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My central argument in this article is that the pueblo de indios of 18th-century central Mexican highlands should be seen as the continuation of pre-Hispanic indigenous landed estates. The pueblos were highly stratified entities and were ruled by a small elite of families, usually referred to as caciques. The local level elite either traced descent from the pre-Hispanic nobility or had taken the place of that nobility by acquiring parts of early post-conquest grants in which pre-Hispanic demesnes were recognized. Consequently, Spanish institutions might have changed the form but not the basic substance of indigenous forms of lordship.