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222 years later, Anza buffs will gather in Pueblo

Brief by Central Staff

History – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

There won’t be an Anza Day in Poncha Springs this August, since Pueblo will be hosting the Anza World Conference from August 31 to September 2.

It’s about Juan Bautista de Anza, the Spanish commander who founded the presidio of San Francisco, Calif., in 1776.

[Anza on horseback]
[Anza on horseback]

He was governor of the Spanish province of New Mexico in 1779, when the Jupe Comanche often rode in from the plains and crossed the mountains to raid pueblos like Taos.

To stop the raids, Anza took a circuitous route from Santa Fé 222 years ago. Instead of just chasing the Comanche after they appeared, on Aug. 15 he headed north with an army of 600 men as soon as he got word that the Comanche were approaching.

The idea was to swing around, out of sight of the Comanche, and catch the Indians as they emerged eastbound from the mountains. It worked, and Anza’s Spanish army defeated the Comanche, and their leader Cuerno Verde (Green Horn), on Sept. 2, 1779 in the area of present-day Rye, southwest of Pueblo.

Along the way, the Spanish army camped near present Saguache on Aug. 24 and Villa Grove on Aug. 25. Then they made the first recorded crossing of Poncha Pass and camped at the townsite of Poncha Springs on Aug 26.

The next day, they crossed the Arkansas River in the vicinity of Salida and then went east along the south edge of South Park before reaching the plains on Aug. 30.

His exact route between Salida and Pueblo has never been determined, and the site of the battle with Cuerno Verde has been a subject of much conjecture over the years.

However, an amateur historian now claims to have found it, and that will be one presentation at the Sixth Annual Anza World Conference — a gathering of Anza scholars and history buffs from as far away as Spain — at Pueblo Community College.

Other planned topics include presentations from the Ute and Comanche nations, as well as a living history program and a bus tour of Anza’s route in that area, at about the same time of year that he passed through.

Conference fee is $35 before Aug. 1 and $40 after, with group rates and separate event tickets available. The contact is Wilfred Martinez, 113 Fordham Circle, Pueblo CO 81005, 719-561-0585,

And to learn more about Anza, check out the website at, which has his 1779 journal in both English and the original Spanish — maybe you’ll be the one to figure out his route east from Salida.