Bureaucracy on the Ground in Colonial Mexico: A Window into the Visita of 1765

Abstract

This exhibition explores the localized consequences of the royal inspection, or visita general, administered by José de Gálvez in New Spain from 1765-1771. In an empire as vast and diverse as Spain’s, visitas were valuable tools. On the one hand, they helped reinforce the authority of the king through detailed investigations of community life. At the same time, they demonstrated the king’s vested interest in local justice and the common good. The procedure that the Inspector, or Visitador, followed was lengthy and complex. During his tenure, he investigated the functioning of political, economic, social, and even ecclesiastical institutions. Upon the completion of the visita, it was the responsibility of Gálvez to turn his notes, correspondence, and recommendations into a comprehensible summary report for the king. This exhibition provides an introduction to that process through an analysis of more than 30 documents from the Genaro Garcia Collection.

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