Royal Instructions for the Viceroy Mendoza


First of all, as soon as you arrive in the country and have begun to understand its affairs, both spiritual and temporal, and in particular those related to the construction of the churches necessary for the Holy Religion and to the conversion and instruction of the native Indians of that land, as well as of other matters pertaining to the service of the Lord Our God and the discharge of Our royal conscience, you should report whatever you find lacking or needing attention to Us immediately, including your opinions in the matter and those of the local prelates. In the meantime, with the help of the local clergy, you should make provision in all of this to the extent that you can and see that it is necessary.

Also, you should try as quickly as possible to make a visitation of the City of Mexico as well as all the other cities, towns, and settlements of the province, doing this in person for the most important places as soon as it is convenient. Others who are dependable and able should be sent to those areas that you cannot visit; and they should be familiarized with the content of these orders. In the towns visited, you or your deputy should make note of the type and size of each town, and a census should be taken of the number of citizens as well as the number of Spanish merchants in each. You should also ascertain the amount that the inhabitants [Indians] pay or contribute in any form whatsoever to Us or to those that hold the town in encomienda in Our name. This should be done so that Our books may be kept up to date and the findings compared to past visitations and assessments can be reviewed.

Also, you should see if those towns are able to pay more gold, silver, and other things of value than they currently pay; [and if so], you should inform them that their assessment will be increased, payable in silver, gold, or its equivalent. Since I have been informed that the Indians of that country pay their tributes in blankets, corn, and other local goods that are difficult to turn into revenue, you should find a manner in which their tributes can be paid by converting all those things into a certain quantity of gold or silver yearly. This should be accomplished in such a manner that it increases Our revenue but not their labor, and since this is a very important matter, you should place great care in it, listing what they pay in tribute presently and what Our officials get for it when they sell it or use it in payment, and what its value would be if commuted to gold or silver; and you should send this list along with your report on the first ship to come.

Also since at the beginning of the settlement of that land We granted it exemption from the alcabala [sales tax] and other taxes for a certain period or as long as it was Our will in order to encourage its development, this privilege being enjoyed by the merchants, traders, settlers, and Indians of that province; and since at present, as is well known, We are faced with great expenses for the defense of Our kingdoms against the enemies of Our Holy Faith, and it is proper that We be assisted in meeting these needs by Our subjects, especially through the alcabalas and special taxes (servicios) that have traditionally been paid in these kingdoms of Castille, it seems proper to Us that the natives, settlers, merchants, and traders of those provinces should pay the said alcabala and give Us a moderate servicio in some years, and you should discuss this with them. And as soon as you have become involved in the affairs of that country, you should send Me a detailed report of what can and ought to be done without injury to the settlers or threat to the security of that province.

Also, discussion has occumed here concerning the best arrangements that could be made for the Crown to receive revenue from the said country with less vexation to its natives, and in particular whether those [Indian pueblos] which do not have the capacity to pay the tributes and taxes they owe Us in gold should be required to provide people to work in the gold or silver mines that are assigned to the Crown, supporting them there at their cost to mine the metal for Us. This would be if they have the capacity for it; and if they do not, they could provide only the people to work in the mines or only the supplies, so they would not be so overburdened. Also [it has been discussed] whether other pueblos should support a number of slaves in the mines. You should discuss [all] this with our judges, officials, and other reasonable people who have knowledge of the country; and you should arrange things with all the care and moderation that is necessary in this case, doing what is most acceptable to the Indians and most profitable for Our treasury, and you should advise Me what you agree on and what you do.

Also, since it seems that the Indians are naturally inclined to laziness, you should make provision in the areas where this is possible for them to have the same order and enterprise (grangeria) in their own affairs, because in addition to the advantage derived from keeping them occupied, since the problems resulting from their idleness are great, Our treasury would benefit from the fifths they would pay Us from what they extract, and once rich, they would pay Us other taxes as well. This must be accomplished with great tact and moderation, however.

From many petitions that have come here from that land for several years, We have been informed that due to the absence of silver, gold, and vellon [alloy] coins in the country, much of the trade between Spaniards and natives has ceased and both groups have suffered loss and injury, since in the absence of money, they have to cut up the pieces of gold in the shops to pay for their purchases. A worse problem is that where the Indians lack money, they do not have anything with which to pay their tribute save for the blankets and other articles from which one can gain little of value. In response to these and other arguments that were made and to the insistent pleas that We order money to be coined in that land, We sent orders to Our President and judges [of the audiencia] in that land to inform themselves of what was requested in this matter and to discuss it with the honorable citizens there, sending Us their opinion of the steps that should be taken. In fulfillment of this they sent their opinion, saying that money should be coined there, because in addition to benefitting the population and encouraging the development of the country, it could be arranged for some of it to be paid to Us [in taxes3. Thus after seeing this, We decided to give orders for money to be coined there, though only of silver and vellon for the present. Thus in accordance with the order and instructions that will be given you by My Council of the Indies, I order you immediately to have the said money coined.

Above all, as soon as you are informed of the quality and quantity of the country [i.e., the Indians] and the tributes paid, you should draw up a memorial that includes the City of Mexico and the other cities, towns, and villages that you think should remain in the possession of the Crown forever and never be alienated from it, listing each of these places separately with the quality and quantity of its inhabitants as well as the amount of revenue presently obtained from it, noting whether this is expected to increase. You should send this report to Us so that after reading it We can make suitable provision.

Also, you should inform yourself of the number of conquistadores who are still alive in New Spain and those who are absent with your permission or that of Our judges, as well as of those who have died, leaving heirs in New Spain. You should also inform yourself of the other settlers in the country and their status (calidad), and of the benefits they have received, whether in the form of royal grants, encomiendas, or anything else.

Since it has always been Our desire to reward honestly and moderately those who have served in the conquest and pacification of that country, and to grant favors to those who have gone to settle and populate it, when you have done the above, you should also draw up a memorial of what you think it would be proper for Us to grant to each of the said conquerors and settlers from what is left over in the province, declaring in each paragraph of the memorial the term you think should be assigned, whether perpetual (en el fondo) or something else, and whether it should be granted with jurisdiction in the first instance with the conditions that will be imposed. In your report you should also include the revenue and income that each of the said conquerors and settlers receives in the country under a grant from Us, assuming that We receive a certain share perpetually in recognition of Our overlordship. You should send Us these reports so that We can order them examined as quickly as possible and make provision in this as is proper for the satisfaction of the conquistadores and the settlement of the land.

There have always been certain differences of opinion with regard to the allocation of the land [in encomiendas], though their holders believed themselves acting in Our service and God's; and copies of these will be given you for your information. After you have gained an understanding of the land, you should discuss these views with the prelates, Religious, and respected citizens, informing Me of their opinion as well as your own, so that suitable provision can be made with greater deliberation and agreement. You should include in your opinion the amount of revenue and income from these places thaf, the settlers should give you [?] as feudal dues.

Also, I have been informed that in the cues of the Indians, which are the temples they used for sacrifices, there are great quantities of wealth that the principal men of the land who were buried there had placed in their tombs. I have also heard that in these cues they hid other treasures in large quantities for their sacrifices to the devil. You should diligently have these treasures sought out and appropriated for the Crown; and whatever is obtained you should send Us, sending a report of their value separately.

Since We have been informed that in each of the Indian towns there is a cacique whom they recognize as their chief and lord, and this cacique demands other tributes and services, both of a real and personal nature, beyond those that are paid to Us, though they have no right to do this; and because of the large amounts they collect, the Indians are impoverished and cannot pay tribute to Us as they should, you should investigate this report and determine what could be done to diminish the amounts collected by these caciques so as to increase what is paid to Us and add to the royal treasury; and you should draw up a report on this and forward it to Us with your opinion.

Also, We are informed that in many places in the said province there are large and wealthy mines of gold, silver, and other metals, and that in addition to the fifths paid by private individuals who mine them with Our license and permission, We could increase Our revenues greatly if Our officials in the said mines purchased for Us a large number of slaves, either blacks or people purchased from the Indians who are held and reputed to be slaves. And because this is a matter of great importance and We could receive great benefit if it is correct, We charge and command you, after you have discussed this matter with Our judges and officials in New Spain and with other persons who have knowledge of it, to make provision as you think is most appropriate for this purpose. And if you should see that to carry this out better it would be good to have a quantity of slaves sent out from these kingdoms or other regions, you should advise Us of it, giving the number and quality of the slaves desired and what you have begun to do in carrying this out, so that I can make disposition in this matter quickly as is appropriate for Our service and the good administration of Our treasury.

Also, We are informed that the greater part of the said province is very fertile and productive, providing within itself a diversity of products that could be of benefit to Us as well as to the natives and settlers if enough industry and care were employed in this. Therefore I charge and command you as in a matter where We would consider Ourselves well served, to investigate this, and if it turns out to be a matter that could lead to an increase in Our revenues and royal patrimony presently or in the future, you shall entrust the administration of each of these things to Our officials or to other persons who you consider more able and sufficient and more appropriate to Our service and the good management of Our treasury.

Also, you shall inform yourself of the number of corregidores that have been appointed in the said province on Our order or that of the audiencia in Our name, as well as the salary each one receives, the total for all of them, and the benefit that results to Our service and to the said republic [from having them]; and you shall make provision in this matter as you see is appropriate, avoiding any cost and expense that is possible to avoid without causing problems.

Also, you shall inform yourself of the places within New Spain and the other adjoining provinces subject to the jurisdiction of the audiencia in appeals where bishops are presented by Us and appointed by His Holiness [the pope], and of the boundaries that each of these bishoprics possesses, and whether it would be useful now or in the future to reduce or extend the boundaries of any of these bishoprics so that the prelates, cabildos, churches, and charitable societies (beneficiencias) have revenues that are suitable and adequate to sustain their functions; and you shall send Us your opinion in this matter so that I can have it studied and make provision in accord with God's service and Our own.

Also, since We have ordered that the President and judges of the said audiencia should inform themselves of the manner in which the Indian natives of the said province could pay the ecclesiastical tithe that they are obliged to pay under divine and human law without vexation or disturbance among them, you shall investigate what has been done unjustly in this matter by the bishops and prelates, and you shall make provision in it as you think most appropriate to God's service and Ours; and if you see that the quantity of the tithes are so large and they are so valuable that it exceeds what is necessary for the suitable endowment of the churches and their ministers and prelates, you shall assign a cost that seems suitable to Us to dispose of in accord with Our will and desire. And you shall advise Me in detail of what you do in this matter and what you think I should order done, respecting in this matter of the tithe what has already been written and ordered.

Also, you should find out what monasteries have been built or begun in the said province, and which ones it would be suitable to build for the better instruction of the natives in the things of Our Holy Faith. And you shall arrange for these to be built with the help of the said Indians at the smallest cost to Us that is possible, and without vexation or wrong to the Indians. And you shall inform Us of what you do in this matter and of what you think I should order done, both in sending Religious of good life and example and in other things appropriate to the said purpose.

Also, you shall find out what fortresses and stronghouses have been built in the said city of Mexico and in other places in the said province, and which would be useful to build, both in the seaports and in other places in the country. And you shall order that those you find to be necessary for Our service and the security and defense of the country be built with the help of the Indians, without vexation or wrong to them, as is said. You shall inform Us of this and of the persons who have served and who seem able and sufficient enough to become their wardens (alcaides), and of their salaries and the other things that it would be useful to have in each of these forts for their defense, both ammunition, artillery, and other things, so that I can have this studied and make provision in accord with Our service. And if you see that the delay required to consult and wait for Our order could lead to some harm from which We would receive a disservice, you shall make temporary provision as you think suitable and necessary to avoid this.

Also, you shall investigate the state of the accounting that We have ordered taken of Our officials and other persons in charge of Our treasury, and you shall give orders on Our behalf for this to be continued and brought to a conclusion and to collect the sums that may be due; and you shall appoint for this purpose the accountants and other persons who are needed to take this accounting and bring it to a conclusion with the powers and faculties you think they should have to quickly close it and collect what is due. Also, you shall investigate the ways presently employed to make slaves among the Indian natives of that province, whether by the caciques or by the governors and captains who make war on them in Our name; and you shall also investigate the methods presently employed in using the Indians as porters, which they call tamemes, examining the decrees and ordinances that have been issued regarding this and advising Me whether what has been decreed is a sufficient remedy to avoid the problems and excesses that have occurred in this, or whether some better arrangement could be made. And you shall give orders for what you see is most appropriate for the good treatment of the natives and the preservation and increase of the trade and commerce of the republic of the province, without wronging the natives of it.

Also, you should investigate the towns that have newly been established at Oaxaca, Puebla de los Angeles, Santa Fe, and Michoacan, considering whether they are appropriate to God's service and Ours, and whether it would be good to sustain them, increase them, move them, or do something else about them; and you shall make provision in this as you think best for God's service and Ours and for the good of the republic of each of these towns, making sure that no love affair, scandal, or anything that deviates from Our Christian religion results from what is done. Also, you shall find out in what regions or places in the province it would be useful to establish Spanish towns, or if it would be good for the conversion of the natives to Our Holy Faith and for their good treatment to have Spanish settlers (vecinos y moradores) in the pueblos where they live, and [you should inform Us] of what you think most appropriate for this purpose, and you should make provision in it, advising Us of what you do.

Also, since many different decrees and instructions have been issued by Us concerning the form and order to be kept in conquests and waging war on the Indians in cases where this is legal and permitted by Us as well, as in the capturing of Indians as slaves in such wars, I charge and command you to examine all that has been decreed and ordered with regard to this matter as a thing that is most important to God's service and Ours and in which We greatly desire to act correctly; and for the discharge of Our royal conscience, you shall send Me a true report of what occurs in this matter, and what provision you think should be made in this in order to reduce the natives of that province to Our Holy Faith and bring them under Our lordship and authority, so that the murder, plundering, and other improper acts that have been done in the said conquest as well as in capturing the Indians as slaves should cease.

It has been reported to Me on behalf of the City of Mexico that it would be consonant with Our service and the security and ennoblement of the city if We made provision for the dockyards (atarazanas), which serve as the fortress of this city, to be moved from their present location and rebuilt on the causeway of Tacuba, because when they were built at the site they now occupy it was because it was all water there for the purpose of serving the brigantines, [while at the causeway] there was not enough water for [the brigantines] to enter except with great difficulty. Thus it would have a better location and be closer to the mainland if it were built on the said causeway of Tacuba; and if it were there, it would be capable of protecting the causeway and this would remain free of the natives if some disturbance occurred, and this causeway was the thing that was most important to guard. Also [they said] it was necessary for this fortress to be large and strong so that there could be an armory for storing ammunition and weapons in it, and that it was also necessary to build a stronghouse on each of the [other] causeways in which a few pieces of artillery would be kept for their defense, so that whenever it was necessary to enter or leave by these causeways it could be done.

Also [they said] it would be good for the part of the city assigned for the settlement of the Spaniards to be walled again, because it was clear that if this were done it would be better protected and more secure, and for Us to give orders for the purchase and provision of all kinds of weapons and ammunition for the city, as is always done, because this would be useful for the security of that land. You should investigate all of this and see what should be done about it, advising Me of what you think should be done so that when it has been studied, I can order suitable provision made.

Also, you should know that I have ordered a certain contract and capitulation drawn up with Micer Enrique [Heinrich Ehinger?] and Alberto Guon, the Germans, concerning the growing and selling of woad and saffron in New Spain, and [a copy of] this contract will be given you for your information. Since this business is considered a very important thing for Our service and the increase of Our royal revenues, I charge and order you to take special care to assist and favor this business so that what has been agreed to with the said Germans in this capitulation will take effect and be carried out.

Also, you should know that at the time We appointed the judges who are presently in the Royal Audiencia of Mexico, since food and other things were very expensive at that time in the province, We ordered each of them assigned 2,000 ducats a year in salary so they could support themselves in an honorable manner. And now, considering the abundance of food which, thanks to God, now exists in that country and the [low] prices that prevail there, it has seemed that a salary of 500,000 maravedis each would be sufficient for them to support themselves, and I have ordered a decree issued to this effect, which will be given to you. Therefore I order you to notify the said judges and Our officials of this, so that from now on they will not be paid their salary at a higher rate than 500,000 maravedis a year.

In all of this you should manage the business with care, diligence, loyalty, and good administration, as I am confident from your prudence you will do. Done in Barcelona on the 25th day of the month of April of the year 1535.