The Americas

The Politics of Conquest: An Interpretation of the Relación De Michoacán

James Krippner-Martínez

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

Therefore Most Illustrious Sir, the elders of this city of Michoacán present to Your Lordship this writing and relación, and I also in their name, not as author but rather as an interpreter of them. -Fray Jerónimo de Alcalá, ca. 1540.

The Relación De Las Ceremonías Y Ritos Y Población Y Gobernación De Los Indios De La Provincia De Michoacán is a complex, and beautiful, colonial text. We know that it was compiled by a Franciscan missionary, most probably Fray Jerónimo de Alcalá, although we cannot state his identity with complete certainty. We also know that it was based on the testimony of Michoacán's indigenous elite. Beyond that, however, it is not possible to obtain specific information about the text. For example, we do not know how or when the indigenous testimonies were collected, except that it was during the first twenty years after the Conquest (1519). The indigenous elite informants, with one exception, are also unknown.