Álamos 1500 – 1599

pond on sierra de alamos during the summer. alamos, sonora, mexico. photo by anders tomlinson

This was then and this is now on Sierra de Álamos.

♦ Before the Europeans

Calimaya, as it was known by the Yaquis and Mayos, was the region surrounding Alamos. The Yaquis, proud and warlike, and the Mayos, friendly and peaceful, both spoke Taracahitan language dialects. The Alamos basin was the land of the Mayo, Warihio and Basiroa. The Basiroa Indians may have had camps in La Aduana and Agua Escondida arroyos. There were as many as 115,000 indigenous people in Sonora and Sinola before the Spanish slave traders arrived. These Indigenous people, speaking one of 18 Cahita dialects, were the largest Indian group in Northern Mexico, and lived along the lower reaches of the Sinaloa, Fuerte, Mayo and Yaqui rivers. The Spanish called these agriculturalist Indians, spread out across the region in small groups, “rancheria people”.

♦ The Spanish are Coming, The Spanish are Coming

Diego de Velázquez, governor of Cuba, sends two ships owned by Bizkaian Lope Ochoa de Salcedo and led by 
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, the first European to visit Mexico, to explore the Yucatán peninsula. They sail along the Yucatán and Gulf of Mexico for six months collecting gold worth over $20,000 pesos and encounter a wide variety of cultures and lands proving it is a major land mass and not another island. Local Indians killed fifty and captured several more Spanish explorers. Córdoba’s report, on his return to Cuba, makes Governor Diego de Velásquez decide to have Hernán Cortés command a larger, stronger force back to Mexico. Cortés, like all early explores, hopes to discover a route to Asia and its immense riches in spices and other resources.


February, Cortés sails from Cuba on 11 ships loaded with over 450 soldiers, 16 horses and a large number of supplies. Cortés arrives in Yucatán and takes control of the town of Tabasco. Here the Spanish learn of the Aztec empire ruled by Moctezuma II. Dismissing Velasqué orders, Cortés goes on and founds the city of Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico directly east of Mexico City. Cortés begins his famous march inward into Mexico, using the strength of his forces to form an important alliance with the Tlascalans, enemies of the Aztecs. Cortés’s also traveled with an entourage of 400, including capture Indians and a woman translator Malinche, who becomes Cortés’s mistress.

November – Cortés and his men arrive at Tenochtitlán where they are welcomed as honored guests by Moctezuma and his people due to the Spaniard’s resemblance to Quetzalcoatl, a legendary light-skinned god-king whose return was prophesied in Aztec legend. Cortés takes Moctezuma hostage and controls Tenochtitlán.


August 13: After a bloody series of conflicts–involving the Aztecs, the Tlascalans and other native allies of the Spaniards, and a Spanish force sent by Velásquez to contain Cortés – Cortés finally defeats the forces of Montezuma’s nephew, Cuauhtémoc (who became emperor after his uncle was killed in 1520) to complete his conquest of Tenochtitlán. His victory marks the fall of the once-mighty Aztec empire. Cortés razes the Aztec capital and builds Mexico City on its ruins; it quickly becomes the premier European center in the New World.

The above entries. 1519 to 1521,  are from A History Timeline of Mexico

Mexico’s Indian population was estimated to be as high as 25 million in 1519 and as low as 4.5 million, most living in the great valley of Mexico. For more info visit Cambridge Mexico population study, and in particular Population estimate table

1520 to 1580
Fully 80 percent of the ships making voyages between Europe and the Americas are either Basque-manned and/or owned by Basque commercial interests.

The Indian population in Mexico may have been reduced to 16.8 million

December of 1529, Nuno Beltran de Guzman, once a lawyer, led an army of 500 Spanish and 10,000 Tlaxcalans, Aztecs and Tarascans into Sinola.

March of 1531, Guzman defeated 30,000 Indians and founded what is present day Culíacan. Many that survived were captured and enslaved. Later, Guzman’s Amerindian army was wiped out by epidemics and hunger. His was a reign of terror. Spanish colonialization was approaching Alamos.

Diego de Guzman, nephew of Nuño de Guzman, walks through on well-trod Indian trails. He was looking for Indian slaves. He may have been the first European to walk through present day Álamos, Sonora, Mexico. He went as far north as the Yaqui River before being stopped by hostile Yaquis.
Some accounts mention the Spanish being turned back by an elderly man in black robes who drew a line in the sand. Others talk about the vastly outnumbered Spanish turning around to avoid combat with the hostile Yaquis warriors.

The Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, begins hearing of Guzmán’s atrocities in 1931 involving the Indians and, urged on by Franciscan Father Bartolomé de las Casas and Bishop Zumárraga, he has Guzmán arrested in 1535.
Mendoza returns Guzmán to Spain in 1536 where he dies in obscurity in 1544.

Alavar Nuñez Cabeza de Vasa may have neen the first european to reach present day Arizona. He too probably walked through Álamos along Indian trails headed towards Culíacan

Cabeza de Vaca arrives in Mexico City with news of the even Cities of Cibola and its plentiful gold and silver. Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendosa listened with great interest and decides to fund an expedition north.

Franciscan priest Marcos de Niza was appointed leader of Mendoza’s expedition. Estéban the Moor, who had traveled with Cabeza de Vaca, was the guide. They left Culíacan March 7, 1539. The expedition was forced back to Culíacan with little but talk of cities of gold and silver. Estéban had been killed by Indians

Vásquez de Coronado with a large military expedition left Compstela, Navarit and traveled through Sinola and Sonora. de Coronado is thought to have camped on Guadalupe Hill in Alamos. The camp site was called Real de los Frailes, Real de la Limpia Concepcion de los Alamos and Real de Guadalupe

Cristóbal de Oñate makes the first mining strikes in Nueva Galacia: Silver at Espíritu Santo, Guachinango, Xocotlán and Etzatlán – and gold at Xaltepec. The strikes are small, but they encourage new settlement in the area

There are some who think members of Guzman’s expedition, slave traders or Indians, had mined silver near Álamos as early as 1543.

The first book published in the New World is written by Bishop Zumárraga. Titled Doctrina Breve, it instructs the Aztecs, in their own language, about Catholicism

The mexican Indian population may have been reduced cut to 6.3 million by 1548.

In my notes I had a reference to Francisco Ibarra and 1564. I do not know why. As I go through my notes it may become clearer. I did research on Franciso Ibarra and found these entries in a timeline of Basques in New Spain:

1549 — At the age of 10, Francisco de Ibarra comes to the New World to join his uncle Diego de Ibarra.
1554 — Francisco de Ibarra leads his first expedition at the age of 16. At age 17, he leads the first authorized exploration north and west of Zacatecas. Between 1554 and 1574, he and Juan de Tolosa conquer the area of northern Mexico.Northern Mexico is now comprised of the present states of Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Sonora, and some parts of Zacatecas, San Luis de Potosí and León. In the 1560’s Ibarra carries out extensive exploration, conquest and settlement of the unknown lands north of San Martín and names the area Nueva Viscaya after his homeland in the Basque Country.

Jesuits arrive in New Spain.

The Indian population continued to decline in 1580 with an estimated 1.9 million survivors

1583 – 1584
First settlements north of Culíacan in an attempt to bolster Spanish control of northern Sinola.

1590 -1591
Jesuit priests Gonzalo Tapia and Martin Perez establish a mission in Culíacan.

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♦ Other Álamos, Sonora Mexico timelines:

1600 – 1699 timeline

1700 – 1799 timeline

1800 – 1849 timeline

1850 – 1899 timeline

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This is a work in progress.
If you have additional dates and events send a comment

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©2014 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.