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Narratives and Handbook Pertaining to 18th Century New Mexico Presidios

Identifier: MSS-658-BC

Scope and Content

The narratives in this collection are copies of diaries kept by Spanish explorers in the 1700s, as they traveled through what is now New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, and parts of northern Mexico. The original documents are housed in Madrid, Spain, in the Biblioteca Central Militar of the Servicio Histórico Militar.

The narratives include descriptions of the ecological environment, the conditions of roads, the ethnic groups encountered, political relations between Spaniards and Native American groups, and the status of the provinces and presidios along the way. Danger posed to Spanish settlers by the Apaches, Comanches, Hopi, and Utes is discussed in the narrative by Nicolás de Lafora. The "Expedición de Rivera" details two expeditions undertaken by Juan María Antonio Rivera in search of silver. He details environmental conditions along the route now known as the Old Spanish Trail, and includes population statistics for specific New Mexico pueblos. The "Expedición General Urrutia," by Mariano Alonso Baquer provides an account of the expedition of the Marquís de Rubí into New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, addressing various operational aspects of the presidios. "Viaje a los presidios Internos de la América septentrional" written by Juan María Antonia Rivera provides detailed descriptions of peoples and places in what is now the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The collection also contains four maps depicting the territories occupied by assorted Native American groups and Spaniards. All materials are in Spanish.


  • 1765-1990 (bulk 1765-1795)


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Historical Information

To govern the territories of New Spain, Spain established the provincias internas -- political jurisdictions under military government in which military leadership was equal in power to the Viceroy of New Spain. Spain's rule over these provinces, however, was threatened by Native American tribes -- in particular, the Apaches -- whose skill in warfare surpassed the Spaniards'. The acquisition of horses and firearms by Native American tribes increased the threat they posed to Spanish domination. Because New Spain covered such a vast area, Spain was unable to send adequate numbers of military troops, and instead, established numerous military garrisons or presidios throughout this territory.

To measure the efficacy of these presidios and to determine if they were located in the most strategic spots, the Marquís de Rubí (the Marquis of Rubí), accompanied by Nicolás de Lafora (also known as de la Fora), Joseph (also known as José) Ramón de Urrutia y de las Casas, and Juan María Antonio Rivera (also known as Ribera) traveled to New Spain. Although one source identifies Nicolás Lafora as the soldier in charge of documenting the expedition, the records housed in this collection were written and signed by Juan María Antonio Rivera. Rivera's journal of the 1766-1768 inspection tour (as well as a journal of another expedition he undertook in 1765) sheds light upon the political, economic, and environmental conditions of this region at the time.

The Marquís de Rubí's tour resulted in the publication of a handbook for the proper operation of the presidios in 1772. This handbook delineated the assorted functions and duties of the presidios and established basic rules regarding salary, uniforms, etc. The Marquís de Rubí also proposed suggested moves for certain presidios, but many of these recommendations were not carried out.


1 box (.45 cu. ft.)


This collection is comprised of narratives written by Spanish military explorers in the 1700s, as well as a handbook based upon the aforementioned explorations for the presidios of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and parts of northern Mexico.

Location of Originals

The original documents are housed in Madrid, Spain, in the Biblioteca Central Militar of the Servicio Histórico Militar.

Related Material

Catholic Church Report regarding New Mexico Missions, 1794. Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico University Libraries.
Finding Aid of the Narratives and Handbook Pertaining to 18th Century New Mexico Presidios, 1765-1990 (bulk 1765-1795)
Processed by K. Stocker
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 658 BC::Narratives and Handbook Pertaining to 18th Century New Mexico Presidios)//EN" "nmu1mss658bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131