This volume is a welcome addition to printed documentation concerning colonial New Spain. It is the result of a project undertaken in the first decades of the eighteenth century by a Franciscan, the Reverend Father Nicolás de Ornelas. Father Ornelas, despite advanced years, produced a chronicle that is notable for both clarity and simplicity.
The most valuable attributes of Crónica de Xalisco are as follows: (1) In many instances, an account is given of the historical highlights of important pueblos from the era of conquest in the sixteenth century to the years 1719-1722. (2) The documentation is exceptionally rich in the names of bishops, provincials, and ordinary priests who labored in Jalisco for nearly two centuries; and it often contains brief biographic sketches of these persons. The study thus becomes valuable to scholars of church history as well as those engaged in biographic or genealogic studies. (3) Equally rich is the compilation of the names of Indian pueblos, and it is possible for the student of ethno-history to establish the relationship of cabeceras and their sujetas in many parts of the province. (4) The economic orientation of Jalisco in colonial times is provided by reference to the products, timber, wax, honey, etc., supplied by various pueblos. (5) Finally, Father Ornelas writes of the churches, statuary, and other material used by the missionaries of Jalisco. Unfortunately, he does not treat the specific problems encountered in the religious conversion of the Indians.
Of secondary importance are single chapters devoted to Nayarit and Coahuila. With characteristic style, Father Ornelas provides the names of a few missionaries and Indian pueblos of these provinces. Of particular interest in the chapter concerning Coahuila are brief accounts of the padres’ struggle to curtail the use of peyote, to stop Indian consumption of spoiled horse meat, and to halt sexual promiscuity.
The population statistics, as given for various pueblos, are at best of marginal value. Not only is there no breakdown with regard to age, sex, or marital status, but the figures are obviously approximated to the nearest hundred or thousand.
Mechanically speaking, this book has both pros and cons. The binding is better than most paperbacks printed in Mexico; the paper is of excellent quality; and the print is easy to read. There are nine appendices which record the initiation of Father Ornelas into the priesthood and the Order of Saint Francis. However, the indices are woefully incomplete and are not to be relied upon.