- A Settling of Accounts: The Journals of Don Diego de Vargas, New Mexico, 1700–1704
A Settling of Accounts is the sixth and final volume in the Journals of don Diego de Vargas, the series that noted historian John Kessell initiated and which, as Kessell graciously acknowledges in his preface, his three coeditors have carried through to conclusion. The series focuses on one of the key turning points in the history of northern New Spain: the 1680 rebellion of Pueblo Indians, from Taos to the Hopi mesas, that drove Spanish settlers and Franciscan missionaries from New Mexico. Twelve years later, don Diego de Vargas led the reconquest of all the Pueblos except the Hopis. It was a time of great heroism or great brutality depending upon your point of view.
Like earlier volumes in the series, A Settling of Accounts presents English translations of Spanish documents. Spanish transcriptions are available separately on a searchable CD-ROM. Because the Pueblo peoples left no written records, the journals only provide windows upon Spanish perspectives, particularly those of Vargas and his most prominent supporters and enemies. Pueblo views, embedded in their ceremonies and rich oral traditions, are outside the purview of the series.
The final installment finds Diego de Vargas facing charges of embezzlement leveled by the governor who succeeded him. He travels to Mexico City to successfully answer the charges before the viceroy, where he is reunited with his only legitimate son (whom he has not seen for 27 years). The son dies soon afterward aboard a ship bound for Spain. The volume therefore has an elegiac tone that aptly captures a man nearing the end of his life and a series reaching its conclusion. As usual, the series editors have done a superb job placing the documents in historical context. The translations are crisp and readable. I assume their accuracy matches the high standards of earlier volumes.
Those of us who edit documentary histories are torn between the exigencies of publishing and the desire to provide transcriptions. We also grapple with philosophies of translation and transcription. After much soul searching, my colleagues and I at the Documentary Relations of the Southwest of the University of Arizona have decided to adopt the Vargas Project's more conservative transcription policy and produce line-by-line literal transcriptions of the original documents instead of inserting punctuation, modernizing spelling, and expanding abbreviations as we have done in the past. We have included those transcriptions in published volumes to date, but as volumes grow bigger and publishing costs rise, we will probably provide online transcriptions in the future. In these, and most other matters, the Journals of don Diego de Vargas have served as both a model for and an inspiration to our efforts. [End Page 523]
A Settling of Accounts begins with a typically bitter dispute between New Mexico governors, Vargas and Pedro Rodríguez Cubero. Vargas wins the battle, as viceregal officials dismiss the 24 charges brought against Vargas by the Cabildo de Santa Fe at Rodríguez Cubero's request. But neither victory nor defeat matter much. Rodríguez Cubero dies in Mexico City in April 1704 , the same month Vargas dies in New Mexico. Other personalities would dominate New Mexican politics in the eighteenth century.
In an eloquent afterword, the editors summarize Vargas's accomplishments and the Reconquista itself. Unlike the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 , some Pueblos ally themselves with the Spaniards. Communities and language groups are rent by factionalism, allowing the Spaniards to triumph. The Spaniards also confront their own divisions—between Vargas and Rodríguez Cubero and their partisans. The editors argue that their were four distinct groups of Hispanic settlers who participated in the Reconquista: those born in New Mexico who had survived the revolt, military recruits from the mining districts of northern New Spain, artisans and urban dwellers...