Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike

Home » Pike: On This Day » 3. March 1807 » March 1, 1807. Springtime

March 1, 1807. Springtime

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1st March, Sunday. We marched early and…got to the village of L’eau Chaud [Agua Caliente]…The difference of climate was astonishing, after we left the hills and deep snows, we found ourselves on plains where there was no snow, and where vegetation was sprouting.

Pike and his men and their escorts have traveled 45 miles or so, south and down in elevation. Over that distance, spring has arrived.

The village…presents to the eye a square enclosure of mud walls, the houses forming the wall. They are flat on top, or with extremely little ascent on one side, where there are spouts to carry off the water of the melting snow and rain….Inside of the enclosure were the different streets of houses of the same fashion, all of one story; the doors were narrow, the windows small, and in one or two houses there were talc lights. This village had a mill near it, situated on the little creek, which made very good flour. The population consisted of civilized Indians, but much mixed blood….This village may contain 500 souls. From this village the Tetaus [Comanches] drove off 2000 horses at one time, when at war with the Spaniards.

Until the Spanish dragoons showed up at their camp, Pike and his men have not seen another human being since mid-November. Their travels have been brutally difficult. Here, however, begins their comfortable captivity. While under Spanish escort, they will sleep and eat in homes nearly every night and resupply daily in towns. The physical depravation of their journey is over.

Plenty of mental anguish, however, remains. Pike will have much to say about the New Mexicans he meets, their habits, customs, and government. He will often find the residents of these mud-walled towns repulsive, in keeping with American antipathy for all things Spanish, but he will also find their courtesies, loyalties, political and scientific enlightenment, and refined tastes surprisingly hard to reconcile with the Black Legend of Spanish degeneracy that colored American views of New Spain at the time. Tortuously he will struggle to reconcile his prejudices with the actual Spaniards he encounters. He will also get plenty wrong in his account.

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