crespo1892-1898
Ignacio Andrade1898-1899
Cipriano Castro Ruiz1899-1908
Juan Vicente Gómez1908-1913
José Gil Fortoul1913-1914
Victorino Márquez Bustillos1914-1922
Juan Vicente Gómez1922-1929
Juan Bautista Pérez1929-1934
Juan Vicente Gómez1931-1935
Eleazar López Contreras1935-1941
Isaías Medina Angarita1941-1945
Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello1945-1948
Rómulo Gallegos Freire1948
Carlos Delgado Chalbaud1948-1950
Germán Suárez Flamerich1950-1952
Marcos Pérez Jiménez1952-1958
Wolfgang Larrazábal1958
Edgar Sanabria1958-1959
Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello1959-1964
Raúl Leoni Otero1964-1969
Rafael Caldera Rodríguez1969-1974
Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez1974-1979
Luis Herrera Campins1979-1984
Jaime Lusinchi1984-1989
Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez1989-1993
Octavio Lepage Barreto1993
Ramón José Velásquez1993-1994
Rafael Caldera Rodríguez1994-1999
Hugo Chávez Frias1999-2013
Nicolás Maduro2013-present

New Granda, previously part of Peru, was permanently made a Viceroyalty, the third, in 1740, consisting of what now are Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador. Simón Bolívar ended Spanish rule in 1823, and a Republic of Gran Colombia was established. Venezuela and Ecuador separated in 1830. Panama became independent in 1903 with the help of the United States, and at the price of ceding the Canal Zone for the United States to build and run the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914.

The population at independence of Colombia and Venezuela was 642,000 peninsulars and creoles, 1,256,000 mestizos, and 720,000 Indians.

The Economist of December 14th-20th 2002 reported that the economy of Venezuela had shrunk by 5.5% from a year earlier, with 30.7% inflation. This was pretty bad, and was the characteristic effect of the actions of the Castroite President Hugo Chávez. At the time, as it happened, the opposition, which had tried overthrowing Chávez and, in lieu of a coup, had been calling for early elections, had been trying to maintain a general strike with constant demonstrations. It remained to be seen how this was all going to play out.

In 2003, The Economist of July 26th-August 1st, reported that the Venezuelan economy shrank by 29% from the previous year, with 34.2% inflation. Chávez has ridden out the general strike and has begun to assassinate opponents. A Castroite Venezuela will have more money, from oil revenues, to favor the politically reliable than Cuba does; but Chávez is also apparently appointing politically reliable people to run the oil industry, and they don't know what they are doing. Thus, oil production is down, and since Chávez is favoring Cuba with some of the production, the pie is going to get smaller and smaller for the impoverished Venezuelans who foolishly provide Chávez with such mass support as he commands. Where things are headed is indicated by the waves of worshipful political pilgrims from the diehard anti-globalization Left who are beginning to journey thither (making Venezuela the "new Nicaragua"). Perhaps South Americans should be warned that such people worship the virtuous poverty ("ecotopia") achieved by Castro in Cuba. Do Venezuelans really want prostitution to be one of their principal cash industries, as in Cuba?

By 2005, the Venezuelan economy has rebounded, but inflation remains very high and Chávez's love affair with Castro continues. This particular tragedy thus may take some time yet to resolve itself.
Viceroys of the Río de la Plata
Pedro de Mendozacaptain general,
Juan de Ayolas 1537-1539
Domingo Martínez de Irala1539-1541,
Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca1541-1544
Gonzalo de Mendoza1556-1558
Francisco Ortiz de Vergara1558-1569
Juan Ortiz de Zárate1569-1576
Juan de GarayDeputy,
Juan Torres de Vera y Aragón1577-1591,
from 1587
Hernando Arias de Saavedra1601-1609,
Diego de Góngora1618-1623
Francisco de Céspedes1623-1631
Pedro Esteban Dávila1631-1637
Mendo de la Cueva y Benavídez1637-1641
Andrés de Sandovalinterim,
Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera1641-1645
Jacinto Lariz1645-1653
Pedro Baigorri Ruiz1653-1660
Alonso Mercado y Villacorta1660-1663
Juan Martínez de Salazar1663-1674
Andrés de Robles1674-1678
José de Garro1678-1682
José de Herrera y Sotomayor1682-1691
Agustín de Robles1691-1698
Manuel de Prado y Maldonado1698-1701
Antonio Juan de Valdés e Inclán1701-1707
Manuel de Velasco y Tejada1708
Juan José de Mutiloa interim?
Alonso de Arce y Soria1714
José Bermúdez de Castrointerim,
Baltasar García Ros1715-1717
Bruno de Zavala1717-1734
Miguel de Salcedo y Sierraalta1734-1742
Domingo Ortiz de Rozas1742-1745
José de Andonaegui 1745-1756
Pedro Antonio de Ceballos
Cortés y Calderón
Francisco de Paula Bucarelli y Ursúa1766-1770
Juan José de Vértiz y Salcedo1770-1777,
Nicol s del Campo Maestre
Cuesta de Saavedra,
Marquis of Loreto
Nicolás Antonio de Arredondo1789-1795
Pedro Melo de Portugal y Villena1795-1797
Antonio Olaguer y Feliúinterim,
Gabriel de Avilés y Fierro,
Marquis of Avilés
Joaquín del Pino y Rozas1801-1805
Rafael de Sobremonteintermim,
then confirmed,
Santiago de Liniers y de Bremondinterim,
then cponfirmed,
Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros1809-1810
Francisco Javier de Elío y Olóndriz1811
Gaspar Vigodetcapitan general,
Independence of United Provinces, 1810-1816; separation from Argentina of Paraguay, 1814, Bolivia, 1825, and Uruguay, 1828
Republic of Argentina
Cornelio SaavedraJunta President, 1810-1811
Domingo Matheu1811
First Triumvirate, 1811-1812; Second Triumvirate, 1812-1814
Gervasio Antonio de PosadasDirector, 1814-1815
Carlos María de Alvear1815
José RondeauAppointed, 1815
Ignacio Álvarez ThomasActing, 1815-1816
Antonio González de BalcarceInterim, 1816
Juan Martín de Pueyrredón1816-1819
José Rondeau1818-1820
Juan Pedro Aguirre1820
No Central Government, 1820-1826
Bernardino RivadaviaPresident, 1826-1827
Vicente López y Planes1827
Manuel DorregoGovernor in Buenos Aires, 1827-1828
Juan Lavalle1828-1829
Juan José Viamonte1829
Juan Manuel de Rosas1829-1832
Juan Ramón Balcarce1832-1833
Juan José Viamonte1833-1834
Manuel Vicente Maza1834-1835
Juan Manuel de Rosas1835-1852
Justo José de Urquiza1852-1854, President 1854-1860
Santiago Derqui1860-1861
Juan Esteban Pedernera1861
Bartolomé Mitre1861-1868
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento1868-1874
Nicolás Avellaneda1874-1880
Julio Argentino Roca1880-1886
Miguel Juárez Celman1886-1890
Carlos Pellegrini1890-1892
Luis Sáenz Peña1892-1895
José Evaristo Uriburu1895-1898
Julio Argentino Roca1898-1904
Manuel Quintana1904-1906
José Figueroa Alcorta1906-1910
Roque Sáenz Peña1910-1914
Victorino de la Plaza1914-1916
Hipólito Yrigoyen1916-1922
Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear1922-1928
Hipólito Yrigoyen1928-1930
José Félix Uriburu1930-1932
Agustín Pedro Justo1932-1938
Roberto María Ortiz1938-1942
Ramón Castillo1942-1943
Arturo RawsonCoup, 1943
Pedro Pablo RamírezCoup, 1943-1944
Edelmiro Julián FarrellCoup, 1944-1946
Juan Domingo Perón1946-1955
Eduardo LonardiCoup, 1955
Pedro Eugenio AramburuCoup, 1955-1958
Arturo Frondizi1958-1962
José María Guido1962-1963
Arturo Umberto Illia1963-1968
Juan Carlos OnganíaCoup, 1966-1970
Roberto M. LevingstonCoup, 1970-1971
Alejandro A. Lanusse1971-1973
Héctor José Cámpora1973
Raúl Alberto Lastiri1973
Juan Domingo Perón1973-1974, died
Isabel Martínez de Perón1974-1976
Jorge Rafael VidelaCoup, 1976-1981
Roberto Eduardo ViolaJunta, 1981
Leopoldo GaltieriCoup, 1981-1982
Falklands War, 1982
Reynaldo BignoneCoup, 1982-1983
Raúl Alfonsín1983-1989
Carlos Menem1989-1999
Fernando de la Rúa1999-2001
Adolfo Rodríguez Saá2001
Eduardo Duhalde2001-2003
Néstor Kirchner2003-2007
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner2007-2015
Mauricio Macri2015-2019
Alberto Fernández2019-2023
Javier Milei2023-present

Early in 2006 Chávez has made friends with Iran and has apparently turned against the Jews. There may not be a lot of Jews in Venezuela, but they are being harassed, verbally and legally. The Anti-Semitism of Islamic Fascism was already obvious, but Chávez seems to have decided that it is all of a piece with the international anti-imperialist (i.e. anti-American) movement. Meanwhile, a Chávez protégé, Evo Morales, leader of a coca growers union, has been elected President of Boliva. It is hard not to smile at his intention to protect coca, the source of cocaine, from the eradication that drug warriors desire. This will get their goat. On the other hand, his muddled leftism -- he praised Che and denounced "neo-liberalism" in his inaugural address -- may produce many years of pointless misery for Bolivia.

Thus, it is noteworthy that the impotent ideologues of American universities, who give legitimacy to this kind of thing, cause real harm in the world, however meaningless (or not, unfortunately) their rants in the United States itself.

As of 2013, Chávez managed to survive politically, at great cost to Venezuela, but the Fates have had different ideas. It then appeared that the man would die of cancer. For a while, it looked like he had beaten it, thanks to Spanish doctors flown into Cuba, but all the might of Cuban medicine has apparently availed him not. What will come of Venezuela in the aftermath was anyone's guess.

The high drama and tragedy of the Chávez regime also had its farcical moments. The Venezuelan actress, María Conchita Alonso (b.1957), was an outspoken critic of Chávez and has vainly tried to alert Americans to the program of the Democrats in taking the United States down the same socialist and fascist road. In December 2011, she encountered actor Sean Penn at Los Angeles International Airport. Penn, a faithful Red Diaper Baby, has disgraced himself with public support and friendship for Chávez. Penn's roots and preference became clear when he said that critics should not be allowed to tell "lies" about Chávez. Uncle Joe Stalin would have been proud. Alonso told Penn that he was a communist, and he responded that she was a "pig." Perhaps he was flustered and forgot that the expression is "capitalist running dog."

The chosen successor of Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, continued to ruin the economy and steal elections. Millions have now fled the country, and those remaining have slowly starved, after eating all the pets and zoo animals in the country -- and as the government prevents humanitarian food shipments from entering the country. The murder rate is one of the highest in the world, which we expect in a regime (like San Francisco) where political crimes are more important than actual crime. But Madura has bought off the army, which has been purged and controlled with help from Cuba. Indeed, a film crew from an American Spanish language network, not in the least sympathetic to the United States in most respects, was briefly arrested by Maduro and, after returning to the States, reported that everyone around him spoke with Cuba accents -- not something that most other reporters on American television are liable to notice.

Demonstrations and sanctions against Maduro, and most nations recognizing an opposition leader (a socialist himself) as the legitimate interim-president, have failed to oust him. A brief hope that the army would depose him has now faded.

Meanwhile, we need to keep a list of the useful idiot "celebrities" who continue to support the regime. I have noted Sean Penn, one of the worst. But of equally durable disgrace is Danny Glover. When the staff was ejected from the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, some sympathizing Sandinista supporters took over, surrounded by actual Venezuelan exile protestors. Jesse Jackson took food into the embassy, claiming that the protestors wanted to "starve out" the Sandinistas. So why did they let him in? Equally shameful in support of Maduro have been Jamie Foxx, Lukas Haas, Oliver Stone, and, of course, the execrable Michael Moore. "Democratic socialist" (i.e. communist) Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, who had previously said that the "American Dream" was more likely to be realized in Venezuela than in the United States, has pulled back on his support for Maduro, but he neither calls him a "dictator" nor supports his overthrow. The regime is officially supported by Cuba, Russia, China, Iran, and, sadly, Pope Francis -- adding to the accumulating evident of his poor judgment and twisted values. John Paul II must be rolling over in his tomb, over the company Francis now keeps.

The Río de la Plata, previously part of Peru, was made a separate Viceroyalty in 1776 -- the last of the Viceroyalties to be created. The Viceroyalty came under local control in 1810, under General Manuel Belgrano. In 1816, he declared complete independence. Paraguay had already broken away in 1814. Subsequently, Bolivia seceded in 1825 and Uruguay in 1828. Paraguay lost considerable territory to Argentina and Brazil in the War of the Tripple Alliance, 1865-1870, which killed something like half its population.

The population at independence of the Río de la Plata was 320,000 peninsulars and creoles, 742,000 mestizos, and 1,200,000 Indians. Later, in Argentina the local Indians were virtually exterminated. With the Indians gone and a large European immigrant population, Argentina for long seemed hardly like a South American country at all, and it was widely expected to compete economically with European countries. These expectations went very bad under the dictatorship of Juan Perón (1945-1955 and 1973-1974). Fascist politics and socialist economics spelled the end of both political freedom and economic growth. Perón was overthrown in 1955, but what Argentina had lost was simply never made good. Perón's return in 1973 was a bit of desperate nostalgia. Meanwhile, the rot of leftist politics provoked responses of military dictatorship and repression even in what had hitherto been the model democracy of Uraguay. In 2002, with the Argentine economy collapsing again, many descendants of the European immigrants were beginning to plan to return to their ancestral Italy, etc.

What went wrong with the Argentine economy is of serious interest. When the Argentine currency was pegged to the dollar, this was regarded as evidence of serious liberalization and responsibility in the economy. Unfortunately, such a policy means that the country loses control over inflation and deflation, since the money supply can only be manipulated to maintain the peg, not to maintain price stablity. At the same time, no control was exercised over public spending, which requires inflationary money creation, even as the central bank must withdraw money to maintain the peg. These contradictory pressures could not be juggled indefinitely, but the response of the government simply made things worse, by prohibiting bank withdrawls and such measures as to destroy the value of savings and of any confidence that people might have had in the economic system. With a Castroite radical now as President of Venezuela, a similarly radical leftist (at least in rhetoric) in Brazil, and the pseudo- "liberalization" discredited in Argentina, it looks like we may be headed for more miserable experiments in socialism and dictatorship in South America.

The Economist of December 14th-20th 2002 reported that the Argentine economy had shrunk by 13.6% from a year earlier, with 40.5% inflation. Pretty bad. Now in 2003, however, The Economist of July 26th-August 1st, reports that the economy has grown by 5.1% from a year ago, with 10.2% inflation. This looks much better, and 5.1% growth is excellent for the area, or for anywhere. This is encouraging, but I understand that the institutional arrangements are still adverse to entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, this is better news than from the continuing train wreck in Venezuela.

As of 2013, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, riding the tide of anti-liberal fascism that has been plaguing even the United States, has been nationalizing companies and otherwise thumbing her nose at the European and other creditors that have been keeping the Argentine economy afloat. The economic doldrums of the American and much of the European economy, leaves Argentine, like the Southern tier of Europe (from Spain to Greece), in yet worse shape. It is a time when elites seem to have learned only stupidity from the examples of history. Certainly, Say's Law might as well be a kind of Occult Scripture, known only to some hidden ranks of unfortunately ineffective Illuminati.

The election of the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I in 2013 was a matter of considerable interest. However, Francis seems to have absorbed and retained all the evil anti-capitalist and fascist ideas of Peronism, which he has been expressing freely, to the delight of the enemies of freedom worldwide. While Francis thinks that these ideas are for the benefit of the poor, he apparently has been paying no attention to their actual effects in Argentina. But ignoring outcomes and clinging to exploded but fanatical ideology is characteristic of the modern political Left.

In 2023 the majority of the people of Argentina seems to have finally had enough. They went way off the rails and elected a self-professed anarcho-capitalist libertarian, Javier Milei. He has not been a politician but has been a public showman for quite a while, waving an anarcho-capitalist flag, explaining that the yellow part is for gold, since such libertarians are gold bugs and don't believe in paper currency. Milei's proposal for Argentina's inflation, however, is to adopt the U.S. dollar, which I suppose may be the next best thing to gold, despite America's own inflation problem.

Milei is the first person like this ever to be elected to a significant national office, as far as I can tell, anywhere in the world. Argentina certainly needs radical therapy. Whether Milei can really deliver is a good question. He may turn out just to be a crackpot, with no idea how to run a government. Indeed, he doesn't believe in government. So we must hope he has some kind of pragmatic streak that can adapt to the circumstances that face him.

Another positive for Milei is that he is openly pro-Israel, at a time when there is a need for it, in the face of all the Neo-Nazi ideology that has exploded after the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel by Terrorists from Gaza. All the anti-Semitism that we have seen building at Amerian univeristies for years, cultivated by the Post-Modern Left, is now exposed to the public, especially in disruptive demonstrations, vandalism, and violence. This is not surprising. When "Pro-Palestinian" Left condemns Israel as a "colonialist settler state," anyone familiar with the ideology knows that the supreme "colonialist settler state," the "Great Satan" to Israel's "Little Satan," is the United States. Anti-Zionism is a small thing besides anti-Americanism.

The Maya and the Kings of Tikal

The Pillars of Hercules

Spanish and Mexican Governors of Texas (1691-1836)

California, Governors of California (1769-present)

Sam Houston, Presidents & Governors of Texas (1836-present)

Philosophy of History

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Copyright (c) 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

The Pillars of Hercules

The arms of Spain, which have sometimes appeared on the flag of Spain, are supported by pillars on each side, the left one wrapped in a banner inscribed "PLVS," the right one wrapped in a banner inscribed "VLTRA."

These represent the "Pillars of Hercules," the mountains that the Greeks thought of as flanking the Strait of Gibraltar (Latin Fretum Herculeum, "Herculean Strait"). The mountain on the north side was called Κάλπη, Kálpê (Latin Calpe), on the south side Ἀβύλη, Abýlê (Latin Abyla). The idea was that these were originally either adjacent or connected by a ridge, closing the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. Hercules either pushed the mountains apart or broke through the ridge, opening the Strait. The Phoenicians certainly got to the Strait before the Greeks, and the story of a hero creating the channel may be a Phoenician one, with the god Melqart as the agent.
Gibraltar captured from Spain by Anglo-Dutch force, 4 August 1704
Governors of Gilbraltar,
held for Archduke Charles
Sir George Rooke1704
Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt1704
Henry Nugent, Count of Valdesoto1704
John Shrimpton1704-1707
Roger Elliott1707-1711
Thomas Stanwix1711-1713
Ceded to Britain, 1713
Thomas Stanwix1713
The Earl of Portmore1713-1720
Richard Kane1720-1727
Jasper Clayton1727-1730
Joseph Sabine1730-1739
Francis Columbine1739-1740
William Hargrave1740-1749
Humphrey Bland1749-1754
Thomas Fowke1754-1756
Lord Tyrawley1756-1757
The Earl of Home1757-1761
John Tooveyacting, 1761
John Parslowacting, 1761
Edward Cornwallis1761-1776
John Irwinacting, 1765-1767
Robert Boydacting, 1776-1777
George Augustus Eliott1777-1787
Lord Heathfield1787-1790
Sir Robert Boydacting, 1790
Henry Clinton1794–1795
Charles Rainsford1794-1795
Charles O'Hara1795-1802
Charles Barnett1802
The Duke of Kent1802-1820
Sir Thomas Triggeacting, 1803-1804
Henry Edward Foxacting, 1804-1806
James Drummondacting, 1806
Sir Hew Dalrympleacting, 1806-1808
James Drummondacting, 1808-1809
Sir John Francis Cradockacting, 1809
John Smithacting, 1809
Alex McKenzie Fraseracting, 1809
Colin Campbellacting, 1809-1814
Sir George Donacting, 1814-1821
The Earl of Chatham1820-1835
Sir George Donacting, 1825-1830
Crown Colony
Sir George Donacting, 1830-1831
Sir William Houstonacting, 1831-1835
Sir Alexander Woodford1835-1842
Sir Robert Thomas Wilson1842-1848
Sir Robert William Gardiner1848-1855
Sir James Fergusson1855-1859
Sir William Codrington1859-1865
Sir Richard Airey1865-1870
Sir William Williams1870-1876
Lord Napier of Magdala1876-1883
Sir John Miller Adye1883-1886
Sir Arthur Hardinge1886-1890
Sir Leicester Smyth1890-1891
H.R.L. Newdigateacting, 1891
Sir Lothian Nicholson1891-1893
G.J. Smartacting, 1893
Sir Robert Biddulph1893-1900
Sir George Stuart White1900-1905
Sir Frederick Forestier-Walker1905-1910
Sir Archibald Hunter1910-1913
Sir Herbert Miles1913-1918
Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien1918-1923
Sir Charles Monro1923-1928
Sir Alexander Godley1928-1933
Sir Charles Harington Harington1933-1938
Sir Edmund Ironside1938-1939
Sir Clive Gerard Liddell1939-1941
The Viscount Gort1941-1942
Sir Noel Mason-Macfarlane1942-1944
Sir Ralph Eastwood1944-1947
Sir Kenneth Arthur Noel Anderson1947-1952
Sir Gordon MacMillan1952-1955
Sir Harold Redman1955-1958
Sir Charles Keightley1958-1962
Sir Alfred Ward1962-1965
Sir Gerald Lathbury1965-1969
Sir Varyl Begg1969-1973
Sir John Grandy1973-1978
Sir William Jackson1978-1981
British Dependent Territory
Sir William Jackson1981-1982
Sir David Williams1982-1985
Sir Peter Terry1985-1989
Sir Derek Reffell1989-1993
Sir John Chapple1993-1995
Sir Hugo White1995-1997
Sir Richard Luce1997-2000
David Durie2000-2002
British Overseas Territory
Sir David Durie2002-2003
David Bluntacting, 2003
Sir Francis Richards2003-2006
Philip Bartonacting, 2006
Sir Robert Fulton2006-2009
Leslie Pallettacting, 2009
Sir Adrian Johns2009-2013
Sir James Dutton2013-2015
Alison MacMillanActing, 2015-2016
Lt. General Ed Davis2016-2020
Nick Pyle, OBEActing, 2020
Sir David Steel2020

The idea that the Strait of Gibraltar got opened up at some time turns out to be true. The tectonic plates of Europe and Africa have pushed up against each other and pulled apart at different geological times. When they have pushed together, the Mediterranean basin, which geologically as well as geographically separates the continents, i.e. it is oceanic crust, has become separated from the oceans and has even dried up into a salt desert. The salt deposits are still at the bottom of the Sea. When the plates pulled apart, the crust thinned and the connecting ridge at Gibraltar dropped. At some point, the Atlantic found a way to break through, filling up the Mediterrean basin in a great waterfall that could have lasted for a century. This happened more than once and must have been among the more spectacular events of geological history.

I had always assumed that the famous view of the Rock as shown in this painting was from the South-East, approaching the Strait. However, it is actually from the North, coming down the coast. This is also evident in the photograph below.

Mount Calpe (which I've also seen called "Capi") is certainly to be identified with the Rock of Gibraltar, which is a limestone mass, 1408 feet high, covering about two square miles. It is a feature of considerable majesty, presenting both a symbol and the substance of great strength. Gibraltar gets its modern name as a result of the Islâmic Conquest of Spain. The forces of the Omayyad Caliph al-Wâlid, commanded by Ṭâriq ibn Ziyâd, landed in 711 at the mountain that henceforce was known by the commander's name, the , Jabal Ṭâriq, "Mountain of Ṭâriq." Gibraltar is today a British possession.

The Rock was captured by British and Dutch forces, under the command of Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, on 4 August 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession. Until the end of the War, it was held in the name of the Archduke Charles, the Pretender to Spain, who in 1711 became the Emperor Charles VI -- which is why Prince George was in command and is listed as one of the first Governors of Gibraltar. Once Charles was Emperor, however, even his allies did not want to see him unite the thrones of Spain and Austria, as Charles V had done. Britain reconsidered its war aims and, with some duplicity, made a separate Peace with France and Spain. Under the terms of this Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in perpetuity.

One of the British admirals leading the capture of Gibraltar had the extraordinary name of "Clowdisley Shovell." Shovell did not live to see the end of the war. On October 22, 1707 (on the Julian calendar), Shovell's fleet ran aground in the fog on the Scilly Islands. Four of five ships were lost. A story is told that Shovell himself was one of only two men from the four ships who reached shore alive, but he was then murdered by a local woman, combing the beach, who wanted his ring. This supposedly became known in a deathbed confession years later, when the woman produced the ring as evidence. There is reason, however, to doubt this story, since the ring never did reappear. There is also a story that right before the disaster Shovell had a sailor hanged who breached discipline by daring to suggest that the navigators had made a mistake about their location and that the fleet was in danger of grounding in the Scillies! However, there is apparently no contemporary evidence for this story, which appeared later in suspiciously different versions.

I do know that there is a pub called "The Ship and Shovell" near Charing Cross Station in London (1-3 Craven Passage, Charing Cross, WC2N 5PH). I have eaten lunch there.

Gibraltar was besieged by Spain from 1779 to 1783, during the American Revolutionary War, but it held out. This is now called the "Great Siege," reminiscent of the Great Sieges of Malta, one of which also had the British defending. At this time galleries were excavated in the Rock so that guns could be placed at elevation firing north to the Spanish lines. This was done successfully and now the "Great Siege Tunnels" are a tourist attraction. Below we see "The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar, 13 September 1782," by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815).

The last great strategic role of Gibraltar was in World War II, when the Strait was guarded with increasing effectiveness against the transit of German submarines. We see a fictionalized example of this in the 1981 movie Das Boot, when the submarine is almost sunk trying to pass by Gibraltar. To entice Spain into World War II, Hitler told Francisco Franco that German troops would take Gibraltar and then turn it over to Spain. Franco, advised by Hitler's own envoy, Admiral Canaris, that Germany would probably lose the War, declined to get involved.

The identification of Mount Abyla is less certain. This is either Mount Acha (or Hacho), just east of Ceuta, or the Jabal Mûsâ (Apes' Hill or Sierra Zimiera), west of Ceuta. Ceuta itself is today a Spanish possession, which Morocco would like to recover, just as Spain would like to recover Gibraltar. Mûsâ, , is Arabic for Moses, but it also was the name of Mûsâ ibn Nuṣayr, who effected the Islâmic conquest of Morocco.

Ṭâriq ibn Ziyâd was Mûsâ's freedman and lieutenant. Ṭâriq's successes in Spain exceeded his orders, and Mûsâ, jealous and angry, hurried after him with his army. Ṭâriq was rebuked and Mûsâ completed the conquest of Spain. As it happened, by doing this Mûsâ himself had left his post without the permission of the Caliph, and he was recalled to Damascus. Mûsâ and Ṭâriq arrived there early in 715, laden with the spoil of Spain and accompanied by captured Visigoth nobility. Ṭâriq made sure that he was not overlooked by the Caliph. Unfortunately for Mûsâ, although his insubordination was forgiven by al-Wâlid, the Caliph now died, and Mûsâ was not forgiven by the new Caliph, Sulaymân, who had instructed Mûsâ to delay his arrival in Damascus until after the Succession. Mûsâ was dismissed and disgraced, and his son 'Abdul-'Azîz, left as Governor of Spain, was executed.

The name of Jabal Mûsâ, , thus may reflect the judgment of the Arabs that this was Mount Abyla, and it was named (not, to be sure, by Sulaymân) as a companion to the Jabal Ṭâriq, with both commemorating the two conquerors of Spain and Morocco.

Ne plus ultra (often rendered non plus ultra) was the Latin motto for the Pillars of Hercules:  "No more beyond." The Ocean beyond was thought to be so vast as to be practically infinite -- or actually infinite, before the Greeks understood that the Earth was round. Either way, no ship would be able to make it across and around the world to Asia.

Even with a finite Earth, the distance was too great on the basis of an estimate of the size of the earth by Eratosthenes (d.196/195 BC) at 250,000 stadia in circumference. Depending on which stadium Eratosthenes was using, this either made the Earth about 20% too large or very nearly the accurate value (40,000 km). In the Middle Ages, however, an Arab attempt to measure a degree of latitude produced a much smaller value, small enough that Christopher Columbus figured that it had become possible, with current sailing technology, to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Japan. With the patronage of Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492 this is what he did, arriving, however, after the expected passage, not in Japan, but in the Bahamas.

The modern representation of the Pillars of Hercules is the doing of the Emperor Charles V, who was also King Charles (Carlos) I of Spain. In line with his titles, the right pillar is topped by a Royal Crown, the left by the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire.

After the Conquests of Mexico (1521) and Peru (1533) effected during his reign, Charles could hardly overlook the fact that there was plenty beyond the Pillars of Hercules. The motto on the Pillars is thus no longer ne plus ultra but now PLUS ULTRA, "More Beyond." What had been an empty window to the Classical world was now an open door to the Modern.

While other major European colonial powers, Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and France fronted directly on the Atlantic, Spain, although with its own Atlantic coast, derived its seapower principally from Aragón, which had been a maritime power in the Mediterranean since the 13th century, when King James I conquered Majorca (1231) and Peter III acquired Sicily (1282). Since the previous European maritime powers had been Italian states, like Venice, Pisa, and Genoa, Spain embodies the transition from ancient Mediterranean power to modern Atlantic power. The Mediterranean soon became a backwater; and Cadiz, the most remote Phoenician colony of Gades, became Spain's own Atlantic entrepôt -- unfortunately for Spain largely to receive the treasure fleets from the New World, not to be a source of commerce and manufacture like the ports of later Atlantic powers.

Above right I have been showing the list of British Governors of Gibraltar. This has been going on for 300 years now. Spain has always wanted Gibraltar back, and sometimes has been, at least, nasty about it. Gibraltarians have voted in 1967 and 2002 to reject both Spanish sovereignty and a sort of British-Spanish condominium. In 1969 Francisco Franco retaliated by closing the border, which was not fully reopened until 1985. Now Spain has begun claiming that Gibraltar possesses no territorial waters and that all the sea around is Spanish. This will probably end up adjudicated by the European Union. Meanwhile, the Rock has become a popular vacation destination. I picked up a map at a Gibraltar tourism office in London.

Above is a photograph of part of the American Great White Fleet in Gibraltar Harbor in 1909, after sailing most of the way around the world. The white hulls of the American ships are in stark contrast to the dark colors of the British. The southern section of the breakwater in the background orients us in relation to the map of Gibraltar above. At this point, naval fleets are still mostly Pre-Dreadnoughts, which gives the scene here a sort of Jurassic Park feel in comparison to what would become familar in World War I and II.

Below is the companion photograph of Russian ships at Gibraltar at the same time in 1909. See discussion at the link.

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The Maya and
the Kings of Tikal and Palenque

The Maya have been called the Greeks of the New World, not just for their own achievements but apparently in contrast to the subsequently more Roman-like, i.e. imperial, Toltecs and Aztecs in Mexico. The Maya, like the Greeks, were divided into rival city states. Unlike the Greeks, the Maya were not conquered by the subsequent states. Instead, the Mayan civilization of the Classic Period (250-909 AD), in the south of the Yucatan (largely now in Guatemala), mysteriously collapsed.

Debate continues about this. One favored explanation, suspiciously similar to cautions in our own time, is that the population overburdened the ecology of the land (because of the wicked greed and negligence of the people, as this is often construed, at least for modern society, if not for the Maya), and agriculture suddenly and catastrophically failed. More recently, the suggestion is that there was simply a rare but devastating drought -- or not so rare, since it can have been part of what is now called the "Dark Ages Cooling," a manifestation of a regular, 1500-year cycle of climatic change in Earth history, between the "Roman Warming" and "Mediaeval Warming." Thus, the Maya were victims of "climate change," where this had nothing to do with fossil fuels or SUV's.

Kings of Tikal
FounderYax Ehb' Xookc.90 AD
Foliated Jaguar?
10th?Animal Headress?
c.250, drought
11thSiyaj Chan K'awiilc.307
12th?Lady Unen B'ahlamc.317
13thK'inich Muwaan Jold.359
14thChak Tok Ich'aak I360-378
 Yax Nuun Ayiin I379-404?
Toltec Conquest?
16thSiyaj Chan K'awiil II411-456
17thK'an Chitam458-486?
18thChak Tok Ich'aak IIc.486-508
Lady of Tikal511-c.527
19thKaloomte' B'alamc.511-c.527
20th?Bird Claw?
Eruption of Ilopango Volcano,
cooling in Romania, 536
21stWak Chan Ka'awiil537-562
First Tikal–Calakmul War, 537–572; Tikal sacked by Calakmul, 562
Sky WitnessCalakmul,
Yax Yopaat572-579
Scroll Serpent579-611+
22ndAnimal Skullc.593-628
K'inich Muwaan Jol IIc.628-650
Second Tikal–Calakmul War,
Tikal "Pyrrhic" victory, 648–695
25thNuun Ujol Chaakc.650-679
26thJasaw Chan K'awiil I682-734
Third Tikal–Calakmul War,
Tikal Victory, 720–744
27thYik'in chan K'awiil734-c.766
750, beginning of
Dark Ages Cooling drought
29thYax Nuun Ayiin II768-c.794
30th?Nuun Ujol K'inichc.800?
31st?Dark Sunc.810
810, driest drought year
Jewel K'awiilc.849
860, driest drought year
Jasaw Chan K'awiil IIc.869
910, driest drought year
Unlike centers of civilization in the Old World, none of the New World civilizations were in river valleys. The greatest rivers of the Americas, like the Amazon or the Mississippi, are not in the kinds of environments, arid or semi-arid, where the Old World civilizations began (Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, Indus, Huang He). Indeed, a river valley much like the Mississippi would have been the Yangtze in China. But Chinese civilization manifestly moved, slowly, from North to South, from the Huang He down to the Yangtze. Similarly, Indian civilization began in the Indus Valley and only later moved down to the Ganges. Civilization reached the great rivers of Europe, like the Rhine and the Danube, long after its development in the arid Middle East.

Where a great American river is in an arid environment, as with the Colorado, it cuts down through a hard plateau and does not spread out on a floodplain like the Old World rivers. There is thus little room for the deposit of sediment or for extensive agriculture. The flourishing of the Anasazi in that environment, although with impressive architecture, achieved neither literacy nor durable urban development in the original environment.

American civilizations began elsewhere. Although the Mayan cities were in jungle ("rain forest"), there is actually a lengthy dry season; and when the rain fails altogether, there is no other source of water. Not even wells were helpful, since water drained deep down through limestone formations. The Maya were careful about drainage and about storing rainwater in cisterns, and natural cavities (the cenotes) led down to pottable ground water; but extended drought, and a falling water table, would put them in a grave situation. It may have. Unlike what we see in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, the urban civilization was long gone by the time the Spanish arrived. The eerie abandoned cities of the central Yucatan were only rediscovered by travelers in the 18th and 19th century.

The tables here display the rulers of two of the principal Mayan cities of the Classic Period, Tikal and Palenque. Tikal is now in Guatemala, and Palenque west of the base of the Yucatan in Mexico. Unlike the flat expanse of the Yucatan, Palenque is in a hilly area, and it actually derived water from streams coming down from nearby hills, which it controlled with canals and underground channels.

The king list for Tikal is taken from the Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube [Thames & Hudson, 2000, pp.24-53], updated with some extra material from Wikipedia. This is the longest known sequence of Mayan kings, covering nearly the whole of the Classic Period. One of the titles of a king was his number in the succession, but I have given it only when Martin and Grube do (with Wikipedia additions), perhaps because it is not attested for them all. Eight early kings are unaccounted for. We do not enter the full light of history, therefore, until the beginning of the 4th century, in the days of Constantine. This list for Palenque, much shorter, is simply taken from Wikpedia.

A curiosity of the list for Tikal is that in 379 there seems to have been a foreign conquest. This was at the time of the flourishing of the great city of Teotihuacán in Central Mexico, a city whose power is demonstrated not only in its unique, enormous pyramids but by its lack of fortifications. These people seem to have had nothing to fear. Previously, historians have called the people of Teotihuacán the "Toltecs"; but specialists now disfavor this application of the term and believe that the Toltec culture occurred later and at a different location. However, "Toltec" is an Aztec term, as is "Teotihuacán" itself, and it was used to refer indiscriminately to all the ancient builders of Mexico. Thus, to now begin worrying about who were the "real" Toltecs is a little silly; and without the term, the people of Teotihuacán can only, awkwardly, be called "the people of Teotihuacán." Regardless, there now seems to be Central Mexican influence in Tikal, including the adoption of the Teotihuacánian god, Quetzalcoatl, the "Feathered Serpent" -- a name that we also know, of course, from the Aztecs (in Nahuatl).

Kings of Palenque
K'uk' Bahlam I431–c.435 AD
B'utz Aj Sak Chiik487–c.501
Ahkal Mo' Nahb I501–524
K'an Joy Chitam I529–565
Ahkal Mo' Nahb II565–570
Kan Bahlam I572–583
Yohl Ik'nal 583–604
Palenque sacked by Calakmul, 599
Ajen Yohl Mat605–612
Palenque sacked by Calakmul, 611
Sak K'uk' 612–615
Extinction of male line,
Regent for her son
K'inich Janaab Pakal I615–683
K'inich Kan Bahlam II684–702
K'inich K'an Joy Chitam II702–711
Palenque sacked by Toniná,
King captured, 711; Interregnum
K'inich Ahkal Mo' Nahb III721–c.736
K'inich Janaab Pakal IIc.742
K'inich Kan Bahlam IIIc.751
K'inich K'uk' Bahlam II764–c.783
Janaab Pakal III799–?
The Maya were the only New World civilization with a functionally complete system of writing. About 800 glyphs have been identified, of which 400-500 were commonly used, and 300+ of which have been deciphered. Since the Maya themselves never went away, and their languages still exist, the living languages, like Coptic, could provide clues to decipherment. Until the 1950's the system did defeat decipherment. Then it was discerned that, like Egyptian, Sumerian, and Chinese Characters, Mayan glyphs contained phonetic (in fact syllabic) elements. This opened the doors to much of Mayan history. The result was a little disillusioning, since many people had gotten the idea that the Maya were simply concerned with science, literature, and the spirit. The monumental inscriptions, however, recorded the often ferocious warlike doings of royalty, just like in the Old World civilizations (and, for that matter, the Greeks).

Like Chinese characters, the Mayan phonetic elements were included as part of the glyphs; but, like Egyptian but unlike Chinese writing, the phonetic elements ("phonetic complements" in Egyptian) can fully represent pronunciation, instead of just provide clues, as in Chinese characters. As in Cuneiform or in the syllabic Minoan and Mycenaean scripts, some conventions were necessary in the use of syllabic elements (as, for instance, where a syllable ends in a consonant). It has been a matter of dispute, perhaps recently resolved, which of the modern Mayan languages is the most closely related to the ancient written language.

Palenque looks somewhat different from other Mayan cities. There is relief in the landscape; and, where the center of most Mayan cities is given over to temples, Palenque features a large royal palace, with a unique multi-storied tower. Also, some of the pyramids include dramatic tombs of Kings and Queens. The prominance of Queens is noteworthy. After war had wiped out the male heirs of the ruling dynasty, Queen Sak K'uk' took over as Regent for her son, Janaab Pakal I, until his majority, and, apparently, beyond -- as he would then become the most successful and long lived of all Palenque Kings.

But war continued to be a problem for Palenque, which suffered several terrible defeats from cities to the east. It only seems to have recovered poorly from the sack and occupation of 711, to then suffer from the same climate problems as Tikal.

After the abandonment of the cities of the southern Yucatan, Mayan civilization continues in somewhat diminished form during the Postclassic Period (909-1697) in the north at Chichen Itza and then at Mayapan until 1441. Not long before the arrival of the Spanish. For a while, the Spanish didn't even notice the Maya, but they began the conquest of the Mayan region in 1524. The Yucatan was not easily subdued. The last organized, resisting polity in the southern Yucatan, Noj Peten (or Taysal), in Lake Peten-Itza, was not taken until 1697. Even now, the religious practice of the Maya, although outwardly orthodox Catholicism, includes many features derived from traditional Mayan religion.

Probably the most remarkable feature of Mayan civilization is its mathematics and astronomy. Uniquely in the world, the Maya counted to the base twenty -- vigesimal counting. They were the only people outside of India to independently originate counting with zero. They devoted more attention to time and to the calendar than any other ancient people. Their "Long Count" chronology is the only absolute count of days from an ancient benchmark until the introduction of Julian Day Numbers. The Long Count is organized in cycles, but these are mostly to the base twenty and so do not differ much from simply giving the absolute number.
The Long Count
Alautun23,040,000,000 days
Kinchiltun1,152,000,000 days
Bak'tun144,000 days
K'atun7,200 days
Tun360 days
Winal20 days
K'in1 day
The exception is the use of a 360 day period (20 x 18), the Tun. Since this approximates the solar year (besides being the number of degrees into which the Babylonians divided the circle), its use is understandable. Larger cycles are the K'atun, 7,200 days (360 x 20) and the Bak'tun, 144,000 days (360 x 20 x 20). Even larger cycles were used (4 higher ones are shown in the table, out of 19!), but anything larger than the Bak'tun is going to be larger than historical time (the Piktun, 20 x 144,000 = 2,880,000 days > 7885 years). So their uses are only going to be speculative, or astronomical, neither of which daunted the Maya.

It is sometimes said that the Maya conceived the largest units of time in world history. Well, their compatriots in zero, in India, developed very large cycles also. The Life of Brahmâ, although there are different versions, can be as large as 309 trillion years. This is right up there with the extraordinary Mayan temporal vistas.

What is uncertain in this is the actual date of the benchmark and so the correlation to other calendars. Generally accepted now is the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson (GMT) correlation, where the zero day benchmark is Julian Day (JD) 584,283. There remains some uncertainty about this, however, and Martin and Grube prefer a GMT+2 date, JD 584,285. They give the example (p.13) of a stela with the Long Count date (five places descending from the Bak'tun down to the individual day, the K'in). This gives a Long Count of 1,373,934 days. Added to the GMT+2 benchmark, that is JD 1,958,219, or 24 April 649 AD, on the Julian Calendar. The GMT benchmark itself (JD 584,283), which the Maya could have literally written (no reactionary ordinalists here [note]), corresponds to 6 September 3114, on the Julian Calendar. This is marvelously close to the beginning of the I Dynasty of Egypt, which may comfort the kind of people who think that the civilization of the Americas comes from Egypt. However, if the Egyptians (or any other Old World civilization) had developed anything like the Long Count, ancient chronology would not involve the kind of speculation and frustration that it does. We do not get an absolute chronology for the Old World until Claudius Ptolemy uses the Babylonian Era of Nabonassar with the Egyptian 365 day year and compiles the Canon of Kings. If the Maya could only have passed along their sytem to other civilizations, it would have solved many historical headaches. Unfortunately, the only other civilization that benefited from Mayan influence, in Mexico, didn't bother with the Long Count.

18 Months of
the Haab Year
What Mexico did inherit was the other Mayan calendar system, an extraordinary nest of cycles now called the "Calendar Round." This consisted of two year counts, the 260 day sacred year, now called the Tsolk'in, and a 365 day solar year, called the Haab. The Maya were the only ancient people besides the Egyptians who independently adopted a 365 day year. With the Maya, this is sometimes called the "vague" year because 365 days isn't quite right for the solar year (365.24219878, the "tropical" year). But no one bothers being so careful with the Egyptian year, even though the Egyptians, like the Maya, knew that their calendar built up an error against the seasons but, again like the Maya, never introduced any correction.

The Haab year, although based on the solar year, is not divided into months reflecting the moon. Instead, the Maya had 18 months of 20 days each (with the five day intercalation), obviously based on the preference to counting by 20's. What this then looked like is the modern Bahâʾi calendar, which has 19 months of 19 days, based simply on a preference for the number 19. Since 192 is 361, a four or five day intercalation is used to match the Julian calendar.

The Egyptian calendar laps the year in 1460 Julian years (365.25 days) or 1461 Egyptian years. This gets called the "Sothic Cycle," after "Sothis," the Greek version of the Egyptian name for the star Sirius, whose appearance in the morning sky (the heliacal rising) marked the astronomical beginning of the Egyptian year. The date of the Sothic rising changed over the centuries and is substantially different at different latitudes, but a starting point is the statement of the Roman author Censorinus that the Sothic rising and Egyptian New Year corresponded in 139 AD. This would have been on (Julian) July 20. Simply subtracting 1460 moves us back one cycle to 1322 BC and two cycles to 2782 BC. According to Alan Gardiner (Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford, 1966, p.65) the former can be astronomically corrected to 1317 and the latter to 2773. One puts us in the reign of Haremhab, while the other puts us back in the II Dynasty, when we might imagine the calendar was actually formulated. We have some indication in the reign of Seti I that the Egyptians were aware that a cycle had been completed (a "Renewal of Births" era).
20 Named Days of the Tzolk'in

I do occasionally come across people saying that the Maya did correct their calendar, but the Mayan year actually could not have been modified as easily as Julius Caesar did the Egyptian year (adding a leap day), because the Haab meshed with the Tsolk'in to produce a larger cycle. After 52 Haab years (or 73 Tsolk'in), 18,980 days, the two cycles commensurate. Mathematically, the factors 73, 13, 5, & 4 are involved. The table below shows how the factors multiply together for the Haab and Tsolk'in years. Mostly, people are not going to be aware that 365 = 73 x 5. What the Egyptians did was to have 12 months of 30 days each (approximating the lunar month), plus five intercalary days at the end. The Maya had 18 months of 20 days each, with five intercalary days at the end. While the Egyptians seem to have had a bit of a holiday on the five days, in the Americas they were regarded as dreadfully unlucky. The Aztecs put out their cooking fires and huddled for the five days until the proper (human) sacrifices initiated the New Year.

The Tsolk'in year was reckoned in an extraordinary fashion. It consisted of a cycle of 13 numbered days and 20 named days. These passed in sequence independent of each other. There was nothing like a "month." Thus, the year begins on 1 Imix, but then we get 2 Ik', and then 3 Ak'bal. After 13 days, we are up to 1 Ix, and then 2 Men. Since 13 and 20 have no common factors, we don't get back to 1 Imix for 13 x 20 = 260 days. This sort of device is what we see in the Chinese calendar in the 60 year cycle of the 12 Earthly Branches and the 10 Celestial Stems. The Chinese, however, did this with years, while the Maya did it with days.

The name days of the Tsolk'in in the table at right are supplemented with the glyphs and meanings derived from the Codex Borgia, which is a ritual text rescued (or looted) from Mexico, at one time the possession of a Borgia cardinal, and now held by the Vatican Library. The identification of the glyphs is taken from the Dover edition of the Codex as restored by Gisele Díaz and Alan Rodgers, with commentary by Bruce E. Byland [1993, p.xviii]. It is not even clear if this is an Aztec text or belonged to another Mexican people. There are certainly no Mayan glyphs in it. But the calendar cycles were the common heritage of Central American civilization. The images here are from the original Codex, not of the handsome restorations done by Díaz and Rodgers. I have, however, tidied them up a little.

What gets us up to something like the timespan of the Chinese cycle is the larger cycle, the Calendar Round, already mentioned. The Tsolk'in runs concurrently with the Haab and the pattern of days does not repeat for 52 Haab years.
x 20dx 13d= 18,980d
x 260d
x 5x 4x 13
x 52y
20dx 18m
Each day of this 18,980 day cycle has a unique designation with two numbers and two names, the number and name of the Tsolk'in, with the day number and month name of the Haab. This defines enough time that later people, like the Aztecs, didn't bother with any other reckoning. While the Tsolk'in and the Haab together uniquely designate an individual day in 52 years, determining which day is so designated is a little difficult. Several websites enable one to do conversions with Javascript programming. And there are, of course, mathematical formulae that do the same job. I will post such formulae when I can put them in a form that seems the most convient to me.

The extraordinary mechanism of the Calendar Round hardly compares to anything in Old World calendars. The only absolutely regular succession of days in a calendar cycle would be the Egyptian 365 day year or the 7 day week that now is common to the Jewish, Christian, and Islâmic calendars -- which otherwise have months and years of varying lengths. A little 7 day cycle, however, is not quite the same thing as a 18,980 day cycle. On the other hand, while the 7 day week may represent (roughly) a quarter of the lunar month, numbers preferred by the Maya -- 13, 18, 20 -- have no more than ritual, mystical, or abstract mathematical significance. Only the 365 day Haab has a natural reference. This all structures time minutely, but mainly for ritual reasons. But it is not from lack of Mayan interest in natural phenomena, since astronomical cycles of the Moon, Venus, etc. were otherwise carefully tracked. They were simply something extra.

The Mayan cosmology of the directions bears some striking analogies, including the use of the same colors, to the associations that we find with the Chinese elements. Thus, just as the Chinese assign five colors, green (or blue), red, white, black, and yellow, to the four cardinal directions and the "center," the Maya seem to have done the same sort of thing -- except that green is the Center rather than the East; red is now East rather than South; white is North rather than West; black is West rather than North; and yellow is South rather than the Center.

Just as the green of Chinese East is associated with birth and growth, the red of Mayan East, as blood, has a similar association with life. And just as the white of Chinese West is associated with death and the decline of life in the autumn; the black of Mayan West is similarly associated with death. While the red of Chinese South signifies fire and light; the yellow of the Mayan South is the color of the Sun.

While some of these associations can be gleaned from Mayan inscriptions and usage, my impression is that no Mayan text lays out a systematic analysis and that some writers have let their imaginations take over, on analogy with the vast system of associations of the Chinese elements. A case in point may be the color for West, which several on-line sources I have seen say can be black or blue. However, according to my actual published Dictionary of Maya Hieroglyphs [John Montgomery, Hippocrene Books, 2002, 2006], Mayan writes the game glyph for both "green" and "blue" [p.286] and thus is in the same situation as Chinese, where means both colors also. On top of that, Reading the Maya Glyphs [Michael D. Coe & Mark van Stone, Thames & Hudson, 2001, 2005, 2011], which has a section on the directions and their colors [p.123], attests no ambiguity in the black associated with West [p.125], citing the glyphs identified as "black" in the Dictionary [p.88].

Although it is somewhat muddled by this problem, a very intriguing possibility, which I cannot say whether it is attested in Mayan inscriptions or not, is that the colors of the cardinal directions just happen to correspond to the colors of varieties of corn. Indeed, even as "blue" corn is actually a color close to black, I took it to be black the first time I ever saw blue corn tortillas, at The Shed restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the late 1970's. Since then, although I still have not seen blue corn tortillas in a market in Los Angeles (although white and yellow are abundant), blue and red corn tortilla chips are widely available. At the same time, the green of the Mayan Center is the color of the leaves and shuck of corn plants, before they dry out. Green also suggests the World Tree, the Eliadean axis mundi, which figures in Mayan cosmology and is the center-post for the four directions. Even if the Maya did not make all these associations, they should have.

Corn Bread with Mayan Colors

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Copyright (c) 2003, 2006, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2021, 2022 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

The Maya and the Kings of Tikal, Note

In counting Bak'tuns, there is a possibility that the count zeroes out, not at 20, but at 13, so that can actually be written I have not seen an explanation of why 13 would be preferred over 20; but such a convention, for which there is some evidence (examined at length in An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs, by Sylvanus Griswold Morley, 1915, Dover, 1975 -- a book very out of date for the actual glyphs but informative enough about calendar basics), certainly provides a terrific playground for numerologists, since we will reach in the year 2012. Many, apparently, expected the Apocalypse. This gave rise to a vast literature of Mayan prophecy and number mysticism, reflected in many of the websites on the Mayan calendar. When 2012 passed normally (apart from terrorist attacks, foolish politics, etc.), the enthusiasts seemed disappointed.

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Governors of New Mexico,

Spanish Governors of Nuevo Mexico
Juan de Oñate1598–1608
Cristóbal de Oñate (son)1608–1609
Pedro de Peralta1610–1614
Bernadino de Ceballos1614–1618
Juan de Eulate1618–1625
Felipe de Sotelo Osorio1625–1629
Francisco Manuel de Silva Nieto1629–1632
Francisco de la Mora Ceballos1632–1635
Luis de Rosas1635-1641, assassinated
Juan Flores de Sierra y Valdés1641, died
Francisco Gomesacting, 1641–1642
Alonso de Pacheco de Herédia1643
Fernando de Argüello1644–1647
Luis de Guzmán y Figueroa1647–1649
Hernando de Ugarte de la Concha1649–1652
Juan de Samaniego y Xaca1652–1656
Juan Manso de Contreras1656–1659
Bernardo López de Mendizábal1659–1660
Diego Dionisio de Peñalosa Brieceño y Berdugo1661–1664
Tomé Dominguez de Mendozaacting, 1664
Juan Durán de Miranda1664–1665
Fernando de Villanueva1665–1668
Juan de Medrano y Mesía1668–1671
Juan Durán de Miranda1671–1675
Juan Francisco Treviño1675–1679
Antonio de Otermin1679–1680,
titular, 1680-1682
Pueblo Revolt, 1680-1692
El PopéPueblo leader, 1680–1685
Luis Tupatu1685–1692
Domingo Gironza Petriz Cruzatetitlar, 1682–1686
Pedro Reneros de Posadatitular, 1686–1688
Domingo Gironza Petriz Cruzatetitular, 1688
Diego de Vargastitular, 1688–1692,
effective, 1692–1696
Pedro Rodríguez Cubero1696–1703
Diego de Vargas1703–1704
Juan Páez Hurtado1704–1705
Francisco Cuervo y Valdésprovisional,
Jose Chacón Medina Salazar y Villaseñor1707–1712
Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon1712–1715
Felix Martínezacting, 1715–1716
Antonio Valverde y Cosíoacting, 1716
Juan Páez Hurtadoacting, 1716–1717
Antonio Valverde y Cosíointerim, 1718–1721
Juan Estrada de Austria1721–1723
Juan Domingo de Bustamente1723–1731
Gervasio Cruzat y Gongora1731–1736
Enrique de Olivade y Michelena1736–1738
Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza1739–1743
Joaquín Codallos1743–1749
Tomás Vélez Cachupín1749–1754
Francisco Antonio Marín del Valle1754–1760
Domingo de Mendozaacting, 1760
Manuel Portilla Urrisola1760–1762
Tomás Vélez Cachupín1762–1767
Pedro Fermín de Mendinueta1767–1777
Francisco Trevreacting, 1777
Juan Bautista de Anza1778–1788
Fernando de la Concha1789–1794
Fernando Chacón1794–1804
Joaquín del Real Alencaster1804–1807
Alberto Maynez1807–1808
José Manrique1808–1814
Alberto Maynez1814–1816
Pedro María de Allande1816–1818
Facundo Melgares1818–1822
Mexican Governors of Nuevo Mexico
Francisco Xavier Chávez1822-1823
José Antonio Vizcarra1823-1824
Bartolomé Baca1824-1825
Antonio de Narbona1825
José Antonio Vizcarra1825-1827
Manuel Armijo1827-1829
José Antonio Chávez1828-1831
Santiago Abreu1831-1833
Francisco Sarracino1833-1835
Albino Pérez1835-1837
Manuel Armijo1838-1844
Mariano Martínez de Lejarza1844-1845
Manuel Armijo1845-1846
Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid1846
Governors of New Mexico Territory
General Stephen Watts KearnyMilitary, 1846
Charles Bent1846-1847, killed
Taos Revolt, 1847
Colonel Sterling PriceMilitary, 1847-1850
James S. Calhoun (Whig)1851-1852
William Carr Lane (W)1852-1853
David Meriwether (D)1853-1857
Abraham Rencher (D)1857-1861
Henry Connelly (R)1861-1866
Robert Byington Mitchell (D)1866-1869
William Anderson Pile (R)1869-1871
Marsh Giddings (R)1871-1875
Samuel Beach Axtell (R)1875-1878
Lew Wallace (R)1878-1881
Lionel Allen Sheldon (R)1881-1885
Edmund G. Ross (D)1885-1889
L. Bradford Prince (R)1889-1893
William Taylor Thornton (D)1893-1897
Miguel A. Otero (R)1897-1906
Herbert James Hagerman (R)1906-1907
George Curry (R)1907-1910
William J. Mills (R)1910-1912
Governors of New Mexico
William C. McDonald (D)1912-1917
Ezequiel C. de Baca (D)1917
Washington E. Lindsey (R)1917-1919
Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo (R)1919-1921
Merritt C. Mechem (R)1921-1923
James F. Hinkle (D)1923-1925
Arthur T. Hannett (D)1925-1927
Richard C. Dillon (R)1927-1931
Arthur Seligman (D)1931-1933
Andrew W. Hockenhull (D)1933-1935
Clyde Tingley (D)1935-1939
John E. Miles (D)1939-1943
John J. Dempsey (D)1943-1947
Thomas J. Mabry (D)1947-1951
Edwin L. Mechem (R)1951-1955
John F. Simms (D)1955-1957
Edwin L. Mechem (R)1957-1959
John Burroughs (D)1959-1961
Edwin L. Mechem (R)1961-1962
Tom Bolack (R)1962-1963
Jack M. Campbell (D)1963-1967
David F. Cargo (R)1967-1971
Bruce King (D)1971-1975
Jerry Apodaca (D)1975-1979
Bruce King (D)1979-1983
Toney Anaya (D)1983-1987
Garrey Carruthers (R)1987-1991
Bruce King (D)1991-1995
Gary E. Johnson (R)1995-2003
Bill Richardson (D)2003-2011
Susana Martinez (R)2011-2019
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)2019-present
New Mexico, of all the States of the United States, has about the longest history. Santa Fe, founded in 1609/1610, is the oldest continuous seat of government in the United States. Santa Fe also has the distinctions of being the place where thunder is heard the most days of the year in the United States -- or at least that is what my
meteorology professor at the University of New Mexico said in 1968 -- and of being the only State Capital without scheduled airline service. Santa Fe was not actually the first capital of New Mexico, that was San Juan Pueblo, from 1598 to 1610.

New Mexico is the fifth largest State, after Alaska, Texas, California, and Montana. At 121,589 square miles, it is larger than the UK (94,525) and Italy (116,305) but smaller than Germany (137,846) and Spain (194,897). Of course, with a population less than two million, it is only the 36th largest State by that measure. There is a great deal of very empty land.

Some information about New Mexico first came to the Spanish when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1488/92-1557/60), who was in New Mexico with the ill fated Narváez Expedition, 1527-1536, crossed the Rio Grande not far north of the later site of El Paso in 1536, not many years after Cortés had conquered Mexico itself. He heard about cities and gold to the north.

That led to the expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1540-1541. The Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza (1535-1550), named the area in advance Nuevo Mexico, hoping that it would be as rich as Old Mexico. Coronado investigated the Pueblos and much of the area, all the way to the Grand Canyon, but there was no gold. The "Seven Cities of Cíbola" glowed golden in the sunlight, but this was no more than adobe brick. The expedition was thus considered a failure, and the Indians were, for the time being, left to their own devices.

The "adobe" of the Pueblos means mud brick. Discussed elsewhere, this word entered Spanish from in Arabic, meaning the same thing. But the word is not ultimately from Arabic, but from Coptic. There the word is , "mud brick"; and, as we might expect, the Coptic word is ultimately from the Middle Egyptian word for mud brick, , with a phonogram for db and an ideographic determinative for "brick." Adobes are still popular in New Mexico, and not just at the Pueblos. Expensive houses are built with them, with their thermal insulating properties appreciated in both summer and winter. This would be bad if New Mexico were earthquake country. Such building materials crumble in a good shake. Earthquakes are not unknown, but nowhere as common as in California, where the old Missions regularly endure considerable damage.

As of 1964, the surviving Pueblos, with their population and area, were:

San Felipe1,06049,000250Keresan
San Juan, Ohkay Owingeh69013,000660Tewa
Santa Ana36620,000260Keresan
Santa Clara53546,000600Tewa

Languages of the Pueblos fall into three groups: (1) the Tanoan, including Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa; (2) the Keres, and (3) Zuñi. These are unrelated to the nearby Athabaskan languages, like Navajo and Apache. The Pueblos are now thought to be the descendants of the Anasazi, the ancient people who built the cliff dwellings of the Southwest, including the vast ruins at Chaco Canyon. Although climate change is often blamed, why the cliff dwellers abandoned the mountains and moved down into the Rio Grande Valley remains mysterious.

In 1581 a mainly religious expedition arrived in New Mexico, led by a Franciscan monk, Augstín Rodríguez, and a soldier, Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado. Two monks were left as missionaries. A private rancher, Antonio de Espejo, organized an expedition to help the monks in 1582. On the way, he learned that the monks had been killed, but he visited the Pueblos anyway and then returned south. A more official incursion, on local initiative, was carried out by the Lieutenant Governor and Captain General of Nuevo Leon, Gaspar Castáño de Sosa, in 1590-1591. De Sosa's visit came to nothing, but plans were already in the works for an official Spanish occupation of the country.

So in 1598 Juan de Oñate occupied and annexed the Pueblos to Spain. The Acoma Pueblo, high on its mesa, held out the longest. To prevent a repeat of such resistance, Oñate cut off the right foot of every Acoma warrior. With memories of such a beginning, and after new (unmutilated) generations had grown up, Spanish rule suffered a dramatic reversal. In 1680 the Pueblos revolted and successfully expelled the Spaniards from New Mexico. Governor Antonio de Otermin narrowly missed being killed and had to evacuate the territory.

After 12 years of independence, the Pueblos were reconquered. In 1980, the Tricentential of the Pueblo Revolt was commemorated in New Mexico, where, of course, many of the Pueblos survive, now with a great deal of autonomy as Indian Reservations under Federal jurisdiction. Old memories die hard, as a statue of Oñate at San Juan was vandalized in 1997:  its right foot was cut off. After a new foot was restored, it was painted red.

Now, in 2020, the statue of Oñate has been removed. Also, another statue of Oñate, only installed in Albuquerque in 2004, has also been removed -- after gunfire erupted as a mob tried to pull it down. This is part of the rage in 2020 to remove all monuments of offensive history from American public spaces. Oñate, of course, stands for colonialism, imperialism, and the oppression of Native Americans. In those terms, Juan de Oñate doesn't stand a chance. Perhaps it doesn't matter that he represents the entire Hispanic history and character of New Mexico -- something that has contributed the very name of the modern Pueblo Indians. Not everyone likes that; and for some it may be a tough choice between Native American heritage and Latino heritage. There is a lot of painful history there before the hated United States comes anywhere near.

Albuquerque was founded in 1707. Many have found the name of the town amusing, and some locals, feeling disdain for the megalopolis of New Mexico call it the "Big Turkey." Nevertheless, the city is moderate in size, in 2002 still only with a population of 463,874, up from 201,189 in 1962. And the strange name comes from the Duke of Alburquerque (now "Albuquerque"), Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva. This was not an uncommon name, as we see with António de Albuquerque Coelho, the Portuguese Governor of Macao, 1718-1719.

For all its relative local size, Albuquerque is smaller than El Paso (577,415), Tuscon (503,151), and, of course, Phoenix (1,371,960). Cities of comparable size are Atlanta (424,868) and New Orleans (473,681, before Katrina) -- and Albuquerque does not have the large suburbs that most of these other cities do have. I do not believe that any of these other cities, however, has as spectacular a backdrop as does Albuquerque, with the 10,000 ft. Sandia Mountains rising precipitously to the east. I don't think I've seen any place that looks quite like that, in majesty and beauty. From a distance, the cliffs look vertical; but there are hiking trails -- I've been up one of them. Fortunately, at Sandia Crest, you can take the Tram back down.

Albuquerque was supposedly featured in a movie, Little Miss Sunshine (2006, for which Alan Arkin won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar), with a family driving from there to Los Angeles. It is a good movie. However, I have watched it carefully, and I do not think that a single second of the movie was shot in New Mexico. The scenes in "Albuquerque" look suspiciously like they are in Los Angeles, with the thick haze of LA smog in the background. They didn't even use stock footage establishing shots for Albuquerque. There does seem to be some second unit work in Arizona, but I do not think that the actors ever left California. In the background of the first shots of them driving out of Albuquerque are the familiar forms of Vasquez Rocks, which are off California highway 14, north of Los Angeles -- a site famous for the Star Trek episode "Arena" [1967], where Captain Kirk fights a lizard-man, and then in the movie Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey [1991], where Bill and Ted are killed and meet Death, in a parody of The Seventh Seal [1957]

In 2008 we had another "Sunshine" movie, Sunshine Cleaning, which also features Alan Arkin, that is also supposed to set in Albuquerque. It looks like the entire movie actually was indeed shot in Albuquerque (though Santa Fe is mentioned in the credits also). There are no establishing shots, but the Sandias now and again are seen in the background. The sky, the clouds, the streets, the houses -- it all looks like New Mexico.

A movie that was shot entirely in New Mexico is Ron Howard's The Missing (2004), with Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett (produced by Brian Grazer). Since this is a Western, we don't get to see modern Albuquerque or Sante Fe, or much in the way of any other recognizable modern location.

Nicholas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), with David Bowie, was shot in New Mexico. One of the most remarkable locations, White Sands, was memorably featured in that movie as the alien planet homeland of Bowie. For that matter, we also have White Sands (1992), with Willem Dafoe, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, and M. Emmet Walsh -- this also seems to have been shot entirely in New Mexico, including Santa Fe, ending at White Sands National Monument.

John Carpenter's Vampires (1998), with James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, and Sheryl Lee (the evocative Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks, who appears entirely naked here), also was shot in New Mexico. Going back even further, we have some New Mexico scenes in Easy Rider (1969), where Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper would have been well advised to stay. We see the Taos Pueblo, and some scenery nearby, but then the set for the hippie commune they visit was built in the Santa Monica Mountains of Los Angeles -- the actual commune that it represents didn't allow its use for the movie. But the Santa Monica Mountains actually don't look like New Mexico. We also meet Jack Nicholson in the actual old jail of Taos. The exteriors of the jail are in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Nicholson toasts D.H. Lawrence -- Lawrence lived in Taos between, I believe, 1922 and 1925, and his ashes were interred there in 1935. C.G. Jung also visited New Mexico and wrote about it, fascinated, like many, by the Pueblo civilization.

White Sands has a claim to association with the beginning of the Space Age. The White Sands Missile Range, which stretches north and south across the mountains and basins, encompassing White Sands National Monument, north nearly to US 380, is where captured German V-2 rockets were tested after the end of World War II. Eventually the higher profile testing moved elsewhere, but the Range remains active with weaponry. In 1975, I was stopped when the road between Las Cruces and Alamogordo was closed for a test. Even now, if the Space Shuttle can't land in Florida, and if it can't land at Edwards in California, White Sands is still the next backup. That hasn't happened yet, but it is there. At the north end of the range, by the Sierra Oscura, in the Jornada del Muerto, is Trinity Site, where the Nuclear Age certainly began, which is open to civilians twice a year.

Between the facilities at White Sands, the laboratories at Los Alamos (a continuing concern since the first atomic bombs were built there), and then places like Sandia Labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico is said to have the highest number of Ph.D.'s per capita in the United States. This might surprise a lot of people casually driving across the State, thinking that all they were seeing was cowboys and Indians.

The flag of the State of New Mexico, adopted in 1925, contains a sun symbol of the Zia Pueblo. While the Pueblos were agricultural communities, other Indians of New Mexico were mainly pastoral. These were the Mescalero Apache to the southeast, the Chirichahua Apache to the southwest, the Jicarilla Apache to the north, and the Navajo to the northwest. Agriculture was not unknown to these groups, especially the Navajo, who farmed in the river canyons of the Colorado Plateau.

The arrival of horses with the Spanish made possible the development of cultures that were more purely nomadic and devoted to hunting. The New Mexican Apache tribes took this up in a modest way, but the area would suffer principally from the perfection of steppe culture by the Comanches, who roamed the Southern Plains in Texas but raided in force well west of there. This ended up thwarting efforts of the Spaniards to build settlements east of the Rio Grande Valley. Those had to be abandoned under the ferocity of Comanche attacks. Today, impressive ruins are to be seen at Quarai, Abo, and Gran Quivira, which lie north and south of US60, southeast of Abluquerque. These places are now all part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

The Territory of New Mexico was created in 1850. In the Compromise of 1850, Texas, which claimed the entire Rio Grande as its border, was given its western limits at the Rio Grande north to 32o N, and then east to 103o W (roughly, the survey of the 103o line was mishandled, and Texas received the benefit of the error, with the boundary about a half mile west of the 103rd meridian). The northern boundary of New Mexico at first was 37o N all the way west to California. This then included all of Arizona (with the Gadsden Purchase of 1853) and what would later (1866) be Clark County, Nevada. At the San Juan Mountains, however, the east end of the border jumped up to 38o N. The land between 37o N and 38o N was ceded to Colorado in 1861. Meanwhile, several proposals had been made about dividing the Territory in two, between a reduced New Mexico and "Arizona." At first it looked like the division would be between north and south, and during the the Civil War a Confederate "Arizona" in the south did exist. In 1863, however, an east/west division, as we see today, was effected.

It is hard to write about New Mexico without including my own history with the place. My association began in 1962, when I took my first airplane flight to El Paso, on the way to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo. This was my uncle Dan Hendrix, who was a test pilot for the F-102 at Holloman and later was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Of the many spectacular sights in New Mexico, the Tularosa Basin is right up there, with the Sacramento Mountains to the east, and White Sands stretching up the valley to the west. At twelve years old, I found the whole place very magical. White Sands, indeed, holds up quite well in that respect. People see pictures of it and think it is snow. High on the face of the Sacramento Mountains are exposed rock strata from the Permian Period (marked as "P" and "Pz," for Paleozoic, on the geological map). These are formations that have risen to the surface, indeed above the surface, here. In West Texas they are deep underground. Indeed, they give the "Permian Basin" its name. This is not a geographic but a geological Basin (actually, three of them), and it contains much of the West Texas oil that has given that State part of its identity.

Since I originally thought about going into Archaeology, thanks to my love of Egypt, I planned on attending the University of New Mexico, which is the hub for much of the archaeology of the Southwest.

I flew into Albuquerque for the Fall Semester of 1967. I got a taxi to my dorm, Oñate Hall, at UNM. The taxi driver, an Anglo, pronounced it "Onâtee." The times I have been back, this building no longer seems to be used as a dormatory. But it was new and pleasant in 1967 -- though it is strange to remember features of life back then, such as no Area Codes or direct dial long distance:  I had to call the operator to make a long distance call back to Los Angeles. Other features of the times were no co-ed dorms, and women's dorms that were locked at night, with women who stayed out required to sign out and report their locations. Now, with all this gone, we have instead the accusations of a "rape culture" at colleges, which usually involves drunken couplings in co-ed dorms.

It was a great year in Albuquerque, with my first experience of snow falls, but my interest drifted from archaeology to philosophy, and I transfered the following year to UCLA. The Albuquerque of 1967-1968 was considerably smaller than that of today, and I cannot even recognize the eastern edge of town from what it was like when I was at UNM. Although I did see Santa Fe that year, and walked around a great deal of Albuquerque, I actually didn't visit Old Town until years later.

I would not return to New Mexico until 1975. As detailed elsewhere, this was on a drive from Los Angeles to Austin, by way of Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Alamogordo, and Carlsbad. I didn't realize at the time that one of my old friends from Beirut, Craig Nettleton, had moved from Minnesota and was living near Albuquerque. But I did have another aunt and uncle, Jeannie (my mother's sister) and Norman, who now were living near Alamogordo, actually in a mobile home on five acres of desert not far southeast of Tularosa. This was a great visit, although my first wife and I were having troubles both with our car and with our marriage. My uncle had one of the earliest hand held digital calculators. I couldn't wait to get one, but did wait a couple of years -- because of the expense. Now everyone takes this stuff for granted, and simple calculators are dirt cheap. We did some side trips, like to see where Billy the Kid shot his way out of the Lincoln County jail. Our last stop in New Mexico was Carlsbad. I still haven't been back to the Caverns again, though I've driven through the town several times since.

During the rest of the '70's, I began dropping in on Craig or my aunt and uncle, or both, while flying back and forth from Austin to LA. This began to involve various side trips, like fishing in the Jemez mountains, several visits to Santa Fe, almost getting arrested by the Santa Clara Pueblo Police, and getting picked up at El Paso in a light aircraft that my uncle had learned to fly.

Craig's Old Boy Net from Carlton College (in Northfield, Minnesota, where the James Gang made the mistake of trying to rob the bank) included the son of Oliver La Farge, author of the 1930 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Laughing Boy, an early informed and sympathetic portrayal of the Navajo. This meant some visits to the La Farge household in Santa Fe, something that would certainly qualify as the Old Santa Fe, at least in 20th century terms. It was all great stuff. But even more touring followed when I drove back out of Texas in June 1979, then back and forth again late in the year, and finally back from Austin in a new car in 1981, with another round trip that Fall.

My visit in 1981 involved another old friend from Beirut, Alan Campbell, of whom I already have a photo posted here from Palmyra, Syria. Alan had become a paramedic and was living in Cuba, New Mexico. When I arrived there with Craig and his wife, Alan just had a disturbing experience. He had participated in the reception of a patient at the hospital in Gallup, and man who had a high fever and soon died. It turned out that he suffered from pneumonic plague, which is both usually fatal and highly contagious. Alan was taking prophylactic antibiotics, in case he had gotten infected. On that happy note, we all went out to visit the ruins at Chaco Canyon, where signs warned that the prairie dogs in the area were carriers of bubonic plague (the precursor of the pneumonic variety). Fortunately, neither Alan nor any of the rest of us came down with any variety of plague.

The dangers of plague in the area ended up covered by author Tony Hillerman in his 1998 Navajo police mystery The First Eagle, with helpful information about bubonic and pneumonic plague and their vectors and symptoms. We also learn that public health researchers can be dangerous people capable of murder, which seems to contradict most crime statistics. Nevertheless, it nicely reminded me of my own brush with the phenomenon.

Since then I've been back to New Mexico six times. My second wife and I visited my aunt and uncle in the desert in 1989. They had traded in their previous mobile home for a double wide, nearly as big as a house. Later they would move into a real house in Alamogordo, but I never did get back to visit them there, before they moved all the way to Washington State. Our 1989 trip continued on to Santa Fe and finally to stay with Craig and his family in the new house he had built in the hills above I-40, east of the city.

In 1997 I flew back to Albuquerque to drive with Craig down to Trinity Site. In 2003, I drove through in a U-Haul truck taking a load of my possessions on the way to New Jersey. Laying over a day, Craig (again) and his wife drove me up to Santa Fe for lunch, unfortunately on a Sunday, when most of the restaurants are closed.

After my retirement, I've been back through the State three times, each time on the driving trips I've taken across country. In June 2009, I only laid over one night in Albuquerque with Craig, but then on the way back, I dropped in on some old friends from Austin who recently had moved to Dixon, just down the road from Taos. In June 2010, I was back for a longer stay, based in Albuquerque but with side trips to Santa Fe and Dixon. Lunch at the Shed, off the Plaza in Santa Fe, was the first meal I had had at one of the restaurants I knew from the 1970's since my wife and I were there in 1989. We had eaten at Josie's, which now seems to only do catering.

Besides friends and the land, I really miss, as with Austin, the food. I had never heard of blue corn tortillas before being served them (at the Shed) in Santa Fe. I thought they had burnt my enchilada. I bought a packet of them at a market before I flew back to Austin. I kept it in my freezer to show people that there were blue corn torillas. Today they are everywhere, if only as corn chips.

Now I hear that it is being considered whether to make "Red or Green?" the official "State Question," i.e. red or green salsa on one's food. And every year I anticipated the newest Tony Hillerman Navajo detective novel -- and of course am still devastated since his death in 2008. I first heard some details about Navajo religion in my Freshman Anthropology class at UNM, but now, perhaps with many people, most of what I know about the Navajo is from Tony Hillerman.

Most of the Big Reservation, of course, is in Arizona, and I actually hadn't seen much of it -- not even Monument Valley, which turns up in countless John Ford Westerns, and in Easy Rider. Even in New Mexico, I was out to Chaco Canyon (with the nearby "Checkerboard" reservation) but had not otherwise been to the Navajo cities west and northwest of there. I only saw Shiprock from an airplane. So this was a deficiency in my experience of New Mexico -- now remedied in August 2012 with a long drive through the Big Reservation. This included lunch in the town of Shiprock, a stop at Four Corners, and a route down through Kayenta and Tuba City to Flagstaff. Monument Valley would have required a detour, which will have to wait.

My final drive through New Mexico was with a truck again, in 2013, on a final move from Los Angeles to New Jersey. A brief layover in Albququerque involved a little eating, and then a final, early morning exit to the East, and a final view of the Sandias against the morning twilight. Above is the view of the Sandias from my hotel, the day before I left.

While in Santa Fe in 2010, I bought Tyrannasaur Canyon [2005], by Douglas Preston, in a bookstore in the La Fonda Hotel. They seemed to feature books by New Mexico authors, or books involving New Mexico -- although much of the display was missing by 2012 because people now buy books from Preston apparently has lived and travelled in the area a good deal. Since then, I've read several books by Preston and Lincoln Child that are set in New Mexico or nearby in the Southwest. Preston and Child often fictionize locations, or exaggerate distances, for dramatic effect; but sometimes the ficitonization strikes me as gratuitous or puzzling.

Mount Dragon

For instance, in Mount Dragon [1996], by Preston and Child, we have a description of Trinity Site:

After an hour of steady driving, Singer pulled the lead Hummer to a halt. "Ground zero," he said to Carson.

"How can you tell?" Carson asked, looking around at the desert. The Sierra Oscura rose to the west: dry, barren desert mountains, run through with jagged sedimentary outcrops. It was a desolate place, but no more desolate than the rest of the Jornada.

Singer pointed to a rusted girder, twisting a few feet out of the ground. "That's what was left of the tower that held the original bomb. If you look carefully, you'll see that we're in a shallow depression scooped out by the blast. Over there -- " Singer pointed to a mound and some ruined bunkers "-- was one of the instrument observation posts." [Tom Doherty Associates Book, New York, p.103]

Actually, Trinity Site has a fence around it, with a pyramidal monument at the center, and military roads all over the place. Nothing is left of the original tower. It was vaporized. The site map provided by the White Sands Missile Range does note a "Footing from 100-ft. Tower," so perhaps this is the "twisted girder"; but I don't remember seeing it. The reader may inspect the Panorama of Trinity Site for any conspicuous evidence of the structure. At the same time, if anything looks "scooped out" at the site, it is because the fused sand ("Trinitite") on the surface was all removed -- except in one small place, where it is protected by a low structure with windows, through which visitors can inspect it -- it is still radioactive. There are other structures and artifacts nearby, including the house where the final assembly of the bomb was done. And, of course, the Sierra Oscura rises to the east, not the west, as readers can tell from Preston and Child's own map [p.xiii].

What is going on here? If Preston and Child have never been to Trinity site, why have they not gotten some accurate information about it? These inaccuracies have nothing to do with the plot. Trinity Site is never visited again or even mentioned in the book. The whole business is completely gratuitous. And, of course, the whole area is the Military Reservation of the White Sands Missile Range, where random outsiders cannot just go driving around, or even get onto it, without attracting the attention of Military Police.

I can allow for some poetic license, such as forgetting the existence of the Military Reservation. But on page 409 our protagonists are "about forty-five miles north of Mount Dragon," but far from the end of the desert of the Jornada del Muerto. Yet according to Preston and Child's own map [p.xiii again], forty-five miles northwest from their fictional Mount Dragon would already put us in downtown Socorro. So this is a poetic license that isn't even made consistent in their own book.

Meanwhile, Preston and Child never do explain what the Jornada del Muerto is all about. Why would anyone traverse a dangerous desert, the "Journey of the Dead," when they could just follow the Rio Grande River? Well, from the map, anyone can see that there is a bend in the River. The Jornada is a short cut. How dangerous a short cut it could be was learned at great cost by many travelers. Preston and Child can't really assume that everyone will know about the history of the route already, or why people should have chanced it, so they should have explained it.

In the gratuitious category we get something else. When our male protagonist Guy Carson meets his lab assistant Susanna Cabeza de Vaca, he assumes that she is from Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca takes strong exception to this:

"My family," de Vaca interrupted frostily, "came to America with Don Juan de Oñate. In fact Don Alonso Cabeza de Vaca and his wife almost died of thirst crossing this very desert. That was in 1598, which I'm sure was a lot earlier than when your redneck dustbowl family settled in the Bootheel. But I'm deeply touched you had Mexican friends growing up." [p.66]

Now, Preston and Child obviously know that there are old New Mexico families with Spanish surnames who take strong exception to being thought of as Mexicans. What is unbelievable here is that Carson, who is supposed to be a New Mexico native, would not know this. I knew it before I had been a student at UNM more than a couple of months. Now, Preston and Child want Carson and Cabeza de Vaca to get off on the wrong foot (in the love/hate motif of true love); but to do so in a way that relies on something that is unlikely to impossible is what Siskel and Ebert used to call an "idiot plot device." If Carson was born and raised in New Mexico, he would have to be an idiot to assume that de Vaca was from Mexico -- especially with a surname famous from New Mexican history.

Unfortunately, Preston and Child seem to get their own facts wrong. I don't see any Cabeza de Vaca with Oñate's expedition in 1598. They are perhaps thinking of the explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whom we have seen above. We see this Cabeza de Vaca turn up elsewhere on this page, as a Viceroy of the Rio de la Plata (1541-1544). This is the same fellow. He was arrested and tried in Spain, although exonerated, for his conduct in the office. Nevertheless, that ended his career, and he died in Spain -- years before Oñate entered New Mexico.

I have otherwise not been able to find references to an "Alonso Cabeza de Vaca" -- although there was actually more than one "Alonso" in the expedition with Oñate. Indeed, considering what the politically correct now think of Oñate, perhaps Susanna would no longer want to be associated with him -- or the warriors of righteousness might view Susanna as herself suffering from an "original sin" of imperialism and colonialism. Political righteousness is a tough business.

It turns out that a tutor of the Emperor Charles V was a Luis Cabeza de Vaca (d.1510), a noted Humanist who, according to Charles' aunt, the Archduchess Margaret (1480-1530), showed him "how to behave, from which (given his age) he has profited greatly" [Emperor, A New Life of Charles V, by Geoffrey Parker, Yale, 2019, p.31]. This Cabeza de Vaca came nowhere near New Mexico.

Preston and Child do end up referring to something that I did not know. They have Carson ask Cabeza de Vaca where her name, "Head of Cow," came from. Of course, again, as a New Mexico native, Carson should already know about Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; but she tells him something more:

"If you knew your Spanish history," de Vaca said, "you'd know about the name. In 1212, a soldier in the Spanish army marked a pass with a cow skull, and led a Spanish army to victory over the Moors. That soldier was given a royal title and the right to use the name 'Cabeza de Vaca'." [p.245]

This is about the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa on 16 July 1212, where an alliance of Spanish Christian Kingdoms broke the power of the Almohads and led to the complete Reconquest of Spain -- except for Granada (which fell in 1492). "Moors" is an ethnically meaningless term (Latin Mauri, "North Africans") that was used by Christians to refer to all Muslims, whether they were Berbers, Arabs, black Africans, or Spanish converts.

The legend is that Martín Alhaja left a cow's head to mark a pass on the route to the battle. This may have been the Despeñaperros Pass, where the army is supposed to have been led by "a local shepherd." I don't know if that was Alhaja, or whether there are different stories involved here. In any case, soldier or shepherd, Alhaja was ennobled and given the name Cabeza de Vaca. So, despite the strange or gratuitous falsifications of Preston and Child's book, I'm thankful that they brought this detail about Cabeza de Vaca's name to my attention. I'm not a New Mexico native.

Dead Mountain

In 2023 Preston and Child have a new book, Dead Mountain, which continues earlier books featuring archaeologist Nora Kelly and FBI Agent Corrie Swanson. These stories have generally been in the Southwest, and particularly in New Mexico. The only real problem I had with the book was about something the late movie critics, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, used to call the "idiot plot device," which was something so senseless that it obviously existed in the story only to allow the plot to proceed in a certain way.

In the book, an ancient Indian burial is found in a cave in the Manzano Moutains, which are south of the Sandias on the east side of the Rio Grande Valley, south of Albuquerque. This is complicated by a couple of other, recent bodies also being in the cave, at least one of which is a murder victim. Since this is in a National Forest, that puts it under the jurisdiction of the FBI. The area is also within Torrance County, whose sheriff is a self-promoting jerk who wants to be part of the action. Thus, Nora Kelly is involved in the archaeology of the burials and Corrie Swanson is involved in the investigation of the modern bodies. If the burials can be associated with the nearby Isleta Pueblo, then they come under its jurisdiction and control.

The Torrance County sheriff insists on being involved at the site and even invites in the Press, including local televison stations, despite the cave not having yet been processed by the archaeologists or the FBI. He is put in his place and, naturally, conceives a grudge against all involved. This comes to a head when Nora Kelly determines that the burials are Isleta, and the Tribal Council asks her to immediately exhume all the remains and convey them to the Pueblo. Without permission from the FBI, the Forest Sevice, etc., this is cutting a few corners, but Kelly reflects that no relevant authorities are likely to challenge a fait accompli, as they do not.

Unfortuntely, the Sheriff has left a deputy at the cave, who calls in the Sheriff, who confronts the archaeology team, which includes a member of the Isleta Tribal Council. An altercation ensues, and the Sheriff ends up arresting Nora's brother, who was along to help out. Since the Sheriff seems more interested in the arrest than anything else, the burials are successfully recovered and conveyed to the Isleta Pueblo.

My problem with the story here is that the arrest of Nora's brother leads to a subplot that has nothing to do with the main story and could easily be left out without affecting what is otherwise the course of the book -- it looks like something just to pad the size of the book. And, to get the subplot, we need an "idiot plot device." Thus, first of all, we had already heard that, because of the previous intrusion of the Press, the FBI was going to put in place a large perimeter around the site.

However, when Nora and her team show up, there is no FBI in sight, and this means that there are no Federal authorities to confront the Sheriff and determine what the situation is. This allows the Sheriff, actually, to assault Nora and then claim, with the perjurous testimony of his deputy, that he didn't do it, and that Nora's brother assaulted him. So, in the first place, Preston and Child have forgotten their own information that the FBI will be controlling and monitoring the site.

More important, however, is the whole approach taken by Nora. She knows that, if the Sheriff is involved, there will be trouble. Yet she goes to the site with no one but her archaeological team and one Isleta Council Member, who is carrying an authorization letter. Since the Member is busy in the cave, he doesn't even see the confrontation with the Sheriff.

Instead, being on, in effect, official business of the Isleta Pueblo, Nora should have along a posse of Isleta Indians. Whatever the Sheriff thinks he's doing, this will be intimidating. More importantly, with the posse should be Officers of the Isleta Pueblo Tribal Police. They are there to enforce the order of the Isleta Pueblo Council. That would be more than just intimidating to the Sheriff. Tribal policemen are Federal Agents, since the Pueblo is under the direct authority of the Federal Government.

Preston and Child, however, never mention that there even is such a thing as the Isleta Pueblo Tribal Police Department (despite tout le monde knowing about the Navajo Tribal Police from the Tony Hillerman books); and they seem to think that one Council Member with a letter, who actuallly misses the action, will be enough to handle whatever inconveniences arise. We never hear anything about the Isleta Police in the whole book. This just seems nuts.

As a matter of fact, as we see from the map, adjacent parts of the Manzano Mountains are actually within the Reservation of the Isleta Pueblo. The Tribal Police would have as much business being there as the Sheriff of Torrance County. Preston and Child, of course, don't need to use realistic boundaries in the book: Kirtland Air Force Base, for instance, doesn't extend into the mountains; but it is rather import for the story that it does. That is excusable. It is even excusable to overlook the circumstance that the cave might actually be within the Isleta Reservation.

An "idiot plot device," however, isn't excusable. Even if it didn't occur to Nora Kelly to bring along some moral and legal support, the Pueblo Councilman, familiar with the personality of the Sheriff, and probably suspicious of white authority in general, would not overlook that precaution. If he is there to enforce the order of the Pueblo Council, he would have Officers to assist him and represent his authority.

Apart from all these issues, the Manzano Mountains now may be noteworthy because of the successful movie Oppenheimer [2023], where they form the background, standing in for the Sierra Oscura, to the movie's reconstruction of Trinity Site. This is in the desert east of the town of Belen, in the Rio Grande Valley -- as we see in the image above, a Google StreetView from a road at the outskirts of Belen, looking toward the Manzanos. Viewers of the movie will notice that the camera does not have shots facing west at its Trinity Site, where Belen might be in the background.

The list of governors here is from Wikipedia. Other information on New Mexico history, like the list of Pueblos, comes from the Historical Atlas of New Mexico, by Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Haase [University of Oklahoma Press, 1969, 1985]. I don't know why a book like that doesn't bother giving a list of the governors, which would take no more than a page or two, but it doesn't.

The Navajo Conception of Hózhǫ́

The Navajo Language

Navajo Death Pollution

Navajo Burial

Sacred Names

Ethnic Confusion, The Anasazi

Spanish & Portuguese Colonial Possessions

Philosophy of History

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