Marquesado del Valle Codex

Description

This exceptionally valuable file contains 28 separate petitions from different leaders and towns of the Marquesado del Valle, protesting seizures of lands and sugar mills by Hernán Cortés, the first marquess. The Marquesado comprised the present-day Mexican state of Morelos as well as parts of the states of Puebla, Oaxaca, and Mexico. The great sugar plantations that Cortés created were organized by renting, buying, or seizing gardens, fields, and other lands that had belonged to the caciques (Indian nobles), towns, and districts since time immemorial. Throughout the 16th century, the indigenous and European economies functioned alongside each other. Indians tried to retain what was theirs while the Spaniards were forcefully expanding their holdings. The petitions, principally concerning agriculture, were written in the middle of the 16th century. They generally contain a text in Náhuatl that explains the nature of the complaint and a rough drawing or map made by tlacuilos (Indian painters). Full of symbolism, information, and indigenous knowledge, these drawings indicate ownership of land parcels; show place names with topographic glyphs; show the size of parcels according to Mesoamerican calculations; indicate the type of production and the quantities; and give the names of ruling chiefs and other assorted facts. These documents provide important detail about the geography of vast zones of central Mexico at the beginning of the viceregal period, a time when the region was undergoing rapid transformation. Currently, the Marquesado del Valle Codex is in the Archivo General de la Nación de México, Record Group Hospital de Jesús, volume 487, bundle 276.

Last updated: June 12, 2012