Land, Labor and Economy in Hapsburg Mexico

        I.            Economy and society dominated by three main areas

A.       Large land holdings

B.       Mining centers - silver mines in the north

C.       The commercial system

1. Trade networks and shipping

2. Markets

      II.            Land holdings

A.      Large landholders dominated society, with mine “owners” and wealthy merchants making up rest of elite

1. Mayorazgo (1550) prevented heirs from dividing estates; promoted growth of ever larger estates

2.  Largest estates in the north, some over one million acres (largest of all in Nuevo Leon ; reaches 14 million acres by 1760)

B.      Large landholdings (latifundia) the most important economically, but most land in small and medium holdings

1.  Haciendas

a.       Generally large landholdings devoted to a variety of activities

b.      Often focused on local and regional markets, but many engaged in export markets as well

c.       Depended on creole desire to eat European products (wheat, barley, wine, olives/olive oil)

2. Plantation

a.       Usually refers to a single cash-crop farm devoted to export

b.      Depended primarily on slave labor

c.       Mostly found in Morelos and sugar regions in the south

3.  Estancias

a.       usually refers to ranches which raised animals

b.      engaged in both local and export markets

4.  “Minifundia” – small (chacras) and medium sized (ranchos) holdings

a.       Generally oriented to subsistence and local markets

b.      Operators frequently worked on nearby large landholdings as well

c.       Often near ejidos, public lands usually used for grazing

d.      In some areas, supplied goods to one-crop plantations

e.      Chacras frequently used for pig farming

f.        In economically lean years, large landholders would lease out land in sharecropping-like arrangements

    III.            Land ownership

A.      Spanish settlers hungry for land, as it was essential for joining the aristocracy

B.      Loss of land by Amerindians, however, would be gradual, with great regional variation

C.      Seizing land held by Amerindian leaders

1.  Cortes took the vast personal belongings of the Aztec emperor

2.  Land of Aztec nobles taken as a right of conquest

3.  Land that supported Aztec institutions, such as temples, went to the Crown

4. Away from cities, these kind of land seizures were much less important

D.      Communal and village lands not strictly taken by force

1.  Spaniards were highly legalistic, and wanted titles that could be defended in court

2.  Spanish authorities generally recognized the legitimacy of Amerindian precedent

3.  Crown offered some protections to Amerindian land

a.       Village property recognized as legal ejidos

b.      Spanish estates were not supposed to be near village land

4.  Tribute often related to Amerindians ties to the land; landless Amerindians not easily incorporated in tribute system

5. Amerindians outnumbered Spaniards, making it difficult to take land by pure force

6.  Spanish needed legalistic and more subtle ways to take lands

a.       Could be seized to pay tribute and other debts

b.      Ranching rights could be used to usurp control of land

c.       Amerindians might be coerced into swapping their land for less valuable land

d.      Amerindians could be sued into poverty

e.      Those who rebelled against Spanish rule could have land taken for violating the requerimiento, Spain’s “divine right” of conquest

7.  Abandoned land could also be taken under Spanish. This was a factor where disease decimated the Amerindian population

    IV.            Labor

A.      Spanish initially made use of encomienda to control Amerindian labor

1.  Had roots in systems used during the Reconquista

2.  Cortez issues first grants of encomienda  in 1543

3.  A tribute based system

a.       Encomenderos received right to collect tribute (including labor) from Amerindians living in a particular area

b.      Did not grant the encomendero title to the land, though many acted as if it did

c.       In exchange, encomendero was expected to provide military service to crown and protect Amerindians in the encomienda

4. Gave conquistadores the social position and wealth source they craved

5.  Crown did not like the feudalistic nature of the system, as it undermined Crown authority

6.  As Amerindian population declined became less viable

7. Gradually phased out after New Laws (1542) placed restrictions on them, but never completely disappears

B.      Repartimento (labor draft)

1. Started out as a labor draft in response to food crisis (beginning in 1550) and major flooding in Mexico City (1555)

2. Crown controlled system

a.       Crown would control the Amerindian labor tribute

b.      Settlers  wishing to use Amerindian draft labor would have to request it form the Crown

c.       Shifted power back to the Crown, gave officials some means to protect Amerindians from excessive exploitation (when they chose too)

d.      Found primarily in major cities – rural landowners depended more on dept peonage

C.      Slavery

1.  Amerindian slavery

a.       Many enslaved shortly after conquest, mainly as prisoners of war

b.      Detached labor form land, giving slaveholders more power of labor than tribute holders

c.       Amerindian labor pool could not keep with European demands, particularly because of decline from disease

2.  African slavery

a.       Growth of slavery tightly linked to emergence of cash crop plantations

b.      Sugar is the principle slave produced crop

c.       Urban slaves used mostly as servants, though some manufacturing as well

3.  Convict labor frequently used in obrajes, the textile mills

D.      Free labor

1. Becomes more common after 1650 with the recovery of Amerindian populations

2.  Free labor and free markets more common in the North

      V.            Mining

A.       Silver mines open in Mexico in 1540s

1.  Really takes off after defeat of Amerindian rebellions in the north in 1543

2. Zacatecas region (Mexico) site of many of the mines

a.       Located north of Mexico City in modestly populated region

                                                                                                         i.            Need for labor draws in Europeans, Africans, Amerindians, mixed-race peoples

                                                                                                       ii.            Mining region becomes much more culturally diverse than southern Mexico

B.      Production expanded by use of patio system to refine ores

1. Uses far less fuel and water than traditional smelting

2.  Depended on mercury

3. Mercury trade controlled by Crown, imported first from Spain and later Peru

C.       Traditional quinto (one-fifth) tax  applied to mining, reduced to diezmo (one-tenth) in 1548

1. Becomes financial basis for Spanish imperial state, even though agriculture is bigger overall

2.  Casa de Moneda (mint) established in 1535; by late 1500s, Mexican peso become first universally accepted coin in world trade

D.       Theoretically, mines belong to the Crown

1. In practice, licenses for mining sold to highest bidder and politically connected

2. Crown maintains control in part with monopoly on mercury

E.        Mines become economic engines for large areas

1. Employee 10,000 laborers in 1500s, 45,000 by mid-1600s

2. Miners mostly male, come from all over Mexico

3. Women found mostly in support activities

a.       Hauling and sorting of ore

b.      Market retail, food supply, weaving, other “domestic” type activities

4. Ports , roads, and wealthiest cities develop along routes connecting mines to export markets

    VI.            Export Agriculture

A.       Most important in south

B.       Early domination of agriculture by export crops

1.  Sugar dominant – also tobacco, cacao (chocolate), and vanilla

2.  Food crisis emerges by late 1500s, as large scales farms almost entirely produce export crops, not food for local markets

3.  Emergence of large haciendas ends food crisis by 1650

  VII.            Large scale Manufacturing

A.      Many restrictions on manufacturing to prevent competition against Spanish importers

B.       Factory scale production in some trades, such as cigar rolling, weaving, and dye-making

C.       Regional specialties

1. Porcelains in Puebla

2. Textiles in Guadalajara

3. Jewelry in Queretaro

VIII.            Monopolies and the flotilla system

A.      Most trade and large scale manufacturing controlled by a small elite

1.  A small group of families controlled some 70% of trade and manufacturing

2.  Merchant families closely linked, with strong kinship ties to Spain (notably in the port cities)

3.  As there were no banks, wealth merchant families (and Church) provided most investment capital, thus very influential in mining and manufacturing

B.      Trade grows rapidly

1.  15,000 tons/year in the early 1500s

2. 273,000 tons/ year by 1606

C.      Spain institutes a flotilla system as early as the 1560s

1. Meant to protect shipping against pirates and to enforce monopolies

2.  Average Atlantic crossing took 67 days

3.  Substantial trade with China and East Asia by way of Philippines

D.      Mexico could legally trade only with Spain

1.  Mexican manufacturers and producers were generally prevented from competing with Spain

2.  Merchants limited importation of goods to keep prices high

3.  Most imported goods were not actually of Spanish manufacture, as Spain did not build its own manufacturing base in this era

4. Led to wide-spread smuggling, notably in peripheral areas

5.  Limitations of flotilla system led to greater self-sufficiency for Mexico