Complaint of the Indians of Tecama against Their Ecomendero, Juan Ponce de León
In the city of Mexico in New Spain on the 13th day of the month of December in the year of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ 1550, in the presence of the illustrious Don Luis de Velasco, Viceroy and Governor of New Spain for His Majesty and President of the Audiencia and Royal Chancellery, which is resident in this city, and in the presence of me, Alonso Sanchez, notary of this Royal Audiencia, there appeared Martin Tlacuxtecal, Martin Mexicaltecatl, Tomas Teyagualcal, and Toribio [Tlayult], principales of the pueblo [village] of Tecama, along with Pedro [and] Constantino, macehuales of the said pueblo. And through Juan Frayle, the interpreter for this Royal Audiencia, they said that they were bringing a criminal complaint against Juan Ponce, their encomendero, and his brother Diego de Ordaz, and they related the case as follows: that the day before yesterday when their master, the said Juan Ponce, had asked them for fifty tamemes [carriers] to carry things to the mines of Zacatecas, because they said they did not want to give them since the macehuales would not serve as carriers, he took them by their hair and gave them many kicks, calling them dogs and sons of whores, and saying, "Are you not my slaves? You have to do it"; and when they, the principales, told the said Juan Ponce that the pueblo would be depopulated, he, responded that he did not care if it was. And also they made the complaint that the said Juan Ponce took and had taken from them much more than the hay that they are obliged to give in the assessment, adding a half braza to each measure. And they also made the complaint against the interpreter of the said Juan Ponce, saying that he has been cutting their fruit trees and other things that they have in the pueblo, and when they tell him not to do this, he abuses them in words and kicks them. And the said Constantino and Pedro, macehuales of the pueblo, especially make the complaint that a dog belonging to the said Juan Ponce bit them on the arms, and one of them, Pedro, showed a bite that he had on his arm, and Constantino showed another bite on his hand that did not seem very serious. And they requested that the said Juan Ponce and Diego de Ordaz be punished and asked for justice.
In the city of Mexico on the 19th day of the month of December in the year 1550 in the presence of the illustrious Don Luis de Velasco, Viceroy and Governor of New Spain, there appeared certain Indians who said through Hernando de Tapia, the interpreter of this Royal Audiencia, that they were named Martin Mexicaltecatl, Martin Tlacaltecal, Toribio Tlaylutl, Tomas Teyaguacal, and Martin Tacotetle, principales and natives of the pueblo of Tecama, which is granted in encomienda to Juan Ponce; and they filed complaint for themselves and in the name of the other principales and natives, against the said Juan Ponce, for the following reasons:
First, for eight years, though they are obliged daily to give their master four of the measures of hay that were customarily given for the horses of the Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza in accord with the assessment, their master increased the amount they were obliged to give by half, and they have given him this for eight years without being paid for it.
Also, about a year ago, Bartolome the constable [a colonial official] went to the pueblo to have them paid for the damage that the cattle of the said Juan Ponce had caused them, ordering them to be paid 17 pesos and 2 tomines and giving them a silver pitcher as a pledge until they should be paid; and afterward he [Ponce] took the pitcher and said he would pay them in wheat, and he has not paid them anything for this.
Also, two or three months ago, some horses belonging to the said Juan Ponce did great damage in four fields of the macehuales, and they asked him to pay them for the damage they had done, and he said he would pay for it but never has done so.
Also, about a year ago, the said Juan Ponce, without any cause, began to abuse the macehuales while they were shaking out the ears of maize, and when three constables, who are called Martin Tlacatetle, Gaspar Tecpanecal, and Tomas Quamiscal, interceded for them, he kicked and beat them, striking the said Gaspar with a rock and mistreating them badly in other ways, though they had the staff of office in their hands.
Also, the last Sunday, the said Juan Ponce ordered the macehuales to bring the wheat they are obliged to give, and because they did this they did not hear
Also, he has sometimes taken food from them without paying for it.
Also, that a black who is called Francisco, a slave of Juan Ponce, frequently takes their maize leaves from them [for] his master in the pueblo, going from house to house and taking from the macehuales the dried maize leaves that have been gathered for the tribute, and not paying anything for this.
In all of this, the abovesaid has committed a crime worthy of punishment, and they requested that the judges proceed against him in accord with the law and that their master be compelled to return and restore to them what he had taken in excess, and they swore to the complaint in proper form.
And concerning this they gave testimony in both complaints, and the said Juan Ponce was arrested and his confession [testimony] taken, and it seems that he was released on bail; and the licentiate Morones, the prosecutor (fiscal) of the Royal Audiencia, filed accusation against the said Juan Ponce in proper form in this matter, and the suit was argued by both parties in the Royal Audiencia until it was definitively concluded, and this is the present state of the said suit, which is in my possession and to which I refer. And I give the present in testimony of this at the request of the President and judges, dating it in the said city on the said 15th day of January of the said year 1552, as can be seen more fully in the original trial records, which are in my possession and to which I refer, and in conclusion I made my sign here in testimony of the truth.