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Moctezuma's Children: Aztec Royalty Under Spanish Rule, 1520-1700 (review)

From: The Americas
Volume 63, Number 3, January 2007
pp. 471-472 | 10.1353/tam.2007.0045

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Donald Chipman's study of the descendents of Motecuhtzoma Xocoyotzin's children is clearly a labor of love. Chipman conducted the initial research with the assistance of Ann Prather Hollingsworth, his doctoral student, who focused on Pedro Moctezuma, while Chipman concentrated on the female descendents. While the two envisioned a collaboration dealing with the whole family, other events intervened. Hollingsworth died and Chipman's own work began to focus on Texas. Now some thirty years after the initial research Chipman has brought forth that work.

Chipman's study consists of six chapters. The first two are roughly chronological beginning with the rise of the Aztec empire through the rule of Motecuhtzoma Xocoyotzin. The second chapter traces the conquest and especially its effect on Motecuhtzoma and his offspring, most particularly his daughter known as Isabel Moctezuma. The remaining chapters focus on individuals and specific aspects of interest to Chipman. The third chapter deals in depth with Isabel Moctezuma, her five marriages, three to native lords during the waning days of the Aztec empire and the conquest, then to two Spaniards. The other children who survived the conquest, Pedro and Mariana, are the subject of the fourth chapter. Their lives in many ways mirror that of their sister. Isabel was the eldest of the children, and considered, by the Spanish, to be the legitimate heir to her father's realms. She was born of the principal marriage of the imperial lord, as was her sister, Mariana. Pedro, on the other hand, was born of a concubine, thus while an heir, was not part of the legitimate descent. Each of the children received important encomiendas from Cortés, which were eventually confirmed by the Spanish crown. Isabel received Tlacopan (Tacuba), one of the three members of the Aztec Triple Alliance; Mariana received Ecatepec, strategically located in the northern valley; while Pedro received Tula, the ancestral homeland for many of the peoples of the Valley of Mexico.

The fifth chapter looks at the links between the descendents of Isabel Moctezuma and the expansion of New Spain's northern frontier. In particular Chipman focuses on Isabel's daughter by Cortés, doña Leonor Cortés Moctezuma, who eventually married Juan de Tolosa, one of the four founders of the mining camps of Zacatecas, and arguably one of the richest men in the colony. This then placed Moctezuma's descendent in the midst of a small group of Basques (Cristobal de Oñate, Diego de Ibarra, and Baltasar Temiño de Bañuelos) who came to control much of the colony's northern expansion, all enriched by their participation in the founding of Zacatecas.

In the sixth chapter, Chipman tells the tale of the descendents of Pedro Moctezuma who married into the Spanish peninsular elite. His son, Diego Luis Moctezuma resided in Spain to pursue his claims. Diego Luis' granddaughter, in turn, married Joseph Sarmiento de Valladares, an important man at court, who became the Count of Moctezuma, thanks to the marriage. Upon her death he pursued their various claims at court, and eventually became viceroy of New Spain. Indeed a strange turn of events within the family line.

There are clear strengths and weaknesses to the book. Clearly Chipman revels in the twists and turns of the family: births, marriages, alliances, suits, and claims. He tries hard to integrate the family into contemporary events, such as the role it took in the opening up of the northern frontier. On the other hand, the background material is generally less satisfying. The first chapter, which traces Aztec history up to the time of the conquest, is frankly uninspired and does not add much to the narrative. Similarly the discussion of the conquest, while probably necessary, does not move the book along. Perhaps most curious of all, Chipman does not even include Ida Altman's book Emigrants and Society (1989) in the bibliography, even though she traces the lives of the Cano Moctezuma clan in Cáceres. On the one hand Chipman chose not to pursue that group of descendents once they went to Spain, but still should have referred the reader to works that do.

On the whole, Chipman has provided a detailed look at the...



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