The conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés and the victories of other conquistadors in ensuing decades did not end conflict and dissension in the Americas. In this section, the exhibition provides examples of continued discord or disagreement, of cultural, political, and economic adjustment and accommodation, as well as examples of the skillful use Native Americans made of Spanish laws and courts to maintain their rights and win concessions for their people.
Slavery has existed in societies since antiquity, but illustrations like these reinforced the belief that slavery was particularly cruel under the Spanish. Even though Emperor Charles V prohibited Indian slavery in the New Laws, the slavery of Africans continued because slave owners frequently ignored or contradicted Spanish law. Slaves often worked at mines as shown here, but some of the worst conditions were on rural estates.
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Landmark Native Legal Victory
Native artists prepared this codex in 1531 as part of a lawsuit brought by indigenous people of Huejotzingo, Mexico, on behalf of Hernán Cortés. Cortés sued the judges of the Mexico City court for demanding excessive tribute payments from the Indians under their jurisdiction, and they won an unprecedented victory in court. The banner shows what scholars believe is the earliest image of the Madonna and Child created by Indians in the New World.
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The Oztoticpac Lands Map
The Oztoticpac Lands Map is an Aztec pictorial document with Nahuatl writing drawn for a court case surrounding the Oztoticpac estate within the city of Texcoco around 1540. The document, written on amatl paper, involves the land ownership of the Aztec ruler Chichimecatecotl, who was executed by Spanish officials in 1539. It is not clear from surviving information who won the case. Most of the document consists of black-and-red line drawings showing fields, houses, palaces, trees, and measured plots of land. In the lower left, twenty trees that have been grafted with European fruit stock in a local orchard are shown. These include apples, quinces, pears, grapes, and pomegranates.
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Techialoyan Land Record
Because the Spaniards annihilated the Aztec civilization and burned its archives, surviving examples of Indian codices are rare. This manuscript and map are part of the Techialoyan land records created in the seventeenth century using old methods to substantiate native land claims with the Spanish authorities. This map contains indigenous cartographic conventions that differ considerably from those of Europe. For example, one must rotate it for proper viewing. The bell-shapes denote a community, and the trail of footprints depicts a path or road. Documents like these portray the legitimacy of a local community and its rights to a territory.
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Natural History of Brazil
The Dutch naturalist and physician Willem Piso was sent to Brazil in 1637 by the Dutch West India Company to serve as physician to the governor of its colony in Brazil and to investigate the medicinal properties of Brazilian plants. He was among the first Europeans to recognize the efficacy of many American plants in treating illness. This natural history of Brazil includes sections on common illnesses, poisonous snakes, as well as on sugar and manioc cultivation. In this illustration are a manioc plant and a hand-mill worked by two men to make the flour.
Willem Piso. Gulielmi Pisonis medic Amstelaedamensis De Indiae. . . . (Willem Piso, doctor of Amsterdam and of the Indies. . . .). Amsterdam: Ludovicum et Danielem Elzevirios, 1658. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (084.00.00, 084.01.01, 084.01.02)
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Aztec Tribute Lists
Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana (1722–1804), who became archbishop of Mexico in 1766, published this richly illustrated compilation of valuable historical documents relating to the history of Mexico. One document is this “Matrícula de Tributos” (Roll of tributes), a native codex painted in 1521 by an Aztec artist. The Aztecs exacted tribute from conquered foreign territories in the form of desirable merchandise and raw materials. Displayed is one of the thirty-one tribute pages, each of which pictures the exact items, such as bundles of cacao beans, jaguar pelts, feathers, and other luxury goods, sent from a particular city or region.
“Matrícula de Tributos” (Roll of tributes) in Francisco Antonio de Lorenzana. Historia de Nueva-Espaÿa (History of New Spain). Mexico: Joseph Antonio de Hogal, 1770. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (069.00.00, 069.00.01, 069.00.02, 069.00.03)
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