Apr 16, 2019 - Sale 2505

Sale 2505 - Lot 314

Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
(MEXICAN MANUSCRIPTS.) Viceregal orders regarding disputes between Indian communities in Puebla over rights to wood. 11 manuscript pages bearing numerous signatures including two of the first viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, 12 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches, stitched with later manuscript waste-paper wrappers; moderate dampstaining, substantial wear including separations at folds and slight loss of text at edges. Vp, 1539-50

Additional Details

Orders, licenses, and reports issued under the command of the influential first viceroy of New Spain, don Antonio de Mendoza, including two bearing his signature, regarding quarrels between Indians over the right to cut down wood from local forests.
Not long after the conquest of Mexico in 1521, campaigns to build churches and monasteries to facilitate the conversion and teaching of Mexican natives were well underway. Indigenous towns throughout Mexico needed building materials to construct sumptuous new churches which would replace their old pyramids. The people of the Nahua town of Huaquechula (in what is now Puebla) were aggressively raiding the forests of Calpan, Ocopetlayucan, and Tochimilco to obtain the wood for their churches, resulting most notably in a monastery which stands today as the ex-convento de San Martín Huaquechula. The people of these forest towns charged the outsiders with taking excessive lumber not just for the churches but to sell illegally as lumber or firewood.
Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza was sympathetic to those of Huaquechula and other towns seeking wood for their churches, probably out of a desire to support the spread of Christianity. He thus issued the orders offered here, authorizing them to take the wood they needed. These orders must have been in the possession of indigenous communities at one time, who doubtlessly cherished them as symbols of their legal rights. Although the main text of the documents is in Spanish, some have Nahuatl inscriptions. One Nahua Indian, probably from Huaquechula, wrote on the back of one order, summarizing it in Nahuatl, and celebrating his town's legal victory: "Mandamientos . ypampa . ynic vel campa ticalaquizq . ý quauhtla ayac techtlacahualtiz . ý tleý ticanazq ý quahuitl vel ticanazque"--"[These are] orders, regarding how we can indeed enter the forests and no one can stop us. What we can take is the wood, we can really take it."
Also included are reports on investigations ordered by Mendoza and carried out by Spanish scribes and officials. Based on indigenous testimony mediated through an interpreter, these documents give a direct view into local indigenous politics at the time. The complaints of the people living near the forests were correct; the other Indians descending onto their woodlands were, in fact, taking too much wood and using it for their own personal gain. Viceroy Mendoza thus tempered his orders and stipulated that the wood had to be cut down in the presence of the leaders and residents of surrounding towns, so that they could assure that only the necessary amounts of wood could be cut. These compromises apparently did not work. It appears orders from the viceroy himself could only go so far. The last text is a 1550 letter to a corregidor (a Spanish official in charge of supervising Indians) complaining that for all the efforts and pronouncements, the Indians of Ocopetlayucan and Tochimilco were not allowing those of Huaquechula to take any wood from their forests.