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Slaughter at El Tupo: June 9, 1695

An excerpt from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America.


A 19th century photograph of Casa Grande, in Arizona

In 1692, at the age of 47, [Jesuit missionary Eusebio] Kino went on the first of the long explorations that would occupy him almost until his death. Kino undertook these journeys, partly to preach and seek out sites for new missions, and partly to discover if there were a land route from the Pimería to California. A land route would make it easier to supply new missions. Kino’s journeys took him into what is now southern Arizona, where, near Tucson, he established missions at Guevavi, Tumacácori, and Bac. Bac was the largest Pima village in the region and later would boast a fine mission church — San Xavier del Bac. In 1694, in what is now Arizona, Kino first saw the ruins of a great building, surrounded by irrigation ditches. This was Casa Grande, the remains of a once thriving community of Indians. Kino thought it might be the remains of one of the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola, or, if tales were true, a monument of Aztlán, the Aztecs’ ancient home.


A copy of a map by Eusebio Kino, showing California as an island, and New Mexico and the Pimeria (in pink)

Filled with wonder and speculations, Padre Kino rode home — where he was soon to face the near collapse of all his efforts.


Antonio, the Opata Indian overseer at mission San Pedro y San Pablo del Tubutama, had cruelly beaten a Pima. The man died of his wounds. Vowing revenge, the dead man’s friends and relatives shot Antonio down with arrows as he was working in the fields. Severely wounded, Antonio ran to Padre Janusque, a mission priest, to warn him. As he crossed the priest’s threshold, Antonio fell dead. Thus warned of the coming attack, Padre Janusque fled, seeking help.


The martyrdom of Padre Francisco Xavier Saeta. A detail from a map by Eusebio Kino

It was Holy Week. Padre Francisco Xavier Saeta, a zealous missionary who tended the westernmost mission in the Pimería, Nuestra Señora de la Concepcion de Caborca, was preparing to celebrate the feast of Easter. On Holy Saturday, April 25, 1695, Saeta greeted a band of Pimas who rode up to the mission. Their angry replies were soon followed by a volley of arrows. Struck by a poisoned arrow, Padre Saeta, clutching an image of the crucified Christ that, only the previous day, had graced the ceremonies of Good Friday, fell to the ground and died. The Pimas burned down the mission. Later, Padre Saeta’s half cremated remains were found among the ruins.


From Caborca, the band of Pimas went on a rampage and destroyed the mission at Oquitoa, between Tubutama and Caborca. Commanding a Spanish military unit called the Flying Company, Lieutenant Antonio de Solís set off to hunt down the murderers. Solís, believing that he had to match cruelty with cruelty, attacked several Piman rancherías. Alarmed at the possible destruction of the missions of the Pimería, Padre Kino arranged a meeting between the Pimas and Solís at a village site called El Tupo.


On June 9, Piman leaders, along with some of the Indians who had participated in the revolt, met with Solís at El Tupo. According to an agreement, the Pimas left their arms outside the clearing where Solís and several of his soldiers awaited them. When a cacique brought forward one of the guilty Indians, Solís, surrounded by his armed men, drew his saber. With one glittering stroke, the cavalry leader cut off the warrior’s head. The Indians ran for their weapons; but before they could reach them, they were cut down, every man of them, by Solís’ horsemen.


For the next three months, warfare raged through the Pimería. Bands of Pimas destroyed missions and laid waste their fields. All the while, Padre Kino worked for peace; but Solís, trusting in brute force, ranged through the country, striking terror into the natives. It soon became apparent that such harshness only prolonged the war, and at last Solís agreed to Kino’s demands for a peace conference. Meeting at the scene of the El Tupo slaughter, Pima caciques and Solís signed a treaty. With peace restored, the site of the peace treaty, that had been called La Matanza (the massacre), was renamed Santa Rosa.


Mexican Baroque in the Popular Style


Juan García de Zéspedes (ca. 1619-1678) was a Mexican composer of both profane and sacred music and the maestro of the cathedral in Puebla, Mexico. Here is a performance of his Convidando está la noche, a piece which draws on popular musical forms.