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Mexico: Colonial Administration
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > New Spain > Colonial Administration

COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION


The first royal judicial body established in New Spain in 1527 was the audiencia of Mexico City. The audiencia consisted of four judges, who also held executive and legislative powers. The crown, however, was aware of the need to create a post that would carry the weight of royal authority beyond local allegiances. In 1535 control of the bureaucracy was handed over to Antonio de Mendoza, who was named the first viceroy of New Spain (1535-50). His duties were extensive but excluded judicial matters entrusted to the audiencia .

Viceregal power was characterized by a certain amount of independence from royal control, mainly because of distance and difficult communications with the mother country. Viceroys were notorious for applying orders with discretion, using the maxim "I obey but do not comply." In addition, viceroys and audiencias were in conflict most of the time, with the latter not responsible to the viceroy but reporting directly to the crown.

By the end of the seventeenth century, the Viceroyalty of New Spain reached from New Mexico to Panama and included the Caribbean islands and the Philippines. In the most distant areas, local audiencias enjoyed greater autonomy, and viceregal authority was merely nominal. After the sixteenth-century expansion of power, the seventeenth century was marked by a decline in central authority, even though the administrative structure transplanted to the New World remained intact.




Last Updated: June 1996


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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Section 14 of 213






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