TYPE: Documents

ITEM ID: 4798

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Documents Regarding the Fight for Water Between Natives and Landowners in New Spain

Century: 17th (1601-1700)
Notes: 1617-1626

Documents regarding the controversy between a Spanish landowner and the natives of various towns of the Municipality of Tehuacan Puebla.

A large file that details the controversy between Alonso de Mendoza and the Indians of various towns. The confrontation starts by a grant given by the Viceroy, Marquess of Guadalcazar, in which Mendoza is given sources of water to supply his lands. However, the native towns that use the water, complain that if the water is given to Mendoza they won´t have enough for their needs.

The document includes a sheet in Nahuatl, with its transcription, in which the Indians state that the water is not enough and ask for justice – it’s signed by native chiefs of the towns.

The document has five signatures by the Viceroy of the New Spain, Marquess of Guadalcazar; and following his, it has one signature by his successor the Marquess of Cerralbo.

The Ffight for Water: Abuses of the Natives in the New Spain

Water was an important factor in the agrarian conflicts that took place in New Spain in the 17th and 18th century, when the population increased and there was great pressure on existing natural resources. It was always scarcer than the land and for crops that needed irrigation, such as sugarcane and wheat, it was indispensable. Thus, he was the detonator of innumerable problems, in many regions surpassed those caused by land issues.

At the beginning of the 17th century, with the beginning of the Spanish Haciendas, the claims of Indians who said they had been deprived of the water that belonged to them started.

As the demand for water increased, its community use was lost as it was in the 16th century, and it became private property thanks to the grants of the colonial authorities that benefited the rich and powerful landowners.

Indigenous communities had been guaranteed the right to continue using the lands and waters they had exploited since pre-Hispanic times in the 16th century. However, at the beginning of the 17th century, in the face of abuses by Spanish landowners, the indigenous people had to undergo unfair litigations under the pressure of the Haciendas and the Colonial authorities backing them.In many cases they lost the cases, because they had no documents to prove their ownership, since the Spaniards never gave them any.