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Colonial Mexico, Government

Juzgado, Viceroyalty of New Spain, Spanish monarchy, Audiencia, special tribunal

Soon after the conquest, Hernan Cortes established a basic but functional local governmental structure based on the municipality, or city. Municipalities controlled smaller towns and villages. In 1528 the Spanish monarchy established a high court, known as the Audiencia, and by 1530 it was staffed by well-trained judges and had established a degree of royal control. In 1535, nearly 15 years after the fall of the Aztec empire, the Spanish government established the Viceroyalty of New Spain and appointed the first Spanish viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, who was an accomplished administrator. The viceroy served as the head of the Audiencia, chief executive of New Spain, and military leader of the viceroyalty under the title of captain-general.

Theoretically, the viceroys controlled all of New Spain, which eventually included what is now Mexico, the Philippine Islands, Central America, the islands of the Antilles, California, New Mexico, and uncharted territory along the Gulf Coast. In reality, however, the viceroy exercised direct authority only over the central regions of New Spain. In other areas, distance and poor communications made it necessary to rely upon governors and other officials.

The administration of New Spain also relied on other bodies, including the Consulado (merchant guild), which dealt with commercial matters. A special tribunal, the Juzgado de Indios, was established in 1573 to hear appeals from Native Americans against the actions of district governors. A variety of lesser bodies dealt with the needs of a complex colonial society.

Article key phrases:

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