Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Shawn Austin

Committee Member

Freddy Dominguez

Second Committee Member

Kathryn Sloan


Oaxaca, indigenous communities, natives, native rituals, extirpation, Christianity


The trials of San Francisco Cajonos and Betaza and Yalálag heard in Villa Alta’s criminal court depict many important facets of life in Colonial Oaxaca, and they especially paint the picture of community, how it was defined and how it operated in reality. Looking specifically at these two rich examples in Villa Alta’s criminal court, at the time, idolatry – native religion, rituals, and devotions defined by Catholics as idolatrous -- helped shape the lines of community and defined who belonged in which space. It also highlights how betrayal and revenge were construed by a community and the response for those actions by individuals. As these trials and stories show, in the towns and villages surrounding Villa Alta, native devotion, classified as idolatry by colonial forces, was essential to understanding community because it helped to create it. The practice and defense of native rituals and devotions, identified as idolatry by the colonial Spanish authorities, defined the boundaries of community in the 1701 trial of San Francisco Cajonos and the 1703 trial of Betaza and Yalálag. The revenge taken against the two fiscales, Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Angeles by the community for a violation of community boundaries by betraying their idolatrous practices to colonial church officials as well as the hostility between the communities of Betaza and Yalálag because the punishment for engaging in practices deemed idolatrous was seen as a communal attack highlighted the dividing lines between communities created by participation and persecution of native rituals.