(Quechua) An indigenous style of woman's skirt. Also aqsu.
(Spanish) Governor of a district; the district was called an
Amate: (Nahuatl) Paper made of bark from a fig (ficus) tree;
this paper was used by indigenous people, both before and after
the Spanish conquest, for codices, manuscripts, and other documents.
(English) A geographical region encompassing the Andean mountains,
stretching from modern day Ecuador to northern Chile.
(English) Indigenous peoples living in, and near to the Andes Mountains;
the Andean region stretches from modern day Ecuador to northern
(English) An inanimate object that is given human qualities.
(English) In Christian belief, the highest ranking of the angels,
those heavenly-dwelling beings. While the Bible mentions only the
Archangels Michael and Gabriel, others (Raphael, Uriel, Chamuel,
Jophiel and Zadkiel) are traditionally held to be among their number.
(Spanish) A European matchlock gun; harquebus in English.
(Spanish) A contract for tax collection made between the Spanish
Crown and an individual or group; used for slave trade contracts
granted by the Spanish Crown to Dutch, French, and English traders
after the mid-17th century.
The courtyard, usually enclosed by a wall, in front of a church.
Many atrios had crosses at their centers and in New Spain, posas,
or small chapels, stood at their corners.
(Spanish) Both the tribunal of judges appointed by the Spanish
crown, and the territory they oversaw. In 17th-century Spanish America,
the main audiencias were Guadalajara, Mexico, Guatemala, Santo Domingo,
Panama, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Quito, Lima, Charcas and Chile.
(English) An order of Catholic priests; Augustinians were one
of the three regular orders the Spanish crown sent to convert the
indigenous people of the Americas. The first Augustinians arrived
in New Spain in 1533, and in Peru in 1551. See also regular
(Aymara) An indigenous group that lives in the southern Andes; and
the language they speak. There are Aymara speakers in modern day
Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.
(Nahuatl) A pre-Hispanic empire that controlled much of central
Mexico, with a capital in Tenochtitlan, up until the Spanish conquest.
The Aztecs called themselves the Culhua-Mexica. "Huey Tlatoani"
or "Great Speaker" was the title of their supreme ruler.
(Spanish) A wooden chest with several small drawers, often highly
(English) An artistic style, originating in the 16th century in
Europe and later reaching Spanish America, characterized by intense
emotion, theatricality, and a taste for elaborate ornamentation.
The Baroque style was known in the visual arts, architecture, literature,
music and drama; it reached its peak in Spanish America in the 18th
(Yucatec Maya) A term for local ruler used in parts of southern
(Spanish) A flannel-like textile, usually red in color.
Reforms: (English) A modernization of the royal bureaucracy
promoted by the 18th-century Bourbon kings of Spain. Spanish America
was most affected by the reforms of Charles III (1759-88), which
spawned disaffection and revolts through the end of the century.
(Spanish) From "brocado," meaning brocade. A painting
overlaid with designs in gold leaf, often to show luxurious cloth
garments. Indigenous painters of the Cuzco School favored this technique.
(Spanish) The "head town" or principal town in its district.
(Spanish) City council.
(Taíno) An indigenous male ruler. The term originates
in the pre-Hispanic Caribbean, and came to be used throughout Spain's
colonies. Cacica is the female form.
comunidad: (Spanish) The "community chest" in Amerindian
towns that usually held money, documents, and religious objects.
Caja fuerte (Spanish: strong box) is a locked chest of wood and
(Spanish) A niche or chapel behind the altar of a church.
(English) The camel-like animals indigenous to the Americas, including
llamas, alpacas, guanacos and vicuñas. Their wool, which
was silkier than sheep wool, was an important material for woven
textiles both before and after the arrival of Europeans.
abierta: (Spanish) A deep balcony or porch overlooking or adjacent
to a church plaza. The capilla abierta, rare in Europe but common
in New Spain, was used by priests to minister to congregations that
were too large to fit into the church proper.
A person of mixed or indefinite race. Casta paintings, which catalogue
the diversity of mixed peoples of Spanish America, were created
in the 18th century in both New Spain and Peruoften for patrons
living in Europe.
(English) A kingdom on the Iberian peninsula, today in the country
of Spain. Technically, Spain's New World possessions belonged only
to two kingdoms, Castile and León, because they were responsible
for the expeditions of conquest.
(Spanish) An official decree, presented in written form.
(Spanish) A translucent, whitish stone used in buildings in New
(English) An accountusually by an eyewitnessof a historical
event; its writer was a chronicler.
(Quechua) Indigenous people of the Amazonian forest.
An Aztec female deity. A monolithic sculpture of Coatlicue once
stood in the main temple precinct of Tenochtitlan, today Mexico
City. In this Coatlicue, the deity's skirt writhes with twining
serpents, a visual representation of her name. For the word "Coatlicue"
translates as "She of the Serpent Skirt."
(English) A bright red dye produced from an insect-parasite of the
nopal (prickly-pear) cactus. Cochineal was cultivated in pre-Hispanic
times, and after the conquest, it was a valued item traded with
(English) A manuscript book, either hand written or painted (plural
form: codices). Typically a codex has pages bound along the left
edge, much like a modern book; but the word also refers to indigenous
manuscripts that were folded rather than bound.
(Spanish) A voluntary association of members, often centered
on the worship of a particular saint in a single community or region,
who performed acts of charity or service.
(Spanish) The forced resettlement of Amerindians from small, often
dispersed villages into a larger, centralized planned town (also
called a congregación).
(Spanish) A Spanish soldier who participated in the conquest of
the New World in the 16th century.
corladura: (Spanish) A decorative technique for sculpture, also
called "estofado a la chinesca." A layer of translucent
color was applied over silver leaf, and then the paint was rubbed
or scored to reveal the gleaming metal beneath.
Corpus Christi: (Latin) An important
festival in the Catholic Church's calendar that celebrates the Eucharist,
or rite during which bread and wine are consecrated.
(Spanish) Spanish official in charge of the administration of a
district called a corregimiento, somewhat like a US county. The
position was similar to an alcalde mayor, who oversaw an alcaldía
(Quechua) The highest ranking woman in the Inka empire in pre-Hispanic
times, and wife of the Sapa Inka (ruler). Later, any Andean elite
woman claiming descent from the Inka royal family. Also qoya.
Creole: (English) A person of European
ancestry born in the Americas. Also criollo (Spanish).
Cuarta, quarta: (Spanish). A fourth of a vara, approximately
(Quechua) A term used in the Andes to describe finely woven cloth.
(Quechua) An indigenous ruler in the Andes. Also kuraka.
(Quechua) Andean city that was the Inka capital in pre-Hispanic
times, now in Peru. Also Cusco, Q'osqo.
(English) A group of indigenous painters from the city of Cuzco,
working primarily in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Cuzco School
was born in 1688, when, stung by the racist criticism of Spanish
and mestizo painters, native painters withdrew from the guild; the
style of painting coming out of the resultant indigenous workshops
is also called "Cuzco School."
De vestir: (Spanish) A statue designed to wear clothes.
(English) An order of Catholic priests; Dominicans were one of the
three regular orders the Spanish crown sent to convert the indigenous
people of the Americas. The first Dominicans arrived in the Caribbean
in 1510, and entered New Spain in 1526. By 1534, they were established
in Cuzco and had begun mission work in the southern Andes. See also
(English) A tropical hardwood, usually black, prized for its strength
(Spanish) A technique of oil painting on statues yielding the appearance
of human skin.
(Spanish) A grant of indigenous labor given to a Spanish settler
by the Spanish crown. Initially, the crown saw the encomienda grant
as an incentive for Spaniards to settle in the New World. In return
for being allowed the use of native labor, encomenderos were charged
with making sure their charges were evangelized. An important institution
in the 16th century, encomiendas waned in the 17th.
(English) The cutting of a design into a metal surface. Engraved
metal plates were used in printing, and the resulting print on paper
is also called an engraving.
A philosophical movement of the 18th century, first developed in
western Europe, and also known as the "Age of Reason."
The Enlightenment brought empirical methods to science and held
that social, intellectual and scientific progress could be achieved
(Spanish) A scribe or notary.
Literally, a shield; also refers to a circular plaque, usually about
8 inches across, and often painted and embroidered with images,
worn by nuns on their chests.
(English) A shield with a coat of arms.
(Spanish) A type of column developed in Spanish America in the early
18th century, distinguished by its tapering inverted pyramid shape.
(Spanish) A decorative technique used on sculpture, where paint
was applied over gold leaf, and then incised to reveal the gold
(Spanish) See Kiva.
(English) The Christian rite during which the host, or bread, and
wine are consecrated.
(English) The front face of a building, usually with the structure's
(English) A decorative chain, draped between two objects; painted
festoons on church walls in Spanish America often depicted flowers
and ribbons strung between two urns.
(English) An order of Catholic priests; Franciscans were the first
of the regular orders the Spanish crown sent to convert the indigenous
people of the Americas. They arrived in Santo Domingo before 1500
and landed in New Spain in 1524. They began evangelization in Perú
circa 1546, and founded the first Franciscan college in Quito, Ecuador
in 1555. See also regular orders.
(English) A large ship for oceanic travel; the galleon was used
extensively in the trade between Asia and Spanish America.
(Spanish) See guild.
(English) A professional association of skilled craftsmen, somewhat
similar to a modern union. Painters, sculptors, carpenters, retablo
makers, metal-workers all had their own guilds in Spanish America.
One had to pass an exam to enter a guild, and membership was generally
not open to indigenous artisans.
(Spanish) A male Spaniard of elite or noble status.
(Spanish) The name given by Spanish conquistadors to the Caribbean
island that is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Relating to the Iberian peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal.
(Quechua) The empire built by a group of Quechua-speaking Andeans
in the 14th and 15th centuries that stretched from Ecuador to Chile.
"Sapa Inka" was the title of its supreme ruler, and its
capital city was Cuzco. Also Inca.
(English) An order of Catholic priests; Jesuits were leaders in
founding schools in Spanish America, educating both Amerindians
and the Creole and Spanish elite. They first arrived in Perú
in 1568, and in New Spain in 1572. See also regular
A drinking vessel, made of metal or wood, traditionally used in
Andean feasts. Also qeru.
(Hopi) A special room, often underground and/or in the central
plaza of a pueblo, for political, ritual, and social gatherings
by the Pueblo Indians. Called "estufa" by Spaniards.
The modern Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of the western
(Spanish) Literally, "canvas," The term often refers
to indigenous paintings on cloth that show community lands and history.
The capital city of the Viceroyalty of Perú.
A small camel-like animal native to the Andes, used as pack animal
and a source of meat and wool.
(Quechua) A shawl, pinned in front with a tupu,
worn by Andean women. Also lliqlla or lliklla.
(Italian) Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is often depicted as
a young woman holding the infant Jesus on her lap.
(Taíno) An agave plant, whose sap was fermented to create
pulque and whose fibers were used for textiles.
The main port city in the Philippines, and center of Asian-Spanish
American trade in the colonial period.
(English) A fleet of ships sailing from the port of Acapulco
in New Spain to Manila in the Philippines and back, trading New
World silver for Asian luxury goods.
(Quechua) A headband, decorated with a red fringe, worn only
by the Inka ruler in pre-Hispanic times. In the colonial period,
it was worn by the ruling Inka elite in religious festivals and
other official occasions. Also maskaypacha.
(Spanish) A derogatory term for an indigenous person who does not
live in a settled community, has not converted to Christianity,
nor accepted "civilized" modes of living. The term derives
from the word "Chichimec" which was used in central Mexico
in pre-Hispanic times to describe nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples
in a negative light.
(Spanish) A descriptive word for the ethnic and cultural mixings
in the New World.
(Spanish) A person of indigenous and European descent.
(English) The capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, founded
upon the defeated Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.
(English) A dynasty of rulers in China (1368-1644). In the last
centuries of their rule, they became key players in the Pacific
trade, importing Spanish American silver and exporting Chinese silks,
blue-and-white ceramics and other luxury items through the Philippine
city of Manila.
A system, run by the Viceroy of Perú, of forced native labor
for the silver mines of Potosí. Its laborers were called
(Nahuatl) An ethnic group of southern Mexico, and the language
they speak. In pre-Hispanic times, the Mixtec developed a distinctive
a painting style and form of glyphic expression, both of which continued
in the early years after the Spanish conquest. Today Mixtec is still
spoken in Mexico.
Monstrance: (English) a vessel,
often made of gold or silver, in which the host, consecrated during
a Catholic mass, is displayed.
(Spanish) A style of architecture and ornament derived from
Islamic building and decor in Spain; the style was imported to Spanish
America early in the colonial period, and was used in buildings
throughout the colonial period.
(English) A multi-racial person of African descent.
An ethnic group from Central Mexico whose pre-Hispanic empire, the
Aztec empire, was defeated by the Spanish in 1521. The language
they spoke, Nahuatl, was the indigenous lingua franca in the colonial
period in New Spain, and is still spoken today in Mexico.
(Nahuatl) The language spoken by the Nahua, an ethnic group from
Central Mexico whose pre-Hispanic empire, the Aztec empire, was
defeated by the Spanish in 1521. The language, whose name means
"clear speech," is spoken today in some towns in Mexico.
(English) The main body of a church, running from the front door
to the transept, or crossing. Its ceiling is usually higher than
that of flanking aisles.
(English) An artistic style that sought to capture the restraint
and geometry of the art of ancient Greek and Rome. Neoclassisism
dominated the visual high arts from the late 18th century into the
19th in Spanish America.
(English) The name that Spain gave to her northern Viceroyalty,
which comprised the modern regions of Mexico, Central America, Venezuela,
and the Caribbean. The capital city was Mexico City.
(Quechua) An indigenous Andean noblewoman, often descended from
the rulers of the Inka empire.
A textile mill; its owner was an obrajero.
Ochava: (Spanish) A eighth of a vara, approximately 4 inches.
(Spanish) An ordinance.
An earth deity from the Andes who, some believe, fused with the
Virgin Mary and continued to be worshipped by Andeans in colonial
azul: (Spanish) Blue cloth, usually from the textile mills of
Quito, in the modern state of Ecuador.
(English) A church district.
(Spanish) A coin, usually silver, with a variable value.
(English) A person who employs an artist or architect to create
a work of art or a building. Under a system of patronage, artists
and architects work on commission.
A silver coin, the principal unit of money in the colonies, weighing
about 27 grams.
(Spanish) The name Spain gave to her southern Viceroyalty. The Viceroyalty
of Perú stretched across Panama and most of South America,
with the exception of Venezuela, which was part of New Spain, and
coastal Brazil, which was held by the Portuguese. The capital city
of the viceroyalty was Lima.
(Spanish) A Peruvian merchant who traded directly with markets in
Europe, the Indies, and the Far East.
(English) A sculptural and architectural style imported to Spanish
America from Spain in the early 16th century, typified by abundant
shallow surface carving.
(Spanish) A blanket-like cloak, with a slit in the middle for the
(English) A doorway.
(Spanish) A small chapel that stood at the corner of church courtyards.
Although not unknown in Europe, posas are typically found in churches
built in New Spain in the early colonial period.
(English) The time before America's discovery and conquest by
Spain; synonymous with pre-Columbian (before Columbus).
(Spanish) A garrison or fort.
An image imprinted onto a piece of paper with a woodblock, or engraved
(Spanish) A mining town, now in modern Bolivia, at the foot of the
Cerro Rico, whose rich ores supplied much of the world's silver
during the colonial period.
(Spanish) A town.
(English) Amerindians from the southwestern United States, who lived
in settled communities of adobe buildings the Spaniards called pueblos.
Today these communities are in New Mexico and Arizona, and include
the Hopi pueblos, Zuni, Acoma, Santo Domingo, and Taos.
(English) The most successful indigenous revolt against colonization
in Spanish America. In 1680, the pueblos of New Mexico united and
drove Spanish colonists and friars from their lands and communities.
For twelve years, the Spanish were kept at bay. Only in 1692, did
they reestablish a permanent presence in New Mexico.
(Quechua) Knotted cords used in the Andes to keep accounts. Also
spelled quipu, khipu, quipo.
(Quechua) An Amerindian language still spoken in the Andes.
It was the lingua franca of the Inka empire.
A pre-Hispanic deity whose name translates to "Feathered Serpent."
Often the patron of rulers, he was worshipped across ancient Mexico.
(Quechua) An Andean roofing technique using woven reeds covered
A silver coin, weighing about 3 grams, worth an eighth of a peso.
(Spanish) Spain's centuries-long military campaign to drive
Muslims out of the Iberian peninsula, ending in 1492.
Groups of priests and nuns within the Catholic Church. Members of
the "regular" orders (from the Latin regulus, or rules)
took distinct vows from the more common "secular" priests,
who were under the authority of the regional bishop. In Spanish
America, the Franciscans, Dominicans,
were the most prominent regular orders.
(Spanish) A receptacle, often a piece of jewelry or metalwork, for
a holy relic, usually some part of the body or clothing believed
to have been that of a saint.
(English) See relicario.
(Spanish) Practice of bartering for contraband in the Spanish American
(Spanish) A retable, or large backdrop for an altar in a church
made of wood or masonry. In Spanish America, retablos traditionally
framed sculpted images of saints and church figures or were painted
with such images.
(English) A style of artistic production that flourished in Europe
in the first half of the 18th century. Often linked to the regency
and court of Louis XV in France, the term now evokes a style that
featured pale colors, asymmetric and curving forms, dainty figures,
and fantastic, hybrid compositions in painting, sculpture, and the
(Spanish) Cotton cloth with a colored design made in Rouen, France.
A room in the wealthiest Spanish American homes with a canopy (dosel),
under which were hung important portraits. These rooms were often
furnished with expensive objects, including furniture, works of
art, and imports from both Asia and Europe.
A saint or statue of a saint.
(Spanish) An important colonial city in the Caribbean. Set on the
island of Hispaniola, Santo Domingo was
the first city built following European
models, and home to the first university in Spanish America. In
the 16th and 17th
centuries, it was the seat of an Audiencia; today it is the capital
of the Dominican
(Quechua) The title of the supreme ruler of the Inka empire
in pre-Hispanic times. The Sapa Inka was, according to historical
documents, a male ruler. Inka queens were called coyas. Also Sapa
America: (English) The areas of the New World under Spanish
control. From the 16th to 18th centuries, Spanish America comprised
most of South America (except Portuguese-held Brazil), the Caribbean,
Central America, and southern and western North America.
A group of Amerindians inhabiting the Caribbean at the time of the
(Spanish) Glazed pottery made in or near the town of Puebla de los
Angeles in New Spain. Talavera is a pottery center in Spain, and
one of the sources of the Spanish American ceramic tradition.
(Nahuatl) The capital city of the Aztec empire, now underneath modern
(Nahuatl) A term, meaning "laborer" or "tribute
payer" in Nahuatl, enlisted by 20th-century scholars to describe
the sculpture and architectural decoration created in New Spain
in the 16th century that fused European motifs with indigenous craftsmanship.
(Spanish) A third of a vara, approximately 11 inches.
(Nahuatl) A reddish volcanic stone used in buildings in New
An indigenous scribe and painter. In the pre-Hispanic era, highly
trained tlacuilos created pictorial books and other records for
the Aztec court in Tenochtitlan, as well as for indigenous community
leaders, priests, and high-status families throughout central Mexico.
(Nahuatl) An indigenous ruler in central Mexico in the 16th
century, whose powers and election often followed pre-Hispanic traditions.
(Quechua) Woven cloth with a design of small, individually patterned
rectangles worn only by the highest native elite in the Andes. Also
(Nahuatl) A pre-Hispanic ethnic group whose center was the city
of Tula. In the 15th and 16th centuries, both before and after the
conquest, Tula and the Toltecs were understood as paragons of high
culture by indigenous people of Central Mexico.
(Spanish) A coin, worth about a real, a silver coin weighing
about three grams.
(Quechua) A long pin, often with a decorated head, used by Andean
women to fasten an lliclla.
A sleeveless tunic falling above the knees, of uncut woven cloth,
worn by Andean men.
(Spanish) A unit of linear measure of approximately 33 inches.
In church architecture, the arched masonry roof.
Viceregal: (English) Pertaining to the Viceroyalty, or the
period during which Spanish America was a colonial subject, divided
(English) See Viceroyalty.
(English) The largest administrative district established by
the Spanish crown in her colonies. Its head, the viceroy, was second
in power only to the king. In 1700, there were two viceroyalties:
New Spain and Perú. The Viceroyalties of Nueva Granada and
Rio de la Plata were carved out of these in the 18th century.
(Spanish) A camel-like animal native to the Andes, prized for its
soft and silken wool.
(Spanish) An official tour of inspection by a visitador, usually
to take stock of an entire region. Censuses were often conducted
as part of a visita general.
(Spanish) An official inspector for the Spanish government who
would periodically check up on government officials.
Strength: (English) The "strong" women of the Old
Testament, such as Esther and Judith, whose qualities were extolled
in Proverbs 31.
A print made from a wooden block whose surface design would be rubbed
with ink and then stamped onto paper.
(Spanish) A tea made from the leaves of the mate plant; mostly grown
A deified ancestor revered in the Caribbean. Zemis were among the
first indigenous objects collected by Europeans in the New World
and sent back as curiosities.