The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geograficas

Barbara E. Mundy


Although Cortes conquered the Aztec empire in 1521, imperial Spain knew little about the Mexican territory under its control when Philip II acceded to the throne in 1556. As part of a vast project to learn about its territories in the New World, Spain commissioned a survey - the Relaciones Geograficas - of Spanish officials in Mexico between 1578 and 1584, asking for local maps as well as descriptions of local resources, history, and geography. Offering the most complete contemporary record of what sixteenth-century Mexico looked like, the sixty-nine manuscript maps from this survey also highlight the gulf between colonial and indigenous conceptions of Mexico. In The Mapping of New Spain, Barbara Mundy illuminates the complex cultural negotiations that colonists and indigenes undertook in mapping the colony. Her book explains both the Amerindian (Aztec, Mixtec, and Zapotec) and the Spanish traditions represented in these early colonial maps, and traces the gradual reshaping of indigene world views in the wake of colonization.

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