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 La Junta de los Ríos is a historic farming and trading area at the junction of the Rio Grande (called Río del Norte by the Spanish) and the Río Conchos. The center of La Junta is Presidio, Texas, on the north bank of the Rio Grande, and Ojinaga, Chihuahua, on the south bank. The limits of the district may have extended as far as thirty-five miles up the river to Ruidosa, Texas, eighteen miles down the river to Redford, Texas, and eighteen miles north of the river to Shafter, Texas. The southern boundary reached to Cuchillo Parado in Chihuahua. La Junta is traditionally considered the oldest continuously cultivated farmland in Texas. Corn farmers of the Cochise culture settled at La Junta about 1500 B.C. because of its abundant water, fertile farmland, and bountiful game. Mountains on the north and south edges of the area and several hot springs offered protection from winter. The area was located on an ancient and heavily traveled north-south trade route, where settlers exchanged ideas as well as goods with those who passed through. The Cochise culture was replaced by the Mogollón about A.D. 900. The Mogollones were potters, weavers, and carvers, as well as farmers. They encountered the Anasazi culture probably through trade and adopted some of their ideas to form a new culture. The Mogollón-Anasazi culture was replaced in turn by a culture unlike the previous ones. Before the Spanish appeared in La Junta, this culture was supplanted by the Patarabueyes (later called Julimes) and the Jumano Indians.

The first Spaniards reached La Junta in December 1535 with Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vacaqv on his trek across Texas and northern Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca erected a cross on the mountainside and named the place La Junta de las Cruces. He described the natives as strong and energetic. These Indians lived in permanent houses and raised large crops of corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and melons. Both the Patarabueyes and Jumanos succumbed to Spanish influence, however. The former vanished in an attempt to remain aloof from the Spaniards. Conversely, the Jumanos became dependent subjects of the Spanish crown. After Cabeza de Vaca, three other Spanish expeditions came to La Junta. On July 6, 1581, Fray Agustín Rodríguez,qv two other friars, and ten soldiers arrived in the area and celebrated the first recorded Mass at La Junta. On December 8, 1582, the entrada of Antonio de Espejoqv passed through La Junta. In 1683-84 Juan Domínguez de Mendozaqv explored La Junta, mapping trails and water sources and calling the area La Navidad en las Cruces. The expedition may have established about five missions at La Junta, including several on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, though only two priests, Juan Antonio de Zavaleta and Antonio de Acevedo, were left in the area in June 1684. The missions were La Navidad en las Cruces, San Antonio de los Puliques, San Francisco de los Julimes, Santa María de la Redonda, and Apostol Santiago. Fray Nicolás López,qv who traveled with the Domínguez de Mendoza entrada, celebrated the first Christmas Eucharist in Texas at La Junta. The focus of the missionary effort around La Junta was the area's native settlements, including San Francisco de la Junta,qv Santa Cruz de Tapalcolmes, and San Cristóbal pueblos.

The mission of La Navidad en las Cruces was named on December 29, 1683, by Franciscan missionaries López, Zavaleta, and Acevedo. At this time they met with the Domínguez de Mendoza expedition. It is possible that La Navidad was the site of a reported apparition of a cross in the sky, a misrepresentation by Juan Sabeataqv to provoke the Spanish into traveling to the area. Several Julime Indian villages were located on both sides of the Rio Grande, and the mission was probably in what is now Presidio County.

The first two priests left the area by the end of 1684 because of a rebellion by the Concho Indians. In 1686 Fray Agustín de Colinaqv and Fray Joaquín de Hinojosa came to La Junta, and in 1687 they heard of the colony of René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle,qv from Cíbolo and Jumano Indians. The priests abandoned the area in 1688 due to regionwide unrest among the Indians. In 1715 Juan Antonio de Trasviña Retis escorted two Zacatecan missionaries back to La Junta, but they were withdrawn in 1717. Renewed efforts began again in 1730. In 1747 three military expeditions visited La Junta in order to make recommendations regarding the area. The three entradas were led by Pedro de Rábago y Terán,qv Capt. Fermín Vidaurre, and Capt. Joseph de Ydoiaga. Ydoiaga recorded the life and geography of the region during 1747-48 in a report that historians have relied on for much of the information about the La Junta area.

Mission Apostol Santiago was named on January 1, 1684. Apostol Santiago was the Spanish name the Domínguez de Mendoza expedition conferred on the pueblo of Puliques. In 1715 Trasviña Retis indicated that the mission served the Ciénega of Coyamé and that it and two other pueblos in the immediate vicinity were administered by two religious officials. By 1747, when Ydoiaga reported to the viceroy, there was no mention of Mission Apostol Santiago, and he reported the names of the natives as coming from the Ciénega of El Coyamé. No mention of the name Apostol Santiago was made afterwards.

San Antonio de los Puliques (or El Señor San José) was located south of the Rio Grande. References to the mission were made from several visitors, including Trasviña Retis (1715), Ydoiaga (1747), and Bishop Tamarón y Romeral (1770), who listed it as abandoned. When Ydoiaga took the census of the Indians at La Junta de los Ríos in 1747, San José de los Puliques was known as San Antonio de Puliques. The mission had 110 Púliques, 93 Cíbolos, and 60 Pescados at that time. Modern-day Pulicos may be the site of the early mission.

San Francisco de los Julimes was probably located in Mexico near the confluence of the Rio Conchos. Julime and Tecolote Indians made up the population. When Ydoiaga visited the site, the missionary at San Francisco was Fray Lorenzo de Saavedra, who had labored in the La Junta missions for seventeen years. At that time the census recorded a total of fifty-seven families. In 1765 there were forty-two families residing there.

Santa María de la Redonda de los Cíbolos may have been located near what is now Shafter, Texas. Several Spanish sources, including Trasviña Retis, make no mention of the mission, but Ydoiaga visited the ruins of a mission church in the Cíbolos pueblo, which would have been Santa María de la Redonda de los Cíbolos.

The mission pueblo of Santa Cruz de Tapalcolmes was probably on the Texas side of the Rio Grande near what is now Redford, Texas. On November 30, 1747, Ydoiaga noted the former pueblo of Tapalcolmes. It was largely abandoned at that time except for a few Pescado Indians living in the surrounding area. Most Pescados had moved upriver to San Antonio de los Puliques. Another pueblo, San Cristóbal, was located on the left bank of the Rio Grande near the vicinity of present-day Redford, Texas. It was established by friars Gregorio Osorio and Juan Antonio García traveling with Trasviña Retis in 1715 to serve the Poxalmas. In 1747 Ydoiaga visited the pueblo and reported on the Indians. The missionary, Andrés Varo, had contemplated moving the mission to the opposite bank, but had not found an adequate location. The census for San Cristóbal at the time of the Ydoiaga inspection numbered 157 individuals. When Bishop Tamarón visited the area in 1765 the population was 117.

Although the Spanish clergy worked to convert the Indians to Christianity, other Spaniards wanted to enslave them in the silver mines. Spanish slavers raided La Junta from 1563 until 1760, leading to Indian protests that periodically closed the missions. The Presidio de la Junta de los Ríos Norte y Conchos was completed on July 22, 1760, for the protection of the missionaries. It was located on the right bank of the Rio Grande, below the Río Conchos, and was commanded by Capt. Manuel Muñoz. The presidio and missions were abandoned in 1767, but Muñoz returned in 1773. By 1794 the Spanish missionqv system and the presidiosqv that protected the missionaries declined. With the coming of the unsuccessful Hidalgo revolution in 1810 (see HIDALGO Y COSTILLO, MIGUEL), the missions and forts were abandoned. The surviving missions of La Junta and the presidio were deserted at that time.

La Junta de los Ríos resumed its ancient role as a trade and cultural junction in 1839, when Dr. Henry Connellyqv opened what is sometimes called the Chihuahua Trail. Traders hauled goods in carts between Independence, Missouri, and Chihuahua by way of La Junta. After the Mexican Warqv Anglos settled on the north side of the Rio Grande and accepted La Junta's opportunities for trading, farming, and ranching. See also LOMA ALTA SITE, MILLINGTON SITE.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Howard G. Applegate and C. Wayne Hanselka, La Junta de los Ríos del Norte y Conchos (Southwestern Studies 41, El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1974). Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the North Mexican States and Texas (2 vols., San Francisco: History Company, 1886, 1889). Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936-58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Pedro Tamarón y Romeral, Demonstración del Vastísimo Obispado de la Nueva Vizcaya, 1765, ed. Vito Alessio Robles (Mexico City: Antigua Librería Robredo de José Porrua e Hijos, 1937). Robert S. Weddle and Robert H. Thonhoff, Drama and Conflict: The Texas Saga of 1776 (Austin: Madrona, 1976). Joseph de Ydoiaga, Expedition to La Junta de los Ríos, trans. Enrique Rede Madrid (Office of the State Archeologist Special Report 33, Austin: Texas Historical Commission, 1992).

María Eva Flores, C.D.P., and Julia Cauble Smith