“Coming to Castile with Cortés: Indigenous ‘Servitude’ in the Sixteenth Century” examines the circumstances of three indigenous criados (servants)—Pedro, Juan, and Francisco Manuel—with direct or indirect ties of patronage to the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés. As nonelite indios (Indians) displaced from Mexico to Castile, they experienced the transition from freedom to bondage in unique ways. Because the New Laws (1542) stated that, in principle, indios could be free in Spanish territories, all three initiated lawsuits before the tribunals of the House of Trade or the Council of the Indies. The trial depositions reveal the circumscribed life narratives of free indios whom others saw as slaves and whose lives were entwined with others more powerful than they. Each life story emphasizes the importance of hierarchical relations of power among masters, slaves, and servants, writ large in sixteenth-century Castile.

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