This article analyzes the indigenous testimony in the 1577–86 Relaciones Geográficas for central Mexico with regard to the demographic collapse that followed the Spanish Conquest. Although asked to indicate the causes of the enormous mortality and morbidity, the native informants rarely attributed them to supernatural punishment, a salient idea in both indigenous and Christian religions. Rather, their responses were overwhelmingly secular and critical of colonial policies (forced labor, strict monogamy, settlement consolidation) or consequent cultural conditions (dietary change, adoption of Spanish clothing). Thus the Relaciones offer no support for the commonsense notion—still endorsed by some scholars—that the horrors of demographic collapse led the native population to readily embrace Christianity and colonialism.

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