Throughout the colonial period, disputes over the inheritance of property were common among indigenous peoples, both nobles and commoners. From the outset, they became familiar with and adept at negotiating their interests from within the colonial legal system. Based on the corresponding archival document and map, this article explores how the Chimalhuas used this system to resolve an intrafamilial dispute over patrimonial property. The dispute was not one between equals but, because the Spanish legal system was flexible, its legal decisions arbitrary, both sides attempted to use late-colonial modes of argumentation, legal strategies, and status- and class-based rhetoric to their advantage. This article also considers how the wider context of indigenous population recovery and Spanish pressure on resources within which the dispute occurred had implications for two separate but related issues. First, the status of the Chimalhuas had declined and, second, the dispute was largely confined to the negotiation of individual interests.

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