Land and Labor II

Work and Economics


        I.            Major economic activities

A.      Export/Import

1.  Mining – almost exclusively for export

a.       Mostly silver from Bolivia and Mexico

b.      Late colonial period gems and precious metals from Brazil become important

2. Export agriculture – primarily plantation cash crops

3. Many manufactured goods and luxury items imported

4. Imports controlled by monopolies and a flotilla system (officially, but smuggling was common)

B.      Local economies

1.  Local manufacturing

2.  Domestic labor

3.  Subsistence and market agriculture

      II.            Export/Import economics

A.      Mining

1.  Initial gold rush in the islands quickly depletes available gold

2.   Silver mines open in Mexico and Bolivia in 1540s

a.        Potosi (in modern Bolivia, part of colonial Peru)

                                                                                                        i.            Mita and migrant labor helps creates one of the largest colonial Latin American cities at 14,000feet

                                                                                                      ii.            Entirely dependent on goods from lower elevations for survival

b.      Zacatecas region (Mexico)

                                                                                                        i.            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

3.  Traditional quinto (one-fifth) tax  applied to mining

a.       Becomes basis for Spanish imperial state

b.      Portuguese will rely on sugar in 1500s and 1600s, mining in the 1700s

4.  Theoretically, mines belong to the Crown

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

b.      Crown maintains control in part with monopoly on mercury, essential for processing silver ore

5.  Mines become economic engines for large areas

a.       Miners mostly male, come from all over Peruvian and Mexican regions (and beyond)

b.      Women found mostly in support activities

                                                                                                        i.            Hauling and sorting

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

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

B.      Export Agriculture

1.  Most important in Brazil and islands

2.  Male dominated, both in labor and in ownership and management

a.       On slave plantations, major gender imbalance in favor of men

b.      Female slaves confined primarily to domestic work and unskilled labor

c.       Male slaves far more likely to be found in artisan, managerial, or transport activities

d.      Landowners overwhelmingly male

                                                                                                        i.            Female landowners usually widows, frequently depended on male relatives to manage properties

                                                                                                      ii.            Elite men were not supposed to do labor of any kind, only manage, while elite women were expected to take no public economic roles

                                                                                                    iii.            This pattern was across the board. The more elite a woman was, the less public her economic role would be.

C.      Monopolies and the flotilla system

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

a.        Portugal would operate a similar system

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

c.       Latin American merchants could only import and export through certain ports, and had to do business with Spanish and Portuguese monopolies

2.  Forced poor terms of trade on Latin American merchants

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

    III.            Local economics

A.      Large scale manufacturing

1.  Many restrictions on manufacturing to prevent competition against Spanish and Portuguese importers

2.  Factory scale production in some trades, such as cigar rolling and weaving

a.       Unlike rural work, women often dominated these tasks

b.      In 1500s and 1600s, much of weaving done as piece work (putting-out work)

                                                                                                        i.            Thus tended to be dominated by women

                                                                                                      ii.            This would continue with later shift to factories (obrajes)

c.       Creation of royal tobacco monopolies in late 1700s aimed in part at reforming lower class women

                                                                                                        i.            Meant to pull them out of prostitution

                                                                                                      ii.            Meant to reduce rate of STDs

B.      Small scale (artisan) manufacturing

1.  Women’s activity in manufacturing extensive, but under limitations

a.       Much of female economic activity centered around commercialization of traditional gender roles

b.      Thus in manufacturing, often in found in weaving or food-related work, such as bakeries

2. In many places, manufacturing controlled by guilds

a.       Women could not officially belong to guilds, and men of color could do so only with difficulty

                                                                                                        i.            Women often participated unofficially in guild controlled trades , as partners or inheritors of their husbands businesses

                                                                                                      ii.            Men of color more likely to gain entrance to guilds in places well away from major capitals

b.      Women made much of the cigars and cigarettes in small-scale enterprises until royal monopolies emerge

3.  Urban slaves often found in small scale artisan activity

a.       Some rented out by owners to artisans

b.      Others worked semi-independently, splitting earnings with slave owner

C.      Domestic labor

1.  Dominated by women, either in support of own household or as staff in elite households

2. Elite women generally oversaw  large household staffs

a.       Early in the colonial period, lower class Iberian women immigrated as domestic workers, often as indentured servants

b.      This practice tapered off, and domestic workers were increasingly people of color

c.       this is a key place where white elites interact regularly with lower class people of color

3.  Domestic work linked to public work in similar activities, such as weaving and food preparation

a.       Many food vendors in the markets are women

b.      Women frequently found owned and worked in liquor stores and bars

D.      Subsistence and market agriculture tends to follow patterns of male dominations found in export agriculture

    IV.            Rural vs. Urban

A.      Gender imbalances

1.  Rural areas more male; urban areas more female

2.  Plantation owners preferred male slaves

3.  Rural women, both elite and lower class, tended to have more children, and thus die in childbirth more often

4.  Thus rural families heavily patriarchal

5.  Urban families, notably lower class families, much more likely to have female head-of-households

B.      Slave life

1. Urban slaves more likely to marry, have source of income, and to have larger social circles

2.  Thus much more likely to obtain manumission than rural slaves

3.  A notable difference with free people of color, who generally had more opportunities for social advancement in small communities well away from major cities