Relación de Xonotla, 1581


Xonotla, 1580

In the village of Xonotla, in New Spain, on the twentieth day of October of the year one thousand five hundred and eighty, I Joan Gonzalez, corregidor of Tetela and its jurisdictions, in accordance to his Majesty's orders as stated in the Instructions, compiled the description of this land. Using the Mexican and Castillian languages, that are spoken by these natives and with Marcos de Berrearce, a scribe named by the council of the same jurisdiction, a ladino indian, and Diego Gonzalez and Alonso de Valenzuela, both Spaniards who were also present, the description of this land was done in the following manner.



The governor of this town and its dependencies is Don Antonio de Luna. This is a hereditary title. Because he is a native of the land, it is confirmed yearly by their excellencies, the Viceroys. The governor was also present.

In this cabezera and its dependencies, there is a beneficiado named Leonardo Ruiz de la Peña. He was named by the bishop of Tlaxcala, since Xonotla is part of this diocesis.


Chapter One

Having consulted the elders of this town, they responded that to the north of this town is the province of Guytlapa, which means "large province." To the south lies Tlatlacotepeque that means "red mountain." This village is between these two cabeceras.


Chapter Two

To the second question they answered that the discoverer and conqueror of this town and its people was an indian named Yzozelotl. He brought with him three companions. He was their leader. He came on his own and not because anyone sent him. This happened in the year one thousand, one hundred and eighty. (Four hundred years ago.)


Chapter Three

To the third question they responded that the climate is temperate, leaning more towards hot than cold and it is humid, with much rain and fog. It is often this way from May to October. There are hot winds that don't cause much damage.


Chapter Four

(No Answer.)


Chapter Five

To the fifth question they responded that in ancient times, this land was densely populated, with many indians. Since the founding of this village, four hundred years ago, there are neither more nor less people. It was founded by the ancestors of its present governor. His father, Don Hernando de Luna, worked very hard to make it grow and prosper, and now it is governed by his son. Among its residents there are some of good nature and understanding. The common people though, are fragile and rough in the understanding. They plant maize, chile, other vegetables, and cotton. Among them, there are some who are smiths, carpenters, painters and who perform other trades. They speak two languages, the Mexican and the Totonac that is the original of the land.


Chapter Six

(No Answer.)


Chapter Seven

To the seventh question they responded that this town is 40 leagues east of the Audiencia Real de México. It is in the mountain range of Xalapa in proximity to the city of Veracruz, a Spanish town that lies 30 leagues away. The roads are not good.


Chapter Eight

(No Answer.)


Chapter Nine

To the ninth question they responded that this village is called Xonotla because there are these trees that have the same name and from which you can draw an oil that will heal any wound. From the bark of this tree they also make rope and maromas. The leaf of this tree is like the nopal of Spain, and the flower is a good staple for the lambs. From its leaves they draw a water that is very good for treating evil of the eyes. When it is dry, they use it as wood to light the fire in their houses. And this name Xonotla was given to it by Yzotzelotl, whose name means "face of a tiger." It currently has two hundred vezinos.


Chapter Ten

To the tenth question they responded that this town was founded on the side of a steep cliff. Sometimes you can see the northern sea that lies twenty leagues away. As you will see from the painting, the town is sourrounded by cliffs and ravines.


Chapter Eleven

To the eleventh chapter they responded that the village is cabecera de corregimiento and cabecera de doctrina. It also has another cabecera de corregimiento under it, namely Tetela. The towns that are sujetos of Xonotla are San Martín Tuztamapa, Santiago de Hecatlán and San Francisco de Ayotusco.


Chapter Twelve

To the Twelfth chapter they responded that the other cabeceras that this town has around it are Guytlalpa that lies six leagues to the west. The roads are twisted,there are many ravines, and they are not easy to travel. On the south is the town of Tlatlacutepeque, that lies 7 leagues away. The roads are also twisted. The other cabecera that lies to the north is Tonatico. It is 3 leagues away. The road is twisted and bad.


Chapter Fourteen

To the fourteenth chapter they responded that they were never subject to anyone, but had their own rites and idolatries. One hundred years ago, Moctezuma I, king of Mexico conquered them. They paid him tribute in the form of blankets, corn, chile in a quantity specified by Moctezuma himself. And they did not have a special day to do so, but whenever they were asked. And they had an idol named Totonac to whom they would offer sacrifices. They do not know why they called him this name but because of this fact, they were called the Totonacs. This name is still used to today to refer to the whole province and mountain range. They would sacrifice young men and offer him their hearts and the blood. They would also offer him feathers and precious stones such as emeralds and turquoise. They would do many rites so that he would bring them good weather, children, material goods and women.


Chapter Fifteen

To the fifteen chapter they responded that they were governed by Ysotzelotl and after him by his descendants. And this lord had a council of four or five judges who would apply punishment when they committed a crime. And depending on the crime, they would be burnt alive, or they would burn their houses and anyone who was a descendant of this lineage would be exiled. If a young man under twenty would get drunk, they would sell him as a slave. They never had war with anyone. The weapons they used were clubs and stones. In those times their lords and principal people would dress richly with many blankets and feathers. The common people would dress with blankets made from a plant ortiga (nettle?) (similar to the one in Castille) called tilmas. And now they use shirts and pants and vests, hats and shoes and over it all white embroired blankets. The occupations that they used to have, and still have, are plainting corn, chile, beans and other vegetables and fishing. In the old days, they used to live longer and healthier than now. At that time a man younger that twenty five would not lie with a woman. Now at ten and twelve years of age they get married. Because they live with more luxuries now, they also live less.


Chapter Sixteen

To the sixteen chapter they responded to refer to the prior chapter.


Chapter Seventeen

To the seventeenth chapter they responded that the site and weather are healthy. the illnesses that occur among them are the general pestilences and they heal themselves with herbs that they grow on the mountains. Their names cannot be discerned as they have no equivalent of these in Spain. Sometimes they are very beneficial and at other times they are not.


Chapter Eighteen

To the eighteenth chapter they responded that this town is close to a mountain range called Talquetzaltepec. They called it this name because in the middle of it there is a big boulder that resembles a lantern. You can see from 10 leagues away. It lies to the west. In all the other sides there are ravines. They say this word means mountain range and plateau.


Chapter Nineteen

To the nineteenth chapter they responded that there are two rivers, one that lies to the north. In this river they catch many fish such as anguilas, shrimp, trout and this river can be navigated. To the south they have another small river. They do not derive any profit from it.


Chapter Twenty

To the twentieth chapter they responded that in this mountain range there are no trees, except those called Xonotl. Because the climate is hot, they lack trees for wood.


Chapter Twenty One

(No answer.)


Chapter Twenty Two

(No answer.)


Chapter Twenty Three

To the twenty third chapter they responded that they have many fruit bearing trees that they call tetzoncayotlque and that the Spaniards call mameyes. They have other fruit trees that the names are so exotic that there is no comparison with those in Spain. The trees that they have brought from Spain are oranges, limes and lemons, ciders and sugar canes. And they flourish because the land is well suited for these.


Chapter Twenty Four

To the twenty fourth chapter they answered that the grains and seeds they have are chia and guatly, the vegetables are chayoquilitl and others that are not mentioned because they are so exotic and cannot be compared to those in Spain.


Chapter Twenty Five

(No Answer.)


Chapter Twenty Six

To the twenty six chapter they responded that they have many medicinal herbs that they use to cure themselves and that they have not named them. There are poisonous herbs too, but they say that they do not know which ones they are.


Chapter Twenty Seven

To the twenty seventh chapter they responded that there are many tigers and lions and other animals and insects and salvafinas in great quantities. There are many sables? and monkeys and owls and texones that damage the herds. The are native hens and also from Spain of which great quantities have been brought.


Chapter Twenty Eight

(No answer.)


Chapter Twenty Nine

(No answer.)


Chapter Thirty

To the thirtieth chapter they answered that they do not have salt mines in this province and that the salt they need they bring from Tehuacan, a town that is about 40 leagues from here. They pay for it from their crops of cotton that they also use to pay their tributes.


Chapter Thirty First

To the thirty first chapter they answered that the houses in which they live are made of wood sticks, covered with straw with the exception of the governor and some principal lords whose houses are of stone with white walls.


Chapter Thirty Two

(No answer.)


Chapter Thirty Three

To the thirty third chapter they responded they barter cotton. They sell among themselves and in comerce with other towns. They use this cotton to make blankets that they sell and with this they live and pay their tributes.


Chapter Thirty Four

To the thirty fourth chapter they responded that as mentioned earlier, this town falls under the dioscesis of Tlascala. From here to their cathedral there are more or less thirty leagues of badly twisted roads, great ravines and some plains. Tlascala lies to the south.


Chapter Thirty Five

(No answer.)


Chapter Thirty Six

(No answer.)


Chapter Thirty Seven

(No answer.)


Chapter Thirty Eight

(No answer.)


Chapter Thirty Nine

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty One

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Two

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Three

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Four

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Five

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Six

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Seven

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Eight

(No answer.)


Chapter Forty Nine

(No answer.)


Chapter Fifty

(No answer.)





English Translation, Copyright, Lily Díaz, 1996