TYPE: Manuscript
DIMENSIONS: 30 cm.
COMPONENTS: Approx. 179 leaves. Some pages with fiscal seals. Manuscript in black ink. Very good condition.
NOTES: Mexican Indian language manuscripts,especially 16th century ones, are very rare.
priceInfo: 1/22/15
Inscription Notes: Mostly in the Nahuatl Aztec language.
ITEM ID: 3538
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Spanish Appropriation of Native Land Sale Deeds

DATE
Century: 16th (1501-1600)
Notes: 1564 – 1660

A manuscript of land sale deeds of the Spanish appropriation process of Indian lands in Mexico. Contains land sale documents and disputes, composed mainly of Indian lands, in central Mexico (Texcoco, Coyoacan, Huehuetoca, vicinity of Mexico City – some of the identified places).

Information on the Spanish appropriation of the Indian lands: The most intensive period of indigenous land sales was 1598-1608, and coincides with a fact that may be the main cause, the implementation of the congregations. This is the reunification of settlements that had very few Indians and moving them to larger populations. This demographic movement forced many natives to sell the land from which they were taken and facilitated the Spaniards to simply occupy the remaining vacant territories.

Since the beginning of the conquest of Mexico, land was a coveted element by the Spanish, which saw it as a way to acquire wealth and roots. The cabildo laws there were meant to protect the land of the Indian noble hierarchy, but did not prevent the new peninsular settlers of finding other means of access to those lands. The earliest and economical way to acquire them was through marriage with Indian nobles.

With the demographic crisis and the process of indigenous depopulation came the abandonment of many farmlands and loss of labor force that had the Indian ”Caciques to take care of their extensive properties; to one and the other came the Spaniards, whether by purchase, lease or simple ownership, despite the initial opposition of the Cabildo, who saw in this phenomenon a serious risk of loss of power of the indigenous nobility .

Given the rapidly growing rate of Spanish acquisitions of Indians lands, the Spanish government established a control: in 1571 a royal decree required that for any Indian land meant for sale, a public auction was to be announced openly by a “Pregonero” for a month. But because this policy only covered properties with more than 30 pesos value, the Spaniards tried to buy smaller fractions of land with lower prices to avoid official control. At the request of some indigenous leaders, in 1583 it was proposed that the mandatory system of publicly announcing the land sales be applied for any value of land for sale, and that the notice should also be made in Nahuatl, so that the Indians could also be included in the growing land market. The measure was hardly applied and the “secret” Spanish acquisition of Indian lands continued; it seems that the Cabildo had already accepted the current system of land appropriation. (W. Trautmann, Las transformaciones en el paisaje cultural de Tlaxcala durante la época colonial. Journal of Historical Geography, v9 n4 (1983): 427-429).

An example is given by Carrasco in the Huasteca territory, “To facilitate the evangelization of the Indians and especially to ensure that the Caciques paid tribute, the Spaniards proceeded to regroup the indigenous communities in a few major towns. This procedure, known under the name of Indian Congregations, was held in the Huasteca between 1560 and 1600 and allowed the Spaniards incidentally to appropriate or buy cheaply the indigenous lands emptied of their inhabitants. It was, in effect, an amendment to the boundaries of indigenous peoples and their loss of control of part of their land. Thus, after the regrouping of populations of the 44 indigenous capitals and 22 villages in la Huasteca (as were reported in 1532) in the province of Panuco, by 1610 there were only 16 indigenous communities.  (P. Carrasco, “La transformación de la cultura indígena durante la colonia”, Historia Mexicana, 25 (2), 1975, p. 193.)