University of Texas Libraries LLILAS/Benson Latin American Collection Exhibitions

Relaciones Geográficas

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Dublin Core


Relaciones Geográficas


On May 25, 1577, King Philip II of Spain ordered by royal decree the preparation of a general description of Spain's holdings in the Indies. Instructions and a questionnaire, issued in 1577 by the Office of the Cronista Mayor-Cosmógrafo, were distributed to local officials in the Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru to direct the gathering of information. The questionnaire, comprised of fifty items, was designed to elicit basic information about the nature of the land and the life of its peoples. The replies, known as "relaciones geográficas," were written between 1579 and 1585 and were returned to the Cronista Mayor-Cosmógrafo in Spain by the Council of the Indies.

The collection consists of forty-three relaciones geográficas prepared by local officials in New Spain in response to the questionnaire. Forty-one relaciones pertain to territory in present-day Mexico; two relate to what is now Guatemala. The relaciones contain historical, cultural, and geographical information on New Spain and its peoples during the 16th century and before the Conquest. For these handwritten accounts, please consult them in the UT Libraries' FromThePage platform.

Thwenty-six relaciones are accompanied by one or more maps, known as pinturas, presented here. The 37 pinturas are significant in their own right, not only as adjuncts to the texts. In addition to conveying historical information about such topics as 16th-century architecture, the spread of European religion in New Spain, and the colonial economy, the pinturas are artifacts for the study of the history of Latin American art and manuscript painting.








Spanish, Nahuatl


Art--16th century--New Spain.
Indians of Mexico--Art
Indians of Mexico--History--Sources.
Manuscripts, Mexican
New Spain--Description and travel.
New Spain--History--Sources.
New Spain--Maps, Manuscript.
Mexico--History--16th century--Sources.
Guatemala--History--16th century--Sources.


Relaciones Geográficas of Mexico and Guatemala, 1577-1585


This material is in the public domain. If publishing in print or electronically, please contact Christina Bleyer, Head of Special Collections, at


Please consult the handwritten descriptions that accompany these maps through UT Libraries' FromThePage platform.


Mexico and Guatemala