In 1540, Tiguex (pronounced “Tee-wesh”) Province amounted to a dozen pueblos along the Rio Grande in between what is now Albuquerque and Bernalillo.
The village of Ghufoor — located in what is now northeast Rio Rancho — became the focal point that year when Spaniards under the command of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado set upon the Pueblo Indian people in a bloody war.
The winter of 1540-41 was particularly cold, and for housing purposes, the Spaniards stated their intention to occupy the entire village.
While the Pueblo people had initially been generous in providing the Spaniards with supplies, they were unwilling to surrender an entire village.
In the brief struggle that followed, the Spaniards prevailed and Coronado established his headquarters there.
He also demanded that the Pueblo people all over Tiguex Province surrender food and a large number of blankets for use by Spanish soldiers.
The Pueblo people retaliated against the Spanish by slaughtering 40-60 of their horses and mules with bows and arrows.
That marked the beginning of the Tiguex War, in the initial stages of which about 100 Pueblo men were killed.
The atrocity was meant to intimidate the Pueblo people, but instead they were strengthened in their resolve to resist. They established a stronghold called Moho.
The Spaniards discovered that they could not dislodge the Pueblo people by frontal attack, so they laid siege to the fortified village.
After 80 days, and out of water, the Pueblo people made an unsuccessful attempt to escape.
Some sources indicate that as many as 200 Indian men were killed at Moho.
In spite of the set-back, the Pueblo people continued to resist the Spaniards by waging a guerrilla war that was so successful that people from other pueblos joined the effort.
One historian suggested that continuing resistance on the part of the Pueblo people contributed to Coronado’s decision to return to Mexico in the spring of 1542.
Little known, the Tiguex War is considered by many to be the first struggle between European military might and the native people of what is now the United States.
(There had been earlier battles between the Spanish and the Indians in Mexico.)
After his return to Mexico, Coronado was arrested and tried for the atrocities committed during the Tiguex War.
According to one source, he was acquitted of all charges by “friends” in Mexico City.
(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 and ’19 Rio Rancho Observer Readers’ Choice contests. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui” is translated as “They Passed by Here.”)