Article

Digital Resources: Power of Attorney, A Digital Spatial History of Indigenous Legal Culture in Colonial Oaxaca, Mexico

Yanna Yannakakis

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History


Published online May 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780199366439 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199366439.013.392

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  • Latin American History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)
  • Public History
  • Social and Cultural History
  • Legal and Constitutional History

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“Power of Attorney in Oaxaca, Mexico: Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks” is an ongoing digital research project that constructs a geography of indigenous legal culture through digital maps and visualizations. The Power of Attorney website analyzes relationships among people, places, and courts that were created by the granting of power attorney, a notarial procedure common across the Spanish empire. The primary actors in this story are indigenous individuals, communities, and coalitions of communities in the diocese of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the legal agents who represented them, some of whom were untitled indigenous scribes, and others, titled lawyers and legal agents of Spanish descent. The relationship between indigenous litigants and their legal agents created social networks and flows of knowledge and power at a variety of scales, some local and some transatlantic, whose dimensions changed over time. The pilot for the project focuses on the district of Villa Alta, Oaxaca, during the 18th century.

“Power of Attorney in Oaxaca, Mexico: Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks” is an ongoing digital research project that constructs a geography of indigenous legal culture through digital maps and visualizations. The Power of Attorney (https://www.powerofattorneynative.com/) website analyzes relationships among people, places, and courts that were created by the granting of power attorney, a notarial procedure common across the Spanish empire. The primary actors in this story are indigenous individuals, communities, and coalitions of communities in the diocese of Oaxaca, Mexico, and the legal agents who represented them, some of whom were untitled indigenous scribes, and others, titled lawyers and legal agents of Spanish descent. The relationship between indigenous litigants and their legal agents created social networks and flows of knowledge and power at a variety of scales, some local and some transatlantic, whose dimensions changed over time. The pilot for the project focuses on the district of Villa Alta, Oaxaca, during the 18th century.

The multiscalar narrative of the Power of Attorney project speaks to multiple audiences, and the digital multimedia format allows visitors to further tailor their interactions with information. The site operates on many levels. It provides maps and visualizations based on original research, data culled from primary sources that can be used as a research tool, historical and geographical background information, information about how to read letters of attorney, and microhistorical narratives of power of attorney relationships. For undergraduates learning about the relationship between Spanish administration and pueblos de indios, the maps and visualizations provide an at-a-glance overview of the spatial and social connections among Indian towns, ecclesiastical and viceregal courts, and the court of the king in Madrid from the perspective of an indigenous region rather than a top-down perspective. Graduate students and scholars interested in the production of notarial records in native jurisdictions, social history and ethnohistorical methodology and the relationship between local and transatlantic processes can explore the maps, visualizations, and data in greater detail. An educated general audience interested in the history of Oaxaca’s native peoples can find a general introduction to the region, its history and geography, and the long-standing relationship between Mexico’s native people and the law.

Keywords: digital; spatial; ethnohistory; law; indigenous; maps; networks; native; Indian; legal

Article.  10367 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Latin American History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700) ; Public History ; Social and Cultural History ; Legal and Constitutional History

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