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The Americas 57.2 (2000) 295-297

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Administración virreinal en el Perú: Gobierno del Marqués de Montesclaros (1607-1615). By Pilar Latasa Vassallo. Madrid: Editorial del Centro de Estudios Ramón Areces, 1997. Pp. xxxvi, 709. Footnotes. Illustrations. Maps. Bibliography. No price.
Gobierno en la Nueva España del Virrey Luis de Velasco, El Joven (1590-1595) y (1607-1611). By Juan Pablo Salazar Andreu. Valladolid: Quirón Ediciones, 1997. Pp. 301. Notes. Bibliography. Appendix. No price.

There has been very little recent biography written concerning colonial Latin America, much less focused on viceroys. Consequently, the arrival on the scene of two biographies of viceroys published in the same year is cause to take notice. It seems as if scholars are aware that the period between the conquest and Borah's "Great Century of Depression" is a more critical period than often recognized. The two studies here are two poles of research. One focuses on Mexico, the other Peru. One focuses on a unique figure in colonial administration, Don Luis de Velasco, the younger, the other on what has been seen as a more characteristic bureaucrat, the Marqués de Montesclaros. They fit neatly into the same period. Montesclaros's reign in Peru corresponds almost exactly with Velasco's second viceregency in Mexico. In short, they are excellent choices for comparison. Unfortunately, the quality of the two works do not so closely match the character of their topics.

Salazar Andreu's study of Don Luis de Velasco is a laudable first effort at the study of this complex figure. I should make it perfectly clear at the outset that I have spent 15 years working on Velasco, and hope to publish a comprehensive study of his life. Salazar Andreu gets off to a rocky start in that many of the "facts" outlined on the first page of the book are either dubious or frankly incorrect. Salazar has Velasco born in 1534, in fact it was 1539. Moreover, he has him travelling to Mexico along with his father in 1550, while that actually occurred about a decade later. These errors highlight the basic shortcoming of the work: it draws heavily on the traditional literature and collections of edited documents; other than some research in Seville and Madrid, the archival sources consulted are extremely limited. Given the scope of the study, the bibliography is also surprisingly spare.

While obviously the focus of the study is on Velasco's reigns in Mexico, the documentation from Peru, also housed in Seville, illuminates the New Spanish viceregency. In a letter to the monarch late in his stay in Peru, Velasco mentions having [End Page 295] accompanied the young Philip II to England for his marriage to Mary Tudor. This clarifies why Velasco did not go to Mexico with his father, he was travelling in the company of his older brother in the entourage of the then Prince Philip. Other aspects of Velasco's biography, outside of his two New Spanish viceregencies are also excluded, or alluded to briefly. The signal event of his early adulthood, the uncovering of the so-called "Cortés Conspiracy" is only briefly noted. The embassy he led to the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany prior to his first term as viceroy is nowhere to be found. In spite of these basic shortcomings, Salazar Andreu's study is a good introduction to Velasco's policies in New Spain.

The book is organized into seven chapters, each of which focuses on some aspect of Velasco's government, such as the economy, the military, the church, relations with the audiencias, etc. Furthermore, each chapter has two sections: one dealing with the first term of office, the second with the second. Salazar Andreu quotes extensively from original documents, generally organizes his narrative in a chronological manner, and provides very little interpretation of the facts. He does provide a small documentary appendix consisting of the transcription of Velasco's...


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