Guadalajara (Jalisco), 1653: Petition about Church of San Martín

This manuscript was first published in Beyond the Codices, eds. Arthur J.O. Anderson, Frances Berdan, and James Lockhart (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center, 1976), Doc. 28, 174–177. However, the transcription, translation, and a new introduction presented here come from Lockhart's personal papers.

The original manuscript is in the McAfee Collection, Special Collections, UCLA Research Library.

[Introduction by James Lockhart:]
Today the place involved here is known officially as San Martín Hidalgo, some 45 miles southwest of Guadalajara. The cabecera or head town referred to is nearby Cocula. It is likely that San Martín was sub-ordinate to Cocula only for Spanish administrative purposes, but whether it had ever been a part of the altepetl of Cocula or not, the principle of the petition is the same. San Martín’s official structure is not impressive; it sports one alcalde, one regidor, a fiscal of the church, and a notary; all the other members of the petitioning group lack any official position. There is no governor and no one titled don.

San Martín wants independence from Cocula, and as a first and major step toward that goal it requests permission to concentrate on building its own church, not working on that of Cocula. This scenario was seen a hundred times in New Spain, for a large and sightly church was the very symbol of independent status, much as a temple had been in precontact times. We can be sure that the moment San Martín finishes its church, it will start an open campaign for separation from Cocula.

As evidence of their general good faith, responsibility, and trustworthiness, the San Martín people tell how much they do for the Franciscan father guardian (whether in San Martín or in Cocula is not entirely clear). The items and services provided go back to pre-contact precedent, brought up to date by the presence of European phenomena such as horses and candles. Such requirements were virtually universal in New Spain after the conquest.

In its onerous duties for Cocula, San Martín has had to expend resources belonging a local cofradía with a Marian advocation, five steers in fact. This heavy an involvement of a cofradía in altepetl obligations is something characteristic especially of the periphery of New Spain and less seen in the center, where altepetl organization was stronger.

The text belongs to the petition genre along with several others in this collection, and here the Spanish loanword peticion is actually used as a label instead of instead of the common Nahuatl equivalent tlaitlaniliztli. Brief petition formulas make their appearance at the beginning and the end, but the body, like most western Nahuatl and indeed most peripheral Nahuatl, is in very down-to-earth language.

Whether Nahuatl was the first language of the writer and the whole group would be hard to say. In any case, there are many signs that this is peripheral Nahuatl, and some characteristics here belong specifically to the west. Outstanding among the latter is the use of -lo, normally a non-active suffix which precludes the use of a specific object prefix, to indicate the plural of active verbs in the present text, complete with specific objects. Thus “michin ticmacalo,” “we give him fish” (line 28), among many other examples throughout the text. Only two present-tense plural verbs (other than those with progressive auxiliaries) lack this -lo (lines 20, 22).

A hallmark of western Nahuatl also seen in other texts in Beyond the Codices (Documents 8, 27) is the use of the relational word -nahuac, “close to, next to,” indicating indirect objects and taking over some of the functions of -tech, the relational word that was central Nahuatl’s main connector. A classic western-style use in fact occurs here, “ximotlatolti ynahuac toguardian,” “speak to our father,” where -nahuac is “to” or “with.”

In the western Docs. 8 and 27, many preterits of Class 2 verbs are left unreduced, not losing the final vowel as in the center. Here we find in line 43, “otitlacencahuaque,” just that phenomenon; in the center the form would be otitlacencauhque, “we made preparations.” The other preterit verbs in the text, however, are regular by central standards.

Western and peripheral texts in general often show merging in the area of t, tl, and l. Here we see some tl for standard l, as in “timomacehuatlhuan” for timomacehualhuan, “we your subjects” (lines 5, 52) The implication is that some syllable-final [tl] was being pronounced [l]. All other occurrences of t, tl, and l, however, are orthodox.

Peripheral texts from virtually all areas often have an archaic ya for what had become ye in the center. Here we have “ya” for ye, “already,” in lines 43, 47, and 51.

Another general trait of the periphery is the retention of the earlier universal reflexive prefix mo instead of the newer no and to of the center. The text uses mo as we would expect (“timotequipacholo,” “we are concerned,” line 17; “timofirmatia,” “we sign”, line 53).

Texts of the periphery sometimes have qui for cui in many contexts, which happens here in lines 35, 40, 52, and 59, though it must be admitted that the phenomenon is not unheard of in the center either.

The concatenation of language developments called Stage 3 is thought to have formed by around 1640–50 in central Mexico. Our text was written not long after that, and far away from the center. What can we expect in the way of Stage 3 phenomena under these conditions? In general, in recent years we have been finding that the periphery is far more au courant than we might have expected. Here there are no loan verbs, calques, or Spanish kinship terms, but one of the primary diagnostic traits, loan particles, is strongly present. Not only does the text contain two such words, but they are the two words most found in Nahuatl texts from early to late. Hasta occurs in a temporal sense in line 13 with a verb: “asta tictlamizque,” “until we finish it.” Its frequent companion para appears in line 26 as a preposition with a noun complement: “para ycabalyo,” “for his horse.” For a time in the history of research into such matters, the examples here were the earliest known attestations of these two very important words.

But if the text is unmistakably advanced as to loan-words, it betrays a fully Stage 2 situation in respect to pronunciation, as in examples like “bicas” for vigas, “beams” (line 19); “cilyo” for cirio, “candle wax” (line 36); “cobratia” for cofradía (line 41); “lehua” for legua, “league” (line 46); “quera” for Guerra (line 55), or “pernabe” for Bernabé (line 57). The writer also mainly uses c/ç/z instead of s for [s], another Stage 2 trait. We also see here some unanalyzed plurals used as singulars in loan vocabulary, as in “toguardianes,” “our father guardian” (line 22) and “principales,” “leader or nobleman” (line 56). Except in words designating groups or pairs, the plural for the singular in loanwords is mainly a trait of very early texts.

In line 6, “sen ysa” is for cenca ilustrisima, “most illustrious.”

In line 7, “santo padre” is a common unanalyzed phrase for the pope, but “nuestro padre,” “our father,” is rarer and almost gives an impression of code switching. Padre as a loanword generally meant “priest,” like padre in English, and never anyone’s father in any sense.

In lines 16–17, “iuhqui mocahuas tosanta iglecia” is translated as “our holy church will be as if abandoned.” An alternative possibility is “our holy church will be left as it is.”

In line 29, the “totoltetl,” eggs, could have come from either chickens or turkeys, since totolin was often used for both.

Title variants: 
Beyond the Codices, Document 28; McAfee Collection, UCLA Research Library, Special Collections
Principal editor: 
James Lockhart

Transcriptions and Translations

Analytic Transcription English Translation Spanish Translation
ypeticion altepetl Sa mart[in] ma yectenehualo yn santisimo sacramento yhuan [. . .]pahualiz yn concepcion mochipa cemicac ma y mochi[hua] tehuantin timomacehuatlhuan mixpantzinco tinecico sen ysa obizbo tictenamiquico momatzin yhuan mocxitzin ca tehuatzin tiyxiptla noestro padre santo padre yn ompa moyetztica roma nican ticmocaquitiz tonetequipachol tochoquiz ytechcopa tosanta yglecia nican sa martin ca neli melahuac huel techtolinticate tocabeceras alcaldes yhuan toguardianes amo techcahua tictequipanosque toteyopan ma ypampa dios ma topan ximotlatolti ynahuac toguardian amo technotzazque asta tictlamizque toteyopan ma ypampa dios axcan quitohua alcaldes cocolan ompa tiasque cabecera yca mochi tonamichuan ompa titequipanosque yhuan nican yuhqui mocahuas tosanta yglecia ca huel cenca timotequipacholo timochintin altepehuaque axcan yntla dios quimonequiltiz ya tlecoz bicas yhuan motlapachos yhuan manel yuhqui amo ypampa tictelchihua toguardian ticmacasque yn quexquich ytech monequiz nican tiquitoz yn quexquich titlayocolia toguardianes limosna mochipa cemicac v quahuitl ce cemana ce careta v çacatl para ycabalyo ome careta v cabalyopixqui ce cemana v michin ticmacalo ce cemana v totoltetl ticmacalo ce cemana v tlaxcali ticmacalo ce cemana v totolin ticmacalo ce cemana v ortelano ticmacalo ce cemana v tequipanohuani teyopan ce cemana v atl ticmacalo ce cemana v yhuan titemacalo maquili peso ypampa cilyo pasqual — 5 pso v yhuan bicas para ompa cabecera titemacalo ynin mochi limosna ticmacalo toguardian ma yuhqui xicmomachiti tlatohuani yhuan ce xiuitl ompa otiaque otitequipanoque amo techtlaqualtia yntencopa omomicti maquili nobiliyos yaxca nican totlasonantzin cobratia sa martin yhuan tlayoli hanegas ma yuhqui xicmati amo tiasque ypampa dios ypampa ya nican otitlacencahuaque mochi quahuitl tablas ya anquimate ayc mo[xtlahua] xopantlan ma quichihuacan ynceltin no ticnequilo quali y[. . .] yhuan ca hueca ticate ome lehua yhuan tlaco yehuantin ca ya otlami ynteoyopan ma ypampa dios ma ypan xitlato nican santa yglecia yntla dios quinequiz tlamiz ypan ome xiuitl [Transcription by James Lockhart; continues next page] Petition of the altepetl of San Martín. Praised be the Most Holy Sacrament and [. . .] the Conception forever eternally, Amen. We your subjects have come to appear before you, most illustrious lord bishop, we have come to kiss your hands and feet, for you are the representative of our father the Holy Father who is in Rome. Here you will hear our concern and lamenting concerning our holy church here in San Martín, for it is true and certain that the alcaldes and father guardian [of the Franciscan monastery] of our head town are mistreating us and do not let us work on our church. For God's sake, speak on our behalf with our prior, that they should not summon us until we finish our church, for God's sake. Now the alcaldes of Cocula say we are to go to the head town with all our wives and are to work there; and our holy church will be as if abandoned, and we citizens are all very troubled. Now, if God should will it, the beams will be raised and [the church] covered. And though it is so, not for that reason do we disdain our father guardian; we will give him whatever he needs. Here we will say how much we always and forever help our father guardian with contributions: v wood each week one cartload v grass for his horse two cartloads v someone to watch horses each week v we give him fish each week v we give him eggs each week v we give him bread each week v we give him fowl each week v we give him a gardener each week v someone to work at the church each week v we give him water each week v And we give five pesos for Easter candles — 5 pesos v And we give beams for the head town. All these contributions we give to our father guardian; may you know it to be so, lord. And for a year we went there and worked and they did not feed us; at their command five steers belonging to the cofradía of our dear mother here in San Martín were slaughtered, along with bushels of maize [consumed]. May you know it to be so, and may we not go, for God's sake, because here we have already prepared all the wood and planks. You know it is never [repaid]. In the spring let them do it by themselves. Also we want good [. . .], and we are far away, two and a half leagues. Their church has already been finished. For God’s sake, intervene in it; the holy church here will be finished in two years, if God is willing. This is all of our statement. May God the Holy Spirit always be with you. We your subjects have written. To verify our words we sign here, we, all of us elders of the altepetl of San Martín. Luis Vásquez, alcalde. Juan Guerra, regidor. Juan Sebastián, fiscal. Juan de la Cruz, nobleman. Francisco Miguel. Juan Esteban. Bernabé Leandro. Francisco Sebastián. Luis Martín. Pedro Gerónimo. We have written today, the 2d day of April in the year 1653. Diego Juan, notary, at the behest of the altepetl authorities and elders of San Martín. [Translation by James Lockhart]
ya yxquich totlatol ma dios espirito santo motlantzinco yes cemicac otitlaquiloque timomacehuatlhuan ynic neltiz totlatol nican timofirmatia ti timochintin huehuetque altepetl sa martin luyz basques alcalde juan quera regidor juan cebastian fiscal juan de la croz principales fraco miguel juan esteban juan agustin pernabe leantro fraco çabastian luyz martin pedro geroninmo otitlaquiloque axcan 2 tonali abril yhuan xiuitl 1653 anos diego juan esbano yntencopa altepehuaque sa martin huehuetque [Transcription by James Lockhart] (forthcoming)