The purpose of the contributors to these volumes was largely to begin to fill the lacunae in the scholarly literature about seventeenth-century New Spain and to nullify the oversimplified stereotypes of native resistance. They have succeeded handsomely. Treating specifically the episodes of indigenous insurrection in the southern part of Oaxaca in 1660–61, they cogently explicate the complex circumstances that precipitated the outbreaks, nurtured regional participation, and kept royal emissaries with official solutions at bay for more than a year.

Situating the isthmian microcosm in a global spectrum, the authors postulate, using theoretical models supported by a wealth of documentary evidence, that with a multitude of factors at play, it was the ultimate loss of indigenous political and economic autonomy that most typically incited the rebellions. Moreover, the Indians’ target was local authorities, not the overthrow of the colonial regime.

By the mature colonial period, ravaged by disease and numerous other hardships, the native populations in the Isthmus numbered an all-time low, which of course had a deleterious effect on agricultural and mineral production and a wide range of domestic commercial activities. Simultaneously, the empire itself was on the brink of disaster, having exhausted most of its resources over decades of struggle to secure its perimeters. Stringent measures, some legal, some not, such as new monopolies, new taxes, nepotism, and political simony, were instigated to ensure a constant source of revenue for the bankrupt, morally corrupt crown. The consequences were felt in the most remote comers of the empire, where individuals appeared to be authorized to purchase offices, outfit themselves in full regalia, and expect the natives to satisfy their most egregious exactions. When demands were not met, the officials, here the alcaldes mayores with their onerous repartimientos, replaced traditional indigenous leaders with more compliant ones and blockaded commercial activities among the native populations and their towns.

Poignantly and repeatedly, the Indians wrote to the bishop and other officials, “No one wants to help us” (Documentos, p. 47). Acutely distressed, the bishop went personally to evaluate the crises and mediate for peace. He alone, it seems, had a genuine concern about the Indians’ abysmal condition. In spite of betrayals and cruel reprisals, the Zapotees and Chontales of the Isthmus continued to resist. Self-conscious and conservative, they adapted selected colonial institutions to traditional practices to enhance community corporateness, as evidenced by modern-day sodalities and village cargo systems.

The analytical studies and complementary primary documents in these two volumes are an important contribution to the expanding corpus on native resistance, which obviously continues to manifest itself in myriad forms.