Genizaros: Southwest ancestors, a Native, Spanish mix


Genizaros: Begotten of parents of different nations, according to the Velásquez Spanish English Dictionary.

Genizaro is a Spanish word adopted from the Ottoman Turkish word “Yenizari.” This referred to slaves trained as solders for the Ottoman empire. In 1778, Father Juan Agustin de Morfi gave this definition.

According to an 2014 column by Marc Simmons in the Santa Fe New Mexican titled “Trail Dust,” “In all the Spanish towns in New Mexico, there exists a class of Indians called Genizaros. These are made up of captive Comanches, Apaches, etc., who were taken as youngsters and raised among us, and who have married in the province.”

According to the Texas State Historical Association, Father Juan de Agustin de Morfi was born in Asturias, Spain (birthdate unknown). Morfi moved to America in 1755 and became a Franciscan friar in May 3, 1761, at Mexico City. He taught theology at the principal monastery of Franciscans in Mexico.

On Aug. 4, 1777, he accompanied Teodoro de La Croix as chaplain of the group. The expedition traveled north into New Spain, (now Texas and New Mexico). As recorded in the Texas State Historical Association, “After his return he devoted himself to study and writing. In 1782. he was elected guardian of the Convento Grande de San Francisco. He died Oct. 20, 1783. [Father Morfi] is known chiefly for the history of Texas that he compiled after his long and arduous journey.”

Simmons, in his column, wrote: “As described by Father Morfi, individuals of various tribes who grew up in Spanish society were Genizaros. At every opportunity the Spanish would ransom captives taken by Indian groups in raids upon their neighbors. The captives were placed in homes of wealthier colonists who were supposed to care for them and raise them as Christians. The children were really household servants but not slaves, since upon marrying, they were free to go their own way.” Furthermore, from the Simmons’ article, the oldest church in the United States is the San Miguel Chapel in the barrio de Analco. This place was founded by Mexican Indians from Tlaxcala that came with the DeVargas expedition.

According to an educational project of the Houston Institute of Culture in “History of Mexico,” The Tlaxcalans allied themselves with the Spaniards to defeat the Aztecs during the conquest by Cortez. Tlaxcala is located southeast of Mexico city. Tlaxcalans were given special rights and privileges by the Spaniards.

In the bibliography of the article, “Tlaxcalan Indians in New Mexico,” by Stanley A. Lucero, M.A., a teacher originally from Taos who now lives in Fresno, Calif., a research resource confirms the following: “Tlaxcalan indians became part of the Trampas land grant in 1751. The Chamuscado party in the 1580s named the district around Taos, Nueva Tlaxcala, perhaps in honor of the homeland of one of its members.”

Dr. Sylvia Rodríguez, professor of anthropology at University of New Mexico, and who also is originally from Taos, stated in an interview with The Taos News in October 2016: “This is a complicated history. The Genizaros were used as buffers between colonial settlers and nomadic raiders. They were used as soldiers. There was a blending of nomadic Indians, pueblo Indians and Hispanic people.”

According to the “Genizaro Land Grant Settlements,” by Moises González, “During the early 1700s, due to increased attacks by nomadic tribes such as the Navajo, Ute, Comanche, Apache and Kiowa, Genizaro settlements at the fringe of the frontiers served as buffer zones between the nomadic tribes and the (principal settlements). In the 1740s to the 1790s, towns such as Abiquiú, Las Trampas,San Miguel del Vado, Belen, Ojo Caliente,and San Miguel de Carnue were established as Genizaro buffer settlements and many other communities as well. Buffer settlements were a way for Genizaros to gain ownership of land and gain social status.”

There are books and Youtube videos about genizaros available from educated historians like Dr. Gregorio Gonzáles from Ranchos de Taos, Lindsey Montgomery, Enrique la Madrid and many others.

This history indicates that the indigenous people and Spanish mix from Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and California are genetically related whether you call yourself genizaromestizo, Spanish, Chicano or Hispanic.

You can find this story in Spanish here.