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How to Punish Indians: Law and Cultural Change in Early Colonial Mexico

  • Osvaldo F. Pardo (a1)

Abstract

Not long after the arrival of the Mendicant orders in New Spain, a view emerged among the friars that the subjection of the Mexican Indians to Spanish law might not be a goal as practical and desirable as the Crown expected, at least not for the immediate future. Franciscans, in particular, thought that the transfer and application of long-established legal principles to the Mexican Indians, such as the customary distinction of jurisdictions, could ultimately hurt rather than facilitate their full conversion to Christianity. For them, the administration of justice was but a natural extension of the enterprise of evangelization, a point that they made repeatedly in letters and reports throughout the sixteenth century.1 In part, their opposition to seeing the new converts subject to secular law stemmed from a general dissatisfaction with the state of legal affairs in the Peninsula, where an alarming increase in lawsuits and legal costs leading to the further consolidation of a class of letrados appeared to threaten the fabric of social life.

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How to Punish Indians: Law and Cultural Change in Early Colonial Mexico

  • Osvaldo F. Pardo (a1)

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