Life in the Old West

True stories, tall tales, memorabilia of the American West

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One of great captains in the Old West was Spaniard Juan Bautista de Anza

One of the greatest generals who ever walked the Old West may very well have been a Spaniard.

New Mexico’s Governor Juan Bautista de Anza was not only brave in battles during New Spain’s Indian wars, but also brokered a peace in New Mexico and Texas that lasted for a period of two decades. During this period of peaceful coexistence, Spaniards, Mexicans, Anglos, Comanches, Apaches, and many other groups intermingled freely, trading and prospering together.

And yet, you’ve probably never heard of de Anza, have you?

The story is long and complex. You can find some of the details in Wikipedia under the entry for Juan Bautista de Anza. You’ll discover that he was an explorer as well as a fierce warrior. He left a legacy of exploration and discovery from California to Colorado, as well as brokering the peace and ruling as governor of New Mexico from 1777-1787.

One scholar of the American Southwest and the Spanish empire of New Spain, Marc Simmons, said this about de Anza’s peace treaty:

“The peace established in 1785-1786 with both the Eastern [Texas] and Western [New Mexico] Comanches relieved the settled frontier of serious attacks from this tribe for almost a generation and was one of the few notable achievements registered by Spain in her dealings with the Indians of the northern frontier during the eighteenth century.”

So when you think of captains, generals, and other warriors of the Old West, don’t forget to put Juan Bautista de Anza among the ranks of the best.

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