Roads: Transportation or Transformation? Indigenous and Spanish mapping practices in the Relaciones Geográficas of 16th-Century New Spain



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During the 16th century in Nueva España there was extraordinary cultural exchange between the indigenous populations and the recent Spanish arrivals. This thesis studies one visual manifestation of this cultural exchange: cartography. The official cartographer to the Spanish King Phillip II, commissioned a questionnaire to compile information about Spain’s new colony. This questionnaire included a request for a map of the local towns. These maps were drawn by local indigenous elite scribes within the new political arena as well as by Spanish officials who resided in the new world. The hybrid creation of these documents allows us to study the continued indigenous narrative practices in the 16th century. I focus on the use of footprints by indigenous scribes to show their different understanding of roads and movement from that of the Spanish. Roads, footprints, and the movement through space, or perhaps more accurately, from place to place, is intimately connected to indigenous creation and migration narratives, territorial boundary marking and ultimately their quotidian experience of roads.



New Spain, Sixteenth century, Roads, Relaciones Geográficas, Map, Cartography, Footprint, Hoof print