History and Latin America

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The War for Mexico's West: Indians and Spaniards in New Galicia, 1524-1550

Ida Altman

Winner of the 2011 A. B. Thomas Book Award from the Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies

The War for Mexico's West
examines a dramatic, complex episode in the early history of New Spain that stands as an instructive counterpoint to the much more familiar, triumphalist narrative of Spanish daring, resilience, and victory embodied in the oft-told tale of the conquest of central Mexico. As Spaniards consolidated their hold over central Mexico they fanned out in several directions, first entering western Mexico--the future New Galicia--in 1524. A full-fledged expedition of conquest followed several years later. Among the loosely organized, ethnically and linguistically diverse societies of New Galicia, however, neither the Spaniards' usual stratagems of conquest nor their attempts to settle and impose their institutions met with much success. An uprising against Spanish rule, today known as the Mixton war, erupted in 1540, attracting thousands of people from many different indigenous communities and bringing Spanish failure in the region into sharp relief. Set within the context of the complex politics of early New Spain in which such prominent figures as Hernando Cortés, Nuño de Guzmán, Pedro de Alvarado, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and don Antonio de Mendoza vied to fulfill their ambitions in the west and incorporating accounts and testimony reflecting indigenous perspectives, Altman's treatment of the prolonged conquest of New Galicia provides the first full-length account in English of these little-known events and their consequences for Indians and Spaniards.


Ida Altman is professor of history at the University of Florida. She is the author or coauthor of a number of books and articles on colonial Spanish America and the early modern Spanish empire.


"Ida Altman has already given us a number of carefully researched books on the history of conquest society in Spanish America, especially New Spain, and once again she has put her extensive knowledge of the sixteenth century and her superb paleographical skills to excellent use."


Journal of Anthropological Research

"Highly recommended."



"This is a well-written, clearly argued book. It provides an excellent introduction to the details of a confusing period in Mexican history, one that has long been overlooked."


The Americas

"...Altman has produced a solid, interesting work that will be useful to scholars and area specialists, as well as to college students and instructors. Most importantly, she fills a gap for English-speaking readers of a neglected episode in the long and bloody tale of Spanish/Indian conflict in North America."


The Journal of Arizona History

"( The War for Mexico's West) is not only destined to become the standard work on the conquest of New Galicia, but is a compelling read and a though-provoking study that invites comparisons with the conquest elsewhere in Spanish America."


Journal of Latin American Studies

6 x 9 in. 360 pages 16 halftones, 7 maps