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Aztec and Maya Law


Indigenous Law in the Colonial Era and Beyond

Altamira, Rafael. Manual de investigación de la historia del derecho indiano. México, D.F.: Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, 1948.

Antropología Jurídica. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1995.

This publication includes several essays on law and anthropology, international recognition of indigenous legal systems, and a select bibliography on legal anthropology.

Avalos, Francisco. "The Legal Personality of the Colonial Period of Mexico." Law Library Journal 83, no. 2 (1991): 393-400.

Cultura y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas de México. México: Archivo General de la Nación, 1996. Cultura y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas de México: Catálogo Documental. México: Archivo General de la Nación, 1997.

A collection of essays on indigenous law and indigenous rights from the colonial era to the present by many of Mexico's leading scholars (including Miguel León-Portilla, Carlos Monsiváis, José Luis Soberanes, Abelardo Villegas, Luis Villoro, and Silvio Zavala.) The accompanying "Catalogo Documental" provides descriptions of documents from the Archivo General de la Nación that illustrate the culture and rights of Mexico's indigenous peoples. Both books were products of "a series of conferences and roundtables organized by the Archivo General de la Nación ... on indigenous communities and their place within [the] Mexican national space." -- HLAS.

Beleña, Eusebio Buenaventura. Recopilación Sumaria de Todos los Autos Acordados de la Real Audiencia y Sala del Crimen de esta Nueva España, y Providencias de su Superior Gobierno... 6 vols. México: Don Felipe de Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1787.

This important compilation contains legislation, royal orders, and criminal court decisions from colonial Mexico. The compilation is indexed and includes provisions on criminal law, labor law, property rights, and the local governance of indigenous communities. Facsimile editions of this work are available, including editions published in 1981 and 1991 by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Borah, Woodrow Wilson. Justice by Insurance: The General Indian Court of Colonial Mexico and the Legal Aides of the Half-Real. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Borah describes the failure of the Spanish government's effort to preserve native legal customs, and the consequences of this failure in terms of disruption of the Indian social order and the flood of litigation by Indians in the Spanish courts.

Cambria Florit, José Antonio. El Derecho Indiano qua se Aplicóen las Colonias. Rio Cuarto, Argentina: Centro Riocuartense de Estudios e Investigaciones Históricas, 2000.

Carmona Lara, Ma. del Carmen. "La evolución del pensamiento jurídico en México respecto al derecho indígena." In Vol. 1, Memoria del IV Congreso de Historia del Derecho Mexicano, 1986, edited by Beatriz Bernal, 211-224. México: Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1988.

Carmona Lara defines the concept of indigenous law and reviews Mexican legal scholarship on this subject from colonial times to the present.

Collier, George A., Renato Rosaldo, and John D. Wirth, eds. The Inca and Aztec States, 1400-1800: Anthropology and History. New York: Academic Press, 1982.

Dougnac Rodriguez, Antonio. Manual de historia de derecho indiano. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1994.

Garcia-Gallo, Alfonso. Estudios de Historia del Derecho Indiano. Madrid: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Jurídicos, 1972.

Góngora, Mario. El Estado de el Derecho Indiano: Época de Fundación (1492 - 1570). Santiago de Chile: [Instituto de Investigaciones Histórico-Culturales, Facultad de Filosofia y Educación, Universidad de Chile], 1951.

González de Cossío, Francisco et al., eds. Legislación Indigenista de México. México: Instituto Indigenista Interamericano, 1958.

This book is a compilation of Mexican decrees, legislation, and court decisions related to indigenous people for the time period from 1810 to 1954. This book covers such topics as communal property, slavery, agrarian reform, labor relations, and government agencies responsible for indigenous affairs.

Hera, Alberto de la, Ana María Barrero, and Rosa María Martínez de Codes. La Historia del Derecho Indiano: Aportaciones de Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano a la Bibliografía Jurídica Americanista. Madrid: Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, 1989.

Izquierdo, Ana Luisa. "Casos de Vigencia del Derecho Prehispánico en la Actualidad." Anuario Mexicano de Historia del Derecho 10 (1998): 425-433.

This article describes various prehispanic legal customs that have become incorporated into written Mexican law.

Kellogg, Susan. Law and the Transformation of Aztec Culture, 1500-1700. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

This book discusses "the story of how Spanish law served as an instrument of cultural transformation and adaptation in the lives of the indigenous population during the first two centuries of colonial rule. ... [b]ased on a wide array of local-level Spanish and Nahuatl documentation and an intensive analysis of seventy-three lawsuits over property involving Indians resident in Tenochtitlan/Mexico City that were heard by the Real Audiencia between 1536 and 1700..." [book jacket].

Leyes y ordenanças nueuamete hechas por su Magestad, pa la gouernacion de las Indias y buen tratamiento y conseruacion de los Indios: que se han de guardar en el consejo y audiecias reales q en ellas residen: y por todos los otros gouernadores, juezes y personas particulares dellas ... Alcalá de Henares, Impressas en casa de Joan de Brocar, 1543.

These laws, also referred to as the Leyes Nuevas of 1542, were created to protect indigenous people from abuses that were occuring as a result of the encomienda system of land ownership that was imposed by the Spaniards following the conquest (see Stevens book below for English translation). These laws were preceded by the Leyes de Burgos, which were created in 1512 and were the first laws to govern the new Spanish colonies. The Leyes de Burgos applied to the Caribbean region and therefore are not included in this bibliography. The original imprint of the Leyes Nuevas is housed at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.

Llaguno, Jose A. La Personalidad Jurídica del Indio y el III Concilio Provincial Mexicano (1585), Ensayo Histórico-Jurídico de los Documentos Originales. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 1963.

This book is a study of the Catholic Church's debates in the 16th century over the legal status of indigenous peoples. While the Third Mexican Provincial Council affirmed the basic human rights of the indigenous, it also considered them to be minors who were incapable of exercising their full legal rights.

Lockhart, James, Frances Berdan, and Arthur J. O. Anderson. The Tlaxcalan Acts: A Compendium of the Records of the Cabildo of Tlaxcala (1545-1627). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986.

The city of Tlaxcala received favored treatment from the Spaniards as a reward for helping overthrow the Aztecs. As a result, it was the only major city in New Spain whose government was dominated by indigenous people for several decades. The Tlaxacala City Council records studied in this volume reveal how the native ruling class and the Spanish form of municipal government adapted themselves to each other.

Manzano Manzano, Juan. Historia de las Recopilaciones de Indias. 3rd ed. 2 vols. Madrid: Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, 1991.

Manzano Manzano, Juan. "Las Leyes y Costumbres Indígenas en el Orden de Prelación de Fuentes del Derecho Indiano." Revista del Instituto de Historia del Derecho Ricardo Levene 18 (1967): 65-71.

Mariluz Urquijo, José M. "El derecho prehispánico y el derecho indiano como modelos del derecho castellano." In III Congreso del Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano: Actos y Estudios, 101-109. Madrid: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Jurídicos, 1973.

Mörner, Magnus. La Corona Española y los Foráneos en los Pueblos de Indios de América. Stockholm: Latinamerikanska-institutet i Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell, 1970.

Early in the conquest of the New World, the missionaries decided that indigenous people would become much better Christians without the bad example of the Spanish settlers. Thus began an effort to enforce residential segregation of the indigenous population. Mörner discusses the ideas behind segregation, the laws drawn up to create it, the ultimate failure to enforce them, and the social transformations that took place in spite of these laws.

Ots y Capdequi, Jose Maria. Historia del Derecho Español en America y del Derecho Indiano. Madrid: Aguilar, 1969.

Pietschmann, Horst. "Consideraciones en torno al problema del estudio del derecho indigena colonial." In Vol. 2, IX Congreso del Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano, Madrid, 5 a 10 de Febrero de 1990: Actas y Estudios, 7-17. Madrid: Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, 1991.

Recopilación de las leyes de los Reynos de las Indias; mandadas imprimir y publicar por la Magestad Catolica del Rey Don Carlos II… 4 vols. Madrid: Ivlian de Paredes, 1681.

These laws followed the Leyes Nuevas de 1542 and governed the entirety of New Spain. Any aspects of the law that were not covered in this Recopilación were governed by the Recopilación de las leyes destos reynos: hecha por mandado de la Magestad Catolica del Rey Don Phillipe Segundo… 2 vols. Alcalá de Henares: en casa de Andrés de Angulo, 1567-1569 (with multiple subsequent editions.)

Rípodas Ardanaz, Daisy. "Imagen del Derecho Indígena en el Teatro Español del Setecientos." In Vol. 2, XI Congreso del Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano: Actas y Estudios, 167-187. Buenos Aires: Instituto de Investigaciones de Historia del Derecho, 1997.

This article looks at the depiction of indigenous legal systems in the Spanish theatre of the late 18th-early 19th centuries, and discusses how these depictions served either to justify the Spanish conquest, or as a commentary on contemporary European society.

Roca Tocco, C. Alberto. Compendio de derecho indiano. Nuevo León, México: Universidad de Monterrey, 2001.

Rodríguez-Shadow, María. La Mujer Azteca. 3rd ed. Toluca, México: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Mexico, 1997.

Ruz Escalante, José Luis. Breve Historia de la Legislación Maya en Quintana Roo: Siglos I al XIX. Quintana Roo, México: Fondo de Publicaciones y Ediciones, Gobierno del Estado de Quintana Roo, 1991.

Sánchez Bella, Ismael. Nuevos Estudios de Derecho Indiano. Pamplona, Spain: EUNSA, 1995.

Sanchez Sandoval, Augusto. Control Social Economico-Penal en México. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Plaza y Valdes, 2008.

Stevens, Henry, and Fred W. Lucas. The New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians, Promulgated by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, 1542-1543; A Facsimile Reprint of the Original Spanish Edition, Together with a Literal Translation into the English Language; To Which is Prefixed an Historial Introduction... New York: AMS Press, 1971.

This is a reprint of a book first published in London in 1893. It contains the text in English and Spanish of the Nuevas Leyes de 1542. Most of the book is taken up by the introduction, which denounces Spanish mistreatment of indigenous people.

Tau Anzoátegui, Victor. Nuevos Horizontes en el Estudio Histórico del Derecho Indiano. Buenos Aires: Instituto de Investigaciones de Historia del Derecho, 1997.

Tyler, S. Lyman, ed. Concerning the Indians Lately Discovered: The Indian Cause Before the Law of Nations, Colonial Period. Salt Lake City: American West Center, University of Utah, 1980.

This book is an English translation, with commentary, of treatises by the Spanish jurist Francisco de Vitoria (d. 1546), who argued that while the Indian nations of the New World were sovereign, the Spanish state could be justified in making war on the Indians if they hindered trade or the preaching of the Gospel.

Tyler, S. Lyman, ed. The Indian Cause in the Spanish Laws of the Indies. Salt Lake City: American West Center, University of Utah, 1980.

This book is an English translation, with commentary, of large parts of the Spanish colonial law, including the Laws of the Indies. The opening essay includes a useful literature review.

Vargas, Jorge A. "An Introductory Lesson to Mexican Law: From Constitutions and Codes to Legal Culture and NAFTA." San Diego Law Review 41 (2004): 1337–1372.

Vigil, Ralph H. Alonso de Zorita: Royal Judge and Christian Humanist, 1512-1585. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.

Zorita sat as a judge on the highest courts in New Spain and became an ardent defender of indigenous rights. He is also one of the best sources on pre-conquest Aztec law. Of the many Spaniards who prepared accounts of the Aztec legal system, he was one of the very few who had prior legal training.

Zorraquín Becú, Ricardo. "Los derechos aborígenes." Revista de Historia de Derecho 14 (1986): 427-451.