Mestizo Empire: The Chichimeca War and the Making of Mexico, 1540-1610


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




"Mestizo Empire" proposes a new history of the Chichimecha War. This late 16th-century conflict pitted indigenous nomads against a coalition of Spanish conquistadors and sedentary imperial Indians from central Mexico. The war began with a Spanish attempt to secure the roads between central Mexico and the great northern silver mines of Zacatecas and Guanajuato. But the conflict would have a profound impact on a broader array of institutions and ideologies than its origins might suggest. Beyond securing a steady supply of silver to finance Spanish imperialism abroad, the Chichimeca War played a central role in legitimizing and institutionalizing the government of New Spain, and in forging bonds between Spaniards and the native peoples of central Mexico. By exploring the long-range impact on Mexican culture and society, "Mestizo Empire" locates the origins of Mexican ideologies of race in the struggle for the northern frontier.