Indian autopsy and epidemic disease in early colonial Mexico

Martha Few

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Epidemic diseases introduced during the Spanish Conquest and colonization of Mexico and the Americas have long been acknowledged as key features that helped shape European expansion into the Americas (see Chávez Balderas, Chapter 9, this volume).1 One of the most devastating and enigmatic of these diseases was cocoliztli. Beginning in 1575, a cocoliztli epidemic swept through Mexico City and the surrounding region, leaving many dead in its wake. Cocoliztli is associated with a wide array of symptoms, including hemorrhagic bleeding, gangrene, jaundice, delirium, convulsions, and dysentery. According to various eyewitness accounts, the indigenous population was particularly hard-hit, dying in alarming numbers. In response to the death toll, the viceroy of New Spain ordered Francisco Hernández, a Spanish physician in Mexico on a Crown-sponsored visit, and Alonso López de Hinojosos, a barber-surgeon at the Royal Indian Hospital in Mexico City, to conduct a series of Indian autopsies and report on the results in the hopes of finding a cure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInvasion and Transformation
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Perspectives on the Conquest of Mexico
PublisherUniversity Press of Colorado
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780870818868
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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