11. A Knotted Cord

By Nico Bell-Romero (@NicoBellRomero)

Receiving a knotted cord – a strand made from yucca leaves – might seem like a strange gift for Christmas, but in August 1680, during their revolt against the Spanish, the Pueblo peoples of present-day Mexico placed great importance on them.

These cords, which were tied with as many knots as there were days before the revolt, were taken by runners from town to town. Each pueblo “was to untie one knot to symbolize its acceptance,” observed one indigenous man who was implicated in the plot, “and also to be aware of how many knots were left.”[1] The plan did not go off without a hitch – one Pueblo group, perhaps fearing the conquistadors’ ferocious violence, betrayed the conspiracy. Still, Po’pay, the revolt’s figurehead, moved the uprising forward and on 10 August the revolt swept through New Mexico, destroying houses, ranches, and churches and killing some four hundred Spaniards – about twenty percent of the colonial population. By 21 August, the Spanish had evacuated the region altogether. The conquistadors would return with a vengeance twelve years later, but the knotted cord remained a terrifying symbol for the Spanish, reminding them that their colonies were still in Indian country.

Source: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

[1] Andres Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America (New York and Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), p. 154.

Image by B-roll from Pexels

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