On February 12, 1543, in the city of Tlaxcala an indigenous governor, don Valeriano Castañeda, issued an order putting local alguaciles in charge of overseeing possible idolatrous or sinful acts in several localities. This document, housed in the Archivo Histórico del Estado de Tlaxcala, is probably the earliest dated Nahuatl document known to date. This essay, apart from transcribing and translating this brief, important testimony that deals with the extirpation of old beliefs, sets the text in the wider social, political, and religious context of the period immediately after a series of violent inquisitional acts in the mid- and late 1520s and late 1530s. The issuing of such an order by a member of the Tlaxcalan political elite is a clear example of a carefully implemented act of long-term indigenous agency, aimed at constructing and extending the domains of native power following the cultural trauma of the conquest and Christianization.

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