The Tlaxcalans famously aided Hernando Cortés’s overthrow of the Aztec Empire and provided large numbers of allies in Spain’s subsequent American conquests. In 1591 nearly one thousand Tlaxcalans were resettled along New Spain’s war-torn frontier in an effort to pacify northern peoples known as Chichimecs. Historians have cast them as eager volunteers and interpreted the campaign as another example of Tlaxcala’s distinguished colonial service. However, records written by Tlaxcalans in their own language (Nahuatl) reveal that the mission met a furious resistance and that many of the settlers were coerced. The resettlement also attended a period of decline in the province and coincided with administrators’ efforts to undermine its privileges and subordinate its people alongside other indios in New Spain. Reconstructing the sociopolitical context and incorporating native texts, this article considers the resettlement from a Tlaxcalan perspective and sheds new light on the experiences of indigenous allies in the colonial Americas.

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