History starts with what people remember and write down or report to others who write it down. The problem is that human memory is faulty; we add ourselves into it without any effort at all. But these written or oral memories and archaeological remains (which being objects have no faulty memories, but sometime are subject to faulty interpretation) are all we have of the distant past. So historians act like police investigators and corroborate written evidence with other written and then, hoping for the best, we write articles, papers, and books to present what we think happened.
My particular interest is in working with the special people who can transcribe and translate the archaic language and difficult handwriting of the documents. Knowing Spanish isn’t enough. I mostly worked with J. Richards Salazar but also others. My intent in gathering, editing, annotating and providing historical background for the documents is to help historians who may have an interest in Spanish Colonial history and who may not have access to such translators. Maybe even more important my intent is to provide information to the many New Mexican descendants of the Spanish Colonial men and women speaking, complaining, arguing, defending themselves, and ordering people around in the documents. In the two books published to date, eight-five documents have been transcribed and translated. We (Salazar and I) selected the documents partly because of their historical interest, but mostly because by reading them we could hear the early Spanish Colonial residents speaking for themselves (for better or worse).
As examples, three documents selected from the two published books are shown below. A date, citation number, summary and synopsis, and a multitude of footnotes are included, and sometimes an image.