In the 1500s, sealed off by mountains on both the east and west of the thinly explored “northern Mexico,” the arid desert-like central altiplano was the ancient home of the Nahua, Otomi, Huichol, Cora, Tepehua and Coyutec Indians.
Only the Chichimecas who lived in the foothills of the Eastern mountain range were warlike. It was a fertile, peaceful region never dominated by the Aztecs. In 1530, the relentlessly brutal Spaniard Nuño Beltran de Guzman led an expedition that brought what are now the Mexican states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Durango, Sinaloa and Zacetecas under Spanish control.
In doing so, Guzman destroyed the way of life for all the indigenous people who inhabited the area. He had come to New Spain after the Conquest, appointed by Spain’s European rulers to be the governor of Panuco in north-eastern Mexico. In 1528, Guzman became president of the first Royal Audiencia, the High Court of New Spain. The Audiencia was created to investigate charges leveled against Hernando Cortez in order to replace the military government he had headed even before the fall of the Aztec Empire.
An avowed enemy of Cortez, Guzman was unable to bring the “Conquistador of New Spain” to trial because as the leader of the original Conquest, he had returned to Spain to refute charges made against him.