In November 1775, Kumeyaay Indians attacked and destroyed Mission San Diego, at the foot of Alta California. In the wake of that event, Spanish officials interrogated and tortured Indians to gather intelligence. While historians have recounted the uprising's origins and aftermath, they have not recognized that their accounts ultimately rest on coerced testimony. This article suggests that, even after torture had fallen out of favor in the courts of New Spain, the practice continued informally in the northern borderlands, where Spanish colonists lived among numerous and often hostile native peoples. It concludes that the desire and determination to uncover native intentions have led ethnohistorians to accept coerced testimony that is of dubious historical value.

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