Comancheros were Hispanic New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians who went onto the Llano Estacado (staked plains) of eastern New Mexico and north west Texas to trade with the Comanches.
After the Americans occupied New Mexico in 1846 and especially after the Civil War the U.S Military started campaigns to stop the Comanchero trade. They were concerned that the Comancheros were trading guns and powder to the Comanches in return for cattle that the Comanches would steal in raids in Texas. The Comanches, sometimes in cooperation with Comancheros, were devastating the ranches and towns of Texas.
One of my distant relatives was one of the last of the Comancheros. Jose Apolonio Ortiz was born February 8, 1841, before the American occupation, in Jacona, New Mexico to Joaquin Ortiz and Manuela Baca. He moved to La Cuesta (now Villanueva), New Mexico and married Teresa Prada, the daughter of Marcial Prada and Maria Alvina Sedillo. Together they had at least nine children, seven daughters and two sons. Somewhere in this married period they moved to Puerto de Luna, New Mexico. They may in reality have lived in both villages at the same time going back and fourth as the situation warranted. Below is a short narrative of what happened to Jose Apolonio Ortiz in the spring of 1872.
The following comes from pages 190 - 200 of the book titled "A History of New Mexican-Plains Indian Relations written by Charles L. Kenner and published by the University of Oklahoma Press at Norman, Oklahoma......
The end of the period of calm was presaged in February of 1872 when a band of 15 New Mexicans gathered at Puerto de Luna and slipped onto the Llano Estacado on a venture that would set off the most vigorous campaigning yet (by the U.S. Military) against their (Comanchero) trade. Following a trail known only to themselves and the Comanches, they crossed the Alamo Gordo and Las Truchas (Pygmy streams which flowed off the Llano into the Pecos), climbed the western escarpment of the Staked Plains, then moved southeastward past a series of watering places - Tule Lake, Tierra Blanca Lake, and Portales Springs to the Salada, a large salt lake just west of the Texas line where New Mexican cattle buyers had formally bargained with "the men (Comancheros) who deal directly with the Indians."
The trail branched at the Salada, with one fork running east towards the Canon del Rescate (Ransom Canyon), but the Comancheros followed the other fork southeastward to the Mucha Que Valley. Here the traders had often bartered for thousands of cattle, but on this occasion the Indians had no stolen stock. While waiting for a Comanche party to make a quick visit to the Texas ranges, the New Mexicans (Comancheros) unfortunately grew impatient and went on a scavenging expedition of their own.
Unknown to them, Sargent William Wilson and a small detachment of the Fourth Cavalry from Fort Concho were trailing some stolen horses in the vicinity. The soldiers had often followed similar trails without success, but this time they accidentally encountered the Comancheros, who were unsurely feeling their way through the alien breaks of the Colorado. Although the New Mexicans (Comanchero's) fled, the pursuing cavalrymen, in a "brisk little fight" killed two and captured a youth from La Cuesta named Polonio Ortiz.
When (Apolonio) Ortiz sought to shield himself and his friends by giving incorrect names and information, Major John Hatch, commanding Fort Concho, threatened that only by the "most faithful service" could he ever expect to receive a pardon. (Apolonio) Ortiz finally breaking, named his home town, his fellow traders, and the merchants who backed them; described the method of trading and the trails across the Llano Estacado; and agreed to serve the military as a guide. To verify his story, Hatch on April 29th dispatched Captin N.B. McLaughlin to reconnoiter the Mucha Que Valley. Led by (Apolonio) Ortiz, McLaughlin arrived at Mucha Que after a five day march, only to find that the Indians had deserted it the preceding day. The Many cattle tracks, however, confirmed (Apolonio) Ortiz's account.