The mid-sixteenth-century La Casa del que Mató al Animal (Puebla, Mexico) is distinguished by its sculpted doorway, the jambs of which depict two hunters holding chained dogs attacking animals. Likely derived from European tapestries or prints, the work was sculpted by Indigenous artists working for the Spanish owner. A popular legend (first documented in the middle of the nineteenth century) developed around the work, linking its iconography to a story in which a young soldier, motivated by love, was said to have defeated a giant serpent that appeared in Puebla. Clearly, however, the work itself does not support such a reading. This paper, then, will address the appeal of this legend and, more significantly, the period meaning of the work. By placing it in the context of other domestic decoration from the New World and concerns relating to the political narratives of power, status, and conquest, I argue for a connotative reading of the work’s hunting and canine iconography attentive to understandings of the social and political meaning of the Spanish conquest in the period after the passing of the Nuevas leyes(New Laws on the treatment and preservation of the Indians) in 1542, the abolishment of the ayuda (the grant of Indigenous labor from Cholula, Tlaxcala, and elsewhere) in Puebla in 1545, and the Valladolid debate (1550–51) on the rights and treatment of the Indigenous people of the Americas. The work will be read as a powerful expression of conquistadorial ideology (via the work’s connection to the important local leader Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas) at a time when this ideology was under increasing pressure.
La Casa del que mató al animal (Puebla, México), que data de mediados del siglo XVI, se distingue por los detalles escultóricos de su puerta de entrada, en cuyas jambas son representados dos cazadores con perros encadenados que atacan a otros animales. Probablemente inspirada en tapices o grabados europeos, la puerta fue esculpida por artistas indígenas que trabajaban para el propietario español. Se desarrolló una leyenda popular en torno a la obra, la cual fue documentada por primera vez a mediados del siglo XIX y vinculaba su iconografía a una historia en la que se decía que un joven soldado, movido por el amor, había derrotado a una serpiente gigante que había venido a Puebla. Es evidente, sin embargo, que el trabajo escultórico en sí mismo no apoya tal interpretación. Por tanto, este artículo examina el atractivo de esta leyenda y, más importante, el significado que la obra esculpida tuvo en su propia época. Al ubicarla en un contexto más amplio de decoración doméstica del Nuevo Mundo y de las preocupaciones relacionadas con las narrativas políticas del poder, de la posición social y de conquista, defiendo una interpretación connotativa de la iconografía canina y de la caza de la obra que se muestra atenta a las maneras de entender los aspectos sociales y políticos de la conquista española en el período posterior a la aprobación de las Nuevas leyes (nuevas leyes sobre el trato y la preservación de los indios) en 1542, a la abolición de la ‘ayuda’ (la concesión de mano de obra indígena de Cholula, Tlaxcala y otros lugares) en Puebla en 1545 y el debate de Valladolid (1550–51) sobre los derechos y el trato de los pueblos indígenas de las Américas. Nuestra pieza de arte escultórica se leerá como una elocuente expresión de la ideología conquistadora (a la luz de la conexión de la obra con el importante líder local Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas) en un momento en que esta ideología sufría embates cada vez mayores.
La Casa del que Mató al Animal (Puebla, México), de meados do século XVI, distingue-se pela sua porta esculpida, cujas ombreiras representam dois caçadores segurando cães acorrentados atacando animais. Provavelmente derivada de tapeçarias ou gravuras europeias, a obra foi esculpida por artistas indígenas que trabalhavam para o proprietário espanhol. Uma lenda popular (documentada pela primeira vez em meados do século XIX) desenvolveu-se em torno da obra, ligando sua iconografia a uma história em que um jovem soldado, motivado pelo amor, teria derrotado uma serpente gigante que apareceu em Puebla. Claramente, no entanto, o trabalho em si não suporta tal leitura. Este artigo, então, abordará o apelo dessa lenda e, mais significativamente, o significado da obra em seu tempo. Ao colocá-la no contexto de outras decorações domésticas do Novo Mundo e preocupações relacionadas às narrativas políticas de poder, status e conquista, defendo uma leitura conotativa da iconografia da caçada e dos cães nesta obra, atenta aos entendimentos dos significados sociais e políticos da conquista espanhola no período que procede a instituição das Nuevas Leyes (novas leis sobre o tratamento e preservação dos Índios) em 1542, a abolição da ayuda (a concessão de trabalho indígena de Cholula, Tlaxcala, e outros lugares) em Puebla em 1545, e o debate de Valladolid (1550-51) sobre os direitos e tratamento dos povos indígenas nas Américas. A obra será lida como uma poderosa expressão da ideologia conquistadora (por meio da conexão da obra com o importante líder local Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas) em um momento em que essa ideologia estava sob crescente pressão.
La Casa del que Mató al Animal, located adjacent to the zócalo in Puebla, Mexico, is distinguished by its sculpted doorway, the doorjambs of which each depict a man holding several chained dogs (figs. 1–3).1 On the left jamb, a man in European dress holds two dogs, with protruding tongues, on chains below him while small rabbit-like animals emerge from ornamental foliage made up of large leaves and pomegranate-like fruits. On the right, again surrounded by plants, a similarly dressed figure holds three dogs, two of which are biting the necks of small animals. In the thin frieze above each of these jambs are carvings of birds, perhaps roosters given their crests, eating thistles and/or pomegranates; the lintel carries a decorative foliate design featuring pomegranates framed by roundels of large leaves.
Much is obscure about the work. Given its location and flat relief tequitqui style, the work was likely sculpted by Indigenous artists working for a Spanish patron.2 However, the identities of both patron and artist are not known. Evidence for a date around 1550–70 comes only via comparison with other flattened relief sculptures of the period and region, most notably those at the convents of San Andrés in Calpan (c. 1550, fig. 4), Our Lady of the Nativity at Tepoztlan (c. 1560), and St. Martin in Huaquechula (1569).3 The similarity between the two-dimensional quality of the Puebla reliefs and the Calpan (and other) reliefs has suggested to scholars a similar dating.
Inspiration for the carvings may have come from European hunting tapestries and large-leaf verdure tapestries (fig. 5).4 However, scholars have not been able to directly link the Puebla carvings with any particular tapestry. Another possible source for the reliefs are European book decorations. The metalcut illustrations depicting hunting in a Book of Hours printed by Philippe Pigouchet and published by Simon Vostre in Paris (fig. 6) are highly reminiscent of the carvings.5 However, it remains uncertain whether there was a specific source for the reliefs or whether their appearance results from creative bricolage drawing on these or other sources.
As very little remains of the figural decoration from the secular buildings of sixteenth-century New Spain, the Casa del que Mató al Animal reliefs assume a special importance in terms of their iconography and meaning. In the frieze above the reliefs, pomegranates are a traditional symbol of the Church, thistles are connected to Christ’s Passion, and roosters are also symbolically linked to Christ.6 However, birds were also strongly associated with the afterlife in Mexica culture.7 In colonial mural painting, birds are commonly shown eating flowers and thus “forag[ing] for songs,” further linking (and hybridizing) the sacred meanings of songs, flowers, and birds.8 Moreover, while the decoration in the upper lintel is likely derived from the borders of European printed books and the pomegranate is a European fruit, the vegetal forms here, as at the cloister in Malinalco, likely had both European and Indigenous significations.9 However, given both the work’s secular setting and the marginal nature of these decorations, the question of what these European and Indigenous elements might express must likely remain open.
In the case of the larger hunting reliefs, however, it is possible to produce an account of both their iconography and broader social function. The remainder of this article will argue for a reading of the work’s hunting and canine iconography that is attentive to Spanish ideologies of hunting; the use of dogs in the conquest; and discursive, social, political, and economic changes both in Puebla and in New Spain. The work, while carved by Indigenous artists, will be shown to function as a powerful expression of Spanish conquistadorial ideology at a time when this ideology was under increasing pressure.10
Any analysis of these reliefs must begin with the much-repeated legend associated with the carvings.11 This legend (first found in an almanac written in Puebla in 1850 and much repeated subsequently) tells how, in the mid-sixteenth century, a young soldier defeated a giant serpent that appeared in Puebla. According to the tale, the daughter of the nobleman Don Pedro de Carvajal fell in love with a simple soldier, but because of his status, her father refused to consent to the marriage. Then a giant serpent appeared in the city and ate two or three people. At the second appearance of the serpent a reward was offered for its destruction; however, it appeared again and devoured Don Pedro’s son. This caused him to add his fortune to the reward. The young soldier, for the moment disguised, defeated the serpent and, when unveiled, was allowed to marry Don Pedro’s daughter.
Given that the iconography of the doorway has absolutely no relationship to this legend, the association of the two is perplexing. Hugo Leicht suggested that the origin of this connection might be a sculpted animal head (since lost) that likely represented a lion but was sometimes identified as a snake’s head, which was located on a street corner near the house and came to be understood as a monument to this event.12 Given the proximity of this animal head to the door reliefs, Leicht speculates that these reliefs became associated with the legend.13
Clearly, however, the work does not illustrate the legend. Because the extant sources only allow us to document the legend to the middle of the nineteenth century, it is useful to consider the appeal of the story at that time. The legend, with its evocation both of pre-Hispanic worship and chivalric constructions of the conquest, would have held considerable appeal around 1850 as the newly independent Mexico was constructing its identity as the product of a fusion between Spanish and Indigenous elements.14 As Leicht notes, the story evoked ideas about the founding of the city, which, according to the popular imagination, was built on a site full of snakes, but the legend also has resonances with aspects of precolonial Mexican history, including the worship of Quetzalcoatl and the story of the foundation of Tenochtitlan.15 At the same time, the soldier’s heroic victory over the Indigenous demonic connects this story to chivalric constructions of the conquest that were popular in Mexico.16 Thus, this association between the reliefs and the legend may reveal something about how the conquest and Mexican identity were viewed in the nineteenth century.
Significantly, however, the linking of legend and sculpture also largely disguises the actual violence of the reliefs, in which small animals appear to hide from the dogs on the left side and are actively attacked by ferocious dogs on the right.17 Yet it is exactly this violence that we need to be attentive to in a more historical account of their meaning. First, let’s begin with hunting. In Spain hunting was a much-enjoyed noble activity that was viewed as preparatory to and a proxy for war, and that also functioned “like chivalric literature …as an important prop for the great during a period when the role of the aristocracy was changing.”18 This conception of hunting was transposed to a New World context, where the aristocratic elements took on further associations of political control.19 In Mexico hunting was enjoyed by the Spanish and Creole aristocracy and helped define the social hierarchy.20 Cortés had two reserves for the hunting of deer and rabbits and conducted weeklong hunts on his estates.21 Slightly later, Viceroy Luis de Velasco I enjoyed hunting in the forest of Chapultepec, while the Dominican friar and bishop Agustín Dávila Padilla (1562–1604) bemoaned the popularity of hunting as a New Spanish noble activity.22
Moreover, in New Spain these hunts often involved the Native population in a menial role. This was the case in 1542, when a hunt organized near Jilotepec involved more than fifteen thousand Indigenous people who flushed the animals into a circle so that they could be hunted by the Spanish; more than six hundred deer, together with many other animals, were killed.23 Placed in this context, the evocation of hunting that one finds in the reliefs can be understood as making many of the same cultural claims of aristocratic status as hunting itself, albeit in a permanent medium.
However, in a New Spanish context this imagery also reinforced a multileveled message of dominance, as hunting in the New World embodied ideas of control over the land, nature, and the local people. Such control over nature was a key theme of both the conquest and its presentation in epic poems and historical accounts, in which control of untamed and demonic spaces underlined the European control of territory, persons, and the pagan.24 Here this idea of control takes multiple forms: aristocratic control (albeit unseen) over the men tending the dogs, control of the dogs by the men, and control of the animals by the dogs. Constructed in this way, this control might be extended to the control of the Indigenous, since references to the Natives as animals, beasts, or dogs were a common part of early colonial discourse, and this language reinforced Spanish hegemony.25 Such a construction of the Indigenous would have echoed Spanish understandings of the hunt in which the hunters, the men aiding the hunters, and the dogs involved in the hunt were viewed as valued vassals, while the prey would have been understood as an inferior enemy.26
This reading of the work suggests that its iconography was connected to claims of status and power, but it still ignores the explicitly violent actions of the biting dogs in the right relief, a motif not found regularly in the European visual sources that inspired this work. With this violent action in mind, it is important to now consider the role of dogs in the conquest. Together with the horse, the dog was viewed (with some mythologizing) as one of the most valuable weapons of the Spanish.27 They played a key role in battle, in pursuit, and as a means of execution, intimidation, and torture; some of the most fearsome dogs, such as Juan Ponce de León’s “Becerrillo,” came to be celebrated for their vicious actions.28
While Spanish writers such as Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo valorized the role of dogs in the conquest, praising their utility and likening their actions to the heroic deeds of the conquistadores, others, most notably Bartolomé de las Casas, presented the Spanish use of dogs in distinctly negative terms.29 Throughout his Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, Las Casas discusses the Spanish use of dogs in the Americas and describes this use in very sanguinary terms and in ways connected to the hunt: “the Spaniards in the Indies teach and train their brave, fierce dogs to kill and tear the Indians to pieces.…[They] go hunting in the mornings with their dogs and, when they return to eat and are asked how it went, they reply ‘It went very well, because I left fifteen or twenty rascals dead with my dogs.’”30
This violent use of dogs was given pictorial form in both European and New World sources. Theodore de Bry produced illustrations like Balboa's Dogs Attack the Sodomites based on Las Casas’s accounts (fig. 7). In this way, he helped to incorporate the use of dogs into the Black Legend, the anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic discourse of the period that emphasized the violence of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Less critically, the frontispiece of the first volume of Antonio de Herrera’s Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas y tierra firme del mar océano (1601) includes two small depictions of battles featuring dogs.
In New World visual sources, the sixteenth-century Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, which illustrates the conquest of Guatemala, contains depictions of the use of dogs in war and as a form of torture.31 The so-called Manuscrito del aperreamiento, written around 1550–60, depicts a Spaniard holding a chained dog that is attacking a Native priest from Cholula, with six additional Indigenous figures appearing chained further to the right (fig. 8).32 The manuscript illustrates an incident in which seven Chulutecan noblemen were attacked and killed by dogs due to their refusal to accept Spanish dominion and Christianity.33 The Lienzo de Chontalcoatlán (a nineteenth-century copy of a sixteenth-century work) includes this same “dogging,” while the Lienzo de Analco from Oaxaca also illustrates the Spanish use of dogs, both in a battle and as a form of punishment or torture.34
While Luis Weckmann has written that there was no legal justification for the use of dogs as a form of torture and execution, such “doggings” likely had some precedent in Spanish legal practice via the Siete Partidas, a thirteenth-century codification of Spanish law. Given this source’s dependence on Roman legal ideas, the use of dogs as punishment may also have had symbolic import, being associated with low social status and the crimes of rebellion and paganism.35 Regardless, this was a form of punishment that was inherently about hierarchical order and the less-than-human status of the person being attacked; it “suspended the Native’s status as a rational being and even his human nature” by turning him into game like that which the dogs had been trained to hunt.36
Moreover, “because the dogs were specifically associated with the Spanish, the terror they unleased at their command would have sent a particularly strong message regarding Spanish power.”37 In fact, we are told that early in the conquest the Indians had a particular fear of Spanish dogs, which were Spanish alaunts (alanos), a cross between a bulldog and a mastiff.38 Bernardino de Sahagún’s Florentine Codex records Indigenous perceptions: “their dogs were very large. They had ears folded over; great dragging jowls. They had fiery eyes—blazing eyes; they had yellow eyes—fiery yellow eyes.”39 Similarly, in his Historia de Tlaxcala Diego Muñoz Camargo describes an envoy from Tlaxcala warning the Chulutecans that the Spanish had “lions and leopards so fierce that they ate people (which is what they called the fierce greyhounds and alaunts which [the Spanish] brought and which were very effective.)”40
From this it is apparent that the violence depicted here, in which the terrifying Spanish alanos attack the small animals, had a broader meaning. While the reliefs’ direct reference to the sport of hunting might be seen as reinforcing ideas of noble status, the violence of the scene evokes the violence of the conquest itself, the use of dogs in this action, and, more broadly, the discourse of conquest, in which control over nature functioned as a metaphor for control over the Native and the newly discovered world.
This reading of the reliefs can be further nuanced by considering them in the context of the few other surviving examples of domestic decoration from early colonial New Spain. Perhaps the most famous example is the doorway of the Casa de Montejo in Mérida, which was built for Francisco de Montejo, the first adelantado or governor of the Yucatán, and carries a date of 1549 (fig. 9). The work features a variety of elements, including portrait busts likely depicting Montejo, his wife Beatriz Álvarez de Herrera, and his son and daughter; an inscription that read “Amor Dei Omnia Vincit” (“The love of God conquers all”); a large coat of arms; the monograms “IHS” and “MA” (Christ and Mary); and two large high reliefs of Spanish halberdiers flanked below by two smaller figures of club-carrying wild men (fig. 10).41 These latter elements would have been further activated by Montejo himself, as a balcony was located between the two halberdiers on the second story of the façade.42
Located on Mérida’s main square, the house has convincingly been read as an affirmation of Montejo’s political power, power that was under threat due to criticism by Las Casas regarding the cruelty of his conquests, as well as questions in the High Court of Guatemala about the legitimacy of his rule in Tabasco.43 Thus, the work demands to be read as a statement about the legitimacy of Montejo’s power, actions, and status. The busts and coats of arms reference notions of dynastic rule, and the halberdiers framing the balcony function as a demonstration of both Montejo’s might and the power of Spain. Their presence next to the considerably smaller wild men, who are also relatively passive in their presentation, has been understood as indicating the dominance of the Spanish over Indigenous people, for whom the wild men were a convenient substitute due to their alterity and primitiveness.44
The placement of the diminutive wild men next to the halberdiers should be understood both as an assertion of Spanish power and as a construction of the Natives’ status as something less than fully human.45 While the papal bull Sublimis Deus of 1537 issued by Paul III affirmed the Natives’ liberty and their ability to be taught the faith, and the Pastorale officium of the same date described them as fully human, the idea that the Indians were somewhat less than fully human continued to be used to justify both the conquest and the encomienda system.46 Thus, more than just an assertion of power, the pairing of halberdier and wild man can be seen as both a representation of and a justification for conquest that presents “an image of reasoned civility triumphing over irrational beastliness.”47
Both the dynastic claims and justification of conquest (via the binaries of civilized/uncivilized, superior/inferior) are further nuanced by the presence of references to Christ, Mary, and the power of the love of God, which serve to construct Montejo’s actions less as a quest for personal power (as it was) and more as part of an evangelical mission.48 Appeal to a Christianizing purpose was a key aspect of period justifications of the conquest; its pictorial presence here should be understood as constructing Montejo’s actions and justifying the encomienda system along religious and exemplary lines.
As a program, the work argues for Montejo’s dynastic ambitions and presents a justification for his actions and status that is founded in the European, military might, the natural order, and the evangelical goals of the conquest. Such a grandiose and aggressive statement of self-fashioning might be read in the context of the tenuous nature of Montejo’s political fate. That he was officially stripped of his authority and titles around the time that the doorway was completed might, in part, explain why the visual claims made here are such a strong expression of his dynastic ambitions, his service to Crown and Church, and the justification of the victory of the “superior” Spanish over the “inferior” Indian.49
The doorway might also be read as a response to the Nuevas leyes (New Laws) of 1542 and their attack on the encomienda system via restrictions on the use of Indigenous labor and above all article 35, which provided for the return of all encomiendas to the Crown after one generation.50 While the limits on the inheritance of encomienda had to be quickly renounced, these laws were, among other things, designed to reduce the feudal nature of the conquest and increase the power of the Crown.51 Moreover, the concerns of the Crown regarding the status and treatment of the Indians, the restrictions on further acts of conquest, and the stated transition from a conquest based on military force to one based on evangelization may have in part inspired the counterdiscourse of the façade that, while it celebrates religion, strongly emphasizes Spanish superiority, conquistadorial power, and dynastic continuity.52
Closer geographically, the murals in the Casa del Deán in Puebla can also be read, in some small part, as a representation of ideas about the conquest. The murals were likely painted after 1584 in the house of Tomás de la Plaza, the dean of the Puebla Cathedral, who had first participated as a soldier in de Soto’s campaign in Florida and had then worked as a priest for twenty years evangelizing the Native population in Oaxaca.53 These murals depict, in one room, Petrarch’s Triumphs, and in the other surviving space, a procession of mounted sibyls.54 Taken as a pair, the rooms have a predominantly religious iconography and emphasize the importance of Mary, reference contemporary processions, and have a strongly millennial and providential character in keeping with the religious concerns of the patron.55 They also construct what has been called an “eschatological and apocalyptic view of God’s plan” in keeping with the earliest millennial conceptualizations of discovery and evangelization in the New World.56
Despite the predominantly religious meaning of the paintings, however, a peculiarity in the depiction of the sibyls might obliquely reference more military aspects of conquest and colony, again implicitly uniting elements of the political with the religious. In the Room of the Sibyls, the highly unusual depiction of the sibyls as mounted on horses must reference religious and civic processions in both Spain and the New World, but, via the presence of the horse, also “may refer to the imposition of Catholicism on the Indigenous population” (fig. 11).57
Horses were a key symbol of Spanish power, viewed by the Spanish as essential to their success in their military conquest of the Americas.58 Later, in colonial Mexico, “the horse had an important social function …because its use was an exclusive privilege of the European population” and as such it functioned as a signifier of power, race, and social status.59 This was reinforced in many colonial festivals, which often involved jousting and horsed bullfighting, and where the horse appeared as “a sign of the Spanish rule over the indigenous population.”60 In fact, such equestrian spectacles functioned as a demonstration of Spanish might as early as 1520, when Cortés organized a mock horse battle to impress Montezuma.61 Given the importance of horses in the conquest and their function as a declaration of Spanish status and power, the placement of the sibyls on horseback not only references period religious processions but also must evoke, even if indirectly, the arrival of European Christian political and religious dominion on horseback.
Taken together, all of this begins to help us to better contextualize the Puebla reliefs. On the most basic level, the representation of a hunt evokes claims of upper-class status and military prowess. However, in a New World context, the hunt, actual or depicted, also took on additional significations due to the use of Natives in hunts, the relationship between the hunt and territorial control, and the control over nature and over the Native that the hunt reified and reenacted. This hegemony is further reinforced here by the chained dogs. Since such dogs were associated with narratives of Spanish military power and superiority, they undoubtedly functioned metonymically, evoking Spanish power and the conquest, albeit in a manner less direct than the sculpted soldiers in the Casa de Montejo and more explicit than the equine presence in the Casa del Deán. Understood comparatively and in totality, these reliefs conveyed a message of noble standing and conquistadorial Spanish military and political power.
But it still must be shown why such a statement was both necessary and appropriate around 1560 in Puebla. Given the location of the doorway just off of the main square of the city, one might guess that the owners of this house were people of status and belonged to the class of former conquistadores who had come to dominate the political life of the city.62 While it is not possible to determine who owned the house when the reliefs were sculpted, this hypothesis can be at least partially supported by what we know about the house and the families connected with it.
Although it had traditionally been thought that the house was part of the mayorazgo, or titled estate, of the Pérez de Salazar family, it has recently been shown that the house only came to be owned by that mercantile family with the marriage of Francisco Pérez de Salazar Carvajal to Francisca Méndez Monte, whose family is recorded as owning the house in 1588.63 This 1602 marriage between a mercantile family and a family, which, as we shall see, had an established colonial lineage, was a typical strategy of the period.64 While the conquistadorial class received financial benefits from these marriages, rich merchants in Puebla legitimized their social position via intermarriage with the descendants of the conquistadores.65
The bride in 1602, Francisca Méndez Monte, was herself the product of a similar marriage. Her father Francisco Méndez, who owned the house in question, had only arrived in Puebla in 1577 but was a rich merchant who became part of the ruling cabildo sometime before 1592.66 María Monte, his wife, was the product of a similar marriage. Her father was Juan de Formicedo Monte, who achieved the positions of regidor and alcalde ordinario, but who had made his money via cloth production.67 However, María’s mother, Isabella Díaz de Vargas, was the daughter of the conquistador Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas.68
Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas and his sons were dominant figures in Puebla politics and helped control the cabildo for fifty years after the foundation of the city; the father held an encomienda and served as aguacil mayor from 1537 to 1558.69 His status was directly tied to his military service. He had arrived in the New World in 1523 and participated in the conquests of Honduras, Higueras, Mijes, Chotales, Zapoteca, and Guatemala, obtaining the title of captain in the latter action.70 Cortés gave him encomienda over three villages in Zapoteca, he was named as corregidor of Izucar in 1549, and he served as visitor to Chiautla, Tuetalco, Papalutla, and Olintla in 1554.71 He also received a coat of arms from the Crown in 1538.72 As we shall see, we also know quite a lot about Díaz de Vargas’s ideas about New World governance.
Given the genealogy presented above and the likely date of the work, it seems plausible that the owners of the house when the doorway was sculpted were associated with the Díaz de Vargas family, perhaps Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas himself or, more likely, Juan de Formicedo Monte and Isabel Díaz de Vargas, the latter part of the conquistadorial ruling class and the former a businessman who bettered his social standing via marriage. If the patron was a merchant, it would not only have been marriage that was important, since, given the conquistadorial control of the city, the adoption of conquistadorial values would have also featured in his claims of political and social legitimacy.
Due to their need to celebrate the heroic and Christian aspects of the conquest, the histories of the time did not allow much room for either merchants, a group towards which the conquistadores were necessarily hostile given their belated arrival and increasing wealth, or government officials, who were working with the Crown to control the encomenderos.73 This discursive tendency can also be found in Juan de Castellanos’s Las elegías, a text that only creates meaningful discursive space for the chivalric heroism of the conquistador, a heroism that is juxtaposed with the inferior values of merchants, farmers, and administrators.74 Thus, only the ideology of the conquistador found obvious traction in the political discourse of the New World, and it was necessary for political purposes to demonstrate allegiance to this ideology whether one was a member of a conquistadorial family or had married into such a lineage.
This self-fashioning must also be placed in the context of the social history of the city.75 While Puebla was founded with the goal of creating a community of farmers and tradesmen not dependent on Native labor, this noble goal was quickly abandoned.76 Puebla was, in fact, highly dependent on the labor system of indios de servicio, the draft of Indigenous labor from Cholula and Tlaxcala.77 Moreover, a large number of encomenderos and corregidores settled in Puebla and benefited from Indian labor.78 Their presence points to the ways in which Puebla did not follow the utopian ideas of its original founding. By 1534, of the 81 house-holding families resident in the city, 35 were conquistadores, 18 of these were encomenderos and an additional 9 were corregidores. Of the 18 encomenderos, 7 of these families were part of the 11-person cabildo.79 In fact, the status of these families was often used by the town government to demonstrate the importance of Puebla and this further helped them to dominate this government through the end of the century.80
By the middle of the century, the hegemony of the conquistadores over the government was complete, but under stress.81 First, the arrival of many new people in Puebla caused this class to become a smaller proportion of the total population.82 Puebla saw a considerable increase in the number and wealth of the merchant class, driven by the city’s location on a major trade route and its growing textile industry; this demographic shift “came to pose a threat to the city’s declining conquistador y poblador elite.”83 While the merchants were still outnumbered by the conquistador families in the 1550s, they were becoming increasingly numerous, but they were largely excluded from governmental positions.84 During the period between 1531 and 1560, the encomenderos and others of the colonial “old guard” continued to dominate the lucrative offices of the city.85 Only two merchants were admitted to the government between the founding period and 1560; both had made substantial loans to the city and had married into conquistador families, and yet both were still seen as interlopers by the traditional ruling class. Their selection led to a backlash in 1563 in which the office of alcalde ordinario was restricted to members of Puebla’s de facto conquistador aristocracy.86
Another possible tension was the passing of the baton from the original generation of elite settlers, who had earned their political status via military service, to their heirs. In the late 1550s there were still many members of the cabildo who could boast of their service during the conquest; however, also by this period, the descendants of the original conquistadores were beginning to occupy these political positions.87 As a result, the ruling faction was increasingly defined less by their deeds and more by their lineage. Given the tensions caused by the rise of a wealthy mercantile class, this transition led to a need to assert the new generation’s connection to the heroic deeds of their ancestors, who had earned their status and wealth as a result of their military service to the Crown and God.88
Yet, as important as the encomienda was to this class in terms of wealth and status, this institution was coming under increasing scrutiny. Inspired by the critiques of Las Casas, the challenge the Crown was mounting against both the encomienda system and the discursive construction of conquest threatened the status quo in many ways. The Nuevas leyes of 1542 were designed to regulate the institution of encomienda by, among other things, prohibiting slavery, ensuring good treatment of the Natives, forbidding certain types of Indigenous labor, and both prohibiting the establishment of new encomiendas and abolishing each encomienda after one generation.89 When this last hated provision was revoked in 1545, it led to a great public celebration in Mexico City that included knightly dances and a bullfight.90
More generally, the increasing power of the Crown led the encomenderos to agitate for the maintenance of their privileges against the critiques of Las Casas, the actions of the Crown, and the demands of newly arrived settlers.91 They also continued to be concerned that encomiendas had not been made perpetual but, in the revision of the laws of 1542, were still restricted to two generations.92 In response to these concerns, the conquistadores and encomenderos used the pen to press their claims. Some of these neofeudalist pleas took the form of histories in which the deeds of the conquistadores were presented as support for the system of encomienda and their privileged status.93 Along these lines, Rolena Adorno has seen Bernal Díaz’s historical efforts less as a response to López de Gómara’s privileging of Cortés in his Historia de las Indias y la conquista de México and more as an answer to Las Casas, in which the key question was “was the conquest of Mexico justified and do the veterans of its war deserve the reward of encomienda grants in perpetuity?”94
Many other encomenderos wrote letters to the king, protesting the weakening of the encomienda system under both the discursive threat of Las Casas and the growing centralization of royal authority.95 These letters show how “these men …proud of their achievements and unbothered by moral doubt …were …greatly perturbed in their old age by a growing governmental reluctance to allow them to pass on their status and wealth undisturbed to the next generation …[and by] an unjustified questioning of the moral probity of the actions of the conquerors themselves.”96 Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia was one of many “infuriated encomenderos” who responded to the challenge of Las Casas and the Crown, in his case by expanding his letter into a brief history of the conquest in which he notably supported Cortés’s self-justifying account of the massacre at Cholula.97 A letter by Ruy González from 1553 specifically accuses Las Casas of “calling us conquistadors tyrants and robbers and unworthy of the name of Christians; and he says …that everything we have belongs to others, and that we should take it away from our children and give it to whomever he says …and says that we came here illegally, and other things which create scandal.”98 He asks the king to prevent Las Casas from vilifying them in this way, as their actions had led to many conversions; he claims further that “the conquest—or more properly the pacification” had been licensed by the Crown and was justified on a number of grounds including the fact that the people “were barbarous, idolatrous, sacrificers and killers of innocent people, eaters of human flesh, [and] most filthy and nefarious sodomites.”99 These complaints, motivated by both Las Casas’s critiques and the Nuevas leyes, and justified in part by religious appeals, make it clear that the conquistadores felt themselves under increasing threat.100
Moreover, González’s reference to “the pacification” is indicative of the changing discourse around conquest.101 The royal order of April 29, 1549, on “The Manner in which New Discoveries are to be Undertaken” emphasized ideas of peace, friendship, and conversion rather than conquest, while in 1550 the king suspended all conquests until a group of theologians and councillors had studied the issue.102 Conquests did continue after this date, however, but with increasing attention to how such “pacifications” were carried out, concerns that were brought even more to the fore with the New Ordinances of Philip II of July 13, 1573.103 While still foreseeing the existence of an encomienda system, the New Ordinances, among other things, established that the term pacification should replace conquest, and were aimed at redefining the acts of conquest and exploration by emphasizing the proper treatment of the Indians and the importance of trade, friendship, and instruction, as opposed to violence, for religious conversion.104
Tensions between the conquistadorial elite and the Crown continued into the end of the sixteenth century, due in part to the planned expiration of encomiendas after two generations. While this policy was abandoned by Philip II in 1595, one result of this stress was that the descendants of the conquistadores further undertook to glorify the deeds of their ancestors in historical accounts in order to reinforce their continuing petitions to the Crown.105 Throughout the second half of the century, this response was, in part, directed against a discursive refashioning of the conquest, one which increasingly called their standing into question. This refashioning was fundamentally focused on two key questions: just war and the status of the Indian. Las Casas’s arguments that the conquests that had been made in the New World were unjust strongly challenged the claims of the conquistadores and encomenderos by delegitimizing both their actions and benefits.106
Similarly, the discourse about the nature of the Indian and the way in which it did or did not justify the encomienda system was also key in the debates regarding the social and political organization of New Spain.107 Although Pope Paul III’s Sublimis Deus and Pastorale officium of 1537 established that the Natives were human, this did not fully resolve the question of their status and nature, as demonstrated in the Valladolid debates (1550–51) between Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda.108 While Las Casas argued that claims that the Indian was bestial had been used to justify illegitimate Spanish political domination, Sepúlveda could not claim that the Indians were not fully human, but he could use the idea of their supposed natural inferiority and deficiency in reason as a key justification for Spanish hegemony.109 In his Democrates alter, Sepúlveda described the Natives as “those whose natural condition is such that they must obey others” and then justified Spanish control by appealing to the Aristotelian doctrine of the dominion of the more perfect over the less perfect.110 In the Valladolid debates, he made a similar point by characterizing the Indians as naturally servile and barbarous.111 Although he did not claim that the Indians completely lacked reason, he did claim that they were naturally, and irrevocably, inferior to the Spanish and thus needed to be ruled by them.112
Yet even such a claim, in which the Indians were granted will and reason, presented a great obstacle for colonization. Hidden within Sepúlveda’s arguments, limited as they were by the papal documents of 1537 and the attitudes of the Crown, was the need to more radically divorce the Indian from full humanity, as Fernández de Oviedo and others had done before.113 In fact, Las Casas accuses Sepúlveda and his followers of making such appeals, and Sepúlveda’s language is clearly designed to reinforce this impression with its profusion of animal metaphors.114 It was certainly these and other arguments that earned Sepúlveda the praise of the cabildo of Mexico City, who, in 1554, granted him jewels and clothing as a token of appreciation for his efforts against Las Casas.115
However, the fact that Sepúlveda’s writings on the topic were never allowed to be published in Spain during his lifetime, while those by Las Casas (in certain cases) were, points to two key factors: the relative victory of Las Casas in terms of defining the discourse about the Indian and the importance of censorship in further shaping this discourse.116 Censorship of writings about the Indies became a particular concern by at least 1556, when approval for publications about the Americas had to be obtained from the Council of the Indies, shaping both what could be said about the New World and how it could be presented.117 In her study of Spanish censorship of books on the New World, Adorno has shown that greater leeway was given to poetic treatments of the conquest relative to historical ones and that certain topics were particularly prone to censorship and suppression in those same historical accounts.118 These problematic topics could include the exposure of state secrets; the downplaying of the role of the Crown; aspects that might fuel the Black Legend; elements that might call into question Spanish legitimacy overseas, might be seen as celebrating Indigenous idolatry or sin, or, alternatively, might present the Natives as possessing a high level of civilization and social organization; the presence of Indigenous voice and agency; things that might dishonor the conquistadores or their descendants (but also things that might strengthen their claims against the Crown); questions of justice for the Indian; and the discussion of conquest rather than pacification, to name just a few.119 As she argues, epic discourse used rhetorical forms that allowed safe distancing of the problematic realities of the New World and New World peoples, while the long list of censorable material was largely the result of concerns regarding the Black Legend on one hand and the presentation of both pagan sinfulness and Native political legitimacy on the other. What this demonstrates was that the censorship of books about the Indies was highly political and designed to control discourse about the conquest.
Although art in New Spain would not have been directly subject to the same formal censorship that shaped the published literature of the latter part of the sixteenth century, concerns about the depiction of violent Spanish action on one hand and the representation of the Native on the other seem particularly apposite, since in comparison to the Casa de Montejo reliefs an overemphasis on violence would feed the Black Legend and raise questions about the legitimacy of the conquest, and thus the status of the conquistadores. Any depiction of the Native would have inevitably evoked debates regarding the natural status of the Indian and would have exposed the political and economic relationship between Indian and Spaniard in mid-century Puebla.
Yet a very strong need existed in Puebla to reaffirm the conquistadorial understanding of the nobility of the conquest and the legitimacy of their resulting privileges and power. Anxieties associated with changes to the system of encomienda would have been compounded by the loss in 1545 of the indios de servicio or the ayuda, the grant to the city of labor from Cholula, Tlaxcala, and elsewhere. Since in 1547 there were only about twenty families with encomienda out of three hundred householders, the loss of the ayuda and the challenges that it presented to the city would have been significant.120 More importantly, this loss, and the endangered status of encomienda, also had psychological effects. There was a sense that the end of the system of indios de servicio and the provision in the Nuevas leyes that prevented Indian labor from being used for personal service had fostered a change in the Indigenous population’s behavior.
It is here that we can begin to trace more directly the attitudes of those who might have been involved in the commissioning of the reliefs at La Casa del que Mató al Animal. Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas wrote the following to King Philip II in a letter of 1556:
The poor Spaniard is before the Indian who distributes the day labors, calling him many times “sir” and “your mercy” with his head uncovered and his hat in his hand and worshipping him because he gives [the laborers] to him, and in the end he not only does not give them to him but he does not even remove his hat or sombrero before the Spaniard and neither looks nor responds, and he abandons him and leaves him like a poor man and laughs at him and makes fun of him. For this reason, the Spanish nation destroys itself and is held in contempt.121
While it is a very one-sided account, this passage indicates a perceived shift in the power relationship between the Indians and the Spanish in Puebla at mid century.122
Other parts of this same letter tell us more about Díaz de Vargas’s concerns and presumably those of his family and class regarding the administration of New Spain. His letter takes a pragmatic approach towards the question of governance, one that is only somewhat concerned with religion or justice and instead is focused on the practical maintenance of Spanish power, both economic and political.123 While he expresses concern for the Indians and their property rights, he is also deeply troubled by the power of the caciques.124 He begins the letter by arguing that “it is necessary for our peace and that of the Indians and for the security of New Spain that no Indian can ride a horse.”125 His concerns here are explicitly tied to issues of power and empire. As he puts it:
these Indians, although they are good Christians, are the natives of the land, and for this reason are seen to be our opposite. Seeing that we have occupied their land and their lordships, and as the desire for domination and command is the most precious thing that men have on earth, and that, in the end, they are men and the sons of Adam, they lack only the use of military things.126
Later in the letter, he argues for exactly the same reasons that the Indians should not be allowed to own offensive or defensive arms.127
This concern for maintaining the status quo in the power relationships between Indian and Spaniard is expressed elsewhere in the letter. Díaz de Vargas particularly critiques land rental arrangements between Indians in Huejotzingo and Spanish settlers, in which the Indians, despite their just ownership of the land, are attempting “through bad means to become lords and superiors to the Spanish.”128 This state of affairs, he warns, must not be allowed to continue because “a very small spark can cause a very great fire, and cause great damage, before it is extinguished.”129 By the same token he asks the Crown to prohibit mestizo children from living in Indian settlements so that they will not be exposed to vices and false beliefs, and further warns that these children are serving as pages to the caciques who can then say that they are being served by the Spanish.130 In short, while Díaz de Vargas was somewhat concerned about the well-being of the Indians, his central goal was to maintain the status quo: the rights of the Indians were largely respected but their inferior social, economic, and political position was also clearly demarcated.
Finally, it is into this context that the Puebla reliefs can be placed. Unfortunately, the lack of a secure date for them, combined with the absence of any definitive information regarding the ownership of the house prior to 1588, makes it impossible to determine whether the work’s patron was one of the merchants with whom the Díaz de Vargas family intermarried or a member of the Díaz de Vargas clan.131 However, regardless of who commissioned the work, it is certain that they would have wished to uphold the state of affairs argued for in Díaz de Vargas’s letter. As discussed above, there were ample reasons that the conquistadorial class would want to make a statement about the worthiness of the conquest, given the numerous challenges to their status, but it also true that the merchant class, as they married into this elite group, would have wanted to demonstrate allegiance to these same values.
This is what we find in the reliefs. While, given the limits on discourse in the late 1500s, it would have been impossible or problematic to make direct assertions about either the legitimacy of conquistadorial action and dominance or the inferiority of the Indian, the reliefs make these arguments by depicting hunting and dogs and evoking a complex network of associations regarding history, status, power, and control. The location of the house and the doorway on one of the streets adjacent to Puebla’s main square would have made this a particularly public statement, one that was likely directed both at the Spanish residents of the urban core and the Indigenous visitors to this area.
The dogs and the violence depicted on the doorjambs are vitally important. While limitations about what could be said publicly at the time prevented artworks from showing attacks on the Natives in such a public setting, due to concerns about fueling the Black Legend and furthering the critiques made by Las Casas, the hunting scene allowed this violence to be demonstrated in a more palatable way. Due to both their use and mythologizing in the conquest, the dogs, like the horses in the Casa del Deán, could not help but be read as a sign of both Spanish power and the valiant and heroic nature of contested conquistadorial history, two concerns that needed to be reiterated given the changing discourse around the conquest, the loss of the ayuda, and the imperiled status of the encomenderos. More subtly, the mastery of the Spanish-identified alaunts over the weaker, smaller animals also worked, like the writings of Sepúlveda or the reliefs on the Casa de Montejo, to establish that “natural” relation of power desired by the Spanish. It also advanced a discourse, like that found in Díaz de Vargas’s letter, that would have been favorable to the concerns of the conquistadores relative to both the Indigenous population and the emergent mercantile classes.
In conclusion, while the attraction of the nineteenth-century legend concerning La Casa del que Mató al Animal can be understood in terms of period constructions of Mexican identity, the actual story of the reliefs is far richer, if more politically problematic. Commissioned by Spanish patrons from Indigenous sculptors as an assertion of status, power, and nobility during a period when this standing was under increasing attack, the work argued for an understanding of conquest and colony that prioritized conquistadorial history and power, albeit in ways shaped and restricted by what it was possible to say publicly about such issues in the age of the Nuevas leyes, censorship, and the Valladolid debates. That this work may, in fact, have been commissioned not by an encomendero but by a merchant aligning himself with the dominant discursive and political concerns of the encomenderos and conquistadores only makes this history more interesting and more contested.
The remainder of the building’s façade has been lost, while in the interior much of the original construction of the building has also been lost or changed. See Francisco Pérez de Salazar Verea, “Los mayorazgos,” in Semblanzas e historia de una familia en la Puebla de los Ángeles, ed. Francisco Pérez de Salazar Verea (Mexico City: Imprenta de Juan Pablos, 1998), 95.
The protruding tongues of the dogs on the reliefs also might attest to the Indigenous identity of the sculptors, as they recall the song or speech scrolls commonly seen in Indigenous Mexican art before and after the conquest (and might indicate that the dogs are barking). The flat relief style of carving has been referred to as mestizo or tequitqui (from the Nahuatl word for “tributary”). The implications and appropriateness of both terms has engendered considerable scholarly debate. George Kubler forcefully objected to the term mestizo, which he viewed as racialist. See George Kubler, “On the Colonial Extinction of the Motifs of Pre-Columbian Art,” in Studies in Ancient American and European Art, ed. Thomas Reece (1961; repr., New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985), 75. More recently, Serge Gruzinski has reconstructed the term as highly useful in discussions of early colonial art. See Serge Gruzinski, The Mestizo Mind, trans. Deke Dusinberre (New York: Routledge, 2002), 17–31. See also Alessandra Russo, The Untranslatable Image: A Mestizo History of the Arts in New Spain, 1500–1600, trans. Susan Emanuel (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), 33–36. The term tequitqui has a similar history of controversy. Recently, however, Eleanor Wake has argued for its stylistic utility. Eleanor Wake, Framing the Sacred: The Indian Churches of Early Colonial Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010), 172.
Elizabeth Wilder Weismann, Mexico in Sculpture 1521–1821 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1950), 49.
Manuel Toussaint, Colonial Art in Mexico, trans. and ed. Elizabeth Wilder Weisman (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), 124; Weismann, Mexico in Sculpture, 49.
José Miguel Morales Fougera, Tunja: Atenas del renacimiento en el Nuevo Reino de Granada (Málaga, Spain: Servicio de publicaciones y divulgación científica de la Universidad de Málaga, 1998), 277.
On roosters on atrial crosses in Mexico, see Wake, Framing the Sacred, 229–30.
Jeanette Favrot Peterson, The Paradise Garden Murals of Malinalco: Utopia and Empire in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993), 132–34.
Wake, Framing the Sacred, 26–29, 236–37; Louise M. Burkhart, “Flowery Heaven: The Aesthetic of Paradise in Nahuatl Devotional Literature,” Res 21 (1992): 89–101.
On the convergent symbolism of the Malinalco murals, see Peterson, Paradise Garden Murals of Malinalco, 124–37.
The interpretation offered next privileges European readings of the work. However, as Carolyn Dean and Dana Leibsohn have explained, one must also be attentive not only to the stylistic hybridity of the work, but also to its status as a product of Indigenous labor and agency and the way that such hybridity (whether visible or invisible) was connected to broader structures of colonial power and control; these concerns of power and control are central to my argument. See Carolyn Dean and Dana Leibsohn, “Hybridity and Its Discontents: Considering Visual Culture in Colonial Spanish America,” Colonial Latin American Review 12, no. 1 (2003): 14–16, 26.
The story appears in Segundo calendario de José M. Macias, para 1850 (Puebla: José M. Macias, 1850) and then is quoted and discussed in Hugo Leicht, Las calles de Puebla (Mexico City: Imprenta A. Mijares, 1934), 239. I summarize this account.
Leicht, Las calles de Puebla, 239.
See Benjamin Keen, The Aztec Image in Western Thought (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1971), 316–19, 325–26, 419–23.
Leicht, Las calles de Puebla, 240.
The period interest in chivalric understandings of the conquest is reflected in the highly positive Mexican reception of William H. Prescott’s epic History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843). See John P. McWilliams, Jr., The American Epic: Transforming a Genre, 1770–1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 158–59, 171–82 and Michael P. Costeloe, “Prescott’s History of the Conquest and Calderón de la Barca’s Life in Mexico: Mexican Reaction, 1843–1844,” The Americas 47, no. 3 (1991): 337–44.
Weismann implausibly claims that no animals are being killed here and that “the eager chained dog is licking [one of] the little creature[s] not killing it.” Weismann, Mexico in Sculpture, 49.
J. B. Owens, “Diana at the Bar: Hunting, Aristocrats and the Law in Renaissance Castile,” Sixteenth-Century Journal 8, no. 1 (1977): 17–36; Margaret Greer, “La caza sacro-político de El bosque divino de González de Eslava a Calderón,” in El teatro en la Hispanoamérica colonial, ed. Ignacio Arellano and José Rodríguez Garrido (Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2008), 75–76.
Marcy Norton, “Animal (Spanish America),” in Lexikon of the Hispanic Baroque: Transatlantic Exchange and Transformation, ed. Evonne Levy and Kenneth Mills (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), 21.
Greer, “La caza sacro-político,” 79. See also Norton, “Animal (Spain),” 17.
Luis Weckmann, The Medieval Heritage of Mexico, trans. Frances M. López-Morillas (New York: Fordham University Press, 1992), 125.
Weckmann, Medieval Heritage of Mexico, 125.
Luis Fernando Restrepo, Un nuevo reino imaginado: Las elegías de varones ilustres de Indias de Juan de Castellanos (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura Hispánica, 1999), 147–48, 169–75, 190–92.
Lewis Hanke, All Mankind Is One (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1994), 43–44, 82–86. The Dominican missionary Fray Tomás Ortiz is recorded as saying (c. 1525), in the context of other negative animal metaphors, that the Indians are “cowardly as hares.” Antonio de Herrera, Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas y tierra firme del mar océano: década terzera (Madrid: Emplenta real, 1601), 313. See also Edmundo O’Gorman, “Sobre la naturaleza bestial del indio americano,” Revista de la facultad de filosofía y letras de la Universidad Nacional de México 1/2 (1941): 150.
Norton, “Animal (Spain),” 17–18.
Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 142.
John Grier Varner and Jeannette Johnson Varner, Dogs of the Conquest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983), 23–28, 36–37, 91, 93, and throughout. See also Weckmann, Medieval Heritage of Mexico, 453; Lucía Orsanic, “Imágenes caninas hispanoamericanas del período de conquista y colonización: textos y contextos,” Meridional: revista chilena de estudios latinoamericanos 9 (2017): 38–50; Abel A. Alves, The Animals of Spain: An Introduction to Imperial Perceptions and Human Interaction with Other Animals (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 155–57; Alfredo Bueno Jiménez, “Los perros en la conquista de América: historia e iconografía,” Chronica nova 37 (2011): 187–97.
The use of dogs is mentioned in numerous period sources. See Varner and Varner, Dogs of the Conquest, 68, 83, 85, 152; Orsanic, “Imágenes caninas,” 30–50.
Original: “Los españoles de las Indias enseñados y amaestrados perros bravisimos y ferocisimos para matar y despedazar los indios […] Hay otros que van a caza las mañanas con sus perros, y volviéndose a comer, preguntados cómo les ha ido, responden: ‘Bien me ha ido, porque obra de quince o veinte bellacos dejos muertos con mis perros.’” Bartolomé de las Casas, Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, ed. André Saint-Lu (Madrid: Catedra, 1991), 172–73. Translations by the author unless otherwise noted. On the relationship between the hunt and the use of animals in the conquest, see Norton, “Animal (Spanish America),” 21.
Florine Asselbergs, Conquered Conquistadors: The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan; A Nahua Vision of the Conquest of Guatemala (Louisville: University Press of Colorado, 2004), 78, 179, 180.
Lori Boornazian Diel, “The Spectacle of Death in Early Colonial New Spain in the Manuscrito del aperreamiento,” Hispanic Issues On Line 7 (2010): 145–50, http://hdl.handle.net/11299/182896
Diel, “Spectacle of Death,” 150.
Blanca M. Jiménez P. and Samuel L. Villela F., Historia y cultura tras el glifo: los códices de Guerrero (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1998), 149–50; Lori Boornazian Diel, “Manuscrito del apperreameinto (Manuscript of the Dogging): A ‘Dogging’ and Its Implications for Early Colonial Cholula,” Ethnohistory 57, no. 4 (2011): 602.
Weckmann, Medieval Heritage of Mexico, 452; Diel, “Spectacle of Death,” 154–55; Juan José Batalla Rosado, “La pena de muerte durante la colonia—siglo XVI—a partir del análisis de las imágenes de los códices mesoamericanos,” Revista española de antropología americana 25 (1995): 99, 101.
Weckmann, Medieval Heritage of Mexico, 452.
Diel, “Spectacle of Death,” 155.
Weckmann, Medieval Heritage of Mexico, 452; Diel, 153.
Translation from Bernardino de Sahagún, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, trans. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research, 1950), 12:19.
“Leones y onzas muy bravas que se comían las gentes (lo cual decían por los perros lebreles y alanos muy bravas, que, en efecto, traían los nuestros, que fueron de mucho efecto).” Diego Muñoz Camargo, Historia de Tlaxcala, ed. Germán Vázquez (Madrid: Historia 16, 1986), 212.
Cody Barteet, “The Rhetoric of Authority in New Spain: The Casa de Montejo in Mérida, Yucatán,” RACAR 2 (2010): 8.
Linda K. Williams, “Dual Messages of Power on the Façade of the Casa de Montejo, Mérida, Yucatán,” Studies in Iconography 31 (2010): 168. The balcony is supported by a stooped figure that has also been read as a reference to Montejo’s dominion over the Indigenous peoples. See Kelly Donahue-Wallace, Art and Architecture of Viceregal Latin America, 1521–1821 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008), 84.
Barteet, “Rhetoric of Authority,” 6. For a discussion of the Indigenous political meanings of the work, see Williams, “Dual Messages of Power,” 183–99.
Williams, 183; Barteet, “Rhetoric of Authority,” 16.
Rolena Adorno, “Los debates sobre la naturaleza del indio en el siglo XVI: textos y contextos,” Revista de estudios hispánicos 19 (1992): 47–66.
Donahue-Wallace, Art and Architecture, 84. See also Williams, “Dual Messages of Power,” 168.
Guillermina Vázquez, “Una aproximación a la iconografía de la fachada de la Casa de Montejo,” in Estudios acerca del arte novohispano: homenaje a Elisa Vargas Lugo, ed. José Guadalupe Victoria (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1983): 166.
On Montejo’s fate, see Barteet, “Rhetoric of Authority,” 6, 18n5. This conceptualization of superiority and inferiority was an essential aspect of the claims made by Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and was a necessary reformulation after the papal bull of 1537. See Adorno, “Los debates,” 52–63.
Lesley Byrd Simpson, The Encomienda in New Spain: The Beginning of Spanish Mexico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 128–35; Silvio A. Zavala, La encomienda indiana (Madrid: Helénica, 1935), 88–98.
Simpson, Encomienda in New Spain, 128–35.
Simpson and others trace this counterdiscourse in the responses of the encomenderos. See Simpson, Encomienda in New Spain, 133–40; Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1965), 100–103; Zavala, La encomienda indiana, 103–4. On conquistadorial self-fashioning more generally, see José Durand, La transformación social del conquistador (Mexico City: Porrúa y Obregón, 1953), 1:81–83; 2:12–18, 20, 25–26. On the decoration as a response to changing ideas of dynastic continuity, see Barteet, “Rhetoric of Authority,” 5–6, 14.
Penny C. Morrill, The Casa del Deán: New World Imagery in a Sixteenth-Century Mural Cycle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), 20.
Morrill, Casa del Deán, 4–6, 8–14.
Morrill, 127, 136, 151–53.
Morrill, 127, 136; Donahue-Wallace, Art and Architecture, 88. Donahue-Wallace sees this political message as a feature of both rooms of the house. Helga von Kügelgen has discovered that the motif of the mounted sybil has some precedent in a fifteenth-century procession at the cathedral of León and in the border of a sixteenth-century textile now in a private collection in Belgium. See Helga von Kügelgen, “Un programa novohispano: sinagoga, sibilas y Triunfos de Petraca,” in Profecía y triunfo: la Casa del Deán Tomás de la Plaza; facetas plurivalentes, ed. Helga von Kügelgen (Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2013), 167–68.
Restall, Seven Myths, 142–43. This military aspect of the horse might have resonated with the experience of the patron; more than two hundred horses were used in de Soto’s expedition.
Sergio Rivera-Ayala, “Riding High, the Horseman’s View: Urban Space and Body in México en 1554,” in Mapping Colonial Spanish America: Places and Commonplaces of Identity, Culture, and Experience, ed. Santa Arias and Mariselle Meléndez (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2002): 261–62. Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas, a key member of the aristocracy in Puebla, argued that Indians should not be allowed to ride horses.
Rivera-Ayala, “Riding High, the Horseman’s View,” 262; Weckmann, Medieval Heritage of Mexico, 116–22, 135–37.
Weckmann, 116–22, 135–37.
On this dominance, see Julia Hirschberg, “A Social History of Puebla” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1976), 53–62, 153–56, 329–31.
Pérez de Salazar Verea, “Los mayorazgos,” 85–87; Luz Marina Morales, “Redes y negocios en Puebla. Fortuna y mentalidad nobiliaria,” Historia caribe 4, no. 11 (2006): 80; Émilie Senmartin, “Formation et transformations d’une élite colonial: Puebla (1560–1639)” (PhD diss., Université Toulouse le Mirail, 2017), 233–35.
On the date of the marriage, see Guadalupe Pérez-Rivero Maurer, “Un clan familiar en el cabildo poblano,” in Semblanzas e historia de una familia en la Puebla de los Ángeles, ed. Francisco Pérez de Salazar Verea (Mexico City: Imprenta de Juan Pablos, 1998), 68. On this marital strategy, see Senmartin, “Formation et transformations,” 93–94, 97–98, 233.
Pérez-Rivero Maurer, “Un clan familiar,” 68–69; James Lockhart and Enrique Otte, ed. and trans., Letters and People of the Spanish Indies: Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 71; Durand, La transformación social del conquistador, 2:48, 56.
Senmartin, “Formation et transformations,” 157, 184.
Pérez-Rivero Maurer, “Un clan familiar,” 68; Ida Altman, “Reconsidering the Center: Puebla and Mexico City, 1550–1650,” in Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500–1820, ed. Christine Daniels and Michael V. Kennedy (New York: Routledge, 2002), 58n36.
Isabella’s mother was the daughter of Alonso Martín de Mafra Biendicho, who was a city founder but not a conquistador. Senmartin, “Formation et transformations,” 88, 94; Diego Antonio Bermúdez de Castro, Teatro angelopolitano o historia de la ciudad de la Puebla (1746), in Bibliografia mexicana del siglo XVIII, ed. Nicolas Leon (Mexico City: Francisco Diaz de Leon, 1908), 5:139.
Pérez-Rivero Maurer, “Un clan familiar,” 68; Senmartin, “Formation et transformations,” 65. On the importance of the family in the cabildo, see Senmartin, 202–3. On the Díaz de Vargas family’s control of the office of aguacil mayor, see Guadalupe Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla de los Ángeles en el siglo XVI,” Jahrbuch für Geschichte Lateinamerikas 7, no. 1 (1970): 104–5, 116–21. His son Francisco became aguacil mayor in 1558 but lost the position due to political complications in 1578.
Senmartin, “Formation et transformations,” 87. See also Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla,” 114–21. Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas was still alive until at least 1573. See Senmartin, 52.
Senmartin, 88, 234.
Glen Carman, Rhetorical Conquests: Cortés, Gómara and Renaissance Imperialism (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2006), 107; Lockhart and Otte, Letters and People, 70.
Restrepo, Un nuevo reino imaginado, 101, 104, 130–31.
On the early history of Puebla, see Julia Hirschberg, “La fundación de Puebla de los Ángeles: mito y realidad,” Historia mexicana 28, no. 2 (1978): 185–223; Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 53–65; Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla,” 76–145; François Chevalier, Significación social de la fundación de la Puebla de los Ángeles, trans. E. San Martin (Puebla: Centro de Estudios Históricos de Puebla, 1957), 29–45.
Hirschberg, “La fundación de Puebla,” 188–219.
On indios de servicio, see Julia Hirschberg, “An Alternative to Encomienda: Puebla’s Indios de Servicio, 1531–1545,” Journal of Latin American Studies 11, no. 2 (1979): 241–64; Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 158–66. This labor was assigned to both individual households and the city. This system lasted until 1545, but a similar if more provisional system continued to be used to supply labor thereafter. Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 158–66, 195, 434–58; Hirschberg, “Alternative to Encomienda,” 241–64.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 433.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 60; Hirschberg, “La Fundación de Puebla,” 217.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 318, 329–30, 383–89; Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla,” 102.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 375–76, 383–89. See also Durand, La transformación social del conquistador, 2:26–29.
Hirschberg, 209, 211, 302.
Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla,” 125–38; Chevalier, Significación social, 50; quotation from Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 329.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 330.
Hirschberg, 330; Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla,” 102, 104, 107–8.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 328–29. This conflict reemerged in 1582, when industrialists and lesser conquistadores forced a reform of the cabildo. See Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla,” 139; Hirschberg, 365, 377.
Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 383–84, 386. In the Díaz de Vargas family, Francesco took over his father’s office as aguacil mayor in 1558.
Durand, La transformación social del conquistador, 2:77–79.
On the response to the New Laws, see Simpson, Encomienda in New Spain, 123–46; Zavala, La encomienda indiana, 88–113; Durand, La transformación social del conquistador, 2:16–18.
Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 101–2; Simpson, Encomienda in New Spain, 139–40.
Lockhart and Otte, Letters and People, 70–71.
Simpson, Encomienda in New Spain, 140, 145.
Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 102–3.
Rolena Adorno, “Discourses on Colonialism: Bernal Díaz, Las Casas, and the Twentieth-Century Reader,” MLN 103, no. 2 (1988): 240–41, 246–51. On the relationship between the Valladolid debate and the writing of Bernal Díaz and others, see Demetrio Ramos Pérez, Ximénez de Quesada en su relación con los cronistas y el epítome de la conquista del Nuevo Reino de Granada (Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1972), 202–9; Rolena Adorno, “The Warrior and the War Community: Constructions of the Civil Order in Mexican Conquest History,” Dispositio 14, no. 36/38 (1989): 225–46.
Adorno, “Discourses on Colonialism,” 252. See also Charles Gibson, The Aztecs under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1590–1810 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1964), 58–59.
Arthur P. Stabler and John E. Kicza, ed. and trans., “Ruy González’s 1553 Letter to Emperor Charles V: An Annotated Translation,” The Americas 42, no. 4 (1986): 473.
Carman, Rhetorical Conquests, 80–81.
Translation in Stabler and Kicza, “Ruy González’s 1553 Letter,” 481. See Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 157, on how the cabildo of Mexico City responded to Las Casas by hiring Francisco Cervantes de Salazar to make their case against him.
Translation in Stabler and Kicza, “Ruy González’s 1553 Letter,” 482, 485. For a discussion, see Adorno, “Discourses on Colonialism,” 252–54.
Adorno, 254. These concerns were magnified by the severe reduction in the Indigenous population in the second half of the century.
On the counterdiscourse authored by Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda at the time, see Luna Nájera, “Masculinity, War, and Pursuit of Glory in Sepúlveda’s Gonzalo,” Hispanic Review 80, no. 3 (2012): 391–412.
Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 117.
Hanke, 131. See also S. Lyman Tyler, ed. and trans., Spanish Laws Concerning Discoveries, Pacifications, and Settlements among the Indians (American West Center: University of Utah, 1980), 9, 37, 38.
Durand, La transformación social del conquistador, 2:20, 25–26, 73–79. Juan de Castellanos’s epic poem Las elegías de varones ilustres de Indias (1589) also presents a justification of encomiendas. See Restrepo, Un nuevo reino imaginado, 90–104.
Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 115, 157.
Hanke, All Mankind Is One, 60.
Adorno, “Los debates,” 49–52.
Adorno, 52; Zavala, La encomienda indiana, 184–85.
“Aquellos cuya condición natural es tal que deban obedecer a otros.” Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Democrates segundo, o, de las justas causas de la guerra contra los indios, ed. and trans. Ángel Losada (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Francisco de Vitoria, 1950), 19. See Adorno, “Los debates,” 52.
Adorno, “Los debates,” 54; Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 120–27. Las Casas also agreed with the supposed inferiority of the Indians but argued that this did not license Spanish dominance. See Adorno, 61–62.
Adorno, “Los debates,” 63; Hanke, All Mankind Is One, 41–45.
Hanke, All Mankind Is One, 82, 84, 85. This is also a technique used by Francisco López de Gómara and Francisco Cervantes de Salazar. See Hanke, 123–24, 131.
Hanke, Spanish Struggle, 129–30.
Hanke, All Mankind Is One, 63, 114–15.
Carlos Alberto González Sánchez, New World Literacy: Writing and Culture across the Atlantic, 1500–1700 (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2011), 68.
Rolena Adorno, “Literary Production and Suppression: Reading and Writing about Amerindians in Colonial Spanish America,” Dispositio 11, no. 28/29 (1986): 1–25; Rolena Adorno, The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narrative (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 200–218. See also Juan Friede, “La censura española del siglo XVI y los libros de historia de América,” Revista de historia de América 47 (1959): 45–94.
Adorno, “Literary Production and Suppression,” 1–25; Adorno, Polemics of Possession, 200–218.
Chevalier, Significación social, 46; Hirschberg, “Alternative to Encomienda,” 256–63. See Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 434–58 on the end of indios de servicio.
“El pobre español está delante del tal indio que reparte los jornaleros llamándole por muchas veces señor y vuestra merced, destocado y con el bonete en la mano y adorándole porque se los dé y al fin no tan solamente no se los da pero ni aun le quita el tal indio el español su bonete o sombrero y ni le mira ni le responde y se va y lo deja para ruina, y se va riendo y hacienda burla dél, de cuya cabsa la nación español se aniquila y es en menosprecio.” “Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas al Emperador” (1556), in Epistolario de Nueva España, 1505–1818, ed. Francisco del Paso y Troncoso (Mexico City: Antigua Librería Robredo de José Porrúa e Hijos, 1939–42), 8:106–7.
The tenuous nature of the labor supply is indicated by the complaints in the years 1556–60 that the Indians were not providing the labor owed to the city. Hirschberg, “Social History of Puebla,” 455–57.
Silvia A. Zavala, El servicio personal de los indios en la Nueva España 1550–1575 (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1985), 96–99, 428, 540–42.
Zavala, El servicio personal de los indios, 98–99, 540–41; “Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 101–2, 106–7.
“Es necesario para la quietud nuestra y de los naturales y seguridad de la Nueva España que ningún indio pueda cabalgar a caballo.” “Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 100.
“Estos indios aunque sean buenos cristianos son los naturales de la tierra y por ello es visto ser nuestros contrarios, y miran que les tenemos ocupada su tierra y señoríos, y la ambición de la dominación y mando es la cosa más preciosa que poseen los hombres sobre la tierra y al fin estos son hombres y hijos de Adán y no les falta sino el uso en las cosas de la milicia.” “Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 100.
“Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 102.
“Con malos medios procurar de ser señores y superiores de los españoles.” “Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 107.
“De muy pequeña centella prenderse muy gran fuego, e dél cabsarse [sic] grandes daños, antes que se pueda amatar.” “Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 107.
“Carta de Gonzalo Díaz de Vargas,” 108.
Pérez de Salazar Verea, “Los mayorazgos,” 85–86.