The Forgotten Diaspora


The Forgotten Diaspora

Mesoamerican Migrations and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Travis Jeffres

Borderlands and Transcultural Studies Series

268 pages
2 photographs, 5 illustrations, 3 maps, index


June 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

June 2023


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In The Forgotten Diaspora Travis Jeffres explores how Native Mexicans involved in the conquest of the Greater Southwest pursued hidden agendas, deploying a covert agency that enabled them to reconstruct Indigenous communities and retain key components of their identities even as they were technically allied with and subordinate to Spaniards. Resisting, modifying, and even flatly ignoring Spanish directives, Indigenous Mexicans in diaspora co-created the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and laid enduring claims to the region.

Jeffres contends that tens of thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands—of central Mexican Natives were indispensable to Spanish colonial expansion in the Greater Southwest in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These vital allies populated frontier settlements, assisted in converting local Indians to Christianity, and provided essential labor in the mining industry that drove frontier expansion and catapulted Spain to global hegemony. However, Nahuatl records reveal that Indigenous migrants were no mere auxiliaries to European colonial causes; they also subverted imperial aims and pursued their own agendas, wresting lands, privileges, and even rights to self-rule from the Spanish Crown. Via Nahuatl-language “hidden transcripts” of Native allies’ motivations and agendas, The Forgotten Diaspora reimagines this critical yet neglected component of the hemispheric colonial-era scattering of the Americas’ Indigenous peoples.

Author Bio

Travis Jeffres is a public historian with the City of Boise, Idaho. He was previously Duane King Postdoctoral Fellow at the Helmerich Center for American Research.


“This book is a tour de force. Reading what the Spaniards’ Indigenous ‘auxiliaries’ wrote in their own words, often in their own language, Travis Jeffres has brilliantly brought to life both the complex nature of their experiences—neither purely victimized nor uniformly self-actualizing—and their central importance in the history of the borderlands.”—Camilla Townsend, author of Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs

“This fascinating study sheds dazzling light on relationships between the Spanish empire, the sedentary Native peoples of central Mexico, and the culturally alien peoples of the arid North. Using a painstakingly assembled archive of Native-language documents, Travis Jeffres allows us to witness the harrowing yet creative process by which migration to the northern frontier transformed the identities of Native settlers from central Mexico.”—Raphael Brewster Folsom, author of The Yaquis and the Empire: Violence, Spanish Imperial Power, and Native Resilience in Colonial Mexico

“The scholarship is most impressive. . . . Travis Jeffres manages to read Nahuatl sources against the grain, especially in his magnificent chapter on the town cabildos of San Esteban. His work pushes our understanding of the Nahuatl-speaking people on the frontier forward. And at the same time, he has updated and further historicized the northern Mexican frontier theses of Friedrich Katz, John Tutino, and others.”—James David Nichols, author of The Limits of Liberty: Mobility and the Making of the Eastern U.S.-Mexico Border

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. People of the Land of Turquoise and Silver
2. La Guerra Tolteca-Chichimeca
3. Ending the Toltec-Chichimec War
4. Creating a New Tlaxcala
5. Indigenous Rulership at San Esteban, New Tlaxcala
6. The Nahuas and New Mexico
7. Sorceresses of Santa Fe

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