Bureaucracy on the Ground in Colonial Mexico


Spring 2018 – Current


Brittany Erwin, PhD Candidate in the Department of History
Albert Palacios, LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Coordinator
Joan Neuberger, Professor Department of History
Ian Goodale, European Studies Librarian

The Bureaucracy on the Ground in Colonial Mexico Exhibit is part of a larger project on the role of royal inspections, or visitas, in the functioning of the Spanish Empire. My research examines the role of visitas in the management of the expansive, diverse, and far-away territories under Spanish rule during the late colonial period. because of the logistical difficulties of keeping up-to-date with the happenings of this vast empire, the Spanish monarchs employed strategies of stabilization. One of those strategies was the employment of regularized processes, such as visitas, that fostered a sense of reciprocity between the king and his subjects. In a visita, which followed a complex but somewhat standardized procedure, the king communicated several important messages. First, he publicly asserted his authority to interfere in local affairs through the presence of his proxy, the visitador. Second, he advertised his royal concern for correcting local abuses and ensuring justice in the interest of the common good, again, through his proxy on the ground. Such periodic exercises that reinforced the connection between the people and the king were essential to the maintenance of Spanish rule in the Americas. Exploring these documents from the Genaro García Collection as pieces of the investigative trail that José de Gálvez left behind illuminates some of the vital processes that helped hold the empire together.

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