Some interesting historical research has been conducted on late colonial Nahua views of conversion, based on information in local-level Nahuatl documents; but a similar study of the early colonial era has not been attempted previously.1 Like so much information from the conquest period, descriptions of the initial evangelization, even from the Spanish point of view, are sketchy. Other than reports from early missionaries—such as Fray Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, who described the Franciscans’ mass baptism of natives—little is known about the pace of conversion and the social contours of the baptized population.2

A corpus of six Nahuatl-language household censuses from the Morelos region, ca. 1535-40, collectively titled the Libro de Tributos, gives unique insight into aspects of conversion, particularly baptism and Christian marriage, from an indigenous point of view.3 This body of documents, closely examined, can help construct a fuller picture of the conversion process than that presented in Robert Ricard’s classic study, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico, which is based on Spanish sources.4 Ricard did not consider the effectiveness of early conversion and baptism to be a central issue in the course of evangelization; but his dismissal of the question should not end the examination of this moment in colonial history.5

The Morelos censuses, moreover, are the earliest and perhaps the only Nahuatl source for such information.6 Until this study, no empirical analysis of Christian evangelization has been based on local-level, native-language documentation. This type of source has allowed scholars to advance their understanding of Indian culture from the inside. Indians, or at least a select group of Indian males, were taught to write the Nahuatl language in Latin letters as part of colonial policy. Consequently, Indians generated many records in Nahuatl for the colonial administration, but also created many for their own use. These include indigenous histories and other formal texts; but most useful for historians have been the community-centered texts, such as indigenous town council records, wills and testaments, bills of sale, and other mundane documents, such as these censuses.7

The process of conversion, or “spiritual conquest,” has been studied primarily from the point of view of the Spanish religious. The methods and techniques of the first generation of Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians in Mexico were examined by Robert Ricard in the early part of this century.8 In many ways, Ricard’s picture resembles what the religious orders themselves painted, and The Spiritual Conquest includes a chapter titled “The Virtues of the Founders.” Yet Ricard’s work is significant for delineating the problems facing the regular clergy in New Spain, as well as their usually practical solutions.

More recently, some scholars have challenged the Ricardian view as incomplete, and have begun exploring indigenous viewpoints using selected texts produced by the friars. A theoretical framework for Indian responses to Christianity has been outlined by J. Jorge Klor de Alva, and the degree to which indigenous thought and beliefs shaped Indians’ acceptance and understanding of Christianity has received sophisticated analysis from Louise Burkhart.9 Burkhart has gone farther than any other scholar in showing how indigenous beliefs shaped the form and content of the Christian message, not just in its reception by the Nahuas but in its original framing by the Spanish religious.

Background of the Spiritual Conquest

The “spiritual conquest,” the attempt by Spanish clergy to convert the indigenous peoples of the New World to Christianity, was seen as a necessary companion to the military conquest. For Spaniards of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, militant Christianity was an integral part of the world view, stemming from their successful struggle to reconquer Spain. It turned their overseas expeditions into missions of discovery, conquest, settlement, and conversion. Conversion was politically important, for it was the legal basis for the Spanish crown’s overseas empire.10 The first phase of religious efforts, in the Caribbean (1492-1519), was not conspicuously successful, since the indigenous population was on the road to extinction. Systematic proselytizing began in Mexico with the mendicant orders—Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians—shortly after the fall of Tenochtitlan.11

The Spaniards’ experiences attempting to convert Jews and Muslims on the Iberian peninsula set the precedents for strategies utilized in the New World.12 On the other hand, the New World populations differed from the Jews and Muslims, who had had contact with Christianity and rejected it. The Indians were to be won to Christianity by preaching and example, not coercion. Moreover, expulsion of those who refused baptism was not an option, as it had been in Iberia. The complex civilization of the Nahuas of Central Mexico put missionary efforts to the test, but dense populations were rapidly converted to the rudiments of Christian belief and practice.

In central Mexico the Spanish administrative structures, both civil and ecclesiastical, were based on the organization of native political structures, particularly the altepetl, or province-sized city-state.13 In the civil sphere, the largest altepetl became the basis for the colonial structure of cabeceras, or head towns, with outlying settlements as sujetos, or subject communities. In the conquest period, the labor of these native communities was awarded to Spaniards in encomiendas. As for the church, sometime in the early sixteenth century it organized doctrinas, with resident clergy in the main settlements, and outlying population clusters designated visitas. The visitas were an integral part of the ecclesiastical structure, but their residents saw the clergy only at intervals.14

Precisely when these colonial structures were formally established is unclear. The territory was divided among the three main mendicant orders, which assumed the major responsibility for evangelizing the Indians. Because the Franciscans arrived first in 1524, they had first choice; but the Dominicans quickly asserted themselves after their arrival in 1526. The Augustinians, arriving last in 1533, often staked out territories unclaimed by the other two orders.15

The Morelos Censuses

The set of early sixteenth-century Nahuatl censuses covers six Morelos communities: Huitzillan, Quauhchichinollan, Tepoztlan, Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco. The three volumes of census material are well known to specialists, and portions of them have been published.16 Although they have been examined carefully for information on social and economic structure, their record of baptisms and Christian marriages has been largely overlooked. Pedro Carrasco points to the large number of unbaptized persons as evidence for the early dating of the censuses, but does not pursue the matter further.17 The data on individuals’ baptismal status and, to a lesser extent, the number of couples joined in Christian marriage, can be analyzed to trace the contours of the spiritual conquest in a central Mexican region approximately 20 years after the fall of Tenochtitlan.

Just as the Ricardian view has its limitations, the Morelos censuses present an incomplete picture, both from the indigenous side and for the entire central Nahua region. To begin with, except for Tepoztlan, the exact location of these towns cannot be pinpointed, although Carrasco has suggested the others may have been near Yautepec.18 The scholarly literature generally agrees in placing all of these towns in the domain awarded to the conqueror Hernando Cortés, the Marquesado del Valle de Oaxaca. Because it was part of the Marquesado, Morelos had fewer Spaniards, and in some ways the area was relatively isolated from Central Mexico. The censuses are not dated, but all appear to have been composed at the same time, probably sometime between 1535 and 1540, to resolve a dispute between Cortés and the crown.19

Not knowing the precise location of five of the six towns also raises the question of which religious order evangelized them. All three mendicant orders operated in Cortés’ Morelos domain. The Franciscans established themselves in Cuernavaca in 1525, the Dominicans soon after in Oaxtepec (1528), and the Augustinians in Yecapixtla (1535). The Dominicans are known to have established monasteries in Tepoztlan (ca. 1556) and Yautepec (ca. 1550); they were doubtless operating there before the church buildings were constructed.20 If Carrasco’s supposition is correct, it is likely that the Dominicans were responsible for evangelization in all the census towns. The matter is relevant because the Franciscans and the Dominicans had different philosophies of evangelization. The Dominicans emphasized more instruction before baptism than the Franciscans did.21 The order in charge in a given place could therefore affect the baptismal rates. Despite this and other difficulties in using the censuses, however, these records are extremely valuable for their abundant information on the Nahuas’ acceptance of some Christian forms.

The census data were undoubtedly collected for tribute purposes, and they are presented in two forms: house-to-house enumerations and final summaries of specific categories of information. With some variations, the enumerations list the head of household (usually a senior male) and all his dependents, along with their relationship to him. The age of each unmarried child is generally given. A person’s baptismal status is noted, and in some cases couples sacramentally married are indicated as such. In the Tepoztlan census (volume 550), the listings for children are not as complete, giving information only on the oldest unmarried child. Married children are listed with their spouses; unmarried younger children have no enumeration for gender, age, or baptismal status. All the censuses specify the size of the household’s fields and the amount and periodicity of tribute deliveries.

Although information on baptism (and sometimes Christian marriage) is given in the individual household listings, it is not found in the final summaries, apparently because it has no economic significance. The summaries indicate only the numbers of people in different civil categories: married couples, with no distinction between Christian marriage and other unions; widows; single persons; and minor children, as well as total tribute goods delivered.22

One set of questions for analyzing the census data focuses on the dynamics of baptism: who was baptized first and why; whether baptism affected household structure and economic arrangements; how baptism affected married couples; whether baptismal rates differed between males and females, adults and minors; how Christian names and naming patterns evolved; and how the baptized indigenous perceived the unbaptized. Other questions involve Christian marriage: how extensive it was at this period, who entered such unions, and what were the Indians’ attitudes toward and expectations of this institution. The patterns that emerge yield a picture of baptism and marriage in the indigenous context to determine how it affected individual lives, the larger social and economic structure, and the pace of the spiritual conquest.

The censuses reveal significant variations not only in the total number baptized in different places, but also the age and gender of those baptized. In addition, patterns of Christian marriage seem to vary from one community to another. From these data researchers can speculate about the presence and effectiveness of clergy in the region.

Baptismal Patterns

Comparing the tribute levies of households that included baptized persons and those that did not indicates that baptism caused no obvious economic impact, good or bad. Both the baptized and the unbaptized had similarsized fields and tribute requirements. Since the censuses were apparently compiled for economic reasons, the fact that information on baptism and Christian marriage was collected even in the individual household listings is notable. Such information must have had social significance that warranted recording it, yet apparently it had no economic ramifications.

Spanish sources provide some idea of whom the friars first sought to baptize. Just as the Spaniards used the standard technique of capturing the cacique to hasten military conquest, the friars meant to facilitate large-scale religious conversion by targeting indigenous rulers for baptism. This followed the European practice of converting the monarch so that his subjects would follow suit.23 Colonial Mexican texts by Nahuas prominently record the conversion of rulers. Even if the purported early baptism of the Indian lords of Tlaxcala is not historically accurate, it is a celebrated episode in that polity’s history. In Texcoco, its ruler, Ixtlilxochitl, and some others were said to have been baptized by Fray Martín de Valencia in 1524, perhaps after instruction by Fray Pedro de Gante. Children were also targeted for baptism, particularly rulers’ sons.24

The Morelos censuses contain evidence that native elites were targeted for baptism, presumably so as to exert pressure on their subjects to convert also. The dynastic rulers (tlatoque; singular tlatoani) of Huitzillan, Quauhchichinollan, and Tepoztlan, as well as the rulers of Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco were baptized. What is more interesting in these rulers’ households, however, is that in a number of cases not all members were baptized. The Huitzillan tlatoani’s household comprised 20 people, 11 of whom were baptized. Six of his 8 children were baptized; only the youngest 2 were not. The tlatoani had 6 concubines, just 3 of whom were baptized. There were also various unbaptized dependents.25 The ruler of Quauhchichinollan was baptized, but in his household of 17 only 3 others were, including a concubine, a brother, and a dependent’s child.26 In Tepoztlan, however, the ruler’s household of 10 had just one unbaptized person, a slave.27 Molotlan’s ruler’s household had 15 people, only 2 of whom were not baptized.28 Of all the rulers’ households, only in those of Tepetenchic and Panchimalco was everyone baptized.29 Although these are high rates of baptism, unbaptized adults were present even in these elite residences. Therefore the decision to be baptized could have remained an individual one for adults.

The rulers’ households in turn are an index to baptismal patterns in the larger communities (see table 1). Quauhchichinollan, followed by Huitzillan, had the fewest baptisms overall, while Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco all had high percentages. Tepoztlan’s data are problematic because the information on children is more limited, but the rate of adult baptism is high.

The distribution of the baptized varied from one community to another (table 2). Tepetenchic had the highest percentage of households with everyone baptized—more than half; Panchimalco and Molotlan also had significant numbers in that category, as did Tepoztlan, from available data. Quauhchichinollan had no household at all with everyone baptized, and the two cases in Huitzillan were highly unusual two-person households— baptized couples with no dependents.30 Households comprising a mixture of baptized and unbaptized were close to half in Tepoztlan, Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco, with Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan again lagging. The unbaptized constituted the majority in Quauhchichinollan, with more than three-quarters of the households showing no one baptized, closely followed by Huitzillan. The number of unbaptized households in Molotlan, Tepoztlan, Panchimalco, and Tepetenchic was negligible; especially Tepetenchic, with just 3 cases out of 116.

In the households with a mixture of baptized and unbaptized, the analysis of who was unbaptized gives further insight into the dynamics of conversion. Table 3 compares the numbers of unbaptized in mixed households, showing that generally in Tepetenchic, Molotlan, Panchimalco, and to the extent known, Tepoztlan, only one or two people were unbaptized in a given household, whereas in Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan the unbaptized generally constituted the majority of household members. The latter two communities show no clustering of baptized members in a few households, and the other four show no clustering of unbaptized. In Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan some of the mixed households could be quite large, with as many as 14 unbaptized members. How isolated the one or two baptized felt in this situation is not known.

In the four communities with high percentages of baptized, the unbaptized in mixed households provide a means to understand conversion at an advanced but still incomplete stage. Table 4 indicates that in those communities the mixed households included more unbaptized adults than children. Children are lumped into a single category, since gender cannot always be determined by the Nahuatl given name. Children in these four communities accounted for less than a quarter of the unbaptized, and a great number of these were newborns.

A much larger number of household heads were unbaptized. Panchimalco had 49, one a woman (29 percent); Molotlan 28 (22 percent); Tepetenchic 22 (19 percent); and Tepoztlan 158 (29 percent). Clearly, heads of households were not dictating the baptismal status of household members, but it is even more interesting that frequently the head was the only one not baptized. Given that the majority of the population in these four communities was baptized, the continuing non-Christian status of household heads in the community at large may indicate either that they were not targeted for baptism or, if they were, they resisted it.

A small but noteworthy group of the unbaptized were slaves. Only a few slaves resided in Tepoztlan, Huitzillan, and Tepetenchic, and many of them were unbaptized. The entire Huitzillan census lists just 1 slave, in the tlatoani’s household, where the slave was one of 9 unbaptized residents.31 The Tepoztlan tlatoani’s household, however, contained 6 slaves, just 1 of whom was unbaptized. The community as a whole included 17 unbaptized slaves and 13 baptized; of the baptized, all but one were women. The baptized were concentrated in five households and the unbaptized in 9 households.32 Tepetenchic had 6 slaves; 3 baptized, 3 unbaptized.33

Slaves in early colonial central Mexico generally had held that status since the pre-Hispanic era. Slavery came to an end fairly early in the central region, though it continued in frontier areas, especially targeting natives who fiercely resisted pacification.34 Slaves in pre-Hispanic society could marry and hold property on their own, but how much their sub-ordinate status changed in the colonial period is unclear. Why many of the slaves in the Morelos censuses are unbaptized is not known. Did the clergy put less effort into converting them? As the foregoing examples have shown, rulers and household heads apparently did not coerce adults in their units to convert; the evidence that unbaptized slaves shared households with baptized residents may enhance the perception that adult baptism was an individual choice. Perhaps continued non-Christian status for these native slaves was a form of resistance. On the other hand, slave-owners might have kept their slaves away from the clergy, controlling the slaves in a manner not possible with kin or other dependents. Or perhaps slave status brought with it some form of ostracism similar to the treatment of outside groups in Nahua communities. Here that treatment might have been applied to exclude slaves from the higher status of the baptized.

Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan

The two communities where fewer people were baptized present sharply different patterns from the other four. The contrast suggests that the conversion process was captured at two different points: the initial contact by the religious in Quauhchichinollan and Huitzillan, and the more advanced stage in the other four communities. The critical factor is the frequency of contact with the Spanish religious. This cannot be proven definitively, since the censuses contain neither explicit testimony of contact with the religious nor specific evidence for these communities from the religious themselves. In general, however, in the early sixteenth century, the Nahua population was dense (although reduced by epidemics) and the number of Spanish religious was small. These conditions had changed by the end of the century, with a smaller indigenous population and sufficient clergy to minister to them.35

It is generally accepted that by this later time, everyone in the area close to Mexico City was baptized or passing as such. The Códice franciscano reports that the friars dealt with the delicate matter of Indians passing themselves off as baptized. When the friars became aware of the situation, they would secretly baptize those Indians.36 In the latter sixteenth century, the usual practice was for all central Mexican Indians to be baptized, and its lack was hidden and cause for further subterfuge.

In the earlier period, however, the data are relatively reliable, and those for Quauhchichinollan and Huitzillan can be comparatively analyzed. The Huitzillan census is divided into two distinct sections.37 The first part consists of 41 households closest in the listings to the tlatoani’s household. The second part consists of 139 households. The distinction between the first and second sections is quite useful. In both communities, the baptized are a small percentage of the total population (see table 1). Quauhchichinollan had a population of 971, of which only 39, or about 4 percent, were baptized. The total population of Huitzillan was 1,464, with 274 in the first section and 1,190 in the second. The baptized were 20 percent of the population in the first section and just 6 percent of the second section (see table 5). The Quauhchichinollan census and the second section of the Huitzillan census are thus roughly comparable.

In neither Quauhchichinollan nor Huitzillan were adults the majority of the baptized population. Quauhchichinollan and the second section of Huitzillan reported relatively few adult women baptized. The first section of Huitzillan, with its higher percentage of baptized, shows more baptized women than men. Children were the majority of the baptized, and overwhelmingly they were boys. This confirms Motolinia’s reports about the targeting of children.38 Quauhchichinollan shows a great imbalance between baptized males and females. Huitzillan’s data show more males than females being baptized, but the percentage difference is not as glaring. In sum, in these two communities, the typical baptized person was a boy.

The age breakdown of the baptized minors also deserves attention. In Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan, for both boys and girls, the largest number of baptized were between 6 and 10 years old—a very impressionable age. If the Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan censuses are taken as models of how baptism was introduced, they indicate that infant baptism was not the norm initially. In only one case in either of these censuses is a child baptized at less than a year old: one Tomás was born “half a year ago” (ya tlacoxivitl. yn tlacat).39

Judging from the relatively few unbaptized children in the other communities, infant baptism probably became standard as contact with clergy increased. In Panchimalco, for example, census entries indicate a baptized child was “born last year” (ya monamicti yn tlacat). Even more common was the dating of a baptized child’s birth to a certain number of days (usually in multiples of 20).40 According to the Códice franciscano, in the second half of the sixteenth century parents would bring children to be baptized on Sundays at Mass and Thursdays at vespers, but when this custom was established is unclear.41

The baptism patterns for households differed slightly between Quauhchichinollan and Huitzillan (table 6). In Quauhchichinollan the most common household situation was that just one person was baptized. This was not the case in Huitzillan, where often several members of a household were baptized. In Quauhchichinollan, 74 percent of the households with baptized had just one baptized person, and it was rarely the household head. In the first section of the Huitzillan census (the one with the closer connection to the tlatoani), only 26 percent of the households with baptized had just one baptized member, while in the second section 47 percent fell into that category. The higher number of Huitzillan baptized in the tlatoani’s household (11) and the larger number of households with multiple baptized residents in section one suggest that the tlatoani’s baptism did indeed have an influence on his subjects, although it was not decisive. A possible conclusion is that the religious targeted the tlatoani’s district first for evangelization.

As to who was baptized in Quauhchichinollan and Huitzillan, it was, as noted earlier, fewer adults than children; but who they were is worth examining. In the first section of Huitzillan it was common—though not the rule—for the householder himself to be baptized. In Quauhchichinollan, however, just six men were baptized at all, and of these only two were household heads. The category “other” in table 7 includes a variety of kin, encompassing many complex household situations that are reflected in the size of this category.42

For the adults in the community, the baptism of children may not have been initially significant. The baptism of the male household head was clearly important, as seen in collective designations of baptismal status; but whether these notations were judgments by the census taker or by the household member or members giving the information is unclear. In the Quauhchichinollan census, which has the largest percentage of unbaptized people, scribes wrote the phrase “None of the residents here is baptized” (y nica chaneque ayac mocuatequia) as the opening formula for the household.43 Frequently this blanket statement was incorrect; the households did have baptized members. Examination of the households indicates that in none of the cases of incorrect identification was the household head the baptized person. With the exception of two instances, none of the unacknowledged baptized was an adult.44 A very interesting case is a household where five members were baptized, including the only couple in the whole census to be married sacramentally, but the enumeration begins, “no one is baptized here.”45 The importance of the baptismal status of the head of household (almost always an adult male) thus emerges; children and non-household heads counted for less.

The overall baptismal patterns for couples indicate that most partners had the same status (table 8). In Molotlan, Tepetenchic, Panchimalco, and Tepoztlan, most people were baptized; and this trend also appears in couples’ baptismal patterns (and since the Tepoztlan data are complete for adults, the information on partners’ status is comparable to the other censuses). Both partners baptized constituted the clear majority in Tepoztlan, Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco. Unbaptized couples were the majority in Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan, where virtually no one was baptized. For the four communities that were more mixed, unbaptized couples still constituted a significant minority (see percentages in table 8). Mixed couples were a minority overall in these four communities. In Panchimalco the wife baptized and the husband not was more usual (19 percent) than vice versa (4 percent). There is one example of a Panchimalco household with three couples in which the wives are baptized but the husbands are not.46 Overall, the differences in the other communities are not as lopsided as in Panchimalco.

In Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan the baptismal status of parents and minor children often differed. Households included unbaptized parents and baptized children, frequently when there was just one child.47 A number of unbaptized parents had all their children baptized.48 More frequently, though, only some minor children were baptized.

Where some children were baptized and others not, no clear pattern emerges. Sometimes the only one baptized was the oldest, but in other cases, the only minor child not baptized was the oldest.49 The unbaptized oldest child often appeared where the parents were unbaptized. In one family with five children, the only one not baptized was a 15-year-old son.50 It might be speculated that it was his own decision not to be baptized. Another unusual situation is a family with three children. The two minors, aged 6 and 3, were baptized, but the married eldest daughter, Teyacapan, was unbaptized and married to a baptized man. Since Teyacapan was surrounded by her baptized husband and siblings, her unbaptized status is noteworthy.51 If familial pressure was exerted for her to be baptized, she seems to have resisted it.

When only the youngest child was not baptized, perhaps lack of opportunity rather than lack of desire was at work. This was doubtless the case in Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco, with their high baptism rates. Even in Huitzillan, with its lower overall rate, there seems to be some evidence of this. The tlatoani and his wife had six of their seven children baptized; only the youngest was not.52 In Huitzillan and Quauh-chichinollan, however, the baptism of the youngest or younger two, but not the oldest, was not unusual.53 Perhaps the older the child, the more personal the choice.

Christian Names and Naming Patterns

Upon baptism a person took or was given a Christian saint’s name. Where the census listing does not explicitly say a person is baptized, the listing of a Christian name is a sure indicator of baptism. In some cases siblings within the same family had the same saint’s name, which might suggest that the Christian name was not what the person was usually called. It might also imply that the cleric did not know his parishioners well, for he might have hesitated to baptize siblings with the same name. Individuals clearly knew their Spanish baptismal names, however, because the census reproduces them.

While it was unusual for siblings to bear the same baptismal name, it was common for mothers and fathers to have the same baptismal name as their same-gender children. For men, this was a change from pre-Hispanic practice, for it was rare for men to have the same Nahuatl name as their sons. Women’s Nahuatl names, however, were quite stereotypical, birth-order names (Tiacapan, “oldest ”; Tlaco, “middle child”; and Xoco, “youngest”). Duplication of women’s Nahuatl and Christian names was frequent within the same nuclear and certainly the same extended family.

Certain phrasing in the censuses may suggest that the Nahuatl name was used as a term of address. One notation says, “She has a child, baptized, named Perico; his local name is Qualchamitl. ”54 In the Molotlan census the Nahuatl name is referred to as the macehualtoca or “commoner name.”55 There is clearly a perceived difference between the Nahuatl name and the Christian. It is unclear whether one or the other was used by preference, but the distinction was drawn. Another entry reads, “Mexicatl’s second younger sibling is named Nicolás; his old-style name is Teuctlamacazqui.”56 Nicolás was a resident of Quauhchichinollan, where few people were baptized, so he may have made a special point of his two names. His Christian commitment was quite strong, for the previous year he had married sacramentally (teoyotica omonamicti), the only such union recorded in Quauhchichinollan. By the end of the sixteenth century, the use of Christian given names without Nahuatl ones was quite common. Some Nahuas even took standard Spanish surnames as well.57

During the late sixteenth century in the Nahua community of Culhuacan, men’s baptismal names showed greater variety than women’s; but in nearby Coyoacan, this apparently was not the case.58 In the Morelos censuses the pattern resembles the one found later in Culhuacan. A closer look at the male baptismal names in the Morelos censuses reveals that they are quite stereotypical. The inventory of all baptismal names comes to a total of 42 men’s names and just 20 women’s names, but no single community used every name.59 The dubbing of some Indians with more unusual baptismal names, such as Damián, Calisto, and Ambrosio, may mean that the cleric had special favorites or that Indians were given saint’s names corresponding to the saint’s day on which they were born or baptized.60

Looking at the data on Christian names for men, it is not surprising that Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan, with their very small baptized populations, had a very narrow repertoire (Huitzillan 13; Quauhchichinollan 8). The other communities, Tepoztlan, Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco, list between 25 and 31 names. Even so, a few men’s names were popular and accounted for the majority. The name Domingo led in all communities, with the all-time high in Quauhchichinollan, where 12 (35 percent) of the 34 baptized males had that name. The Yautepec region was a Dominican stronghold, which may account for the high proportion of Domingos and may lend weight to the supposition that the communities of unknown location were in the Yautepec area. The names Juan, Francisco, and Martín were also popular in all communities. One consideration obviously of no influence in the choice of a baptismal name was the current political ruler of Spain: no one was called Carlos.61

Female baptismal names showed little variety; Magdalena was the most popular. In Huitzillan 30 (63 percent) of the 48 baptized females bore that name, while in other communities it represented between 30 and 36 percent of females. It is interesting that the name was not especially common among Spanish women at this time. María was the second most popular name overall, and in Tepoztlan it just beat Magdalena. Ana and Juana were the other two names commonly given. In other parts of central Mexico, María, Magdalena, Ana, and Juana were still popular at the end of the sixteenth century.62

Christian Marriage

If data on baptism are copious in the Morelos censuses, evidence of Christian marriage is much less so. Permanent conjugal unions were a standard part of the pre-Hispanic social fabric, but these unions differed from Christian marriage in some important ways. Divorce was permissible, and so was marriage to more than one wife simultaneously. What’s more, concubines had a recognized status. Christian marriage was a lifelong, indissoluble union to one spouse, though remarriage after being widowed was permissible. In practice, concubinage existed in European Christian society, but it was not morally permissible.

The mendicants tried to institute the Christian sacrament of marriage, but they were far less successful, even superficially, than they apparently were with baptism.63 Fray Alonso de Molina’s confesionario of 1569 goes into considerable detail about preparing the couple for the sacrament of marriage and about the relationships that prohibited marriage.64 Molina drew up his confessional manual after the Council of Trent (1545-63), which codified various aspects of Catholic marriage practices, to counter Protestant views of marriage and divorce.65 Molina’s manual makes it explicit that both prospective partners had to be baptized. The Morelos censuses, however, deal with pre-Trent practices, so the parameters of nuptial practice are not clear. Certainly with the few people baptized in Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan, a minimum requirement for Christian marriage was generally not fulfilled.

Language may be an indicator of shifts in native perceptions of what constituted marriage. The phrase for Christian marriage in early sixteenth-century Nahuatl is teoyotica omonamicti, which can be rendered as “took a match through divinity or sacrament.” By the later sixteenth century, the modifier teoyotica, “through divinity or sacrament,” was usually omitted, so the early form found in the Morelos censuses is notable. More commonly, these early censuses refer to marriage with the term cihuatia, “acquire a woman”; oquichtia, “acquire a man”; or the plural reflexive ana, “to take” (for example, manque, “they took each other”). Usually the last phrase was followed by a specification of how long a couple without children had been married. A man’s wife was called icihuauh, “his woman,” and a woman’s husband ioquich, “her man,” a variation of the more standard form ioquichhui. These usages seem to have been applied to men and women with recognized Christian marriages.

A Nahuatl term for spouse, -namic, often found in late sixteenth-century documents, does not appear in this form in any of the Morelos censuses; it may have developed later, when Christian marriage was more firmly established. It is standard by the 1580s, when people would call their partner nonamic, “my spouse,” and sometimes, with greater affect, nonamictzin, “my honorable spouse.”66 In the Morelos censuses the verbal form of -namic, namictia, was coming into use with the phrase teoyotica omonamicti, “married through divinity or sacrament,” meaning Christian marriage; and the negative, amo monamicti, “not married.” The tlatoani of Quauhchichinollan is described as not being married (amo monamictia) but having three concubines.67 In Huitzillan the phrase ayamo nami-queque, “they do not yet have spouses,” also appears.68 It may well be that this terminology for marriage is a postconquest development and specifically linked to the Christian concept of sacramental marriage.

Overall, the number of couples whose marriages are explicitly said to be Christian is small. No one at all in Huitzillan apparently had a Christian marriage, and in Quauhchichinollan just one couple did; surprisingly, not the tlatoani.69 For Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan, the absence of the notation about couples with recognized Christian unions is consistent with the baptismal data. But both Panchimalco and Tepoztlan, which had high rates of baptism, list only two couples whose unions are explicitly noted as sacramental.70 Tepetenchic had just four such couples.71 In all these cases, the census taker went out of his way to indicate the difference between Christian marriages and others, but the comparison is not necessarily straightforward.

Only in the Molotlan census do phrases appear suggesting that Christian marriage was the norm. Census entries in other locations might imply that Christian marriage was not standard. Dynastic rulers in Panchimalco, Tepoztlan, and Tepetenchic are among the very few identified as having been married sacramentally.72 And as noted earlier, the tlatoani of Quauhchichinollan is described specifically as not being married, though he has three concubines. Despite its census pattern, however, Molotlan’s ruler is not explicitly identified as having a union sanctified by the church.73 Even more interesting is that five households had varying numbers of couples described as “not married through divinity” (ha[m]o teoyotica monamictia).74 Only five couples are positively described as married sacramentally.75 For all other Molotlan couples, nothing is said one way or the other about the nature of their marital bond; but it is quite possible that Christian marriage actually was standard here and that only its lack was noteworthy.

The importance of the husband in the Indians’ view of marriage (perhaps the male Indians’ view) is suggested by the phrasing in a Tepetenchic household enumeration. One Francisco was married to a woman named Juana, and the passage ends, “Francisco was married through divinity” (deoyotica omonamicti y frcv).76 This focus on the husband is consistent with the censuses’ use of the male head of household as the point of reference for enumerations.

One highly unusual notation about a Molotlan marriage is in Nahuatlized Spanish. In translation the entry reads: “Domingo Pantli and his wife named Marta Teyacapan do not yet have children; he has been married two years.” (domingo pa[n]tli yn izivauh ytoca maltha teyacapan a[m]o pilhuaque tus anos casato).77 The phrase specifying the number of years married, tus anos casato, is an entirely standard way for a Nahuatl speaker to render the Spanish phrase dos años casado.78 In these very early Nahuatl texts, which contain virtually no Spanish loanwords, this Spanish phrase indicates a certain level of contact between the Indian scribe and the Spaniards—enough for the Spanish word for “married” (casado) to make its way into the scribe’s active vocabulary. Because language is embedded in culture, this Nahuatl-speaker’s use of a Spanish phrase to indicate married status is especially noteworthy.79 It is interesting that the couple in question is not specified as being married sacramentally. As explained earlier, in Molotlan the implication of such an omission may be that it was a Christian marriage rather than not. In this case, the Spanish phrasing implies Christian marriage, which was the Spanish norm.

The native practice of having more than one wife or a wife and concubines was something the mendicants had a good deal of difficulty stamping out—and it still has an underground existence today in some parts of central Mexico.80 Having several wives was an index of status for men and was still standard in some communities in the early postconquest period. In Huitzillan, even though the tlatoani, don Tomás, had a wife (içivahu), he also had six concubines (imecava), three of whom were baptized.81 In Quauhchichinollan the ruler, don Martín, was said to be not married (amo monamictia) but had three concubines (yeyti imecava), one of whom was baptized.82 In Molotlan the ruler had five wives, four of whom were baptized (yziguagua macuiltin navinti omocuatequia).83 The norms of Christian marriage were indeed met by some rulers, for the rulers of Tepoztlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco were married sacramentally, had only one wife, and had no other partners, such as concubines.84 In those three communities, moreover, the rate of baptism was high.

Baptism did not deter couples from living in polygynous unions. Several census listings show baptized men having two wives, both of whom were also baptized.85 None of these unions was said to be a Christian marriage, which was expected to be a lifelong union with one partner or, at least, one partner at a time. It might be asked when baptism took place for people in polygynous relationships. Was it before or after the unions were established?

In 1530, the crown attempted to regulate converted Indians’ marriage patterns by legislation, setting punishments for a man taking a second wife while the first still lived. Clearly, in the Morelos region between about 1535 and 1540, this decree seems not to have affected practice. Indians were forthcoming in stating their true situations. It is noteworthy that the 1530 royal decree allowed unbaptized Indians to follow their traditional patterns, but by 1551 the rule applied to all Indians regardless of baptismal status.86 The clergy’s concern with stamping out the practice of polygyny reportedly often resulted in the practice of men sacramentally marrying their first or favorite wife.87

As for Indian views of Christianity, the question of belief cannot be probed deeply, for the texts generally do not provide the means to do so. There is only a hint about one baptized Indian’s attitude toward the unbaptized. A scribe for the Panchimalco census noted that “no one is baptized, they do not know our lord God” (ayac [mocuat]equia amo quiximaty y totecuio y dios).88 The phrasing is entirely standard, and this is the earliest known example of it in local-level texts. In the censuses the more usual entry simply indicates that someone is not baptized (amo mocuatequia). It is also interesting that the scribe uses the Spanish loanword dios for God—indicating again the impact of Spanish Christian ideas and vocabulary. It has been said that the friars used Spanish loanwords in Nahuatl discourse to make the distinction between Christian and indigenous non-Christian concepts; but what actually occurred on either side of the cultural exchange is unclear.89

As noted previously, the very fact that the censuses record the baptismal status of individuals, and to a lesser degree the number of Christian marriages, indicates that for the census takers as well as the natives who were enumerated, individuals’ Christian status counted for something.


In light of the notion that Nahuas flocked to Christianity in the aftermath of conquest for a variety of political, religious, and psychological reasons, how can the Morelos census material be interpreted? It is likely that the Indians were predisposed to convert, because the pattern in pre-Hispanic central Mexico was that conquered populations took on the gods of the conquering power. James Lockhart has viewed colonial-era Nahuas as needing less to be persuaded than instructed.90 In the Morelos censuses the baptismal patterns vary, and perhaps the sacramental marriage patterns as well. This leads to the conclusion that the communities stood at two different stages of the conversion process; Quauhchichinollan and Huitzillan essentially at the beginning and Molotlan, Tepetenchic, Panchimalco, and Tepoztlan at a later but not final stage. Although neither Spanish nor Nahua records can confirm the assumption, the variations in patterns seem to be tied directly to differences in the frequency and level of contact with the clergy. This in turn suggests that low rates of baptism and sacramental marriage in some communities can be explained as a function of clerical contact rather than indifference or resistance. Thus the notion of Nahuas readily accepting Christianity is generally supported by the data if communities had increased contact with the religious. Resident or frequently visiting clergy could baptize and catechize the Indians, perform the sacraments, and reinforce the notion of Christian marriage to one wife.

If Quauhchichinollan and Huitzillan are taken as models of communities in the early stages of evangelization, then the Indians cannot be said to have embraced Christianity en masse. In households, baptism was by ones and twos, and in the community at large it was scattered, although concentrated somewhat in the tlatoani’s district in Huitzillan. The other four communities, Molotlan, Tepetenchic, Panchimalco, and Tepoztlan, show high rates of baptism, with the very old and the very young well represented in the unbaptized population. These communities had a few pockets of unbaptized households, but generally the unbaptized appeared by ones and twos in individual households. Baptism was standard practice, but the pace and the means by which this standard was achieved are not made explicit. The friars themselves noted variations in rates of baptism, with what we might now call quantum leaps in numbers of Christians; the period 1532-1536 was particularly important in central Mexico.91

The ideal of Christian conversion was that baptism should be a voluntary decision by each person regardless of class or gender. In Europe, where Christianity was tied to secular politics, conversion of the ruler meant that his subjects became Christians as well; but that European pattern was not replicated in Mexico. This is perhaps the most important conclusion from this study of Morelos baptismal patterns. The mendicant orders, particularly the Franciscans and Dominicans, who had already been involved in missionary efforts in Iberia, seem to have returned to the ideals of the early church, stressing personal religious commitment. Admittedly, in early colonial Mexico some native rulers were targeted for baptism nevertheless, and so particularly were their sons, who in the early period were seen as potential candidates for the Christian priesthood.92

The variation in baptismal status even in the highest-ranking Morelos households suggests that the ideal of conversion as an individual decision may have been attained to a considerable extent. The hope of the religious orders was to baptize as many as possible as soon as possible, especially because the demographic disaster was under way in Mexico as it had been in the Caribbean. But in central Mexico, apparently, the mendicants were not converting by coercion. Judging from the Morelos censuses, high-ranking converts and households were not coercing their subjects or dependents. Nor were they obstructing conversion, except possibly among their slaves. Higher rates of baptism for the tlatoani’s people in Huitzillan suggest that even if the tlatoani did not directly coerce baptism, his own baptism did influence others, if for no other reason than that the friars likely were concentrating on him and his district first.

The higher initial rate of baptism for males, like the targeting of rulers, may have brought social pressure to bear on Morelos families; but evidence may show that household heads resisted baptism later, in the more advanced stage of the spiritual conquest. The higher rate for minors, particularly boys, in the communities least touched by Christianity indicates the long-term interests of the clergy. These census data confirm reports by the friars themselves.

The baptismal patterns of both adults and children give insight into the dynamics of conversion. The like-baptismal status of couples suggests that the marital bond was strong and that it influenced the decision whether or not to be baptized. With parents and children, the difference in baptismal status can be variously interpreted. It may have been parents’ positive response to the opportunity to have their children baptized; their neutrality toward the friars’ efforts to baptize the young; or their inability to prevent them. Given all the other indicators, the last possibility seems unlikely. For adults, baptism of children simply may not have seemed particularly important initially, as indicated by the cases in which households were misidentified as containing no baptized members. Actually, the misidentified households generally did not contain baptized adults.

While the decision to be baptized was probably the individual’s, particularly for adults, it is unclear how much the baptismal name was an individual choice and whether it was important. It is notable that these names were either freely volunteered by household members or elicited by the census takers. Clearly, as a marker of baptized status, the baptismal name was a more specific way to distinguish one person from another. In Morelos, there was greater choice of male names than female, echoing pre-Hispanic practice; but beyond that, further insight cannot be gained. The endless numbers of Domingos, Franciscos, and Juans; Magdalenas, Marías, and Juanas may have been simply the fashion of the day. The occasional pocket of non-stereotypical names may well indicate a friar with a favorite saint at work, naming his parishioners, showing the effect of individual priests in native communities. But the choice of name may not have mattered much in any case. Certainly in the early sixteenth century, siblings bearing the same Christian name and the wider persistence of Nahuatl names could indicate that Christian names were unimportant.

The paucity of positively identified Christian marriages in the Morelos censuses is difficult to interpret. However, the evidence of multiple wives and concubines even among the baptized indicates the difficulty in changing patterns of a fundamental social institution. The friars themselves reported the difficulty, for they met considerable resistance on this matter. Pre-Hispanic patterns such as polygyny and concubinage were at odds with Christian ideals of marriage. The cases of polygynous unions where all partners were baptized suggest that Christian practice had penetrated only so far, and Spanish legal restrictions hardly at all. On the other hand, a new Nahuatl terminology for marriage seems to have been emerging. Explicit Christian marriage was worthy of mention in some of the censuses, while its lack was noteworthy in others. This is possible evidence that Christian marriage was becoming the norm in some places, while in others it may have been unusual.

Perhaps in those places where Christian marriage is explicitly noted, the friars were preoccupied with the Indians’ conversion to Christianity at the most fundamental level; that is, baptism. It may be that they saw continued instruction in the catechism after baptism as the most practical next step, and fulfillment of Christian expectations concerning marriage as something that could wait for a further stage of consolidation.

The outward signs of Christian practice, measured by baptism and Christian marriage, thus show great variation from place to place within a given region a generation after the military conquest of Mexico in 1521. The information on baptism and Christian marriage comes to us as a byproduct of more secular concerns—to count the native population and to assess tribute. But the impact of efforts to convert the Nahuas is seen in the very inclusion of that information in a secular census. Baptismal status and sometimes Christian marriage became identifying markers for natives.

Even though historians must generally engage this information on regious commitment in the aggregate rather than on the individual level, it represents, nevertheless, thousands of individual decisions reached through largely unknown means. It can be posited that where the religious had greater contact with the populace, the rate of conversion was higher. But why some people were baptized in places where there was no sustained contact with the friars or any economic or social pressure is unclear. While the task of changing even the outward signs of religious affiliation was a major one, the long-term enterprise of reinforcing and ensuring the Indians’ orthodox belief was much more daunting.93

I acknowledge the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, for support of this research. My thanks to Patrick Grant and Jeffrey Burton Russell for reading a previous draft of this article, and to J. Benedict Warren and three anonymous referees of the HAHR.


Stephanie Wood, “The Cosmic Conquest: Late Colonial Views of the Sword and the Cross in Central Mexican Títulos,” Ethnohistory 38:2 (1991), 176-95; James Lockhart, The Nahuas After the Conquest: A Social and Cultural History of the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1992), 203-60.


Fray Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, Memoriales o libro de cosas de la Nueva España y los naturales de ella (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1971). 116-28, 150, 188. My thanks to Monica Orozco for the page references.


Libro de Tributos, Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Archivo Histórico, Mexico City (hereafter abbreviated as MNAH-AH), Colección Antigua, vols. 549–51. Volume 549. Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan, 63 folios; volume 550, Tepoztlan, 97 folios; volume 551, Molotlan, Tepetenchic, and Panchimalco, 122 folios. This article cites archival material that has been published by household number, and still-unpublished material by volume and folio number (see note 16). My thanks to James Lockhart for bringing these censuses to my attention in 1975, and for help in resolving problems of translation.


Robert Ricard, The Spiritual Conquest of Mexico: An Essay on the Apostolate and the Evangelizing Methods of the Mendicant Orders in New Spain, 1523-1572, trans. Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1966).


Ibid., 94.


I am unaware of any other existing source with similar information. Newly discovered Nahuatl documentation does come to light from time to time; for example, the Culhuacan wills in Nahuatl resided in a private collection and remained generally unknown to the scholarly community until their publication. They were published as The Testaments of Culhuacan, ed. S. L. Cline and Miguel León-Portilla (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 1984).


The importance of local-level, native-language documentation has been established in recent years. See Frances Karttunen, “Nahua Literacy,” in The Inca and Aztec States, 1400-1800: Anthropology and History, ed. George A. Collier, Renato I. Rosaldo, and John D. Wirth (New York: Academic Press, 1982), 395-417. On the many types of extant documentation, see James Lockhart, Arthur J. O. Anderson, and Frances Berdan, The Tlaxcalan Actas: A Compendium of the Records of the Cabildo Tlaxcala, 1545-1627 (Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press, 1986). Full-length studies based on Nahuatl documentation include S. L. Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 1580-1600: A Social History of an Aztec Town (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1986); Robert Haskett, Indigenous Rulers: An Ethnohistory of Town Government in Colonial Cuernavaca (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1991); and Lockhart, Nahuas After the Conquest.


Ricard, Spiritual Conquest. This work was begun in 1922; it was first published in 1933 in French. See the translator’s preface, vii.


J.Jorge Klor de Alva, “Spiritual Conflict and Accommodation in New Spain: Toward a Typology of Aztec Responses to Christianity,” in Collier et al., Inca and Aztec States, 345-66; Louise M. Burkhart, The Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1989).


For the political implications of conversion, see Charles Gibson, Spain in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 15-19.


Cortés requested that Franciscans and Dominicans be sent to New Spain rather than the secular clergy, partly because the regulars were better educated, had experience with evangelization, and were perceived as having higher moral standards. Since administration of the sacraments usually came under the secular clergy’s jurisdiction, papal approval of the special arrangement had to be obtained. Hernán Cortés, Letters from Mexico, trans. Anthony R. Pagden (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1971), 332-34; Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 20-21.


E. Randolph Daniel, The Franciscan Concept of Mission in the High Middle Ages (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1975); R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1962); R. I. Burns, “Christian-Islamic Confrontation of the West: The Thirteenth-Century Dream of Conversion,” American Historical Review 76 (1971), 1386-1434; Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1962); Joseph F. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1975).


See Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1964); and Lockhart, Nahuas After the Conquest.


This study uses the term clergy to denote all religious personnel involved in the evangelization, though it focuses on the regular clergy. On the visitas, see James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz, Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983); Ricard, Spiritual Conquest; and Gibson, Aztecs Under Spanish Rule.


Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 20-23, 61-82.


The censuses for Molotlan and Tepetenchic, both in MNAH-AH, vol. 551, have been published in full by Eike Hinz and his colleagues Claudine Hartau and Marie-Luise Heimann-Koenen, eds., Aztekischer Zensus. Zur indianischen Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft im Marquesado um 1540: Aus dem “Libro de Tributos” (Col. Ant. Ms. 551) im Archivo Histórico, México, 2 vols. (Hanover: Verlag für Ethnologie, 1983). The Huitzillan and Quauhchichinollan censuses (MNAH-AH, vol. 549) will appear in S. L. Cline, The Book of Tributes: Early Sixteenth-Century Nahuatl Censuses from Morelos (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, forthcoming). The Tepoztlan (MNAH-AH, vol. 550; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Manuscrit Mexicain 393) and Panchimalco (MNAH-AH, vol. 551) censuses remain unpublished. Pedro Carrasco has published an excerpt of the Molotlan census, “La casa y la hacienda de un señor tlalhuica,” Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 10 (1972), 22-54, as well as a series of descriptions and analyses of the material: “Tres libros de tributos del Museo Nacional de México y su importancia para los estudios demográficos,” in XXXV Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, México 1962, Actas y Memorias, 1964, 3:373-78; “Family Structure of Sixteenth-Century Tepoztlan,” in Process and Pattern in Culture: Essays in Honor of Julian H. Steward, ed. Robert A. Manners (Chicago: Aldine, 1964), 185-210; “Estratificación social indígena en Morelos durante el siglo XVI,” in Estratificación social en la Mesoamérica prehispánica, ed. Pedro Carrasco and Johanna Broda (Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones Superiores, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1976), 102-17; “The Joint Family in Ancient Mexico: The Case of Molotla,” in Essays on Mexican Kinship, ed. Hugo Nutini et al. (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1976), 45–64.


Carrasco, “Family Structure,” 186.


Carrasco, “Estratificación social,” 102-3.


The analysis of the census data here assumes the dating is contemporaneous. Carrasco, “Estratificación social”; Hinz et al., Aztekischer Zensus; and Cline, Book of Tributes, all believe that the censuses were completed ca. 1535-1540. See also Cline’s detailed discussion of the dating.

Cortés had been awarded in encomienda 23,000 tributaries in 22 named towns. The dispute concerned what constituted the tributary unit. The crown, attempting to curb Cortés’ power, wanted a small unit, such as the nuclear family; Cortés sought as large a unit as possible, such as the household, which could be complex. A commission of six was constituted to resolve the dispute, and the census of Cortés’ domain was undertaken. Scholars consider the Morelos censuses to be a direct result of this dispute. G. Micheál Riley discusses the dispute in Fernando Cortés and the Marquesado in Morelos, 1522-1547; A Case Study in the Socioeconomic Development of Sixteenth-Century Mexico (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1973), 28–34.


Peter Gerhard, A Guide to the Historical Geography of New Spain (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1972), 96; Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, chap. 3.


Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, chap. 4.


The final summaries are found, respectively, in MNAH-AH 549, fol. 36r, v, fol. 63V; MNAH-AH 550, fol. lr, v; Hinz et al., Aztekischer Zensus 1:139-40 (fol. 44r), 2:117 (fol. 79v); MNAH-AH 551, fol. 113V.


J. N. Hillgarth, The Conversion of Western Europe, 350-750 (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969).


On Tlaxcala, see Diego Muñoz Camargo, Historia de Tlaxcala (Mexico City: Editorial Innovación, 1978). On Texcoco, see Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl, Obras históricas, Mexico (1891-92), 1:399, cited in Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 84. Motolinia also notes the importance of children for indoctrination and the targeting of elites’ sons for education. Memoriales, 38, 439, 444.


Cline, Book of Tributes, Huitzillan (H) 1.


Ibid., Quauhchichinollan (Q) 1.


MNAH-AH 550, fol. 5v.


Hinz et al., Aztekischer Zensus 1:Hh1.


Ibid. 2:Hh1.


Highly complex households are the norm in most of the Morelos censuses; couples residing alone are very rare.


Cline, Book of Tributes, H1.


MNAH-AH 550, fols. 5r, 6r, 33V, 34V, 37V, 44V, 47V, 48V, 55r.


Hinz et al., Aztekischer Zensus 2:Hh2, Hh47, Hh48.


Gibson, Aztecs Under Spanish Rule, 154.


The sufficient number of secular religious personnel was an argument the secular clergy used to wrest control of parishes from the mendicant orders.


Códice franciscano, siglo XVI. Nueva colección de documentos para la historia de México (Mexico City: Editorial Salvador Chávez Hayho, 1941), 81.


The Quauhchichinollan census is bound between the two sections of the Huitzillan census. At what point the volumes were put together and why an error occurred in the foliation is unclear. The first 41 households in Huitzillan were probably geographically closer to the tlatoani’s, but the text provides no confirmation of this.


Motolinia estimates that the Franciscans had baptized “more than one hundred thousand persons, most of them children” (Mis compañeros tienen hasta hoy bautizados más de cada cien mil personas, los más de ellos niños). Since he uses niños, it is unclear whether he means children or just boys. Memoriales, 444.


Cline, Book of Tributes, H#15. (# indicates the second section of Huitzillan.)


MNAH-AH 551, fol. 81r.


Códice franciscano, 82.


The complexities of household structure and kinship are the main topics of analysis in the published literature.


Cline, Book of Tributes, Q48.


Ibid., Q13, Q14, Q17, Q38, Q43, Q47, Q58, Q62, Q65, Q66, Q109.


Ibid., Q17.


MNAH-AH 551, fol. 1o8v.


Cline, Book of Tributes, H2, H20, H22, H39, H#11, H#15, H#22, H#43, H#45, H#59.


Ibid., H3, H33, H#10, H#52.


Ibid., H4, H24, H32, H#5, h#10, h#54, h#55, h#61, H#133, Q17, Q31, Q45; and H#61, H#113.


Ibid., H#61.


Ibid., H#113.


Ibid., H1. The tlatoani also had another unbaptized child, two years old, probably by another woman.


Ibid., H#22, H#36, H#42, H#57, Q14, Q35, Q109.


“hoca / ypilci / vmoquatequi ytoca pelicco y nican itoca qualchalmitl,” Ibid., H17. The phrase nican itoca, translated in this study as “local name,” more literally means “here name.”


Hinz et al, Aztekischer Zensus 2:Hh35, Hh50, Hh51, Hh53, Hh57, Hh113.


“ynic umeti ycava / mexicatl - ytoca / niculas yvevetoca / tecuitlamacazqui.” Cline, Book of Tributes, Q17.


Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 117; Rebecca Horn, “Indian Women in Mexican Parish Archives: Naming Patterns in Seventeenth-Century Coyoacan” (Paper presented at the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, Portland, Ore., 1989).


Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 117; Horn, “Indian Women.”


Men’s names are Agustín, Alonso, Ambrosio, Andrés, Antón, Baltasar, Bartolomé, Bernardino, Blas, Calisto, Clemente, Cristóbal, Damián, Diego, Domingo, Esteban, Felipe, Francisco, Gabriel, Gerónimo, Gonzalo, Hernando, José, Juan, Julio, Lucas, Luis, Marcos, Martín, Mateo, Miguel, Nicolás, Oreden, Pablo, Pedro, Perico, Sebastián, Tomás, Toribio, Vicente. Women’s names are Agustina, Ana, Ana María, Angelina, Anica, Catalina, Francisca, Juana, Juliana, Inés, Isabel, Lucía, Luisa, Magdalena, María, Marta, Mencia, Mónica, Rocín, Verónica.


William B. Taylor has found such a pattern for eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Mexico. See “The Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain: An Inquiry into the Social History of Marian Devotion,” American Ethnologist 14:1 (Feb. 1987), 9-23.


Carlos was not a common name at the beginning of the sixteenth century in Spain, and when it came into use in the second half of that century it was used among people of high rank. A notable indigenous example in New Spain was don Carlos Ometochtzin, a Texcocan noble, who was tried for apostasy in 1534 by the episcopal inquisition of Fray Juan de Zumárraga and then executed. In general, the Spanish monarch’s name was not a usual choice for an Indian’s baptismal name, but a number of Indian nobles did take elite Spanish surnames after 1550.


Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 117. Magdalena seems not to have been a popular name in late sixteenth-century Culhuacan, however.


Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 110-16.


Alonso de Molina, Confesionario mayor en la lengua mexicana y castellana (1569; reprint, Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1984), fols. 45r–58r.


James A. Brundage, Law, Sex, and Society in Medieval Europe (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987), 494-503; W. Van Ommerer, “Tametsi,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 18 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967-89), 13:929.


Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 60.


Cline, Booh of Tributes, Q1.


This is a rare and combined form of -namic. Ibid., H# 129.


Ibid., Q17.


MNAH-AH 551, fob 77V; 550, fols. 5r, 33V.


Hinz et al, Aztekischer Zensus 2:Hh1, Hh47, Hh114.


MNAH-AH 551, fol. 77V; 550, fol. 5r; Hinz et al, Aztekischer Zensus 2:Hh1.


Hinz et al, Aztekischer Zensus 1:Hh1.


Ibid., Hh8, Hh11, Hh13, Hh15, Hh28.


Ibid., Hh20, Hh33, Hh37, Hh71, Hh73.


Ibid., Hh114.


Ibid., Hh19.


The t for d substitutions are standard. Nahuatl has no distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants, so substitutions of b for p, d for t, and g for k are typical. For an extended discussion of linguistic questions, see Frances Karttunen and James Lockhart, Nahuatl in the Middle Years: Language Contact Phenomena in Texts of the Colonial Period (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1976).


For a sophisticated analysis of culture change as measured by language, see Lockhart, Nahuas After the Conquest.


Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 110-16; Hugo Nutini, “Polygyny in a Tlaxcalan Community,” Ethnology 4 (1965), 123-47.


Cline, Book of Tributes, H1.


Ibid., Q1.


Hinz et al., Aztekischer Zensus 1:Hh1.


MNAH-AH 550, fol. 5r; Hinz et al., Aztekischer Zensus 2:Hh1; MNAH-AH 551, fol. 77V.


MNAH-AH 551, fols. 8ov, 97V, 98r.


Woodrow Borah and Sherburne Cook, “Marriage and Legitimacy in Mexica Culture,” California Law Review 54:2 (1966), 955.


Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 113-15.


MNAH-AH 551, fol. 112V.


Certainly Molina’s confesionario, as well as the works of Sahagún and others, have the highest proportion of Spanish loanwords in the Nahuatl for Christian concepts or practices. For an extended discussion of the problems in translating Christian religious concepts into Nahuatl, see Burkhart, Slippery Earth.


Lockhart, Nahuas After the Conquest, 203-4.


According to Ricard, around 1529 “evangelization made an immense jump, and it is certain the average number of baptisms was much greater between 1532 and 1536 than between 1524 and 1532.” Ricard, Spiritual Conquest, 91.


The failure of the Colegio de Santa Cruz Tlatelolco (founded 1536) was a bitter disappointment to the Franciscans, who had hoped to train caciques’ sons for the priesthood. The training of the young men there did produce a core of educated Indians literate in Nahuatl, Spanish, and Latin.


The reinforcement of Christian belief has been the subject of considerable interest. Some scholars of native culture have pinpointed the confessional as a key mechanism for changing native beliefs and actions. Confessional manuals in Spanish and Nahuatl provide insight as to how this might have operated. See J. Jorge Klor de Alva, “Colonizing Souls: The Failure of the Indian Inquisition and the Rise of Penitential Discipline,” in Cultural Encounters: The Impact of the Inquisition in Spain and the New World, ed. Mary Elizabeth Perry and Anne J. Cruz (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991), 3-22. The “primitive” Inquisition and the later exclusion of the Indians from the jurisdiction of the Holy Office (established in 1571) are examined by Richard Greenleaf in two works: “The Inquisition and the Indians of New Spain: A Study in Jurisdictional Confusion,” The Americas 22 (Oct. 1965), 138-66; and The Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth Century (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1969). The role of the Office of the Protectorate, to which baptized Indians were subject, as a reinforcer of Christian practice has been examined by Roberto Moreno de los Arcos, “New Spain’s Inquisition for Indians from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century,” in Perry and Cruz, Cultural Encounters, 23-36.