Teguayo, Great Salt Lake, and Atzlatan

Mannert Map of Teguayo in North America

Mannert, in 1796, maps Teguayo as a both region and a city.

One of the most enduring myths, or perhaps the right term is legends, of the American west is Teguayo. To some, it is a lake, to others a mythical homeland, to still others a lost city of gold, and to others, an outlandish hoax. We shall examine all of these to some extent in this article below, but first, it is best to put Teguayo in cartographic context.

Teguayo was mapped in the American southwest from the mid 17th century well into the 19th century. In most cases, Teguayo is mapped as a region, sometimes called Gran Teguayo, though it is occasionally entered as a city or, in later maps, a lake. The first recorded mention of Teguayo, and this is tenuous as we have not been able to isolate the primary source, is in a document discovered by Theodore Greiner, a Pueblo Indian Agent and territorial administrator during the Civil War. Greiner apparently discovered a hitherto unknown document recording an interview between Cortez and Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec Emperor, regarding Aztec dominions in modern day New Mexico and Arizona. The fascinating snippet is quoted in full below:

I command this province, which is the first of New Mexico, the Pueblo of Tigueyo, which governs one hundred and two pueblos to be the best ship car cross country region. In this pueblo there is a great mine close by, in which they cut with stone hatchets the gold of my crown. The great province of Zuni, where was born the great Malinche. This pueblo is very large, increasing in Indians of light complexion, who are governed well. In this province is a silver mine, and this capital controls eighteen pueblos. The province of Moqui, the province of the Navajos, the great province of the Gran Quivira, that governs the pueblos of the Quercs and the Tanos. These provinces have different tongues, which only Malinche understands. The province of Acoma, in which there is a blackish colored hill, in which there is found a silver mine.”

Homann associates Tigux and Teguayo.

Homann associates Tigux and Teguayo.

Although this statement mentions a number of early place names that bear further research, our concern is with the first line, regarding the “Pueblo of Tigueyo”. While there is no certainty that the above quote is authentic or even traceable, if it is true it seems to be the first recorded reference to Teguayo.

The first hard historical evidence of Teguayo appears in ever fascinating and violent journals of the Coronado expedition. Fought in New Mexico somewhere around 1540, between Coronado’s conquistadores and the Puebla of Tiwa, the Tiguex or Tiwa War is generally considered to be the first armed conflict between Europeans and Native Americans in the American West. The Spanish chroniclers transliterated Tiwa as either Tiguex or Tiguea. This powerful Pueblo is most likely one and the same with the “Tigueyo” described to Cortez by Cuauhtémoc.

The next significant report of Teguayo or Tiguex appears in the celebrated 1630 Benavides Memorial. Alonso de Benavides was a Franciscan missionary active in New Mexico in the early 17th century. Benavides composed the memorial and published it in Madrid in a push for the Spanish crown and the Catholic Church to establish a New Mexico bishopric. Though sincere in his passion for gentle conversion of the indigenous Americans of the southwest, Benavides clearly exaggerates the scale, wealth, and sophistication of the land and peoples he encountered. The pueblo of Tiguex (Teguayo) he describes as being ” by rights the great city of the king of this province” having “four thousand or more houses, all quite large, in each of which live from ten to fifteen neighbors”, with “high corridors and terraces, and very high towers,” and “situated on a plain on the banks of a river and enclosed by rock walls, set not with lime by with Gypsum”. It was a place so remarkable that “the Spaniards were simply awestruck with its beauty”.

Unbeknownst to Benavides, this exaggeration would have a significant impact on the next figure in the Teguayo drama, the nefarious Don Diego Dionisio de Peñalosa. Peñalosa could be generously described as a roguish adventurer but is more accurately a traitorous scoundrel in the true conquistador fashion. Born in Peru, Peñalosa took various positions in the Spanish colonial regime before being dismissed from his position in Lima for “misconduct”. Peñalosa attempted to return to Spain but a shipwreck landed him in Mexico where he seems to have had better luck. Calling himself the Count of Peñalosa, he flattered his way into increasingly powerful positions with the Viceroyalty, eventually being awarded governorship of New Mexico. The former governor, known for his kind and humane treatment of the indigenous population, fell afoul of the Spanish Inquisition for, supposedly, hindering the efforts of the Franciscan friars to convert the natives.

Peñalosa arrived in New Mexico in 1661, eager to take up his position and abuse it for personal enrichment. The constant thorn in his side was his clerical counterpart, the Franciscan friar Alonso de Posada. Both were ambitious and strong-willed men who quickly established a mutual loathing. A number of conflicts followed that ended with Peñalosa being excommunicated and Posada imprisoned. Eventually, Posada returned to Mexico City where he filed charges against Peñalosa who, meanwhile, fled to England.

Of importance to our story is that despite near constant conflict, both Posada and Peñalosa published narratives describing presumed explorations of the region. Peñalosa’s account is by far the most interesting; claiming, among other things, that he discovered an outlet to the “North Sea” and the gold-rich indigenous empires of Teguayo and Quivara. Modern researchers have put forth strong evidence that both men, involved in their own ambitious and petty disputes, fabricated part or all of their journals. Most likely Peñalosa (and possibly Posada) discovered manuscript versions of the Benavides Memorial in the official archives of the New Mexico governor and used these documents to further their own ends. Peñalosa extracted Benavides’ exaggerated account of Teguayo and took it one (or more likely 10) steps further. Posada, on the other hand, is the first to clearly and directly associate Teguayo with the Aztec homeland of Atzlatan and with the Lake of Copala (Copala was recorded as the home of the Aztecs in the journals of the 1628 Onate expedition and in the 1563 journals of the Ibarra Expedition. It is sometimes erroneously associated with Cibola).

Leaving Atzatlan - the Codes Boturini

Leaving Atzatlan – the Codes Boturini

Briefly, Atzatlan is the semi-mythical homeland of the Aztec or Mexica peoples. It appears in a number of early Aztec codices including the Tiera de Peregrinacion, Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, Codex Boturini, and the Codex Aubin. Translated directly it means “Place of Reeds” or “Place of Egrets”. It was supposedly a vast, populous, and wealthy land rich in gold, silver, and precious stones. It was even claimed that sickness did not touch those who dwelt there. The legend of the Aztec migration suggests that some natural or political disaster forced the Aztecs to flee their paradisiacal homeland, Atzatlan, which was a large shallow lake full of reeds and waterbirds. According to the detailed Aztec calendar, this event and the beginning of the Aztec migration occurred around May 24, 1064 CE. This date is not only contemporary with the beginning of the Aztec calendar, but also roughly coincides with the massive volcanic eruptions of Sunset Crater, Arizona. The migration seems to have lasted some 250 years before the Aztec, now Mexica, peoples settled on the shores of Lake Texcoco and founded Tenochtitlan. Lake Texcoco, today buried under the sprawling urban center of Mexico City, was once a vast shallow lake rich in fish and bird life. To the itinerant Mexica, Texcoco must have seemed very similar to “the Place of Egrets”, or Atzatlan.

The association of Teguayo with Atzatlan had two important results. First, it attached the legendary wealth of Atzatlan and the known wealth of the Aztecs to a new conquerable and unexplored land. Secondly, it associated Teguayo with the Lake of Copala, the legendary lake of Atzatlan. Peñalosa, likely having never explored the region himself, may even have believed in both his own exaggerations and those of the Benavides Memorial. Even so, he was not about to share his discoveries with the Spanish, whose Inquisition had excommunicated him and whose colonial viceroy in Mexico, spurred by Posada, was eager to execute him. Instead he presented a plan to the King of England. With a small force of men, Peñalosa argued, he could travel up the Rio Bravo and seize control of New Mexico, including the fabulously wealthy empires of Teguayo and Quivara. In his own mind, Peñalosa was the next Cortez. The King of England, busy with his own colonial efforts in New England, had little interest in Peñalosa’s designs and dismissed them entirely. Peñalosa next took his plan to Louis XIV of France who also dismissed his plans, denying him the troops and logistic support such a mission would have required. Ultimately, though no European prince ever embraced Peñalosa’s plans for the conquest of New Mexico, his claims were not ignored. The important French cartographer Guillaume Delisle, among others, embraced the idea of a wealthy indigenous province roughly where Peñalosa places Teguayo and it subsequently found its way into the mainstream European cartographic lexicon. (it is also of interest that the Penalosa’s fictive narrative reports the discovery of a “North Sea”, which may have influenced Delisle’s speculative mapping of the Sea of the West).

Humboldt Maps Teguayo as Great Salt Lake.

The next figure to take up an active interest in Teguayo was none other than the great German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt strongly advocated cartographic interpretation and incorporation of indigenous knowledge. While in Mexico, Humboldt had access to both historical accounts by conquistadors and explorers and indigenous knowledge preserved through missionary reports and oral legend. His remarkable map of 1811 Mexico and New Spain, the most accurate yet seen, was compiled entirely from these sources. Just as Humboldt compiled indigenous and colonial reports into his great map of Mexico, he also compiled the legends of Teguayo and Atzatlan. From the Aztec Codices he mapped the Aztec migration, noting each stop on his map; from the journals of Peñalosa and Posada he associates Teguayo with legendary Atzatlan and Onate’s Lake of Copala; based upon Escalante’s travel notes he recognizes a similarity between descriptions of the Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake with indigenous descriptions of Atzatlan; Humboldt thus takes the leap of identifying one of the Great Basin lakes as Teguayo, the homeland of the Aztecs. Humboldt’s reasoning is, as always sound, though it is unlikely in this case that he was correct, for he relied too heavily upon the fictitious reports of ambitious conquistadores. Nonetheless, Humboldt’s significance and fame, as well as the overall superiority and accuracy of his great map of Mexico and New Spain, influenced maps of the region for the next 50 years.

Humboldt, Alexander von, Views of nature: or, Contemplations on the sublime phenomena of creation…, (tr. Otte & Bohn), 1902.
Anderson, G. B., History of New Mexico: its resources and People, pp. 11-15.
Pierre Margry, ed., Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amérique septentrionalce, 1614–1754 (6 vols., Paris: Jouast, 1876–86).
France V. Scholes, Troublous Times in New Mexico, 1650–1670 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942).
Alfred Barnaby Thomas, trans., Alonso de Posada Report, 1686 (Pensacola: Perdido Bay, 1982).
Carson, P., Across the northern frontier: Spanish explorations in Colorado, 1998.
Murphy, L. R., Journal of the Southwest. “William F. M. Arny Secretary of New Mexico Territory 1862-1867”, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 1966), pp. 323-338.
Benavides, Alonso de, A harvest of reluctant souls: the memorial of Fray Alonso de Benavides, 1630, (tr. Baker H. Morrow), 1996.
Freytas, N., The Expedition of Don Deigo Dionisio de Penalosa, (tr. John Gilmary Shea), 1882.

Antique Map of the Week: 1839 David Burr and Jedediah Smith Map of the United States

Map of the United States Of North America With parts of the Adjacent Countries

Burr's extraordinary map of the United States.

Entitled “Map of the United States Of North America With parts of the Adjacent Countries”, this is David H. Burr’s all but unobtainable 1839 wall map of the United States. Burr’s map is an accomplishment of staggering significance and is considered the culmination of one of the most dramatic and romantic periods in the mapping of the American West. It is further one of the most significant maps in the opening of the American West to the Gold Rush that, in just a few years, would transform the nation. Between the expedition of Louis and Clark in 1804 – 1806 and the work of Fremont in the 1840s, the exploration of the Transmississippi experienced a kind of dark age. Nevertheless, while no official teams were pushing cartography westward, trappers and fur traders were slowly penetrating the region. Most of these figures were illiterate and did little to extend cartographic knowledge. The exception was Jedediah Smith, a trapper whose wanderings in the west and subsequent cartographic innovations the historian C. I. Wheat considers a “tour-de-force unprecedented and never equaled in the annals of Western exploration”. Smith spent roughly 9 years, between 1821 and 1830, exploring the Great Basin, the Sierra Nevada, the Rocky Mountains and the valleys of California, but sadly perished before his important work could be published. Smith’s now lost map was taken by his partner and friend, Missouri Congressman William H. Ashely, and eventually made its way into the hands of David H. Burr, who was then composing his own important map of the United States – offered here. Smith’s work must have seemed a revelation to Burr who struggled to reconcile conflicts between the mappings of Humboldt, Pike, Miera, and of course, Lewis and Clark. Burr, realizing the importance of Smith’s work, incorporated it throughout his map, thus redefining the cartographic representation of the region. Shortly after Burr published this seminal map, Smith’s original manuscript was lost, making Burr’s map the sole printed representation of Smith’s work. Curiously and somewhat inexplicably, this map never attained significant popularity in its day, leading to a very small publication run and, today, extreme rarity.

Our survey of Burr’s map must begin in the east. Burr, having just competed individual state plates for the 1835 issue of his New Universal Atlas had a relatively easy task of assembling the individual mappings into a cohesive whole. However, several elements do bear note. Burr identifies the nation’s fledgling rail network, which is strongest in the northeast, with bold blue and red lines. In the state of Maine both the disputed British boundary, roughly along the 47th parallel, and the far northern boundary claimed by the state of Maine are noted.

Heading west the territory becomes less settled and the character of the map changes. Particularly in Wisconsin and what would soon become Iowa, towns are few and far between, instead the map shifts its focus to notating American Indian Nations as well as the locations of forts, mills, lakes, portages, rapids, and waterfalls. Several land exchanges and treaties with various American Indian groups including the Sioux, the Sacs and Foxes, and the Chippewa are also identified.

When Burr drew this map, Missouri was the westernmost state and the jumping point for most significant journeys westward. Beyond the borders of Missouri the territory is dominated by the American Indian Nations recently relocated to western lands by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. These includes the Osages, Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw. Further north the territories of the Otoes, Kansas, and Shawnees are noted. The map also identifies important landmarks on the route westward including the fur trapping forts on the Arkansas River (Gant and Bent), various springs, Pikes Peak, James Peak, and the Spanish Peaks. Where known military routes through the region are sketched in, including Major Long’s Route and more importantly the Route of the Dragoons under Col. Dodge who, just a few years previous in 1834, initiated the first official contact between the U.S. Government and the Plains Indians.

As Burr took up the pen to draw this map, Texas was in the process of declaring its 1836 independence from Mexico. Years earlier the Mexican government offered significant land grants to those with the means and interest to settle Texas – which in accordance to Humboldt, many considered to be a wasteland. Nonetheless, many citizens felt that the United States had been cheated of Texas, which according to some treaties should have been included in the lands acquired under the Louisiana Purchase. Burr notes this border, along the Rio Grande or Rio del Norte, as the “Ancient Boundary of Louisiana as possessed by the French.” Consequently, when Mexico began offering grants, land hungry adventurers from north of the border seized the opportunity. The result is etched upon the Texan landscape to this day – Austin, Dewitt, McGloin, Burnett, Williams, McMullen, Wilson, Padilla, Chambers, and Cameron received grants to large swathes of territory that they were eager to develop. Many of these grants Burr notes with care, perhaps predicting the Mexican American War and the annexation of Texas that, as more expansionist Americans flooded into the newly independent region, seemed inevitable. Himself uncertain of the outcome of the Texas independence movement, Burr offers a curious compromise. On the Texas – U.S. border, Burr pens a distinct line with color coding that suggests a separate nation distinct from both Mexico and the United States. The Mexican border with Texas is, on the other hand, noted only as the aforementioned ancient Louisiana border. Ever the cartographic diplomat, Burr is thus able to appease both the U.S. recognition of an independent Texas and the Mexican denial of the same.

To the north and west of Texas from the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River to the modern Mexican border, Jedediah Smith’s cartographic work comes to the fore. Clearly composing this map with Ashley’s copy of the Smith map in hand, Burr delineates Jedediah’s nine years of wandering throughout the region. Most of the copious notations and commentary are drawn directly from Smith’s map, as are the corrected courses of many of the region’s river systems. It was Smith’s significant study of this vast area that ultimately united the discoveries of the 18th century Escalante-Miera map to the more contemporary mappings of Louis and Clark – finally brining the entire region into context. Smith also accomplished the first successful crossing of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada range. In the Sierra Nevadas he identifies Mount Rogers (likely Mt. Shasta) and, just to the South, Mt. Joseph. This map, via Smith, is the only published period example of Smith’s trailblazing work in this region, the extent of which is far too broad and significant to fully embrace in this simple medium, but which ultimately played a significant role in the American expansion westward. (With regard to further research on Smith’s cartographic significance we refer you to Wheat’s classic study, Mapping the Transmississippi West where an unprecedented entire chapter is dedicated to Smith’s travels) In 1849, when settlers and prospectors flooded into the region in response to the Gold Rush, they traveled along passages that “Old Jed” Smith had trail-blazed years before as a trapper and fur trader.

In the northwestern quadrant of the map Burr leaves the Oregon border open to the north, extending well into modern British Columbia. The British believed this territory fell into the land controlled by the Hudson Bay Company, while expansionist Americans asserted a claim to the region as far north as Russian America (Alaska). Five years following the Burr’s construction of this map this conflict would escalate into the 54°40′ dispute. The turmoil ultimately gave rise to slogans like “Fifty-four Forty or Fight!” and the catchphrase “Manifest Destiny”. However, exhausted with war following the Mexican-American conflict, the two sides finally signed the 1846 Oregon Treaty, settling the border along the current 49th parallel.

Wheat considers this map “in every respect a towering example especially in the Far West” and an essential chapter in the cartographic history of America. Burr composed this map in preparation for inclusion in his impossibly rare 1839 American Atlas. Most of the maps in the American Atlas were dissected and mounted linen – a common procedure at the time. This map, however, though clearly issued from the same printing plate, was a contemporaneous, but entirely independent issue. Though a few lucky libraries and museums, including the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the David Rumsey Collection, do possess examples of this map from the American Atlas, none possess a wall map issue. We have been able to identify no other examples of this map in wall map format in any collection, public or private, nor, as far as our records indicate, has it ever been offered at auction or in any dealer catalog. This is a once in a lifetime collecting opportunity.