The Children of the Blue Nun

Chapter IXA: Fr. Benavides writes about Sister María's revelations

By Larry Torres
Posted 2/5/20

Fr. Alonso de Benavides sat down that morning to decipher the chicken scratches that he had written in years past. There had not been any reason to investigate or doubt them until now that interest in the life of Sister María had increased.

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The Children of the Blue Nun

Chapter IXA: Fr. Benavides writes about Sister María's revelations

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Fr. Alonso de Benavides sat down that morning to decipher the chicken scratches that he had written in years past. There had not been any reason to investigate or doubt them until now that interest in the life of Sister María had increased.

The nuns who had found her last night had smelled the odor of sulfur emanating from underneath the door of her cell. An unworldly howl had also awakened them. When they had broken through the door, they found her floating in the air as easily as if she were lying on her cot. The Reverend Mother dispatched them to give an accounting to Fr. Benavides in his Convent of San Ildefonso.

Looking at the notes that he had already written, Fr. Alfonso had noted that Sister María was widely recognized among the tribes of the Jumano Indians that lived in New Mexico and in Texas. Sister María referred to the Texas group as "los Tixtlas." She had written that there were two kinds of Jumano Indians: the Plains Jumanos, who hunted buffalo, and the Puebloan Jumanos, who lived in adobe houses and cultivated cotton and corn.

The Jumano chief was a brave man who was known as "The One-Eyed Captain," because he had lost an eye in battle. This is what the Spaniards had nicknamed him. The One-Eyed Captain would gather the other tribes such as the Chillescas, the Carbucos and the Jumanos.

Fr. Alonso had also noted that every pueblo had its own chieftain: San Juan had Popé, Picurís had Luis and Lorenzo Tupatú, the village of Cochití, had Antonio Malacate, San Ildefonso had Francisco el Ollita and Nicolás Jonva. In Tesuque, the chieftain was Domingo Romero, Santa Fe had Antonio Bolsas and Cristóbal Yope led the village of San Lázaro. The chieftain Alonso Catiti led Santo Domingo, El Jaca was in Taos and Domingo Naranjo was the head of the village of Santa Clara.

These 12 chieftains used to follow the teachings of an ancient spiritual wise man who lived in the mountain caves north of the village of Taos. They used to refer to him as "Yo'he'yemo."

In the hundreds of times that Sister María de Ágreda had visited the New World, she had spoken to these tribes about the salvific power of the crucified Jesus. She would explain to them the necessity of being merciful not only to those among them but to their enemies as well. Bishop Manso was interested in knowing if the Indians had advanced in their great spiritual knowledge by their service to God alone or if they had learned it after the appearance of Sister María among them.

His confessor, Fr. Sebastian Marcillaone, had written to Don Francisco Manso y Zúñiga in 1622. He was the archbishop of Mexico at that time. Upon reading about Sister María's observations bearing on the different tribes, Archbishop Manso was convinced that in the near future, what she had written, would be useful in pacifying the uneasy relations between the Spaniards and the Indians.

In May of 1628, Archbishop Manso read Fr. Alonso de Benavides' reports and he appointed Fr. Estevan de Perea to take over his missionary work in New Mexico. Fr. Perea himself hand-carried his petition to New Mexico, when he traveled by caravan between 1628 and 1629. The caravan arrived at Isleta on June 3, 1629.

The Jumano Indians used to present themselves there at Isleta every year. They begged to be baptized by the 16 priests there. When they would ask them just how they had learned about the sacrament of baptism in their faith, they would answer that a young nun who was fair of face, dressed in blue and wearing a black habit on her head used to preach to them about it often. They could repeat the baptismal promises just as she had taught them to do. They used to revere her for her wisdom.

Larry Torres is a native Taoseño, longtime teacher, linguist and historian. The Spanish version of this chapter is on Page C4. Find previous chapters online in English and Spanish at taosnews.com.

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