Political institutions have received the bulk of research attention in Mexican colonial history. Given this observation, it is remarkable that annotated editions of viceregal instrucciones have been so long in appearing. To be sure, various of these official memoirs were published during the nineteenth century, but these transcriptions are both rare and unreliable. Recently, however, scholars like Eleanor Adams, France Scholes, and Ernesto de la Torre have begun the publication of substantial modern editions.
This is the second informe which Norman F. Martin, the noted Jesuit scholar, has edited. As in the Instrucción del Virrey Marqués de Croix, Father Martin has provided a model exegesis of the text through some 362 meticulous footnotes. This text is, moreover, enhanced by a long introduction, an impeccable bibliography, and an onomastic index.
Juan de Ortega Montañés served twice as viceroy of New Spain, in 1696 and again in 1701-1702. A peninsular, Ortega was bishop of Michoacán at the time of his first viceregal term and archbishop of Mexico during his second. This brief to his successor dates from 1696. It represents both a clerical view of colonial administration and an official reflection of conditions surrounding the riots of 1692 and 1696. Indeed, much space is devoted to social disorders, poor harvests, meat shortages, and regraters. The nature of Ortega’s concern is suggested by his comment that “mientras hubiere indios habrá Indias” (p. 63).
Ortega tells the new viceroy about everything from pulque to presidios, from religiosas to the Real Hacienda, and from mulatos to Manila. His account is a superb source for understanding bureaucratic minds and manipulations, and one can only hope that other instrucciones will fare as well at the hands of editors.