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Trail of Footprints

Trail of Footprints
A History of Indigenous Maps from Viceregal Mexico

This study explores how postconquest Mexican indigenous communities used maps to defend prized lands, to create a visual and social history of life before the Spanish, and to record knowledge of pre-Columbian plants.

July 2019
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224 pages | 8.25 x 10.25 | 82 color and 4 b&w illus., 1 b&w map |

Trail of Footprints offers an intimate glimpse into the commission, circulation, and use of indigenous maps from colonial Mexico. A collection of one hundred, largely unpublished, maps from the late sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries made in the southern region of Oaxaca, anchors an analysis of the way ethnically diverse societies produced knowledge in colonial settings. Mapmaking, proposes Hidalgo, formed part of an epistemological shift tied to the negotiation of land and natural resources between the region’s Spanish, Indian, and mixed-race communities. The craft of making maps drew from social memory, indigenous and European conceptions of space and ritual, and Spanish legal practices designed to adjust spatial boundaries in the New World. Indigenous mapmaking brought together a distinct coalition of social actors—Indian leaders, native towns, notaries, surveyors, judges, artisans, merchants, muleteers, collectors, and painters—who participated in the critical observation of the region’s geographic features. Demand for maps reconfigured technologies associated with the making of colorants, adhesives, and paper that drew from Indian botany and experimentation, trans-Atlantic commerce, and Iberian notarial culture. The maps in this study reflect a regional perspective associated with Oaxaca’s decentralized organization, its strategic position amidst a network of important trade routes that linked central Mexico to Central America, and the ruggedness and diversity of its physical landscape.

  • Illustrations
  • Notes on Translation
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Patrons
  • Chapter 2. Painters
  • Chapter 3. Materials
  • Chapter 4. Authentication
  • Epilogue. Afterlife
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Fort Worth, Texas

Hidalgo is an assistant professor of history at Texas Christian University.