Colonial Mexico


  Government in New Spain

  Council of the Indies, Viceroy and Audiencia



 Mixton War

   The Church

 The Spanish Inquisition  

 Religious Disputes

Virgin of  Guadalupe

  Cultural Life  

 Social Classes   



 Colonial Architecture

Mexico City  

 Colonial ceramics

  Tequila , Pulque  and Wine  

 Bourbon Reforms

Mexican Colonial Coins

Map of New Spain

Click to here to see larger image .



 Video on Mexican colonial cities

While Cortes was conquering the Aztec capital, no one in Spain was aware of it and Cortes conquest was without official recognition . With little preparation, Spain found itself a ruler a faraway land many times larger than itself and much more populated .How was it to control and convert such a land that was over two months away by sea  ?

The Encomiendas

The Encomienda System

The Spaniards renamed Tenochititlan 'Mexico City' and rebuilt it as the capital of Nueva Espana ( New Spain ). Cortes granted his soldiers encomiendas ( land grants )which granted an entire town and its Indian population to an encomendero  as the treasure hoped for after the conquest of the Aztecs did not amount to much as much of it had been lost in the retreat of Noche Triste . The Indians owed them tribute as well as forced labor and was a thinly disguised form of slavery . The encomenderos were supposed to convert the Indians and look after their welfare .Spanish encomenderos were usually absentee landlords who lived in faraway cities .Charles V, wanting to protect his new vassals, outlawed encomiendas , but the grants had already been distributed by Cortes .


For almost 300 years after 1521, Mexico was a colony of Spain and known as La Nueva España or New Spain. It was the crown jewel in Spains holdings in the New World.After the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in 1521, Mexico grew to include most of present day Central America and the southwestern United States. The colonial period lasted until the revolt of 1810 which was led by a priest, Miguel Hidalgo, known today as the father of Mexico's independence.  

Under the Spanish administration, the indigenous population did not fare well. The main political, economic, and military power was held firmly in Spanish hands, and most indigenous people were kept in poverty. Eventually the vast majority of the native population was killed off by European diseases from which it had no immunity such as small pox and measles. It is estimated that the native population shrunk from ten to twelve million at the time of the conquest to approximately one million by the mid-seventeenth century. This meant a terrific labor shortage, which was rectified through the importation of 200,000 or more African slaves. The Spanish capitalized on the colony's natural resources and developed trade based on agricultural products, textiles, and on mining, particularly silver.  

One of the most important aspects of the colonial period was the introduction of Roman Catholicism. During colonial times, missionary friars often came into conflict with secular authority and vigorously objected to the treatment of the native population, thus earning the respect of indigenous peoples who in turn were converted to Catholicism. Across colonial Mexico twelve thousand churches were built and today almost ninety percent of Mexico's population is Roman Catholic.


 Overview of Spanish control of the Americas through the use of the Encomienda System

The encomienda system attracted settlers and brought misery and death to many native people as it had in Cuba. The system interfered with Spain's control of the new colony and led to rebellions when Spain tried to reform the system in the 16th century when friar Bartolome de Las Casa convinced the crown to introduce the ' New Laws ' granting freedom to Indians unjustly enslaved and easing labor requirements. There was much opposition to this by the Spaniards in Mexico. When similar laws were enacted in Peru an insurrection resulted which took the life of the viceroy .In 1564, the Crown decreed that all encomiendas would cease upon the death of the holder . This incensed the descendants of the conquistadors . Some, such as Alonso de Avila, argued for independence from Spain with the son of Cortes, Don Martin to made king . Alonso and others were soon arrested and beheaded, and Don Martin was forced to go into exile .This ended independence talk at the time and also ended the new law on the encomienda. Over time as the Indians gained more rights the encomiendas faded away .

Despite the stories of fabulous wealth, the number of  Spanish colonists was low. By 1560 there were barely 20,000 Spaniards in Mexico . The Indian population was devastated in the early colonial period, with an estimated 70 to 90 percent dying off due to disease, famine and overwork. there were an estimated 25 million before the conquest and a little over a million by 1605 .The Indian population did not revive until 1650 .African slaves were imported to make up for the decrease in the Indian labor pool. 20,000 had arrived by 1553 .Many Filipinos and Chinese entered on the Manila galleons, possibly as many as 6,000 by the 17th century .

Colonial Mexico: A Guide to Historic Districts and Towns

This is a great book on the "silver cities' of

Mexico. Reads like a novel, not a tour guide

Government in New Spain 

Imperial Spain coat of Arms

Cortes was appointed governor and captain general of New Spain in 1522 and he moved energetically to explore new lands and develop the economy .Cortes brought the first stocks of cattle to Mexico as well as sheep and goats and introduced European plants . He paid for the conquistadors wives to come to Mexico from Spain and encouraged his men to marry native women, beginning the first mestizos, children of Spanish and native Mexican blood .


Cortes, who had left Mexico to control his former commander Olid in Honduras in 1524-26 was believed to be dead by the people of Mexico. Enemies of Cortes spread rumors that he cheated the crown. When he returned, he had the enemies hanged, but the Crown remained suspicious and Cortes, hoping to clear his name went to Spain . Charles V, while impressed with the gallant nature of Cortes, desired to appoint his own viceroy in place of the rough adventurers in New Spain and did not reappoint Cortes governor, but made him a marquis with a large estate to get him out of the way . Cortes did not have a noble lineage to be chosen as viceroy .

Council of the Indies, Viceroy and Audiencia 

In 1524 Charles created the Council of the Indies ( "Real y Supremo Consejo de las Indias" ) to oversee all aspects of the colonies and acting in his name . The Council regulated many aspects of life in New Spain, to the location of churches to what kind of crops could be grown . The king and the Council of the Indies decided New Spain needed a ruler to offset the popularity of Cortes and project the authority of the Crown , a viceroy . The first viceroy was not to arrive in Mexico till 1535. The viceroyalty was to administer a vast territory from California to Panama, Caribbean islands and the Philippines  . 

In 1527, Spain set up the first audiencia, a high court with government functions so court cases would not have to be referred to Spain .Judges (oidores ) of the audiencia were some of the most powerful men in the Indies. The audiencia was to keep an eye on the viceroy for the king .Judges (oidores ) of the audiencia were some of the most powerful men in the Indies. 


In 1529 Nuno de Guzman became one of three judges in Mexico City which led to one of the lowest points of Spanish administration in Mexico .This period between the rule of Cortes and the viceroys  was a time of corruption, graft and injustice as Guzman and the other oidores sought to enrich themselves and gain power .


Meanwhile, the first bishop of Mexico Juan de Zumarraga arrived in 1527 . Angered by the injustice and mistreatment of the Indians and corruption, he preached sermons condemning the judges at risk to his life. Guzman, fearing his days were numbered by the reports of Zumarraga to the Crown , set off to conquer Michoacan to get back in the good graces of the Crown .Guzman treated the Indians savagely, but explored as far as southern Sonora and conquered a large area .In 1538 he went to Spain to answer the charges against him and spent the rest of his life there under house arrest .After the fiasco of Guzman, more care was taken to chose his replacement .Sebastian Ramirez de Fuenleal who was appointed judge and turned out to be a man of high quality and corrected many abuses .


Don Antonio de Mendoza, count of Tendilla, accepted the appointment as viceroy after three others had declined and arrived in Mexico in 1535. He was related to the royal family . He had special orders to increase the crowns revenues and see that the Indians were better treated before they were decimated as they were in the Caribbean .He worked hard to provide stability and order . The viceroys or vice-kings, created an elegant court which became the center of European society in New Spain . There were long periods of delay in communication with Spain, and the viceroys and when orders seemed contrary to what was needed, the viceroy sometimes noted ' Obedezo pero no complo ' ( I obey but do not execute ). In order to check on the state of affairs in the colonies, the Crown sometimes sent a royal inspector or visitador .The inspector was given great authority and usually assumed rule of the colony during his inspection . Sometimes the inspector would travel inconito, sometimes there would be advanced warning . 

There were 62 viceroys in New Spain, eventually

men born in New Spain would hold this office .


Provincial administrators were called Corregidores and reported to the viceroy . In the early years these positions went to conquistadors or their sons. The salary for these positions was low and it was expected supplement their income by some sort of abuse of power .Provincial towns were organized by royal decree, all were to have a main plaza, church , royal palace and town hall with streets laid out in a grid pattern .Large cities such as Oaxaca, Puebla and Guadalajara were large enough to have cathedrals and grand palaces .

The presidios (military towns), pueblos (civilian towns) and the misiones (missions) were the three major agencies employed by the Spanish crown to extend its borders and consolidate its colonial territories in these territories


By 1524, almost all of the Aztec empire, along with such regions as Colina, the valley of Oaxaca and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec had been brought under control of the colony .Ports were set up such as Acapulco to search for a passage to the East .

In the 1540s most the Yucatan was conquered and the city of Merida was founded in 1542 . The city states of the Mayans proved difficult to conquer unlike the centralized Aztecs .A revolt broke out in 1547 which took 20 years and an estimated 500 Spanish lives to quell . The last Mayan state did not fall till 1697 .

 A large silver find in Zacatecas in the mid 1540s led to increased Spanish attempts to subdue the north .In the north the borders were slowly extended by missionaries and a few settlers and included most of modern day Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California. Utah and Colorado .


Francisco Vazquez de Coronado

Mendoza appointed Francisco Vazquez de Coronado to search for Cibola and the seven cities of Gold rumored to exist in the north in 1540 . Coronado set off with 336 Spaniards and hundred of Indian allies . The Indians, wishing to get rid of the gold fevered Spanish quickly, always told the Spanish the gold cities were further on .Eventually, Coronado  went as far north as Kansas before returning to Mexico empty handed .

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado sought the fabled golden cities thought to be farther north of what was then New Spain. His exploration through the American Southwest turned up no golden cities, but made him the first European to see the Colorado river and the Grand Canyon.


Francisco Vazquez de Coronado - Mini Biography

The Mixton War of 1540 - 41


The expedition had one unintended consequence . A large number of Spaniards who had settled in New Galicia ( northern Mexico ) went on Coronado's expedition, leaving the area undermanned . The Indians, vengeful of their treatment by Guzman took advantage of the opportunity to rebel in the ensuing Mixton War ( 1540-41), led by Tenamaxtli , the most serious revolt of the times .Alavardo himself was killed trying to subdue the Indians and the rebellion ended only after the viceroy led a large army into the area .Mendoza left a flourishing colony when he retired in 1550 with a legacy of strong royal rule .His successor, Luis de Velasco (1550-64) became known as the father of the Indians . The novel Aztec Autumn by Gary Jennings is an account of this war .Nine years after the Mixton Rebellion, it's continuation, the Chichimeca War began and went on for half a century, with the Spanish eventually buying off the Chichimecs .

Tenamaxtli & the Mixtón War, 1540-1542 . 

A little-known indigenous rebellion in colonial Mexico shook the Spanish Empire to its very foundations.


Aztec Autumn by Gary Jennings

The Church in Colonial Mexico

The baptism of Indians began with the march of Cortes . The hand of God was seen in the discovery of Mexico, a gift from God for freeing Spain from the Moslems, who were still viewed as a menace. The person ultimately responsible for all the souls in the New World was Charles V, King of Mexico and the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles V took this charge seriously, and was concerned for the physical and spiritual welfare of the Indians .

Cortes recommended that the Crown send the Franciscans, Dominicans and the Augustinians - the mendicant orders and not the secular clergy. The mendicant monks were respected for their vows of poverty , monastic life and humble character . The Franciscan monks were the first to arrive in 1524. They greatly impressed the Indians by walking from Vera Cruz to Mexico City barefoot in their simple friar  clothing .They were not seeking a Cibola and riches in gold. Many were influenced by the Renaissance ideas of the time , that they could create an ideal society such as Thomas More's Utopia and St. Augustin's City of God , which would perhaps lead to the second coming of Christ .Some of these communities became self sustaining and even prosperous with their own craft making .


The friars spread out into the country, often being the first Europeans to explore an area . They built fortress missions across New Spain .Nine million were baptized by 1537. For some friars it was not unusual to baptize 4,000 Indians a day . The friars need churches for all these new Christians and a uniquely Mexican architectural form was created to accommodate these large numbers of new converts . This was the open chapel or capilla abierta, which were covered over in time to create religious complexes such as the one at Cuilapan. By 1540, 50 such churches had been built . 

Virgin of Guadalupe 

Why was Mexico so quickly converted ? There were some similarities that made conversion easier such as the cross which was a symbol for the god of rain in Mesoamerica and the crucifixion of Christ as a symbol for sacrifice needed for rebirth . The Catholic reverence for saints, with their holidays and elaborate  religious processions were similar to Mesoamerican practices . The country's patron saint is the Virgin of  Guadalupe, who made her appearance to Juan Diego on the site of an Aztec shrine of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin in 1531 on a hill outside of Mexico City . She was officially declared the patron saint of Mexico after she stopped an outbreak of plague in the city in 1737 .Her shrine there attracts thousands of pilgrims daily . Many  anthropologists say she represents a synthesis of Catholic and pre Columbian beliefs .

The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Florentine Codex

The priest became great linguists and learned the Indian languages. The also taught Spanish to the Indians and opened universities for Indian nobles , such as.\ Franciscan college of Santa cruz de Tlatelolco. Some Indians learned Latin so well that they taught it to the Spanish settlers .In the mid 16 century, the friars worked with the Indians to write about their native history and customs in their own language . One of the most famous was by Bernardino de Sahagun, who compiled an encyclopedia of Aztec life, the Florentine Codex. In the process, Indians started to write Nahuatl in the Roman alphabet rather than in pictographs. These became one of the greatest sources of information about Mesoamerican civilization . 

The friars helped get laws passed such as the papal bull of 1537 and the New Laws, which declared the Indians were humans and capable of salvation and outlawing Indian slavery .

Aztec Perspective on the Conquest of Mexico, the16th cent. Florentine Codex

The Spanish Inquisition 

Luis and Dona Marianna de Carvajal being burnt at the stake, Mexico, 1601.

They were accused of being leaders of the crypto-Jews

The onset of the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico in 1571 marked the end of the idealistic religious period of Renaissance influenced humanism of the mid 16th century . Idealistic priests and friars were replaced with materialistic clergy and the efforts by Zumarraga were overturned .The new clergy were dependent on settlers tithes and not the church .  Charles V was dead, and the new Spanish king, Phillip II ( r 1556 - 1598 ) was more interested in exploiting New Spain's economic wealth than saving souls .The universities for Indian nobles were disbanded .

The Inquisition was used in Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella to insure religious unity after expelling the Moslems . Jews were forced to convert or leave and Protestants were forbidden in the Spanish realm . Emigrants were screened before being allowed to go to New Spain . Jews who had converted were suspected of being 'crypto-Jews' and were investigated in New Spain .Pirates from Protestant countries were often burned at the stake for heresy . Priests and civil servants were investigated on moral grounds .Indians were not tried for heresy as they were considered childlike, after a famous case in which an Indian faced the Inquisition for practicing old beliefs after converting .

The Inquisition also exercised control over printed works that entered the colony , especially those of the Enlightenment writers. These works did find there way into the private libraries, however .The  crime of heresy, which was punishable by burning at the stake ( auto-de-fe ) , with the prisoners often strangled first . Auto de fes drew large crowds , the first in the colony was in 1574 .Crimes like adultery, sorcery and blasphemy were punishable by floggings or fines.Only about 50 people were recorded to have been burn at the stake during the 250 years the Inquisition was used in New Spain .

It was used with greater frequency in the 18th century to prosecute those involved in political  dissent . The Inquisition was not abolished until 1820 .

The Inquisition in the Americas

William Lamport (1611–1659)



Records reveal that one inspiration for the character of Zorro, a William Lamport who attempted to start a revolution in Mexico, was not Mexican or Spanish, but Irish.

 In 1642 he tried to foment rebellion against the Spanish crown, with the aid of blacks and Indians, as well as creole merchants, but was denounced by a man he had hoped to recruit for his plan and arrested, languishing in the Inquisition jail for 17 years. A statue of Lamport is immediately inside the monument to Independence

Religious Disputes 

Jesuits expelled

 For the beginning of the colonial period there were religious disputes .The encomenderos resented what they saw as interference in Indian matters .The various orders sometimes fought over control of various territories .There were also quarrels with civil authorities .The most famous of which was an episode between the Jesuits and the bishop of Puebla, Juan de Palafox, who also held civil post and served the viceroy over the wealth of the Jesuits in which the secular church was gained more power .

The Bourbon kings, wary of the papal links and coveting the wealth of the Jesuit's had them expelled in 1767 .In 1804 the crown decreed the Act of Consolidation in which the church's funds for charitable works were taken by the state . This was a huge blow to the criollos and the poor of Mexico, criollos depended on church funds as a source of credit  and charity in times of famine and disaster .Many criollos were financially ruined by the act and embittered them toward the Crown .In New Spain, this decree led to riots and other disturbances. These were suppressed by summary trials and sentences of perpetual imprisonment, principally in San Luis Potos, Guanajuato and parts of Michoacan.

Cultural Life in New Spain


Sor Juana de la Cruz

Painting advanced in Mexico with the coming of the Flemish master Simon Pereyns in 1566, who taught many local artist .Miguel Cabrera ( 1695 - 1768 ) became one of the most famous baroque painters in Mexico under the support of the church

.One of the most famous literary stars of the colonial period was a woman, Sor (Sister ) Juana de la Cruz ( 1651 - 1695 ). She wrote poetry, some of it in the Nahuatl language, wrote plays and essays and was an exponent of women's rights .Another outstanding literary figure was Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora ( 1645 - 1700 ) .


Movie about Juana de la Cruz Yo, la Peor de Todas 'I worst of all' in Spanish with English subtitles

Jose Joaquin Fernandez de Lizardi wrote what is considered to be the first novel written in New Spain in 1816 El Periquillo Sarmiento ( The Itching Parrot )

The printing press arrived in Mexico in 1537 . Permission was need to publish from the viceroy and the bishop . There was no public library and no newspapers until 1805 .

The Women of the Hispanic Society | Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

The Social Classes

A Mestizo baby, by Miguel Cabrera (1659-1768)

Miguel Cabrera was considered one of the finest painters in New Spain .

What was essential a social caste system and enforced by law . At the top was the white ruling class which made up 1 million out of the population by the end of the colonial period . The top of this group were the Spanish from Spain ( peninsulares), most of these returned to Spain .

Below them were the Spanish born in Mexico the Creoles ( criollos ). Creoles could not hold royal office .Only whites were allowed to wear fine silk clothes, be called gentlemen ( caballeros ) and ladies ( damas ).

Below them were the people of color with many different terms for the various combinations of Europeans, Indians and African slaves .

Mestizo, persons with one peninsular parent and one indio parent.

Castizo, persons with one mestizo parent and one criollo parent.

Cholos, persons with one indio parent and one mestizo parent. .

Mulatos, persons of mixed peninsular and negro descent. They were sometimes made into slaves.

Zambos, persons who were mixed indio and negro.

Euromestizos, Spanish Indian mixture with Spanish characteristics predominating

Indomestizos, Spanish Indian mixture with Spanish characteristics predominating


The largest class were the Indians, which were the wards of the church and the Crown . Over the years, the number of African slaves diminished over the years from 20,000 in the 16th century to 6,000 by 1800.


The Economy of New Spain

New Spain was exploited for the benefit of Spain with little reinvestment . Many of the colonists who came to New Spain wanted to make their wealth and return to Spain. The silver bullion was sent to Spain in galleons was enough to pay for administrating all of the American colonies with a surplus .The China trade was established in 1564 silks, ceramics, tea and spices arrived from the Philippines at Acapulco and were transported across Mexico to Vera Cruz and sent to Spain with silver . 

Commerce was controlled by royal decree. All trade with New Spain had to be approved by Spain and carried on Spanish ships and through the one official port of Vera Cruz to collect duties .

After about 1560, ships traveled  in annual convoys for  protection. from piracy . The attacks of the northern European powers on New Spain became an increasing problem . In 1561 French pirates sacked the town of Campeche In 1683 the French pirate Lorenzillo attacked Vera Cruz and took much loot and ..This curtailed trade since for a long time the galleons sailed in a protected convoy once a year .Industries that could compete with those of Spain were prohibited and was trade with other countries, so New Spain produced few manufactured goods for export .One example of this is the olive and wine industry, introduced by friars but eventually banned by Spain as competing with Spanish growers .


Products for local consumption were permitted to be produced. The were gremios  or guilds for each of the crafts such as blacksmiths, tailors, etc , which fixed the price of goods and their quality .To become a master one had to pass an examination and have ones works pass inspection by the guild .

Money makers such as tobacco, silk and cochineal ( insects which live on prickly pear cactus and  produced red dye ) were royal monopolies .There were royal taxes of all kinds on land, licenses, etc. The most hated was the  alcabala, which was due on almost everything sold, which went from 2 % to as high as 14%. The was also a tax on imports and exports called an almojarifazgo .With the ' free hand ' of economics stifled, industry could not grow and advance, which was to have terrible consequences for Spain's colonies and Spain itself . The restrictions, combined with bad roads, bandits and attacks of Chichimecs kept a healthy, diversified economy from growing . These economic restrictions and expensive European Wars caused Spanish power to seriously weaken by the 17th century .



The Spanish influence on American culture goes far beyond what many might think.

By the end of the 16th century the encomiendas were not producing enough due to the Indian labor shortage and lack of Indians to make tribute . Spain turned to the Old World model of haciendas, where small plots were consolidated into large estates where wheat was grown and European cattle bred such as longhorn cattle. Raising cattle had more prestige than growing crops. Vaqueros  (cowboys ) on haciendas with their silver spurs and wide-brimmed  sombreros  to protect themselves from the sun grew up to supply the mining towns in the north and export hides to Spain . Some of the haciendas were vast, one family ranch covered over 11 million acres .

Silver bar from shipwreck, The output of the American mines was usually shipped to Spain in the form of ingots

Mining however, was of prime importance to Spain . By the 18th century, Spain produced as much silver as the rest of the world combined . In the early colonial period, Indian laborers were forced to work 12 hours a day and death rates were high . Such conditions led to rebellions and became hard to obtain laborer . However,  rising prices for silver enabled mine owners to pay more for labor which solved the labor problem .



In 1549 the labor obligation was abolished and tribute forbidden for Indians .It was reasoned enough Indians would become laborers if they were offered fair pay, but few wished to. So, a system of forced labor was enacted called a repartimiento or cuatequil . Under this system each adult male Indian had to contribute 45 days of labor a year, usually a week at a time .There were many abuses to this system, which was abolished in the early 17th century, except for mine labor .Employers also lured Indians to become forced laborers under a system of debt peonage, in which Indians were paid in advance at rates they could not repay .The debts were passed down from father to son .

Colonial Architecture 

Casa de Montejo, 1549, plateresque style

Spaniards tried to recreate the styles of Spain in Mexico, but was modified by the new land. Churches gained a fortress like appearance because of Indian attacks, thick walls were needed because of earthquakes. The building material in New Spain was more colorful, the red tezontle pumice and polychrome tiles from Puebla became widely used .


Capilla Real

In the early years building were built along gothic, mudejar ( Moorish ) and Romanesque lines . The Moorish style can be seen in the interior and domes  of the Capilla Real in Cholulu .In the mid 16th century, the influence of the Spanish Renaissance began to be felt and a style known as plateresque ( silversmith ) with intricate plasterwork began to be seen .

The church of Santa Prisca in Taxco, built in the late 18th century, considered one of the best examples of the Mexican baroque style .


The two largest cathedrals were built in Mexico City ( 1563 )  and Puebla ( 1575).

The Churrigueresque style Cathedral in the silver town of Zacatecas


Mexican documentary on Zacatecas

In the 17th century a more distinctively Mexican style emerged, the ultra  baroque Churrigueresque style ( named after Jose Churriguera, a Spanish architect ). It reflects some of the exuberance of the newly rich crillos of the times, especially the super rich silver barons who built such churches as the Zacatecas Cathedral  and the Santiago thatelolco in Mexico City. The sculptures of many of the incredibly intricate facades, alters and other adornments so distinctive of Mexican architecture were unknown Indians and mestizos


As a reaction to the excess, a more severe, neoclassical style became dominant from about 1780 to 1830. An example is the Palacio de Mineria in Mexico City .

Mexico City 

The Spanish presence in Mexico was concentrated in Mexico City . Before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock, Mexico City was a piece of Europe in the New world with cathedrals, plazas, hospitals and universities . Some of the famous sights from the colonial period in Mexico City are :

The National Palace ( Palacio Nacional ) Cortes destroyed the Palace of Moctezuma in 1521 and built a palace fortress. In 1562 the Crown bought the fortress. Iw was destroyed in the 1692 uprising and rebuilt and became the viceroy residence until Mexican Independence .


Inside Mexico City's National Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral ( Catedral Metropolitana ) Begun in 1573 and worked on for hundreds of years .built on top of an Aztec temple and has been sinking since its construction .There are altarpieces here by the colonial painter Juan Correa .

University of the Cloister of Sor Juana, the former convent of the great poet Sor Juana, built in 1585 .

Castillo de Chapultepec, built in 1785 as a viceroyal residence and site of the boy heroes of the Mexican war .

Basilica Guadalupe, Shrine built around 1700 where the Virgin of Guadalupe was first sighted in 1531 .

Colonial ceramics 

Talavera ceramics

 Glazed pottery was brought to Mexico from Talavera de la Reina, Spain in the 16th century .Many people consider Puebla, Mexico the home of Mexican Talavera because of the first regulations and standards for determining uniformity and excellence of the traditional Mexican Talavera.Talavera is characterized by bright colors and floral designs .Because of the extensive imports from China to Mexico on the galleons , Chinese ceramic was soon imitated, particularly their designs.

Guadalajara also became a pottery and ceramic center with the high quality of the local clay .

Tequila , Pulque and Wine 

pulque production

Tequila originated in the town of the same name about 65 km northwest of Guadalajara. Tequila was first produced in the 16th century. The Aztec people had previously made a fermented beverage from the agave plant, which they called octli (later, and more popularly called pulque. Pulque has about the same alcohol content as beer . The crown had a monopoly on pulque, which was a major source of revenue .The Spanish discovered that by roasting the hearts of the agave plant and fermenting the liquid they could produce tequila . Wine was introduced early to New Spain , but wine production was controlled in New Mexico as to not compete with Spanish wineries .  Recently there has been a revival of wine making in Mexico in northern Baja and near Zacatecas .


 Drinking Pulque in Pulqueria Las Duelistas  Pulque, made from the maguey plant, is an alcoholic beverage known as the drink of Aztec gods. A pulqueria is where you go and indulge



 Jeff Corwin takes his Extreme Cuisine down to Oaxaca for a demonstration of how to harvest the larvae of wood beetles, (called chiricoco), an important source of protein for the indigenous families. Next is a segment showing how to take agua miel from the core of the maguey plant, which is used to make the alcoholic drink pulque.

Bourbon Reforms 

Bourbon Reforms


Philippe de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou, who became King Philip V of Spain


Charles II ( 1661 - 1700 ), feeble in mind and body, the centuries of inbreeding within the Hapsburg dynasty  was the last of the Spanish Hapsburg kings. When Charles II died in 1700, the line of the Spanish Hapsburg's died with him. He had named a great-nephew, Philippe de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou (a grandson of the reigning French king Louis XIV ) as his successor. The spectre of the multi-continental empire of Spain passing under the effective control of Louis XIV provoked a massive coalition of powers to oppose the Duc d'Anjou's succession. Almost immediately the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713) began. After eleven years of bloody, global warfare, fought on four continents and three oceans, the Duc d'Anjou, as Philip V, was confirmed as King of Spain on substantially the same terms that the powers of Europe had agreed to before the war.


Philip inherited a ruined Spain because of the war with its economy in shambles and the treasury empty .Philip looked to the colonies to improve the economy of Spain .



 Late Colonial Period Bourbon Reforms

.The Bourbons streamlined the vice regal administration, replacing 200 low paid, unskilled corregidores and local mayors with 12 regional intendents . The intendents were well paid and experienced administrators and were better able to collect taxes and tribute for the Crown ..The number of Manila galleon fleets increased to two annually . In 1740, the fleet system was suspended as the threat of piracy decreased and abolished by 1789  .Taxes were lowered to encourage silver mining .


Charles III


These modernizations had the greatest impact under Charles III ( 1759 - 88 ). Charles was a devotee of the enlightenment philosophies then in fashion in Europe and introduced reforms in Spain and the colonies . Under his rule Spain once again became a world power .


Jose de Galvez


In 1765 he dispatched to New Spain Jose de Galvez as visitor general . Galvez took a 5 year tour of the colony and proposed sweeping economic and political reforms. He had two main concerns, improve the economy of New Spain and improve its defenses against foreign powers .The Crown developed a professional army in New Spain during the war to deal with the encroachments of the Russians in the northwest and English and developed colony in San Francisco and missions in Texas . It broke up old monopolies to permit more ports such as Campeche and Progreso to compete with Vera Cruz and Acapulco . It lowered taxes and promoted silver mining .Silver production rose from 2.2 million pesos in 1700 to 27 million by 1804. Cochineal production also increased, becoming the second biggest export .


Antonio de Bucareli


The Crown also appointed able viceroys during this period . The rule of Antonio de Bucareli ( 1771 - 79 ) was marked by peace and exceptional prosperity .Another viceroy, Revillagigedo , another able ruler( 1789 - 94 ) created the first public transportation system .



The reforms made New Mexico the most prosperous of all Spain's colonies and made Spain wealthy . By 1810, New Spain produced 75 percent of all the profit from Spain's colonies .Yet little was reinvested in New Spain . the reforms benefited  the peninsulares at the expense of the creoles .The new  intendents were all from Spain replacing the creoles who usually held the old corregidore positions before . The country was extremely over regulated and taxed . For example, a ranchero needed a permit to slaughter a cow for his own consumption . The race class system remained entrenched despite the egalitarianism of the Enlightenment and the countries wealth remain concentrated in the white population .


Despite the restrictions on administrative positions, many creoles prospered during this period in business . The Creole Count Regla was the wealthiest man in Spain from his silver mines . There were many other Creoles who made fortunes in silver mining such as Count Bassoco and Count Valenciana . these Creoles were awarding titles by their donations to the Crown .Creole ranchers and merchants also made fortunes, the Sanchez Navarro family ranch was the size of Portugal .


Resentment toward the privileges toward the peninsulares  and their Old World condescension grew and the Creoles thought of themselves more and more as Americanos . The Bourbon reforms brought no social reforms, but the ideas of the Enlightenment and revolutionary France and America could not be stopped from entering New Spain .King Charles III died a year before the French Revolution and was succeeded by a son lacking in wisdom .


Mexican Colonial Coins 


The first coins were minted in New Spain in 1536 .The pillar in the early coins represents the pillars of Hercules, many coins have ' Plus Ultra ' Latin for 'further beyond', the national motto for Spain .By the 18th century New Spain produced as much silver as the rest of the world .


The word doubloon (from Spanish doubloon, meaning double), meaning a double-sided token coin, often refers to a seven-gram (0.225 troy ounce) gold coin minted in Spain, Mexico, Peru, or Nueva Granada.



Mexican coins



The Spanish dollar (also known as the piece of eight, the real de a ocho, or the eight real coin) is a silver coin, worth eight reales, that was minted in the Spanish Empire after a Spanish currency reform in 1497.It was legal tender in the United States until an Act of the United States Congress discontinued the practice in 1857. Through widespread use in Europe, the Americas and the Far East, it became the first world currency by the late 18th century. Many existing currencies, such as the Canadian dollar, United States dollar and the Chinese Yuan, as well as currencies in Latin America and the Philippine peso were initially based on the Spanish dollar and other 8 reales coins.


The Pillar type coins were produced in Mexico from 1536 to 1572

The shield type were produced from 1572 to 1734

The Waves and pillar type were produced from 1651 to 1773

The Milled pillar type was produced from 1731 to 1772


The milled pillar bust types were produced from 1771 to 1821, you can see the Bourbon fleur-de-lis



June 1520
Defeats Aztecs
August 1521
Modern View

of Cortes



War for Independence

1810 -1821