Latin American Research Review 40.3 (2005) 326-334
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New Interpretations of Colonial Mexico from the Conquest to Independence
John E. Kicza
James Krippner-Martínez's book, Rereading the Conquest, is a brief collection of five essays, most of which offer a fresh reading of various writings from colonial Mexico about the political and spiritual conquest of Michoacán. The three essays collected in part one of the two-part work, entitled "The Politics of Conquest," address in turn the 1530 Proceso contra Tziltzincha Tangaxoan; the 1541 Relación de Michoacán, and the writings of Vasco de Quiroga. The two essays collected in part two, entitled "Reflections," examine the 1788 Crónica de Michoacán and the public remembrance of "TataVasco" over time. A separate concluding chapter discusses the theoretical underpinnings of the author's interpretations. [End Page 326]
Regarding most of the extant secondary literature on these documents as limited if not wrong headed, Krippner-Martínez makes little use of it. Instead, lacking any sources composed by local indigenous authors, he seeks to depict something of the native viewpoint through utilizing documents composed by the Spaniards to tease out references, gaps, and contradictions in their texts that point out native actions and perspectives that contradict the Spanish point of view.
Chapter 1 considers the 1530 execution of the Cazonci, the indigenous ruler of Michoacán by Nuño de Guzmán, the head of the first audiencia of New Spain, from a reading of the trial record produced by the executioners. His primary findings are that the Tarascan leadership did not respond passively to the arrival of the Spaniards, and that Nuño de Guzmán did not execute the Cazonci merely for his own interests but also for those of a Spanish faction already resident in Michoacán who routinely faced various forms of Indian resistance.
Through his representatives, the Cazonci had been dealing with Cortés and the other conquerors of Tenochtitlán since shortly after its fall. He may well have viewed his close relationship with Cortés and his followers as a limited partnership among equals. When Spanish settlers eventually arrived in his province, the Cazonci would have felt justified to act towards them with the same autonomy he had enjoyed with Cortés' group, not appreciating that the settlers did not recognize any claim to autonomy nor that Nuño de Guzmán represented a rival authority to that of Cortés.
In a brief chapter (sixteen pages) on the Relación de Michoacán of 1541, Krippner-Martínez emphasizes that this document was written at the behest of Viceroy Mendoza and that, although it was based on indigenous testimonies, it was in response to questions posed by a Franciscan friar who translated their remarks into Spanish. The native witnesses came uniformly from the higher ranks of Tarascan society and were seeking to solidify an emerging alliance with the Franciscans. The Franciscans had initially arrived in Michoacán in 1526 only to face strong native resistance. But the execution of the Cazonci in 1530 forced the Tarascans to realize that further...