Ayeta, Francisco de (1640–ca. 1690)

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Francisco de Ayeta, missionary, was born in Pamplona, Spain, in 1640. He entered the Franciscan order at the age of nineteen, was ordained a priest the next year, and was assigned to the province of New Mexico. He provided vital assistance to refugees at El Paso del Norte when they arrived after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The exiles numbered nearly 2,000, including soldiers and other men, women, servants, children, and Indian allies. Among the last were Tiguas from Isleta pueblo.

Ayeta, a remarkable missionary, had only recently arrived in El Paso with a large train of supplies from New Spain. He agreed to provide rations for the displaced families, especially if Governor Antonio de Otermín should decide to undertake an immediate reconquest of Pueblo lands. When Otermín chose to delay military initiatives, the refugees were moved to camps near Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mission, west of the Rio Grande. Otermín then requested authorization to build a presidio, regarded as essential to the safety of the displaced persons. To lend support to the proposed garrison of fifty men and obtain additional provisions, Father Ayeta traveled to Mexico City.

During the winter months of 1681–82, Otermín attempted an unsuccessful reconquest of New Mexico. This failed campaign determined that Spanish recovery of Pueblo country would be a long and difficult process, and that realization lent a reluctant sense of permanence to the El Paso communities. The desire to resettle the Tigua Indians-including the original refugees and additional ones who returned with Otermín in 1682-away from Spanish settlers prompted Ayeta to assist in the founding of the mission and pueblo of Corpus Christi de la Isleta. The first mission within the borders of present Texas, thanks to a shifting river channel in 1829, was located a few miles east of El Paso near the site of modern Ysleta, Texas.

Father Ayeta, in ill health and physically impaired, left the frontier and returned to Spain in 1683. There he took up his pen in defense of the missionary (regular) clergy, who were increasingly challenged by bishops and the secular clergy. Ayeta died in Spain during the decade of the 1690s. He has been called one of New Mexico's greatest men.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). C. L. Sonnichsen, Pass of the North: Four Centuries on the Rio Grande (2 vols., El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1968, 1980). W. H. Timmons, El Paso: A Borderlands History (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990).
  • Religion
  • Catholic
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Donald E. Chipman, “Ayeta, Francisco de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ayeta-francisco-de.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: