International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy


Archivo General de Indias


Category Institutional Archive
Organization Ministerio de Educación, Cultura e Deporte
Country Spain
Address Edificio de la Lonja, Av. de la Constitución, 3, Edificio de La Cilla, C/ Santo Tomás, 5, 41071 Sevilla, Spain
Telephone (34) 95 450 05 28
Fax (34) 95 421 94 85


El Archivo General de Indias (AGI, or The General Archive of the Indies) was created by the Spanish King Carlos III in 1785. His aim was to collect all the documents related to the Spanish colonies in America (West Indies) and Asia in a single location. Before the creation of this archive, the documents were dispersed between several Court Archives, including those in Simancas, Cádiz and Seville. The splendid building of “La Casa Lonja de Sevilla” (the House Market of Seville), which was constructed during the times of Felipe II from the plans of Juan de Herrera, today serves as the main seat of the Archive.

The first documents were transferred from Simancas to the Casa Lonja de Sevilla in October of 1785. The year 1760 was set as the date which divided administrative and the historical records. Accordingly, all earlier papers had to be sent to the new Archivo de Indias. Since then, the Archive has incorporated the new records of the main colonial institutions: ”el Consejo de Indias” (the Council of Indies), “la Casa de la Contratación” (the House of Trade), “los Consulados” (the Consulates), “las Secretarías del Estado” (the Secretaries of State) and “el Despacho” (the Office). All these new acquisitions made the Archive one of the main documentary repositories for the study of the Spanish Administration in the New World.

Today the Archivo General de Indias holds more than 43,000 files, installed in eight linear kilometers of bookcases with about 80 million pages of original documents that allow researchers to investigate more than three centuries of history of the Spanish colonies in the Americas and East Asia.

The Archivo General de Indias holds a large number of documents on leprosy, the majority dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, there are also some records held from 1768 to 1831, regarding leprosy hospitals (called Hospitales de San Lázaro) in Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

An inventory of the documents related to leprosy in the Archivo de Indias, with a description of each item, can be accessed here (PDF, 28 pages).

Notable records

In MEXICO, 3104, records dated 1768 to 1806 contain documents on the construction of a leprosarium in the suburbs of Campeche, Mexico and on the approval of statutes concerning a Casa de Misericordia in the city of Mérida, Mexico.

In CARACAS, 518, (1804), there are documents of the superintendent Juan Vicente de Arce, and a file on the nomination of the chaplain at the leprosarium (in Caracas, Venezuela?).

MP-SANTO-DOMINGO, 701 (1813) holds a plan of the leprosarium in La Habana, Cuba, showing the current layout at the time as well as projected layout.

CUBA, 714, (1816-1821) contains various correspondence and documents from Cartagena de Indias, between people from the leprosarium at Cartagena. CUBA, 1840 (1813) holds a file on the lands of the leprosarium, with a proposal for reconstruction after the destruction of a storm in 1712.

In ULTRAMAR, 30, N.9 (1817), there are records pertaining to the hospital’s superintendent, Alejandro Ramírez (location?), and documents on the application for a leprosarium. ULTRAMAR, 140, N.23 (1828) contains documents regarding the request by José Nicolás Montejo, citizen and councilman of the city of Puerto Príncipe in Cuba, for permission to thank Rome for the church at the leprosarium, located outside Puerto Príncipe. ULTRAMAR, 48, N.4 holds a report by Francisco Dionisio Vives, Governor of La Habana, Cuba, on the approval of rules and regulations for the leprosarium of the city.

This archive includes references to the following leprosaria:

  • San Lázaro, Campeche (México)
  • Casa de la Misericordia, Mérida (México)
  • San Lázaro, Caracas, Venezuela
  • San Lázaro and Isla de Cabras, La Habana (Cuba)
  • San Germán, Puerto Rico
  • Hospital of San Lázaro of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia)
  • Lazareto of the Isla of Cabras, Puerto Rico
  • Hospital of San Lázaro of Sevilla
  • Hospital de Leprosos, Santo Domingo
  • Hospital for leprosy patients in Nueva Orléans (New Orleans)
  • Hospital for Leprosy patients in Lima
  • San Juan de los Leprosos, Guatemala

Entry created October 2002; updated December 2006, February 2016


Organization Archivo General de Indias
Address Edificio de la Lonja, Av. de la Constitución, 3, Edificio de La Cilla, C/ Santo Tomás, 5, 41071 Sevilla, Spain
Telephone (34) 95 450 05 28
Fax (34) 95 421 94 85

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