15 Feb Bazan Brothers and Weaving in Nuevo Mexico
The Bazán Brothers and Weaving in Nuevo México
During research to update the “Bazán Family in the New World,” an article by Geraldine Cuneo, a great deal more information regarding Ignacio and Juan Bazán’s contribution to the weaving industry in Nuevo México came to light. Enough, in fact, to justify a separate post on the CFHS Website. The new sources were published over a number of years and, as may be expected, are sometimes a bit contradictory. However, it does not really matter in that the stories are close enough to give a good idea just what happened. The best source, found by Arthur S. Bazán, is from the 2005 book, “Wonders of the Weavers,” by Deborah C. Slaney, Curator of History at the Albuquerque Museum.
Let us start with why the Brothers went to the remote province of Nuevo México in the first place. As early as the late 1700’s, the governor of Nuevo México recognized that there was an opportunity to grow the promising, yet primitive weaving trade in the province, but the local weavers needed to be instructed in modern styles, techniques, and equipment. The product they were turning out was not of the same quality as that produced by the master weavers’ workshops in Mexico. The pieces, mostly blankets, from Nuevo México were primitive, course, and “showed little color and were made only for home use and barter with Pueblo and Navajo Indians.” (RME Mag) The work was not of a quality that could be exported and sold for cash in markets in Mexico.
The need for more expertise was obvious. Agreeing that there was an economic opportunity at hand, the governor reached out to the viceroy of New Spain and Mexico City for assistance. The Real Hacienda agreed and, in late 1803, began advertising “to contract with skilled weavers of good conduct, free of the vice of drunkenness, to bring them and their families to the province along with models of looms, weaving tools, and supplies.” (Slaney) The plan was for them to train young Spanish weavers in modern techniques.
The Real Hacienda settled on the Bazán Brothers, who were very accomplished in the craft of weaving. Perhaps they were born to the trade in that their hometown, Puebla, Mexico, was located in an area southeast of Mexico City known for weaving and production of fine cotton. Terms were agreed upon and a contract was signed on September the 3rd, 1805. Ignacio (1767-1841); his two sons, Francisco Javier and José Manuel; and his brother, Juan, were to translocate their lives and livelihoods to Santa Fe for a six-year period to revolutionize weaving in the hinterlands of Nuevo México far to the north. This was easier in that Ignacio was a widower, and Juan was not married.
The contract provided Ignacio with a horse with saddle, one shotgun, one pair of blunderbusses, and one sabre. Also, two horses, saddled, for his sons. Juan also had use of one horse with saddle, a pair of blunderbusses, and one sabre. A well-equipped guide was also part of the deal. Three mules were provided for transport of supplies for teaching. All the animals and their tack, as well as the weapons were to be surrendered to the governor on arrival in Santa Fe. (Contract)
The route from Mexico City to Zacatecas to Durango and then on up the Camino Real to Santa Fe was every bit of 800 miles, perhaps more. That was a long, dangerous journey in the early 19th Century. With stops to rest and recuperate it must have taken some time. We don’t know when they left, but by February 1807 the party had reached Pajarito, near Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico. Sometime during the month or so that the party was there, Ignacio proposed marriage to Doña Juana Maria Apolonia Gutierrez. She was the daughter of Lorenzo Gutierrez and Maria Candelaria Garcia de Noriega, who were “wealthy merchants and sheep owners…they could have been a source of wool” (Slaney) used in weaving. At any rate, the Gutierrez family was quite well-to-do, perhaps the richest man in Nuevo México. (R. B.)
The Brothers were in Santa Fe the next month and almost certainly presented themselves to Governor Chacón at the Governor’s Palace in the Plaza. At that time the adobe structure had been in use for about 200 years. Next time you’re in Santa Fe, drop by – it’s still there.
It seems most likely that the Brothers and the fourteen and ten- year old boys were based in Santa Fe proper. In August of 1807, the forty-year-old Ignacio and Juana were married near her hometown in the San Agustín de la Isleta church, which at the time was 200 years old. Presumably she then joined Ignacio, along with her servants, in Santa Fe. Slaney speculates that in addition to Ignacio and Juan, the young sons probably had knowledge to contribute to the training. Perhaps even Doña Juana and her servants may have participated at some level. (Slaney)
So, just what did they bring to weaving in the area. Since my understanding of the weaving craft is quite minimal, this discussion may be less than accurate or complete. But let’s give it a try. The Brothers brought technical advances with them. Educated guesses by Slaney are that they “probably taught the apprentices how to construct, assemble, and warp a horizontal two-harness loom, how to add trendles to make a four-harness loom for special looms for weaving cotton.” (Slaney) She also infers that they brought items to equip the workshops: “wool combs, spindles, loom shuttles, and other small parts and tools so they could begin teaching upon their arrival.” (Slaney)
They also brought new techniques and styles from the more sophisticated industry in Mexico. Puebla is near the Saltillo region, which had a quite developed weaving style. In fact, in his book, Sabino’s Map” Don J.Ulsner cites a reference referring to the Brothers as “a couple of weavers from the Saltillo tribe in Mexico.” (Ulsner) Well, the tribe part is incorrect. Slaney has an extensive list of designs and techniques the Brothers probably imparted to the students: “plain, twill, and diamond twill weaves…and the mathematical calculations to carry them out.” Other techniques included “striped blankets…tapestry joints…inserting wefts and weaving with more than one material.” They also taught how to use materials such as silk and cotton in addition to wool. The hope was that this would strengthen the cotton industry in the area. (Slaney)
The Brothers also brought color into the weaving products. An article in the Rocky Mountain Empire Magazine – a now defunct Sunday supplement of the Denver Post – also discusses this history and elaborates on their possible contribution to New Mexican weaving. The publishing is not known date; it was possibly written by Walter B. Taylor. (Genealogy Book)
“Until 1807 Chimayó blankets showed little color and were made only for home use and for barter with the Pueblo and Navajo Indians. Then a representative of the Spanish Royal Governor in Santa Fe became interested. He saw in the blanket weaving possibilities of economic development.
“Ignacio Ricardo Bazan, a weaver artist, was brought from Spain to develop the weaving industry and introduced design and color to Chimayó blankets. This he did with a zest and today the blankets of Chimayó catch all the colors of the rainbow although the predominant colors are red, white, and turquoise blue.
Bazan taught the weavers to dye their wool before it was spun into yarn. He introduced Brazilwood to make a rich mahogany brown dye and imported anil [from the indigo plant] to produce blue.
Other colors he produced from the plants of the surrounding country. The plentiful Tag Alder provided red, and Indian Bean made a light blue, and the Chine which covers vast expanses of the New Mexico desert made a brilliant yellow. Soon Chimayó blankets were a riot of color and trade articles as far south as Mexico City.”
Just where the Brothers actually did their teaching is not entirely clear. It seems most likely that a good deal of it was done in Santa Fe. However, legend (family and otherwise) has it that at least some of their work was done in the village of Chimayo, about 30 miles north of Santa Fe. Don J. Usner, in his book Sabino’s Map, corroborates this.
“Seeking to expand the sheep and wool industries in the north and thereby generate some economic activity, the Spanish government in 1807 contracted with the Bazan Brothers, accomplished Mexican weavers, to train northern New Mexico youth in their craft. A legend in Chimayó says the Bazan Brothers (referred to as ‘a couple of weavers from the Saltillo tribe in Mexico’) left Santa Fe ‘because of trouble’ and lived in Chimayó for a time. The story credits the Brothers with starting or revitalizing the weaving tradition, but there are no records of their coming here. It is unclear what the Bazan Brothers accomplished in New Mexico, although they claimed to have met their goals after only two years. They probably introduced new techniques and perhaps exposed the villages to ideas about how to organize for better production, with an eye toward developing export products. They may have had a direct or indirect role in the emergence of several weaving enterprises in Chimayó later in the century.”
The Brothers may have had a direct or indirect influence on Native American weaving also. Arthur S. Bazán of Albuquerque recently attended a lecture on Navajo weaving at the Petroglyph Visitor Center in Albuquerque. The lecturer was from Chinle, Arizona—the very heart of Navajo country. The speaker held the belief that the Bazán weavers (who were teaching Spanish weavers, not Indians) actually exerted an influence on the Navajo weavers themselves over time. (A.S.B.)
The Spanish weavers of Nuevo México did trade with Pueblo and Navajo Indians and may have influenced their designs with the Spanish product. Ulsner relates another instance where cross-pollination may have occurred. He writes that, after the Navajo were interned at Bosque Redondo by Kit Carson and the U.S. Army from1864 until 1868, “the Navajos took home with them some of the design styles they had seen on the blankets of Hispanic manufacture. Rearranged elements of these Río Grande blanket styles—serrated diamonds, center-dominant motifs, and enclosing borders—soon came to dominate Navajo weaving.” (Ulsner) Even though this was three generations after the Bazán Brothers it could be part of their influence on Navajo weaving.
The Brothers’ results must have been satisfactory to the Governor in Santa Fe and the Viceroy in Mexico City. In November 1808, about twenty months into the stipulated six-year contract, Ignacio sent samples of his students’ work to the Real Hacienda in Mexico City. More samples were requested in August, which were sent, along with a letter from Ignacio stating that the samples were made without his supervision, and there was nothing left to teach the Hispanic weavers. Based on that, the Brothers asked to be released from their obligation. Governor Manrique agreed, and the request was sent on to Mexico City. The Viceroy gave his consent in April, and on July 4, 1810, the Brothers Bazán were no longer employed by the government of New Spain. (Slaney)
It seems like this project was taken seriously by the Real Hacienda. When all was said and done, “9,215 pesos and six reals” were provided for all aspects of the enterprise. Out of this total, 18 reals per day went to Ignacio and 12 to Juan. Other expenses, such as travel and housing, were also provided for. (Contract) This amount would total almost 192,000 U.S. dollars in 2020.
Ignacio, his family, and Juan returned to Pajarito. Juan does not appear in any records after 1811, and nothing more is known about the two sons, Francisco and José. (Slaney) Family legend has it that they tired of the life in Nuevo México and returned to Mexico or, perhaps eventually, Texas. Two children were born to Ignacio and Juana Maria while the family was in Santa Fe: Joaquin Alejandro in 1808 (or 1807) and Ignacio Juana Paula was born in 1809. Maria de la Luz followed in 1822 and Juan de la Cruz around 1827. Ignacio died in 1841 at about age seventy-four. By 1846 the family was in Alameda near Albuquerque. Deborah Slaney speculates that Ignacio may have continued contributing to the weaving industry in Nuevo México until near his death in 1841. She further proposes the possibility that Joaquin Alejandro may have continued in the trade. However, Joaquin listed himself in census records as a farmer and at some point, he held a judgeship. She also suggests, perhaps even more likely, the younger son Juan de la Cruz could have continued in the weaving trade. There are no records to support this.
In summary, we can conclude that the Bazán Brothers’ contribution to the weaving arts in New Mexico—both Mexican and Navajo—were very real. It is also clear that Ignacio was very accomplished at his craft. In the contract with the government of New Spain, he is referred to as “Maestro” (master or teacher) and Juan was an “Oficial” (tradesman or officer); both are designated as “Artesanos” (artisans). As Slaney summarizes, “Clearly, the Bazán Brothers had an impact that exceeded the brief two years of their contract.” (Slaney)
Stephen B. Creaghe, February 13, 2020.
Bazán, Arthur S. – communications, 2019.
Bazán, Robert – communications, 2019.
Bazán Brothers Contact, Genealogy Book. 1997.
Genealogy Book, Helen Gordon Moore, 1997
Slaney, Deborah, Wonders of the Weavers, The Albuquerque Museum, 2005.
Usner, Don J., Sabino’s Map, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1995.