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Mesoamerica: The Colonial Period Compiled by Brad R Huber Special Thanks to Carmack, Gasco, and Gossen’s The Legacy of Mesoamerica (2nd edition)

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Presentation on theme: "Mesoamerica: The Colonial Period Compiled by Brad R Huber Special Thanks to Carmack, Gasco, and Gossen’s The Legacy of Mesoamerica (2nd edition)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Mesoamerica: The Colonial Period Compiled by Brad R Huber Special Thanks to Carmack, Gasco, and Gossen’s The Legacy of Mesoamerica (2nd edition)

2 The Spanish King the supreme economic, political, and religious ruler over Spain. received a portion of the wealth from the Indies, oversaw the appointment of all high- ranking colonial officials, and controlled all of the ecclesiastical affairs in his domain. actively sought to create a highly centralized colonial government

3 The New Laws (1542) prohibited slavery of Indians, regulated encomiendas Definition: a grant by the crown to a conquistador, soldier, or official of the labor and tribute of Indians forbade the granting of any new encomiendas and prohibited the inheritance of those already in existence. But the encomienda system existed into the 18th Century

4 Political Administration of New Spain Spain: the Spanish Crown and the Council of the Indies. Spanish Colonies: royal power was delegated to virreyes (viceroys) who governed virreinatos (viceroyalties). Divisions of virreinatos were Audiencias (courts) or capitanías generales (captaincies) an audiencia was governed by a crown-appointed oidor (judge) a capitanía general was governed by a capitán general (captain general) captaincies general were established districts that were under serious pressures from foreign invasion or Indian attack.



7 El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro ("The Royal Road of the Interior Land") a 1,600 mile long trade route, 1598 to 1882


9 1628

10 Audiencias and capitanías generales were divided into smaller political units reinos (kingdoms) and provincias (provinces) these were ruled by gobernadores (governors) Provincias were divided into smaller units called corregimientos or alcaldias mayors (districts) these were governed by corregidores or alcaldes mayors (magistrates), A special category of corregidor, the corregidor de indios, was responsible for the administration of Indian towns.

11 Audiencias and capitanías generales



14 Corregimientos and Alcaldías mayores divided into municipios (municipalities, both Spanish and Indian), and were governed by a cabildo (town council) whose seat was the cabecera (head village) The cabildo was composed of a gobernador, regidores (councilmen), alcaldes (judges), constables, policemen, church stewards, tribute collectors, and messengers.

15 (Factory)

16 In addition to this hierarchy, the Crown regularly appointed royal inspectors (visitadores) who conducted inspections (visitas). In 1786, the intendancy system was introduced to strengthen royal control. Intendants were to be Spanish-born and reported directly to officials in Spain. Intendants replaced corregidors and alcaldes mayors.


18 Religious Administration of New Spain

19 Religious Hierarchy (Secular Clergy) The Holy See (the government of the Roman Catholic Church) was led by the Pope The Archdiocese of Mexico (archidiócesis) after 1745, southern Mesoamerica became Archdiocese of Guatemala. Archdioceses divided into obispados (dioceses or bishoprics) and included, at various times, Guadalajara, Michoacán, Mexico, Tlaxcala, Antequera (Oaxaca), Chiapa, Yucatan, Verapaz, Trujillo, and Leon, each administered by an obispo (bishop). Within the dioceses were parroquias (parishes) administered by padres (parish priests).

20 The Mendicant Orders (Religious Orders) the regular clergy who lived according to a rule or regla, and who lived from donations and alms Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Mercedarians, and The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.

21 Civil-Religious Institutions Affecting the Native Population The large Indian population viewed as a valuable resource Local officials often failed to implement Crown policies that were intended to benefit Indians. Obedezco pero no cumplo (I obey but do not execute).

22 Encomiendas I nitially, encomiendas were source of wealth for Spaniards. In some areas, encomiendas held into 18th century. Over time, encomiendas became less important. The Repartimiento System Established to provide the labor for colonial enterprises. Indian communities were required to provide labor for building and road construction, agricultural work, work in the mines, and as porters.

23 A variation was the repartimiento of goods Indians charged tribute in textiles. forced to purchase the cotton or wool at high prices.


25 Native communities also taxed through the colonial tribute system. Initially, tribute was in goods, but gradually payments in money replaced goods. Outright ownership of landed estates called haciendas came after the gradual demise of the encomienda system. In the north they were large and focused primarily on livestock. In other areas they were smaller and more diverse with livestock and agricultural components.



28 A situation of debt servitude frequently developed people were given wages in advance and then required to remain on the hacienda until the debt was paid off. Enganchadores of today Obrajes textile factories producing coarse clothe for consumption within New Spain. They tended to be located in cities.

29 Caste System Historian Magnus Morner reduced the number of castas to 6 broad categories: Peninsular Spaniards Creoles Mestizos Mulattoes-Zambos-Free Blacks Slaves Indians


31 Community Government Colonial authorities grouped native communities into municipios. cabecera, with sujetos of the head community. Initially, political power in native communities was in hands of descendants of the tlatoque. These leaders came to be called caciques “chiefs” in Arawak of West Indies. The program of congregación or reducción was very disruptive. Intended to aid clergy in “civilizing” the Indians.

32 By 1550, native communities governed by a municipal council called a cabildo. Gobernador One or two alcaldes (judges) two to four regidores (councilmen) lesser officials such as notaries, constables, policemen, wardens of the town jail, church stewards, tribute collectors, and messengers.

33 Cabildo had jurisdiction over all internal affairs of community. Imprison offenders, impose taxes and fines, assign community lands, rent out community lands to raise money grant permits to merchants and craftsmen collect tribute payments and assign local men to repartimiento labor drafts If a legal dispute crossed community lines, the case would move up to the Indian courts run by the Spanish colonial administration.

34 Native people handled day to day religious affairs fiscal served as an assistant deputy to the priest. saw to teaching of the catechism to children; made sure everyone attended Mass, and kept records of baptisms, marriages, and burials. Other lay religious officials included: the sacristan who supervised the maintenance of the Church. A choirmaster or Maestro de Coro (Cantor),

35 The Cofradia (Religious Brotherhood) most important institution in native religious life. A town might have cofradias devoted to the Virgin Mary, to Souls in Purgatory, to the Passion of Christ. Members contributed yearly dues to pay for funerals, Masses for the souls of the Dead, to purchase candles, flowers, costumes for religious festivals. Centering of religious devotion around community patron saints

36 Curers, midwives, and conjurers of the weather enjoyed considerable prestige and operated as informal religious authorities.

37 The Tzeltal Revolt, Chiapas, 1712 In May 1712, Maria Lopez, a 13 year-old Tzeltal girl from Cancuc, experienced an apparition of the Virgin Mary. She was instructed to have a shrine built Soon people from other native towns came to Cancuc to make offerings to the Chapel.


39 Maria’s father organized cult leaders. The religious images of main church taken to new chapel. Rebel priests conducted masses, baptisms, and marriages, and celebrated other community fiestas. Cult leaders circulated a letter from the Virgin Mary calling for a revolt. The rebels (20 villages, 6000? people) began raiding non-Indian communities, killing priests, and militiamen. However, the revolt was put down in several months.

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