The indigenous and peasant rebellions during the Viceroyalty

The Indigenous rebellions during the Viceroyalty of New Spain were constant, especially in the Mexican territory. Almost immediately after the Conquest, large-scale resistance began to colonialism .

In those early days, most Indians still longed for the time before the arrival of the Spaniards. Many of these uprisings represented serious threats to Spanish rule in Mexico.

The indigenous and peasant rebellions during the Viceroyalty Lienzo de Tlaxcala, Battle of Xochipilla during the Miztón War.

In general, indigenous rebellions played a key role in the colonial history of the Americas. These shaped the relationships between the autochthonous and Spanish communities. In some way, they helped to structure the main characteristics of the colonial society .

Particularly in New Spain, the patterns of indigenous rebellions during the viceroyalty varied widely in time and space. The nucleus of the viceroyalty was located in the center and south of Mexico.

There, the revolts were local, small-scale and relatively brief. In the peripheral areas, outside the central areas of the Indian settlements, several large-scale rebellions broke out during the colonial period.

On the other hand, the causes of these revolts were varied. Many were the product of exploitation, oppression and violence by Spanish encomenderos.

This was intensified by epidemic diseases, drought and widespread hunger. There were also rebellions organized by religious leaders who wanted to recover their old customs.

Main indigenous rebellions in Mexican territory during the viceroyalty

The War of Mixtón

One of the first great indigenous rebellions during the viceroyalty occurred in Nueva Galicia. In 1531, the territories of what is now Jalisco, Nayarit and the south of Zacatecas were controlled for the first time by Nuño de Guzmán. The indigenous people of the region - the Cazcan, Teul, Tecuexe, Tonalá and others - suffered great abuse until 1540.

Then, the rebellion began in a context of economic extortion and forced labor. The caxcanes joined the zacatecos and other nomadic Indians of the north, and left the encomiendas in rebellion.

An encomendero and two Catholic priests were killed. 1600 Spaniards and Indian allies had joined an expedition to explore the north. There was then not enough manpower to quell an uprising.

Many Indians who had fled from the haciendas and mines regrouped, mainly, on the hill of Mixtón. There, the native rebels planned their guerrilla war against the Spaniards.

A peace delegation was sent to the mountains, but its members were killed. Next, they defeated a contingent of soldiers sent to assault Mixtón.

In the spring of 1541, Viceroy Mendoza sent reinforcements to quell the rebellion. The first round failed. The leader of the Tenamaxtli revolt defeated an army of 400 Spaniards and several hundred Indian allies. At the beginning of July 1541, the Spaniards feared that the rebellion would spread from New Galicia to the heart of the ancient Aztec heart.

In September of that same year, Tenamaxtli tried unsuccessfully to take Guadalajara. Their armies retreated to the native land of Caxcan and the mountains. Two months later, the viceroy Mendoza led an army in the territory of Caxcan to take charge of the situation. In the spring of 1542 the Spaniards took Mixtón, ending the insurrection.

Great rebellion of the Mayans in 1546

The conquest of Yucatan was the most prolonged and difficult campaign of the Spaniards. The first unsuccessful attempt was directed by Francisco Montejo. In 1540, after 13 years of failure, Montejo entrusted the conquest of Yucatan to his son, Francisco Montejo.

They followed several more years of difficult campaign. Finally, in 1546, most of the northern part of the peninsula came under Spanish control. That year, the Spaniards had to face one of the most bloody indigenous rebellions during the viceroyalty.

The Mayan from eastern Yucatan they maintained varying degrees of independence and continued to harass the Spaniards. The provinces of Cupul, Cochua, Sotuta and Chetumal, after twenty years of resistance, surrendered when Mayan groups in central Yucatan became Spanish allies. However, they still remembered their successful past and resented the economic burdens of colonialism.

In 1546, during the first full moon of November, the Mayans of the east and some of the central region rebelled. Those of Capul were the most aggressive, torturing and killing their Spanish captives and hundreds of Indians.

Some of these Indians refused to abandon Christianity. They also destroyed everything in their path, including animals and plants.

Then, the conflict moved to Valladolid, the second colonial Yucatan city. Throughout its history, this city had been a high point in the confrontation between Mayans and Spaniards.

Before the conquest was Zaci, the capital of the Cupul Maya. This city was founded in 1543. The coalition of the Eastern Maya besieged the city for four months. In the end, they fell to the Spanish troops of Merida.

The Acaxee Rebellion

Another of the important indigenous rebellions during the viceroyalty occurred in the current state of Durango. In December 1601, acaxee rebelled against the mistreatment of the Spanish authorities. Those who had converted to Christianity and those who did not join to expel the colonizers from their lands. These were divided into squads.

In the following weeks, they attacked the Spaniards in the mining camps and on the highways of the mountains. They also besieged haciendas. In total, they killed 50 people.

The bishop of Guadalajara tried to mediate, but the negotiations failed. After a while, they were defeated by a militia of Spaniards and their allies. Many rebel leaders were executed, while others were sold as slaves.

Revolt of Tepehuanes

In November of 1616, an uprising of the Tepehuanes surprised the colonial authorities. In a few weeks, the rebels had killed more than four hundred Spaniards, including 6 resident Jesuits, a Franciscan and a Dominican.

They also burned churches, and destroyed all Christian religious symbols. The Tepehuanes conquered most of western and central Durango. To the north, some Tarahumaras joined the revolt and assaulted Spanish settlements in Chihuahua.

For their part, the Spanish reacted strongly. The revolt lasted more than two years, until the Tepehuano rebels were defeated. More than a thousand Indians died in the process and hundreds more were sold as slaves.


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  5. Perry, R. and Perry, R. (2002). Maya Missions: Exploring Colonial Yucatan. Santa Bárbara: Spainda Press.
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