The Spanish at Ajacan

the Spanish established a military garrison at St. Augustine and a capital at St. Elena, before Franciscan monks attempted to establish a settlement on the Bahia de Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay) in 1570
the Spanish established a capital at St. Elena and a military garrison at St. Augustine, before Franciscan monks attempted to establish a settlement on the Bahia de Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay) in 1570
Source: Library of Congress, Americae sive qvartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio (Diego Gutierrez, 1562)

Spanish activity in Virginia in the 1560's, like its efforts to create settlements further south, was spurred by the international rivalry between separate nations on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Spanish officials took advantage of an unplanned visit to the Chesapeake Bay to expand their defensive perimeter further north.

In 1561, a Spanish ship was blown off course and sailed into what the Spanish named the Bahia de Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay). The captain convinced - or more likely, seized - two Native Americans in order to obtain exhibits for display back in Spain, and potentially future translators.

The captured Virginia natives were Paquiquino, the 17-year old son of the werowance at "Ajacan," and a companion. They were probably from the Kiskiack (Chiskiak) town on the York River.

John Smith mapped the location of Paquiquino's town, which is now on the grounds of the US Naval Weapons Station at Yorktown
John Smith mapped the location of Paquiquino's town, which is now on the grounds of the US Naval Weapons Station at Yorktown
Source: Library of Congress, Virginia (by John Smith, 1624)

The Spanish ship sailed back to Europe with its two captives, the first Virginians to visit the Old World. Thanks to the Spanish, Virginia natives explored Europe before the English explored Virginia. Exploration in the colonial era was a two-way discovery process between two societies.1

Paquiquino and his fellow captive were taken to Madrid, where they were exhibited to the Spanish royal family. Priests belonging to the Dominican order taught him the Spanish language and trained him in European culture. They shared the fundamentals of the Catholic faith, but he resisted religious conversion.

Displaying the two Native Americans to the royal family and key leaders helped to gain support for colonial investment. Exhibiting the two exotic men also gave Spain an opportunity to demonstrate to other countries that it was a leader in Europe, with uncontested capability for exploring the New World.

Four centuries later, the United States used its success in landing men on the moon to demonstrate its world leadership during the Cold War. When American astronauts returned from the moon in 1969, President Nixon sent slices of the moon around the world to highlight the American success. Paquiquino was a 1560's equivalent of a moon rock.

Paquiquino's "freshman year of college" in Spain lasted from September, 1561 to May, 1562, before he was sent back to the New World. A ship took him to Mexico for what was supposed to be a short stop. He and a group of Dominican priests were supposed to start a new settlement at the Bahia de Santa Maria, which Paquiquino had known as the Chesapeake Bay.

Paquiquino became ill once he reached Mexico. Reportedly thinking he was about to die, he adopted the Catholic faith. The planned short stop ended up being four years in Nexico City, where he recovered his health. Paquiquino took a new name, and was called Don Luis de Velasco.2

His requests to be taken home were declined, until Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arranged for it in 1566. Menéndez had the political authorization from King Philip II to settle Florida. To the Spanish, "Florida" extended north beyond the Bahia de Santa Maria.

In 1565, Menéndez had expelled the French from their fort at La Caroline (near modern Jacksonville) and started St. Augustine, which today is the oldest continuously-occupied town founded by Europeans in North America. A year later, he established his main base of Santa Elena at what today is Parris Island, South Carolina, and made plans to start another settlement further north at the Bahia de Santa Maria.

He hoped the northern base would find the entrance to the Strait of Anian, which the English called the Northwest Passage. The probability of finding a shortcut to the Spice Islands and China was low, but the rewards would be extraordinarily high.

More clearly, expansion to the north allowed the Spanish to assert greater control over the North American coastline. A base north of the 36th parallel of latitude might deter the French from starting yet another colony.

The 1566 Spanish expedition took Don Luis/Paquiquino to serve as an interpreter. Apparently his Native American companion had died, or was not selected for the trip.

The ship sent by Menéndez with Dominicans and Don Luis/Paquiquino sailed up the Atlantic Coast, but missed the entrance to the Bahia de Santa Maria. The captain found Chincoteague Bay, but September storms forced the ship to go to Spain. As a result, Don Luis/Paquiquino got a third trip across the Atlantic Ocean and a second exposure to life in Europe.

Back in Spain, the Dominicans were accused of conspiring with Don Luis/Paquiquino to avoid finding the Bahia de Santa Maria/Chesapeake Bay. Royal officials put the Jesuits in charge, and kept him in Seville. In 1570, he was finally brought to Havana. He was to be part of a new expedition to the Bahia de Santa Maria led by Father Juan Baptista de Seguera, the Jesuit leader in La Florida.

Paquiquino/Don Luis was carried from the Bahia de Santa Maria to Madrid and then to Mexico City (white line), sent to the Bahia de Santa Maria but forced by storms back to Spain (yellow line), and then shipped from Seville to Havana and finally home (red line)
Paquiquino/Don Luis was carried from the Bahia de Santa Maria to Madrid and then to Mexico City (white line), sent to the Bahia de Santa Maria but forced by storms back to Spain (yellow line), and then shipped from Seville to Havana and finally home (red line)
Source: Google Earth

That 1570 attempt to establish a Jesuit settlement was caught up in the rivalry between the Catholic church and Spanish colonial government officials. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the adelantado or governor of La Florida, wanted to add soldiers to the expedition. The Jesuits insisted on a journey without soldiers. They chose to rely upon their negotiating powers, their faith, and their connection with Paquiquino/Don Luis.

Though Menéndez was unable to get the Jesuits to add soldiers to their expedition, he still wanted a new northern base. He knew that the 1565 defeat of the French at La Caroline was not the end of that threat:3

Menéndez believed that this region was the northernmost habitable area south of Newfoundland, separated from it by a mountain range but connected to it by a large inlet known to the Spanish as the Bahia de Santa Maria, the modern Chesapeake Bay. The Bahia de Santa Maria, the Spanish believed, was the natural boundary of La Florida, and defense of the bay was imperative to prevent French intrusion from the north...

Spanish occupation and fortification of both the Bahia de Santa Maria and Santa Elena [were essential], in Menéndez's view, to keep them out of the hands of the French, who might use them as a base from which to attack the Mexican mines.

In September, 1570, the Spaniards sailed up what later would be called Powhatan's River. (It would be named after King James 35 years later.) Father Seguera and his small band of eight other Jesuitss landed at what today is the Kingsmill resort, or perhaps at College Creek about 5 miles downstream from what later would be called Jamestown.

Paququino/Don Luis led the group across the peninsula, to a river the English would later name after the Duke of York. There they discovered that the werowance of an Algonquian-speaking town was the younger brother of Paququino/Don Luis.4

the Spanish moved from their 1570 landing site (x) across the Peninsula to Kiskiack, perhaps to be close to the Native American religious center at Werowocomoco
the Spanish moved from their 1570 landing site (x) across the Peninsula to Kiskiack, perhaps to be close to the Native American religious center at Werowocomoco
Source: Library of Congress, Virginia / discovered and discribed by Captayn John Smith, 1606

The Spanish expected to rely upon their convert to negotiate with the Algonquian-speakig natives to obtain food. In all the time with Paquiquino/Don Luis, no missionary had learned the local language of the Algonquians. Native Americans were expected to become Catholic converts and supply the mission with food.

The Spanish had sailed up the largest tributary flowing into the bay; that was a logical decision. Father Juan Baptista de Seguera and his other Jesuits did not stay where they landed, however. They left their landing site, on what was later called the James River, and walked across the peninsula.

They carried everything they owned to what was later called the York River. The Jesuits settled at the Native American town of Kiskiack, the place thought to be where Paququino had been seized with a companion nine years earlier.

Why did the Spanish walk across the peninsula? The shorelines of both rivers offered the same hunting and gathering habitats. The water in each river was just as salty. Perhaps Paquiquino/Don Luis was looking for his home village, and realized after landing that he was on the wrong side of the peninsyla.

Another possibility is that the foreign missionaries wanted to locate themselves as close as possible to the spiritual center of the Native Americans.

For as much as 200-300 years before the Spaniards arrived, a site on the north bank of the York River (which would later become Powhatan's capital of Werowocomoco) had been special. If the Spanish missionaries intended to confront the pre-existing beliefs of the Algonquians living in Tidewater Virginia, then locating the new Jesuit settlement near the existing spiritual center made sense.

Choosing to live at Kiskiak put the missionaries lives at greater risk. "Alien immigrants" at that site created a greater threat to the existing Native American culture.

in 1570, Spanish missionaries located Ajacan settlement at Native American village of Kiskiack, close to Algonquian spiritual center at site Powhatan called Werowocomoco
in 1570, Spanish missionaries crossed the Peninsula from their initial landing site, to locate their Ajacan settlement at the Native American village of Kiskiack - close to the Algonquian spiritual center, at the site Powhatan called Werowocomoco
Map Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wetlands Mapper

Paquiquino/Don Luis had been thoroughly exposed to Spanish culture in Mexico, Spain, and Havana before being returned home to the Bahia de Santa Maria with the Jesuits. It is unknown how much he considered Ajacan to be "home." An Algonquian who had spent much of his adolescence, and all of his adult life in Spanish culture, may not have had a strong desire to return to his birthplace.

On the other hand, a return to his native people may have been the driving force in his adult life. One clue: despite all those years in Spain and Mexico, Don Luis/Paquiquino convinced the Spanish to carry him back to the Bahia de Santa Maria twice. If he had no desire to return to Ajacan, he might have avoided those trips.

We do not know if Don Luis/Paquiquino preferred to use the term Bahia de Santa Maria or Chesapeake, which Algonquian speakers used for "great shellfish bay"). We do know that in 1570, no one called any place in the New World "Virginia." Don Luis/Paquiquino, the Spanish, and the Algonquian-speaking residents would not have named any place in the New World after a supposedly-virgin English queen. Elizabeth become ruler of England in 1558 when her half-sister Queen Mary died, but it would be about 25 years before her name was applied to a colony there.

the Spanish term for Chesapeake Bay was Bahia de Santa Maria
the Spanish term for Chesapeake Bay was Bahia de Santa Maria
Source: Library of Congress, Map of America (by Diego Ribero, 1529)

The Jesuits gambled that Don Luis/Paquiquino would follow the Spanish way of life after being reintroduced to his village of Ajacan. Instead, Paquiquino quickly demonstrated that his personal choice was to return to his tribal lifestyle. He moved to another town and took several wives, in accord with his status in Algonquian society and in clear contrast to his Catholic teachings. Obviously nine years in Spain and Mexico had not erased his first 17 years of Native American acculturation.

1570 was a time of drought, and the capacity of the Native Americans to provide free food or supplies was limited. Paquiquino and his tribe soon declined to support the Spanish missionaries with free food, or to provide free labor.

By December, the Spanish had traded away their tools for food. In February, 1571, after Father Seguera appealed to "Don Luis" for aid, Paquiquino and others followed Father Seguera back to his settlement and killed all the Spanish adults. Only the young boy serving as a novice, Alonso de los Olmos, was left alive and incorporated into the Native American community.

Paquiquino (Don Luis) and his fellow Native Americans killed Father Seguera and all but one of the other Jesuits in 1571, ending Spain's only attempt to plant a settlement in Virginia
Paquiquino (Don Luis) and his fellow Native Americans killed Father Seguera and all but one of the other Jesuits in 1571, ending Spain's only attempt to plant a settlement in Virginia
Source: Mathias Tanner, Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans (p.450, published 1675)

In 1571, a Spanish ship sailed to the Bahia de Santa Maria and discovered the settlement had been destroyed. In 1572 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sent another ship to "rescue" the boy, who was returned to Spain.

Nearly 40 natives were killed, to punish Paquiquino and his people. To demonstrate Spanish power in case they chose to initiate another settlement, seven captives were hung from the ship's rigging in full view of the Native Americans on the shoreline. The Spanish learned one key lesson at Ajacan, and future attempts at settlement were designed to be self-sufficient in food and translators.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés used the technology of the Spanish warship to intimidate and seize Native Americans, in clear contrast to the Jesuit approach at Ajacan
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés used the technology of the Spanish warship to intimidate and seize Native Americans, in clear contrast to the Jesuit approach at Ajacan
Source: Wikipedia, Victoria

As a result of the Spanish visits to the Chesapeake Bay in the 1500's, the Native Virginians gained a distinctive understanding of European behavior. Seeing their captured men hung from the ship's masts in 1572 must have left a lingering memory.

Awareness of the Spanish technology and willingness to use it, as well as the very different Jesuit approach used by Father Juan Baptista de Seguera, must have affected the way Powhatan dealt with the English who arrived in 1607.

One especially-intriguing possibility is that the Native American memory of Europeans in Tidewater Virginia was was first-hand in 1607. It is possible that the war chief under Powhatan and his successor, Opechancanough, was the Paquiquino seized by the Spanish as a young man in 1561. The unusual political sophistication of Powhatan's paramount confederacy may reflect a unique understanding of European culture, provided by the one Virginian who had spent nine years living among the Spanish.5

If Opechancanough was Paquiquino/Don Luis, he would have been nearly 100 years old before the Engish murdered him in retaliation for leading a major uprising in 1644. More likely, Paquiquino/Don Luis died in the gap between the departure of the Spanish in 1572 and the arrival of the English in 1607. The memory of the Ajacan settlement and the Spanish attack in 1572, rare events in Tidewater Virginia, still would have affected the Native American reaction to the settlement at Jamestown.

The Spanish did not attempt to settle the Bahia de Santa Maria after Ajacan's failure. They focused military resources on the continuing wars on the European continent against France, and the emerging conflict with England.

The English had sat on the sidelines for the first 80 years of the 16th Century, as the French and Spanish fought multiple times on the European continent. When the French contested with the Spanish for control of North America in the 1560's, the English avoided getting entangled.

Since Henry VIII married the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon in 1509, the English had been allies with the Spanish. They both chose to fight the French in Europe, rather than fight each other. Henry and Catherine's daughter, Mary, renewed the political connections between England and Spain when she married Philip, a Spanish prince.

After Henry VIII died, Mary became England's first woman ruler. Like the Spanish ruling family, she was a Catholic. Today Queen Mary is known as "Boody Mary," for her persecution of Protestants.

When Queen Mary died in 1558, her half-sister Elizabeth replaced her. Queen Elizabeth, dauhter of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn, was a Protestant. She avoided any marriage to avoid antagonizing either Spain or France, earning the reputation as the "Virginia Queen," but was clearly not an ally of Spain.

The timing of English colonization in North America, starting in the 1580's, was based on shifting international and religious rivalries in Europe. The first English efforts to create settlements and forts in North America were delayed until Protestants took full control of England under Queen Elizabeth and the English/Spanish alliance fell apart.

Sir Francis Drake attacked and captured Saint Augustine in 1586, before stopping at Roanoke Island and bringing English settlers at that colony back to England. In 1587, the Spanish contracted their defenses and abandoned all fortifications on the coastline north of Saint Augustine. The Spanish then concentrated their military resources in Florida to protect the sea traffic through the Caribbean, leaving South Carolina and Georgia open to future English colonies.

the Bahia de Santa Maria was on the periphery of Spain's profitable settlements in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
the Bahia de Santa Maria was on the periphery of Spain's profitable settlements in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
Source: Google Earth

Spanish officials tracked English activities in North America through spies in England, and perhaps at Jamestown itself. England's failure to colonize the Outer Banks in the 1580's was no secret, nor was England's continued interest in creating a base in the Western Hemisphere after defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The Treaty of London in 1604 opened the way for English colonies, at least as the English interpreted it. The treaty was not crystal clear, and instructions to the Jamestown colonists warned that an attack by the Spanish on the new colony was to be expected.

The English failed again at Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine in 1607-08, but Jamestown hung on. The English colonists briefly abandoned Jamestown in 1610, loading everyone onto ships and sailing down the James River towards the Chesapeake Bay before running into the supply expedition led by Lord De La Warr. The Virginia Company then expanded to settle Bermuda, creating a new threat to the Spanish treasure ships sailing from Havana to Seville.

The Spanish remembered that their failure to block England from creating settlements on the Atlantic Ocean coastline led to their loss of most of "Florida."

In the 1740's, Russian sea captains began hunting fur seals and sea otters in the Aleutian Islands, then moved south along the Alaskan shoreline. Spain was not passive as it had been when England started t do the same on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Instead, after 1768 Spain created a string of 21 setttlements in Alta California, from San Diego north to San Francisco Bay.

Spain invested little public money in those settlements. Franciscan missionaries, led by Father Junípero Serra, raised the funds and organized the labor to build churches and other public buildings. The church created communities that attracted some of the 300,000 Native Americans who lived in California.

The missionaries were responsible for converting those Native Americans so they adopted Spanish culture and the Catholic religion. Both religious and political officials shared the expectation that the Native American converts would support Spain in any conflict with Russian or European rivals.

Spanish military officials who traveled north into California, led initially by Don Gaspar de Portola, established only four presidios. Those fortifications housed soldiers and cannon to block enemy ships from entering key harbors at San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. The presidios and Spanish-speaking settlements were effective at keeping the English, Russians, and Americans out of California until 1846, long after Spain had already lost control of its Mexico colony after a revolution in 1822.6

Links

References

1. Sturtevant, William C., Spanish-Indian Relations in Southeastern North America, Duke University Press, 1962, p.55
2. Wolfe, Brendan, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua (last checked September 30, 2016)
3. Charlotte M. Gradie, "Spanish Jesuits in Virginia: The Mission That Failed," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 96, No. 2 (April 1988), p.133, p.135, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4249006; Wolfe, Brendan, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua (last checked September 30, 2016)
4. Clifford M. Lewis, Albert J. Loomie, The Spanish Jesuit Mission in Virginia, 1570-1572, Virginia Historical Society, 1953, p.viii, http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001263567 (last checked July 1, 2014)
5. Brendan Wolfe, "Don Luís de Velasco/Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, April 18, 2016 (last checked October 1, 2016)
6. "California Missions Timeline," California Missions Research Center, http://www.missionscalifornia.com/california-missions-timeline.html, "The California Presidios," California Missions Research Center, (last checked September 12, 2015)


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