Land Grant Painted Maps: Native Artists and the Power of Visual Persuasion in Colonial New Spain
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Pulido Rull, Ana
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CitationPulido Rull, Ana. 2012. Land Grant Painted Maps: Native Artists and the Power of Visual Persuasion in Colonial New Spain. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation analyzes the social function of native art in colonial New Spain through the examination of a genre of maps painted by Indian artists known as Land Grants or Mapas de Mercedes. Land Grant maps constitute the response of the native population to a Spanish land distribution practice implemented in the sixteenth century to allocate the territory among its dwellers in an orderly fashion and prevent the illegal occupation of the land. One remarkable feature this program adopted in New Spain was its strong visual component; the viceroy requested a painted map as part of each lawsuit's evidence. This is unique to the viceroyalty of New Spain and did not happen anywhere else in the Americas. It is reflective of the Indigenous deep-rooted tradition of thinking visually and dealing with everyday matters through the use of painted manuscripts. It was also stimulated by the Spaniard's belief in the truth-value of native pictorials. The result was a vast production of maps of which approximately 700 have survived. Since they were produced for the specific context of land grants and have their own distinctive characteristics, it is possible to say that this was also the birth of a new artistic genre. The present work examines how Indians in the colonial period created these artworks that enabled them to negotiate with the colonizers, defend their rights, and ultimately attain a more favorable position in society. This project demonstrates that the Indians took up this opportunity to design maps that were an essential component of their defense strategy. My research is based on a thorough examination of the originals at the National Archives in Mexico. I combined visual analysis with the transcription and paleography of the case’s files, and a review of primary and secondary historical sources. This interdisciplinary approach enabled me to demonstrate that native artists not only described the contested site in their maps but also translated their own ideas about this space into visual form. My research underscores Indian agency and illustrates how they used Spanish laws to their advantage in preserving their possessions, sometimes to the twenty-first century.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288615
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