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(MEXICAN MANUSCRIPTS.) Manuscript confirmation of arms and nobility in favor of descendants of the Montezuma family. Hand-painted coat of arms on linen. 30,  manuscript leaves. Folio, contemporary vellum, worn; lacking free endpapers, moderate wear and several early repairs to contents. Mexico, 1675-1758
A series of royal decrees and supporting documentation, confirming the nobility and privileges of several members of the family of the Aztec emperor Montezuma II. The subjects of these documents were descended from Indian caciques who held prominent posts in and near Tula, in the modern state of Hidalgo. Most of them bore the last names of Larios or Acevedo de Moctezuma, and traced their descent to a brother of the emperor, named here as Sumacoa. Sumacoa's sons Francisco and Diego Montezuma eventually joined the Spaniards and assisted them in conquering Mexico, thereby becoming conquistadors. Included is transcript of a 1536 real cédula from Charles V thanking don Francisco and don Diego for their service to the Spanish Crown, and granting them titles of nobility. Charles V also issued them a coat of arms, included in the volume. It was emblazoned with the letters "R" and "E," which, as explained here, represented the first two letters of rey, Spanish for "king." In the mid-17th century, one of Francisco's descendents, don José Larios, governor of Atotonilco de Tula in Hidalgo, married doña María Montaño, daughter of the Spanish conquistador don Gaspar de Montaño. The family thus became intertwined with Spanish conquistador nobility and emphasized it throughout these documents. Interestingly, none of them identified as mestizos or people of mixed-race ancestry, but rather as Indians. The family used their prestigious ancestral connections to Moctezuma and the conquistadors throughout the 18th century to receive official confirmation of their nobility. Their efforts involved gathering testimony from various people from Mexico City and Tula regarding the ancestry and reputation of the family, which are included. Much of it came from common indigenous and mestizo craftsmen. They also successfully won the right to bear arms and to be exempt from tribute. Numerous interesting details about the family are interspersed throughout, such as the mention of a legal dispute between don José Larios and the Spaniard Capitán Marcos de Obregón Salazar over the use of an oven for making limestone; the case eventually went before the real audiencia, the highest court in colonial Mexico. The volume as a whole is a rich history of a surviving branch of Aztec nobility, spanning three centuries. It tells a story of successful adaptation and maneuvering, from don Francisco's rewarding alliance with Cortez and the Conquistadors in 1521, to his descendants' successful use of his legacy in the 1740s to win exemptions from tribute.
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