Power of Attorney in Oaxaca, Mexico

Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks

Work in Progress

The project design of “Power of Attorney” aims at geographical and chronological comparisons of the districts of Villa Alta and Teposcolula, Oaxaca.  Three more sets of maps and visualizations are forthcoming: 1) Teposcolula, 18th century; 2) Villa Alta, 1800-1850; 3) Teposcolula, 1800-1850. The geography and economy of the two districts, the socio-political organization of the native communities that comprised them, and their relationship and proximity to Spanish institutions differed considerably.  The chronology of the project straddles the divide of Mexican independence (1821), which produced changes in laws, administrative boundaries, and the status of native people.  The new maps and visualizations will put into relief how regional variables shaped the social and spatial networks generated by power of attorney from colony to early nationhood.

“Power of Attorney” has strong potential for expansion and collaboration.  Over the long-term, we plan to expand our research into other regions, and invite scholars who work on native people and legal culture in Mexico and other parts of Latin America to participate.

We envision an interactive website with databases that record information from letters of attorney gathered from the far corners of Mesoamerica, Northern Mexico, the Andes, and lowland South America across a range of historical periods.  This information could be expressed through innovative forms of data visualization and through maps linking native communities to one another, and to regional, imperial, and national capitals.