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Journal > Volumes > 39 (2008) / 1 (Spring)
Treason or Travesty: The Martin Cortes Conspiracy Reexamined
Shirley Cushing Flint
Latin American and Iberian Institute, University of New Mexico

In August 1566 two brothers, Gil Avila Gonzalez and Alonso Avila Alvarado, were executed in New Spain for their presumed participation in a revolt to overthrow royal Spanish rule. This article reexamines the legal procedures followed in the Martin Cortes conspiracy case to justify the death sentences imposed on the Avilas and other defendants as well as the harsh punishments for coconspirators. This reexamination has been stimulated by location and analysis of a lengthy document, not previously consulted in study of the case. Despite strenuous objections by the accused, the judges of the audiencia accepted questionable claims against them. In this, the judges were driven by pressures from the crown and personal dislike of don Martín Cortés, as well as a belief that the encomienda system should be abolished. Meanwhile, the accusers sought political and economic control of New Spain and to minimize the influence of the American-born elites in society.

Pages: 23 - 44