Instructions and memorandum, of the relations that are to be made for the description of the Indies, by order of his Majesty, and for their better governance.
First, the Governors, Magistrates, or Sheriffs to whom the Viceroys, Audiencias, or other government officials sent these instructions and printed memoranda, will do a list, and memoranda of the names of the Spanish and Indian towns under their jurisdiction. These names, written in legible and clear writing, shall be sent to the government officials, so that they, together with the descriptions of the towns, send them to his Majesty and the Council of the Indies.
These instructions and printed memorandum shall be distributed in the Spanish and Indian towns in their jurisdiction. They shall be sent to the councils where there are any, and if not, to the priests, if there are any. If there is none, they should be sent to the religious officials in charge of the doctrine, asking them to meet and, on behalf of his Majesty, they should be answered as is requested. And they should send the descriptions they make, and the memorandum, so that as these are received by the government officials, so they can be distributed to the other towns that have not received any.
And in the towns, and cities, where the Governors, Magistrates, and government officials reside, they shall do the descriptions or request that persons knowledgeable of the land do them.
The persons in the town in charge of doing the description will respond to the questions in the following manner.
First, on a piece of paper, they will write as headline the day, month, year, and the name of the person (or persons) who made it and of the Governor or government official who sent them the instructions.
Carefully recalling the question (or chapter) from memory, they will answer what is to be said. One after the other, they will answer each and everyone acording to its number and from memory. The chapters where there is nothing to be said, shall so be mentioned, thus proceeding to the next ones, until they are all recalled and answered as has already been requested, afirming what is true and mentioning what is dubious, so that the descriptions are correct and coform to the following contents.
Memorandum of the things that shall be answered and done in the descriptions.
In the towns of Spaniards state the name of the district or province, in which the town is located, and also the meaning of the name in the native language and the reason it is so named.
State who was the discoverer and conqueror of said province and by
whose order or mandate it was discovered. Give the year of its
discovery and conquest and all that can be readily learned about it.
State in general the climate and quality of said province or district;
whether it is cold or hot, dry or damp, with much rainfall or little and at
what season there is more or less; and the prevailing winds, whether
violent, their direction and at what season of the year.
State whether the country is level, rough, flat or mountainous; with
many or few rivers and fountains, with abundance or scarcity of water;
whether fertile or lacking in pasture; with an abundance or scarcity of
fruits and subsistence crops.
State whether the district is inhabited by many or few Indians and
whether in former times it had a greater or lesser population; the
causes for their increase or diminution, if known, and whether the inhabitants are gathered together in regular towns or not. State also what is the
character and condition of their intelligence, inclinations and way of
life; also whether different languages are spoken throughout the
whole province or whether they have one which is spoken by all.
State the latitude in which these towns of Spaniards lie, if this has
been taken or if known, or if there is anyone who knows how to take it, or on what days of the year the sun does not cast a shadow at
State the distance in leagues between each city or town occupied by
Spaniards and the city in which dwells the Audiencia in whose
jurisdiction it belongs, or the residence of the governor to whom it is
subject; state also the directions in which said cities and towns lie from
In the same manner, give the distance in leagues between each city or town occupied by Spaniards and those which bound them in adjoining districts,
declaring in what direction they lie; and whether the leagues are long or
short, through level or broken and mountainous country; whether the
roads are straight winding and good or bad for travel.
State the name and surname that every city or town has or has had
and the reason (if known) why it was so named, and who named it and
who was the founder, and by whose order or mandate he made the
settlement; and the year of its foundation and the number of inhabitants at
that and at the present time.
Describe the site whether, it lies high or low or in a plain, and give a design or colored painting showing the streets, squares, and other places; mark the monasteries as you can. This can be easily sketched on paper so that it can be shown as well as possible. Note which parts of the town face North and which South.
In the case of the Indian towns it is only to be stated how far they are
from the town under whose jurisdiction they fall, and which is
the nearest center (cabecera) for the teaching of religious doctrine.
The names of all of the chief towns in this jurisdiction are to be given as
well as those of their respective dependencies.
State also the distances between the other towns of Indians or of
Spaniards that surround it declaring the directions in which they lie and
whether the leagues are long or short and the roads through level or straight
or mountainous and winding land.
State what the name of the Indian town means in the native tongue,
why it is so called; what more there is to know about it; what it is in
the language that the native inhabitants of the place actually speak.
State to whom the Indians belonged in heathen time and what
dominion was exercised over them by their lords; what tribute they
paid and the form of worship, rites and customs they had, good or
State how they were governed; against whom they carried warfare;
how they fought; the clothes and costumes they wore and now wear, the foods they used and now use and whether they used to be more or less healthy anciently than they are now, and what reasons may be learned for this.
State about all towns, of Spaniards or of Indians, whether the town is
located in a mountain, valley or open plain, and the names of the
mountains or valleys and district in which it lies and what they mean in the native language.
State whether the town is located in a healthful or unhealthful place
and if unhealthful, the cause for this if it can be learned; note the kinds
of illness that are prevalent and the remedies employed for curing
State how far or close is any nearby prominent mountain or
mountain range, in what direction it lies and what it is called.
State the principal river or rivers that pass near the town; at what
distance they do so; how abundant they are and whether there is
anything remarkable about their sources; how banks are exploited; also whether they are employed or could be employed for various irrigation works on an important scale.
Mention the important lakes, lagoons and fountains within the bounds
of the towns, and any notable things about them.
Question twenty one
Mention volcanoes, grottoes and all other admirable landmarks of nature there may be in the district, which are worthy of being known.
Question twenty two
Describe the native trees that commonly grow wild in the district; and
the benefits to be gained from them, their fruits and their wood. State for
what they are or might be useful.
Question twenty three
Mention the cultivated trees in the district, and whether those brought there from Spain or elsewhere grow well or not.
Question twenty four
Mention the grains and seeds and other plants and vegetable which
have served or serve as subsistence for the natives.
Question twenty five
State what plants have been introduced there from Spain and whether there is wheat, barley, wines and oil; in what quantity they are harvested and whether there are silkworms or cochineal in the district and in what quantities.
Question twenty six
Mention the herbs or aromatic plants with which the Indians cure
themselves, and their medicinal or poisonous qualities.
Question twenty seven
Describe the native animals, wild and domestic, and those introduced from Spain and state how well they breed and multiply.
Question twenty eight
Describe the gold and silver mines, and of other metals or minerals, and mineral dyes there may be in the district and within the confines of the town.
Question twenty nine
State the deposits of precious stones, jasper, marble, and other
important and esteemed materials which likewise may exist.
State whether there are salt mines in or near said town and from where
they obtain their supplies of salt and all other things they lack for
sustenance and clothing.
Question thirty one
Describe the form and construction of their houses and the building
materials for them that are found in the town or the other places from
which they are brought.
Question thirty two
Describe the fortresses and the strongholds that are in their vicinity and within their confines.
Question thirty three
Describe the trade, commerce and dealings by which the
Spaniards and native inhabitants of the town support themselves and
the state what they produce and how they pay their tributes.
Question thirty four
State the diocese of the arch bishopric or bishopric or abbey to which
the town belongs; the district in which it is situated and its distance in
leagues. State in what direction from it lies the cathedral town and the
capital of the district and whether the leagues are long or short; the
roads straight or winding and the country flat or rough.
Question thirty five
Note the cathedral or parish church or churches in each town, with the
number of beneficiaries and prebends in each; if the town contains
any chapel noteworthy endowment, state what it is, and who was its
Question thirty six
Mention the monasteries of friars and convents of nuns of each Order
there may be in each town; when and by whom they were founded
and the number of friars and nuns in them. Also mention anything
noteworthy there may be in the towns.
Question thirty seven
Mention also the hospitals, colleges and pious institutions there may
be in said town; by whom and when they were instituted.
Question thirty eight
If the towns are maritime, in addition to the above
describe in the report the nature of the sea which reaches them, if it is calm or stormy, and what sorts of storms, and other perils, and at what seasons, more or less, these commonly occur.
Question thirty nine
State whether the coasts have beaches or are costa brava without
them, and the significant reefs, and the perils to navigation there may
be along the coast.
Note the tides, and rising of the sea, and how high these are, and at
what time they rise and ebb, on what days and hours of the day.
Question forty one
State the main capes and points, and notable bays within the vicinity,
with their names and extent, if these can be declared accurately.
Question forty two
State the ports and places of disembarkation there may be on the
said coast, and provide a hart and a map of them, as best as possible,
on a sheet of paper, through which it may be seen the form and size
Question forty three
State their size and capacity, with approximate paces and leagues
they may have in length and breadth, as near as possible, and how
many vessels they can accommodate.
Question forty four
State their depth in brazas, how clean is the bottom, special deeps
and shallows in them and where; state if free of boring-worms and
Question forty five
State the entrances and exits to them, and how they face, and the
prevailing winds for entering and leaving them.
Question forty six
Note the ease or difficulties of obtaining firewood, fresh water, and
supplies, and other good or bad features for entering and staying in
Question forty seven
Give the names of the islands belonging to the coast, why they are so
named, their shapes and forms, and show them on the map, if
possible, with length and breadth, and area, their soils, pastures,
trees, and benefits they may offer, as well as the birds and animals on
them, and their important rivers and watering spots.
Question forty eight
State generally the sites of depopulated towns of Spaniards, when
they were depopulated and when abandoned, and whatever may be
learned of the reasons for their depopulation.
Question forty nine
Mention any other notable thing about the natural features, and any
effects of the soil, air, sky, which may be found in any part and which
are worthy of being noted.
Once this report is concluded, the persons who have aided in its
preparation will sign it, and without delay send it, together with this
Instruction, to the person who has dispatched it to them.
Transcription and translation by Lily Díaz, 1995
From the Relacion de Xonotla, 1582