In the past historians of colonial Spanish America have had considerable difficulty in separating fact from theory. It has not been easy to distinguish correctly between law and practice, between peninsular policy and colonial implementation, between what cronistas and other observers wrote and what actually happened. Scholars are now exploring the use of “new” sources—notarial records, Inquisition proceedings, private letters—to bring us closer to the realities of daily life. However, our established generalizations still tend to be based upon official records or upon isolated examples of undemonstrated typicality. And little effort has been made so far to test the relationship between “old” and “new” types of evidence and the reality it is used to depict.

One of the earliest and most ambitious attempts at social planning in colonial America, the founding of Puebla de los Angeles in 1531, gives us a rare opportunity to explore the relationship between colonial theory and practice. By comparing official evidence with demographic profiles derived from a prosopographical study of early settlers, we may actually test the reliability of some early colonial social commentary. Simultaneously we may investigate the success or failure of official policy in effecting desired social change.1

Puebla was established as part of an ongoing attempt to resolve pressing social problems arising from the transfer of peninsular aspirations to a New World setting. In the decade after the conquest of Mexico the Spanish crown, its colonial administrators, clergy, and colonists divided over the questions of the proper relationship between Europeans and Indians and the type of European society most suited to New World life. First, conflict centered around the persistence of a conquest mentality among settlers. These early colonizers believed that those who served the crown should and would be rewarded and that opportunity to serve abounded in the New World. These views coincided with an underlying fear of the conquered populace. A second factor influencing early post-conquest society was the aim of Indians to survive and perhaps to prosper with as few obligations as possible—even at the expense of their fellows. A third complicating consideration was the desire of the clergy to supervise both the hispanic and the Indian populations. Finally, one must take into account the determination of the crown to reward conquistadors, protect Indians, placate the religious, and retain control over all. Yet how could the victors be rewarded without destroying the vanquished? How could would-be aristocrats and zealous clerics be satisfied without the sacrifice of royal authority? How could the newly won colony be retained without a loyal and contented fighting force?

Experimental Goals

By 1530, interests as normally competitive as New Spain’s first audiencia, the Franciscans, and the Dominican Bishop of Tlaxcala, Fray Julián Garcés, had proposed similar solutions to the colony’s social dilemma: an urban experiment to protect Indians from Spanish exploitation and to mold Spanish society along simpler, agrarian lines should be established in the province of Tlaxcala, Cortés’ ally during the conquest and heretofore exempt from official European settlement. Ironically, the first obstacle to the experiment’s success would be the number and diversity of its supporters. To mitigate the chaos that it had helped to create, the audiencia recommended that the town be populated with labradores who could increase royal revenues from Tlaxcala’s fertile lands. Garcés suggested that Spanish vagabonds living as parasites in provincial pueblos be collected under audiencia and clerical supervision. The depredations of these ne’er-do-wells and the poor example they set hurt the bishop’s conversion efforts as well as the revenue collections of the treasury. According to Motolinía, the Franciscans hoped that, once provided with farms and segregated from Indians, Spaniards would cease waiting for Indian reward, abandon their desire to return to the peninsula, and become models of European agricultural techniques for neighboring Indians.2

In the plan which received royal approval, each of these interests obviously had made its contribution. The oidors of the second audiencia, charged with implementing experimental goals, decided in the first months of 1531 to establish Puebla some distance from the city of Tlaxcala in order to protect Indian Eves and property.3 Yet despite their obvious solicitude, the oidors also arranged that nearby pueblos would provide temporary labor to build homes and prepare fields for cultivation. Since the new oidors had quickly agreed that conquistadors were hopelessly lazy, Pueblans would be drawn from more industrious sectors. Each would be given equal amounts of land for farming and pasturage. In addition to the social benefits expected from the segregation of Spaniards from Indians, the audiencia foresaw economic and strategic gains. A farming community in such a fertile area would provide European fruits and grains for the entire colony. A Spanish settlement on the chief road between capital and coast would secure communications with the peninsula and guard a populous native region against rebellion. The town would also provide an alternative way station for Spanish travelers who until this time broke their journey between Veracruz and Mexico in Tlaxcala, demanding provisions from the Indians and causing great distress.4

Historical opinion has reflected the diversity of the initial goals. Justo Sierra claimed that Puebla was founded to protect the Mexico-Veracruz road from Indian threat and to resettle residents of Veracruz in a healthier climate. Francisco Pérez Salazar maintained instead that the settlement was chiefly intended as a non-encomienda reward for worthy but uncompensated conquistadors. François Chevalier argued that Puebla’s major importance lay in the attempt to replace the encomienda-based economy of New Spain with one centered around agricultural villages. Norman F. Martin saw as the experiment’s main purpose the settling of New Spain’s troublesome vagabonds in an all Spanish community.5

Not only has a penchant for single causes led scholars to oversimplify the political, economic, and social issues which together prompted Puebla’s founding, but it has also led them to ignore the implicit contradictions between many founding goals. These inherent contradictions in turn made improbable the simultaneous achievement of the goals. The importation of Indian labor, however temporary, could hardly help to wean colonists from reliance upon free Indian service. A town established to absorb a vagabond population might find it difficult to set an example of Christian virtue or to feed a colony. A settlement intended to reward the unrewarded—and, it might be argued, the less experienced or militarily competent—might not provide the best defense against an Indian threat.

Founding Society

While differing over the goals and, hence, over the content of the Pueblan experiment, Puebla’s planners and later historians have nonetheless agreed upon the experiment’s success. The vociferous protests of settlers outside Puebla against a scheme meant to threaten their aristocratic vision of colonial society appears to support this conclusion. Yet, a comparison of the contemporary accounts of Puebla’s early settlers with the populations envisioned in founding goals reveals considerable disparity.

The Franciscans claim to have selected the first Pueblans, who numbered between thirty and sixty heads of household according to early estimates. The Franciscan guardian of Mexico City, Fray Luis de Fuensalida described these settlers in March 1531 as “un pueblo de xtianos todos labradores e grangeros,” very poor and deserving. A description fitting so conveniently the friars’ hopes for Puebla was contradicted later by the testimony of Don Luis de Castilla, spokesman for Puebla’s opponents in the capital, before the Council of the Indies in 1534. Castilla claimed that many of the first Pueblans had quickly deserted upon discovering that Puebla’s architects remained firm in their decision to avoid distribution of neighboring pueblos in encomienda. Even Puebla’s staunchest supporters were forced to admit that there was great discord among the first settlers.8

Despite initial difficulties, the audiencia could still report in August 1531 that its new town was thriving: thirty vecinos maintained arms and horses for regional defense; so many colonists had asked to move to Puebla that vecinos of other cities were forbidden to migrate there; the Franciscans and even the Indians providing labor pronounced the settlers model Christians. Licenciado Juan Salmerón, the oidor overseeing the founding, explained that, while many of the settlers had once been “idlers and profligates,” they were now useful and productive citizens. He claimed success too from the opposition Puebla had provoked in the conquistador–encomendero sector: if it could be shown that “twenty or thirty Pueblans could be happy with fewer Indians than it would take to satisfy one encomendero,” this sector would lose its best argument for repartimiento general. In fact, Salmerón claimed he had had to turn away many encomenderos who had asked to live in Puebla only to be closer to their pueblos.7

With such claims of success, Salmerón urged the crown to consolidate Puebla’s position with a series of royal mercedes; yet the favors he recommended were hardly consistent with the town’s status as social experiment. To enhance municipal prestige, he asked that Puebla be raised from pueblo to ciudad rank, that the seat of the Tlaxcalan diocese be transferred to Puebla, and that the audiencia reside in the city for half of each year. Puebla should be given its own Indian town in encomienda and its temporary labor ayuda should be extended for six to ten years. Comarca towns should renounce exclusive right to natural resources within their boundaries so Pueblans might share them. As a final sign of royal favor Pueblans should be excused from the alcabala forever.8

Insofar as these requests were designed to ensure Puebla’s future by attracting new settlers, persuading those already in the town to remain, and providing labor and resources necessary for civic survival, they appear eminently reasonable. Their approval, however, surely would have made the more innovative aspects of the social experiment difficult to attain. The goal of Spanish independence from Indian labor tribute had already been compromised by the importation of labor for the founding; now this temporary merced was to become the town’s chief labor institution for the immediate future. Designation as diocesan center or an audiencia residence would hardly be consistent with the founders’ early vision of an unpretentious agrarian community. Freedom from alcabala was more than an economic concession to prestige-conscious colonists—it was a clear sign of hidalguía.

Before a reply to these requests could be received, disaster struck. A severe rainy season destroyed the new settlement. After some deliberation, the crown ordered Puebla’s refounding. Yet despite the added incentive of a new donation of Indian farmland in nearby Atlixco, only twelve of those who had experienced the floods joined twenty-one newcomers at the second founding. Friends and foe alike noted the scarcity of settlers.9

The recent disaster, continuing colonial opposition, and the difficulty of repopulation clearly weakened the already compromised social idealism of Puebla’s architects. The second founding marked a notable change in the rhetoric of social experiment. While official sources by no means abandoned Puebla’s claims to social uniqueness, they did begin to take into account Pueblans’ social status and military experience, traditional bases for preferential treatment in New Spain as in the peninsula. Although Salmerón still averred that few Pueblans held encomienda, the new Atlixco lands were not apportioned equally, as in 1531, but according to each individual’s social status, length of New World residence, and marital state.10 Salmerón’s description of the city in February 1533 emphasized this change. While denying that the new settlement was depopulating other cities, he boasted of the number of conquistadors Puebla had attracted. Included among them were many former vagabonds who had married their Indian concubines and settled down to useful, productive lives. All were engaged in farming and herding. A few encomenderos with towns near Puebla had also arrived.11 This reversal in welcoming a sector of colonial society previously seen as a menace presaged changes to come. The second Puebla would indeed favor the very colonial aristocracy that its founders had hoped to discourage.

With the second founding, Salmerón’s 1531 requests began to bear fruit. Puebla was accorded ciudad rank in February 1533. This status entitled the city to double its cabildo, and in May Salmerón reported many petitions to purchase municipal office—the first stirrings of oligarchy. At the same time the city’s Indian ayuda was reorganized on a regular basis. With the new labor draft of indios de servicio, each Pueblan would receive forty to fifty workers from Tlaxcala and Cholula; many minor encomenderos could boast no more.12

Despite the depreciation of social aims, Puebla nonetheless experienced closer audiencia supervision than other European communities in New Spain. Salmerón continued regular visits until the spring of 1534. The audiencia punctiliously examined civic ordinances and scrutinized land grants. Puebla’s corregidor communicated regularly with the oidors and presided over the city’s cabildo with a firm hand.13 The colonial opposition also perpetuated belief in Puebla’s uniqueness. Renewing its attack in May 1533, Mexico’s cabildo clearly accepted Puebla’s success as social experiment, while rejecting the conclusions that had been drawn from this success. Puebla, they claimed, did not prove that Spaniards could live in the New World as they lived in the peninsula. As migrants fresh off the boat or as conquistadors too lowly to receive proper reward and lured from the capital by silver mines discovered in the Puebla region, Pueblans were far too humble to dream of encomienda—but surely the crown did not want its colony dominated by peones such as these!14

In the spring of 1534, Puebla sent its first información to Spain with Salmerón to rebut Mexico’s charges and to ask more mercedes in reward for its social uniqueness—as a town of good Christians living from their “farms—very different from inhabitants of other cities in New Spain.” On this basis they asked that their Indian ayuda be extended and increased. Yet Puebla also sought to prove its merit according to more traditional criteria. The información included a list of all vecinos, emphasizing in addition to marital status and size of Atlixco plantings, conquest experience and officeholding.15

On the basis of such mixed proofs of worthiness, Puebla renewed many of Salmerón’s 1531 requests for favors, such as freedom from alcabala and, later, audiencia residence in the city. It further asked a municipal coat-of-arms, jurisdiction over surrounding territory, the right to increase its appointive municipal offices, a further grant of Indian lands in Atlixco, more Indian labor, additional public income property, and freedom from interference in local government by audiencia or corregidor. With such mercedes, the city would become “the best and most important city in New Spain.”16

Thus, despite continued lip service to social experiment, Puebla still aspired to privileges equal to and beyond those of normal hispanic cities. Far from emerging from its founding years as a counterbalance to aristocratic conquistador-encomendero society, it had embraced that society’s pretensions and values wholeheartedly. Its special status as experiment had only led vecinos to expect more favors from a crown anxious that its experiment survive. Despite the initial aim that Pueblans prove colonial life possible without free Indian labor, by 1534 Puebla not only enjoyed its indios de servicio but requested more. Despite the determination that Puebla not encroach upon Indian territory, by 1534 Puebla not only possessed such land but demanded more. Despite the early vision of humble, egalitarian agrarian society, by 1534 many Pueblans enjoyed corregimientos and encomiendas, and conquest service and claims to hidalguía clearly stratified Pueblan society.

The realities of the Puebla experiment’s goals and results are further obscured by the fact that, during its planning stages and throughout its early years, Pueblans, planners, and opponents continued to describe Pueblan society in varied and often contradictory terms, especially regarding occupation, New World and conquest experience, wealth, social status, previous reward and aspirations, and even immediate prior residence. However, we may test these contemporary statements in more objective fashion through a prosopographical study of founding settlers. The results of such a study not only provide a new perspective on the Pueblan experiment, but they also permit a valuable test of the relationship between theory and practice and between contemporary observation and reality in early colonial social history.

Prosopographical Methodology and Analysis

The method utilized for this study involved three basic steps: population identification, compilation of individual biographies, and construction of group profiles of relevant characteristics. The guiding principle in population identification was that every resident of Puebla during the founding period, 1531-1534, be included as members of the founding community, with the exception of African slaves and Indians (unless married to Europeans). Transients, defined as those living in Puebla for less than one month at a time, were excluded for substantive and practical reasons: transient status did not then and does not now seem to indicate community membership, and very few transients can be identified in the period 1531-1534 (they form only 3.1 percent of the total known population in these years). Residents are more easily identified, primarily from land grants of 1531-1534 and from censuses made in 1532 and 1534 of heads of household. African slaves and Indians were excluded because colonial records provide too little information about individuals to permit biographical reconstruction and because they too do not seem to have formed part of the hispanic community to be remodeled in Puebla. By law, Indians in fact were excluded from residence there.17 In most of the calculations which follow, heads of household (including single persons accepted in law or in practice as adults) form the population of analysis since sources for the period provide relatively little information about dependents.18

Biographical data was collected for the most part from local and national archives in Puebla, Mexico City, and Seville, and from published chronicles and documentary collections. Sufficient information was gathered for a large enough portion of the founding population to permit analysis of the following characteristics: race, sex, place and date of birth, length and location of New World residence prior to arrival in Puebla, length of residence in Puebla, conquest participation, social rank, marital status, land tenure, occupation, public office, literacy, and destination of departure for those leaving Puebla. Since, in every case, calculations including probable and certain data produced the same general patterns as those made with certain evidence alone (merely decreasing the percentage of unknowns), only certain data has been included here.

Founding populations were examined in each of the founding years (1531-1534) to show patterns of development which could be compared with contemporary observations and events previously discussed. In some cases, yearly groups of in-migrants were also examined to illustrate their role in shaping the resident community. All tables present group characteristics as percentage of the total population analysis—not as percentage of knowns—to minimize distortion.

Population Size and Composition by Age-group, Race, and Sex

Of great concern to sixteenth-century colonial observers was population size which they often equated with municipal prestige and general well-being. In Puebla’s case this measurement was highly controversial, because of the city’s role in colonial social debate—the more vecinos Puebla could attract, the more successful the experiment was deemed to be. Pueblans frequently compared their city with Mexico or Antequera, its chief rivals. Although no population figures for these cities are available for the 1530s, scattered estimates provide some framework for comparison: Mexico’s population was put at 150 households in 1526, and at 2,000 vecinos around 1550. Multiplying these figures by a household size of four or five, we obtain estimates of 600-750 for the hispanic population of 1526, and 8,000-10,000 for circa 1550. The Spanish population of Antequera was estimated at 30 vecinos or households and 120 total Europeans in 1525, and 130 adult males or 650 total population in 1541, although this became only 30 heads of household and 150 total population in 1544.19 A simple enumeration of known residents of Puebla’s hispanic community in the founding period provides at least the lower Emits of that population. From the growth figures in Table I, it is difficult to understand the continual concern expressed by Puebla’s founders over the settlement’s size; despite natural disaster and colonial opposition, Puebla’s resident population increased substantially in each year of the founding period to nearly quintuple its original size by 1534. Perhaps comparison with a much larger capital explains this dissatisfaction. Also, yearly inmigration figures show that, although overall population increased throughout the period, the number of new settlers attracted each year varied sharply according to the fortunes of the settlement. In 1532, the year after the floods, only twenty-seven new Pueblans arrived, or less than two-thirds of the original settlement. Yet in 1533, with the acquisition of ciudad status, the increased Indian ayuda, and the discovery of silver, ninety-five newcomers arrived, forming 60.1 percent of the total population in that year.

Composition by age-group and sex in Table I also supports the common belief that New World settlement was chiefly an adult male venture, although it does suggest that the corollary conclusion that few European females ventured upon migration in the early colonial period needs revision. In each founding year, adult males formed the majority of Pueblans although adult females increased from 16.7 percent to 29.3 percent of the total by 1534. Minors represented a curiously declining sector through the period. Although this picture appears reasonable for a migrant population, available evidence is clearly biased against dependent adult females and minors; thus it is highly probable that the actual proportions of these groups would be higher.

Despite incomplete evidence, however, the percentage of adult European females in founding Puebla is higher than previous studies of colonial society have indicated. Peter Boyd-Bowman’s figures for European female migration for 1493-1539 (roughly the period when Pueblans must have migrated) indicate that only 5.6 to 6.3 percent of New World migrants were female. Richard Konetzke’s suggestion that migration licenses (from which most of Boyd-Bowman’s statistics were taken) do not reflect the actual percentage of European females in the New World because of high male mortality pushes their estimated share to over 10 percent. James Lockhart’s rough estimate for the only similar colonial sample, Peru in the 1540s, suggests the proportion of the larger group of women accepted as Spanish (including those of mixed birth and those not labeled as to race) at only one-eighth to one-seventh of his total population (including residents and transients) a decade after Peru’s conquest.20 Yet by 1534 at least 17.6 percent and probably more of Puebla’s population was adult, female, and European—and at least one-fifth presumed adult and hispanic by Lockhart’s definition. Was Puebla, then, unusual among colonial cities in its high percentage of European females, suggesting some selection of settlers on the basis of marital status? Or will further investigation push the general share accorded European women in colonial society even higher?

Simlarly, the accepted contemporary notion explaining mestizaje as the natural result of Spanish males forced to mate with non-European females for lack of available alternative seems less persuasive in Puebla. From the city’s 1534 información, we can conclude that even if all single males and those with nonresident Spanish wives kept Indian concubines, the highest possible percentage of Spanish males dependent solely upon Indian sexual contact would have been 51.2 percent of all heads of household, although only 23.8 percent were actually married to Indian wives.

Probable gaps in the recorded presence of hispanic dependents during the founding years need not prevent some attempt to derive an estimate of Puebla’s total hispanic population. However, the standard early modern European household size of four to six is obviously an inappropriate multiplier for a migrant population.21 If instead we calculate the size of European Puebla households that can be reconstructed for the founding years, we can then estimate the total population with more assurance using mean and median household sizes.

Comparing population estimates in Table II with minimum known figures in Table I, we see that the estimated population in 1531 would be one-third to one-half again as large as the known population, while figures for 1532 would be increased by 12 to 18 percent, figures for 1533 by about 13 to 20 percent, and those for 1534 by just under 20 percent. Significantly, the greatest difference between known and estimated populations occurs in the settlement’s first two years, when evidence about the dependent population is least reliable. The new statistics slow Puebla’s growth rate per year and thus support contemporary anxiety over the community’s survival. Thus, the figures in Table II are probably more reasonable than those of Table I.

Regional Origin and Prior New World Residence

The regional origin and prior New World residence of Puebla’s early settlers provide answers to several questions raised by contemporaries’ contradictions. Were Pueblans indeed selected for Old World background, as Chevalier has suggested? Did they arrive in Puebla fresh from Spain as Mexico’s cabildo complained? Had they in fact led the vagabond life that Salmerón and Martin depicted before settling down as model citizens? Did the settlement drain vecinos from other colonial cities, in particular, from the capital?

In “La signification social de la fondation de la Puebla de los Angeles,” Chevalier proposed that royal efforts to recruit farmers for New Spain around the time of Puebla’s founding might indicate that Pueblans were drawn from the regions of most intensive recruiting activity, the agriculturally distressed dioceses of Avila, Salamanca, and Plasencia, which correspond roughly to the modern provinces of Avila, Salamanca, and one-half of Cáceres. Given the chronological coincidence, founders’ statements of agrarian purpose, and the absence of contradictory contemporary evidence, Chevalier’s suggestion seems plausible. However, it is not supported by our prosopographical study. Only three settlers of the 1531 population are known to have come from the provinces in question, and only one of these tried his hand at agriculture in Puebla; this man was a conquistador who had lived in New Spain since 1519, and not a recruit from the pro-farming campaign.22 During the entire founding period, only 11.6 percent of all heads of household and independent adults (the population of analysis for all further calculations) came from these provinces, and only 2.2 percent were also farmers.

If, contrary to Chevalier’s suggestion, Pueblans were not drawn from these distressed agricultural districts, where did they come from? The pattern of regional origin revealed in Table III reflects the general New World picture reconstructed by Boyd-Bowman for 1493-1519 and 1520-1539: of those migrants who must have included the early Pueblans, Andalusians comprised 39.7 percent or 32.0 percent, with Old Castile, Extremadura, New Castile, and León following in that order.23 With the exception of a slightly higher proportion of Extremadurans, Pueblans thus appear fairly normal. In each year Andalusians contributed at least 20 percent, with Extremadurans, Leonese, and Old Castilians following in fluctuating order. Andalusia and Extremadura produced at least one third of each population; if we figure regional origin as percentage of knowns, these two regions produced about one-half of each year’s settlers. Non-Spanish Europeans—chiefly Portuguese, Greeks, and Italians—rose somewhat in importance from 1531 to 1534; in the last two founding years, this group ranked fifth and fourth among regional groups. Thus, Puebla’s settlers appear to have been neither consciously chosen nor unusual in terms of regional origin, but representative of normal contemporary migrant trends.

The period in which the founding settlers migrated to the New World in general and to New Spain in particular indicates not only the chronological stage of colonial development that shaped future Pueblans’ expectations but also the amount of colonial experience that each settler brought with him to Puebla. What possibilities were open to Pueblans by virtue of their period of migration? Which were closed? Were Pueblans rank newcomers, as Mexico charged in 1533, or were they seasoned colonists? Were they malleable recruits, or had they absorbed a tradition of colonial pretension?

Precise data for New World arrival are unavailable for many migrants. The most common source of such information is migration licenses and petitions for mercedes, which provide only approximate information. From available evidence, both mean and median date of arrival for the 1531 population was 1524.5, and 1522 or 1523 for succeeding populations. Approximately two-thirds of all founding settlers for whom date of arrival is known had arrived in the New World by 1522. At least half of each year’s settlers had missed the stormy Columbus decade in Hispaniola, and about half of all but the 1534 population had arrived too late to join in the early expansion into the rest of the Caribbean, Tierra Firme, and Florida.

For many settlers whose exact date of New World arrival is unknown, we can still find evidence of New World residence prior to arrival in Puebla. Such data suggest the range of possibilities open to early Pueblans. Table IV shows that, for all but the 1531 population, mean and median year of first known New World residence fall within the period 1517-1521; thus half of each population had possessed the chance to gain wealth and eminence with Balboa, Pedrarias Dávila, or Cortés. Two-thirds or more of each population had arrived by 1526, in good time to have laid some military claim to reward in New Spain before coming to Puebla.24 Certainly this group would have had ample knowledge, whether in the islands or in New Spain, of the struggle between crown, colonists, and clergy over encomienda. Surely it would have taken an unusual individual, once exposed to such an atmosphere, to have resisted the lure of colonial aristocratic pretension. Thus, the early Pueblans seem more likely to have been seasoned colonists pressing for every merced the crown would bestow than innocent newcomers grateful for a bit of land to farm.

In each of the in-migrant groups about 60 to 80 percent of all settlers had spent at least 5 years in the New World before arriving in Puebla; at least one-third could claim 10 years’ prior residence or more. Median prior residence for each group ranged from 9 to 13 years, and mean prior residence from 8.8 to 14.3 years. Whatever the goals of the early experiment, it seems clear that Puebla’s founders were not importing a new colonial society, but attempting to remodel with matériel on hand. Redirecting the expectations of such old hands would obviously have proven difficult. However, 1531 settlers appear relatively less experienced than later populations, with a median of 9.0 and a mean of 8.8 years of prior residence. So, the earliest settlers may indeed have been chosen from those with less chance to have won New World reward.

The question of whether Pueblans were unusual among New World colonists in the length of their New World residence is difficult to answer in the absence of comparable statistics for other settlements. Of Lockhart’s 168 “men of Cajamarca,” prior residence for 39.9 percent could not be determined, 31.0 percent had at least five years’ prior residence before 1532, and only 14.3 percent had had at least ten years’ colonial residence before Cajamarca.25 Thus even Puebla’s 1531 settlers had had much more New World experience than these men.

A look at Pueblans’ arrival and length of residence in New Spain itself reveals similar patterns to those observed in general New World experience. It is important to note before turning to an examination of Pueblans’ conquest participation that about one-third of 1531 settlers and about 40 percent of later populations had come to New Spain by 1521; another third or more of 1531-1532 settlers and 20 to 25 percent of later populations were in New Spain during the consolidation of the conquest in the north and south. Thus, about two-thirds of the 1531 settlement, three-quarters of 1532 settlers, and two-thirds of populations in 1533 and 1534 had arrived in New Spain in time to establish some military claim to reward.

Conquest Participation

The extent to which Pueblans had taken advantage of military opportunities open to them by virtue of early arrival in the New World also reveals the basis for conflicting statements made by founders, foes, and Pueblans themselves about the size of Puebla’s conquistador population during the founding period. Were Pueblans chosen specifically from the non-conquistador sector, as the second audiencia had intended in 1531? Were early settlers the unrewarded conquistadors some founders hoped to favor, as Mexico later sneered? Did the post-second founding tendency to encourage conquistadors to settle in Puebla and to favor them in land grants and other grants reflect a change in the size of this sector within the total population—or merely a desire on the part of administrators to effect such a change?

Despite contemporaries’ contradictory claims, Table V shows that Puebla’s 1531 population was almost evenly balanced between those known to have had some conquest experience and those known to have had none, with 10.7 percent unknown. Nearly all who had served militarily were conquistadores de México or de Nueva España, with thereby considerable claim to reward; one-quarter were, in fact, of the former category.26 Less than one-half of this group is known to have had no conquest experience whatsoever, although 57.1 percent possessed some claim to royal reward through their own or a close relative’s accomplishments. So it would appear that the first Pueblans were not deliberately chosen from the ranks of non-conquistadors at all; neither were they in the main unrewarded conquistadors. For 30.8 percent of those with conquest experience had in fact received encomiendas, corregimientos, or pensions in consequence. These founding intentions thus seems to have existed in rhetoric only, and not even to have been achieved in the initial settlement.

Furthermore, the percentage of settlers who had served militarily or who had at least some claim to reward rose sharply after the second founding: over half of all settlers in these years had served, the great majority as conquistadores de México or de Nueva España. About two-thirds of each population could boast some claim to reward. While just over one-quarter of 1532 settlers had in fact been rewarded, over 60 percent of 1533 settlers and over 40 percent of 1534 settlers with such claims had been given reward. In examining Pueblans by year of arrival, it was found that in 1531, 39.3 percent of new Pueblans were conquistadores de México or de Nueva España; in 1532, 71.4 percent, in 1533, 49.1 percent, and in 1534, 31.6 percent. Thus only in 1532 does the transformation of official policy into one favoring conquistadors seem to have succeeded in drawing an unusually large percentage of them in a founding year—and this at the very beginning of that policy change.

Although no comparisons are possible with nonexperimental colonial communities to suggest whether Puebla contained fewer conquistadors than a nonselected group, one can still conclude that the very individuals the experiment was ostensibly aimed against, and the sector most openly opposed to Puebla in consequence, in fact comprised a considerable portion of Pueblan society from the town’s inception. The alteration noted in experimental rhetoric toward recognizing the superior status of conquistadors represented more probably a response to the desires of a sector already prominent in Pueblan life than a unilateral decision of royal administrators to change their view of ideal colonial society.

Location of Prior New World Residence

Location and nature of prior New World residence have been contested in several theories of the purpose of Puebla’s founding. Sierra’s contention that the new settlement formed a haven for Veracruzanos seeking a healthier climate and Martin’s claim that Puebla was settled to resolve New Spain’s vagabond problem both imply particular residential backgrounds for the early settlers; both views are refuted easily by an examination of Pueblans’ prior residences.

In the roughly ten years the average Pueblan had spent in the New World before arriving in Puebla, he had gained colonial experience in 2 or more residences. Mean number of such residences for founding populations ranged from 2.0 to 2.6. Portions of each group with at least some known prior New World residence was over 60 percent in each year and 85.7 percent in 1532. Settlers with more than one known New World residence before Puebla represented 67.9 percent of the 1531 population, 78.6 percent of 1532 arrivals, 56.1 percent of 1533, and 39.5 percent of 1534. In many cases this mobility represented a gradual geographic progression from the peninsula to the islands and then to New Spain. Students of migration have often noted that former migrants tend to be more mobile in the future than do those who have never previously overcome those major hurdles of leaving the familiar for the unknown. Often too the original stimulus to migration will recur in the initial destination, causing the search for “greener pastures” to continue.27 In the absence of comparable studies, there is no reason to believe that Pueblans had been more mobile than their fellow colonists. However, the length of prior New World residence, and the number of prior residences future Pueblans had experienced, together describe a population considerably seasoned in the process of migrant accommodation. Such a population may indeed have contributed to the ultimate survival of the beleaguered community.

A more specific study of the immediate prior residences of early Pueblans in Table V refutes Sierra’s and Martin’s views of why Puebla was founded: of Puebla’s entire 1531-1534 population, only three individuals arrived in the experimental community from Veracruz. The high percentage of Pueblans for whom specific prior residence in a New World or European settlement can be ascertained tends to refute Martin’s vagabond theory. Permanent residents of any community could hardly be termed vagabonds. In particular, the high number of Mexico City residents in arrivals from 1531-1533 indicates a very different source for early Pueblans. Despite Salmerón’s contention that, by 1533, few from Mexico had been allowed to move to Puebla, 57.1 percent of the 1531 population, 64.3 percent of 1532 settlers, and 54.4 percent of those arriving in 1533 had indeed left residence in the capital for Puebla.

The small proportion of arrivals direct from the peninsula tends to refute Mexico’s other charge—that Pueblans were fresh from Spain and hence undeserving of reward—and confirms previous findings on the lengthy colonial experience of most Pueblans. It is also interesting to note that the Pueblan comarca—the area from which early settlers might have been drawn most naturally and the area which some founders clearly intended to provide population—in fact provided less than 10 percent of any year’s migrants.28

Thus, in terms of prior residence, all founders’ intentions came to naught in Puebla: neither vagabonds nor residents of the province of Tlaxcala formed more than a small portion of the early Pueblans. In prior residence, as in conquest participation, the “enemy camp” of Mexican conquistadors had moved to Puebla.


The length and nature of the founding populations’ colonial experience might lead us to suspect that these individuals were persons of mature years, were it not for the contrary hypothesis that migrant populations tend to be relatively younger than the rest of the pool of potential migrants from which they come.29 Despite the fact that age can be determined for fewer than half of the founding settlers, this evidence tends to support the latter hypothesis.30

For each in-migrant group both mean and median age were in the lower thirties; in each group, the portion of individuals known to be over 40 years old was less than 10 percent. Although one might suggest then that early Pueblan age structure was probably quite different from that of the peninsula, being skewed toward this group of rather young adults, it is difficult to make more specific comparisons with Europe or with other colonial societies. Lockhart’s “men of Cajamarca” averaged around 27.7 years of age in 1532, with a median period for age of 25-29.31 To conclude that Pueblans were thus probably somewhat older than these conquistadors accords with Pueblans’ greater New World experience but tells us little else beyond confirming the notion that conquistadors tended to be younger than settled populations.

Thus the background of the settlers who participated in the Pueblan experiment was inauspicious for a scheme designed to topple the pretensions of conquistadors, Mexico City, and entrenched colonial interests. Despite the claims of Puebla’s founders and official guardians, most Pueblans were drawn from the capital—not from a vagabond life in the countryside or from victimized Tlaxcalan towns. Most founding settlers also had either conquest experience or the military service of close relatives to provide them with a claim to the encomiendas which Puebla itself was intended to make obsolete. Also, most early Pueblans had spent long years in the New World before arrival in the experimental community, presumably imbibing colonial values and aspirations which had created the conflict between crown, clergy, and settlers. And, finally, the relative youth of the founding settlers would permit these individuals to dominate their community for several decades to come.

Length of Residence in Puebla and Departures

Despite contemporary concern that Pueblans were abandoning the experiment, Table VII indicates that the founding settlers remained remarkably loyal to the settlement. Mean minimum residence for all but the 1533 population was about 15 years; even those early settlers disheartened by the 1531 floods remained an average of 14 years apiece. The exception to such loyalty is found among the 1533 settlers, whose mean minimum residence was 11.1 years but whose median was 3.7 years. The median, indicating that many from this group remained only briefly in Puebla, supports Mexico’s claim that many flocking to Puebla in that year were merely opportunists seeking silver, not farms. Of all founding settlers, 56.9 percent remained in the city for at least 5 years, 49.6 percent for 10 or more, and 21.9 percent for 15 years or more. Thus a large percentage of those who participated in the original experiment remained in Puebla long after founding goals were clearly in decline.

An examination of those early settlers who left Puebla during the city’s first three decades provides some indirect insights into the question of why their fellows remained. Table VIII reveals that most who left the city during the 1530s did so either by dying (23.0 percent) or by departing for other New World destinations (37.7 percent). Most of those who sought greener colonial pastures remained in New Spain, and about half of this group left Puebla for Mexico City—not a surprising outcome because so many had come from there originally. Only a sprinkling went to Peru (4.9 percent), despite Pizarro’s success, and only 1.6 percent returned to Castile. Pueblans remaining into the 1540s present a different picture: one-half of departures in this decade resulted from death, and destinations of the rest are largely unknown. We might hypothesize that the loss of Puebla’s indios de servicio in addition to the plagues and famines of the decade might have prompted them to leave.32 However, none is known to have returned to Castile or indeed to have left New Spain at all. Those remaining into the fifties followed a similar pattern, with 38.1 percent dying in Puebla, one returning to Spain, and five moving elsewhere in New Spain. Destinations of the rest are unknown.

Summing up the 114 (83.2 percent) apparent departures among the 137 founding settlers by 1560, over half of whom left in the 1530s, we can see that about one-half remained in Puebla until their deaths. About 40 percent left Puebla for other destinations in New Spain, apparently continuing the process of gradual migration from the peninsula, and nearly half of these went to the capital, perhaps convinced by that city’s opposition to the Pueblan experiment, or perhaps hoping for greater rewards closer to the seat of power. Only 5.0 percent moved on to conquer and explore outside New Spain, and only two settlers of all Puebla’s founders are known to have returned to the peninsula. Thus, despite Pueblans’ background of conquest participation these individuals had clearly determined to base their fortunes upon past glories and peaceful settlement—just as the early lobbyists for social experiment had hoped. Whether this “taming” of the conquerors resulted from the experiment, from force of circumstance, or from the natural aging process is impossible to determine. The paucity of settlers returning to the peninsula contradicts the well-worn notion that the fondest goal of every colonist was to become rich and to return in triumph to his birthplace—and that many in fact achieved this dream. Given Lockhart’s discovery that at least 39.3 percent and perhaps half or more of his 168 Peruvian conquistadors returned to Spain after their conquest, we might suggest that such reverse migration by conquistadors rich through booty became the basis for contemporary stereotyping.33 Pueblans’ wealth, no doubt like that of many others, was closely tied to colonial residence, in salaries, encomiendas, trade, and land.

Wealth and Land Tenure

Although available evidence does not permit a detailed analysis of early Pueblans’ incomes or total wealth, some comment may be made in general terms. Two-thirds of those Pueblans for whom any description of economic status is available among the founding populations were described by contemporaries and themselves as poor. However, two-thirds of these paupers were encomenderos or corregidores, and undoubtedly some were quite wealthy. Of the total, probably about one-quarter provided an accurate description of their poverty, one-third were probably “ricos” in colonial terms, and the rest seem to have been closer to the latter than to the former. On such tenuous evidence, then, it would seem that the early Pueblans were not the poor peasants envisioned by Puebla’s founders.

In their ownership of land, however, the early Pueblans came closer to fulfilling experimental ideals. All but 12.4 percent of resident heads of household and independent adults during the founding period received grants of land from Puebla’s cabildo under audiencia supervision. These grants were allocated fairly evenly among those received as vecinos. The standard allotment included one solar for town residence, one huerta as a garden plot on the edges of the settlement, and one caballería and one suerte outside the settlement area for pasture and farmland.34 Although lands were apportioned fairly evenhandedly until the audiencia ended such practice in 1534, even earlier not every Pueblan received the full allotment, and some received more than their share. Residents receiving no lands whatsoever fell into three categories: clergymen, audiencia representatives, and vecinos who left Puebla after a very brief residence. Those arriving earliest and those with the most prestige tended to receive more lands than their fellows, although only with special audiencia permission.35 So, at least during most of the founding period, those who guided Puebla’s fortunes had maintained equal distribution of lands as the municipal norm giving this aspect of founding idealism more than lip service.

Social Rank

The ideal of a society of humble Spaniards intended to counter fellow settlers’ aristocratic pretensions with their own example was not evidenced in individual Pueblans’ claims to be counted among persons of quality. Although no member of the founding populations possessed a title—not even a don—Table IX shows that many pretended to the broader peninsular designation of hidalgo, most through the simple device of claiming to live nobly, with casa poblada, arms, and horse. About 40 percent of each group claimed some such gentlemanly status: 3.6-5.7 percent made the relatively strong claim of relationship to a noble house; about one-third of each population could make a weaker claim through noble life-style or possession of a coat-of-arms (usually acquired through conquest participation). When these claims were examined according to year of arrival, it was found that the 1531 population contained a higher percentage of social aspirants than did any subsequent migration but that of 1532, which brought 42.9 percent would-be nobles to Puebla; only about one-third of 1533 and 1534 arrivals claimed similar status. These observations (not presented in tabular form) compliment the previously observed change in official attitude toward conquistadors in Puebla. The reversal in egalitarian rhetoric after Puebla’s second founding and the new emphasis on calidad seem to have reflected an official acquiescence in the desires of earlier settlers with claims to such status more than a response to the inmigration of settlers with higher status claims.

Comparison of Pueblan pretensions with those of other New World societies is hindered by variation in scholars’ and in contemporaries’ definitions of hidalguía. Boyd-Bowman discovered that migrants arriving in the period 1493-1519 included only 1.3 percent claiming hidalguía; 2.2 percent of 1520-1539 migrants made similar claims; however, Boyd-Bowman appears to include only those individuals accorded the don or doña or those with titles. Lockhart found in Spanish Peru for the period 1532-1560 that about one-third of settlers claimed to be hidalgos in the broadest definition of the term.36 In comparison, Pueblans seem representative of normal colonial social pretensions, with few actual titles and abundant claims to gentility. Again it is clear that the social experiment neither selected the humble settlers its founders had envisioned nor produced them.


Several contemporary descriptions of Pueblan society in the planning or the actual founding stages focus upon the occupations the early settlers should be encouraged to take up, or conversely, to abandon. Other founders and later historians have envisioned Pueblans as drawn from those colonists with no occupation whatsoever, vagabonds and opportunists awaiting encomienda or other reward. The figures in Table X refute contemporary notions that Pueblans were a community of farmers, that they were unrewarded conquistadors and pobladores, or that they were vagabonds and idlers.37 In each founding population, the total agrarian sector, including owners as well as laborers, formed a startlingly small and decreasing minority—10.7 percent in 1531, 12.8 percent in 1532, 6.4 percent in 1533, and 4.9 percent in 1534—hardly suggesting an agrarian community. The care that the city’s 1534 información took to enumerate Pueblans who farmed does suggest that few who engaged in commercial agriculture could have been overlooked.

If Pueblans’ occupations vary from contemporary descriptions, what occupational profile does Table X in fact reveal? By far the largest occupational categories for each founding population were the service and government categories, totaling over half of each population. Within these groups, the encomenderos, corregidores and pensioners subcategory represents the largest subgroup, with 25 percent to 37.2 percent of each population. A high proportion of Pueblans found in this category confirms our previous conclusion that Pueblans were not unrewarded conquistadors; nearly 30 percent of the 1531 and 1532 groups and over 40 percent of later populations had received reward, whether conquistadors or not.38 Professionals, unskilled laborers, merchants, artisans, and the agricultural sector were but poorly represented in comparison. Although artisans did form 10 to 15 percent of each population, none of these categories appear sufficiently represented to support a normal European society in Puebla. However, the high percentage of those for whom occupation can be identified confirms our previous suggestion that Pueblans were not vagabonds plucked from idleness.

Thus most Pueblans were attempting to exist from distinctly colonial means which nonetheless had Old World precedent. That is, a very large portion of each founding population supported itself directly from administrative positions and pensions made possible by the conquest, dependent normally upon participation in the conquest, and supported by the conquered. In fact, without the Indian and access to his labor and tribute through encomienda, salaries, or pensions, the primary support of these settlers would have vanished. So, by economic necessity, Pueblans had every interest in the perpetuation of an aristocratic colonial world. Table X further indicates that those occupations necessary to the functioning of normal peninsular society were relatively scarce in founding Puebla. Over subsequent years, Pueblans would note this lack, offering Indians or municipal salaries to lure lawyers, doctors, and blacksmiths to the city. The dearth of hispanic producers of staples and simple manufactures in turn reinforced Pueblans’ dependence upon nearby Indian towns for such necessities.39


Surprisingly, in view of the lack of professionals and merchants in early Puebla, the population seems to have been highly literate in sixteenth-century terms. As Lockhart has suggested, literacy, inferred in most cases from an individual’s ability to sign his name, is often the only clue available to indicate level of education.40 From this evidence, Table XI suggests that about half or more of each founding population was literate, and thus had received at least some education, and only 7.4 to 12.8 percent were certainly illiterate, and thus perhaps uneducated. If we estimate total literacy from this ratio, we conclude that 80 percent or more of each population was probably literate/educated. Comparing Pueblans with Lockhart’s Peruvian conquistadors, we find the former apparently more literate/educated than the latter (with 45.2 to 59.5 percent probably literate and 24.4 percent probably illiterate).41 So, conquistadors seem to have been less literate/educated than an apparently more normal cross section of colonial society. Despite the scarcity of occupational indicators of education in Pueblan society, literacy figures do suggest a population fully capable of engaging in the paperwork that characterized hispanic society and that petitions for reward, lawsuits, and entrepreneurial ventures necessitated.

Marital Status

Throughout the post-conquest decades, the Spanish crown made repeated efforts to encourage permanent settlement in its colonies by urging and even ordering settlers to marry or to bring their wives from Europe. Settlers were threatened with loss of land, office, or encomienda—and some even were deported—for failure to comply. Initially, the spouse’s race was not a matter of great concern, although by the time of Puebla’s founding, colonists who had married Indians were already beginning to regret this step.42 It would seem reasonable that the Pueblan experiment reflected changes in this aspect of royal policy, especially in light of the high percentage of European adult females in the settlement during the founding period. Although the value of Table XII is weakened by the considerable difference in percentage of knowns between the first and last two years of the founding period, we can conclude tentatively that, whether by accident or design, a large and increasing segment of Pueblans were married. In 1531 a quarter of the population was certainly married and just over that many are known to have been single; by 1532 these proportions were equal at 35.9 percent; in 1533 and 1534 married settlers outnumbered unmarried, with about one-third married and one-fourth known single. Furthermore, the proportion of those who had attempted marriage at least once rose from 25 percent in 1531 to about 40 percent in later populations.

Of the seventy-three persons in Puebla during the founding years (53.3 percent of the total) who were married during at least part of this period, four of those who had married in the peninsula brought their wives to New Spain after they became Pueblans; the wives of only two of the early settlers are known to have remained in Spain. Just under a quarter (23.3 percent) married while resident in Puebla or immediately prior to moving there. These facts do suggest some connection between the Pueblan experiment and royal encouragement to live a settled married life. Of those who married in or just before coming to Puebla, almost one-half (47.1 percent) married Indians or mestizas; brides of the remainder were Spanish. Thus it appears that Puebla-inspired marriages favored neither race.

Despite this conclusion, an examination of race of spouse of the early Pueblans indicates that the majority of Pueblans did marry Europeans. All married settlers in the 1531 population had European wives, 80 percent or more of settlers in 1532 and 1533, and about three-quarters of 1534 married settlers. Of all married settlers in founding Puebla, 31.5 percent had Indian or mestiza wives; only three of the unmarried founding population (2.2 percent) are known to have kept Indian mistresses (although, of course, such liaisons were less frequently recorded than marital ties).

The fact that a higher proportion of the early Pueblans were married—and to Spanish wives—than the traditional view of marriage patterns in colonial society has maintained may indicate either the inaccuracy of this generalization or the peculiarity of Puebla. If the latter is correct, however, it seems odd that one of the few innovations that actually succeeded in experimental Puebla should have gone virtually unmentioned in founders’ rhetoric.

On the whole, it appears that Pueblan society underwent very little remodeling as a result of participation in a social experiment. For the most part Puebla’s conquistadors and other experienced settlers seem to have led Eves not dissimilar to those of contemporaries in the 1530s. The founders’ goal of creating a community which would prove that Spaniards could live independent of Indians was not realized. The settlers’ occupational structure would appear to have been very similar to that of other colonists, dependent upon the positions and rewards which conquest had provided and upon the labor and tribute of the conquered. Too, the fact that Pueblans were drawn not from the Tlaxcala region, or from a vagabond life, but from Mexico City, in large part also frustrated founding intentions. Neither was the experiment successful in curbing colonial pretensions to aristocracy; Pueblan claims to hidalguía remained considerable throughout the founding period. Although in the matter of land tenure, founding goals appear to have been implemented with more success, the audiencia directive of 1534 marked an end to this egalitarianism. Only in the area of marital status—never figuring very prominently in founding rhetoric —did the social experiment persist through 1534. The chief success of the Pueblan experiment, in fact, seems to have been simply persuading the founding settlers to remain in Puebla, securing the settlement’s survival and thereby strengthening imperial communications between Mexico and Veracruz—at the cost of most experimental social goals.


Previous treatments of early Pueblan society, including those drawn from contemporary social commentary, need to be revised to encompass both the complexity of founding goals and the actual course of the social experiment. In fact, by attempting in Puebla to resolve most of the major social, economic, political, and military problems that Spain faced in the New World, Puebla’s architects may have doomed their experiment to failure. For many founding goals were inherently incompatible: to expect one settlement to serve as refuge for vagabonds, model Christian community, agrarian peasant village, and military stronghold was, to say the least, optimistic. Other goals were apparently too radical for colonists to accept. A prosopographical study of the settlement actually established during the founding years 1531-1534 reveals that only the most general and least innovative of founding goals were realized in Puebla. The more visionary schemes, particularly those with a more egalitarian flavor, were abandoned even at the start. The crown and its colonial representatives were forced to content themselves with the fact that throughout New Spain the Pueblan experiment was considered successful—even if the nature of the achievement remained unspecified.

This failure to realize any of the truly ambitious social innovations was due in no small part to the willingness of officials to compromise almost at once with the experiment’s chief ideological opponents, the conquistadors, encomenderos, and residents of Mexico City who poured into the new community. It was better to fail than to be seen to fail. In this vacillation and concern with propaganda victories rather than substantive achievements, we may find a parallel with later officially sponsored innovations, such as Las Casas’ and Quiroga’s Indian communities and the gradual introduction of the New Laws in New Spain.

Contemporary social commentary on the Pueblan experiment, despite the inaccuracies which have led historians to conclude erroneously that Puebla’s planned innovations were realized, can still be valuable for scholars. Insofar as such distortions reflect what colonists believed the crown’s aims to be, they reveal a confusion in New Spain over royal goals. From the multiplicity of royal intentions each group assumed that its own particular scheme—from conquistadors’ visions of colonial nobility to the mission clergy’s plans for Christian peasants to oidors’ hopes for soldiers, merchants, and innkeepers—represented the main thrust of official policy. Thus the crown, whether by design or not, represented all things to all men, exhibiting that functional flexibility of the Spanish imperial system which, albeit unable to enforce conformity to a prescribed social order, could nonetheless encompass diverse opinion and avoid the disintegration of social order itself in the New World.


This article is based primarily on materials consulted in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville (AGI); Archivo General de la Nación, México (AGN); Archivo del Ayuntamiento de Puebla (AAP); Archivo General de Notarías del Estado de Puebla; Archivo del Sagrario, Puebla; Archivo del Registro Público de la Propiedad, Puebla; and published document collections such as the Colección de documentos inéditos … de Indias, 42 vols. (Madrid, 1864-1884), [DII] and Francisco del Paso y Troncoso’s Epistolario de Nueva España: 1505-1818, 16 vols. (Mexico City, 1939-1940), [ENE], A more detailed listing of manuscript and published sources available for prosopographical study of sixteenth-century New Spain may be found in Julia Bell Hirschberg, “A Social History of Puebla de los Angeles, 1531-60” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Michigan, 1976).


Audiencia to Crown, México, May 30, 1530, DII, XLI, 39; Crown to Audiencia, Jan. 25, 1531, AGI, México, leg. 1088, tomo 2, fol. 51; Mariano Fernández de Echeverría y Veytia, Historia de la fundación de la ciudad de la Puebla de los Angeles en la Nueva España, 2 vols. (Puebla, 1931), I, 60-61; Motolinía, Motolinía’s History of the Indians of New Spain, trans, by Francis B. Steck (Washington, D.C., 1951), p. 319.


Crown to Audiencia, Ocana, Jan. 18, 1531, in Pedro López de Villasenor, Cartilla vieja de nobilísima ciudad de Puebla, ed. by José I. Mantecón (México, 1961), p. 36.


Audiencia to Crown, México, Mar. 30, 1531, ENE, II, 43; Lic. Juan Salmerón to Consejo de Indias, Mar. 30, 1531, DII, XIII, 195-198.


Justo Sierra, The Political Evolution of the Mexican People, trans, by Charles Ramsdell (Austin, 1969), p. 75; Francisco Pérez Salazar, “Fundación de Puebla de los Angeles,” Boletín de la Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística, 14, nos. 1-6 (1928), 99; François Chevalier, “La signification social de la fondation de Puebla de los Angeles,” Revista de Historia de América, 23 (June 1947), 128-129; Norman F. Martin, Los vagabundos en la Nueva España, siglo XVI (México, 1957),pp. 41-57.


For the selection of early Pueblans, see Juan de Torquemada, Monarchia yndiana, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1723), I, 312; for population estimates see Veytia, Historia, I, 101-103; Motolinía, History, p. 320; Don Luis de Castilla before Consejo de Indias, Toledo, Mar. 12, 1534, AGI, Patronato, leg. 21, no. 4, ramo 1; Diego Bermúdez de Castro, Theatro angelopolitano, ed. by Nicolás León (México, 1908), pp. 16-19; Audiencia to Crown, México, Aug. 14, 1531, DII, XLI, 80; Fray Luis de Fuensalida to Crown, México, Mar. 27, 1531, ENE, II, 34; Motolinía, History, p. 329; Audiencia to Crown, México, Aug. 14, 1531, DII, XLI, 81.


Audiencia to Crown, México, Aug. 14, 1531, DII, XLI, 79-82; Salmerón to Consejo de Indias, México, Aug. 1531, ENE, XVI, 8-15.


Salmerón to Consejo, México, Aug. 13, 1531, ibid., XVI, 8-9.


Motolinía, History, pp. 320-321; Zumárraga before Consejo de Indias, Toledo, Apr. 4, 1534, AGI, Patronato, leg. 21, no. 4, ramo 1; Veytia, Historia, I, 105-108; Audiencia to Salmerón, México, Nov. 18, 1532, AAP, Libros de Cabildo (hereafter cited as LC), suplemento (supl.) 1, fols. 4-5; Land grants, Dec. 5-6, 1532, ibid., fols. 6-9.


Cabildo minutes, Puebla, Dec. 6, 1532, ibid., fols. 7-9.


Meeting of Salmerón with Franciscan guardians, Puebla, Dec. 11, 1532, ibid., supl. 2, fol. 10; Salmerón to Crown, Puebla, Feb. 9, 1533, AGI, México, leg. 68, ramo 1, doc. 1.


Cabildo minutes, Puebla, Feb. 25, 1533, AAP, LC, no. 3, fol. 3; Salmerón’s meeting with guardians, Puebla, Dec. 11, 1532, ibid., supl. 2, fols. 8-15; Guardians to Audiencia, Puebla, Dec. 13, 1532, ibid., supl. 1, fol. 13; Salmerón to Crown, Puebla, May 4, 1533, in José Rivero Carvallo, Ciudad de los Angeles: Proceso de nobleza, 2d ed. (Puebla, 1962), p. 129.


Audiencia to Puebla, México, Apr. 9, 1534, AAP, Reales Cédulas (hereafter cited as RC), vol. 22, fols. 19-24.


Mexico City Cabildo to Crown, México, May 6, 1533, ENE, III, 83-86.


Puebla to Crown, Puebla, ca. Apr. 12-20, 1534, AAP, LC, supl. 1, fols. 21-31; partial copy with royal response in AGI, Patronato, leg. 180, no. 1, ramo 58.


Puebla to Crown, Puebla, ca. Apr. 12-20, 1534, AAP, LC, supl. 1, fols. 21-31; Puebla to Crown, Puebla, Dec. 20, 1537, ibid., fol. 95.


See James Lockhart, Spanish Peru, 1532-1560 (Madison, 1968), p. 9, on this point; Audiencia to Puebla, México, Mar. 9, 1534, AAP, LC, supl. 1, fol. 19.


This group was chosen because: (1) it is impossible to define more than a few patron-criado links and thus heads of household must be inferred from heads of nuclear families; and (2) the legal age of majority, twenty-five, was not rigorously observed in law or practice in Puebla. Younger persons regularly married, took part in business, made legal contracts, and even held office and encomienda.


Charles Gibson, The Aztecs under Spanish Rule (Stanford, 1964), p. 381, table 27; William B. Taylor, Landlord and Peasant in Colonial Oaxaca (Stanford, 1972), p. 18, table 1.


Peter Boyd-Bowman, Indice geobio gráfico de cuarenta mil pobladores españoles de América en el siglo XVI: Vol. I: 1493-1519 (Bogotá, 1964); Vol. II: 1520-1539 (México, 1968), I, xviii-xix and II, xvi-xvii; Richard Konetzke, “La emigración de mujeres españolas a América durante la época colonial,” Revista Internacional de Sociología, 3 (Jan.-Mar. 1945), 123—150; Lockhart, Spanish Peru, pp. 151-152. Female Europeans formed a minimum of 27.4 percent of Puebla’s total population, resident and transient, in the period 1531-1560—a considerably greater portion than Lockhart estimates for Peru in a similar period (Hirschberg, “A Social History,” p. 214, table 37).


There is some contemporary indication that Puebla’s first settlers left their families behind temporarily when they came to Puebla as is evident in Puebla’s 1534 información and in statements such as Salmerón to Puebla, México, Jan. 3, 1534, AAP, LC, supl. 1, fol. 18, and petition of Juan Bernal, Apr. 15, 1534, AGI, México, leg. 340.


Chevalier, “La signification,” pp. 108-109; the man was Juan Gómez de Peñaparda; El repartimiento de tierras…, Oct. 10, 1543, AAP, LC, supl. 1, fol. 24; Francisco A. Icaza, Conquistadores y pobladores de Nueva España, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1923), I, no. 286; Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España, 4th ed., 2 vols. (Mexico, 1955), II, 340; Agustín Millares Cario and José I. Mantecón, eds., Indice y extractos de los protocolos del Archivo de Notarías de México, D.F., 2 vols. (México, 1945-1946), no. 788; Cabildo minutes, Puebla, Mar. 1, 1535, AAP, LC, no. 3, fol. 86.


Boyd-Bowman, Indice, II, ix.


The period 1517-1521 represents the discovery and conquest of New Spain; 1522-1526 covers the major post-conquest “mopping-up” expeditions under Cortés and his lieutenants; after 1526, few real opportunities for important military service presented themselves in New Spain.


James Lockhart, Men of Cajamarca (Austin, 1972), pp. 22-26.


Conquistadors present at the (second) fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521 were designated conquistadores de México and thus deserving of highest reward; others participating in major conquest expeditions in New Spain before about 1528 (arrival of first audiencia) were termed conquistadores de Nueva España, in the second echelon; lesser claims to reward in New Spain could be made by those active in minor skirmishes in the colony, military activity after about 1528, conquests elsewhere in the New World, or even warfare in Europe or Africa. Although these distinctions become blurred by the later sixteenth century, the first generation appears to have preserved them rather carefully. Close relatives of conquistadors in each group received commensurate claim to reward. See, for example, the petitions in Icaza, Conquistadores y pobladores, and in AGI, Patronato.


For example, Kenneth C. Land, “Duration of Residence and Prospective Migration: Further Evidence,” Demography, 6 (May 1969), 133-140.


Comarca is defined here as that territory closer to Puebla than to any other Spanish city, following Pueblan usage.


David M. Heer, Society and Population (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1968), p. 78.


Age is rarely given with precision in sixteenth-century sources although a comparison of several mentions often permits reliable estimation. See Lockhart, Men of Cajamarca, pp. 26-27, on this problem.




In 1544, the New Laws were promulgated in Mexico City. Puebla lost its indios de servicio in 1545 although the city was given a compensatory grant of maiz tribute from Tlaxcala and Cholula to permit the hiring of labor; Mendoza to Caja, México, Sept. 11, 1545, AGI, Contaduría, leg. 661.


Lockhart, Men of Cajamarca, pp. 44-59.


Such allocations were fairly standard in theory—but not in practice.


Audiencia to Puebla, México, Apr. 9, 1534, AAP, RC, vol. 22, fol. 19.


Boyd-Bowman, Indice, II, xxi; Lockhart, Spanish Peru, pp. 35-37.


Occupational categories were selected on the basis of prestige, amount and nature of training necessary, and type of work involved. “Professions” includes here only clergy since no doctors, lawyers, or the like appeared in founding Puebla. Those performing similar services without the prestige or required education of the professions were placed in the “Service” category; the upper level includes procuradores, boticarios, and scribes; lower service includes innkeepers, carters, barbers, and surgeons. “Government place and pension” includes colonial and municipal officials and functionaries. Encomenderos, corregidores, and pensioners are grouped together because the basis for and size of their reward was so similar: encomenderos who lost their pueblos commonly received corregimientos or pensions; pensioners who received corregimientos gave up pensions during their service; see AGI, Contaduría. “Agrarian owners/producers” includes those who farmed or herded on their own lands or directly supervised agricultural labor, which is included with “Unskilled.” “Trade and manufacturing” includes those who prepared food for sale and the building trades as “Artisans” as well as tailors, blacksmiths, locksmiths, and so on—and merchants and lesser tratantes. “Total agrarian sector” includes all Pueblans known to have engaged in or profited from agricultural pursuits.


An examination of encomiendas and corregimientos in the founding period reveals that most Pueblans with such rewards administered towns closer to Puebla than to any other Spanish city. In the case of encomenderos at least, it appears that nearby encomenderos became Pueblans rather than Pueblans receiving nearby encomiendas.


Cabildo minutes, Puebla, Feb. 23, 1535, AAP, LC, no. 3, fol. 89; Viceroy to Puebla, México, Feb. 3, 1536, ibid., supl. 1, fol. 55.


Lockhart, Men of Cajamarca, p. 34.


Ibid., pp. 34-37.


Magnus Mörner, Race Mixture in the History of Latin America (Boston, 1967), pp. 25-27.

Author notes


The author is Assistant Professor of History, Smith College.