Cabildo (council)

A cabildo (Spanish pronunciation: [kaˈβildo]) or ayuntamiento (Spanish: [aʝuntaˈmjento]) was a Spanish colonial, and early post-colonial, administrative council which governed a municipality. Cabildos were sometimes appointed, sometimes elected; but they were considered to be representative of all land-owning heads of household (vecinos). The colonial cabildo was essentially the same as the one developed in medieval Castile.

The cabildo was the legal representative of the municipality—and its vecinos—before the Crown, therefore it was among the first institutions established by the conquistadors themselves after, or even before, taking over an area. For example, Hernán Cortés established La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz to free himself from the authority of the Governor of Cuba.

The word cabildo has the same Latin root (capitulum) as the English word chapter, and in fact, is also the Spanish word for a cathedral chapter. Historically the term ayuntamiento was often preceded by the word excelentísimo (English: "most excellent") as a style of office, when referring to the council. This phrase is often abbreviated

Cabildo abierto
1810 meeting of the cabildo in Buenos Aires
Cabildos del Virreinato
Depiction of the main cabildo buildings of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.
Cabildo of Salta, Argentina


The Castilian cabildo has some similarities to the ancient Roman municipium and civitas—especially in the use of plural administrative officers and its control of the surrounding countryside, the territorium—but its evolution is a uniquely medieval development. With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the establishment of the Visigothic Kingdom, the ancient municipal government vanished. In many areas, seeking to escape from the political instability around them, people entrusted themselves to large landholders, exchanging their service for the landholder's protection, in a process that ultimately led to feudalism. (See also, Manorialism.) In areas where the old territoria survived, the Visigothic kings appointed a single officer, called either a comes or a iudice to replace the defunct municipia or civitates. After the Muslim conquest, the new rulers also appointed various judicial officers to manage the affairs of the cities. Qadis heard any cases that fell under the purview of Sharia law and sahibs oversaw the administration of the various other areas of urban life, such as the markets and the public order.[1]

The cabildo proper began its slow evolution in the process of the Reconquista. As fortified areas grew into urban centers or older cities were incorporated into the expanding Christian kingdoms of Portugal, León and Castile, kings (and sometimes local lords) granted the cities various levels of self-rule and unique sets of laws (the fueros) and made them the administrative center of a large terminus or alfoz, which was analogous to the ancient territorium. In general, municipal governments often consisted of a council (consejo) open to all the property-owning adult males of the city and a nobleman appointed to represent the king and organize the defense of the city and terminus. By the 13th century, these open councils proved unwieldy and were replaced by a smaller body, the cabildo or ayuntamiento consisting of set number of regidores (usually twenty-four in the largest cities) elected by the property owners in the city. These new bodies took their permanent form by the end of the 14th century. As part of the same process, a municipal council (the consell) with different attributes and composition also evolved in the neighboring Kingdom of Aragon during this period.[2]


In theory, every municipality in the Spanish colonies in the Americas and the Spanish Philippines had a cabildo. Municipalities were not just the cities but included the surrounding lands. All lands were ultimately assigned to a municipality. Usually the cabildo made local laws and reported to the presidente (president) of the audiencia, who in turn reported to the viceroy. The cabildo had judicial, legislative and administrative duties. For this reason it was often addressed with the formula, Consejo, Justicia y Regimiento (Council, Justice and Government).

The cabildo consisted of several types of officials. There were four to twelve regidores, depending on the size and importance of the municipality. Regidores, were not just deliberative officers, but all shared in the administration of the territory, dividing tasks among themselves. Initially the regidores were elected by all the heads of household. In the late Middle Ages, these elections often turned violent, with citizens forming bands to control elections and even resorting to murder. To minimize this kings began to appoint a certain number of, or even all of, the regidores in certain cities. By the modern era different cabildos had different mixes of elected and appointed regidores both on the Peninsula and overseas. Finally, to add another layer of control, the kings introduced corregidores to represent them directly and preside over the cabildos. Although many municipalities lost their right to elect all or some of their regidores as time went on, cities and cabildos gained new power with the development of the Castilian and Leonese parliaments (the cortes) because cities had a right to representation in them.[3]

In addition to the council members, the cabildo had one or two magistrates, the alcaldes, whom the regidores elected every January 1. Alcaldes served as judges of first instance in all criminal and civil cases and acted as presiding officers of the cabildo, unless there was a corregidor. In provincial capitals the first alcalde would fill in for incapacitated governors. Other officers were the alférez real (royal standard-bearer), who had a vote in cabildo deliberations and would substitute the alcalde if the latter could not carry out the functions of his office; the alguacil mayor, who oversaw local law enforcement; the fiel ejecutor, who was the inspector of weights, measures and markets, in charge of the supplies of the city and oversaw municipal sanitation; the procurador or city attorney; and a scribe.

After the Bourbon Reforms, peninsulares were almost exclusively appointed to the positions of viceroy and bishop. Other offices, such as oidores of the audiencia, corregidores (in the places where it continued to exist after the Bourbon Reforms) and intendants, also saw a rise in the proportion of peninsulares being appointed. These last ones had been positions to which creoles once had easy access, especially after the approval of the sale of offices which began during the financial crisis at the end of the 16th century. As a result of being shut out of these offices, creoles turned to the cabildos for political power. Soon enough cabildos became the center of power for creoles, as evidenced in many of the clashes, usually with the peninsular-dominated audiencias, in the period leading up to the wars of independence. In the first decades of the national period, the traditional form of the cabildo was kept in several Spanish American nations, although they were eventually replaced by legislative municipal councils.

Currently existing

Because cabildos were the city government, the city administrative offices were often called the "cabildo". These names are preserved in parts of Latin America, and even in New Orleans.

At present, cabildos exist only on the Canary Islands (cabildos insulares), one governing each island, and they are elected. Cabildos there resemble the consells insulars (island councils) of the Balearic Islands.

See also


  1. ^ O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, 30, 61-62, 142-143.
  2. ^ O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, 269-271, 447, 593-596.
  3. ^ O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, 447.


  • Din, Gilbert C. (1996) The New Orleans Cabildo: Colonial Louisiana's First City Government, 1769-1803 Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, ISBN 0-8071-2042-1
  • Fisher, John (1969) "The Intendant System and the Cabildos of Peru, 1784-1810" The Hispanic American Historical Review 49(3): pp. 430–453
  • "Municipios", Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela. Caracas: Fundación Polar, 1997. ISBN 980-6397-37-1
  • O'Callaghan, Joseph F. A History of Medieval Spain. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1975. ISBN 0-8014-0880-6
  • Pike, Fredrick B. (1960) "The Cabildo and Colonial Loyalty to Hapsburg Rulers" Journal of Inter-American Studies 2(4): pp. 405–420
  • Pike, Fredrick B. (1958) "The Municipality and the System of Checks and Balances in Spanish American Colonial Administration" The Americas 15(2): pp. 139–158
  • Meissner, Jochen (1993) Eine Elite im Umbruch: Der Stadtrat von Mexiko zwischen kolonialer Ordnung und unabhangigem Staat, 1761-1821 F. Steiner, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-515-06098-7, in German, (An Elite in the Breach: The Cabildos of Mexico between Colonial Order and the Unforgiving State)

External links


Alcalde (; Spanish: [alˈkalde]), or Alcalde ordinario, is the traditional Spanish municipal magistrate, who had both judicial and administrative functions. An alcalde was, in the absence of a corregidor, the presiding officer of the Castilian cabildo (the municipal council) and judge of first instance of a town. Alcaldes were elected annually, without the right to reelection for two or three years, by the regidores (council members) of the municipal council. The office of the alcalde was signified by a staff of office, which they were to take with them when doing their business. A woman who holds the office is termed an Alcaldesa.

In New Spain (Mexico), alcaldes mayores were chief administrators in colonial-era administrative territories termed alcaldías mayores; in colonial-era Peru the units were called corregimientos.Alcalde was also a title given to Indian officials inside the Spanish missions, who performed a large variety of duties for the Franciscan missionaries.

Antonio José Álvarez de Abreu, 1st Marquis of la Regalía

Antonio José Alvarez de Abreu (8 July 1688 in Santa Cruz de la Palma, Canary Islands, Spain – 28 November 1756), Marquis de la Regalía by King Philip V of Spain on 8 July 1738, the son of Sergeant Domingo Alvarez Hernandez and Maria Yañez Abreu, studied Latin and Philosophy at the Augustines Convent of La Laguna of Tenerife and graduated at the University of Salamanca being a "Bachiller" in 1707 and a "Licenciado" in law in 1711.

He was nominated as a Surveyor and Controller of the Royal Rents and Taxes in August 1714 in the actual Caracas, Venezuela, in February 1715. In August 1715 he started his lectures on law, the first chair in Caracas, in the Convent of Santa Rosa asked by Archbishop Francisco del Rincón, and in April 1716 married in the Cathedral of Caracas widower Teresa Cecilia de Bertodano Knepper, born 1691. They fathered two boys and two girls between 1717 and 1721 while in Caracas having another two males after returning to Spain.

He was involved in September 1720 in the wrangle by the Viceroy to destitute the Captain General of the Province of Caracas, Marcos de Bethencourt y Castro, and appointing him as a Governor and Lieutenant of the Captain General, which required a further Order from February 1721 and obeying it by the local authorities as from May 1721. By September, he was replaced and then moved to La Habana (Cuba) and Veracruz (Mexico), towards the end of 1722, coming back to Spain towards the end of 1723. In 1726 he publishes statements in the sense that the vacant positions in the churches of the Spanish Empire, and therefore the rents and moneys providing their support for whathever earlier reasons, belong to the King ("regalism" from the French churches, hence the marquis title given to him "de la Regalía" by the thankful Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, bringing "over 1 million "reales"" to the Crown).

Meanwhile his administrative position within the Exchequer rolled on : Casa de Contratación de Cadiz, Finances Council, the Royal Monopolies on Salt, Mines, Mercury, African Slaves, Tobacco, Foreign Trade, China-Mexico trade from Manila (Philippine Islands), Foreign residents and Merchants..... , getting promoted to Marquis in 1738 by King Philip V, heavily mentally handicapped by then, but assisted by loyal commoners and industriously minded nobility.

It is said, that he notified the "Cabildo Council" of the Canary Islands on his promotion to the Castile nobility. however, there was never a reply or official congratulation about his title.

His son, known as Felix José de Abreu Bertodano, (Caracas, 13 July 1721 - circa 1765, aged 45) was also a brilliant merchantilist and writer on economic subjects.


Ayuntamiento (Spanish pronunciation: [aʝuntaˈmjento]) is the general term for the town council or cabildo of a municipality, or sometimes the municipality itself, in Spain and Latin America. Historically ayuntamiento was often preceded by the word excelentísimo ("most excellent"), when referring to the council. This phrase is often abbreviated " ".

In Catalan-speaking parts of Spain, municipalities generally use the Catalan cognate, ajuntament, while Galician ones use the word concello, Astur-Leonese conceyu and Basque udaletxea. Ayuntamiento is mainly used in Spain; in Latin America alcaldía is also for municipal governing bodies, especially the executive ones, where the legislative body and an executive one are two separate entities.

In Latin America several terms exist for the legislative bodies of municipalities. The term consejo is used in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Peru. In Mexico the term ayuntamiento is for the council (which refers to itself as the H. Ayuntamiento, or el Honorable Ayuntamiento). Puerto Rican municipalities have a legislatura municipal. In Peru the term ayuntamiento is never used; instead, it is municipalidad, consejo provincial or consejo distrital (district council). Executive functions in most of these countries is handled by an executive alcalde, the mayor (not to be confused with the historic alcalde, who was a magistrate).

Since ayuntamiento is a metonym for the building in which the council meets, it also translates to "city/town hall" in English.


Cabildo can refer to:

Cabildo (council), a former Spanish municipal administrative unit governed by a council

Cabildo abierto, or open cabildo, a Latin American political action for convening citizens to make important decisions

Cabildo (Cuba), African ethnic associations in colonial Cuba

Cabildo (magazine), an Argentine nationalist Catholic magazine

Cabildo (opera), a 1932 one-act opera by Amy Beach

The Cabildo, a historic building in New Orleans, Louisiana

Cabildo Canaries, island governments in the Canary Islands

Buenos Aires Cabildo, a historical building in Buenos Aires, government house during colonial times

Córdoba Cabildo, a historical building in Córdoba, government house during colonial times

Cabildo, Chile

Cabildo insular

Cabildos are a Spanish system of government administration that are now only used in the Canary Islands, where they are known as cabildos insulares ("island councils"), each governing one of the seven main islands - Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. The island of La Graciosa falls under the jurisdiction of the cabildo of Lanzarote.

The members of a cabildo are elected by direct universal suffrage by the Spanish citizens of each island. The membership is determined by party-list proportional representation.

The cabildos were created under the Law of Cabildos of 1912. In Francoist Spain they were appointed rather than elected. Cabildos exercise a level of authority between those of their province and their autonomous communities in matters of health, environment, culture, sports, industry, roads, drinking water and irrigation, hunting and fishing licensing, museums, beaches, public transportation and land organization. Cabildos can impose fuel taxes.

Constitutional history of Colombia

The constitutional history of Colombia is the process of formation and evolution of the different constitutions that Colombia has had since its formation.

Cristóbal Domínguez

Cristóbal Domínguez (¿-1814) was a Spanish administrator. He was Presidio Inspector and Governor of Texas between 1814 and 1817.

Currency of Venezuela

This article provides a historical summary of the currency used in Venezuela since the end of the 18th century. For the present currency of Venezuela, see Venezuelan bolívar.

Juan Durán de Miranda

Juan Durán de Miranda was a soldier who served as governor of New Mexico in the 1600s. He occupied the charge of governor of New Mexico twice (1664-1665 and 1671-1675). The existing information on him is scarce.

Juan Leal

Juan Leal Goraz (1676–1742 or 1743), also called Juan Leal Gonzal, was a Spanish settler and politician who served as the first alcalde (a municipal magistrate with both judicial and administrative functions) of La Villa de San Fernando, which later would become the city of San Antonio, Texas. Of Canarian origin, he came in 1731 with a group of Spanish settlers from the Canary Islands to populate this municipality, founded by the Spanish government under the sponsorship of King Philip V. Leal had asserted himself as the Canarian emigrants' leader and spokesman since they left the islands. He served as alcade of San Antonio between 1731 and 1732, and again in 1735.

Louisiana (New Spain)

Louisiana (Spanish: Luisiana) was the name of an administrative district of the Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1763 to 1801 that consisted of territory west of the Mississippi River basin, plus New Orleans. Spain acquired the territory from France, which had named it La Louisiane in honor of King Louis XIV in 1682. It is sometimes known as Spanish Louisiana. The district was retroceded to France, under the terms of the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso (1800) and the Treaty of Aranjuez (1801). In 1802, King Charles IV of Spain published a royal bill on 14 October, effecting the transfer and outlining the conditions.

However, Spain agreed to continue administering the colony until French officials arrived and formalized the transfer (1803). The ceremony was conducted at the Cabildo in New Orleans on 30 November 1803, just three weeks before the formalities of cession from France to the United States pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase.

Luis de Unzaga

Luis de Unzaga y Amézaga (1721–1790), also known as Luis Unzaga y Amezéga, was a Spanish governor of Louisiana from late 1769 to mid-1777, as well as a Captain General of Venezuela and Cuba.

Manuel Gayoso de Lemos

Don Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos y Amorín, KOM, OTS (1747 – 1799) was the governor of Spanish Louisiana from 1797 until his death in 1799.


Medellín (Spanish pronunciation: [meðeˈʝin] or [meðeˈʎin]), officially the Municipality of Medellín (Spanish: Municipio de Medellín), is the second-largest city in Colombia, after Bogota, and the capital of the department of Antioquia. It is located in the Aburrá Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains in South America. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics, the city has an estimated population of 2.5 million as of 2017. With its surrounding area that includes nine other cities, the metropolitan area of Medellín is the second-largest urban agglomeration in Colombia in terms of population and economy, with more than 3.7 million people.

In 1616 the Spaniard Francisco Herrera Campuzano erected a small indigenous village ("poblado") known as "Saint Lawrence of Aburrá" (San Lorenzo de Aburrá), located in the present-day El Poblado commune. On 2 November 1675, the queen consort Mariana of Austria founded the "Town of Our Lady of Candelaria of Medellín" (Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Medellín) in the Aná region, which today corresponds to the center of the city (east-central zone) and first describes the region as "Medellín". In 1826, the city was named the capital of the Department of Antioquia by the National Congress of the nascent Republic of Gran Colombia, comprised by present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. After Colombia won its independence from Spain, Medellín became the capital of the Federal State of Antioquia until 1888, with the proclamation of the Colombian Constitution of 1886. During the 19th century, Medellín was a dynamic commercial center, first exporting gold, then producing and exporting coffee.

At the beginning of the 21st century the city regained industrial dynamism, with the construction of the Medellín Metro commuter rail, liberalized development policies, improved security and improved education. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute have lauded the city as a pioneer of a post-Washington consensus "local development state" model of economic development. The city is promoted internationally as a tourist destination and is considered a global city type "Gamma -" by GaWC.The Medellín Metropolitan Area produces 67% of the Department of Antioquia's GDP and 11% of the economy of Colombia. Medellín is important to the region for its universities, academies, commerce, industry, science, health services, flower-growing and festivals.

In February 2013, the Urban Land Institute chose Medellín as the most innovative city in the world due to its recent advances in politics, education and social development. In the same year, Medellín won the Verónica Rudge Urbanism Award conferred by Harvard University to the Urban Development Enterprise, mainly due to the North-Western Integral Development Project in the city. In September 2013, the United Nations ratified Colombia's petition to host UN-Habitat's 7th World Urban Forum in Medellín, from April 5–11, 2014.Medellín won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016. The award seeks to recognize and celebrate efforts in furthering innovation in urban solutions and sustainable urban development.

Municipality of Trujillo

The Municipality of Trujillo is the Peruvian public institution of government for Trujillo Province, Peru. It is located in the city of Trujillo and is responsible for the supply and management of the province and its districts. This includes rural and urban towns and the provision of local services within its jurisdiction. It is a politically autonomous legal entity and as such it deals with economic and administrative matters.


A regidor (plural: regidores) is a member of a council of municipalities in Spain and Latin America. Portugal also used to have the same office of regedor.

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera y Gaviria (baptized March 25, 1587, Bergüenda, Álava – August 12, 1660, Tenerife, Canary Islands) was a Spanish soldier and colonial official. From 1632 to 1634 he was governor of Panama. From June 25, 1635 to August 11, 1644 he was governor of the Philippines. And from 1659 to his death in 1660 he was governor of the Canary Islands. He is remembered as one of the two greatest Spanish military leaders in the Philippines.

Spanish colonization of the Americas

The overseas expansion under the Crown of Castile was initiated under the royal authority and first accomplished by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were incorporated into the Spanish Empire, with the exception of Brazil, Canada, the eastern United States and several other small countries in South America and The Caribbean. The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the region. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.

Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and continuing control of vast territory for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America (including present day Mexico, Florida and the Southwestern and Pacific Coastal regions of the United States). It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas and a further 3.5 million immigrated during the post-colonial era (1850–1950); the estimate is 250,000 in the 16th century, and most during the 18th century as immigration was encouraged by the new Bourbon Dynasty. In contrast, the indigenous population plummeted by an estimated 80% in the first century and a half following Columbus's voyages, primarily through the spread of Afro-Eurasian diseases. This has been argued to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era, although this claim is largely disputed due to the unintended nature of the disease introduction, which is considered a byproduct of Columbian exchange. Racial mixing was a central process in the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and ultimately led to the Latin American identity, which combines Hispanic, native American and often African ethnicities.

Spain enjoyed a cultural golden age in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when silver and gold from American mines increasingly financed a long series of European and North African wars. In the early 19th century, the Spanish American wars of independence resulted in the secession and subsequent balkanization of most Spanish colonies in the Americas, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico, which were finally given up in 1898, following the Spanish–American War, together with Guam and the Philippines in the Pacific. Spain's loss of these last territories politically ended the Spanish rule in the Americas.

Tomás Godoy Cruz

Tomás Godoy Cruz (May 6, 1791 – May 15, 1852) was an Argentine statesman and businessman. He was a representative to the Congress of Tucumán which on July 9, 1816 declared the Independence of Argentina.

Godoy Cruz was born in Mendoza. He studied in Mendoza, then in Chile at the Royal University of San Felipe, graduating in philosophy, canonical and civil law. He lived in Chile until 1814, and served in the Santiago Cabildo (council) during the last year of his stay. He then returned to Mendoza, setting up a gunpowder factory. He agitated to make General José de San Martín governor of Cuyo, and helped finance the Army of the Andes.

In 1815, at just 24 years old, Godoy Cruz was elected by Mendoza to the Tucumán Congress and served in 1816 for the declaration. He was president on two occasions and vice-president on one.

He subsequently served as governor of Mendoza Province 1820-22. In 1831 he was exiled to Chile where he was a teacher and pioneered silkworm cultivation. He was also a successful merchant of woven goods.

The city of Godoy Cruz and its surrounding department in Mendoza, and streets across the country were named in his honour.

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