Because of his considerable success in restoring Spanish hegemony in New Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, Don Diego de Vargas, no doubt, expected to be re-appointed governor when his term expired in 1696.
But because of a bureaucratic mix-up, it did not happen. Instead, a new governor, Pedro Rodríguez Cubero, was appointed and arrived in 1697.
This was more than a minor matter for de Vargas, and it no doubt rankled de Vargas that Cubero, according to historian John Kessell, was considered “low born.”
Historian R.E. Twitchell wrote, “…De Vargas had enjoyed the confidence of the viceroy, and in the administration of the province, he had seen fit, in many ways, to ignore the minor civil and military officials.”
In fact, De Vargas reportedly said the Santa Fe cabildo (council) was made up of “…people of very low class, and menial offices — tailors, a shoemaker and a lackey — poor and base people.” For the cabildo, it was payback time, and the arrival of Cubero opened the door for revenge.
Based on allegations made by local officials, Cubero charged de Vargas with a plethora of offenses, which included “graft, favoritism, misgovernment and immorality.” He even blamed de Vargas for the famine of 1695-96, and imprisoned him for three years, fined him 4,000 pesos and confiscated all of his property.
Officials in Mexico City finally heard of the way de Vargas had been treated and ordered his release. De Vargas returned to Mexico in 1700 and immediately demanded an investigation.
It took until 1703, but he was exonerated of all the charges and reappointed to the governorship of New Mexico.
The news was not well received by the minions in Santa Fe. The cabildo petitioned the king to prevent de Vargas’ return but instead of complying with the request, the king ordered another investigation.
Members of that group recognized the position in which they had placed themselves, and quickly dropped all accusations against de Vargas.
Cubero, for his part, fled Santa Fe before de Vargas returned in early 1703 by claiming he was needed on an Indian-fighting campaign in what is now western New Mexico. He never returned to Santa Fe.
It seems probable that the town of Cubero in Cibola County was named for him.
But Don Diego’s luck had just about run out. In early 1704 he led a troop of soldiers against the Apache in the Sandia and Manzano mountains southeast of the town of Bernalillo.
An unnamed, and perhaps unknown, disease first attacked a few of his soldiers, and then the governor himself. His men returned him to Bernalillo, specifically to the residence of Fernando de Chavez, where, after writing his will, he died.
His body was returned to Santa Fe, where he was buried under the altar of the parish church.
Don Bullis’s latest book,
“New Mexico Historical Chronology,”
is available from
(The book was awarded five stars by Midwest Book Reviews.)