It’s August 3, 1837, and rebellion has broken out in northern New Mexico. By the end of the week, Governor Albino Pérez and key members of his administration will be dead, and a governor with indigenous ancestry will be installed in Santa Fe.
Trouble’s been brewing for over a year, fed by new laws restricting the right to vote, the threat of taxes, and a governor who’s quicker to borrow money than distribute it. On top of that, he’s jailed the Santa Cruz de la Cañada alcalde for making a decision he didn’t like. The locals free the mayor and go to war, campesinos and Pueblo warriors against the ricos.
But the rich aren’t about to give up their privileges so easily. More people will die before the violence ends.
A deeply-researched biographical novel with implications for today, There Will be Consequences explores the events before, during, and after August 1837 through the eyes of people who were there. Twelve linked stories propel the narrative forward from the perspective of individuals as diverse as Albino Pérez, rebel governor José Angel Gonzales, Santa Fe gambler Gertrudes “Doña Tules” Barceló, Taos priest Antonio José Martinez, and that most wily of New Mexico’s politicians, Manuel Armijo.
Author Information: The history of the American West is in Loretta Miles Tollefson’s blood. Her grandfather was born in Oklahoma Territory and spent his childhood moving west. His family ended up on a farm in the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula. Later, he cleared the forested land that would became the farm where Loretta was raised. After he died, she inherited a collection of first-hand accounts of the 19th century Pacific Northwest.
When Loretta moved to New Mexico as an adult, those reminiscences and her love of history went with her. In the Southwest, her interest expanded to include the many small towns, pueblos, and land grants she encountered during her 20-plus years as a public servant. Wherever she went in New Mexico, she was exposed to its tri-cultural (Native, Hispanic, and Anglo) experience and saw how much its past influenced the present.
After she retired, Loretta began to explore New Mexico’s history more deeply, honing the research skills she’d developed while obtaining two Masters of Arts degrees. The result is her Old New Mexico fiction—deeply researched, firmly and accurately set in the past, and brimming with historical characters. She blogs about her research and other aspects of Old New Mexico at lorettamilestollefson.com.
Dec. 1836–March 1837: A Grave Offense
(The Montoya Family)
When Dolores enters the room, Antonio Abad is still pacing back and forth in front of the adobe fireplace in the corner and waving Governor Pérez’s letter in the air. His brother Desiderio sits in the oak armchair puffing his ridiculous pipe.
Dolores sniffs to get their attention, but they’re engrossed in their conversation. She shoves the door closed with her hip and lugs her armload of shaggy churro fleece across the room to the wood-plank table.
“The man seems to think we’re all illiterate peones,” her husband says for the twentieth time in the past week. His booted foot scrapes the edge of the hearth. Dolores scowls at him. There’s already a scuff on the plastered wall beside it.
“But how can we refuse him?” Desiderio asks. He runs his fingers through his curly black shoulder-length hair. “Though I’m sure you’re right, that it’s a loan we’ll never see repaid.” He shrugs. “En el mejor paño cae la mancha.”
Antonio Abad raises an eyebrow. “The stain falls on the best cloth?”
Desiderio taps his pipe on the arm of the chair. He’s only twenty and thinks smoking it makes him look more mature. “I’m sure we aren’t the only ricos who’ve received a letter demanding funds.” He shrugs again. “We have more money than most. We have to pay more than most.”
“Then he should say so instead of asking for a loan!”
Dolores’s lips thin. What an idiot. She looks away before she says something she’ll regret and spreads the fleece out on the table. It’s thick and relatively clean. It should bring a good price. She runs her fingers through it, letting the lanolin soothe her hand.
But it can’t soothe her heart or her irritation when her husband starts in again. “And Pérez doesn’t even have the courtesy to write himself!” he says. “The letter is from his aide, not the governor.” He turns the missive toward the firelight and glances down at it. “Requesting the pleasure of a small loan from Don Antonio Abad Montoya and his illustrious brother Desiderio,” he reads aloud. His handsome mouth twists in disgust. “At least he deigned to call me ‘Don,’ though I’d rather have some kind of guarantee that we’ll be repaid.”
He turns and starts pacing again. “It’s a damn tax, that’s what it is! And in addition to the new sales tax that’s coming!” He scowls at Desiderio. “Remember what I said in April, when Francisco Sarracino was replaced as treasurer? By Manuel Armijo, of all people? I knew we’d be asked for more money!”
Dolores raises her head. She’s said it before, but he clearly needs to hear it again. “Armijo’s only the interim treasurer until the charges against Sarracino are proven to be the falsehood they are. Besides, you have no evidence that Armijo is taking funds that don’t belong to him. This is simply a loan, and it’s for a good cause. If the presidio troops and local militiamen don’t go out every year to remind the Navajo who’s in charge in Nuevo México, they’ll continue their raids until none of us have anything left.”
Antonio Abad scowls at her. “We’re safe enough here in the valley of the río del Santa Cruz.”
“We won’t be if the Navajo aren’t pushed back a little.”
His scowl deepens. “It’s Pérez’s own fault that he has no money to pay the troops. He’s short on funds because he’s been spending on other things. Remember that ridiculous independence day celebration in Santa Fe last year?” He waves the letter in the air, emphasizing his words. “Twenty-one gun salutes. Three days of parades and dances, along with a bullfight in the middle of the plaza! It must have cost a fortune! Why couldn’t he just give a speech?”
Desiderio takes his pipe out of his mouth. “A celebration on the Santa Fe plaza is safer than going out against los indios bárbaros.” He uses his free hand to push his hair away from his face. “Pérez may be a colonel from Vera Cruz, but he’d never fought the Navajo before he arrived here last year.”
His brother nods abstractly and glances at the letter again. “Everyone who’s received one of these should band together and refuse to pay.”
This is new. Something quivers in Dolores’s chest. “You can’t refuse.”
He glares at her. “I’m a free man with lands and animals. I can do as I like with what is mine!”
Desiderio’s chin lifts. “As can I.”
She gives him a withering look and faces him, her hands on her hips. “And what then? You’ll be arrested!”
He waves an impatient hand. “You don’t understand.” He turns to Desiderio. “If we all stand firm, nothing will happen. Pérez can’t throw every propertied man in Nuevo México in jail.” Then he grins. “Besides, the local officials will be on our side, not his. It’s useful to have relatives in the right places and a governor unfamiliar with our customs. Our good alcalde won’t be able to find me or Desiderio, and Pé will never realize he isn’t actually looking.”
Dolores’s lips tighten. “Antonio Abad Montoya, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
He swings toward her, his dark brown eyes mere slits in his handsome face. “You watch your tongue, woman.”
She glares back at him. “You may be the oldest of your family and therefore its head because your parents have died, but that doesn’t make you the holder of all knowledge.”
The door opens just then. Seven-year-old Ygnacia slips in. She pauses on the threshold and looks from one parent to the other with apprehensive hazel-green eyes.
“Come inside,” her mother says impatiently. “We’re only talking.”
The girl’s forehead creases with anxiety, but she obeys. She moves to the far corner of the room and drops onto a low stool, where she fiddles with the tendrils that have escaped her black braids and watches the adults.
Dolores turns back to her husband. She jerks her head sideways toward Ygnacia. “She’s the reason you should send Pérez the money. If you won’t think of the consequences to yourself or me, think of her. What kind of life will she have when her father is known throughout Nuevo México as a man who doesn’t support the authorities? Or when you’ve been exiled for your foolishness?”
He turns away from her. “No one’s going to be exiled.” He looks at his brother. “We are free men in a nation of free men. We have constitutional guarantees!”
Desiderio stirs uneasily. He fingers his pipe. “We did have guarantees. But remember, the Congress in la Ciudad de México is still modifying the national constitution. The plan is to give the governor more power than the men who came before him. Which I expect he will enjoy. After all, he disbanded the Santa Cruz de la Cañada Council simply because the members were related to each other.”
“I don’t believe he had the right to do that, either,” Antonio Abad snaps. “Or good reason! What fool thinks a group of people with common ancestors will agree on every issue? The man takes too much on himself!”
“He was enforcing the new law,” Dolores says.
He begins pacing again, slapping the letter against his leg. “Or so he says. Have you read this law that gives him such authority? I haven’t! I’ve never seen a copy of it! Is what we’ve been told about events in Mexico City even true? We have no way of knowing! This talk of reducing the number of councils, limiting who can vote, and all the rest of it. How much can we believe?” He waves the letter in the air. “Or is it all simply a ploy to wring more money from us? Pérez should be extracting funds from rich mine owners like that Sonoran José Francisco Ortiz, not us!”
Dolores presses her lips together and turns back to the table and her fleece. There’s no point in continuing the discussion. He won’t listen. Maybe her brother Juan can talk some sense into him. Or Catarina, who’s the oldest of Antonio Abad’s two sisters and married to Juan. They’ll be here tomorrow to help with the annual hog slaughter the day after. Her brothers sometimes listen to her.
Dolores turns to Ygnacia, who’s watching her father with wide eyes. “Come, child. While your father complains about something he can’t control, we have work to do to prepare for your aunt and uncle’s arrival.” She can only hope her brother can talk some sense into the man.
However, when Juan and Catarina arrive the next day, they also carry a letter from the governor, and Juan’s almost as aggravated about the demand for a loan as Antonio Abad is. His brother has brought a guest, a distant Montoya cousin named Pablo who’s from Taos. He and others there have also received letters. The following day, as more people arrive for the matanza and subsequent feast, it becomes clear that every propertied family in the region has been tapped for funds. And the men are universally angry about it.
Which makes Dolores even more uneasy and irritable. “These stupid men, with their talk and their plans,” she mutters to her sister-in-law. “As if keeping their families fed and clothed isn’t enough to occupy them. They should just pay the loans!”
But none of the men see it that way. By the time the butchering is over, the feasting done, the pork fat rendered, and the remaining meat distributed according to need and participation, all the men present are determined to ignore Governor Pérez’s demands.
“No good will come of it,” Dolores says grimly the next afternoon as the wagon carrying Juan and Catarina rumbles out of the adobe-walled yard, Pablo riding his horse beside them.
Antonio Abad closes the big gate and drops the wooden bar into place. “It’s time those newcomers in Santa Fe remember that we of the people are the true basis of power.”
She shakes her head. “We of the people? We don’t live in the United States of America, we live in México.”
“Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Where all men are equal. We decided that in 1824, remember?”
She snorts impatiently and turns toward the house. “That may be so, but saying it won’t keep the soldiers from coming for you.”
“There is strength in numbers,” he says as he follows her inside.
She doesn’t answer. It will do no good. But she shivers a little as she moves to the fire to check the bubbling stew.
~ ~ ~ ~
And then, in spite of her fears, nothing happens. Dolores goes about her daily tasks and completes her preparations for winter. The corn is dried and stored, the chiles threaded onto heavy string and hung from the rafters, the rosehips collected and tucked away into their clay pot.
Activity like this always makes her feel better. She’s smiling with contentment as she carries a fleece in from the storeroom one chilly morning. After she’s finished cleaning this one, she’ll have only two more to do and can begin combing and spinning.
As she enters the sala, there’s a loud knock on the outer door. Ygnacia, beside the hearth, drops her cornhusk doll onto a chair. “I’ll answer it!”
Dolores’s smile deepens as she watches the little girl cross the room. She’s getting so big. So grown-up. Time passes so quickly.
Then the door swings open and time stands still. José Esquibel, the local alcalde, is poised on the threshold, two soldiers behind him. The magistrate’s lips smile at her over Ygnacia’s head, but his eyes are anxious.
“¡Entre por favor!” the child says, dropping him a curtsy.
His gaze drops to her face and he nods absently, then turns back to Dolores.
She has to swallow hard before she can speak. Even then, her invitation to enter is hesitant, unlike her usual demeanor.
The alcalde moves into the room. The two soldiers follow. Then a tall broad-shouldered man ducks through the door. It’s Donaciano Vigil, dressed in his presidio sergeant uniform, his long oval face slightly paler than usual.
“Cousin!” Dolores says. “Buenos días.” She turns to the others. “Please, have a seat. Would you like something to eat? To drink?” Perhaps it’s only a social visit. If she treats them as guests, surely nothing bad can happen. She forces her lips into a mischievous smile. “Or something stronger, perhaps?”
The magistrate glances at the soldiers. “Not today.”
“In fact, we need to speak to your husband,” Donaciano says gravely. He takes off his flat-brimmed black hat and studies it for a long moment before he looks up at her and pushes his wavy black hair from his brow. “I’m afraid we’re here on official business.”
Dolores swallows past the dry spot in her throat and turns to Ygnacia. “Go find your father.”
The child’s eyes are large in her small face. She looks at her mother, then each of the men, and crosses quietly to the door.
Dolores turns to the alcalde and gestures toward the massive oak chair beside the fire. She moves to it, collects Ygnacia’s doll, and says, “Please, seat yourself,” a little too heartily.
Then she turns away and sinks onto the banco, the seat built into the adobe wall beside the fireplace. She focuses on her cousin. “Primo, how is your family? Your mother is well? And your wife and the little ones?”
His tone is polite as he answers her, but she’s not sure what he says. There’s a thrumming sound in her ears and a sour feeling in her stomach.
Then Antonio Abad comes through the door, Ygnacia behind him.
“Welcome, Alcalde Esquibel,” he says formally.
“Buenos días, Don Antonio Abad,” the magistrate says politely. Then his face contracts. He glances at the sergeant. “I’m afraid we have a slight problem.”
Vigil nods, his eyes on Antonio Abad’s face. “I have been directed by His Excellency the Governor to take you into custody.” There’s no apology in his voice, but neither is there pleasure. As he speaks, the two soldiers step forward. He gives them a warning glance and they stop where they are.
“And you had to bring soldiers with you?” Antonio Abad asks. “Were you afraid I might knock you down and run away?” He spreads his hands. “Do you not know that I am a God-fearing man?”
Esquibel chuckles nervously.
He swings toward the alcalde with a scowl, then refocuses on the sergeant. “Did the governor truly think soldiers were necessary? Does he know so little of me that he believes me capable of disobeying a directive from my alcalde?” His chin lifts. “I am a law-abiding citizen.”
“A citizen who refused to pay the loan requested of him and who encouraged his neighbors to do likewise,” Vigil observes mildly.
“Ah, so that is the charge, is it?” Antonio Abad turns to the alcalde. “And for that I am to be arrested?”
Esquibel nods unhappily.
“Well then, let us be on our way.” He looks at the banco. His face doesn’t soften at the look of fear in Dolores’s eyes, the way her fingers clutch Ygnacia’s doll. “Fetch me a blanket and a parcel of food.”
Any other time, she would have dropped the toy, jumped to her feet, and told him what to do with his orders. But she’s too frightened to quarrel with him just now. She places the doll gently on the banco, rises, and goes into the storeroom for bedding and some white cotton fabric in which to place the food.
By the time she’s returned, she’s breathing again. And she’s had time to become angry. At the alcalde, at her cousin, at her husband. She pushes the shaggy fleece aside, drops the rolled-up wool blanket onto the table, then flings the cloth down beside it. She brushes past the men to the cupboard for bread and dried meat, returns to the table, slaps the food into the middle of the cloth, and shoves its corners into two rough knots.
“You and your mouth,” she says as she thrusts the resulting bundle into Antonio Abad’s hands.
He scowls at her. “I have a right to speak my mind.”
“You have a responsibility toward me and your child!”
Alcalde Esquibel steps forward. He puts a hand on her arm. “It is a small thing, Doña Dolores. I’m sure it will be resolved quickly.”
One of the soldiers snorts. She scowls at him and he glances at the sergeant.
Donaciano frowns at him and looks at Antonio Abad, then Dolores. “The governor calls it a grave offense,” he says reluctantly.
Her husband’s jaw tightens. “The man’s an—”
“Don’t say it!” she shouts. She glares at him, her hands on her hips. “Whatever you think, don’t say it!”