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(aka Tanpachoas, Gorretas)

The Tanpachoas or Manso were referenced in some of the earliest journals of travel through the area. When one of Vazquez de Coronado's captains traveled south from the Albuquerque area in 1541, he did not seem to encounter these people. He stopped just north of their territory where the water in the channel sank beneath the surface. He did not continue to where it flowed powerfully again further south, as he was told. From this description and later references to the distribution of the Manso, his 80-league journey likely ended just north of Hatch and Arrey, which seems to have been the northern end of the Manso homeland. North of these places the river channel narrows and mountains loom over the valley on both sides. More importantly, the water disappeared in this area, making river-based habitation problematic for the Manso and it made river-based travel arduous for the Spaniards.

Alvar Nunez Cabesa de Vaca very likely went through the El Paso area on his trip between Florida and New Spain. New findings regarding the Coronado expedition place the route taken and places mentioned much further north than previously thought. Given what we are learning about the Coronado expedition route, which was said to have followed at least part of Cabeza de Vaca's, it seems that the later did not leave the Rio Grande until the pass, and then went cross country to the San Bernardino Valley in modern day Arizona. From the Chamuscado-Rodriguez expedition (see below) we know that Cabesa de Vaca passed through the La Junta de Los Rios area that was inhabited by the Jumano and others before proceeding upriver through El Paso.

The following are new transcriptions and new translations of the original documents. Much of the text is the same as previous efforts, but some key differences are apparent. These differences are included below and their significance will be discussed elsewhere.

Juan Onate, 1598 

Don Juan Onate referred to these people as Manso on May 4, 1598. He was the first to refer to them as such so his journal entries are presented here first, even though he was not the first to encounter them. The text that he wrote upon encountering them is shown in the following illustrations. He said:

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Mayo ~ A primo de mayo andubimos rrio arriba dos leguas. ~2

2 ~ A dos andubimos legua y media. ~1½

3 ~ A tres andubimos dos leguas y aqui se truxeron al Real los
primeros yndios del rrio por mano del sargento mayor y bestidos los ynbiaron a auissar
y llamar a sus conpaneros y binieron aquel dia como ocho yndios de su volund.
Son los q llamamos harreadores por q para deçir si arrean con la lengua en
paladar como nosotros a las bestias. ~ 2

4 ~ A quatro de mayo no andubimos mas del passo del rio y el bado y binieron al rreal quarenta de los dhos yndios, arco turquesco, cauelleras cortadas como gorrillas de milan, copetes hechos o con sangre o con color para atesar el cauello. Sus primeras palabras fueron “manxo, manxo, micos, micos” por deçir mansos y amigos y haçenla cruz con los dedos y la leuantan en alto. Dieron relaçion con señasbien claras que a seis dias estauan las poblaçiones y que a ocho de camino. El dia señalan por el curso del sol. Estauan españoles como nosotros. Regalamos los mucho y ayudaron nos a pasar las obejas por el rrio, el qual se passo este dia por el bado que llamamos de Los Puertos por q ellos le dan en este paraje para entrar la tierra adentro y en muchas leguas no ay otro camino para carretas. El bado esta entreynta y vn grados puntualmte de suerte que desde veynte de abril que llegamos al dho rrio hasta quatro de mayo los dias quefuymos caminando las ocho leguas y ma sobredichas poco mas o ms decaymos de altura medio grado. Este dia se pasaron las rrodadas de las diez carretas q Castaño y Morlete sacaron del Nuebo Mexco.

Translated this means:

May ~ On the first of May we went upriver two leagues. 2

2 ~ Two and a half leagues. 1

3 ~ On the third we traveled two leagues and here the first Indians of the river were brought to the camp by the sergeant major, and clothed, they were sent to warn and call their companions, and about eight Indians came that day voluntarily. They are the ones we call muleteers [arreadores], because to say "yes" they spur on with their tongue on their palates as we do with the animals.


4On May 4th we traveled no farther than the pass of the river and the ford and forty of the aforesaid Indians came to the camp, Turkish bows, hair cut like caps of Milan, tufts made either with blood or with color to stiffen/bind the hair. Their first words were “manxo, manxo, micos, micos” meaning peaceful and friends and they make the cross with their fingers and raise it aloft. They related with very clear signs that the settlements were six days away and eight days by road. The day is marked by the course of the sun, like us the Spaniards. We gave many gifts and [they] helped us transport the sheep through the river, the day was spent by the ford, which was named Los Puertos, because they have this place to go inland and for many leagues there is no other road for carts.


The crossing is at exactly 31 degrees. So, from April 20th, that we arrived at the said river, until May 4th, on the days we walked the eight and a half leagues mentioned above, more or less, we declined a half-degree of latitude. On this day the ruts of the ten carts that Castaño and Morlete took from New Mexico were passed.

If this and other early descriptions are any indication of actual distributions rather than chance encounters, then it is fair to say that Manso territory likely began around San Elizario or perhaps a bit further south. It seems that Suma or Caguate  territory began at about Fort Quitman, where the channel narrows and mountains border the river. Onate's account provides no hint about this because he entered the Rio Grande valley around the area of San Elizario and then proceeded upriver to the narrows where the foothills and benches of the Franklin Mountains meet the river.

Hernando Gallegos of the 1581 Chamuscado-Rodriguez Expedition

The first official expedition to enter the Manso homeland was the 1581 Chamuscado-Rodriguez expedition, on which Hernando Gallegos wrote an account. He notes that the people along the Conchos River very near the Rio Grande and the La Junta de los Rios area were afraid of the Spaniards: "The natives were disturbed, fearful of the Spaniards on account of what they had heard: and so they complained to us. We reassured and quieted them through our Indian interpreters and let them know that the Spaniards would not cause them any further harm, because we had been sent to reassure them by our great lord." Further along, now on the Rio Grande, and presumably among the Jumanos, they "saw a piece of copper which an Indian carried about his neck, tied with some cotton threads. Another carried a tiny copper bell" (Hammond and Rey 1966:76). This may have been native copper with the items made locally. But they also "saw another Indian, who brought us an iron bar about three spans long and shaped like those the Mexican Indians have. When we asked him where he has secured this valuable article, all the Indians pointed in the direction where they had said the clothed and settled people were located" (Hammond and Rey 1966:77). This iron item originated with the Europeans, perhaps the Coronado expedition if they were referring to the Tiguex province or Casas Grandes, and was probably transferred in trade.

"We asked them if any men like us had passed that way, and they replied that a long time ago four Christians had passed through there. By the descriptions they gave, we realized clearly that the leader must have been Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, because according to his narrative, he had come by way of these people.

After leaving the La Junta de Los Rios area and then, upriver, encountering natives that were probably Caguates // Suma, they then proceeded further and then seemingly visited the marshes downriver from El Paso, not encountering Manso/Tanpachoas. Importantly, however, Gallegos writes that they were told that after leaving the place among the Caguates // Suma that they would not see anyone for three days, and then they would encounter "many clothed people, who harvested much corn, beans, calabashes, and cotton."  This seems to be a description of the people in the El Paso area, the Manso. He continues: 

The next morning we left this place, went up the river another three days without seeing anyone, and came to a marshy valley extending for more than eight leagues, which was suitable for ranches and for the cultivation of anything that might be desired. We named it Los Valientes. We found it uninhabited (Hammond and Rey 1966:80).

Diego Perez de Luxan, 1582

Prior to the Onate reference to Mansos, they were known as the Tanpachoas. In the text pages shown below Diego Perez de Luxan of the Antonio de Espejo expedition of 1582 described where they were found and a brief description of them. He said: 

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Diego Pérez de Luján, Relación de la Expedición de Antonio de Espejo a Nuevo México, 1582-1583

[LM] Vinieron | à ellos gran | cantidad de |
gente, hombres | y mugeres, y | en 7 dias que |
allí estuuie- | ron les ofre- | çieron mucho |

~ Salimos de el dho paraje a nuebe del
dho mes e andubimos tres leguas e fuy-
mos a parar a unos charcos que haçe el
rio junto a el rio, a el qual paraje llamamos        
los charcos de el canutillo.
Llamose el canutillo porque junto
a el rrio abia grande cantidad de ca-
nutillo y grandes çienegas y charcos
con gran cantidad de pescado. // Aqui

pescado y otros | vastimentos.

binieron gran cantidad de yndios
e yndias de otra naçion que se llaman
tanpachoas e ofreçieron en seis
o siete dias que alli holgamos por
reformar los caballos gran cantidad
de mesquitamal y pescado, porque
era mucho lo que pescaban con
unos chinchorros pequeños en los
charcos. Es gente de la propia jente
y suerte de los otomoacos y del propio
traje eçepto qu’ ellos traen sus naturas
atadas con una çintilla peque-

[LM] Pelean con | arcos tur- | quescos y |
flechas, y | porras de | palo de | media bara |
y pusieronles | cruzes como | à toda la gte |
q auian visto.

ña. // Su pelear es con arcos turquescos
y flechas e unas porras de hasta media
bara hechas de este palo de tornillo
que es muy fuerte y correoso, de el qual
palo de tornillo hicimos dos caxas
de arcabuzes por ser madera estrema-
da para ello, las quales caxas haçia un
yndio que llebabamos muy honbre
y buen soldado e arcabuzero, llama-
do Gregorio de Tlaxcala. Fuymos a esta            
rrancheria con el padre fray berno

y pusimos cruzes, lo qual heçimos en
todas las partes que hallamos gente.
~ Salimos de el dicho paraje a quinçe del
dicho mes e andubimos çinco leguas //y en el

[LM] Allaron en | el camino | vnas salinas |
de sal, pie- | dra blanca | muy buena | y de la otra |
vanda mu- | cha serrania | de metales.

medio de el camino hallamos unas
salinas de sal blanca, piedra sin conparaçion
admirable e de muncha can-
// E de la otra banda de el rio    
ay muncha serrania de munchos
metales, las quales no fuymos a ellas
por ser tarde y no poder pasar el rrio
y fuymos a parar a unos charcos, los quales
llamamos los de las salinas.
~ Salimos de el dho paraxe a dies y seis
de el dho e andubimos çinco leguas
e fuymos a parar a un charco que
haçe el rrio quando sale de madre,
al qual llamamos el charco de Santo
~ Salimos de el dho paraje a deis y nueve
de el dho e andubimmos çinco leguas
e fuymos a parar a el dho rrio al
qual paraje, porque enpieza hasta
las poblaçones a dar bueltas el rrio,
le llamamos las bueltas de el rio.
~ Salimos de el dho paraje a vte [veinte] y uno del dho
e andubimos çinco leguas a un paraje
alto que caya sobre el rio, al qual lla-
manos la barranca de las bueltas.

Salimos de el dho paraje a veynte
y dos de el dho e andubimos çinco leguas

[LM] Dieron con | vna playa | de salinas.


a un paraje a el qual llamamos

la playa de las salinas estas fueron
las primeras salinas que en este
rio bimos.

~ Salimos de el dho paraje a veynte
y tres de el dho e andubimos quatro
leguas a un paraje, a el qual llama-
mos la çienega elada. Es un çienega
que haçe el rio que estaba tan elada
que fue menester cabarla con
barretas y picos el yelo para poder
beber y la caballada llebamos a beber
a el rio.

[LM] Una serranía / de grandes / vetas de / minas

~ Salimos de el dho paraje a veinte y qua-
tro de el dho mes e andubimos çinco le-
guas a un paraje en el rio, a el qual
llamamos el fronton de las minas,
por raçon que media legua de este pa-
raje, antes de llegar a el // en el camino
ay una serrania de grandes beterias,
las quales minas no hemos ensayado
en todas estas xornadas. Nunca bimos
ningunas gentes aunque hallamos
muncho rastro y rrancherias despo-
~ Salimos de el dicho paraje a vte y seis
dias de el dho mes e andubimos tres
leguas el rrio arriba. Desde esta jornada

caminamos haçia el norte derecho                
pues es por donde biene el norte y fuymos
a parar a el dho rio a un ancon
que pusimos el de los humos, por
ser munchos humos los que hiçieron
en una sierra alta de la otra banda                
de el rrio.

English translation:

A lot of people came to them, men and women, and in 7 days they were there they were offered many fish and other supplies

We left the said place on the ninth of the said month and traveled three leagues and went to some charcos [pools] that formed in the river [bed] next to the river, which place we call Los Charcos de el Canutillo. I called it El Canutillo because next to the river there was a lot of rushes and large swamps and charcos with a lot of fish.

Many Indian men and women from another nation, called tanpachoas, came here. And in the six or seven days that we rested to refresh the horses they offered a lot of mesquitamal (mesquite tamal, aka ground mesquite cakes), and fish, because they fished a lot with small dragnets in the pools.

 Its people are typical of and the same sort of people as the Otomoacos except they tie their genitals with a small little belt/ribbon/strip.

They fight with Turkish bows and arrows, and half-rod [media vara] wooden clubs and they [Spaniards] put crosses among them, as with all the people they saw.

They fight with Turkish bows and arrows and some clubs of up to a half a rod [long] made of tornillo wood that is very strong and flexible. From this tornillo wood we made two harquebus stocks because it was extremely good wood for it; these stocks were made by an Indian we brought with us, a very good man and soldier and harquebusier named Gregorio de Tlaxcala. We went to this ranchería with Father Fray Bernardino and set crosses, as we did everywhere we found people.

On the way they found some salines of salt, very good white stone and on the other side many mountains made of metal.

We left the said place on the fifteenth of the month and proceeded five leagues and in the middle of the road we find some salines of white salt, stone without comparison, excellent and of great quantity. And on the other side of the river there are many mountains of much metal, which we did not go to them because it was late and we could not cross the river and we went to stop at some charcos, which we called Los de las Salinas [Salt Flats].

We left the said place on the sixteenth of the said [month] and traveled five leagues and stopped at a charco that the river forms when it leaves the bed, which we call the charco of Santo Antonio.

We left this place on the nineteenth of the said [month] and continued five leagues and went to stop at the said river to which place, because the river begins to turn toward the populations [in the north], we call it Las Vueltas de el Rio [turns of the river].

We left the said place on the twenty first of the said [month] and traveling five leagues to a high place that falls on the river, which we call La Barranca de las Vueltas [Ravine of the Turns].

They Found Salines

We left this place on the twenty second of the said [month] and walked five leagues to a place to which we call La Playa de las Salinas these were the first salines in/on/along this river that we saw. 

We left the said place on the twenty-third of the said [month] and walked four leagues to a place, which we call La Ciénega Helada [the frozen swamp]. It is a swamp formed by the river that was so frozen that it was necessary to dig the ice with crowbars and picks to be able to drink. And we brought the horse herd to the river to drink.

A mountain range with large veins for mining

We left the said place on the twenty-fourth of the said month and walked five leagues to a place in the river, which we call el Frontón de las minas [Pediment of the Mines],  because half a league of this place, before reaching it on the way, there is a mountain range of great veins. These mines have not been tested on this trip. We never saw any people even though we found much sign and unpopulated rancherías.

We left this place on the twenty-sixth of the said month and walked three leagues upriver. Beginning on this day we walked straight north because that is where the north [River] comes from. And we stopped at the said river to a bend that we gave [the name] El de los Humos [Of the Smoke Columns], for there being many smoke columns in a high sierra on the other side of the river.

Antonio de Espejo, 1582

Espejo himself did not use this name or any name for them but described them in the text shown below:

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~ Auiendose quedado los dichos yndios y caminando

otras quatro jornadas por el dicho rrio arriua allamos

gran cantidad de gente que biue junto a unas

lagunas que por medio dellas pasa el dicho Rio

del Norte y esta gente que serian mas de mill

yndios e yndias que estauan poblados en

sus rrancherias y casas de paja nos salieron


a reçiuir hombres y mugeres y muchachos

y cada uno traya su presente de mezquitamal

qu’es hecho de una fruta a manera de algarrouas

y pescados de muchas maneras que

ay gran cantidad en aquellas lagunas y otras

cosas de su comida en tanta cantidad que


se quedaua perdido la mayor parte dello porque

hera mucha cantidad lo que nos dauan y el

dia y la noche en tres que alli estubimos siempre

haçian mitotes y bayles y danças a su modo

y al de los mexicanos. Dieronnos a entender

que auia mucha cantidad de gente desta naçion

apartada de alli y no supimos que naçion hera

por falta de ynterpetres y entr’ellos hallamos

un yndio de naçion concho, el qual nos dio a entender

señalando haçia el poniente que quinze

jornadas de alli abia una laguna muy grande

adonde auia gran cantitad de poblaçiones

y casas con muchos altos y que auia yndios de

la naçion concha poblados alli, gente bestida

y con muchos bastimentos de maiz y gallinas

de la tierra y otros bastimentos en gran cantidad

y se ofreçio de nos lleuar a ella y porque nuestra derro-

ta hera seguir por vaxo del norte a dar socorro a

los dichos religiosos y a los que con ellos quedaron

no fuimos a la dicha laguna. En esta rrancheria

y paraje ay muy buenas tierras y de muy

buen temple y çerca de donde ay bacas y ganados

de aquella tierra y mucha caça [caza] de pie y buelo

y minas y muchos montes y pastos y aguas

y salinas de muy rrica sal y otros aprouechamientos.

English translation:


These Indians stayed, and we traveled upstream another four days upstream we found a large number of people who live next to some lagoons that through them passes the said River of the North flows through, and these people, who would be more than a thousand Indian men and women, that live in their rancherías and thatched houses  They came out to welcome us,  men, women, and children, and each brought his present of mesquitamal,  which is made from locus bean fruit, and many varieties of fish, of which there are many in those lagoons, and other types of food in such quantity that most of it was wasted because they gave us so much. And throughout the three days and nights we were there they made continuous mitotes [conversations] and dances, and dances in their own way and that of the Mexicans. 

They gave us to understand that there were a lot of people from this nation away from there, and we didn't know which nation it was, for lack of interpreters. And among them we found an Indian of the Concho nation who gave us to understand, pointing to the west, that fifteen days from there, there was a very large lagoon where there were large numbers of poblaciónes  and multi-storied houses, and that there were Indians of the Concho nation living there, dressed people with many stores of corn and turkeys and other provisions in great quantity. And they offered to take us to it. And we did not go to the lagoon because our route was to continue by going north to give relief to the said religious and those who remained with him. In this rancheria and camp there are very good lands and very good climate and close to where there are cows [bison] and herds of that land  and many game animals and birds, and mines and many mountains and pastures, and waters, and salines of very rich salt and other profitable resources.

Alonso de Benavides, 1630 & 1634
manso text .jpg

Later, after the turn of the century, Alonso de Benavides wrote of these people, providing a bit more detailed information. There are two versions of his description. The text shown to the left is from his second or 1634 edition.


His first edition, from 1630, the portion relevant to the Manso is translated here.  This is what he said regarding the "Mansa Nation of the Rio del Norte" in 1630:

After these hundred leagues, we arrive at the famous River of the North, which has this name because its current flows many leagues from there. A hundred leagues before arriving in New-Mexico this river is inhabited by a nation, that is commonly called, Mansos [Peaceful], or Gorretas [Caps]; [Gorretas] because of the way they shave their hair, which seems as if they wear a cap on their heads: and also [they are called Mansos]—scarred that our dogs have bitten them sometimes, when they meet us for war—and [so] when they come in peace, and [are] friendly, we say to the dogs, “Sal ai” [Get out!; from salir or sal de aquí], so they do not bite them. They also usually take precautions, [so] that we control the dogs, saying, “Sal ai”, “Sal ai”, Manso, Manso [Get out, Get out, Friendly, Friendly]; and by this name of Mansos they are commonly known among us.  


These are also people who have no house, but [rather] ranchos de ramas,  nor do they sow,  nor in particular do [the men] dress, but all are naked, and only the women are covered below the belt, with two deer skins, one front, and one back. 

They are also in nature like the preceding [nations], that if they see their way, they do all the evil they can; but [when] not being able to, they all come to look for us in peace, so that can feed them, that this is their principal aim. 

And between a few of them they eat a raw cow raw, leaving nothing of the paunch,  they swallow it like this [as it is] [and] do not pause to clean it of its filth, like dogs, taking it with their mouth, and cutting it with chert knives, and swallowing without chewing.


These Manso then, as they are at the pass [crossing] of this river, we must always run into them, and they usually take us to their own rancherias, so that we can feed their women, and children, and they also tend to give us with what they have, which is fish and mice.


They are very handsome, well-featured, and well-built people. 


The Spanish texts provide a limited information on this group. What is said seems contradictory as well. It is only with the addition of other evidence that we can understand more about who these people were, Archaeology and oral history provide the clues.

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