My father’s ancestral lineage to the Cortes Expedition, a Father’s Day genealogical research review

Many of my early discoveries in genealogy were the result of looking closely at the matching research on my mother’s side of the family, and that led to the discovery of several pathways of descent from royalty (as just about everyone is likely to find if they follow along far enough back in their family tree). However, my father’s side of the family, thanks in part to the difficulties in finding records going back before New Mexico was annexed to the United States in the Mexican-American War of the late 1840s, remained something of a mystery when going back earlier than the 1850s. And this seemed a very sad deficiency in trying to define for my little girl where she comes from, as my father’s birth culture contains quite a few interesting characters who did a great many amazing things.

However, after looking enough times at the New Mexico Hispanic Genealogical Research database, I made a breakthrough that advanced exploration on my father’s side of the family some three centuries. At one point, it looked as if there may have been even a direct ancestry leading back to Columbus, but exploration into some of the myths of Columbus descent (particularly as they relate to the Baca family, one of the other ancestral lines) finally convinced me that our ancestry wasn’t that illustrious.

Still, there was one branch that led back to within a generation of the very start of European colonization of America, to a blacksmith that accompanied Hernan Cortes in his conquest of Mexico. Having already a Mayflower passenger in the family ancestry identified, it seemed both amazing and amusing that my family could trace themselves back to the very beginning of not one, but two modern North American states.

For Father’s Day, this is my presentation of the research that I was able to find on behalf of my father in search of his ancestry, what I will one day present to our little Albina when she becomes old enough to understand it.

The mother of my father – mi abuelita – and her American ancestors

So, who is getting up to make breakfast? Grandsons Ben Angel (the author), Adam Saenz (his first cousin once removed), and their abuelita, Alvina Alexander. Photo by unknown via Lindsey Harrington

The woman who gave birth to my father used to swim in the muddy waters of the Rio Grande when she was a young girl near the town of Velarde, a tiny farming community at the base of the canyon that runs all the way up to Taos. The farm she lived on sat off the Low Road to that city, and was run by the young woman’s father, Elias Valdez. The woman’s name was Alvina.

Alvina’s story, which began when she was born the fifth child of Elias and Cirila Valdez, a mere seven months after New Mexico statehood, is an odyssey unto itself, but her ancestry is the subject of this story, one that extends almost to the very start of European settlement of the Americas, to one of at least three blacksmiths assigned to conquistador Hernan Cortes during his conquest of Mexico, Hernan Serrano.

Elias’ main contribution to this story began on 30 November 1901, when he married Cirila Roybal under the newly-constructed steeple of the Catholic Church at San Juan de los Caballeros, one of the seven Pueblo settlements that survived from the end of Popeh’s rule to 1598, when the Spanish re-conquered New Mexico, up to present day. (For some time, it had been listed as the second oldest settlement in the United States, behind St. Augustine, Florida, and ahead of its larger neighbor to the south, Santa Fe, a designation apparently forgotten in many lists of oldest cities today.) Today, the town is called Ohkay Owingeh, the name it was known by prior to restoration of the Spanish colony.

Cirila was born somewhere along the old Chili Railroad Line running between Colorado and Espanola, likely near present Velarde, in 1881. Her parents married at the old church of San Juan, torn down in 1912 after the newer Gothic Our Lady of Lourdes church was established (the newer structure was completed in 1890). Her elder brother, Jose Severo, was born when the family was still in the old village of San Antonio de Embudo, today known as Dixon. The Roybals, represented by Cirila’s father, Miguel Rodriguez Roybal, retained his mother’s last name after Annexation (the U.S. conquest of New Mexico in 1848). His maternal family extends back to northern Spain early in the days of Nueva España. However, the story of that ancestry belongs to another tale.

Instead, this lineage is followed through Maria Eulalita Esquibel. She was born sometime close to Annexation across the river from La Jolla (present Velarde) in the village of Canova to Jose Maria Esquibel Romero and Maria Rosa Gonzalez Herrera. Along with her future husband, she witnessed many of the early changes imposed upon the residents of the former Mexican territory before her marriage in 1869. After the late 1840s march of Col. Sterling Price against pro-Mexican insurgents from Taos, who failed to stir rebellion against the newly arrived American “Greens” in their valley, both Roybal and Esquibel families lived in tranquil times, safely insulated more than a decade later from the American Civil War fighting in Glorieta Pass far away across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and safe from the hazards of those living through the subsequent arrival of the Santa Fe railroad in the 1870s, which turned towns such as Las Vegas into gunfighter war zones.

Eulalita Esquibel’s Mexican ancestors

The Santuario de Chimayo, founded during the Mexican period of Nuevo Mexico in 1810. Photo by Andrea Stawitcke, as submitted to Wikimedia Commons.

Before Eulalita, the Martin ancestry passed through Maria Rosa, daughter of the as yet unmarried Jose Angel Gonzalez Suazo and Maria Manuela de Herrera. Born in late January 1820 in the Embudo valley (a full 16 years before the existing record of her parents formalizing their marriage), Rosa Gonzalez was baptized at the nearest church, then located in San Juan de los Caballeros, reportedly when she was four days old. Within a year of her birth, Nuevo Mexico officially became a territory within the newly independent Empire of Mexico under Augustin de Iturbide. By the time she was three, Iturbide would be deposed, and Mexico would be transformed into a republic; the turbulence may explain why the record today does not exist of her parents being officially married until well into Rosa’s teen years.

However, the province of Nuevo Mexico hardly felt the effects of the creation of the new republic. Locally, the big change was the emergence of the Penitente brotherhood, one of whom started a new pilgrimage site at Chimayo modeled after a shrine in Esquipula, Guatemala. A neighbor built a rival pilgrimage site next door dedicated to the Santo Niño de Atocha (present Madrid), creating a rapidly growing religious center that eventually dwarfed in significance the older area churches. Still, the communities on the Low Road to Taos continued to flourish quietly well past the time the teenaged Rosa witnessed her parents’ marriage, clear up until the arrival of the Americans and Annexation.

Before Rosa, the Martin ancestry passed through her father, Jose Angel Gonzalez Suazo, son of Cristobal Gonzalez Sandoval and Maria Rosa Suazo Valdes. Angel was part of the last generation of his family born under Spanish rule, emerging into the world at Santa Cruz de la Cañada on 4 August 1799. Angel moved his family up the Rio Grande to the base of its canyon, near present Velarde, and sometime during the move, the records of his marriage to Rosa appeared to have been lost. Such marriage records becoming lost at the end of the 11 years of Civil War would not have been unusual. This was the civil war that freed Mexico from Spain following the fall of the Bourbons to the Bonapartists in Madrid.

Before Angel, the Martin ancestry passed through Maria Rosa, daughter of Juan Antonio Suazo Martin and Matilda Rita Valdes Martin. Rosa Suazo was born on 16 January 1772 in Santa Cruz during what was arguably the height of Spanish power in North America. A decade earlier, the Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War on the eastern half of the continent, forced France to cede Louisiana to Spain, dividing North America into English and Spanish spheres of influence. In California, new missions and settlements extended the reach of Nueva España ever closer to the Russian interlopers in Alaska.

Shortly after Rosa was born, the English colonies went into rebellion, transforming the English half of the continent into a new country, one that would eventually become the nemesis of Mexican interests north of the Rio Grande. However, while the American Revolution was going on, the resulting disorder in the English half of the continent presented an opportunity to extend Spanish influence, possibly even further north of Florida (an ambition that was sacrificed for the sake of friendship with the fledgling United States).

The Spanish New Mexico ancestry along the Martin family lineage

Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors, built during the Spanish period of New Mexico’s history. Photo by Maksim via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in New Mexico, before these many changes that took place after the birth of Rosa Suazo, her Martin ancestry passed through Juan Antonio, son of Luis Suazo and Josefa Martin Contreras. Baptized at the old Catholic church at San Juan de los Caballeros on 30 June 1735, Antonio found his bride, Matilda Rita, in the neighboring town of Santa Cruz and married her sometime before the birth of Rosa Suazo in 1772.

Bourbon control was only firmly established in Spain a decade before his birth, following the continent-wide War of the Spanish Succession. In contrast to these eventful years in Europe, New Mexico life remained mostly undisturbed through much of the mid-1700s. Colonial government reforms under the new Bourbon monarchy would transform Santa Fe into a much less feudal sort of colony only later, allowing for the removal of some of the taxes that burdened the colony’s poor since its foundation. However, the only way in and out of the colony remained the Camino Real, or Royal Road, from Mexico City. To the west, desert country stretched hundreds of miles to the missions on the California coast. To the north and east, the Comanche Empire in the “llano estacado” (“staked plains”) effectively isolated the Spaniards of Nuevo Mexico from the distant French settlements of Louisiana by 1750. But even with this new nearby aggressively hostile power, the most extensive raids from the Comanches didn’t manage to go further than the outskirts of Taos and the towns along the High Road.

Before Antonio, the Martin ancestry passed through Josefa, daughter of Francisco “El Ciego” (“The Blind”) Martin Arguello and Casilda Contreras Valencia. Born in 1717 at San Antonio de Embudo (again, present Dixon), Josefa was the most recent member of a paternal Martin line within Alvina’s ancestry. At age 17, the daughter of “El Ciego” married Luis Suazo at San Juan de los Caballeros. On 2 October 1734, the church in that town celebrated her marriage to the 30-year-old possibly illegitimate son of tax collector Pedro de Padilla, both of whom had moved northward along their own paths into Nuevo Mexico from Guadalupe del Paso (present Ciudad Juarez, near El Paso).  Luis fathered Josefa’s seven earlier children prior to his death, which took place sometime before the 1750 Spanish census registered her as the wife of a second husband, Pedro Medina, also originally from Guadalupe del Paso.

Francisco Martin, meanwhile, had likewise come from Guadalupe del Paso, born a generation before his two son-in-laws through his daughter Josefa. He was baptized in that city on 2 October 1680 during the early days of Popeh’s Rebellion. In 1706, while still south of the Jornada de Muerto, the desert barrier that separated the rest of Nueva España from the newly restored Nuevo Mexico colony, he married Casilda Contreras, daughter of Jose de Contreras and Maria de Valencia, and moved onto a parcel of land they called the Rancho de Chicopoyemo (possibly Chico Pollemo). Sometime before 1736, the couple sold off the land to Juana Romero and moved northward to the Embudo valley in the canyon country along the Low Road to Taos. After this, Francisco developed sight issues that led to his eventual nickname of “El Ciego.”

Francisco was the son of Pedro Martin Serrano y Salazar, born around 1640. Most of his family tried to retain the Martin Serrano family name, in honor of their illustrious ancestor, but Francisco opted for the simpler Martin. His mother, Juana Apolonia de Arguello, born in the Treaty of Westphalia year of 1648, was not a woman to be trifled with. After registering with the El Paso Widow’s Muster Roll, she returned to Santa Fe as a widow in 1693 in order to resettle her lands near the old Santa Cruz de la Cañada church site (restored shortly after, and located a short distance north of the main highway between northern Española and Chimayo). During her effort to restore her family’s home there, she brought suit against rivals Ana Maria and Ysabela de Herrera for damages, and obtained them after three days of court hearings on 20 August 1697. The couple had 11 children together before Pedro’s death, after which she married Felipe Paradiso. She was living in Santa Fe by 1718, when she donated land to her daughter Josefa, Francisco’s sister, widow of Andres de Archuleta, and likely the namesake for the Josefa who married Luis Suazo.

Capitan Luis Martin Serrano – conspirator against Governor Luis de Rosas

The Chapel of San Miguel, constructed in 1610 just after the Santa Fe’s foundation, is the oldest church structure in the United States. Photo by Pretzelpaws via Wikimedia Commons.

Pedro’s father, Capitan Luis Martin Serrano, was born between 1595 and 1610 likely in the northern desert city of Zacatecas, the son of Hernan Martin Serrano and a native woman named Juana Rodriguez. Luis married Pedro’s mother, Catalina de Salazar (daughter of Capitan Sebastian Rodriguez de Salazar and Luisa Diaz), around 1630. The couple did not have a large family – records exist only of three children, including Pedro, the middle child.

Luis was sent north with his wife while still serving as an officer, and was eventually made the Alcalde Mayor of the “Teguas” jurisdiction of the colony, a military position that held responsibility over the Tewa between Pojoaque and Picuris who lived along the High Road east of the Española valley, as well as those at San Juan de los Caballeros (present Ohkay Owingeh). Their home was near Chimayo, around the location of the Martinez ditch, apparently named after him or one of his sons. While in that position, which allowed him to establish ownership of lands all across present Rio Arriba and Taos counties, he became involved with the conspiracy to kill deposed Governor Luis de Rosas, allegedly in revenge for impregnating Maria, the daughter of Simon Perez de Bustillo and wife of Nicolas Ortiz (I specify alleged here as the conspirators were allies with the Franciscans, who held a major role in the politics of the colony, while de Rosas was a staunch anti-Franciscan). When the conspiracy learned that the former governor was detained in secret at the home of Alonso Martin y Barba in Santa Fe (a detail that had delayed the assassination by 2-1/2 weeks), the group selected Luis Martin and three others to accompany Ortiz to carry out the assassination on Saturday, 25 January 1642.

The scene was almost like something out of a Zorro movie; the pregnant Maria de Bustillo arriving at the gate of the home of Alonso Martin y Barba with a wagonload of cotton mantas and demanding to see Luis de Rosas. When she refused to leave without seeing the former governor, he instructs the guard, the former secretary of the Santa Fe Cabildo Diego del Rio de Losas, to let her into the placitas (or courtyard) of the Martin y Barba home only after searching the wagon she was driving. Instead of allowing the guard to do this, she busied del Rio with carrying mantas to where his master was hiding, finding out in the process that he was in the despensa (the walk-in pantry, where food and other such supplies like cotton mantas were kept). Nicolas Ortiz, along with the masked Luis Martin Serrano and his three fellow masked accomplices burst from the mantas in the back of the wagon and follow, pushing the hapless de Rio out of the way before bursting the door open to allow Ortiz to stab de Rosas repeatedly with his sword.

Remarkably, Ortiz and his accomplices are acquitted of murder in trial by the anti-Rosas Cabildo in power in Santa Fe. The assassination of so prominent a figure and acquittal catches the attention of the Visitador General in Mexico City, Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, who immediately heads north to investigate. By September, the Baca and de Bustillo members of the conspiracy are secretly implicated by the colonial inquisitors, who then spread the false rumors that all would be acquitted by Bishop Palafox in order to flush out other conspirators. The eight named are eventually executed.

Some two decades later, Luis Martin Serrano has problems with the decidedly anti-Franciscan Governor Bernardo Lopez de Mendizabal, who demanded a large quantity of corn and wheat in return for not having him arrested for breaking down the door during the Rosas assassination. He died before Governor Lopez was arrested on 33 counts of malfeasance without ever having been compensated for the loss. When the governor was brought to trial for his conduct as governor in Mexico City in April 1663, the incident was brought up before the court there as an example of his tyranny and heavy-handedness. His widow, Catalina, managed to push through the petition seeking damages for the loss. Eventually, the Martin (Martinez, etc.) family would become one of the largest in northern New Mexico through the three sons of Luis and Catalina.

Hernan Martin Serrano – Juan de Oñate’s sergeant and original New Mexico settler

San Gabriel Pueblo in present Alcalde, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. 1936 Photo by F.D. Nichols via Wikimedia Commons

Hernan Martin Serrano, Luis’ father, meanwhile, was a member of the 1598 Oñate Expedition that established the Nuevo Mexico colony. He was described in the muster roll as tall, with a sparse beard, and with a pockmarked face; he had a full suit of armor and a horse, and brought with him his wife and children, as well as cattle and a millstone.

Born in the silver mine boom of Zacatecas some 40 years before the expedition in the year 1558, he married a Chichimec girl named Juana Rodriguez in Zacatecas in 1577 when he was age 19 and she 14. When Juan de Oñate, an adventuresome member of the Oñate-Zaldivar clan that ran the mining city, received a royal contract to build Nuevo Mexico, Hernan jumped at the chance to be part of it, enlisting in February 1596 ahead of many of the 131 soldiers that would take part. A year later, he earned the rank of Sargento and served as the expeditions leading non-commissioned officer under Oñate himself.

When the expedition arrived at Ohkay Owingeh, the colony of Nuevo Mexico was claimed in the name of Spain, and the village was renamed San Juan de los Caballeros. One of the horsemen for which it could be said to have been named was Hernan, who was among the first Spaniards to settle there. However, a difficult year later, he and his family relocated to San Gabriel de Yunque (present Alcalde, New Mexico).

For two years, the couple and their children struggled and by the end of the summer of 1601, he and other settlers considered giving up the colony as a lost cause, finding none of the rumored wealth of the Seven Cities of Cibola, nor much promise to make any sort of living amid dangerous conditions. However, in the end, Hernan decided it was better to stay than return to Nueva España and eke out a living among all the newcomers passing through Veracruz into the Viceroyalty.

In October 1601, he was promoted to Cuadrillero, or squadron leader. During his expeditions to protect the remaining colonists in Nuevo Mexico, he discovered that many farmers had done better that fall than they had the previous years, raising wheat and Spanish vegetables they had brought with them from down south. He also saw that the Tewa appreciated the presence of the Spanish, saying that their presence prevented the “many wars among ourselves” that they had suffered; he would serve as godfather to three Tewa boys himself.

By 1606, Hernan had taken up a mistress in a Tano translator named Ines, who had been brought out of the San Cristobal pueblo in present New Mexico as a young girl during the Castaño de Sosa Expedition. She came back to the north with the Oñate Expedition and was living in the Santa Fe encampment, and was one of the instrumental individuals in creating friendship between the few Spaniards who remained in the colony after it became more certain that the region would not produce any precious metals. Hernan had impregnated her by that year with their only known child, a boy named Hernan that would eventually take on the nickname of “El Mozo.” Luis’ half-brother would become a successful soldier in Santa Fe, where, as one of the few successful mestizos of the colony, he would operate a textile manufacturing shop using paid Indian labor to process what was likely wool from the ranches of his half-brother, Luis. When Popeh’s Rebellion broke out nearly a century after the colony was founded, the old man in his 70s mustered alongside the younger men on 2 October 1680 at La Salineta, carrying his own harquebus and sword, demanding to be called “Captain Hernando Martin Serrano.”

By the time that Pedro de Peralta was appointed the first governor of the colony in early 1609, the older Hernan numbered among the 30 or so soldier settlers who remained in the colony, so that he fathered children by two mothers was probably not looked upon too askance that early in the colony’s history. The captain of Ines’ pueblo of San Cristobal, Anda, was, after all, one of the three noted friends of the Spaniards documented in 1613. The other two pueblos that were supportive of the early colony were Pecos over the top of the Glorieta Pass and Pojoaque, just north of the growing Villa de Santa Fe y Real Campo de los Españoles, or just Santa Fe. As the mother of a mestizo child, she was regarded more as a symbol of Spanish-Tewa friendship than as the scorn-worthy woman of low morals that Spanish society would later regard single mothers under a more Catholic-oriented Franciscan-influenced regime.

After Santa Fe became a villa, Hernan moved his legitimate family to the future capital and served as a loyal soldier of the crown, eventually advancing to the rank of captain by his death, sometime between 1626 and September 1628 (his wife Juana Rodriguez apparently died many years before him). It was on that latter date that Ines married Francisco or “Pancho” Balon, a Native Mexican who brought his blacksmithing skills northward to Santa Fe. Ines, as his legitimate wife, was regarded respectfully in the 1630s as she continued to reside in the colonial capital.

Hernan Martin Serrano – Cortes’ blacksmith and original Spaniard of Old Mexico

Emperor Montezuma of the Aztecs (originally published in “The discovery and conquest of the new world: containing the life and voyages of Christopher Columbus”. 1892 image by N. Mathew via Wikimedia Commons.

The paternal grandfather of El Mozo and Luis was also called at birth Hernan Serrano. Most sources regard him as one of the three blacksmiths that served under the expedition of Conquistador Fernando Cortes, supposedly settling in the silver boom town of Zacatecas late in life with an unknown woman; a few, regarding his age as too advanced for fatherhood, think that he was in fact a son of the blacksmith. For the sake of this introduction to him, though, he’ll be regarded as having fathered his only known son, Hernan, at an advanced age.

Hernan, the blacksmith, was born in the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera in Extremadura, the southwestern part of Spain just north of Andalucia, sometime around the turn of the 16th century. The son of Pedro Serrano Sandoval and Catalina Fernandez, he joined as a boy what was likely the Expedition of Ponce de Leon, which took him to Puerto Rico in 1509. He then served under Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, who was moved from that island to Cuba. While on that island, Hernan Serrano, the eldest of the family, learned blacksmithing after he and his fellow soldiers help subdue the Tainos on the island.

His new blacksmithing skill made him highly valuable when Fernando (nicknamed Hernan) Cortes sought to lead an expedition to the mainland in 1518. At the future conquistador’s request, Velazquez transferred Hernan Serrano to Cortes’ command, and became one of three blacksmiths that would serve under him in his expedition into the Aztec Empire.

However, at the last minute, Velazquez changed his mind and revoked the entire expedition. In open mutiny of the Governor of Cuba, in February 1519, Cortes sailed off anyway with 500 men on 11 ships, departing without any real authority, from Cuba on the way to Mexico.

The meeting of Cortes and Montezuma (originally published in “Discoverers and Explorers”). 1900 image by Edward R. Shaw via Wikimedia Commons

As can be guessed, Cortes was a colorful character. Born in Medellin, also within the Spanish province of Extremadura, in 1485, his parents gave him the best education that they could, putting him at age 14 in the University of Salamanca to study law and Latin. He dropped out two years later after growing tired of studying.

This, of course, irritated his parents to no end. But by this time in 1501, all of Spain was abuzz with the discoveries of Christopher Columbus in the West Indies. He connected with a distant relative, Nicolas de Ovando, the governor of Hispanola, who promised to put him to work. However, according to one source, Cortes injured himself in a hasty escape from the bedroom of a married woman, and was not able to sail on his appointed ship. For a year, he spent wandering from port to port, urged ever onward to the New World by tale after tale of adventure.

In 1504, Cortes arrived in Hispanola under the wing of Alonso Quintero, a mere ship captain who sought to outmaneuver his superiors by arriving in the New World ahead of them and get the jump on them in the venture that he was taking part. This wasn’t a good influence for the young Cortes, who at age 19 was seeking any sort of advantage that put him ahead of his peers. In 1506, having secured a position as a notary under Ovenda, as his older relative promised would happen once he got there, Cortes took part in the campaigns to subdue Cuba, eventually ending up under the command of Velazquez in 1511.

At first, Velazquez was impressed with Cortes, and when he was appointed Governor of Cuba, he made him his secretary. However, by 1514, as his subordinate demanded more and more from him, relations between the two became strained. Finally, in October 1518, having heard of the vast wealth that awaited the right person on the mainland, Cortes arranged it so that Velazquez would place him as the Captain General of the next expedition to the Aztec Empire. Cortes moved very quickly and raised 300 men by the end of the year, which triggered extreme jealous in Velazquez. To avoid Velazquez cancelling the expedition or giving it to someone else, he gathered men and ships in ports outside of the view of the governor. Finally, in February 1519, with his expedition waiting for the order to depart, Cortes received the revocation sent by the governor, and in open defiance, he ordered his ships to sea.

In March, he arrived in the Yucatan, where by chance he picked up a Spanish priest whose ship had wrecked. In his time at the edge of the Maya Empire, he learned some Maya and was able to serve as the expedition’s translator in that language. But hearing of the size of that empire, Cortes decided he needed more ships and men. He hired these in the southern Caribbean settlements of Trinidad, but on the condition that Cortes help subdue nearby Tobago. As a reward for doing so, Cortes received the services of 20 native women, one of which knew both Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec Empire, and Maya. La Malinche, as the woman was named, would provide invaluable interpreter service in Cortes’ mainland expedition.

By July, Cortes arrived at Vera Cruz, and as the crew became concerned about his inability to provide any sort of written authority from the Governor of Cuba, the expedition leader declared that he was acting under the authority of the King of Spain, which trumped Velazquez’s authority. Once his men were on land, he surprised them all by ordering all the ships scuttled, preventing any retreat. Either they conquered, or they would be captives, or they would be killed.

Cortes picked out 100 men, including blacksmiths Hernan Serrano and Pedro Hernandez, to remain behind at Vera Cruz while the other 600 men, 15 horses, 15 canons, and 2,000 indigenous porters marched on Tenochtitlan. Starting in mid-August, Cortes took a winding course that allowed him to secure allies from several local tribes that lived between Veracruz and the Aztec capital. Arriving at Cholula in October, Cortes ordered the massacre of all the nobility, and the destruction of the city itself, in an apparent attempt to instill fear from the Aztec leadership away from the idea of trying any treachery.

By November 8, Cortes arrived at the edge of Lake Texcoco, and was let in across the causeway into the heart of the Aztec Empire. Emperor Montezuma allowed the Spaniard to walk into the city in order to test out his weaknesses and devise how best to rid him and his men from their territory. They enticed the Spaniard with gold, which was a mistake as this only turned the conquistador’s efforts more bold and bloodthirsty. In a letter sent back to the coast, he urged his blacksmiths to forge a huge chain in order to help build canon-armed brigantines to sail in Lake Texcoco and bombard Tenochtitlan. Upon their arrival, though, Cortes heard that the Aztecs had indeed tried to take Vera Cruz, which so angered Cortes that he seized the Emperor and held him personally as a hostage. At this point, chains were placed on the Emperor, perhaps chains forged by Hernan himself.

As other writers would say, this would mark the first time that Spaniards enslaved indigenous Americans, and the chain and shackle would serve as the symbol of that potential to enslave.

Cortes’ plan ran into its first real problem in April 1520, when Velazquez sent an expedition of 1,200 men under Panfilio de Narvaez to oppose Cortes’ attack on the Aztecs. Leaving a guard to hold Montezuma, Cortes went out to meet Narvaez and quickly overwhelmed his numerically superior force. Those who survived were urged to join the expedition. However, back in Tenochtitlan, Pedro de Alvarado organized a massacre in the city’s main temple, which resulted in a major rebellion. Cortes was going to try to get Montezuma to engage the rebels in an armistice, but this only resulted in the chained emperor being stoned to death and Cortes’ men, including Hernan, withdrew into a compound. On the night of June 30, the Spaniards carried out their desperate withdrawal along one of the causeways of Tenochtitlan, losing all artillery and loot in the process.

When his forces arrived at Tlaxcala, Cortes had lost over 870 men. But he, and of course our ancestor the blacksmith, survived in well enough order that Cortes could re-engage his allies for more men, and to send a plea back to Velazquez in Cuba for reinforcements. In the end, the Aztec Empire fell on 13 August 1521, and created in its wake was the Viceroyalty of Nueva España of the Ocean Sea. Tenochtitlan was replaced with Mexico City by Cortes, who maintained personal control of his new empire through 1524.

Hernan Serrano was said to have adopted the name Martin for his son. It did not come from his own father, Pablo Serrano Sandoval, but rather from the surname of the father of Cortes, Martin. His son, as a result, became Hernan Martin Serrano, the first to be born such, in 1558, almost 40 years after the adventure that sent him and two others of his profession to their destinies as the first blacksmiths of Mexico.

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9 Responses to My father’s ancestral lineage to the Cortes Expedition, a Father’s Day genealogical research review

  1. George H. Valdez says:

    Thank you Cousin Ben for this most interesting Piece of Work. I am emailing this link to as many family members as I have email addresses for. Your hard work has been miraculous. Once again, many thanks, and Happy Fathers day to you. With Love Cousin George H. Valdez

    • benmangel says:

      Appreciate the compliments, Cousin George. We have interesting ancestors, as I suspected. They seem worth keeping after, trying to figure out who they are.

  2. justin Lopez (Lovato/Martin serrano) says:

    Thank you for this information, hernan martin serrano is my 12th great grand father.

  3. Elaine (Martinez) says:

    Thank you for posting the Martin-Serrano history. As a little girl I heard stories about how we came from a pioneering family over the Old Spanish Trail, but only during the last year did I learn through research about our history back to Hernan Serrano . Nice job on your summary!

  4. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different page and thought I might as well check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to finding out about your web page repeatedly.

  5. Elena Madrid Turman says:

    Thank you for this information. This is my paternal grandmother’s ancestry.

  6. joseph says:

    I have been researching some of the original 11 families who were founders of Los Angeles. I also have one of those surnames and never having known my father am very interested in my family history . Great writting !!!! Also very inspirational for me personally as I explore my ancestry .
    Thanks ….. Joseph A. Serrano

  7. Julia Serrano says:

    I knew we had a large family, I just didn’t know how large!

  8. Juanita Trujillo says:

    Dear Ben,

    I found you article wandering around NM history. It is a lovely story, well written with love and respect in every sentence. I have given up researching Diego de Trujillo as an ancestor and have picked up the work w/ Cristobal Trujillo. My new interest is Mateo de Sandoval y Manzanares. He must have been a remarkable man to have obtained the San Clemente Land Grant. I love the story of his daughter Ana, demanding her father’s land. Hope to visit her marker this year.

    I was wandering around my file for Diego and found something I printed several years ago linking him to Ana Martin. As I looked at that inaccurate information, I thought that the names Martin and Serrano seemed familiar and lo and behold I was right. The Martin-Serrano name is linked to Blas de la Candelario Trujillo.

    I still have my ideas about Diego, but will keep on trying to verify my ideas.

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