The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2014, Volume 35
Introduction to "Avisos a pretendientes para Indias"Edited by Clayton McCarl
Avisos a pretendientes para Indias (Warnings to Those Seeking Office in the Indies) is a letter penned in 1695 in New Spain by author Francisco de Seyxas y Lovera (ca. 1646–ca. 1705). With this missive, Seyxas responded to an acquaintance in the Peninsula who had requested advice on behalf of a protégé seeking a position in the overseas bureaucracy. The Spanish writer himself had arrived in the New World a few years earlier to serve as the alcalde mayor (district officer) of Tacuba, an area outside Mexico City. He had been prevented from fulfilling his duties, however, by a series of imprisonments and legal proceedings that he believed were orchestrated by Gaspar de la Cerda Sandoval Silva y Mendoza, the eighth count of Galve and twenty-eighth viceroy of New Spain (1688–1696). Written after Seyxas had been driven from office and shortly before he became a fugitive sought by the Council of Indies, Avisos offers a unique and highly personal view into the realities of the late seventeenth–century Latin American colonial administration.
Francisco de Seyxas y Lovera and His New World Misadventures
Until fairly recently, Seyxas was known primarily as an author of nautical books, having published during his lifetime a treatise on tides and ocean currents, titled Theatro Naval Hidrographico (1688), and a study of the geography of the extreme Southern Cone, titled Descripcion Geographica, y Derrotero de la Region Austral Magallanica (1690). His concerns were not limited to matters of a strictly maritime nature, however, and among the major themes that run throughout his work are a preoccupation with the precarious state of Spain's overseas empire and the urgent need to entrust its care to men of honor and practical experience. In the unpublished "Theatro Real del Comerzio de las Monedas" (1688), Seyxas sought to expose how Spain's monetary policies created opportunities for foreigners. In Descripcion Geographica, Seyxas argued that the crown must realize the strategic importance of the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn, unfortified routes through which other Europeans regularly accessed the Pacific. In Piratas y contrabandistas de ambas Indias, y estado presente de ellas (1693), first published in 2011, Seyxas expanded this discussion to consider the vulnerabilities of all Spain's territories around the globe, denouncing the complicity of Spaniards themselves in jeopardizing the security of these regions. In the following decade, Seyxas spent his final years writing extensively for Louis XIV, whose grandson was then on the Spanish throne, criticizing Spain's administration of its colonies and articulating proposals for reform. Since the publication in 1986 by Pablo Emilio Pérez-Mallaína Bueno of one volume from that period, Seyxas has been widely cited for the contemporary observations and political views he expressed in his work.
Seyxas composed Avisos in the final years of what had been a long, slow decline for the Hapsburg monarchy. The unfortunate heir of generations of royal inbreeding, Charles II (1675–1700) was a morally and physically weak king, who abdicated most of his responsibility and whose monarchy was overshadowed by the power of Spain's aristocracy. For over a decade, two capable, reform-minded prime ministers, the Duke of Medinaceli (1680–1684) and the Count of Oropesa (1684–1691), ran matters with practicality and skill, but Charles's second marriage in 1689 brought onto Spain's political scene a new queen, Maria Anna of Neuburg, who came to dominate the government, forcing the resignation of Oropesa and filling high positions with her own allies and retainers.
The weakness of the crown at this time was matched by the compromised state of the imperial bureaucracy. In the sixteenth century, Spain constructed a colonial administration on an unprecedented scale, spanning the globe and operating with flexibility and efficiency. By the final quarter of the seventeenth century, however, this system had come to be characterized by excess and waste. The pursuit of office had become an obsession among the higher social classes, driven largely by a university system that produced a surplus of letrados (graduates with law degrees). Most of these were sons of the aristocracy who received free training in the colegios mayores at Salamanca, Alcalá, and other universities, and who were essentially guaranteed administrative positions through their institutional or familial connections. Others without legal qualifications could exploit their high status to receive appointments termed de capa y espada, or, if they lacked such influence but could marshal sufficient funds, they might pursue entry through a monetary transaction.
The practice of buying and selling of offices, known as the beneficio, was not new in Seyxas's day. In 1558, Philip II (1556–1598) commenced the public auction of minor notarial, municipal, and other posts (the so-called oficios vendibles y renunciables), and Philip IV (1621–1665) later began the sale of treasury offices and provincial governorships via private dealings effected between the appointee and the crown. However, as the economic depression that had beset Spain for decades intensified to its greatest severity, the monarchy institutionalized such transactions, beginning with the provincial posts of corregidor and alcalde mayor in 1677, and expanding this to include appointments to the American audiencias in 1687. By the end of the century, even the position of viceroy had changed hands by means of the beneficio.
As a consequence, the government grew increasingly populated by men who were unqualified for the offices they held, and who abused their positions financially in order to recoup the costs incurred in their acquisition. The bureaucracy furthermore came to privilege its own interests, providing what John Lynch termed "a form of social security" for its members, while becoming increasingly inept at the task of actually governing. The problem reached to the highest levels, where the monarchy's system of consultative councils, including the Council of State and the Council of Indies, was characterized by procedural inefficiencies and jurisdictional disputes. Several efforts at reform were undertaken, including an attempt to curtail the sale of audiencia seats, but none had a significant or lasting impact.
In Avisos, Seyxas provides a detailed portrait of the problems inherent in this situation. His critical eye may be explained in part by the fact that he was, in many respects, an outsider within the colonial bureaucracy. Unlike the letrados coming up through the colegios mayores, the capa y espada appointees—and, presumably, many who purchased their appointments—Seyxas lacked formal academic training, elevated social status, and powerful backers. Already in his forties, he was notably older than the majority who entered bureaucratic careers in their late teens or early twenties, and during approximately three decades at sea, he had lived for many years outside the cultural context of Spanish urban life, in which most members of the bureaucracy had typically spent the whole of their adulthood. In short, far from enjoying the privileged status of many of his competitors for office, Seyxas was, in today's terms, something of a self-made man effecting a midlife career change.
The story of his early years, which we know primarily through two autobiographical sketches, reads by turns like a picaresque tale and a byzantine novel. Born in Mondoñedo, Galicia, around 1646, Seyxas was orphaned as a young child and placed in the care of relatives. He lived for periods in Valladolid, Madrid, and Salamanca before a merchant uncle sent him at age fourteen to work in the offices of a French trader based in Saint-Malo. With this Frenchman, Seyxas traveled through the Mediterranean to the Middle East, stopping at Aleppo, Smyrna, and Constantinople before returning to France and embarking on a subsequent journey to India. In Surat, he boarded a Portuguese ship bound for the Philippines, which was later detained by the Dutch East India Company off the coast of Southeast Asia. The Dutch took him to the island of Ternate in present-day Indonesia, from where they remitted him to Europe on a vessel that sailed around Cape Horn. He then traveled from Spain to the Americas with the West Indies Fleet, visiting various cities including Cartagena, Quito, Guayaquil, Panama City, and Havana.
These early exploits would lead to several decades of nautical expeditions pursuing commercial and, later, military purposes. After returning to Europe from the New World with certain monetary resources, perhaps acquired through activities related to mining, he organized in Hamburg a trading expedition to East Asia with Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish partners. As his portion of the proceeds, Seyxas received one of the ships, which he employed in the following years making trading voyages between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. During these adventures, he recounts that he was captured by pirates twice, once by a Frenchman off the coast of South America and on another occasion by Moorish pirates from the port of Salé, who were in turn attacked by the Dutch, who then set Seyxas free.
In September of 1690, Seyxas received what appears to be his first official appointment, named by royal decree a capitán de mar y guerra (captain of seamen and infantry) to command a ship in the Armada del Mar Océano, Spain's Atlantic fleet. By the latter part of that year he was employed in the port of Santoña, Cantabria, inspecting foreign ships, presumably in response to the renewed state of war with France following the king's marriage to Maria Anna of Neuburg. By April 16, 1692, Seyxas had returned to the court, and shortly thereafter he was appointed alcalde mayor of Tacuba via a royal decree dated April 22, 1692. The means through which he secured this position—or, for that matter, his previous appointment as capitán de mar y guerra—are unknown, though he suggests in Avisos that he received the latter, at least, on the basis of merit. Seyxas soon received license to pass to the Indies accompanied by his wife, María Damiana de Cuevas y Seyxas, along with two servants, and departed from Cadiz in July of 1692, arriving probably in October of that year.
If Seyxas's critical view of the colonial administration is in part a result of this unusual background, it also is a consequence of his own experiences in New Spain.  According to the author, from the moment of his arrival in the New World, the viceroy had demonstrated ill will toward him. Seyxas asserts that he had written to the Count of Galve from Veracruz, requesting permission to proceed to Mexico City so that he could be dispatched from there to his district. The viceroy's response, dated November 22, indicated that he might advance to the capital "until something more convenient could be arranged." Seyxas believed this was evidence that from the start the Count of Galve had no intention of allowing him to assume his office, which Seyxas presumed he sought to fill instead with one of his own associates.
While other factors would surely come into play in the relationship between the viceroy and Seyxas—including what likely was the author's conflictive personality—Seyxas had some basis for suspecting his superior's motives. The royal decree appointing him alcalde mayor of Tacuba was part of a trend that infringed upon what had traditionally been an exclusive right of the viceroys, who previously had appointed such provincial administrators and hence had stood to benefit financially. Since 1677, the crown itself had begun to assume this prerogative, and by 1700 nearly all alcaldes mayores would be named by the monarchy. Furthermore, like many others, the Count of Galve seems to have regarded his time in America as an opportunity to enrich himself, and after 1692, the year of a notorious uprising in the capital, he was perhaps less concerned with good governance than with solidifying his fortune and returning to the metropolis, which he did upon leaving office, only to die shortly thereafter in March of 1697.
Upon arriving in the capital in late January 1693, Seyxas claims the viceroy ordered him to be arrested for debts and jailed in the Real Cárcel de Corte. This was the prison of the Sala de Crimen, the criminal court that comprised one of the two chambers of the Real Audiencia of Mexico, the highest court in the viceroyalty, and an institution of which the viceroy was also president. Seyxas alleges that the charges were illogical, as all alcaldes mayores arrived in the Americas indebted, and because the Count of Galve himself had given orders that they not be jailed for such liabilities. He argues as well that his status as an hidalgo (a member of the lower nobility) and the titles of capitán de mar y guerra and alcalde mayor should have exempted him from such a punishment. Seyxas does not explain how this situation was resolved, but appears to have been released and permitted to install himself in a house in Tacuba.
Shortly thereafter, before having officially assumed possession of his office, he was arrested again and taken before the Sala de Crimen, now accused of having been made aware of a scheme, devised by others, to remove silver from the minted coins known as reales de a ocho (pieces of eight), and to have subsequently failed to give due notice of this crime to the viceroy. Seyxas seems to have been exonerated, as on May 1, the Sala de Crimen ordered him to return to Tacuba, but according to his story, the Count of Galve then intervened to prevent his release by demanding a certain amount of money. When Seyxas refused or could not pay, the viceroy ordered the criminal court to keep him prisoner. Finding nothing with which to charge him, Seyxas says the judges ordered him released on bail, but claims that the viceroy then sent word that Seyxas must not take possession of his office until the matter was concluded. The writer's account suggests that he thus remained incarcerated for seven months, along with others who defended themselves against similar charges in the same case. During this imprisonment Seyxas indicates he was afflicted with an unspecified illness, and upon his release, was fined two hundred pesos. As he was unable to pay, the authorities instead confiscated a costly rug from among the furnishings of his home.
Seyxas indicates that he finally assumed his post as alcalde mayor on November 18, 1693, but soon thereafter an individual named Antonio de Cárdenas arrived in Tacuba with a special commission from the viceroy to prosecute thieves, sellers of pulque (an alcoholic beverage), those who illegally cohabitated, and others. Seyxas complained to the viceroy over what he considered a violation of his jurisdiction as alcalde mayor, and registered further bewilderment at the interloper's questionable qualifications, calling him a "tavern keeper, tanner, and mechanical tradesman." In response, the viceroy sent two officials of the Sala de Crimen, Joseph Cumplido, an alguacil de guerra (constable), and Francisco Hernández, an escribano receptor (a notary tasked with taking testimony), to again apprehend Seyxas. Cumplido and Hernández returned Seyxas to the capital and placed him anew in the Cárcel de Corte, among common criminals, the writer asserts, to exacerbate his illness and hasten his demise. In response to complaints by his wife, he was switched to house arrest after seventeen days. The writer asserts that during this time the viceroy sent numerous additional officials of dubious backgrounds to Tacuba to execute illegitimate judicial commissions, and furthermore sold a temporary appointment as alcalde mayor to a Baltasar de Rivero. According to Seyxas, Rivero made such use of his position in Tacuba that after five months he was able to purchase a house and a team of mules.
Seyxas returned to his post in March of 1694 to find that more of his possessions had been seized, and that his authority was still compromised by the presence of numerous interlopers in his territory. He nonetheless set about conducting the residencia (the official review of an official's term in office) of Juan de Mármol y Torres, Seyxas's predecessor, a task explicitly assigned to him in the cédula real (royal license) naming him alcalde mayor. He found Mármol y Torres and several associates of the former alcalde mayor to be implicated in various crimes, but before he could begin proceedings against them, the Count of Galve sent Cumplido and Hernández to threaten him. They instructed the author to desist, explaining that the viceroy himself chose to handle the prosecution of these individuals. During this time Seyxas claims he also consulted the viceroy and the criminal court regarding numerous cases pending in his district, and that each time the court removed these from his jurisdiction. Following his subsequent protests, Seyxas was jailed again in the Cárcel de Corte for nearly a month, being freed on May 29. He affirms that around this time the presiding judge of the Sala de Crimen offered, upon his deathbed, a vindication of Seyxas's innocence, refusing to sign a sentence against the writer because the charges against him were false, and ordering a notary to make public his testimony to this effect.
Seyxas once again returned to Tacuba and resumed proceedings against those found guilty in the residencia of Mármol y Torres, but a few days later, Cumplido and Manuel Suárez Muñoz, the latter apparently a judge of the criminal court, arrived with an armed force and orders from the viceroy to seize the author and imprison him anew in the capital. While the author was in custody, Suárez Muñoz was named the new interim alcalde mayor, and inquiries were commenced into Seyxas's handling of various legal cases. This he denounced as a procedural violation, as the conduct of such inquiries corresponded not to the viceroy or the audiencia, but to Seyxas's juez de residencia, the judge who would evaluate his conduct in office on behalf of the king at the end of his five-year term. The author claims that this probe was an attempt to provoke animosity against him in his own jurisdiction, where he says Suárez Muñoz went door to door threatening residents in order to compel them to testify against him. Having finished his investigation, Suárez Muñoz approached Seyxas in prison to take his statement, but the writer refused, appealing to the authority of the king and his supreme councils to rule in his case.
This plea for royal recourse was not honored, and Suárez Muñoz instead locked Seyxas in a dungeon for three days, after which time he resumed his questioning. The author remained obstinate, he says, asserting that the commission held by Suárez Muñoz was spurious, as it had been issued by a criminal court in which only two judges were present, the other two being away at the time, and one of those in attendance being Suárez Muñoz himself. Seyxas argued, furthermore, that in any case an alcalde mayor could not be brought to trial unless by the Real Acuerdo, a body consisting of the viceroy and the oidores of the audiencia, convened on an ad hoc basis to address situations of particular urgency. Seyxas asserts that he then remained another five months in prison without making any demands for justice, offering as his rationale that he had no reason to expect any. Once all four judges were back in attendance, the court released him on October 9, 1694, but ordered him to remain in the capital.
Though it would seem audacious or foolhardy given what he tells us of his relationship with these authorities, Seyxas then reports that he consulted with the viceroy and the Real Audiencia regarding the residencia of Mármol y Torres. Seyxas's inquiry was related to the prosecution of the individuals found guilty in this process who were to be arrested or required to pay fines to benefit the royal treasury. Perhaps due to the official and public nature of this consultation, the viceroy instructed Seyxas to proceed against these persons, as per the instructions the writer had received from the king. With assistance provided by Gerónimo Chacón, the most senior judge of the Sala de Crimen, Seyxas then ordered the apprehension of several of the implicated Spaniards. Seeing this, and in particular that Seyxas was proceeding against Antonio de Cárdenas, one of the primary offenders, the viceroy contradicted his previous order, demanding that Seyxas desist in his prosecution of Cárdenas, and that he surrender the autos (decrees) issued in the residencia. Seyxas refused to comply, and claims that attempts were subsequently made on several occasions to steal these papers from him, both in the home of a licenciado (lawyer) named Alonso de Ensinas and in the Hospital de San Hipólito, where the author apparently had found lodgings in the capital. The Real Audiencia also on two occasions issued orders that Seyxas hand over these documents, which he placed in the care of a friar of the order of the Barefoot Carmelites in order to shield them from the civil authorities.
On December 6, 1694, Seyxas wrote to the Count of Galve renouncing his post as alcalde mayor, asserting that the viceroy had made conditions impossible for him to fulfill his duties. In this letter, he summarizes his grievances, including the introduction of Cárdenas and other officials within his district, the five imprisonments, the financial damage incurred as a result of the legal proceedings carried out against him, the wages he was owed, and the manner in which he was prevented from appealing his case to higher authorities on the Peninsula.
On February 26, 1695, Seyxas was again seized by Cumplido and Hernández, in what he characterizes as an ambush executed as he was returning to the Hospital de San Hipólito from the monastery of Baltasar de Medina. It would seem that Seyxas had been engaged in the process of making a copy of the papers he had entrusted to Medina, in order to remit these to Spain. Placing him in the Cárcel de Corte, Cumplido and Hernández renewed their demands that Seyxas relinquish the autos from the residencia of Mármol y Torres. The author continued to refuse, but Medina himself admitted to having the papers, perhaps under pressure from the Count of Galve's representatives, and surrendered them to the Audiencia. He delivered a copy as well to Seyxas in prison, this presumably being the duplicate on which the author had been laboring. As Seyxas notes, some of the pages were missing, in part because the materials were disorganized due to the copying process, and also because on the day of his arrest, he had some papers in his pockets which Cumplido and Hernández seized from him, along with a certain quantity of money.
According to the author, after about fifty days his wife petitioned the Real Acuerdo to return these papers and funds to her husband, citing the dire circumstances in which she found herself, having spent her dowry in her husband's defense. Seyxas says that as a result the Real Acuerdo ordered him to provide proof that he had been robbed to the scribe Hernández, the very person who had committed the said crime. Before this could be carried out, the Real Acuerdo then decreed that he be given two hundred pesos and exiled from the capital to the port of Veracruz, to await further orders. Accompanied by his wife, who he asserts was ill, Seyxas arrived on May 9, 1695, in that city, where the authorities granted him a stipend of one peso per day. He collected this amount for nearly two months, he says, but then sought asylum in a church upon hearing that the Count of Galve had ordered his apprehension and exile to the frontier province of Florida.
Apparently from his refuge in Veracruz, the author wrote on March 11, 1696, to Baltasar de Tovar, an oidor (judge) of the Real Audiencia detailing his experiences in New Spain. The judge had recently completed the residencia of the Count of Galve, which had been made public, and Seyxas indicates in his letter that he writes in order to duly register his complaints, so that no one could later allege before the Council of Indies that he failed to do so. Due to his illness and that of his wife, along with his lack of resources with which to engage lawyers and notaries, he explains that he could do no more that remit the accompanying narrative of his travails. At the conclusion of that attached letter, he requests reparations in the amount of 18,000 pesos, corresponding to the amount he claims he lost by not exercising his office, plus 10,632 pesos that he had spent in defending himself against false charges. He ends his missive to Tovar by asking the judge to intervene on his behalf with the new interim viceroy, Juan de Ortega y Montañés, bishop of Valladolid, so that his demands might be satisfied. On the same date, Seyxas addressed a separate letter directly to Ortega y Montañés, presumably including a copy of the same seven-folio narrative he had written to Tovar.
These materials were delivered both to Tovar and Ortega y Montañés by Francisco de Neira Seijas y Ulloa, allegedly a clergyman and relative of the author, and by his account a vecino of Mexico City. According to Ortega y Montañés, Seyxas had traveled to the capital, and apparently having taken refuge again in a church there, he sent his kinsman to solicit an audience on his behalf, which the viceroy refused. Tovar indicates that several days after the visit of Francisco de Neira Seijas y Ulloa, another clergyman arrived to request the judge's response. However, when asked whether he had explicit permission to represent Seyxas, the clergyman admitted he did not, and withdrawing, he did not apply again. These missives were later gathered together by Tovar and remitted to the Council of Indies on July 13, 1696, along with letters to Charles II from both Tovar and Ortega y Montañés and copies of the legal documentation produced in the various proceedings against the author.
Toward the middle of 1696, Seyxas departed Veracruz in what must have been a surreptitious fashion, given the outstanding orders for his capture. According to his account, he passed through Central America on foot, arriving in Panama at the beginning of 1697, from where he embarked for Peru. For reasons he does not explain, he instead went ashore in present-day Colombia, advancing from there to Quito and later Cuzco. Arriving finally in Lima, he attempted to recover a debt owed him by a Rois de Valcázar, which had resulted, according to Seyxas, from the author's sale to Valcázar of the post of corregidor de Lipes, which he seems to have secured in Madrid before being named alcalde mayor of Tacuba. According to Seyxas, the Count of La Monclova, viceroy of Peru, refused to aid him in this suit, and arrested the author, seized his personal papers, and sent him to Panama, to be remitted to New Spain, apparently after taking offense at the author's suggestion that the viceroy was in collusion with foreigners.
Avoiding further tribulations in that viceroyalty, Seyxas escaped his captors in the port of Realejo, presumably by means of a bribe, and together with other passengers with whom he had traveled from Peru, passed through the province of Honduras. Apparently having embarked from there for Cuba, Seyxas and his fellow travelers were attacked by French pirates and obliged to make their way overland to Campeche. Arriving later in Cuba, Seyxas seems to have initiated some mining projects, and then proceeded to France, arriving in 1702, to seek restitution for money he asserted these pirates had taken from him. He remained exiled in the French court, writing about the Spanish colonial world for the French monarch until his death, probably in 1705.
Before leaving New Spain in 1696, Seyxas had sent his own account of events directly to the Council of Indies, a document that seems to not have arrived, intercepted perhaps by the viceroy and his agents, as Seyxas suggests in Avisos that individuals' communications to the Peninsula often were. The Council of Indies did, however, receive the materials remitted by Tovar, and in a consulta (recommendation) from May 13, 1698, initiated orders for Seyxas's capture and remission to the House of Trade in Seville. A letter from the Count of La Monclova to Charles II in January of 1699 would inspire another similar response, with two consultas issued in April of 1701 reiterating to the viceroy of New Spain the need to capture the author, and giving the same instructions to the president of the audiencia of Guatemala. The Council of Indies apparently became aware of Seyxas's whereabouts at last upon receiving a letter from him, sent from Versailles, dated November 2, 1702, denouncing the actions against him by both the Count of Galve and the Count of La Monclova. Information would be solicited from both viceroyalties regarding Seyxas, and in 1704 the Council would recommend to the new king that any further communication from the author be disregarded.
Avisos a pretendientes para Indias
Unlike the works he would produce from the relative safety of Versailles years later, Avisos was written in the midst of Seyxas's misadventures in New Spain. He began the composition of the text about a month after resigning his post as alcalde mayor, beginning on or after January 7, 1695, and likely stopped writing before February 26, 1695, the date on which he was incarcerated for a sixth time. Indeed, this potential interruption may account for the unfinished state of the manuscript, which likely remained behind in New Spain when Seyxas fled the viceroyalty. Along with other documents, the text of Avisos perhaps was delivered to Seyxas by his wife when she reunited with him in Versailles.
In Avisos, Seyxas responds to his colleague's request by providing the information necessary for young men in Spain to make wise career decisions related to administrative and military service abroad. Seyxas sets out to describe all the posts appointed by the crown in the colonies, with a consideration of the qualifications needed for each. He proceeds geographically, beginning in the most distant part of the empire, the Philippines, and goes on to consider offices filled by royal appointment in Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Cuba, and elsewhere. Frequently, however, he deviates from this program to offer criticisms of the way the administration is structured and the manner in which royal authority is usurped by the king's own ministers on the ground. For instance, he accuses the viceroys of New Spain of taking advantage of the Manila Galleons for personal profit and proposes that the crown abolish this trade route and establish another directly from Spain. He argues that Spanish grandees and former members of the Council of Indies should not be permitted to serve as viceroys, due to the undue pressure they exert on the Council, and he denounces the mechanisms that viceroys and audiencia presidents use in the Americas to censor the communication of private individuals and control the flow of information to the Peninsula. He likewise includes more mundane observations about the day–to–day difficulties newcomers to the colonies face, noting, for instance, the folly of paying to transport Spanish servants to the Americas, as upon arrival they begin to assume airs and refuse to work, leaving their masters to search the streets for those who might assist them.
Seyxas's overriding conviction in Avisos is that young men in Spain must be aware of the grim realities faced by those who undertake bureaucratic careers abroad. Potential candidates needed to consider the excessive costs of buying their posts and relocating their households across the sea, and realize that such expenses usually had to be shouldered by borrowing money at high rates of interest. He notes that upon arriving with royal appointments, many would find themselves required to purchase the office a second time, paying directly to the viceroy or audiencia president. Once in their positions, new administrators would then find they had little option but to exploit their power for financial gain in order to recoup the sums invested, defend themselves against fraudulent lawsuits, and realize at least some profit. He highlights as well the coercive political pressure that viceroys and audiencia ministers exert over judges with dissenting opinions, and the manner in which they invalidate the authority of inferior governors by denying them entry into their posts, leveling false charges against them, removing cases from their purview, or inserting other officers with special commissions into their districts. In short, Seyxas asserts that the sale of offices must be abolished and that the making of bureaucratic appointments must fall within the exclusive purview of the monarchy. Until such a time as these reforms might be carried out, the author insists, there would be no place for honest men in the colonies.
Toward the middle of Avisos, Seyxas proposes the expansion of the Inquisition in Paraguay, Venezuela, and the ports of Cuba and New Spain. This responds to his concern that the presence of foreigners, heretics, and Jews threatened the security of Spain's American territories, as he expressed previously in both Descripcion Geographica and Piratas y contrabandistas. He was particularly troubled by what he believed was the audacity of foreigners who lived freely in the Americas by passing themselves off as Spaniards. This, for instance, was the case of Mauricio del Pozo, a Frenchman in Piratas y contrabandistas who married in Corrientes as a way to facilitate his smuggling activities, and then rose to be the alcalde ordinario (administrator) of that city. In Avisos, Seyxas predicts that if the situation is not brought under control, these clandestine foreigners and their illicit trade networks will precipitate the loss of the Spanish Indies.
In the final section of the manuscript, Seyxas offers a detailed proposal for reforming the defenses of New Spain along the Gulf coast. He proposes the creation of a new post for a maestre de campo general in New Spain, a military commander who would be second in charge to the viceroy. Seyxas likewise argues for centralizing military resources in Orizaba, midway between Puebla and Veracruz, through the creation of a plaza de armas in that town, where companies of both infantry and cavalry would be based. As in the previous section, he would seem to deviate here from the objective he establishes for himself at the beginning of Avisos. This discussion does, however, reflect in part on potential posts for soldiers that could be awarded on the basis of merit. His proposals here furthermore connect with the author's larger preoccupations regarding the preservation of the colonies, addressing in particular the need to improve the security of New Spain in the face of pirate attacks and native uprisings like that which occurred in 1692.
Like so much of Seyxas's writing, Avisos is in many ways an imperfect document. The letter is both incomplete and characterized by the unpolished prose typical of the author's writing. Seyxas seems to have preoccupied himself little with rhetorical refinements, constructing sentences that can span pages, and pushing relentlessly forward, at times through apparent repetitions, lengthy digressions, and parenthetical insertions. Such tendencies perhaps reflect his background as a man of action, with little formal academic training, as well as the relatively dire circumstances in which he seems to have produced much of his work.
The idiosyncrasies of his style, however, must not be allowed to detract from the immediacy of Seyxas's message. In Avisos, as in much of his other writing, he seeks to vindicate merit in the face of entrenched privilege and issue a warning about the desperate state of Spain's colonies. While the practicality of Seyxas's ideas may be a matter for debate, the principal value of Avisos resides in the act of defiance that the text represents and the insight it offers into the bureaucratic realities of the day. From a position of vulnerability but armed with extensive firsthand knowledge, Seyxas takes on the whole of Spain's administrative machine. Though he speaks to us from across more than three centuries, Avisos would seem to have a striking relevance today, in a world where political corruption and inequality of opportunity are by no means unfamiliar, and in which technology has provided new platforms for solitary voices like that of Seyxas to confront the most powerful institutions. Produced at a precarious moment in a life characterized by precariousness, Avisos is at once a denunciation of the Spanish American bureaucracy and part of the author's own struggle for survival. Like Seyxas's many other unpublished works, Avisos is a singular text that merits preservation and further study.
About This Edition
This edition is based on the manuscript of Avisos a pretendientes para Indias, found today in the Archives of the French Ministry of External Affairs (Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères) in La Courneuve, outside Paris. I present here three versions of Seyxas's letter—a diplomatic transcription of the Spanish original, a partially modernized Spanish version, and an English translation. In the following paragraphs, I outline the criteria I have used in preparing these various approaches to the text, discuss briefly their technical implementation in TEI XML, and describe the interface this edition provides for their display.
Transcription of Spanish Original
In documenting the contents of the manuscript, I have sought to be as inclusive as possible. I have respected the spelling, punctuation, word spacing, line breaks, and paragraph divisions of the original, and I have reproduced all authorial strikeouts and interlineal additions, indicating for the latter whether Seyxas designated a point of insertion. I have also documented my addition of letters and words to complete the material that is not visible at line ends on the versos due to the fashion in which the manuscript has been bound.
I have taken this inclusive approach for several reasons. First, I edit here the only known copy of a document written in what I regard as the author's own hand, and thus believe the incidentals of the manuscript may hold interest for some readers. I also have sought to avoid making decisions at the time of transcription that might later prove cumbersome or impracticable to reverse. I furthermore believe that the high frequency of elements in the manuscript requiring editorial interpretation makes a system of rigorous documentation advantageous, as it allows the reader to understand the decisions underlying the transcription, some of which are unquestionably subjective. Lastly, I believe that a transcription that is as inclusive as possible offers more flexibility in terms of its use and extensibility, as other editorial projects pursing different objectives with differing criteria could use the same document as a starting point in the future.
Partially Modernized Spanish Version
In preparing the Spanish reading copy, I have sought to present a highly accessible version of the text that preserves the morphology, syntax, and phonology—but not the orthography—of the original. Though a few decades after the writing of Avisos, the Real Academia Española (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) would undertake to regularize the spelling of the language, in Seyxas's day this remained characterized by a high degree of variability. This situation was due in part to phonological changes that had rendered several letters or combinations thereof capable of being used interchangeably to represent identical sounds. The unvoiced sibilant could be written as ç, z, or c (the latter only before e or i); the glottal fricative as j, x, and g (the latter, again, only before e or i); and both the bilabial plosive and fricative as either b and v. The letter h, which once had represented the glottal fricative, had long since come to be silent, leading to its absence in places where it had been customary (aora instead of ahora, 'now') and its insertion in places it had never existed (haquellos instead of aquellos, 'those'). Also common in the written Spanish of the day are such consonant combinations as ph (triumpho), th (authoridad), qu (quanto), ch (monarchia), and gn (lignea), erudite innovations that alluded to classical spellings but which expressed the same sounds represented traditionally by f (triunfo, 'triumph'), t (autoridad, 'authority'), cu (cuanto, 'how many, how much'), qu (monarquía, 'monarchy') and n (línea, 'line'), respectively. Seyxas's text also includes variation in the use of the i latina (i) and i griega (y), as in yslas (islas, 'isles') and mui (muy, 'very'). We find as well redundant vowels (fee instead of fe, 'faith') and consonants (passado instead of pasado, 'past') which have no transcendence in terms of sound, and the use of m before the bilabial fricative b/v, where today we would expect n (embiar instead of enviar, 'to send'). Because the various orthographic options in each of these categories are all phonologically equivalent, I have normalized them according to modern criteria, as is generally common practice today in the edition of Spanish texts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
By the same reasoning, I have preserved in this reading text features that are not standard but reflect the sound of the language in Seyxas's day. These include the variation in non-tonic vowels (previlegio instead of privilegio, 'privilege'), the confusion between the liquid consonants (englosar instead of engrosar, 'to make larger'), the presence of archaic forms now obsolete (mesmo, today mismo, 'same'), and the use of the coordinating conjunctions o and y before words beginning with o and i, where today we would expect u and e, respectively (o otras instead of u otras, 'or others,' and y yslas instead of e islas, 'and islands'). I likewise preserve the use of u instead of o before words that do not begin with o (uno u dos instead of uno o dos, 'one or two'). I respect the learned consonant clusters (pt, ct, gn, mn, xc, xp, cc, pc, etc.) where they appear in Latinisms (fructos instead of frutos, 'fruits, results'). However, when not present in places where today we expect them (esperiencia instead of experiencia, 'experience'), I do not add them, as their imposition by the Royal Academy did not occur until the following century.
I apply modern criteria to the spelling of personal and geographical names, following the rules established above, when these have forms that are common in Spanish. Where I read "Phelipe" and "Oriçaba," therefore, I write "Felipe" and "Orizaba." However, when Seyxas employs a foreign name or a Hispanized version of the same, I respect his spelling, such as in the case of "Petiguao," referring to the French Petit–Goâve. An idiosyncrasy of the current text is the use of the spellings "Spaña" and "Nueva Spaña," in coexistence with "España" y "Nueva España," in referring to Spain and New Spain. The form "Spaña" is common in documents from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, but I find no evidence of it in other texts from the late seventeenth century. It very improbably reflects actual pronunciation, and therefore I emend it in all instances.
With regard to the division of words, I follow modern practice (porque, 'because,' instead of por que in the original) but respect the use of the contracted forms (deste, 'of this'; today, de este) which are now antiquated. I respect the contraction of de él, not standard today, adding the diacritic mark for clarity (dél). I have resolved all abbreviations and followed modern norms in the use of punctuation, written accents, capital letters, and the writing of numerals. I also have rectified certain passages that are grammatically incomplete and corrected items that I deem to be clear errors on the part of the author.
In the annotations to this text, I examine lexical and other aspects of Seyxas's Spanish that may hold interest for the modern reader, noting only the first instance of any given feature except in select cases where circumstances make the repetition of information particularly convenient. Where I have deemed it desirable to preserve Seyxas's marginal notes in this version, I have incorporated these into my own annotations. When the numbers written into the margins on folios 38r and following reiterate figures already mentioned, I omit them here. In cases where I believe they form part of the text itself, I introduce them as I have considered appropriate.
In preparing the English translation of Seyxas's text, I have striven to create an accurate version that will prove as accessible as possible to the modern reader. When faced with the choice of following Seyxas's text literally or rendering it into natural, colloquial English, I have opted for the latter. I have especially endeavored to adapt Seyxas's often lengthy and complex sentences into unencumbered, direct English prose. I present place names here in the forms most commonly used in English, in cases where these exist. In the annotations to this text, I address matters of historical and biographical context, as well as questions of translation that I believe merit consideration. These include instances where I have chosen one of several possible translations of a term, or where a word or expression has been particularly challenging to render with precision in English. In the most problematic of cases, I have left the Spanish untranslated.
The three versions of the text have been encoded together in one TEI XML file, with an eye toward facilitating their side-by-side comparison. The file has been structured with a high-level <group> element which gathers two <text> elements, the first encompassing both the transcription and modernized Spanish version, and the second containing the English translation.
In the transcription, I have utilized primarily the following TEI elements: <del> for deletions, with @type indicating whether this is stricken or overwritten text; <add> for interlineal additions, with @type specifying whether the point of insertion is specified in the original; <supplied> for all text I have added, with @reason used to indicate the rationale for the addition (which most frequently is the need to extrapolate letters obscured by the binding on the versos) and @cert to record a relative degree of certainty; <sic> for apparent errors in the original; <note type="authorial"> for Seyxas's marginal annotations, with @place showing location; <abbr> for abbreviations; <gap> for breaks in the text, with @reason used to explain circumstances; and <unclear> to mark material regarding which there is doubt, with @reason used to offer further explanation. I have also employed <placeName> and <persName> to mark the numerous geographical and personal names in the text. In order to establish a correspondence between the Spanish and English versions, @n on the <p> element has been used to give each paragraph in the transcription a unique identifier.
The reading text has been layered atop the transcription in same <text> element through the use of <choice>. The following combinations have been employed to carry out the modernization, according to the criteria described above: <choice><orig> </orig><reg> </reg></choice> for modifications to spelling, punctuation, and capitalization; <choice><abbr> </abbr><expan> </expan></choice> for expansion of abbreviations; <choice><sic> </sic><corr> </corr></choice> for emendation of apparent authorial errors; and <note type="editorial"> for my annotations. In isolated instances, the addition of material deemed necessary to complete the sense of the original has been accomplished using <choice><orig> </orig><reg><supplied reason="editorial_choice"> </supplied></reg></choice>.
In the English translation, I have utilized @corresp on the <p> element to link each paragraph to its counterpart in the combined Spanish text. Annotations dealing with historical or other contextual material have been added using <note type="editorial">, and those that address the process of translation have been tagged as <note type="translational">. I have used <supplied reason="editorial_choice"> to document the addition of material not present in the original but which I feel increases the readability of the passage in English without altering the author's meaning.
A guiding principle behind this project has been a desire to exploit the possibilities of TEI XML to document and reveal the various levels of editorial and translational decisions involved. To this end, the interface for this edition has been designed to maximize the reader's ability to compare the various versions of the text. Three different entry points to the document have been provided, via the diplomatic transcription, the partially modernized Spanish version, and the translation. A consistent view has been implemented across the three versions that allows a reader to navigate from any paragraph in one text to the corresponding paragraph in the other two, and from the transcription to the manuscript images.
The original Spanish view seeks to replicate, to the extent possible, the physical disposition of the manuscript. I preserve here the line breaks and indicate the foliation in square brackets. Material I have provided to complete words or letters obscured by the binding are shown in red, and text that is unclear appears in gray. Stricken material, whether crossed out or written over in the manuscript, appears in strikethrough. The author's marginal insertions are shown to the left or right of the main text, approximating the way they appear in the original. His interlineal additions are shown in superscript, with a caret indicating the point of insertion, when this is provided in the manuscript. When it is not, such insertions appear in the interface without a caret, and their location has been a matter of editorial discretion. Gaps in the text, resulting in most cases from damage to the manuscript, are represented here and in all other views as "[. . .]".
In the partially modernized Spanish version, a system of color-coded highlighting has been deployed to communicate to the reader the various transformations that have taken place. These include the expansion of abbreviations, the regularization of spelling and punctuation, the correction of evident errors and the occasional introduction of material needed to rectify grammatically inconclusive passages. Beginning on folio 38r, this last category includes certain monetary amounts that in the original appear in the right margin, but which complete sentences in the main text. The reader may reveal or hide the highlighting as desired, and a key provides an explanation of each color. By hovering the cursor over an expanded abbreviation or modernized term, the reader may also see the original form as it appears in the transcription.
The English version employs a dual system of numbering for the footnotes, separating contextual and biographical notes from those dealing strictly with matters of translation. Material that does not appear in the manuscript, but which I have added in the interest of clarity, appears in blue type.
Abbreviations Employed in This Edition
|AGI||Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies, Seville)|
|AMAE||Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, La Courneuve, France)|
|Aut.||Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua castellana ("Autoridades"), 1726–1739|
|DRAE||Real Academia Española, Diccionario de la lengua española, 22nd edition, 2001|
|Corr. Pol.||Correspondance Politique (a signature in AMAE)|
|CORDE||Real Academia Española, Corpus diacrónico del español|
|Mem. et Doc.||Mémoires et Documents (a signature in AMAE)|
|s.v.||sub voce (in references to dictionary entries)|
This project has been made possible by the support and generosity of many people. I am grateful to Raquel Chang-Rodríguez, John O'Neill, and Lía Schwartz for encouraging my research into Seyxas since I began several years ago. Mark Burkholder assisted me in grappling with a particularly difficult aspect of the manuscript, and Shira Schwam-Baird in corresponding with the Archives of the French Ministry of External Affairs in La Courneuve. Deb Miller of the Center for Instructional and Research Technology (CIRT) at the University of North Florida helped me to acquire needed software, and Michael Boyles, also of CIRT, spent many hours assisting in the preparation of the manuscript images. Amanda Gailey and Andrew Jewell provided indispensable advice regarding the implementation of the edition in TEI XML and collaborated with me in the conceptualization and creation of the interface. I am indebted to Pablo Emilio Pérez-Mallaína Bueno for first identifying many of the manuscript documents in Spain and France mentioned in this project, and to the General Archive of the Indies in Seville and the Archives of the French Ministry of External Affairs for providing access to those materials. Lastly, I would like to thank Constanza López Baquero for her love, patience, and belief in my work.
This edition is dedicated to the memory of Isaías Lerner (1932–2013), professor, mentor, and friend.
Manuscript images are used by permission of the Archives of the French Ministry of External Affairs.