Date of Completion


Embargo Period



colonial Mexico, Nahua Indians, colonial legislation, local industries, natural resources, cochineal dyestuff, nocheztli, silk

Major Advisor

Osvaldo F. Pardo

Associate Advisor

Matthew McKenzie

Associate Advisor

Rosa Helena Chinchilla

Associate Advisor

Miguel Gomes

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation analyses how indigenous communities from the Tlaxcala and Chalco regions of central Mexico responded to the exploitation of their knowledge, natural resources, and labor in the sixteenth century. In proposing social models that focused on natural resources and specialized labor, the Nahua directly influenced colonial economic policy and promoted a more ecologically sustainable model of colonization.

In developing strategies for incorporating the indigenous populations into the colonial society of New Spain, the Spanish monarchy relied on agriculture, mechanical arts, and commerce. This reliance led to the exploitation of resources, the adaptation of local industries and transatlantic commerce, as well as the displacement and depopulation of local inhabitants. As Spaniards and indigenous participants engaged with each other and the natural environment, they brought about dramatic changes to pre-Hispanic and Spanish sociopolitical frameworks. The Nahua influenced colonial agriculture and crafts, and the formulation of policies with concrete effects on the common welfare of their communities. My dissertation analyzes the way that local populations, in responding to the exploitation of natural and human resources, were influenced by Nahua traditions around natural products. I explain how the Tlaxcalan and the Chalca made Nahua concerns a part of the colonial agenda. Both Nahua and Spanish writers used discussions of natural commodities as points of engagement between European and indigenous participants. I recognize the cochineal dyestuff and timber industries as conduits for natural and social exploitation, but also as sites where indigenous agency safeguarded natural products, laborers, and patrimonial territories.