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Biographic Sources On Spaniards In The New World, 16th-17th Centuries

Petitions for Jobs And Money

A huge amount of information on individual Spanish settlers in the New world is available. Much comes from petitions - Probanzas de Servicios y Writos -for jobs sent to the king and Council of the Indies. As well as such petitions hundred of autobiographies by church men of the period survive - e.g. at least 355 from 1607 to 1809 in the archdiocesan archive. All this makes possible a social history of Spanish settlement.

True Reports Concerning Persons Who Took Part in the Conquest of New Spain and the City of Mexico, Who Went Thither with the Marquis del Valle


He says that he is a resident of this city and a native of Villanueva de Balcarrota, son of Alonzo Xaramillo and Mencia de Matos. His father served his Majesty in the conquests of Tierra Firme and La Española; he himself went to New Spain with the Marqués del Valle [Cortés], and was present at the taking of this city. He also took part in the conquests of New Spain and its provinces, as he declares, and in those of the Rio de Grijalva, Oaxaca, Pánuco, and Honduras. In remuneration of his services he was given in encomienda the town of Xilotepec. He is in debt and ruined; is married, has his home established, his arms, many horses, and a family. . . .


He is a resident of Los Angeles, native of the city of Hozenploce in Germany, legitimate son of Hans Gelique and Margarita Bergrier. He was once a prisoner of the king of France, and was later in the war of Venezuela and Santa Marta. Later, he went to Florida in search of the men whom Pánfilo de Narváez took thither. He names the captains with whom he says he served, and states that he came to this New Spain seventeen years ago. He is married to the former wife of Francisco de Quevedo, a conqueror of New Spain and of this city who held in encomienda the town of Xilotepec now held by Xaramillo. This encomienda the Marqu6s took from Quevedo for no reason whatsoever, but he holds a c6dula from his Majesty ordering your illustrious lordship to appoint him to a corregimiento, which your lordship has done.


He says that he is a native of the city of Salamanca, legitimate son of Juan Vásquez de Coronado and Doha Ysabel de Luxdn his wife; he is a famous knight, who came to these parts with your lordship in 1535, and has served his Majesty under your lordship's orders as visitor of the silver mines, and in the position of governor and captain-general of Nueva Galicia. He gave adequate account of the fidelity with which he discharged his duties as appears in his residencia. He served as captain-general of the army which your lordship sent at his Majesty's command for the discovery of the new land. On this expedition he expended more than fifty thousand ducats, and underwent numerous and intolerable labors, as is well known, enduring great risks, hardships, and shedding of blood. He observed absolutely the instructions which his Majesty gives to those who hold similar positions, committing no abuse, as appears from the reports which he has given of the matter. He has been married twelve years to Dofia Beatriz de Estrada, daughter of the treasurer Alonzo de Estrada, and has numerous sons and daughters. He asks, in recognition of his great services to his Majesty, the dignity of his employments, and his personal qualifications, as well as of the fact that he cannot subsist with the Indians which he has, that he be granted some remuneration and an increase in his repartimiento. He presents an order and command herewith enclosed.

Single Men and Widowers With Wives in Spain


He says that he is a native of La Montaña, legitimate son of Juan Sánchez de Alvarado and Doña Mencia de Salazar. His father possesses the principal house and is at the head of those of his family name. He came to this New Spain with the Marqués del Valle nineteen years ago, and has spent those years in the service of his Majesty in the first discovery of the South Sea, on the expedition which the said Marqu6s made, and on the expedition to Cibola. By command of the general he made explorations and conquests more than two hundred leagues beyond [Cibola]; on this expedition he discovered the cows [buffaloes]. On all of these expeditions he served as captain at his own expense with many horses and servants, receiving no salary from his Majesty nor from any other person, and he has not been remunerated; hence he lives in necessity.


He says that he is a native of the city of Toledo, and a legitimate son of Pedro de Cepeda and Catalina Álvarez. At the time of the discovery of Peru, he and one of his brothers sold a certain farm which they held as their patrimony, and went to Tierra Firme. In Nombre de Dios there were a number of negroes in insurrection. They took part in the pacification of these negroes, his brother being killed by them. He served his Majesty in Cartagena and Santa Marta in a number of expeditions. Ten years or so ago he came to New Spain, and went on the fleet of the Cíbola expedition as far as Culiacán, where he fell ill. Thence he returned with some despatches for your illustrious lordship which had been sent from Cibola. On this journey he killed two horses. He has no office, but has always maintained himself equipped with his own arms and horses. He is ready to marry, though he has not done so because he has nothing on which to subsist; he is in debt. . . .

Evidence of the Merits and Services of Juan de Cispedes in the Exploration and Conquest of the New Land of Cibola, Where He Went with Governor Francisco Vdsquez Coronado, and in the Uprising in New Spain. Mexico, January 19, 1568

I. Sacred Catholic Royal Majesty. Captain Juan de Céspedes affirms that he has served your Majesty in New Spain more than thirty years, since the time when Don Antonio de Mendoza and Don Luís de Velasco were governors of it, and afterwards the royal Audiencia, afterwards the Marqués de Falces, afterwards the licentiate Alonzo Muñoz, and Doctor Luís Carillo of your royal Council, and Don Martin Enriquez, who governs for your Majesty at present, up to this year of '75; and that he has served on all occasions that have presented themselves in that land, even in the affair of the uprising and rebellion which occurred in it. In all that time he has served your Majesty as your captain and by governing as your corregidor and alcalde mayor in the best and most important provinces in the kingdom, in Spanish cities as well as in native, winning for himself the confidence that was required. All of which appears more at length in the reports and proofs which he has made and presented in your royal Audiencia of New Spain and in your royal Council of the Indies, with the titles which he has of having been your captain and having practised in your name the said duties and offices. And your royal Council of the Indies has ordered it placed in the memorial. His services and merits have been and are very well known. . . . December 7, 1575.



My lord: Doctor Francisco de Sandes says that, having passed with entire approbation his studies in the colegio, the university, and the legal course, he went to Mexico more than twenty-two years ago as fiscal of the Audiencia of that city in company with the licentiates Jaraba, Muñoz, and Carrillo, and was engaged upon the business of their commission. Being promoted to the office of alcalde del crimen of the same Audiencia, he discharged the duties appertaining thereto for only two years but in a highly satisfactory manner. Among numerous important services which he rendered to your Majesty was his discovery of a man who was defrauding the royal fifths of silver by means of a false coining stamp. Sandes executed justice upon him, confiscating half of his possessions, these being one hundred thousand ducats.

Sandes was then promoted to be oidor of the same Audiencia, in which position he earned a good reputation, as the royal Council of the Indies will report. Then, after having served successfully in the war with the Chichimecas, which was intrusted to him, he was appointed governor and captain-general of the Philippine Islands. There he governed so wisely, that, finding the islands robbed and sacked and burned by the corsairs, the inhabitants living in fear of the Moros, especially of the Moro king of Borneo and the revolted Indians who refused to pay tribute or attend Christian instruction, and finding the Spaniards thereby impoverished, he restored the lost reputation of the government. Using galleys and artillery which he manufactured, he vanquished the king of Borneo in a naval battle in which the latter attacked him with fifty galleys well armed with artillery. Sandes put him to flight, and, seizing his galleys, took twenty-seven of them and four hundred pieces of artillery to Manila as booty. All these spoils he turned over, with other booty, to your Majesty's treasury officers, without taking for himself anything of that which the laws allow to captains-general. He claimed nothing for himself save the exaltation of the name of your Majesty which he achieved by punishing the boldness of the Moros, and their king, who were trying to disturb the peace of those islands which had cost so much of the blood and treasure of your Majesty's vassals. Sailing where no captain of your Majesty had ever been, he reached the most remote parts of the land, always gaining victories for the standards of your Majesty, so that in his time there were no corsairs, as there had been before and frequently after. He increased the possessions of the king, took much artillery, all of bronze, as well as ships, and gained great reputation among all those nations, especially in the execution of justice, toward those conquered and toward strangers, acting as the mirror of your Majesty so that he caused them to marvel that a conqueror should not rob nor profane the natural rights of the conquered.

Although he expects, for such distinguished services, to receive from your Majesty's grandeur and justice the reward usually given to the servants who thus serve you, he now beseeches Your Majesty, since the visitation of Mexico and the residencia of the Philippines have been reviewed by the Council of the Indies, and since as a result of the residencia he has been fined six thousand ducats for the costs of justice and transportation of friars, and in the visitation five hundred ducats - he alone of all his companions not having been suspended, [which is] proof of the fidelity and uprightness with which he discharged his duties - to be so gracious as to remit to him the said fine or such part of it as you will, so that by this indication he may begin to understand that his services have been acceptable. For, granting that the Council has justly fined him the amount specified notwithstanding he had hoped that, in recognition of his continuous intention to do right, his actions would have been differently estimated, he has necessities caused by such wide wanderings, so much trouble and delay of suits which have kept him residing in this court for two years past, and for three years without salary from your Majesty, whereby his expense has been great. He therefore applies to your Majesty, whose sentiment of clemency is the only refuge of your servants who desire to be better able to continue to serve you, as this suppliant desires, beseeching that your Majesty be pleased to command your Council to do as he has petitioned. And since he has come back safe from so many hazards of sea and war with the honor which your Majesty conferred upon him, he beseeches humbly that you will so assist him that he shall not, after twenty-two years of good fortune, be penalized nor left unrewarded for [at least] some of the merits referred to in the memorial herewith enclosed and now cited only in general so as not to make this petition too prolix, which it would be if they were specified. . . .


ROYAL CÉDULA. The King. To my viceroy of New Spain, and to you, the president and oidores of our royal Audiencia which resides in the City of Mexico: Diego Diaz del Castillo has presented me an account of how Bernal Diaz del Castillo, his father, was one of the first explorers and conquerors of that City of Mexico and of New Spain, for he went with Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and Juan de Grijalva the first explorers, and later returned with the Marqués del Valle, Don Fernando Cortés, where he has, with his person, arms, and horses, served us with distinction, with great labor and risk to his person and life, all at his own cost and maintenance, as a loyal vassal and servant of ours, until the said city and all the rest of the said New Spain was placed under our dominion and royal crown. Afterwards, he went to conquer and pacify the provinces of Guazacualco, Yucatán, Tabasco, Honduras, and many other parts of our Indies, where he has also served us very well, as was most clearly made manifest to us by certain reports and other documents both from him and from his father, which he presented to our Council of the Indies. In consideration of these, and of the fact that he was the son of such a conqueror, poor, and in need, our former viceroy of that land, Don Luis de Velasco, commanded that he be given in our name a gratuity of one hundred and fifty dollars in common gold, to be paid for a year from the proceeds of removals and vacancies. He having only this quantity, which was small, and no other goods nor estate whereby he might sustain himself in accord with his qualities of person, it has occurred to us in our Council of the Indies to obtain information and report the superior qualities of his service in order that we might in recompense therefore command that they should be approved and he be given a living in that land. The above-mentioned reports and other documents presented by him having been seen by the members of our Council, and we having been convinced of the truth of the foregoing, we have thought well to command that the said one hundred and fifty pesos in common gold which were given to him by our viceroy for the time stated shall be given and paid to him during all the days of his life, and in addition another one hundred and fifty pesos gold or a total of three hundred pesos gold, to be paid from the said proceeds of removals and vacancies. . . . [But he wanted even more!]

Now therefore, in view of the fact that the said Bernal Diaz del Castillo, his father, has served us both in this said New Spain and in other parts of our Indies, and that the said Diego Diaz del Castillo, his son, desires to live and remain in New Spain, he being a relative of servants of ours, I am pleased to command that he be favored and given a grant, wherefore and to which end I order and command you to take notice of the said paragraph and law herein incorporated above, and in conformity with it to keep it and fulfill it in all and through all according to that which it contains and declares with respect to the said Diego Diaz del Castillo. And in keeping it and complying with it, notwithstanding the allowance of the three hundred pesos of common gold which has been granted to him by us for assistance to his support, it is our determined will that you appoint and prefer him, as a son of a conqueror, to one of the corregimientos and positions made mention of above in the said provinces of Tlascala, Tepeaca, Chalco, Cholula, Jilotepeque, or to any other position which may be very good, honorable, and profitable. This we command you to do and fulfill without opposing to the order or any part of it any impediment, excuse, or delay whatever; for, as has been said, it is our desire that he be so appointed, for by appointing him to offices and other positions in our service he may serve us and be honored and benefited. And in other appointments in that land you will bear this order in mind and appoint like persons to them. If you do so, I shall consider myself well served by you.

Dated at Madrid, April 1, 1565.



From Historical Documents Relating to New Mexico, Nueva Vizcaya, and Approaches Thereto, ed. Charles W. Hackett (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1923), vol. 1, pp. 33-69, passim.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, July 1998

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