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Nahuatl is the Latin American indigenous language having the largest number of colonial documents. As with other colonial documents, the study of these manuscripts requires mastery of the language as well as the relevant historical and philological sources. The emergence of digital repositories in Mexico, the United States, France, and other countries has made hundreds of digital images available to scholars who would not have had access to these sources otherwise. Digital repositories also contain additional tools such as morphological parsers and dictionaries. These allow users to upload new images, transcriptions, and translations, turning digital archives into veritable platforms for scholarly exchange. The irruption of digital repositories promises to effect substantial changes in the field of Nahuatl studies.

Article

Matthew Butler and David A. Bliss

The Hijuelas project is a multi-domain international collaboration that makes available in digital form a large and valuable source on nineteenth-century indigenous history––the so-called libros de hijuelas or deed books recording the statewide privatization of indigenous lands in Michoacán, Mexico. These deed books, 194 in total, have been digitized and described over a two-year period by a team of History students from Michoacán’s state university, the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás Hidalgo (UMSNH), trained by and working under the supervision of archivists of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies-Benson Latin American Collection of (LLILAS Benson) of the University of Texas at Austin. Additional logistical support has been provided by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) as a partner institution in Mexico of the University of Texas at Austin and by the state government of Michoacán via the Archivo General e Histórico del Poder Ejecutivo de Michoacán (AGHPEM), which is custodian of the hijuelas books. The project was generously funded by the British Library through its Endangered Archives Programme (EAP 931, “Conserving Indigenous Memories of Land Privatization in Mexico: Michoacán’s Libros de Hijuelas, 1719–1929”). The project seeks to be innovative in two ways. As a post-custodial archiving project, first and foremost, it uses digital methods to make easily accessible to historians, anthropologists, and indigenous communities the only consolidated state-level record of the land privatizations (reparto de tierras) affecting Mexican indigenous communities in the 19th century. It therefore projects digitally a key source for historians and one that possesses clear identitarian and agrarian importance for indigenous communities. It also makes widely available a source that is becoming physically unstable and inaccessible because of the difficult public security conditions affecting Michoacán. As a collaboration involving diverse institutional actors, furthermore, the project brings together institutions from three different countries and is an example of what may be achieved through equitable international collaborations.

Article

“Power of Attorney in Oaxaca, Mexico: Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks” is an ongoing digital research project that constructs a geography of indigenous legal culture through digital maps and visualizations. The Power of Attorney website analyzes relationships among people, places, and courts that were created by the granting of power attorney, a notarial procedure common across the Spanish empire. The primary actors in this story are indigenous individuals, communities, and coalitions of communities in the diocese of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the legal agents who represented them, some of whom were untitled indigenous scribes, and others, titled lawyers and legal agents of Spanish descent. The relationship between indigenous litigants and their legal agents created social networks and flows of knowledge and power at a variety of scales, some local and some transatlantic, whose dimensions changed over time. The pilot for the project focuses on the district of Villa Alta, Oaxaca, during the 18th century. “Power of Attorney in Oaxaca, Mexico: Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks” is an ongoing digital research project that constructs a geography of indigenous legal culture through digital maps and visualizations. The Power of Attorney (https://www.powerofattorneynative.com/) website analyzes relationships among people, places, and courts that were created by the granting of power attorney, a notarial procedure common across the Spanish empire. The primary actors in this story are indigenous individuals, communities, and coalitions of communities in the diocese of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the legal agents who represented them, some of whom were untitled indigenous scribes, and others, titled lawyers and legal agents of Spanish descent. The relationship between indigenous litigants and their legal agents created social networks and flows of knowledge and power at a variety of scales, some local and some transatlantic, whose dimensions changed over time. The pilot for the project focuses on the district of Villa Alta, Oaxaca, during the 18th century. The multiscalar narrative of the Power of Attorney project speaks to multiple audiences, and the digital multimedia format allows visitors to further tailor their interactions with information. The site operates on many levels. It provides maps and visualizations based on original research, data culled from primary sources that can be used as a research tool, historical and geographical background information, information about how to read letters of attorney, and microhistorical narratives of power of attorney relationships. For undergraduates learning about the relationship between Spanish administration and pueblos de indios, the maps and visualizations provide an at-a-glance overview of the spatial and social connections among Indian towns, ecclesiastical and viceregal courts, and the court of the king in Madrid from the perspective of an indigenous region rather than a top-down perspective. Graduate students and scholars interested in the production of notarial records in native jurisdictions, social history and ethnohistorical methodology and the relationship between local and transatlantic processes can explore the maps, visualizations, and data in greater detail. An educated general audience interested in the history of Oaxaca’s native peoples can find a general introduction to the region, its history and geography, and the long-standing relationship between Mexico’s native people and the law.