Bureaucracy on the Ground in Colonial Mexico:

The Visita of 1765

This project explores the localized consequences of the royal inspection, or visita general, administered by José de Gálvez in New Spain from 1765-1771. In an empire as vast and diverse as Spain’s, visitas were a valuable tool. They simultaneously reinforced the authority of the king in each respective location and reassured Spanish subjects of the king’s vested interest in protecting local justice and the common good. The procedure that the inspector, or visitador, followed to carry out this mission was lengthy and complex, but the official report that Gálvez turned in to the king upon the completion of his job was neat, well-organized, and summary in nature. This exhibition aims to provide a window into the investigative process that Gálvez followed as he traveled through colonial Mexico, taking notes and making imperial waves.

Timeline of Events:


The 1765 visita was a manifestation of the goal of increasing economic efficiency promoted by Bourbon monarch Carlos III of Spain (1759-1788). Through his sweeping reform program, Gálvez paved the way for what became known as the Bourbon Reforms, a massive overhaul of political and economic institutions in the Spanish Empire designed to increase royal revenue. Those changes reorganized significant areas of colonial functioning and provoked resistance in various parts of the empire. While these aftereffects are important, this exhibition aims to look beyond the implications of the final report that Gálvez turned in to the Spanish bureaucratic machine in order to explore the ways that he navigated inspection and reform locally.

This website describes the on-the-ground implications of the Gálvez visita through a curated collection of eleven digitized documents from the Genaro García Collection from the Benson Latin American Collection, blogs on the content and context of these documents, and lesson plans for future study.

The digital materials available here are in the public domain and free for use in courses and research. Please cite the materials as coming from the Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin.

Explore the Documents

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