about table of contents home

CHAPTER IV:
CHRISTIAN CONVERSION

F. 3. Prelude Theme: Psychology of Despair

Available records of burials by priests in the missions of the Tubac area during the decade prior to the Pima revolt provide a significant clue to the general psychological state of the Indians when they rebelled. They must have been plunged into a state of despair, general and nonspecific dysphoria as a result of the very high mortality rate from endemic and epidemic diseases during the decade immediately prior to the revolt. While this cause of the revolt is not mentioned in the documents collected by Governor Diego Ortiz Parrilla and others in seeking to explain the revolt, there can be little doubt in view of the evidence that the despair of the northern Pimans existed, and was a significant although hidden cause of the nativistic revolt.

The Pimans themselves very likely firmly believed that Father Ignacio X. Keller's insult to Captain-General Luís Oacpicagigua and the other cases of missionary maltreatment of Indians such as Tello's killing a pregnant woman in the stocks at Caborca "caused" their rebellion. They would not have been able to recognize that their own psychological state was distinctly abnormal and dangerous to peace and rational behavior by the fall of 1751, after long deterioration. Their analysis was correct to this extent: the occurrences they gave as "causes" were clearly triggering events which actually did 94set off the revolt. But it is to be doubted that those events would have been sufficient in themselves to trigger the revolt had the northern Pimans not already been plunged into a state of despair and despond by the very great psychological stresses of their situation, the most severe of which was the continual and frequent loss of loved relatives and friends to disease. In logical terms, infectious epidemics were a necessary condition for the revolt, although not a sufficient condition. The incidents of missionary maltreatment were not in themselves necessary conditions, but combined with the pre-existing psychological state became then sufficient condition to set off, to "cause", the Pima Revolt of 1751.

a. Infectious Epidemics in Mission Times. The evidence of the affliction of the northern Pimans with infectious epidemics following establishment of Spanish missions in their territory is only too abundant. After the refounding of Guebavi Mission in 1732, there were at least five infectious epidemics among the mission population before the Pima Revolt in 1751. The upper Santa Cruz River Valley settlements which were visitas of this mission, Tubac included, were so much a part of one settlement complex there can be little doubt that all shared the health disasters which struck the mission community proper.

In terms of the high level of psychological stress which led to the revolt, it is significant that four of the five recorded major infectious epidemics at Guebavi Mission between 1732 and 1751 occurred from 1744 to 1751-every other year.

b. Matlazahuatl Epidemic of 1736-1737. The deadly matlazahuatl which had devastated Mexico's Indian population in 1545 and 1576 reappeared in August of 1736 at Tacuba, spreading swiftly through the country (Bancroft 1883:III:353).  The contagion-probably typhus-reached the City Of Mexico toward the end of November. Poorer people suffered greater fatalities from this virulent fever (Alegre 1841:111:262). Nearly all the Jesuit missionaries in New Spain fell ill from this disease (which says something about their personal hygiene if the epidemic were typhus!). The mortality in the City of Mexico was given as 30,000 by the official publication of the government, but the Jesuits estimated it was nearer 40,000. Over 50,000 died in the city of Puebla, and over 20,000 in Queretaro and environs (ibid., III:267). Farther from statistically minded royal officials, mortality estimates are lacking, but the death rate was undoubtedly high throughout New Spain.

Specific data for Tubac are lacking since the Santa María Suamca Mission was still too new for its missionary, Father Ignacio X. Keller, to have made much progress in changing the burial customs of the Tubaca Pimans.

Magdalena--Data are available from the visita of Santa María Magdalena some eighty miles south of Tubac. There the epidemic struck during January of 1737. Epidemic mortality extended for twenty days from February 4 through 24 when forty per cent of all the deaths recorded during the year occurred (Libro de Entierros de Santa María Mag-dalena de 1702, p. 26-07). 96These epidemic fatal-ities alone were as numerous as the entire mortality for the next year 1738 (ibid., p. 27-28).

San Ignacio--At the mission headquarters of San Ignacio a few miles north of Magdalena no real fatal epidemic seems to have occurred during 1737. The greatest number of deaths in any month came during January but mortality was not very high, only twenty per cent of the year's total deaths. Furthermore, matlazahuatl may have been the killer elsewhere, but not at San Ignacio. The only cause of death identified was smallpox. Smallpox fatalities were reported on June 6 and 10 and again on December 18. The San Ignacio data suggest a long-continued smallpox epidemic or a very high fatality rate from endemic smallpox. Still, the total 1737 death toll was about fifty per cent higher than during the following year when an acute epidemic did occur in October (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio...desde 1697, f. 19v-23v).

If the contagion could play such odd tricks on communities only a few miles apart in close communication, it could have done almost anything by the time it reached Tubac.

c. Epidemic of 1744. During the next decade missionization had been sufficiently successful among the northern Pimans in the vicinity of Tu-baca for useful records of mortality patterns to exist in the registers of burials at the missions. While Tubaca was seldom mentioned, its proximity to the Guebavi and Suamca headquarters insured its 97sharing in the epidemics which struck those missions during the years of despair preceding the Pima Revolt.

Guebavi--During December of 1744 residents of Guebavi suffered from an epidemic which carried off seventy-two and two-tenths per cent of all those who died there all year.

d. The Epidemic of 1747. During October of 1747, Guebavi Mission suffered an epidemic during which ten infants died-forty-three and a half per cent of all the deaths recorded there during that year (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros). This appears to have been a local epidemic, however, for no such malady struck the inhabitants of San Ignacio Mission during 1747 (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio de 1697, f. 29-30).

e. The Epidemic of 1749. While the 1744 and 1747 epidemics may have been local outbreaks of contagion in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley, the epidemic which struck in 1749 was a widespread phenomenon. All of New Spain was plagued by misfortunes at this time, including rare frosts in many areas which produced famine. The area governed by the Audiencia of Guadalajara-which included Sonora and the northern Piman country-suffered an epidemic in addition (Bancroft 1883:III:359). It was apparently measles (Libro de Entierros de Santa María Magdalena de 1702, p. 42).

Magdalena--Like most of the infectious epidemics which swept the Piman country, this one spread northward. Its progress can be traced by the periods of epidemic mortality at various settlements. At Santa María Magdalena, a visita of 98Mission San Ignacio de Caburica which is about seventy miles south of Tubac, the period of epidemic mortality appears to have begun on January 24 and continued until March 20, nearly two months. During that period eighty-one and one-half per cent of the total mortality for 1749 occurred (Libro de Entierros de Santa María Magdalena de 1702, p. 42-44). The 1749 epidemic-year death rate at Magdalena increased fifty-nine per cent over the non-epidemic year 1748.

San Ignacio--At the mission proper the epidemic fatality period seems to have started February 1 and ended April 6, a period of some nine weeks starting and finishing a few days later than at Magdalena. During those somber weeks sixty-three per cent of the total mortality for 1749 occurred. The epidemic toll was appalling: some days during February as many as four persons died, two and three deaths a day were common. Only eight days of February were passed without a death. After about the eleventh of March the death toll slackened, but for six weeks San Ignacio Mission must have been hell on earth.

The deaths at San Ignacio during 1749 increased 409 per cent over the previous year as a result of the epidemic. In 1750 the total mortality fell even below the 1748 figure-as might be expected because of the tremendous loss of population during the epidemic.

This epidemic decimated the youth of the mission. Children five years of age or younger made up fifty-five per cent of the epidemic mortality, with three boys dying to two girls 99in this age group. Older children suffered about half as much. Twenty-eight per cent of the fatalities were unmarried individuals over the age of five, three boys dying to every girl in this age category! Only eleven per cent of the fatalities occurred among married couples, and the sex-ratio of mortality in that age group sharply reversed, with three women of child bearing age dying to every man in the same age bracket. There was no sex difference in fatality among widows and widowers, who suffered only five and a half per cent of the total mortality. Thus the Indians at San Ignacio Mission watched their future dying as the desert warmed in the early spring of 1749.

Guebavi--In the upper Santa Cruz River Valley, epidemic mortality did not begin until February 8 and was over by March 15 at Mission Santos Angeles de Guebavi, indicating the northward spread of infection. At Guebavi eighty-one per cent of the total mortality for 1749 occurred during the five weeks of epidemic fatalities. The close coincidence of this mortality rate with that at Magdalena is very striking.

Sonoitac--At the visitation ranchería of Sonoitac farther northeast, epidemic mortality did not begin until either March 8 or 21, ending April 11, and accounting for all or all but one of the deaths recorded there during 1749, when the death toll was nearly double that of 1748 and 1750 combined (Santos Angeles do Guebavi, Libro de Entierros).

f. The 1751 Smallpox Epidemic. The third epidemic to strike after only a two-year interval assaulted the Indians 100of northern Piman country during the summer of 1751, and it must have appeared to the staggering survivors as almost the final blow to their sagging population.

Imuris--At Imuris, visitation station of Mission San Ignacio and a few miles north of it, epidemic fatalities began in the middle of May and continued until the end of June. During those five to six weeks, fifty per cent of the year's fatalities at Imuris occurred, probably all from smallpox and half of them so recorded. All but one of the victims were children. In fact, 1751 was a year of child-mortality at Imuris. Eighty-one per cent of the deaths during the year were children (Libro de Entierros deste Pueblo de San Ygnacio....desde 1697, f. 40-41v). The mortality at Imuris in 1751 was 229 per cent that of 1750, an increase of 129 per cent over the previous year. The epidemic fatalities alone were a fourteen per cent increase over the total deaths during 1750! The following year the death rate dropped drastically at Imuris, to six per cent of the 1751 total (ibid., f. 42).

Guebavi--As usual, this epidemic was spreading northward into Piman territory, and the epidemic mortality period at Guebavi Mission fell between July 23 and August 21, about one month during which sixteen persons died. This epidemic toll represented fifty-three per cent of the total fatalities during 1751 at Guebavi, up to the Pima Revolt in November (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros).

Duration--This epidemic may actually have continued right up to the time the Pimas revolted late in November. At 101any rate the Spaniards in the frontier military posts were suffering from an epidemic when the revolt occurred, complicating their manpower problem (Ewing 1945:265) especially at Fronteras.

g. Population Decline--There can be no doubt that epidemic mortality caused a large and psychologically upsetting decline in northern Piman population during the decade prior to the Pima Revolt. Fragmentary as surviving mission burial records are, they still yield a clear picture of high death tolls and inevitable diminution of an already declining population.

The evidence of devastating epidemic mortality in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley settlements may be summarized using the Guebavi Mission population as an index of the whole settlement complex.

During the three-year period 1743-1745, the basic death rate at Guebavi, as recorded (Libro de Entierros, Santos Angeles de Guebavi), was 4.7 persons per year. The epidemic which struck in December of 1744 raised the toll to nine persons per year, nearly doubling the basic rate. By that time the basic death rate was already much higher than in aboriginal times due to endemic infection from introduced European diseases.

During the next three-year period 1746-1748, the basic death rate at Guebavi was seven per year, but the epidemic in October of 1747 raised the actual recorded death rate to 10.1 102per year, nearly a fifty per cent increase.

In sum, for this nine-year period 1743-1751, the basic non-epidemic death rate was 8.1 persons annually in Guebavi, but recurrent epidemics in 1744, 1747, 1749 and 1751 raised the actual death rate to 15.7 persons per year, or very nearly double the basic rate. This ratio of epidemic to other deaths is further bolstered by figures for the visita at Sonoitac during the 1748-1750 three-year period. There the basic death rate seems to have been two per year for that triennium, but the epidemic (which reached there somewhat later than Guebavi) of 1749 raised the actual death toll to 4.1 persons annually-just over a one hundred per cent increase.

With the mortality rate doubled by four epidemics within eight years, the northern Pimans could not have helped feeling bad over the deaths of many loved relatives and friends, and seriously insecure over their own prospects for survival.

Over a somewhat longer period of years, from 1743 when burial records for Guebavi mission are available through 1766 103when the Jesuit record ends, a rough estimate of the magnitude of population decline is possible. During that twenty-four year period, estimations by varied techniques indicate a population of approximately 250 persons living at the beginning of 1743. This period is used for estimation also because an officer of the inspection team of the Marqués de Rubí reported in his journal for December 19, 1766, that the population of Guebavi was fifty northern Pimans (Lafora 1939: 126). If his figure and the estimate are correct, where five Indians had lived in 1743 only one remained alive in 1767. If there was a population decline of this magnitude over a quarter of a century of mission conversion, there is every reason to believe that the entire population decline from 1520 to the beginning of population recovery was even greater than the decline of eighty to ninety per cent in all of New Spain (Simpson 1950:xi).

The magnitude of population decline at Guebavi and in the adjacent area including Tubac can be verified to some extent from other sources. In 1699 Father Kino estimated a population of ninety persons at Guebavi (Bolton 1948:I:204). This was a small settlement in comparison with Bac, for example, and indicates the Tubac population of that time was even more insignificant. The following year, however, refugees from the upper San Pedro River towns had moved into the upper Santa Cruz River drainage, then Kino estimated that the population of Guebavi had more than doubled to over two hundred (ibid., I:233).

104After Guebavi Mission was established, the local population was boosted by the immigration there of the missionary, his Spanish supervisors of economic activities, and Indian converts from farther south. Moreover, the declining native population of Guebavi was reinforced by Pimans from at least three other rancherías. Some people from Sopori on the creek of that name which empties into the Santa Cruz a few miles north of Tubac had moved to Guebavi by August of 1747 (Santos Angeles de Guebavi, Libro de Entierros, p. 51). Probably all the Sopori natives had emigrated to the mission by 1757 (ibid., p. 110), and certainly its abandonment was completed prior to 1762 (Nentvig 1951:141). Sometime before 1749 Luís Oacpicagigua induced the people of Concuc and Upiatuban to congregate in Guebavi (Oacpicagigua Mar. 24, 1752:189). Data on the original populations of Sopori, Concuc and Upiatuban are lacking, but the accretion of their inhabitants to Guebavi meant that the fifty residents of that mission remaining in 1766 represented the pitiful remnants of at least five pre-Spanish northern Piman settlements-Guebavi itself, Sopori, Concuc, Upiatuban, and one or more of the San Pedro River Valley towns! In other words Sopori and at least three other settlements had died completely to maintain the Guebavi population at little more than half of its 1699 level.

Similar figures for the north Piman settlements on the middle Santa Cruz River north of Tubac provide some further evidence of general and pronounced population decline. At 105Mesquite Mountain (Cuitoac) north of Tucson Kino estimated a population of over 1,000 in 1699 (Bolton 1948:I:206). In Franciscan times the remaining residents were reluctant to join their fellow-townsmen in the mission at Bac for fear of dying there (Arricivita 1792:416). There were only thirty houses here by 1775 (Coues 1900:I:84) inhabited seasonally by Papagos who would have numbered merely 150 if each household consisted of five persons.

At Bac itself, Kino had estimated over 800 people lived in 1692 (Bolton 1948:I:122), but after the revolt of 1751 only 167 individuals were enumerated in the spring of 1752 (Díaz del Carpio, Apr. 14, 1752:94-95). Later Bac received heavy reinforcements from the east following the Sobaipuri abandonment of the San Pedro River Valley in 1762. Some 250 Sobaipuris settled at Tucson in the spring of that year (Elías Gonzalez, Mar. 22, 1762). Yet in the early years of Franciscan administration the population at Bac had climbed again only to 270 (Reyes July 6, 1772:756).

Mortality Rates. The decline in population in the Santa Cruz and San Pedro River Valleys hinted at in the preceding discussion required a very high death rate in the native population. Fortunately, the relatively precise information available from Guebavi Mission permits at least an estimation of crude death rates there.

The reported 1766 population of fifty persons at the end of the year, plus burial records for Guebavi during 1766, 106allow a computation of the mortality rate at this mission for that year. All the nine recorded deaths occurred before mid year (Libro de Entierros, Santos Angeles de Guebavi, p. 72-74). This meant a total population of fifty-nine at the beginning of the year, or fifty-eight if there had been one birth at the mission during the year. (The surviving Jesuit baptismal records are incomplete, ending early in 1763. In the first six weeks of 1763 only one Spanish child was born at Guebavi (Libro de Bautismos, Santos Angeles de Guebavi, p. 132) and during all of 1762 only two Indian children were baptized there (ibid., pp. 130, 132). With a declining population, especially a drop in the number of women of childbearing age, more than one birth in 1766 was unlikely.)

Ignoring the possibility of births during 1766, and taking the maximum possible population at the beginning of the year-fifty-nine-the crude mortality rate among Guebavi Mission Indians was fifteen and one-quarter per cent. Converting this into more familiar expression, the crude mortality rate was 152.2 deaths per 1,000 population during 1766.

Projecting backward the population figure for 1766, it is possible to estimate with somewhat less surety the crude mortality rate for 1764. Ignoring any births which may have occurred (which would have the effect of raising the mortality rate), the beginning of 1764 population was approximately sixty-four Indians. Five burials were recorded during 1764 (none during 1765) indicating this total maximum possible 107population. The five deaths recorded constituted a crude mortality rate of 68.1 per 1,000 population, an absolute minimal estimate.

The extremely fast rate at which Guebavi, and the other upper Santa Cruz River Valley Pimans, were dying may be grasped, perhaps, by comparing these high mortality rates with that in the contemporary United States. "The crude death rate, based on the estimated midyear population residing in the United States, was 9.4 per 1,000 population" (Dunn 1958:I:LIV). In 1955 it had been 9.3, in 1954 it was 9.2, and during the five previous years had stabilized at 9.6 or 9.7 deaths per 1,000 population (ibid.). The wide difference between the United States and Guebavi mortality rates illustrates the difference between a growing and a dying society.

CONTINUE
TABLE OF CONTENTS