A new perspective on New Mexican history

From The Westerner Blog

It’s one of the most complicated stories to come from Santa Fe’s 400-year-old Palace of the Governors. Don Pedro Villasur, commander-in-chief of the Spanish forces of the then-Spanish colony of New Mexico in 1720, was chosen to lead an expedition northeast into what is now Nebraska.

Assigned by government officials in Mexico City, Villasur was supposed to assess the perceived threat of French colonists moving westward into areas claimed by Spain. The expedition ended in disaster, when the presidio soldiers and those guiding them were surrounded and attacked by the Pawnee at dawn, leaving a majority of the troops dead, including Villasur.

In total, more than 30 men were estimated to have been killed, at least half of the soldiers living in Santa Fe at the time.

The story is depicted in the New Mexico History Museum’s famous Segesser Hides paintings, centuries-old images depicting early colonial life that are believed to tell one version of the story – the “official” version retold by the government in Santa Fe.

But centuries later, there is much debate about what exactly happened at the battle, who attacked the troops and who was to blame for the overwhelming defeat.

While the Palace undergoes its current renovations, the Hides have been taken down and will be traveling to Albuquerque for the ongoing exhibit “A Past Rediscovered: Highlights from the Palace of the Governors” later this year. Before they move back to their new permanent home in a new gallery at the History Museum behind the Palace next year, the space will be occupied by a modern retelling of Villasur’s demise, one that uses a graphic novel format to chronicle multiple perspectives of the highly contested expedition…MORE