Spanish Royal Ordinances 

for the Laying Out of New Towns, 1573


San Lorenzo, July 3, 1573...I [Philip II] the King...

On arriving at the locality where the new settlement is to be founded (which according to our will and ordinance must be one which is vacant and can be occupied without doing harm to the Indians and natives or with free consent) the plan of the place, with its squares, streets and building lots is to be outlined by means of measuring by cord and ruler, beginning with the main square from which streets are to run to the gates and principal roads and leaving sufficient open space so that even if the town grows it can always spread in a symmetrical manner.

...In inland towns the main plaza should be in the center of the town and of an oblong shape, its length being equal to at least one and a half times its width, as this proportion is the best for festivals in which horses are used and any other celebrations which have to be held. The size of the plaza shall be in proportion to the number of residents, heed being given to the fact that towns of Indians, being new are bound to grow and it is intended that they shall do so. Therefore the plaza is to be planned with reference to the possible growth of the town. It shall not be smaller than two hundred feet wide and three hundred feet long nor larger than eight hundred feet long and three hundred feet wide. From the plaza the four principal streets are to diverge, one from the middle of each of its sides and two streets are to meet at each of its corners.

...After the plaza and streets have been laid out building lots are to be designated, in the first place, for the erection of the main church, the parish church or monastery and these are to occupy respectively an entire block so that no other structure can be built next to them excepting such as contribute to their commodiousness or beauty.

...No building lots surrounding the main plaza are to be given to private individuals, for these are to be reserved for the church, Royal and Town house, also shops and dwellings for the merchants, which are to be the first erected. For the erection of the public buildings the settlers shall contribute and for this purpose a moderate tax shall be imposed on all merchandise. The remaining building lots shall be distributed by lottery to those of the settlers who are entitled to build around the main plaza. Those left over are to be held for us to grant settlers who may come later or to dispose of at our pleasure. In order that entries of these assignments be better made a plan of the town is always to be made in advance.

After the plan of the town and the distribution of the lots have been made each settler is to set up his tent on his lot if he has one, for which purpose the captains shall persuade them to carry tents with them. Those who own none are to build huts of such materials as are available, wherever they can be collected.

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Last Revised: February 28, 2002