Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 17 September 2019

The Internal Provinces of the Northern Spanish Empire

Summary and Keywords

In New Spain, the 18th century was characterized by important political and administrative changes in imperial geopolicy that stemmed from the reforms introduced by Spain’s king, Charles III, which continued under the Bourbon monarchs. These so-called Bourbon Reforms sought to reduce the centralizing power of the viceroyalty’s governments, as well as that of the Royal Audiences in Spanish America. The British colonization of the Atlantic coast and the continued confrontation with Native Americans resulted in changes in New Spain’s territorial structure, especially the consolidating of the northern Provincias Internas (Internal Provinces). The project of structuring a political territory in the north originally emerged in 1751 with the aim of organizing the space into a General Command. The process began in 1776 with the appointment of José de Gálvez as the minister of the Indies. The first commanding general, Teodoro de Croix (1730–1792), who was given authorization to act independently of the viceroyalty, established the command by taking into his jurisdiction the provinces of Sonora, Sinaloa, the Californias, Nueva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Coahuila, and Tejas and, later, the New Kingdom of León and New Santander. In 1787, the Spanish government decided to modify the jurisdictions by creating provincial blocks: the Eastern Internal Provinces and the Western Internal Provinces. The jurisdiction that would experience a number of difficult changes that arose principally from the military control that began during the first years of colonization and lasted until the disappearance of viceregal power. The rest of the Spanish Empire’s territory, meanwhile, was organized into administrations ruled by a general governor or mayor who exercised powers of law, war, the treasury, public works, and the development of local economic efforts.

Keywords: Internal Provinces, North of New Spain, Military Jurisdiction, Presidios, War, General Command, Colonization, Native Americans

Militarization of the Territory

During the first half of the 18th century, roving squads and presidios (fortified bases), which had been established in northern New Spain in the final years of the 16th century, served as defensive bastions for territory’s Spanish towns and missions against the attacks perpetrated by the region’s indigenous populations, who opposed the invasion of the territories that sustained them. Their role did not take on legal relevance until the second half of the century, when the intentions of the missionary establishments seemed to wane in their intentions to carry out a peaceful conquest, the result of a long process of secularization in the territories conquered by the Spanish crown. Just as the military was gaining control of these spaces, the jurisdictions that were delimited by the control of one or more presidios headed by a captain began to take the shape of small autonomous governments.

In 1693, the viceroy, Count Galvez, who was worried about the lack of knowledge that resulted from an unclear defense policy throughout the border territories, sent themaestre de campo, José Francisco Marín, to act as the “inspector of the weapons and garrisons of this kingdom of Nueva Vizcaya.” Marín assessed the conditions of the northern border as a colonization problem, and he believed that to strengthen the conquered territories, it was urgent to encourage settlement.

Because of the persistent conflicts that arose in these northern jurisdictions and the abuses taking place there, it became clear that there was an enormous need to create a uniform military policy for the northern Spanish Empire. Such a policy began to take shape during the first half of the 18th century, with the resolution of the first presidio regulations, dispatched in 1729, derived from the initiative of Viceroy Juan de Acuña, Marquis of Casa Fuerte. Alarmed by the news he was receiving from the northern border concerning the state of incessant war with indigenous communities and a serious lack of defense for the existing settlements, Juan de Acuña had ordered a rigorous inspection of the presidios.

Consequently, in 1724, the officer Don Pedro de Rivera formed an inspection committee for the distant and extensive border being besieged by war with Native Americans. The inspection lasted until June 1728. The results were published in the Diario y Derrotero de lo caminado, visto y observado en las visitas que hizo a los presidios de Nueva España Septentrional el brigadier don Pedro de Rivera (Journal and course of what was walked, seen, and observed in the visits to the garrisons of northern New Spain by the officer Don Pedro de Rivera), which contained a meticulous description of the natural, social, and military situation in the provinces, particularly in relation to the persistent confrontations between settlers and soldiers.1

The configuration of the presidios seemed to show a certain uniformity in their administrative structure and command in accordance with the conditions of the areas they guarded: some were defined by their constant mobility, as roving squads; others protected one specific space or environment. The number of soldiers or garrisons commanded by one captain could range from eight to one hundred individuals who remained active in exchange for wages or annual pay that varied in accordance with military rank. In general, the officer calculated that an average presidio comprising thirty-five soldiers and a corporal or captain cost the royal treasury twelve thousand pesos annually. This sum was not a reflection of the efficacy of the military efforts, since an increase in the attacks by Native Americans was noted.

Among the arguments Rivera employed to show the ineptitude of the garrisons was the pacification that had been achieved in the provinces of Coahuila and Tejas, indicating that the process of conquest, which was intended to integrate native populations into what was defined as “the national lifestyle,” seemed to be finished. Rivera supposed that the fact that the neighbors in those provinces had voluntarily participated in the conflicts to punish the Native American “enemies” showed how easy it was to pacify them. He cited as an example a Native American revolt near the presidio in Sonora, in 1725, which forty residents had been able to quell. Rivera attempted to illustrate the harmony and tranquility enjoyed by the soldiers, who dedicated their time to leisure or to serving missionaries as administrative assistants. The decline in the number of on-duty soldiers in each presidio or mobile troop compelled the nearby residents to defend their own lands from the Native Americans.

Pedro de Rivera’s report laid the groundwork for the establishment of a uniform operating code for the presidios. The deficiencies in the military authority system, characterized by the excessive power and negligence of its captains, seemed to be at the root of the insufficient results obtained. Therefore, the viceregal government published the Reglamento para todos los presidios, or “Regulations of Presidios,”2 which highlighted the need to define the political, civil, and military jurisdictions of the conquered territories for the sake of effectively organizing the settlements’ defense against Native Americans. The first of the twenty-three chapters that constitute this first collection of regulations profiled the post of commanding general, who would assume duties only when necessary, in order to organize expeditions against indigenous enemies in other provinces. These expeditions would consist of contingents of soldiers from the presidios, made up of militia as well as Native American allies. The governor of Nueva Vizcaya, whose permanent residence would be in the town of Parral, would command the expeditions. Governors from the rest of the provinces would command local actions from Santa Fe, New Mexico; Monterrey, in the New Kingdom of León; and the presidio of Los Adaes, Tejas and were explicitly prohibited from abandoning their place of residence or attempting to exercise authority outside their provinces.

The Offensive Attack

The observations detailed by Rivera, which were revisited in 1747 by the comptroller of war and the treasury, Juan Rodríguez de Albuerne, Marquis of Altamira, arose from the need to reinforce the conquered territories with the aid of bold policies aimed at boosting colonization, in addition to promoting a type of military secularization with the establishment of local militia instead of presidio soldiers, thus avoiding a burdensome and useless defense.

During Altamira’s time, the population had risen considerably in several places, but the newcomers were settlers that he considered to be of inferior quality, whose colonization caused more harm than good. As a result, he decided to encourage the migration of settlers from the center of the viceroyalty toward the north, offering them payments and benefits, such as land grants for farming and livestock and an advance consisting of ten years’ worth of a presidio soldier’s salaries Meanwhile, the soldiers in the presidios who had to resign remained in the territory as residents organized into militia troops, providing arms and horses to participate in incursions organized against the Native Americans. Like Pedro de Rivera, Altamira feared the excessive power of the presidio captains over the soldiers and residents, who showed dangerous signs of autonomy in the face of the viceroy’s power.

The captains’ power had been forged in their control of the soldiers’ wages, which took up to two years to reach their recipients, a time that the captains used to their advantage, selling them food that they had acquired from the missions’ surpluses, as well as other goods, for a steep profit. In 1755, the first militia company was registered, promoted by the governor and captain-general of Nueva Vizcaya, Don Mateo Antonio de Mendoza, following the enactment of a decree disseminated to the residents of the region. From then on, we can see documentary references to the residents’ refusal to organize militias, as well as to the corresponding sanctions used against them by the provincial governments, such as the imposition of sales taxes, from which they had been exempted because of their status as “border residents.”

Several years later, the territorial situation worsened, not only because of an increase in Native American attacks carried out against the Spanish settlements throughout the vast northern region, but also because of Britain’s threat in the fight for control of colonial hegemony of these territories. The Spanish crown was therefore obligated to take exceptional measures to control civil and military authorities and to launch more aggressive campaigns against the indigenous population.

In 1766, the field marshal Marquis de Rubí was sent by Viceroy Marquis de Cruillas to the northern territories to review the situation of the Internal Provinces. The survey sparked a series of policies that would affect these provinces, and it resulted in new regulations on the presidios. It also impacted how the defensive border was defined with regard to the threat from Native Americans and other foreign nations. Rubí was accompanied by the chief engineer, Nicolás de Lafora, with the specific order to gain a clear idea of the provinces that were considered poorly recorded and even more poorly described, particularly in terms of the aggressive conduct of the Native Americans and the soldiers’ inability to contain their treachery. Captain Lafora described the Internal Provinces as “deserted terrain where enemy Indians and apostates seek shelter from the surrounding nations, and from where they emerge to antagonize Nueva Vizcaya and Coahuila.”3 From this assessment, Rubí determined that the only way to maintain the northern territories under the rule of the Spanish crown was to mount an unavoidable and immediate continued offensive attack backed by a radical reorganization of the existing presidios. He revived an old proposal to create a barrier against the Native Americans, beginning with the relocation of seventeen presidios into a line of defense, in the style of the Great Wall of China. The presidios would be established on the open border, and “would be placed as closely as possible, on the 30th parallel north,” since it was there that the Spanish Empire’s territory ended. He proposed that, in addition to the presidio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the one in San Antonio, Texas, should serve as a point to define the ensuing defensive line that would allow for a tight blockade spanning the distance between the two coasts. When the Native Americans saw that they were enclosed from both the north and south, they would opt to seek refuge in the missions and presidios; in Rubí’s opinion, the Native Americans did not deserve to be treated as equal nations, and he would not accept any negotiation with them. The practical utility of the line of defense the field marshal had designed suggested that military authority would remain in the hands of a “cautious and authorized leader” in order to help the provinces adjust to a uniform military system that would allow them to face the insurgent Native Americans, who were upset by the expulsion of Jesuit missionaries in 1767.

As a result of Rubí’s decisions, the Regulations and Instructions for the Presidios That Must Form on the Border of New Spain were published, prioritizing the defense against the insurrectionist Native Americans and allowing the new viceroy, Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa, Croix’s successor, a free hand in administering matters related to the frontier.4

The offensive against the Native Americans was regulated such that, although the document guaranteed less cruel treatment of those captured in battle, it accepted a radical offensive against the “coarse” and “apostate” Native Americans. After the regulations of 1772 were issued, other provinces battled against the Native Americans, who set up a defense of ferocious repression, leaving the Spanish free to exterminate them. In June 1772, the governor of Nueva Vizcaya, José Carlos de Aguero, sent an order to the governor of the province of Coahuila regarding which actions to take when he encountered Native Americans outside the settlements or missions who did not have a passport or permission to travel from one place to another. The Native Americans without such permission would have to appear before a judge, and those who refused to do so would be put to death because those who did would be considered traitors to the king.

From that moment on, the Internal Provinces would remain under the orders of a commanding general who would immediately begin addressing the problems specific to each province, appointing officials in the most problematic jurisdictions in order to stop any attacks from the most feared enemies: the Apache Indians.

General Command of the Internal Provinces

The dispatch of presidio regulations in 1772 and the subsequent establishment of the General Command served as the political basis that allowed for the organizational restructuring of the northern territories and the defining role that the inspector José de Gálvez would play. The remoteness of the viceregal government and the permanent confrontation with the Native Americans outlined the possibility of the creation of a new viceroyalty in the north of New Spain. But that only managed to organize a semi-autonomous government, from which all decisions concerning the organization, defense, and consolidation of the Internal Provinces were made. The creation of a separate viceroyalty also responded to the crown’s need to strengthen its fiscal and economic interests in a region that promised important mineral riches, marginalizing the viceroy’s power and his own interests, as well as those of the dominant figures in New Spain.

With the appointment in 1772 of Don Teodoro de Croix as first commander, the king established the autonomous authority of the general government of the Internal Provinces with the idea of creating a separate viceroyalty that would have immediate dependence on the monarchy and a reserved route to the Indies. This granted them ample authority, similar to that enjoyed by the viceroys according to the Laws of the Indies. However, Commanding General Croix, as well as the inspector, José de Gálvez, gauged that a viceroyalty project with jurisdiction over the Internal Provinces would be very expensive and not necessarily more effective than a General Command. With the intention of sending immediate reinforcements to the command, Croix requested the viceroy’s support for a dispatch of two thousand soldiers to reinforce the defensive structure of the established presidios. The orders from the crown, however, were different: the king decreed that the attack expeditions against the Apache and Comanche Indians be suspended and ordered Croix to try to persuade the Native Americans to sign a peace agreement and to limit military actions to solely defensive measures.

In July 1777, officer Hugo O’Connor, acting as the commanding inspector of the Internal Provinces, submitted a lengthy report to the commanding general on the impact of the measures imposed in 1772 by the Junta of War and Royal Treasury. O’Connor observed two fundamental matters that undoubtedly determined the process of defining Spanish territories in the region: the quality of the Native Americans who antagonized the settlements and the state of an offensive war, or general campaign, against the Native Americans that had been temporarily required between 1748 and 1771.

In April 1772, Viceroy Bucareli sent the first commands to organize the offensive war, ordering the dispatch of funds to re-establish the Eastern Internal Provinces. In another letter, sent to O’Connor in 1774, Bucareli ordered the reinforcement of military establishments and requested that O’Connor create a single force, made up of soldiers from the various presidios, Native American allies, and residents, until he was able to assemble just over 2,200 armed individuals who would act in accordance with a previously established plan that would make feasible the old proposal for forming a defensive wall spanning five hundred leagues, from the presidio of the Espíritu Santo Bay in Texas to the presidio of Altar in Sonora.

The Junta of War and Royal Treasury decreed a series of rulings to finance the relocation of presidios and the organization of the general campaign. Among other expenses, three thousand pesos were authorized to construct the facilities for five presidios and to demolish the old buildings to prevent them from being used by rebels. The junta also authorized the dispatch of forces to Tejas and Chihuahua and the formation of three mobile companies of one hundred men each, with wages assigned for each category and payment of three reals per day to twenty-five Native American explorers. Five hundred rifles were sent, with the corresponding amounts of gunpowder and bullets, as a substitute for shotguns and sticks. The costs would be covered with the fund from the presidios’ repayment, taxes from the city of Chihuahua, and the silver grains that amounted to approximately twelve thousand pesos annually. To finance the troops and the purchase of horses, the government was forced to use one hundred thousand pesos intended for mining gold and silver that had been retained in the city of Pitic. Five years later, when O’Connor’s command ended, every soldier from the Internal Province presidios had a supply of seven horses and a mule, in addition to a sword, a spear, a shield, a shotgun, and pistols. Likewise, a large number of Native Americans who had joined forces with the Spanish military as allies and explorers received weapons and horses that they later used against those who had provided them while also provoking and exacerbating conflicts among Native American groups.

Croix’s defensive strategy was upheld in the appointment of Colonel Juan de Ugalde as governor of the province of Coahuila, but his attempts were plagued by the Mescalero Apache tribe. The new governor, a military strategist and expert in locating Native American settlements, in 1779 began organizing a series of punitive campaigns that continued for two decades and imposed a bloody era of confrontation. Ugalde’s intense campaigns were contrary to the king’s orders, explicitly laid out in the instructions for the post of commanding general, to aim to convert the Native Americans with the help of negotiations, and they generated grave difficulties for Croix’s mandate. Ugalde had managed to establish a firm military control over the rebellious Native American groups, in addition to pursuing paternalistic policies over white natives congregated in the missions of Coahuila. Ultimately, the mandate showed signs of disobedience and animosity against the commanding general. In 1782, Juan de Ugalde was removed from the post; two years later, in 1783, Teodoro de Croix left the command to become the viceroy of Peru. For a brief time, the commanding inspector of the Internal Provinces, Felipe de Neve, took his place; after Neve’s death in 1784, he was followed by Jacobo de Ugarte y Loyola, an expert in the Internal Provinces’ circumstances regarding war and policy.

Bernardo de Gálvez, one of the empire’s principal strategists, instigated New Spain’s territorial reorganization and issued instructions for the new commander, orienting his efforts toward strengthening the command’s authority in attaining peace in the Internal Provinces and establishing a harmonious and united policy for the region. Gálvez was willing to re-establish the General Command’s dependence on the viceroy’s direct power.

Consequently, Gálvez divided the General Command into three military powers that would answer directly to the viceroy, re-establishing the commanding inspector position specified in the regulations of 1772: Ugarte, at the head of the General Command, would take over Sonora and the Californias; Colonel José Rengel was appointed commanding inspector of the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and New Mexico; and Juan de Ugalde, as subaltern chief, would oversee the eastern provinces of Coahuila, Tejas, the troops in Parras and Saltillo, the New Kingdom of León, and the colony of New Santander. Ugalde and Rengel would report to the viceroy with the guarantee that they would be free to make decisions concerning their provinces, such as regarding the control of Native American enemies and the establishment of peace agreements. Therefore, the commanding general’s jurisdictional power was limited to establishing war strategies together with the leaders of the three commands and mediating the commanding inspector’s reports with the viceroy. Gálvez’s policy, clearly defined in his instructions for the command, synthesizes two centuries of the Spanish Empire’s northern expansion, but above all, it is a document that recognizes the past errors, successes, contradictions, and experiences acquired during the process of consolidation of this complex region.

New Jurisdictions within the Internal Provinces

Following Gálvez’s death, in June 1787, the new viceroy, Manuel Antonio Flores Maldonado, denounced his predecessor’s policy on achieving peace in the Internal Provinces and continued offensive attacks aimed at exterminating the most resistant Native American groups. He changed the military strategy, ordering direct attacks on indigenous encampments or settlements. The goal was to demonstrate the Spanish government’s military strength and, afterward, to begin peace negotiations with the northern nations, with the exception of the Mescaleros and other Apache groups, who were moving into the province of Nueva Vizcaya and had broken the peace agreements reached by Gálvez.

Flores decided to divide the General Command of the Internal Provinces into two sections, rather than the three Gálvez had proposed, reinforcing the viceroy’s authority in all decisions about the command. Beginning on January 1, 1788, the Western Internal Provinces would be headed by Jacobo de Ugarte, and the eastern provinces would be the responsibility of Juan de Ugalde, who developed fairly effective campaigns against the Apache tribes. Under these new command jurisdictions, the war territories were demarcated by Ugalde’s campaigns throughout the north.

Following Flores’s brief government, Juan Vicente de Güemes Pacheco y Padilla, the 2nd Count of Revillagigedo, took over as viceroy, on October 1789, and immediately began analyzing the situation in the Internal Provinces that still had not achieved peace. His first action was to question the measures taken by Colonel Juan de Ugalde, by judging that he had acted “in bad faith” against the Native Americans, and to begin a new restructuring of the provinces.

Between 1790 and 1792, the General Command of the provinces was unified once again under the authority of Jacobo de Ugarte’s replacement, Pedro de Nava, who took over supreme and independent command of the Internal Provinces. The city of Chihuahua was designated the capital of the new command, beginning an intense policy of colonization in the west, principally in Baja California, whose territory was being abandoned. Meanwhile, in the east, Nava launched a policy of open reconciliation with the Native Americans, illustrating his fierce opposition to the policies of viceroy Flores and Juan de Ugalde.

This new policy stemmed from a principle of respect for the peace agreement that had been negotiated with the Apache Indians living in Nueva Vizcaya, informing his subalterns of the advantages of maintaining the agreements in the interests of pacifying the territory. Nava hoped to educate the military officials who were in charge of defending the provinces about the importance of going beyond the original intentions of transforming the Native Americans and converting them to Christianity, as part of a process of secularization of these spaces in which the missions had lost their former power over the Native Americans.

Faced with the previous military policies, upheld in conflicts and the offensive attacks, Nava advised the soldiers to be prudent and keep a calm attitude, but to maintain command of the daily interactions with Native Americans until both sides became familiar with the other and a certain mutual understanding could be reached. They even advised the soldiers’ children to play with Apache children. In doing so, Nava invited the soldiers to attempt to inspire humanitarian thoughts in the Native Americans, in keeping with the civil nature of their relationship. It was in this way that the commander planned to reduce the general tensions that the war had generated and, consequently, to end the attacks perpetrated by the Native Americans against Spanish settlements.

Nava’s policies did not take effect. The Apache and Comanche attacks against the settlers in the provinces would continue for decades. However, the strategy of incessant war against the Native Americans did not worry the province commanders again, or the viceregal authorities, who opted to stir up conflict among the indigenous groups who rebelled against the crown and to establish a policy of penalties, which they viewed as the best way to consolidate the territory occupied by Spain.

During the last third of the 18th century, the social organization of the Internal Provinces showed clear indications of a process of secularization in the colonization efforts and a reinforcement of the occupied territories. The institutional structure of the presidios and missions were in an obvious state of decline as a result of the growth of settlements and the creation of new villages, which were favored for their constant—albeit slow—influx of immigrants and creation of social and familial networks. Agriculture and livestock activity, along with the opening of new commercial routes as a result of the strengthening of the mining districts in Chihuahua and Sonora, opened an increasingly diverse market for the Internal Provinces, where the local street markets played an important role in the movement of consumer goods that came from all corners of New Spain. Internally, agricultural and livestock production had been consolidated with the export of goods toward the center and south of the colony, and the economic of local purchases was guaranteed principally with the development of an advanced irrigation system that, in some regions, provided up to two grain harvests per year.

The impact of the Bourbon Reforms on the region became evident during this period, principally as they related to the legal sphere: drastic changes in military, civil, and religious command took place, having been met with irreconcilable interests of power. For example, in 1787, as a result of the Ordinance of Mayors enacted one year earlier, the jurisdictions of the cities of Saltillo and Parras (within the jurisdiction of the province of Nueva Vizcaya, which had been transformed into an intendencia) joined the province of Coahuila, adding nearly ten thousand inhabitants to the population, including more than three thousand Tlaxcalans. This change gave rise to changes in the collection of taxes applied to exported goods which, in turn, generated unease among the inhabitants of the region who had evaded such taxes due to their status as border residents.

Involving several of the provinces that formed part of the General Command in the intendencia system served to reignite the dispute over political control of the Internal Provinces, since the intendencias would remain under the direct authority of the viceroy. For this reason, the Count of Revillagigedo proposed expanding the intendencias by combining Coahuila, Tejas, the New Kingdom of León, and New Santander into one intendencia, along with San Luis Potosí. Revillagigedo’s proposals were considered in the 1803 ordinances but were never implemented, as they created substantial conflict between the military and political powers.5

The Route to a New Regime

In 1810, the delegate Miguel Ramos Arizpe, a native of Saltillo and influential promotor of the Constitution of Cádiz that would be enacted two years later, proposed in the Cádiz Cortes a return to the organization of the Internal Provinces that divided them into east and west, based on an argument of common history, long-standing familial and commercial relationships, and a shared geography, among other ties. The eastern provinces, as in the former model, would be made up of Coahuila, Tejas, the New Kingdom of León, and New Santander; those in the west would include Nueva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Sonora y Sinaloa, and the Californias, including Upper California. Ramos Arizpe’s personal interest was in the town of Saltillo achieving preeminence as the seat of the Superior Junta or Governmental Junta in the eastern side of the division, delegating military authority to the province of Tejas and excluding the statute of autonomous command. The rest of the Eastern Internal Provinces would be allowed to elect their own local juntas.6

Upon the cancellation of the viceregal power in the plans for the Constitution of Cádiz, Spain’s territory was divided into provinces whose direct authority would remain under the mandate of a senior political chief appointed by the king of Spain. The provinces in question were the following: New Spain, Nueva Galicia, Yucatán, Guatemala, the Eastern Internal Provinces, the Western Internal Provinces, the island of Cuba including both Floridas, the Spanish territory on the island of Santo Domingo, and the island of Puerto Rico. The provinces would be internally organized based on the structure given in the Provincial Governments, and would cover a broad territorial domain. Six of these governments were sworn in on the Constitution in September 1812: Mexico, Nueva Galicia, Mérida, Guatemala, San Luis Potosí, Monterrey, and Durango. Monterrey and Durango were made up of the former Eastern Internal Provinces and Western Internal Provinces, respectively: Monterrey comprised the provinces of the New Kingdom of León, New Santander, Coahuila, and Tejas; and Durango encompassed Nueva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Sonora, Sinaloa, and the Californias. Following a series of uncontrolled conflicts in the provinces due to the authority structures vested in the political leaders and in the central power of a general captain who was not able to consolidate New Spain’s political territories and jurisdictions, King Ferdinand VII declared the Constitution of Cádiz invalid on May 4, 1814, and as a result, re-established viceregal power and dissolved the Provincial Governments.

Mexico, however, had already undergone changes. Several years later, following a long struggle to prevent the restoration of imperial government, the alliance established the Plan of Iguala, on February 24, 1821, between criollo soldiers with Agustín de Iturbide at the head and the rebel forces under the command of Vicente Guerrero, proclaiming independence from Spain. But the project, which was initiated by the elites in the center of the country who sought to reclaim political and economic power, could not be sustained given the profound political differences that separated the provinces.

Following the deposition of Iturbide in 1823 and the establishment of a constituent congress, the Provincial Governments filled the political gap that Iturbide left, restoring political power to the heart of society under two opposing stances: a unitary power of moderate autonomy of the provinces proposed by Republicans and Bourbonists, and a full and absolute autonomy proposed by Federalist Republicans. The possibility of a federation empowered the provinces and favored Congress’s formulation of a Plan of Constitution for the Mexican Union. By 1824, Mexico had a federal constitution.

In the beginning of Mexico’s political development as an independent nation, the former military command of the east—which included the provinces of Coahuila, the New Kingdom of León, Tejas, and New Santander—was populated by 170,000 inhabitants, enough to establish a state according to the terms defined by the constitution. In accordance with the Constitutive Act published by the second constituent congress on January 31, 1824, the project led to the creation of the Internal Eastern State. The proposal, commanded by the Federalist Miguel Ramos Arizpe, also included the creation of the Internal Northern State, comprising the provinces of New Mexico, Chihuahua, and Durango, and an Internal Western State, formed by the provinces of Sonora, Sinaloa, and Baja California. Respected for his experience and political abilities, Miguel Ramos Arizpe ensured that the constituent congress would declare the creation of the Internal Eastern State on March 7, 1824. However, New Santander would not be included, as it had declared its interest in forming an independent federation of the eastern provinces. After New Santander’s removal, and coupled with the struggle for the new state’s political center, the New Kingdom of León—under the prominent influence of Friar Servando Teresa de Mier, a political enemy of Miguel Ramos Arizpe—also decided to separate. On May 4, at the request of Mier, the Congress opted to create two independent states: Nuevo León and Coahuila-Tejas. The Internal Eastern State was recognized by the constituent congress and comprised the provinces of Sonora and Sinaloa, and the town of El Fuerte de Montesclaros was designated its capital.

From then on, the former Internal Provinces engaged in their own processes of jurisdictional and political re-accommodation, benefiting from their autonomy as enacted in the Constitution of Cádiz, at least in the exercise of local power. The secularization decreed in the Cortes de Cádiz on September 13, 1813, for example, did not take effect in the province of Upper California given the prominent social and economic role that the missions played in the jurisdiction.

Discussion of the Literature

The study of New Spain’s territorial consolidation makes up part of an abundant historiography tied to the analysis of the long-standing processes that formed the precursors to contemporary Mexico. The importance of the legal and administrative divisions of this territory have also been studied as an expression of the changes and continuities of New Spain society, primarily in the process of transition from the former regime to the new regime that resulted from the Mexican War of Independence that began in 1810.

Among the authors who have covered these topics, one of the most important is the historian Edmundo O’Gorman, whose 1937 publication opened the discussion on the territorial divisions and their impact on Mexico’s geography from a legal perspective, as well as on the foundation of the Federation, highlighting the established difference between the intendencias and the Internal Provinces.7 One year later, in 1938, a classic study of these provinces was published, written by the prolific northeastern historian Vito Alessio Robles, in which he treated the exceptional historical aspects of the provinces of Coahuila and Tejas, entities localized in the east of the vast northern territory.8 On the same subject, the work of Lino Gómez Canedo achieved substantial influence on our understanding of the territorial organization processes of New Spain and its northern provinces.9

From a broader perspective, Fernando Ocaranza published a text in 1939 entitled “Chronicle,” which aimed to focus on the long-standing origins and process of consolidation that led to the Internal Provinces, beginning with the involvement of the Apostolic Colleges that participated in the so-called spiritual conquest in northern New Spain.10

Among the scholars of New Spain’s territorial divisions and local expressions thereof, historian María del Carmen Velázquez stands out, having devoted her efforts to the study of military structures and the consolidation of a historical region that exhibits important changes throughout the colonial period and until the beginning of the independence process. Her work reveals the need to analyze the relationship between northern and central New Spain in the legal and political formation and definition of the Internal Provinces.11 From this perspective, the work of historian Isidro Vizcaya Canales, published for the first time in 1976, seeks to explain the Eastern Internal Provinces (the New Kingdom of León, Coahuila, Nuevo Santander, and Texas) in the independence process via geographic isolation from central Mexico.12

Max L. Moorhead’s study of military organization on the border, published for the first time in 1954, is an indispensable work for understanding the military structure that characterized the formation of the Internal Provinces of New Spain, from the earliest established northern presidios in 1570 until independence in 1810.13

Similarly, the work of David J. Weber, dedicated to the study of what he defines as a border region in the southeast of the United States of North America and northern Mexico, is of great interest for the study and understanding of the territories of the Internal Provinces. The perspective of his analysis gives a broad view of the Southwest’s long process of formation, in which Mexico was a central figure.14 Luis Navarro García offers a detailed panorama on the influence of Don José de Gálvez in the configuration of this vast northern region.15

Primary Sources

In Mexico, there are several different types of repositories and archives. The Archivo General de la Nación, known by its initials, AGN, is located in Mexico City in the former Palacio de Lecumberri. In this archive, manuscripts, maps, blueprints, illustrations, and other photographic resources related to the Mexican state as a nation are stored, contained in 740 holdings, series, and files, as part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World register. Within its holdings, records on the Internal Provinces comprise 266 volumes, with information on political, administrative, religious, and military topics, in both manuscript and map form. Other holdings that supplement specific information on the Internal Provinces include the Archives of Revenue, the Californias, Chaplaincies, Prisons and Presidios, Civil Proceedings, Crime, Jesuits, the Inquisition, the Navy, Missions, Pious Works, the Royal Treasury, and History.16 Its general catalog can be consulted online via the archive’s website.

For information on the organization of the Internal Provinces in Franciscan mission jurisdictions, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s Archivo Franciscano del Fondo Reservado, located on the university’s campus in Mexico City, contains incredibly rich documentary material spanning the 16th to the 18th centuries. To access this material, consult the the website.

Another valuable resource is stored in the municipal archives of Mexico, located in several different locations, which can be accessed according to local regulations. For example, the Archivo Municipal de Monterrey, located in the capital of Nuevo León, contains online documentation divided into various collections and covering information from the 16th century to the present. The Civil collection, containing 652 volumes beginning with 1598, is especially useful.

The list of historical municipal archives that are organized and open to the public in the state of Chihuahua can be found online.

In Sonora, it is advisable to visit the Archivo General del Estado de Sonora, located in the city of Hermosillo. It was previously known as AHGES, and contains important information on indigenous groups and other topics.

The Archivo Histórico María y Mateo or the Archivo Histórico del Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola de Parras, in Coahuila, was meticulously cataloged by Father Agustín Churruca Peláez. It contains the Ecclesiastical Holdings (410 records), the Civil Holdings (150 records), including a section on the General Command of the Internal Provinces, among others, and the Ecclesiastical-Civil Holdings (196 records).

Also in Coahuila, the Archivos Municipal de Saltillo and General del Estado de Coahuila safeguard relevant documentary information. The first contains five documentary collections from the extensive time period from 1578 to 1940, as well as an interesting collection of plans, maps and photographs. On the website of Archivo General del Estado de Coahuila you can consult the catalogs of its documentary collections and an extensive database of digitized documents available in open format.

The Archivo General de Indias can be found in Seville, Spain, with rich documentation on the region of the Internal Provinces. The State section contains digitized documentation.

Further Reading

Benson, Nettie Lee. La diputación provincial y el federalismo mexicano. Mexico: El Colegio de México, 1994.Find this resource:

    Gómez Canedo, Lino, Evangelización y conquista: experiencia franciscana en Hispanoamérica. México: Biblioteca Porrúa, 1977.Find this resource:

      Hamalainen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

        Moorhead, Max L. The Apache Frontier: Jacobo Ugarte and the Spanish-Indian Relations in Northern New Spain, 1769–1791. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.Find this resource:

          Moorhead, Max L. The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954.Find this resource:

            Navarro García, Luis. Don José de Gálvez y la Comandancia General de las Provincias Internas del Norte de la Nueva España. Sevilla: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964.Find this resource:

              Naylor, Thomas H., and Charles W. Polzer, eds. Pedro de Rivera and the Military Regulations in Northern New Spain, 1724–1729. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 1988.Find this resource:

                Ocaranza, Fernando. Crónica de las Provincias Internas de la Nueva España. México: Editorial Polis, 1939.Find this resource:

                  Ortega Soto, Martha. Alta California: Una frontera olvidada del noroeste de México 1769–1846. México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Iztapalapa, 2001.Find this resource:

                    O’Gorman, Edmundo. Breve historia de las divisiones territoriales: Aportación a la historia de la geografía de México. México: Editorial Polis, 1937.Find this resource:

                      Osante, Patricia. “El marqués de Altamira y el nuevo impulso colonizador en el norte novohispano 1742–1753.” Anuario de Estudios Americanos 72, no. 1 (2015), 211–231.Find this resource:

                        Robles, Vito Alessio, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial. México: Editorial Cultura, 1938.Find this resource:

                          Rubio Mañé, Jorge Ignacio. El virreinato I: Orígenes y jurisdicciones, y dinámica social de los virreyes. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1983.Find this resource:

                            Sheridan, Cecilia. Anónimos y desterrados: La contienda por el “sitio que llaman de Quauyla,” siglos XVI–XVIII. México: CIESAS, Miguel Ángel Porrúa, 2000.Find this resource:

                              Sheridan Prieto, Cecilia. “‘Indios amigos’: Estrategias militares en la frontera noreste novohispana.” In Fuerzas militares en Iberoamérica, siglos XVIII y XIX. Edited by Juan Ortiz Escamilla, 27–46. Mexico: El Colegio de México, 2005.Find this resource:

                                Velázquez, María del Carmen. El marqués de Altamira y las Provincias Internas de la Nueva España. Mexico: El Colegio de México, 1976.Find this resource:

                                  Velázquez, María del Carmen. Establecimiento y pérdida del Septentrión de Nueva España. Mexico: El Colegio de México, 1974.Find this resource:

                                    Velázquez, María del Carmen. Tres estudios sobre las Provincias Internas de Nueva España. Mexico: El Colegio de México, 1976.Find this resource:

                                      Vizcaya Canales, Isidro. En los albores de la Independencia: Las Provincias Internas de Oriente durante la insurrección de don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, 1810–1811. Colección La Historia en la Ciudad del Conocimiento. Mexico: Fondo Editorial Gobierno del Estado de Nuevo León, Tecnológico de Monterrey, 2005.Find this resource:

                                        Weber, David J. Spanish Bourbons and Wild Indians. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                                          Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

                                            Zamora, José María, Registro de Legislación Ultramarina y Ordenanzas de Intendentes de 1803. Habana: Imprenta del Gobierno y Capitanía General, 1839.Find this resource:


                                              (1.) Pedro de Rivera, Diario y derrotero de lo caminado visto, y obcervado en el discurso de la visita general de precidios, situados en ñas provincias ynternas de Nueva España, que de orden de Su Magestad executó d. Pedro de Rivera, brigadier de los reales exercitos haviendo transitado por los reinos del Nuevo de Toledo, el de la nueva Galicia el de la nueva Vizcaya, el de la Nueva México, el de la Nueva Estremadura, el de las Nuevas Philipinas, el del Nuevo de León, las provincias, de Sonora, Ostimuri, Sinaloa, y Guasteca, 1724–1728 (Mexico: Porrúa Hnos. y Cía., 1945).

                                              (2.) Reglamento para todos los presidios de las provincias internas de esta gobernación, con el nvmero de oficiales, y soldados, que ha de guarnecer: Sveldos, ordenanzas, prevenciones, precios de los víveres, y vestuarios, conque á los soldados se les assite, y se les avrá de continuar (Mexico: Imprenta Real de el Superior Govierno, de los herederos de la viuda de M. De Rivera Calderon from the heirs M. De Rivera Calderon’s widow, 1729).

                                              (3.) Nicolás de Lafora, Relación del viaje que hizo a los presidios internos situados en la frontera de la América Septentrional pertenecientes al rey de España (Mexico: Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1939).

                                              (4.) Reglamento e instrucción para los presidios que se han de formar en la línea de fronteras de la Nueva España; resuelto por el rey Nuestro Señor en cédula de 10 de septiembre de 1772 (Mexico: Oficina de la Águila, 1834).

                                              (5.) Zamora, José María, Registro de Legislación Ultramarina y Ordenanzas de Intendentes de 1803 (Habana: Imprenta del Gobierno y Capitanía General, 1839).

                                              (6.) Miguel Ramos Arizpe, Memoria sobre el estado de las provincias internas de Oriente presentada a las Cortes de Cádiz (Mexico: Bibliófilos Mexicanos, 1932).

                                              (7.) O´Gorman, Edmundo, Breve historia de las divisiones territoriales: Aportación a la historia de la geografía de México (México: Editorial Polis, 1937).

                                              (8.) Robles, Vito Alessio, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (México: Editorial Cultura, 1938).

                                              (9.) Gómez Canedo, Lino, Gómez Canedo, Lino, Evangelización y conquista: experiencia franciscana en Hispanoamérica (México: Biblioteca Porrúa, 1977).

                                              (10.) Ocaranza, Fernando, Crónica de las provincias Internas de la Nueva España (México: Editorial Polis, 1939).

                                              (11.) Velázquez, María del Carmen, El marqués de Altamira y las Provincias Internas de la Nueva España (Mexico: El Colegio de México, 1976).

                                              (12.) Vizcaya Canales, Isidro, En los albores de la Independencia: Las Provincias Internas de Oriente durante la insurrección de don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, 1810–1811. Colección La Historia en la Ciudad del Conocimiento (Mexico: Fondo Editorial Gobierno del Estado de Nuevo León, Tecnológico de Monterrey, 2005).

                                              (13.) Moorhead, Max L.The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954).

                                              (14.) Weber, David J.The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992).

                                              (15.) Navarro García, Luis. Don José de Gálvez y la Comandancia General de las Provincias Internas del Norte de la Nueva España (Sevilla: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1964).

                                              (16.) Esperanza Rodríguez de Lebrija, Ramo Provincias Internas: Índice analítico, 2 vols. Serie Guías y Catálogos 17 (Mexico: Archivo General de la Nación, 1977).