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“Gaspar Castaño de Sosa and His Expedition of 1590”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

In the late 1580s, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa was acting as alcalde (mayor) of the town of Almadén in New Spain. Discouraged by the unproductive mines there, de Sosa packed up most of the colony and set out on a difficult march to present-day northern New Mexico. His expedition consisted of 170 people, heavily laden carts, yokes of oxen, tools, and provisions. Under the guidance of a young Indian named Miguel, Castaño de Sosa's colony marched north to the Rio Grande, the Pecos River and Pecos Pueblo. He later visited the Tewa and Tiwa pueblos and established his headquarters at Santo Domingo, north of the site of present-day Albuquerque. Meanwhile, de Sosa's friend, Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva, was accused of being a “Many were brought before the Inquisition officials and tried.” Jew and arrested by the Spanish Inquisition. Carvajal's trial cast suspicion on Castaño de Sosa. The king's soldiers in New Spain pursued Castaño de Sosa to the north: he was charged with leading an unauthorized expedition into New Mexico and taken in chains back to New Spain. There he was tried, convicted, and exiled to the Philippines. Gaspar Castaño de Sosa's sentence was appealed to the Council of the Indies and the decision was reversed, but it was too late. The Conquistador had been slain aboard a ship in the South China Sea during a slave insurrection. In 1590, Castaño de Sosa or his secretary, Andrés Pérez de Verlanga, wrote an account of the expedition excerpted below.

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Pecos National Monument“Pecos National Monument,” Jason S. Ordaz (Photographer)You’ll need 3-D glasses to view this Anaglyph image. Don’t have a pair? Request 3-D glasses right away!

In 1590, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa led an expedition of 170 people from Mexico into New Mexico. Born in Portugal in the middle of the 16th C., Castaño de Sosa administered mining towns in northern Mexico under the leadership of Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva, one of the largest landholders in Mexico. After years of administering colonial mining towns and vast ranches, Spanish authorities arrested Luis de Carvajal and accused him of being a judaizer, someone who practiced the Jewish faith. Upon learning of Luis de Carvajal's arrest and imprisonment, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa quickly organized an entrada and headed north.

Reaching the Rio Grande, his route took him up the Pecos River to Pecos Pueblo, later traveling west, back towards the Rio Grande to stay at Santo Domingo Pueblo. Because the Spanish authorities in Mexico had not given Castaño permission to explore, they sent Captain Juan Morlete, with twenty men, in pursuit and Castaño returned to Mexico City in chains.

Castaño was caught in the far-reaching hands of the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish Crown and Catholic Church's attempt to wipe out all other religions and cultures, including Islam and Judaism, that had once thrived in Spain for hundreds of years. Under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Jews were baptized and became New Christians, converting to Catholicism but, sometimes, continuing to practice their faith secretly.

View of Pecos National Monument“View of Pecos National Monument,” Jason S. Ordaz (Photographer)You’ll need 3-D glasses to view this Anaglyph image. Don’t have a pair? Request 3-D glasses right away!

Others fled Spain to France, Italy and other countries in Europe or immigrated to the New World. The Holy Office of the Inquisition followed and pursued Spaniards and Portuguese who, sometimes hiding their Jewish heritage, acknowledged and sometimes practiced their religion in secret. Luis de Carvajal was the head of a large extended family and others, including Gaspar Castaño de Sosa, who became guilty by association. Many were brought before the Inquisition officials and tried; some were able to escape persecution, but Castaño was convicted and exiled to the Philipines. He appealed his sentence to the governing body of Nueva Galicia, the Council of the Indies, which reversed his sentence. But by that time, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa died during a slave insurrections aboard a ship bound for the Phillipines.