Custudio Ximeno

Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi


Ginny Sphar

Father Custodio Ximeno was born on May 1, 1734, in Valdelinares, Spain. On San Miguel’s Day, September 29, 1752, at age 18, he entered the Society of Jesus.

Brother Custodio, while still a student of theology, had requested and was granted a transfer to the Jesuit Province of Mexico. Leaving the College of Zaragosa, he journeyed 500 miles to the hospice at Puerto de Santa María on the Bay of Cádiz. From there, after a short wait, he and 19 other Black Robes sailed with the fleet in late June 1760, aboard the Nuestra Senõra de Begoña, alias El Vencedor.[1]

After more study and his ordination, Father Custodio along with a close friend, Father Francisco Xavier Villaroya, set out for the northwest. It was in the spring of 1763 when they passed through Guadalajara and Culiacán in the company of the new Governor of Sonora, Don Juan Claudio de Pineda, who, like certain of his predecessors, was being sent to the frontier for disciplinary reasons.[2]

Father Ximeno and Villaroya had been friends since college days in Spain and had asked the Father Provincial if they might be able to serve at missions close to each other. When Father Visitor General Garrucho[3] informed the Provincial that Ximeno had been sent to Guevavi because “God willed him for the Pimería” he also had the satisfaction of announcing Villaroya’s assignment to Átil.[4] Father Pfefferkorn had been removed because of illness. They went to their missions in June 1763.

The new Padre soon learned about the enemy. For more than a year now, the Apaches swept unchecked through the deserted valley of the Sobaípuris on the San Pedro. Now it was an “open door” to northern Pimería. The few soldiers at Tubac could not cope. As if this were not enough, the Governor of Sonora kept requisitioning troops from all the presidios for campaigns against the defiant, poison-arrow-shooting Seris.

The Apaches kept coming. From Soamca to Bac to Guevavi, no one was safe in the fields or riding herd. Indians and settlers alike were terrorized. It was a grim initiation for the young missionary.

A delegation of gente de razón went to Captain Anza. They wanted to abandon their homes in the San Luis Valley. The sympathetic Captain approved the evacuation. The Governor was not pleased. This time Anza had made a mistake in judgment.[5] The vecinos left their lands and crowded around the presidios of Terrenate and Tubac.[6]

For at least 40 years, interrupted only by the revolt of 1751, the pleasant valley that extended south from Guevavi and bent east with the river toward Soamca had been home to these settlers, more than 100.[7] Now that the great ranchos of Buenavista, San Luis and Santa Bárbara were abandoned, Guevavi was really exposed.

On San Miguel’s Day, 1763, as Father Custodio presided over whatever patronal festivities he thought appropriate at harassed Guevavi, the new Father Visitor of Sonora, Manuel Aguirre, began his inspection of the missions. As Secretary to the Father Visitor General two years before, he had already been to most of them. Father Lizassoain had only visited Soamca and San Ignacio in Pimería Alta. Father Aguirre was determined to see them all.

Pushing on from Soamca he arrived at Guevavi to find Ximeno weak and feverish. “This is the fruit,” he wrote to the Provincial, “that we reap in the Pimería, and with which the missionaries are tested as soon as they enter it.”[8] Whether German or Spaniard, he who would serve at Guevavi, concluded the Father Visitor, had to be “very robust and very patient.”[9] In summarizing his impression of Guevavi, one thing he said was that the Indians pray in their own language but because he is so new, Father Ximeno does not yet understand it.[10] He said later that if a way could be found to check the Apaches, the Pimería missions might prosper. When the Sobaípuris were taken out of their rancherías the door was left open.[11]

“I have known” Aguirre confided to Father Provincial in February 1764, “that Father Custodio wanted to abandon Guevavi because of the Apaches, but I will not permit it.”[12]

Aguirre had another solution. Like Father Torres Perea 20 years before, Aguirre now proposed that Guevavi be divided in two. A new mission should be created with Tumacácori as its cabacera and Calabazas as a visita. From Tumacácori the missionary could administer Tubac more easily. The annual stipend for Dolores, now abandoned, should be utilized to support Tumacácori. Father Custodio would be responsible for Guevavi and Sonoita. Then Father Aguirre learned the vecinos south of Guevavi had fled their homes.

To re-populate the San Luis Valley and plug the hole he created in the defense of the province, Captain Anza conceived a plan. He suggested to Governor Pineda that the dissatisfied Sobaípuris of Tucson be moved onto the rich lands abandoned by the vecinos. If transplanted to the fertile San Luis Valley, Anza maintained, the Sobaípuris would take root. Then Father Ximeno of Guevavi could easily make practicing Christians of them. The Father Visitor was not favorably impressed; he still hoped to see Tucson elevated to mission status, as Tumacácori would be. He had even gone so far as to request a Padre for Tucson.[13]

If the Sobaípuris were to be moved anywhere, Aguirre continued, they should go back to their own valley to fight the Apaches. Better still, bring in the Papagos, who were unmanageable out in their wastelands. They could people both valleys, the San Pedro and the San Luis.[14] The final decision rested with Governor Pineda. Little came of these ideas and Ximeno hung on at Guevavi, which he wanted to abandon.

Father Custodio, during 1764, suffered painful cuartanas, malarial fevers that recurred every fourth day and gave him no peace.[15]

His surviving fragmentary entries in the mission books reveal that death came to his Indians frequently. His cabacera was in steady decline.[16] Despite this and the Apaches, he went about his ministry with stoic resolve.

Early in 1766, word went out that the missions should once again count their charges.[17] Ximeno’s cabacera still ranked as the least populous in Pimería Alta. By December of 1766 the village of Guevavi had shrunk to 50 souls. This was reported by an army engineer passing through. At Calabazas, the same officer described it as “a small village repopulated by Papagos,” a terrible sickness had killed its former Pima residents.[18]

On December 19, 1766, front riders announced at Guevavi the approach of a Spanish nobleman and his entourage. He was Don Cayetano Maria Pignatelli Rubí Corbera y San Climent, the Marques de Rubí. He was conducting an inspection and evaluation tour of New Spain’s northern defenses from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of California. In his person, the urgent efforts of the reform of Charles III reached the frontier. Reform, the Jesuits would have agreed, but for years they looked on with alarm as “enlightened” secular-thinking ministers they knew were hostile to the Jesuits crowded around the King. On January 5, 1767, Father Nentuig reported that the Marques di Rubí left Sonora “much pleased by the good hospitality” and very favorably disposed toward the Jesuits.[19]

On the Day of the Dead, November 2, 1766, Father Custodio was depressed. “May the Lord preserve my health,” he wrote from Guevavi, as he thought of what lay ahead.[20] He had just been informed he now had the responsibility for San Xavier. Other Padres were coming, he was told, but they were months overdue.

In the spring of 1767, an extraordinary decree was being conveyed to the New World in strictest secrecy. The Jesuits might have expected it eight years earlier. Pombal had implicated the Black Robes in a conspiracy to assassinate the King of Portugal and, as a result, they were banished from the Portuguese Empire. Next, the French King had cast them out. It remained only for their arch enemy in Spain, the Conde de Aranda, in their eyes a heretic, to make his move.

The ill-coordinated rising of Jesuit-taught, tradition-minded upper nobility and hungry rabble against Charles III in the spring of 1766, gave Aranda the opportunity he needed. The Jesuits, they said, had incited the masses against the Crown.

As the guarded decree of expulsion and attendant orders were passed across the sea and down through levels of royal service there was hardly a stop. The seal was broken on July 11, 1767. Governor Pineda wrote out instructions for each Captain, who was to oust the Padres of specific Jesuit rectorates. He trusted no scribe. There must be no mistakes.[21]

To expel the Jesuits from Pimería Alta, Pineda chose Captain Bernardo de Urrea of Altar. The front of the packet said “do not open until July 23.” Not until then did he learn His Majesty’s shocking intent.[22]

Taking 15 men, the Captain began the task he dreaded. He requested the Father Rector to call in the other missionaries. None of the letters must contain any indication of what was taking place. No missionary was to communicate with an outsider either by letter or word of mouth.

Despite the Father Rector’s innocent summons, Ximeno must have known this was no routine matter.[23] Soldiers from Altar had been sent to escort him from Guevavi. They did not allow him to make arrangements for his absence. The Captain ordered an inventory made of mission property.[24] He was asked to surrender mission records and keys. They said he could take personal belongings, including his breviary and a small prayer book.

Behind him, he left a mission community he and his predecessors had built. On the ride to San Ignacio, Captain Urrea began to go to pieces. Urrea returned home to rest, leaving his Lieutenant to lead the Jesuits to their fate.[25]

At Mátape, 65 miles east of present-day Hermosillo, about 50 Jesuits gathered to hear the decree. Six of 10 Padres who had served at Guevavi were there. Ahead of them lay months of confinement at Guaymas and a disease-ridden voyage on the Gulf and a pitiful death march across Mexico.

On November 10, 1768, Fathers Ximeno, Garrucho and Pauer were put aboard the Princess Ulrica at Vera Cruz.[26] They crossed to Cádiz and were placed in the hospice there; now it was their prison. Those who refused to die were sent to monasteries in Spain under house arrest. No one seems to know what happened to Custodio Ximeno, who was Guevavi’s last Jesuit.

[1] AGI, Contratación, 5550. Zelis, Catálogo, pp. 46-47.

[2] Garrucho to Reales, July 13, 1763. Donohue, “ Jesuit Missions,” p. 286. Almada, Diccionario, pp. 592-93.

[3] Garrucho to Father Provincial Pedro Reales, Oposura, July 13, 1763; AHH, Temp., 17.

[4] Garrucho to Reales, July 13, 1763. Pradeau, Expulsión, p. 241.

[5] Aguirre to Zevallos, Bacadéguachi, March 23, 1764; AHH, Temp., 17.

[6] Three years later Captain Anza of Tubac and Captain Elías of Terrenate compiled censuses of the vecinos at their respective presidios. Many of these settlers were former residents of the San Luis Valley. At Tubac there were 28 married men and 6 widowers (including the dean of the settlers Don Nicholás Romero), 96 children, 20 lads from 14 to 15 years of age, plus 26 servants, 15 of whom were married, for a total of more than 200. Anza, Tubac, April 2, 1767, and Elías, Terrenate, April 6, 1767; BNMex, 55/733.

[7] “Ynforme, y Razon con arreglo á oden Sup.or fha 14 de Febrero de Exmo S.r Virrey Conde de Revilla Gigedo del estado en q.e se hallava la Pimería Alta, Provincia de Sonora, la de Hostimuri, Sinaloa, y Culíacan. . . .” undated, unsigned draft; BNMex, 13/691.

[8] Aguirre to Zevallos, Bacadéguachi, December 29, 1763; AHH, Temp., 17.

[9] Aguirre to Zevallos, December 30, 1763.

[10] Aguirre to Zevallos, February 8, 1764.

[11] Aguirre to Zevallos, February 18, 1764.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Roxas to Zevallos, Arizpe, January 15, 1765; AHH, Temp., 17.

[14] Aguirre to Zevallos, March 23, 1764. Aguirre to Pineda, Bacadéguachi, March 20, 1764; BNMex, 38/867. Pradeau, Expulsión, p. 142, and Donohue, “Unlucky Mission,” AW, II, p. 134, have apparently confused the valley of the Sobaípuris (the San Pedro) and the San Luis, or Buenavista, Valley (the Santa Cruz south of Guevavi) a well as the two evacuations. The Sobaípuris were removed from their valley in the spring of 1762. The vecinos of the San Luis Valley petitioned Captain Anza to leave their lands late in 1763 or early in 1764.

[15] Aguirre to Zevallos, Bacadéguachi, January 8, 1765; AHH, Temp., 17.

[16] Ximeno’s last extant marriage entry is dated June 14, 1767, and his last burial entry, September 20, 1766. Guevavi, “Tubaca y Otros.”

[17] A general census of the Jesuit missions, dated 1765 but based upon the earlier Lizassoain visitation, showed for Guevavi’s villages the same number of families, widowers, and widows that Lizassoain had, but in addition gave the following total populations: Guevavi, 100; Calabazas, 97; Sonoita (which the author confused with the former mission of San Marcelo de Sonoita), 98; Tumacácori, 164. “Noticia de las Missiones, q.e administran los P.P. de la Comp.a de Jesus en esta Nueva España. Ano de 1765”; WBS, 68. See also Donohue, “Unlucky Mission,” AW, II, p. 135.

[18] Nicolás de LaFora, Relación del viaje que hizo á los presidios internos situados en la frontera de la América Septentrional perteneciente al rey de de España, liminar bibliográfico y acotaciones por Vito Alessio Robles (México, D.F.: Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1939) pp. 126-27. Translated by Lawrence Kinnaird as The Frontiers of New Spain: Nicolás de LaFora’s Description, 1766-1768 (Berkeley: Quivera Society, 1958), pp. 108-109.

[19] Nentuig to Father Provincial Salvador de la Gándara, Ures, March 13, and Guásavas, April 13, 1767; BL.

[20] Ximeno to the Father Treasurer, Guevavi, November 2, 1766; quoted in Donohue, “Unlucky Mission,” AW, II, p. 136.

[21] The complicated mechanics of expelling the Jesuits from Sonora are admirably explained in Pradeau, Expulsión, pp. 25-86. See also Dunne, “The Expulsion of the Jesuits from New Spain,” MA, Vol. XIX (1937), pp. 3-30; and Burrus, ed., Ducre’s Account of the Expulsion of the Jesuits from Lower California, 1767-1769 (Rome: Jesuit Historical Institute, 1967).

[22] Pineda’s instructions, dated at San Miguel de Horcasitas on July 14, 1767, and his three letters to Captain Urrea dated the following day are printed in Pradeau, Expulsión, pp. 41-45.

[23] Zelis erred in listing 29-year-old Pedro Rafael Díez as the Padre of Guevavi at the time of the expulsion. He incorrectly placed Ximeno at Caborca. Catálogo, pp. 134-35. Díez had reached the Pimería during the Jesuits’ final spring. Father Visitor Nentuig assigned him not to Guevavi but to Sáric to relieve the ailing Gerstner. Nentuig to Gándara, April 13, 1767. Father Díez seems to have been serving at Átil when Urrea began the expulsion. He was the last Jesuit to sign the Átil Libro de Casamientos on July 12, 1767, less than two weeks before the expulsion. In the surviving Caborca books of marriages and burials Father Alonso Espinosa, not Ximeno, made the final entries by a Jesuit. Parish Archive, Altar, Sonora; microfilm, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson. Ximeno’s fragmentary marriage entries in the Guevavi book carried through to June 14, 1767.

[24] One overall inventory of the Pimería Alta missions’ wealth, drawn up in 1767, presumably at about the time of the expulsion, showed Guevavi to have been one of the least affluent, though by no means destitute. Its temporal resources consisted of 21 pesos 6 reales under the heading “Reales,” 2 pesos 3 reales of gold, 11 pesos 4 reales of silver, 700 cattle, 24 oxen, 24 ewes, 420 rams, 88 goats, 6 gentle mules, 18 gentle he-mules, 52 gentle horses, 24 colts, and 39 mares. Listed separately for Tumacácori were 24 oxen, 23 rams, and 17 goats. San Xavier had no money, 387 cattle, 38 oxen, 330 ewes, 70 rams, 41 goats, 3 unbroken mules, 10 unbroken he-mules, 22 gentle horses, 24 colts, and 114 mares. Captain Anza owed Guevavi 200 pesos. “Apunte particular, de los bienes y efectos, que existen en cada Mission, y Pueblos de Visita de ellas”; BNMex, 54/732.

[25] From a letter of Father Francisco Ita to Father Jaime Matheu, Puerto de Santa María, October 13, 1770, included in Matheu’s “Destierro de los Jesuitas Misioneros de Sonora, Sinaloa y de la Tarahumara,” and quoted by Pradeau, Expulsión, pp. 62-63; see also p. 64 for a discussion of the manuscript’s authorship. The above account of what happened to poor Captain Urrea on the road to Mátape is of course a Jesuit interpretation. Captain Joseph Bergosa, who himself found the expulsion a trying business, confessed to the Governor, “I am glad that Urrea is better now; what a scare he put into your agents (i.e., the officers charged with carrying out the expulsion), at which your Lordship will be amused.” Bergosa to Pineda, Mátape, August 19, 1767; ibid., p. 65.

[26]“Nota de los 20 Regulares de la Comp.a embarcados p.a España en la Urca Sueca nombrada la Princesa Ulrrica,” Vera Cruz, November 10, 1768; WBS, 1745, ff. 461-62. “PP. Jesuitas que se embarcaron para Cádiz en el Verg.n frances el Aventurero. Su Cap.n d. Pedro Lavant, que salió en 9, de Abril de 1769”; ibid., ff. 465-66.

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Last updated: February 24, 2015

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