Conquest of Mexico

        I.            Mexico, 1519

A.      A clash of two militant, expanding, religiously aggressive empires

B.      Hernan Cortes

1. Educated, from bottom rungs of Spanish nobility

a.       Lack of opportunities propels him to the Caribbean

b.      Similar in this to many conquistadores

2.  Becomes successful landowner in Cuba, able to finance much of the 1519 expedition himself

C.      Methods of conquest

1. Founds Veracruz to establish legal authority

a.       Had not been given authority by Cuban governor to engage in conquest

b.      Forms a cabildo (a town government) to gain that authority

2.  His men were not soldiers, but adventurers who paid their own way – land and loot would be distributed based on their individual investment

3. Bullies various groups, notably Tlaxcalans, to ally with him

4. In turn, helps Tlaxcalans defeat their Cholulan enemies (and later their Aztec enemies)

5. Acquires Malintzin/Marina – better known as La Malinche

a.       Young Amerindian woman, probably of noble origin

b.      Would provide language interpretation, diplomatic knowledge

6.  Through diplomacy and bullying, ultimately several city-states join Cortes against Aztecs

      II.            Taking Tenochtitlan

A.       Invited into city, Cortes follows pattern and captures Moctezuma II

B.      Later forced to flee city, but able to build an anti-Aztec alliance

C.       Some technological advantages

1. Steel weapons, crossbows, cannon, large dogs, horses

2. Built ships on Lake Texcoco

D.       Political breakdown

1. To speak is to govern in the Aztec world

2. Moctezuma  II is unable to communicate effectively, a failure of leadership

3. His death will break down unity of Aztec political system

E.       Greater advantage in smallpox, which would devastate Aztec nobility and kill about 40% of Amerindian population

F.       Aztec fighting style – all out rush, more interest in capturing than killing opponents – was weak in face of more Spanish tactics

G.      Ahead of an army of thousands of Amerindians, lays siege and captures city in August, 1521

    III.            Not all of Mexico falls immediately

A.      Oaxaca will retain much of its pre-conquest structure for a long time

B.      Only western Yucatan initially conquered

1.  Major Maya rebellion in 1547

2. Maya in eastern Yucatan (Quintana Roo) remain independent /semi-independent for centuries

    IV.            The colonial state

A.      Establishing authority

1. Defeat of Tenochtitlan was not enough; the rest of the population would need to be subdued

2.  Settlers were also a threat to royal authority and would have to be controlled

3.  Royal government would use multiple resources to assert and maintain control

a.       Patronage

b.      City building

c.       Divided and competing authority

d.      Church and religion

B.      The Spanish Monarchy

1. While the medieval Spanish monarchies were relatively weak, their claims to authority were absolute

a.        Prior to conquests had small armies, small bureaucracies, and had to contend with powerful nobles

b.      Relative strength of monarchies would grow in early modern period (post-1500)

c.       Claims to power based on divine right of kings, Roman traditions of centralized authority

d.      No real influence of Reformation or Scientific Revolution

                                                                                                         i.            In Northern and Western Europe, these movements struck at traditional supports to authority

                                                                                                       ii.            Relatively weak influence in Spain meant little challenge to monarchical authority

2. Empire and society as a whole organized through corporatism

a.       Corporatism organizes society and government on the basis of function

b.      Entire empire thought of as a body, with each part having a function

c.       King as head has no competitors (officially) for power, unlike the emergence of Parliament in England

d.      On a smaller scale, society broken up into various corporate bodies

                                                                                                         i.            Fraternities (lay and religious), guilds, noble orders, etc.

                                                                                                       ii.            Individuals generally interacted with government through their “corporation”

                                                                                                      iii.            Corporate bodies governed in same hierarchical fashion as overall government

                                                                                                     iv.            Each had its own fuero (privileges, laws, and courts), particularly for the clergy, nobles, and soldiers

3. Patronage the key currency of power in Spanish Empire

a.        Monarchs ruled through parallel systems of power in the Church, bureaucracy, and nobility, which overlapped at the top

b.       Maintained control over these systems through patronage, handing out favors in exchange for loyalty

c.       Jobs in the bureaucracy and church handed out on the basis of social position and patronage, with highest positions often reserved for nobility

d.      Monarchy began to run into financial trouble and will begin to sell offices in 1600s

e.       Office holders used positions to enhance own position and to dole out patronage of their own

4. Secular state handled primarily diplomacy, trade, property and justice, while Church dealt with social services and personal morality

C.      Spanish bureaucracy

1.  Spain would establish bureaucracies specifically for governing empires

a.       Casa de Contratacion (Board of Trade) – handled trade

b.      Consejo de las Indias (Council of the Indes), 1524

                                                                                                         i.             Wrote legislation

                                                                                                       ii.            Sent instructions to all levels of colonial government

                                                                                                      iii.            Court of last resort

                                                                                                     iv.            Oversaw military

2. Bureaucrats and other officials often given overlapping authorities, insuring conflict between them

3. All levels of colonial government could appeal over the heads of their superiors, strengthening the monarchy and the CdC and the Consejo

D.      Ruling  Mexico

1.  First Viceroy sent in 1535 (Antonio de Mendoza)

a.       Viceroys usually came from minor noble families or younger sons of leading families

b.      Administered government and served as chief judge

c.       Leader of the military

d.      Controlled the Church in the name of the King

e.      Governed trade and industry

2. Power limited

a.        Spanish military small until late colonial period

b.      No control over tax policy

c.       Did not control patronage

E.       Spanish empire ruled as a system of cities

1.  Cities established to gain control over a territory

2.  Mexico City, home of the Viceroy, topped pyramid of city networks

3.  Central Audiencia sat in Mexico City

a.       Oidores and fiscales sat on the audiencia, headed by the Viceroyl

b.      Served as legislative and judicial body and as a vice-regal cabinet

4. Local capitals, cabeceras, in turn ruled over smaller villas and lugares

a.       Governed by cabildos or ayuntamientos

                                                                                                         i.            Elected by local landowners

                                                                                                       ii.            Became primary way settlers participate in government till late 1700s

                                                                                                      iii.            Members of cabildos known as regidores

                                                                                                     iv.            About 200 cabildos emerge over time in Mexico

b.      Headed by alcaldes mayores and/or corregidores

                                                                                                         i.            Collected tribute from Amerindian communities

                                                                                                       ii.            Headed local militia

                                                                                                      iii.            Had both judicial and police powers

c.       Amerindian communities would use similar structures

d.      The farther away from Spain and the vice-regal capitals, the more independence cabildos had

5.  Cities laid out in standard grid plan inherited from the Romans

a.       Grid structure reminiscent of a military camp

b.      Central plaza held the major powers

                                                                                                         i.            Church

                                                                                                       ii.            Cabildo

                                                                                                      iii.            Wealthy merchants and landowners

6. Ironically, central and southern Mexico more rural after Spanish conquest than before