Volume 10

Nature and Bodies, Land and Labor: Mexico’s Colonial Legacy (1991)

Abel A. Alves

Alves, A. Nature and Bodies, Land and Labor: Mexico’s Colonial Legacy. Latin American Issues [On-line], 10.
Available: http://sites.allegheny.edu/latinamericanstudies/latin-american-issues/volume-10/

About the Author

Abel Alves received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts in 1990 and is Assistant Professor of History at Ball State University. Among his publications are “The Christian Social Organism and Social Welfare: The Case of Vives, Calvin and Loyola,” The Sixteenth Century Journal, Spring 1989, and “History, Mexico, the United States and Humanity in the Writings of Octavio Paz,” CLIO: A Journal of Literature, History, Philosophy of History, Volume 19, 1991. His chapter “Of Peanuts and Bread: Images of the Raw and the Refined in the Sixteenth Century Conquest of New Spain” is scheduled to appear in 1992 in Javier Cevallos, Jeffrey Cole and Nina Scott (eds.),Reflections of Social Reality: Writings in Colonial Latin America, to be published by the University of Massachusetts Press.



Many among the Latin American elites have traditionally portrayed Amerindians as plodding, fatalistic and long-suffering children of nature and the earth. As such, it has been easy to classify the first Americans as mere extensions of brute nature, lacking in all active human agency. At the same time, defenders of the Indians and the Indians themselves have proven otherwise since colonial times. Where it flourishes, twentieth-century indigenismo is as much a creation of Indian cultural struggle as it is of an intellectual elite. Since colonial times, numerous syntheses of the Spanish and Amerindinian (not to mention African) have been formulated in Latin America, and some have even been enshrined officially, as is the case with Mexican indigenismo since the Revolution of 1910.

In Mexico, the institutional revolutionary government honors its Aztec heritage through the publicly commissioned works of Diego Rivera, official school textbooks which laud Mexico’s Indian heritage, and through the restoration of Amerindian monumental sites. At the same time, Mexico’s remaining indigenous population continues to live at a standard of living much lower than the Mexican average. Still, they have persevered and continue to struggle using means officially sanctioned in one form or another since colonial times; their goal — to be recognized by elites as more than the productive extensions of the natural environment. In this quest, they always have been partially successful, thus ensuring their very survival in Mexico.

In the mid-1970’s, groups of Indian campesinos, who still spoke the native Aztec tongue Nahuatl, confiscated substantial portions of hacienda land in northeastern Hidalgo.1They justified their direct action in terms of Mexico’s agrarian code and notions of village boundaries and communalism dating back to preconquest times. To prevent further violence and strife, the government of President Luís Echeverría expropriated 18,000 hectares (44,478 acres) of privately-owned land, organizing collective ejidos in order to take advantage of economies of scale and state credit projects.2 Rather than a manifestation of late twentieth-century Mexican radicalism, the Indians’ action and Escheverría’s response represented an extremely traditional dance that has taken place between governmental elites and Amerindian masses since the sixteenth century. In the 1970’s, the Indians of San Felipe Orizatlán, Jaltocá, Huejutla, Tlanchinol, Huazalingo, Yahualica, Zochiatipan, Huautla and Atlapexco in Hidalgo argued that the hacendados and rancheros whom they attacked had inherited lands illegitimately seized from native communities under the laws of la Reforma, the Porfiriato’s land law of 1888, and misuse of post-revolutionary reforms. They made an historical argument which gave them priority to use of the land as active agents, and which paralleled similar arguments made in colonial times.

In the 1950’s, Viceroy Luís de Velasco created the General Indian Court of New Spain (as Mexico was then known). In this court, Indians were free of the payment of fees, unless they were entire towns or nobles, and procedurally one of the most important issues dealt with by the court was the question of amparo. The write of amparo protected the possession of land or the exercise of some function as a traditional and hereditary privilege. Amerindians defended their lands and subsistence from Spanish infringements, and appointed defensores, letrados and avogados.3 Decisions often favored Indian townships as royal officials tried to counterbalance the rapacity and individual wealth of conquistadores. Typically, on March 4, 1616, avogado Joseph de Sali presented the complaints of the Indian towns of Jecalpa, Huauchinantla, Mitepec and Tamazula in the province of Teotlalco, now in southwestern Puebla. It seems that Spanish ranchers permitted their cattle to invade native lands, where they proceeded to eat fruit trees and crops. The Amerindians requested both payment for damages and the right to kill any invading cattle in the future. The viceroy not only granted this request; he ordered that any future offenders be fined for the expenses of the General Indian Court, and that the local alcalde mayor send testimony of compliance within twenty days.4

Both Echeverría and the colonial viceroy granted the Indians their requests since both the viceregal government and the present constitutional government were founded on principles of paternalistic reciprocity. At the same time, both governments recognized a link between Amerindians and physical nature which has not always worked to the advantage of the indigenous population. The land and the people have been the inseparable physical reality of Latin America since the time when the first Spaniards arrived to exploit both. This exploitation, through the reality of ever-growing latifundia, is a given, but it was never meant to be an exploitation to the benefit of the elite alone. Throughout Latin American history, the mostly white elite has justified its privileges by claiming a stewardship rooted in Biblical accounts of Adam’s stewardship over nature (Genesis 1.26). The sixteenth-century conquistadores and colonizers argued that they had come to better manage a “New World” environment which lacked many of the appropriate aspects of God’s eternal plan for Adam and his descendants. They came to benefit the common good of all Spaniards and Indians, and that could only be done if the Spaniards directed the body politic as the head directs the individual human organism — the Indians being ignorant of Christianity and its dicta.

To the present day, elites, from Porfirio Díaz’s Social Darwinist científicos to vanguard Marxist intellectuals, claim to know what is best for the entire social organism within the physical environment of Latin America. To that effect, the Mexican Constitution of 1917 stands as a superb example, with central articles like Article 27 and Article 123 focusing on issues concerning the management of nature and human labor in a corporatist context.5

While the Constitution of 1917 clearly invalidates guild restrictions on labor, hereditary prerogatives, private laws, special tribunals and other such medievalisms, it accepts such traditional Spanish and Amerindian notions as collective representation before the state authority and societal limitations on private property.6 Thus, “Associations of labor organized to protect their own interests shall not be deemed a monopoly. Nor shall cooperative associations or unions of producers be deemed monopolies when, in defense of their own interests or of the general public, they sell directly in foreign markets…”7 Likewise, Article 27 states:

The Nation shall have at times the right to impose on private property such limitations as the public interest may demand as well as the right to regulate the development of natural resources, which are susceptible of appropriation, in order to conserve the public wealth.8

Both principles harken back to fundamental notions of Medieval European and Aztec social thought and practice: notions which portrayed society as the amalgam of divergent interests, and the land as a source of wealth and sustenance for all these interests. In the Aztec empire and medieval Spanish realms alike, it was the task of governmental authority to regulate social wealth for the common good of nobles, priests, merchants, artisans and peasants. This task has not descended to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexico, incorporating, as it does, the demands of organized workers in the CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México), peasants in the CNC (Confederación Nacional de Campesinos), and small businessmen and white-collar professionals in their own government-recognized confederation.9 Private interests are to be subordinated to the public interest, and the writ of amparo still officially is recognized in Article 107 of the 1917 Constitution.10 In the 1930’s, it was a synthesis of all these constitutional rights which sanctioned the land reform of Lázaro Cárdenas.

In 1938, President Cárdenas (founder of the Party of the Mexican Revolution, or PRM, progenitor of today’s PRI), announced that 1,570,507 peasants had received 22,343,501hectares of land under his auspices.11 Peasant groups were urged to organize and strike in demand of land, and Mesico prospered somewhat in the years following these actions.12Though crop production had not quite regained its 1910 level in 1940, the crop area devoted to basic staples like corn, beans and wheat expanded in proportion to overall expansion, and accounted for over 80% of the area under cultivation, as compared to a precipitous decline in the production of staples from 1888 to 1910.13 Between 1950 and 1965, Mexico’s food production doubled in only 15 years, with over 40% of the agricultural land of the country being held in traditional corporate entities known as ejidos by 1970.14 As noted by P. Lamartine Yates, “This system of land tenure was supposed to recreate in part the pre-Columbian tenure arrangements of the Aztecs and in part the system which had prevailed in medieval Spain — hence the name ‘ejido’…”15 In concordance with Article 27 of the Constitution, ejidos have been assigned to groups of twenty or more persons to the present day, the peasants of Hidalgo being some of the last major beneficiaries of ejidal reform in the 1970’s. From Cárdenas to Echeverría the ejido has been a safety valve to ease social tension among disgruntled peasants. As such, it has built on colonial traditions of land management by the paternal state for the common good of all, and of justice by means of traditional group privileges (or amparo).

The revolutionary government’s return to the ejido and amparo was a response to the demands of Amerindian and mestizo campesinos; a reaffirmation of the elite’s “right” to rule by means of providing for the common good. In this fashion, the PRM and its offspring, the PRI, on occasion, have negated European classical liberalism, as embraced by large segments of the Mexican elite in the late nineteenth century.16

From the period of la Reforma to the despotic presidency of Porfirio Díaz, privileged groups formed a coalition of economic interests who promoted absolute private property,laissez-faire economics and the rights of educated, propertied and “responsible” individuals before the state.17 On June 25, 1856, under the Liberal President Ignacio Comonfort, the Secretary of the Treasury, Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, issued a decree which banned the corporate or communal ownership of land. Though the Ley Lerdo primarily was aimed at Church property, it had the corollary effect of depriving Indian and mestizo peasant communities of ejidos held by the townships since pre-Columbian and colonial times. TheLey Lerdo, in conjunction with Articles 27 and 28 of the 1857 Constitution, legalized the sale of vacant public lands and the confiscation of ejidos. Though such actions had taken place since colonial times, the General Indian Court often had worked against the most blatant offenses.18 In the nineteenth century, this was no longer possible. Thus the Indians of Atlatlauhca successfully had defended their common lands against Spanish encroachment at least five times between 1538 and 1714. On all occasions, the viceregal court recognized their use of land held in common as the heirs of their forefathers. This was granted as a privilege, or merced,” by the officials of the Crown. However, three years before the Ley Lerdo went into effect, on September 3, 1853, the prindipales of Atlatlauhca made a final pathetic plea to have the ancient privileges of their ejido recognized by the government of independent Mexico. The response of the government is not recorded, and neither is any indication of government interest in the case.19Likewise, San Felipe del Progreso, a colonial center of Amerindian yeoman agriculture eighty-seven miles north of Mexico City, experienced unparalleled expropriations and hacienda growth after 1856.20 In power, Mexican criollos abandoned social organicism for the principles of liberalism. In the words of John H. Coatsworth:

Liberalism did not err by failing to perceive the greed of the nation’s hacendado elite. Nor did it fail through dogmatic adherence to European doctrines which envisioned a natural harmony between profit maximization and social progress. Liberal ideologies knew full well that men of wealth, whatever their political philosophy, could be counted upon to pursue their interests above all else, and they fought in large part to remove inherited colonial restraints on social behavior.21

In actuality, Liberals did define social progress in terms of economic growth and increased productivity, consciously failing to provide guidelines for the distribution of societal wealth.22 The War of the Reform (1858-1860) and the French Intervention (1861-1867) prevented any large-scale land seizures during the presidency of Benito Juárez, but the groundwork was in place for the excesses of the Porfiriato (1877-1910).23 Villages protested, with fifty-five instances of prolonged litigation and armed insurrection being recorded between 1877 and 1884, but the campesinos were no match for President Porfirio Díaz’s rurales.24 By the inauguration of the second Díaz administration in 1884, resistance subsided, and “usurpation of village lands had become an integral part of normal social progress…”25 An 1894 law declared that any land to which legal title could not be produced could be pronounced vacant. This provided ample opportunity to take land from townships which had no written deeds and only amparo to defend them. One-fifth of Mexican lands exchanged hands in this period, with one person alone obtaining 12 million acres in Baja California and other northern states. Only the Yaqui Indians of Sonora and the Mayas of the Yucatán persisted in their resistance, proving their human agency to an elite that would deny them this as well as their land.

The Díaz land laws deprived Indian communities of land as never before, while certain members of his intellectual coterie adopted Social Darwinist ideas which declared the Indians to be passive, brutish members of an inferior race (ignoring Díaz’s own mestizo heritage). Thus, the journalist Francisco G. Cosmes argued that “the Indian has only the passive force of inferior races, is incapable of actively pursuing the goal of civilization,” and Francisco Bulnes and José Yves Limantour considered the education of Amerindians as futile as teaching animals. Initial Indian resistance to Díaz spoke otherwise, while the Mexican Revolution of 1910 became the full-fledged expression of campesino and Indian agency in certain areas.

By 1910, landless peasants and their families made up 9.5 million of a rural population of 12 million. the new owners did not use the land seized from villages and small landowners more efficiently, often letting much of the usurped land lie fallow as they awaited an increase in its value for resale (usually to a railroad company according to Coatsworth). By keeping land out of production, hacendados and latifundistas helped to keep the price of maize and other staples artificially high, and the per capita production of basic staples declined when compared with the early nineteenth century, culminating in the bad harvests of 1907-1910. In the meantime, the production of food and raw materials for the foreign market experienced vigorous growth. By 1910, Mexico became the world’s largest producer of henequen, while the majority of its population faced malnutrition and an uncertain future.26 By denying the people land, the Díaz government had denied its people food, and destroyed a vital method of maintaining social order in Mexico. Since colonial times, distinctions in basic necessities had been a means of maintaining hierarchy, but the provision of basic necessities had also been a means of binding the lower echelons to a paternalistic state — of creating a sense of community and reciprocity. By reducing all to the cash nexus, Díaz and his cohorts destroyed corporate communalism and planted the seeds of revolution.

Though the first revolutionary program, as expressed by Francisco I. Madero in the Plan of San Luís de Potosí (October 5, 1910), was primarily political, the revolution quickly took root among the populace, as led by individuals like Emiliano Zapata. To the Zapatistas, land and liberty were terms to be equated, and ideals of communal village ownership were revived as solutions to the crisis of subsistence and social disintegration. Food, land management, the writ of amparo and the active agency of the people were once again central to Mexican history. The ideal of land distributed to the ejido was revived. In the words of Octavio Paz, “Every revolution tries to bring back a Golden Age,” and the Zapatistas “not only salvaged the valid portion of the colonial tradition but also affirmed that any political construction, if it is truly productive, must derive from the most ancient, stable and last part of our national being: the indigenous past.”27

That contemporary Mexico must harken back to its colonial and indigenous past is debatable; that it does is unquestionable. This essay proposes that fundamental distinctions made between Spaniards and Indians in colonial times still haunt Mexico in the present. Amerindians were distinguished from Spaniards on the basis of different customs in agricultural management and food consumption. For consuming the inappropriate foods, Indians were perceived as less civilized by the Spanish elite, and their lack of civilizaiton, in turn, justified the paternalistic management of land and Indian labor by conquistadores, encomenderos and hacendados. After independence, criollo elites continued to see the land and Indian labor as “passive” objects at their disposal. To paraphrase Carolyn Merchant, Nature was depersonified, and the mass of Amerindians with her.28 Still, no matter how true this may have been of Díaz, Bulnes, Cosmes, and Limantour, others struggled against this trend, as Amerindians and defenders of the Indians had in colonial times. Not so surprisingly, to the present day, the paternalistic defender and exploiter are often one-and-the-same person.

Presently, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and his government planners speak of the elimination of need in the areas of basic necessities; a guarantee to ecological conservation; and the use of petroleum and other natural wealth for the common good of the whole Mexican people.29 In broad terms, they speak of the equities promised under amparo, but they employ neo-liberal economic policies in an attempt to assuage foreign creditors. According to Nora Hamilton, the Mexican government has been caught in its own effort to reconcile two contradictory models of development:

one is nationalist and geared to the expansion of the internal market, the protection of national industries, the promotion of employment, and the restriction of foreign economic penetration; the other is internationalist and based on the assumption that effective economic development requires that Mexican firms become competitive in the international market and therefore have access to foreign capital and technology.30

Foreign development loans and internal social spending have combined therefore to create Mexico’s foreign debt crisis, and this has worked to the disadvantage of the nationalist/corporatist model of development. Currently, IMF austerity measures have curtailed price controls where basic necessities are concerned and fostered a call for more export agricultural production, but the pressures of the internationalist model truly have taken their toll since the reformist presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas.31 Workers have retrenched constantly since the 1930’s, with underemployment on the increase as early as the 1950’s, when Mexico experienced unparalleled growth. From 1950 to 1960, the average number of days worked by landless workers decreased from 190 to 100.32 In 1970, only 26% of Mexico’s eight million urban workers were unionized, and it was this 26% alone that could count on some responsiveness from the government through the personal ties of clientage established by union bureaucrats known as líderes charros.33Though the state claims corporatist autonomy, Mexican corporatism is kept more and more frequently within the PRI family, and even within the family it functions poorly.34

A strange amalgam of corporatist desires and neo-liberal economic programs has developed, exacerbating growing inequities in income distribution that have evolved since Cárdena’s years as president. In 1950, the lower 50% of the population shared 19.1% of the total personal income. By 1968, this figure had decreased to 18.3%.35 In 1975 statistics compiled by COPLAMAR, 90% of the rural population and 19% of the urban population consumed less than the 2082 calories suggested as a basic minimum, and in 1982, if a worker had a job paying the daily minimum wage of US$3.50, two-thirds of it was required to feed a family of five.36 Throughout these years, high rates of population growth combined with strong tendencies to use capital-intensive technology in industry and agrobusiness, the result being the inadequate absorption of a labor force growing at 3.2% in the 1970’s.37 This led to the majority of Mexicans seeking employment in the informal sector, the CTM only claiming 1.5 to 3.5 million members in a population of 80 million as of 1987.38 At the same time, with their leadership co-opted as PRI políticos, government-controlled labor unions remain relatively silent while inflation continues to wreck havoc with the real wages of Mexico’s “labor aristocracy.”39 In 1986 alone, the real growth rate for the Mexican minimum wage stood at -9.5%, yet The Economist has predicted “happy times” for Mexico with 2.5% GDP growth as of October 7, 1989 and 4% growth predicted for 1990.40 Mexican exports in glass, paper and oranges increase, while Mexican agriculture has not been able to meet the subsistence demands of its growing population since 1965. The Mexican agricultural miracle has been dead for quite some time, with an agricultural growth rate of only 2.6% between 1965 and 1980, and the importation of 10 million tons of maize, beans, wheat and other basic foodstuffs by the government in 1980.41 Growth continues at the expense of per capita development, while corporatist rhetoric masks neoliberal policy.

As in the time of Porfirio Díaz, when foreign-sponsored railroads took the “national patrimony” beyond the borders of Mexico, the Mexican government relies on exports and the investment of foreign capital to alleviate economic problems. Since agreeing in 1986 to adhere to GATT, and its control of protective tariffs, the PRI has cut tariffs up to 20%, increasing trade with the United States as a result, while as early as 1974, “Mexico crossed an important threshold when her exports of manufactures finally came to account for more than half (54.3 percent) her total exports…”42 Currently, the fastest growing economic sector has been the export-oriented Border Industrialization Program, with 24% of Mexico’s total manufactured exports and 10.5% of its total exports coming from the northern maquiladoras in 1979 alone.43

Rather than a completely new trend, the attempt to concentrate labor in industrial production, like the struggle for ejidos, has antecedents in the colonial era. Though New World cotton cloth was used by Spaniards, many among them desired the familiar feel of woolen textiles. Thus, when the experimental city of Puebla de los Angeles was founded in 1532, some of the new pobladores established obrajes, or textile manufactories, to produce coarse and fine woolen cloth. Indians accounted for little consumption at the early stages of wool-market development, and the non-Indian population, estimated by Borah and Cook at 90,000 around 1580, accounted for the growth in demand. Until the eighteenth-century Bourbon reforms, the obrajes produced the woolen cloth desired by Spanish colonists in Mexico, as well as producing goods for contraband trade with the Spaniards of Peru.44 By1580, 300,000 pounds of wool was produced annually by a Mexican Mesta, or sheep guild, and Puebla had as many as forty obrajes employing 12,000 workers. Mexico City ranked second with thirty-five obrajes, while the cities of Querétaro, Valladolid, Texcoco and Tlaxcala also boasted their own textile industries.45 These industries suffered after 1590, as increased restrictions in trade, a shortage of Indian labor and the development of a Peruvian industry cut into the Mexican markets. Still, production continued, and, by 1661, black slaves accounted for nearly 60% of the work force in Puebla’s obrajes, replacing an Indian labor force decimated by disease and protected by the Crown from some of the most brutalizing aspects of the obrajes.46 In the nineteenth century, attempts were made by Lucas Alamán and others to revitalize Mexican industry, but a lack of finance capital, government corruption and the competition of cheaper European manufactures proved too substantial.47 It is only in the twentieth century that the conquistadores‘ dreams of increments in industrial output and concomitant increases in the urban population have become a reality (with the lion’s share of industrial development geared for export).

Contemporary manufacturing trends indicate a shift away from the Revolution’s emphasis on the internal development of Mexico for Mexicans, a theme emphasized by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in his speeches of political opposition. In those speeches, the son of Lázaro Cárdenas appeals to the ghost of Zapata in order to initiate a quest to revive Mexico’s agricultural self-sufficiency; to provide greater social security through the syndicalist organization of workers; and to end Mexico’s current status as a “país maquilador,” importing technologies and exporting wealth.48 Reviving elements of the revolutionary dream, Cárdenas’s PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) claims to go beyond the paternalistic corporatism of the PRI through grass roots organization, but this is yet to be proven among party loyalists who cry “Long live Cárdenas, father and son,” as though in support of a monarchical dynasty.49

In the National Plaza that is the Zócalo, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas’s peasant supporters bear superficial resemblance to seventeenth-century Mexico City bread rioters crying out for justice descending from a benevolent and fatherly Crown.50 No violence is threatened (though, in Michoacán, highway blockades are employed), and the rhetoric is democratic, but the spirit is that of a people in search of a caring caudillo. This, in and of itself, dates to the Spanish Crown’s legacy, as do the land reform and subsistence demands of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas.51 The ejido lives on in his rhetoric, as does the vision of appropriate centralized land management for the purpose of subsistence. The entire discourse descends by means of the genealogy presented in this chapter, and its roots lie buried in the colonial legacy. In terms of intellectual and cultural history, an exploration of that legacy is vital to an understanding of contemporary Mexico, where multinationals have replaced the extractive demands of the Spanish Crown and corporate haciendas the conquistadores.52 In the words equally applicable to Columbia and Mexico, Gabriel García Márquez’s character Uncle Leo XII states:

‘I am almost one hundred years old, and I have seen everything change, even the position of the stars in the universe, but I have not seen anything change yet in this country…Here they make new constitutions, new laws, new wars every three months, but we are still in colonial times.’53



When the Spanish arrived in the Americas they brought with them their own definitive, almost dogmatic concepts of social order and the means for maintaining it. The sixteenth-century Spaniard saw civilized society as a just order defined by the laws of the Christian God and maintained by the principles of hierarchy and reciprocity. Society was perceived as a body in which the organs and members fulfill their particular functions for the sake of the common welfare: “and he who only cares about his own interests, must be, by necessity, the enemy of the common good of the republic.”54 Good Iberian peasants were the feet which supported the whole; nobles and, in the New World,conquistadores were the protective hands; while the monarch and his officials provided balanced direction and justice. In the words of Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s royal secretary Fernando Alvarez de Toledo:

The Saints have said that the Monarch is put on earth to execute Justice in God’s place…Monarchs are the head of the realm…(and their) Justice possesses two principal parts: one being commutative, which is between men; the other being distributive, which consists of the honors and remunerations men grant to the Monarchs, Princes, and great Lords who possess the power (of Justice).55

To the present day, the structures and the processes founded according to this concept survive in Mexico, as people turn to social organs like the CTM for representation and justice vis-à-vis the PRI–and when Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas is sought out to revive the comunally-oriented leadership of a Zapata, or of his own father. Hernán Cortés and hisconquistadores brought the corporative society with them to Mexico, the land they named “New Spain.” When they established the town council, or cabildo, of Villa Rica de Vera Cruz early in 1519, Cortés, as captain-general and justicía mayor, became a de facto viceroy, a regent of the Crown’s authority and of God’s justice.56 Like so many others, including Columbus himself, he used European Spain and its culture as the standard by which to judge the New World. If the Mexican countryside was beautiful, it had to be as beautiful or perhaps even more beautiful than that of Spain,57 and if the Mexican Indians approached civilization, it was by their favorable comparison to the Spaniards. By these means, an elite first established itself as judge and executor of the Mexican land and people:

I will say only that these people live almost like those in Spain, and in as much harmony and order as there, and considering that they are barbarous and so far from the knowledge of God and cut off from all civilized nations, it is truly remarkable to see what they have achieved in all things.58

Unprepared to find either a new world or a strange, new people, the Spaniards applied their own standards to judge the world of the Amerindian. According to Friar Bernardino de Sahagún, the Spanish mission was clearly one which entailed the healing and maintenance of the Indian social organism when it faltered. He argued that Spaniards were to serve as doctors to the Indians’ social and physical needs.59 At the most fundamental level, that included concern with food production and eating as both means of sustaining the individual organism and the social organism. Food became a major weapon in remaking the Indians, and in ascribing differences between them and the “old Spaniards.” From the very beginning the Spanish were aware of the differences in the native diet, and they set about deliberately and effectively to impose new dietary regimes in the Americas. For their part, the Indians salvaged certain aspects of their culture at the cost of sometimes being labeled “inferior.” As John Super states, both conquerors and conquered experienced a hybridization of their “nutritional regimes,” with each party adopting foods eaten by the other group, but with staple foods, like wheat and maize, still remaining basically the same for most Spaniards and Indians.60

In the development of human culture, food and the rituals and prohibitions surrounding eating have always served as an important aspect of cultural self-definition.61 Cooked food is often placed in juxtaposition to raw food as a sign of culture and civilization in contrast to crude nature.62 Culture sets humans apart from nature by focusing on the ways in which humans harvest, transform, and consume natural elements for their sustenance, thus emphasizing the fact that men cook their food, while animals eat theirs raw. To bind and set themselves apart from other human beings, individual cultures have also emphasized appropriate rituals of food preparation and eating. When one cultural groups has conquered another, these rituals have therefore served as important tools in the process of imperialism.63 Out of necessity, as conquerors of a new people and environment, sixteenth-century Spaniards used their food rituals to set themselves apart as an elite group and to manage their new material environment. Their customs became the standard of civilization. So much so, that, in contemporary Mexico, increased wheat production and consumption continue to be fostered by the government as an element of development. At the same time, Mexico’s growing urban populations abandon maize for wheat whenever possible as a sign of their disassociation from cultural identification with maize-consuming campesinos and indios.64 Food, on the level of attitudes and caloric intake, remains a distinctive indicator in the modern Mexican class system, the origins of this function dating back to colonial times.

Though not environmentalists in the modern sense used by both Salinas and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the Spaniards were quite aware of the environment and of human management of the environment. The Castilian Crown even issued edicts to alter the topography of the Spanish heartland to the benefit of Mesta sheep-raising, and at the expense of the average farmer.65 By extension, not only did the Spaniards want to dress and Christianize the Indians; they also wanted to dress the New World in proper Old World attire.66

As early as their experiences in the Caribbean, Spanish explorers and colonizers were struck by the foods found in the New World environment. Even men obsessed by “gold, glory, and God” needed sustenance, and an appropriate form of sustenance at that. They could completely depend on the produce of undirected Indian tributary labor, but this proved extremely difficult as Indian populations declined in the Caribbean and New Spain. It also irked Spanish sensibilities to eat only the food traditionally produced by the indigenous populations, even though some Spaniards seemingly acquired a gourmet’s love of the unusual and praised the taste of maize and cassava bread.67 Affluent Europeans, of course, craved spices and other exotic fare, but they freely chose the novel items to be introduced into a diet still predominantly Eurocentric. Eating Indian foods exclusively placed Spaniards on the level of the Indians, besides offending a Spanish palate accustomed to European grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Attempts were made to determine which New World aliments were most like those of the Old World, and therefore acceptable;68 but, from a very early date, there was discussion of transplanting European foods to the New World.

Cattle and wheat soon made their appearances in the Caribbean as a result.69 Wheat, however, appeared only by means of transatlantic shipment since European grains, wines, and olives failed to take root in the hot Caribbean tropics.70 As early as 1495, four caravels sailing for the Indies carried 180 cahizes (3,240 bushels) of wheat, 50 cahizes (900 bushels) of barley, 60 toneles (49.8 tons) of oil, 50 quintales (5,000 pounds) of figs, and ten to twelve peasant labradores.71 In one colonial relación, or report,the Castilian Comunero Revolt of 1521 was denounced because it interfered with the shipment of wheat flour to the New World.72 Both royal bureaucrats and clergyman discussed the need to introduce Castilian and Andalusian peasants to teach the Indians appropriate agricultural methods, thus serving as a civilizing force in the New World.73 In the minds of these priests and lawyers, old world agriculture and the old world peasant (at his best) were the foundations of European civilization and the body politic, and ill-fated social experiments were attempted to introduce the Indians to these fundamentals of European civilization.74

At the same time, while the Amerindians were seldom denied their humanity, even when they were labeled natural slaves, they were granted an inferior grade of humanity, and the Spaniards used their food and eating rituals to prove their bigoted case. In terms of eating, the most obvious target was cannibalism, which was constantly referred to as an horrific and debauched sign of savagery. In the Spanish frame of reference human sacrifice and cannibalism were signs of a sick social organism and justified conquest, the just war being the most obvious means of civilizing this most barbarous element.75 Indigenous eating practices other than cannibalism could be left tothe Indians to distinguish them from Spaniards, and the Spanish documents make numerous references to the fact that Indians ate differently from Europeans; but perceived similarities could also be used against the Indians. Instead of complimenting Amerindian culture, comparison to the Spaniards only reinforced Spanish prejudices by identifying the praiseworthy in New World cultures as that most like European practices.

In the service of conquest and colonization, European attention first focused on political, religious and culinary aspects of culture. Among the first conquerors and colonizers of New Spain, Cortés Bernal Díaz and others were not exceptional. Most of these first conquerors and colonizers of the mainland arrived after an initial period on the Caribbean islands. Cortés had raised European cattle for European consumption on the island of Cuba, and other members of his band had established similar agrarian and pastoral practices.76 During the actual conquest of Mexico, they were provisioned with Indian maize and meats, but their preference, as evidenced by Bernal Díaz, was for European foods and eating habits:

What is more, we had hardly enough to eat. I do not speak of maize-cakes, for we had plenty of them, but of nourishing food for the wounded. The wretched stuff on which we existed was a vegetable that the Indians eat called quelites, supplemented by the local cherries, while they lasted, and afterwards by prickly pears, which then came into season.77

More than a matter of personal taste, food preference was an intrinsic paft of the Spanish concept of health and nutrition. Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s complaint reveals a Spanish proclivity for high protein foods, a preference which penetrated all levels of their society. when discussing Moctezuma’s food, Bernal Díaz noted that he ate “maize-cakes kneaded with eggs and other nourishing ingredients.”78 He implied that maize-cakes and fruits alone were not enough for the wounded, and the popular medical tracts of the day spoke of a need for a balance of meats, fish, fruit, and grains in the sick person’s diet.79

The Spanish definition of an appropriate diet necessarily included the meats and animal products to which a Castilian herding society had grown accustomed. In the early days ofencomienda in any given region, Castilian chickens were one of the first items to make an appearance as common Indian tribute, chickens being the cheapest and least labor intensive European source of protein. By the 1580’s, the vast majority of Amerindian townships seem to have raised Castilian chickens and produced eggs.80 Post-conquest royal ordinances for the Hospital of San Lázaro in Mexico City reveal that the indigent were expected to receive protein-rich eggs as part of their diets.81 Thus, outcasts and the poor also were included selectively in the “Europeanization” of Mexico’s nutritional regime.

The preference for European eating habits was part of the imposition of a European order since food was an intrinsic part of establishing boundaries and expectations in an hierarchical society. From the moment he arrived in Mexico, Cortés took note of the food produced and consumed by the Indians.82 He also reported on the potential for conversion to Spanish methods of agriculture and husbandry:

From here to the coast I have seen no city so fit for Spaniards to live in (i.e., Churultecal), for it has water and some common lands suitable for raising cattle, which none of those we saw previously had, for there are so many people living in these parts that not one foot of land is uncultivated, and yet in many places they suffer hardships for lack of bread.83

Although the foods eaten might be strange and even improper, cultural similarities were still observed. One Aztec eating ritual in particular, Moctezuma’s meals, struck Cortés as a strange amalgam of the proper and improper, thus emphasizing the ambiguity with which Europeans approached a new world.84

Impressed by the opulence with which Moctezuma was served, Cortés reported in endless detail the manner in which the Aztec tlatoani85 ate, an observation which was then repeated in the works of Bernal Díaz and López de Gómara. The accounts vary in the number and types of dishes he was served, as well as on the number of servitors, but thematic qualities remain constant.86

Each day at dawn there arrived at his house six hundred chiefs and principal persons… When they brought food to Mutezuma they also provided for all those chiefs to each according to his rank; and their servants and followers were also given to eat… Three or four hundred boys came bringing the dishes which were without number, for each time he lunched or dined, he was brought every kind of food: meat, fish, fruit and vegetables… Before and after the meal they gave him water for his hands and a towel which once used was never used again, and likewise with the plates and bowls, for when they brought more food they always used new ones, and the same with the braziers.87

Whatever the particulars given in the different accounts, two characteristics stand out. Moctezuma ate abundantly in public, and he shared this abundance with others according to their rank. To the Spaniards, this signified community, property, reciprocity and hierarchy. Just as population concentration was regarded as a mark of civilization, so the appropriateness of Moctezuma’s rituals indicated cultural achievement in the Spanish system of values. Although Cortés implicitly denounced the magnificence of Moctezuma’s rituals as comparable to the ceremonies of sultans and infidel lords, these analogies were still within the scope of Spanish experience.88 The Aztecs were just as marvelous, civilized, and fascinating as the Moors of the Reconquista, but the absence of Christianity led to improper customs and some grievously abhorent behavior. In fact, Bernal Díaz, unlike Cortés and López de Gómara, introduced the specter of cannibalism into the tlatoani’s table rituals by writing “I have heard that they used to cook him the flesh of young boys.”89

Moctezuma, as the kingly head of the Aztec social organism, represented all the ambiguities that Aztec society held for the Spaniards. Through the Spanish prism, he was both the diabolical chief priest of the Aztec rites of human sacrifice and the classical orator who recognized Charles V’s imperial sovereignty over himself and his people.90 In the person of Moctezuma, Aztec culture, although it held so much that was admirable to Cortés and other Apaniards, had to submit freely to the only truly appropriate culture, that of the Spaniards themselves.

Likewise, twentieth-century Mexico’s PRI honors the Aztec heritage through officially sponsored indigenismo, but its recent “Plan of Development” subscribes to western neo-liberal models of production for export and debt-servicing. Village ownership and management of land for subsistence, as descended from the Aztec calpulli (and the Spanish peasan ejido), have been increasingly brushed aside. From 1916 to 1946, the government redistributed 91 million acres of land in the creation of ejidos and small farms, but only 49 million acres have been distributed from 1947 to 1976, with President Miguel Alemán (1946-52) actually permitting latifundistas the use of amparo to contest court expropriation.91 From the very beginning of the colonial period, therefore, indigenous cultures often have served as expendable ornamentations and subjectively defined preliminaries to the plans of a European-oriented elite.

Cortés’s report of Moctezuma’s eating was an attempt to demonstrate to sixteenth-century Spaniards the way in which the Aztec culture and social system functioned at its most basic level. Charles V, to whom the letter was addressed, would have been interested by the custom of the tlatoani’s public meals, and he would have seen them as eminently political rituals. Both he and his wife Isabel ate publicly before their courtiers; and in a letter written twenty-nine years later, Charles told his regents Maximilian and Mary how to govern Castile in his absence, emphasizing that they hear mass regularly, eat publicly, and hold court to judge petitions.92

From an anthropological perspective, such linkage is quite natural since the breaking of bread or food-sharing consistently serves as a fundamental rite of covenant-making and bonding. Both the Bantu and Chinese traditionally establish covenants and contracts while eating, and the Spanish word compañero is itself formed from words meaning “one who eats bread with another.”93 One need go no further in Western cultures than the Bible and Homer to find examples of the symbolic linkage between social bonding and food-sharing; and in sixteenth-century Catholic and Lutheran Christianity, communion, partaking in the body and blood of Christ, bound individuals to the mystical body of Christ, the Christian social organism found in I Corinthians 12. To see the king or the representatives of his authority eat publicly, like seeing them hear mass or petitions publicly, was to see them engage in the creation and binding of community.

As a royal representative, Cortés received the coastal principales Tendile and Pitalpitoque after mass and sharing a meal with them– after the communal breaking of bread as it were.94 It was not difficult for Spaniards to see a sense of communal purpose and sharing at the tables of the Eucharist and the Crown. In fact, Friar Gerónimo de Mendieta clearly perceived the Eucharistic meal as a means of binding Spaniards and Indians to the same community, the Crown’s task specifically being to call non-Christians to the Lord’s Supper.95 Christian communion, and its symbolic cannibalism, was not only expected to save individual souls; clerics like Mendieta, Sahagún, and Acosta expected it to commence the proper reordering of Indian society, replacing the Indians’ perverse communal eating rituals with the one true communion. Thus Mendieta and the Jesuit Acosta noted the Mexicans’ communal eating of seeds and herbs, transubstantiated into Huitzilopochtli’s divine flesh, as a parody of the one true communion, and Sahagún cited a public religious banquet, sponsored by Aztec merchants, which involved the consumption of human flesh.96 Symbolic and actual meals bound society, and throughout the social hierarchy of sixteenth-century Spain, nobles were expected to maintain large households. Purpose and prestige, hidalguía, were achieved by a noble’s, or colonial encomendero’s, capacity to maintain a casa poblada and its table. The ability to regulate organic interaction as a head was demonstrated by feeding a host of relatives, guests, lackeys, and other dependents.97 It was therefore quite easy for Cortés and any number of Spaniards to interpret significance in the way Moctezuma ate. Their categories of understanding were bound to the social organic ideal, and even a precocious ethnologist like Bernardino de Sahagún was inculturated enough to entitle his description of the estates and classes of Aztec society “Of the Vices and Virtues of This Indian People, of the Members of the Whole Body, of the Illnesses and the Nations That Have Come to This Land.”98

Ritual eating manifested both the similarity and differences between Spanish and Aztec cultures. As the tlatoani, or “chief speaker” of the Aztec tributary empire, Moctezuma actually symbolized for the Aztecs many of the same principles embodied by Charles V. He possessed the ability to reason and speak through language for the whole of society.99He spoke as society’s head, and he also ate publicly to bind the society. Community was created through food-sharing, and Cortés, Bernal Díaz and López de Gómara all reported hierarchy and reciprocity present in that community. Food was shared, but always in terms of rank and hierarchy — López de Gómara noting uniquely that Moctezuma alone was served a full meal.100 Chieftains and their retinues were fed according to rank, while the tlatoani himself shared all he ate with some old men who sat apart from him.101 In all accounts, it was observed that Moctezuma was served all sorts of food (“meat, fish, fruit and vegetables”) in abundance, magically creating prosperity in a land which periodically experienced dearth like sixteenth-century Spain.102

In Mexico, drought and famine cased starvation and death from 1450 to 1455. In Castile, poor agricultural techniques and the enclosure of arable lands for the sheep-herding activities of the Mesta generated insufficient harvests and an ever-growing population of beggars from 1502 to 1508.103 Sixteenth-century Spaniards came to the New World to find raw abundance and fertility, but they accepted poverty as a normal aspect of life. As in Spain, poverty and famine were persistent aspects of Aztec life and culture, and, just as the Spanish elite chose to pursue its own economic interests while occasionally providing poor relief, the Aztec elite chose to hide misery behind its own prosperity. Both cultures, however, extolled the virtue of charity, had some system of poor relief, and recognized the role of charity in preventing rebellion and promoting social control.104Cortés saw the presence of beggars as proof that the Aztecs were civilized: “And there are many poor people who beg from the rich in the streets as the poor do in Spain and in other civilized places.”105 The lack of food among some was as much a part of the social order as the existence of hierarchy and reciprocity. Ordinances issued by Cortés after the conquest demonstrate the importance of the redistribution of bread to the Spanish community. Fixed weights and prices were to be maintained by a town board called the “Fiel,” and the poor were to be sustained:

Item: that bakeries selling bread sell it in the public plaza, and that the bread be of the weight ordained by the Council of the aforesaid town, and at the price assigned by it, and that it not be sold in any other manner; if any would sell it at less weight or higher price,they will lose (their earnings), and half will be applied to the aforementioned Fiel, and the other half to the poor of the Hospital.106

After the conquest of Mexico, the spaniards maintained their interests in appropriate foods and bonding by means of sharing food and controlling its prices. With the exception of nineteenth-century Mexico’s experiment with laissez-faire liberalism, a sense of providing for the subsistence needs of the poor has persisted. Not only found in the 1917 Constitution and the speeches of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Salinas’s “National Plan of Development, 1989-1994” still promises government safety nets and social assistance for the poor despite the repeal of food subsidies and other forms of basic assistance.107 Likewise, the state-created ejido, among peasant audiences since the time of zapatismo, has elicited images of self-sufficiency and social reciprocity initiated from above — Zapata himself being a beloved father who could claim the cariño of his men.108 The rhetoric of the common good was cast long ago and only abandoned for a brief hiatus. Words, as well as actions, bind human communities, but they also create rifts.

During the actual conquest, Spaniards were forced to make do with maize, but one victorious they wanted to taste Castilian bread again and enjoy a prosperity defined in Castilian terms, despite the fact that one kernel of maize yielded at least fourteen-times more produce than one wheat seed in arid Mexico.109 The Jesuit Joseph de Acosta’sHistoria natural y moral de las Indias (1589) shows that the Castilian hierarchy of food was firmly rooted in a belief that God created plants principally for the sustenance of humanity, with certain plants granted preeminence over others:

Lastly, the Creator gave all lands their own form of “governance” (i.e., physical maintenance); to this sphere (Europe) he granted wheat, which is the principal sustenance of men; to that of the Indies he granted maize, which after wheat holds the second place in the sustaining of men and animals.110

In “fuerza y sustento,” maize was not considered inferior to wheat by Acosta, but to the European palate it was “hot and gross,” causing skin irritation to those who ate it without care.111 Maize was for Indian palates, a means of sustenance inferior to wheat simply because it was not of the Old World. Acosta believed that the introduction of Old World plants and animals to the Americas benefited the Indies far more than American flora and fauna benefited Europe. New World plants, he reported, failed to prosper in Spain, but wheat, barley, all sorts of vegetables, sheep, cattle, goats, horses, cats, and pigs did well when introduced to the Americas.112

Regardless of Acosta’s claims, Spaniards had to struggle to control the new American environments and foster the growth of the European plants they preferred. Viceroys Mendoza and Velasco in their relaciones of 1550 and 1559 noted the production of more wheat as one of the chief goals of the growing Spanish colony.113 Mendoza gave wheat production priority over the raising of livestock, arguing that Indians should learn wheat cultivation and practice it as commonly as they practiced the cultivation of maize.114 In fact, the Spanish were somewhat successful. By 1535, Mexico had exported wheat to the Antilles and Tierra Firme, and by 1575, the Atlixco Valley alone produced 100,000hanegas (150,000 bushels) of wheat a year.115

Wheat production was imperative since its consumption separated Spaniards from the mass of Indians, who still consumed maize, while acceptance of Spanish dietary patterns admitted the Indian elite to Spanish culture and the Spanish community. After Cortés and other early inhabitants of New Spain introduced European grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock, acculturated, affluent Indians throughout the Spanish empire began to produce and consume wheat, sheep, goats and wine. Among acculturated Indians, Don Pedro Moctezuma described his possessions in Tula as “certain livestock estancias of sheep and goats, and fields of wheat and maize” — a mixture of European and Indian foodstuffs that can also be found in tributary lists of the Indian governor of Coyoacán, don Juan de Guzmán.116 Listing the tribute owed him in the mid-sixteenth century, don Juan ordered that “those who cultivate the fields at Cimatlan and Mixcoac are to reap wheat at Atepocaapan (for a week).”117 He continued to receive most of his tributary foods in indigenous produce, but his reception of European crops demonstrates that they developed a market among powerful Indians who served as intermediaries with the Spaniards. The Indian elites were required to adopt certain aspects of Spanish material culture in order to properly assimilate with their superiors.

The Spaniards, for their part, demanded wheat, horse fodder, and European animals in the tribute ascribed tothem, while still receiving the largest percentage of their tribute in maize and other native produce which could be sold and redistributed to Amerindian commoners. The tribute due Cortés, the Marqués de Valle, from the towns of Coyoacán and Atlacubaya amounted to a yearly payment of 2000 hanegas (3,000 bushels) of maize and 600 (900) of wheat.118 Don Juan de Guzmán the Indian cacique, received 400 hanegas(600 bushels) of maize and 200 (300) of wheat in a 1553 accounting from the same towns.119 In Toluca, Cortés tried a similar mixed tribute in maize and wheat, but was foiled by frost’s destruction of the wheat crop.120

Epidemic disease and the persistent decrease of the indigenous population made the direct organization of agricultural production for Europeans, by Europeans, imperative.121Still, Indians persisted in their own cultural hybridization with mixed results. Some European practices exacerbated the post-conquest decline of the Indian population. Indiscriminate pasturing of European cattle on Indian arable lands, for example, was partially responsible for decreases in the production of staple crops by the indigenes — and created legal conflict between the Europeans and their subjects.122 On the other hand, hungry for protein which could not be produced in abundant quantities by the native beans, domesticated fowl, fly eggs, turkey eggs and table dogs, Indian communities engaged early on in sheep and cattle ranching. In 1547, for instance, Tlaxcala’s cabildo reported the sale of 580 municipally owned muttons, and, by 1580, some Spanish observers noted substantial consumption of European meats by the Indians.123 A Spanish dexcription of Chichicapa and its subject towns reported that the naturales consumed large quantities of meat, while one of Tepevçila indicated Indian management of European livestock.124An abundance of European chickens were reported throughout the valleys of Mexico and Oaxaca, but sheep and goats were also reported of a number of Indian townships.125Bovine livestock even made an appearance in Spanish reports on Tamazola, Mitlantongo and Tilantongo. And in the Mexican valley towns of Tetela and Ueyapán, the corregidorCristóbal Godínez Maldondo emphasized that the Amerindians possessed quite a few head of cattle.126

Often enough, Spaniards saw this Indian interest in European livestock as an illegitimate encroachment by the mass of Indians on their control of European material culture. The fleece and meat of sheep were sold locally, but hides and tallow of cattle were in demand in larger Mexican and European markets, and Spanish cattlemen were quite unwilling to have Indian ranching increase and compete in their markets. As a result, slaughterhouses were prohibited in Indian towns after 1560. At the same time, to the benefit of the Europeans, Spanish-owned cattle were allowed to destroy the base of Indian sustenance, literally trampling countless maize fields throughout the colonial period.127 In return, Indians may have benefited from the protein provided by cheap meat, but the extent to which Spanish regulations interfered with Indian meat consumption and whether meat was adequately distributed throughout the Indian community has not yet been determined.128 Whether they did more to benefit or disrupt Indian nutrition, Spanish livestock were a vital element of the newly dominant culture. Conquest meant that the native Americans were dominated by Spanish cattle as an aspect of Spanish cultural imperialism.

The late sixteenth-century relaciones geográficas from the New World further demonstrate the Spanish preoccupation with the production of European foodstuffs and the cultural integration of the American environment. Originated by Juan de Ovando, president of the Council of the Indies as of 1571, the Ordenanzas Ovandinas (1570-3) called for a systematic exploration of the environmental and social accomplishments of the Spaniards in the New World to determine what was needed to maintain good government and social order in the Americas.129 The corregidores and cabildos of American towns were required to give their views in reports called relaciones. From 1577 to 1581, the firstrelaciones began to arrive in Madrid, and in 1604, the conde de Lemus, then president of the Council, revised the royal questionnaire to include 355 questions, number 170 and 171 specifically dealing with the cultivation of European grains and fruits.130 It was the Spanish mission, in accordance with Genesis 1.26, to rationally order and subdue New World nature, to tame the land to meet Old World standards.

In the early 1580’s, among forty-three relaciones of the central region of New Spain that specifically mention wheat, twenty-six report the successful raising of wheat in Indian townships. Six relaciones specifically state that wheat could be grown if the Indians so desired, while eleven townships’ relaciones report that it was impossible to engage in wheat agriculture because of inappropriate soil and climatic conditions.131 A major complaint of the Spanish corregidores and alcaldes mayores writing the reports was that the Indians could raise much more wheat, and barley, if they were so inclined. Cultural preferences for maize seem to have interferred with Spanish desires. thus, Papaloticpac and its partido reported that wheat could be raised there, but was not, because a Spanish population was lacking and the Indians failed to appreciate the benefits of wheat.132 In Yetecomac, barley and wheat could be raised, but the naturales had not planted the cereals in forty years, ever since the death of their Spanish encomendero eliminated demand.133 In Tetípac, the Spanish observer wrote, “Wheat grows in this town and its subject villages… and it would grow in great quantity if the naturales devoted themselves to it,” and, in Tepepulco, it was reported that wheat grew well but was grown and used sparingly.134 Spanish demand and a pronounced Spanish presence were central to an Indian town’s production of wheat:

Wheat and barley give very high yields. In this town (Coatepec) and its territory there are thirteen Spanish farmers, who have their farmlands dedicated to wheat and produce great quantities; and the Indians have begun to sow it.135


This province of Tepeaca yields, in season, more than enough wheat. There is a valley named San Pablo where there are sixty Spanish farmers who sow, with oxen, two hundred to three hundred and four hundred hanegas of wheat; and they cultivate and harvest it with Indians. In this valley, every year they commonly harvest seventy to eighty thousand hanegas of wheat…136

At times, however, Spanish demand and coerced and cajoled Indian labor were not enough. In Iztepexi, priests made attempts to gow wheat, but these attempts failed; while in San Miguel Capulapa and San Francisco çuçumbra, mountainous terrain interferred with wheat agriculture, and, in the mining region of Zumpango, it was too hot for wheat production.137

In the relaciones of 1609 the Oaxacan town of Miaguatlán reported a lack of Castilian fruits and livestock, but stated that the local Zapotec Indians harvested wheat with their maize, beans and chili.138 The Indian inhabitants of colonial Culhuacán cultivated European fruit trees, and the nobles of the Texcoco region engaged in this practice for sale and profit as early as twenty years after the conquest.139 At the same time, the Texcocan Indians maintained their traditional dietary patterns. This, in itself, reflected a method of cultural resistance following the Spanish conquest. Profit was one thing, drastically changing one’s food habits another.

In areas like Oaxaca, the common Indians adopted some Spanish ways, but refused to produce many European foods on the lands which they continued to hold. Thus, Spaniards were forced to take up farming with Indian labor to satisfy their own cultural needs.140 Such a pattern was also observable in the Valley of Mexico. There, Indian traditions, the higher price of wheat, and the fact that Indian wheat production was subject to tithing while maize was not, all operated to make maize and other indigenous foods far more attractive to the Indians than European foods and the European tax obligations attached to them.141 Maize agriculture remained the base agrarian economic activity throughout central Mexico, land of sedentary Indians: “Looking to the Indian world’s economic, political, and religious institutions, the pictures remain the same — a successful graft onto living stock, then relative stasis. The markets changes least. They continued to be village markets…”142 Conversely, where Indians were not sedentary in pre-conquest times, and were not abundantly present after the conquest, European foods came to dominate the geographical region. Thus, northern Mexico became “white Mexico.” The great haciendas of the north produced cattle and wheat, and the extant records of the Zacatecas mines between 1546 and 1700 demonstrate that white miners and acculturated Indians consumed far more wheat than maize.143 But even in the north, maize often sold at much lower prices than wheat. The Nueva Viscayan cabildo of la Villa de Nombre de Dios reported wheat prices at three or four pesos per hanega, while maize sold for literally half that price.144 In Nuestra Señora de los Cacatecas, wheat and flour from the valley of Artizo sold at four pesos per hanega, maize at two to six pesos.145

Over the course of centuries, as Amerindians became less isolated and more mestizo in their make-up, the refusal to raise wheat as a form of cultural resistance became vastly more difficult. Since the 1950’s, the centralizing PRI regime has continued to foster the conquistadores’ emphasis on wheat production through price subsidies, technical assistance programs and credit supports granted the well irrigated, wheat-producing, northern latifundia of Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California and Guanajuato. In turn, wheat consumption has grown with the increase of Mexico’s urban population. As late as 1970, 37% of the rural population had never eaten wheaten bread, but as soon as the impoverished Mexican’s annual income reached levels above 300 pesos per month in 1975, his maize and bean consumption levels dropped from 84% below 300 pesos to 70% just above that amount.146 In the 1970’s, maize consumption grew at a per capita rate of only 0.4% per annum, while wheat consumption increased steadily at a rate between 1.3% and 1.7% annually.147 Though over 85% of the land cultivated in chiapas, Oaxaca, the state of Mexico and the Yucatán is dedicated to maize, maize is the crop of poverty:

Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s corn crop comes from the more agriculturally backward regions of the country, indicating that the principal producers of corn were not the large scale commercial farmers who exploit nearly all Mexico’s irrigated land, but small farmers and ejidatarios who have little land, little water, and little official or pribate formal credit.148

Ejidatarios now exist as government-dependent minifundistas without easy access to government credit since they seldom can present documentation proving ownership to the state. At the same time, the National Company of Popular Commodities (CONASUPO), which regulates prices and acts as an intermediary between producers and consumers, fails to acknowledge the selling practices of local farmers (and, by extension, an economically liberating role for the ejido), CONASUPO purchases by the ton, an amount that no ejidatario can produce by himself, thus forcing entire ejidos to band together and submit to the government’s common price, or else sell on the black market.149 It may be said that while the wheat hacendado uses government credit, the maize minifundista is used by CONASUPO.

Still, in the 1980’s, both wheat and maize have suffered declines, and the growth of maize production has kept pace with that of wheat, austerity forcing Mexicans to return to an older and cheaper staple. In 1983, wheat production dropped 21.8% while maize production rose 32.5%, but in the previous year wheat had risen 39.9%, while maize production fell 31.4%.150 Not only do the two crops follow different rhythms, they require different conditions, as Mexico is a country where maize naturally outproduces wheat. Only the latest in agricultural technology and fertilizer has allowed wheat production to expand, and in a country undergoing rapid population growth, even incremental years have not been able to prevent the recent importation of subsistence crops. Between 1978 and 1980, to keep pace with urban demands, Mexico actually imported over one million tons of wheat in each of those years as irrigated latifundia reached their limits of productivity or converted to other profitable cash crops.151 Between 1965 and 1980 in agriculture:

A growth rate of 2.6 percent can hardly be considered satisfactory when Mexico’s population was increasing more than three percent and her internal demand for farm products at close to five percent. Inevitably by the end of the period agricultural products were being imported on a substantial scale for the first time in many decades and agricultural exports were shrinking.152

As the Mexican population becomes increasingly urbanized and exposed to the urban cosmopolis, it gradually sheds the serape and Amerindian foods. Already in 1978, 65% of the country’s population was urban, focusing government interest on a growing and underemployed segment of the population, rather than on the concerns of campesinos.153 It is true that bean consumption, as a source of cheap protein, has continued to rise, but the consumption of poultry has risen ten to twenty percent since 1940, a development accompanied by a sharp decrease in the relative price of chicken and other birds. Above all else, egg consumption more than doubled between 1960 and 1980, providing a source of protein once primarily reserved for the Aztec elite.154 At the same time, though still predominantly maize eaters, the contemporary Mexican campesinos are not unaffected by the impact of European foodstuffs. In the highly traditional Zinacantan region of Chiapas, maize, beans and squash commonly are consumed, but the average family makes a serious effort to eat chicken or pork at least once a week, allthis in a region where rent, as late as 1972, was still paid in kind, as in colonial times.155 Meanwhile, in the marketplaces of Oaxaca, the supervaluation of European foodstuffs is reflected by the traditional society’s sexist division of labor. In the marketplace of San Antonio Castillo Velasco, thirty kilometers south of Oaxaca City, all the sellers of tortillas, tortilla dough, atole and ground beans in the late 1960’s were women. In juxtaposition, there were 22 male bread sellers and only one woman; all the retailers of beef were men; and the pork vendors included 6 men and one woman. Bringing more prestige and profit, the sale of European foodstuffs was a male dominated activity, while women sold traditional aliments in a region of Mesico dominated by concentrated indigenous population and community culture organized along highly syncretic ethnic lines.156

Acculturation does not come easily to Amerindians, and to mestizos who share in aspects of Indian material culture, but the growth of mass communication, migrant labor and other twentieth-century trends have made the previous isolationism of many one-time campesinos less possible. They now engage in a process once reserved for Pedro Moctezuma and other members of the Aztec elite. In discussing the Otavalo Indians of Ecuador, Steven Weinstock argues for this reluctance to abandon the old ways:

But the ‘progressive’ Indian who wants to improve his economic situation and participate in the institutions of the national culture realizes that he must do so at the expense of his Indian past. Such are the cases most commonly cited in the urbanization literature of Latin America.157

In the sixteenth century, Spaniards destroyed the Aztec imperial rituals of human sacrifice and cannibalism, but did not eliminate those aspects of Indian culture which were not offensive to their moral and religious beliefs.158 Thus, both Spaniards and Indians were partially satisfied. By eating differently from the Indians, the Spaniards felt superior. By eating differently from the Spaniards, the Indians felt that they had retained a vital, basic aspect of their culture and world.159 While old pre-Columbian religious practices and spiritual values blended with the new Christian faith,160 the most basic aspect of community and hearth, eating, remained in many ways relatively untouched for conquerors and conquered. Dietary syncretism occurred, but very slowly, unless pressured by need. In Spain itself, only peasants of the most marginal agricultural regions experimented with maize. Thus, the semi-nomadic herdsmen of the northern province of Santander came to rely on maize as a staple crop as early as the seventeenth century. Still, even in that northern region, in the more fertile, more settled Valdemora, wheat remained the cereal of choice for bread.161 In other areas of Spain and Europe the spread of New World crops to the Old World was far from rapid,]and both maize and the potato had widespread success only among the European poor in the eighteenth century.162 In Mexico, Amerindians craved European beef and mutton, but they also still purchased dog meat, despite its high price in comparison with beef. When they accepted items of European diet, it was often disastrous, as in the case of the introduction of European wine and liquor.163

Culture determined the Spanish New World hierarchy of ethnic ranks, or castas, and food is apre-eminent aspect of culture. From the Spanish perspective, consumers of Indian foods remained crude and part of savage nature, while other Indians— the nobility, concubines, and the mestizo children of Spaniards and their mistresses— became part of Spanish civilization through spoken communication and the silent language of ritual. To help bind Spaniards, Spanish towns maintained their fiestas, in which eating represented a major portion of the ceremony and enjoyment, and their hospitals, which provided health care and food to the poor, thus binding them to the community and alleviating some social tension and discontent.164 Likewise, traditional Indian fiestas persisted, and Indian communal lands and community chests cared for the Indian poor in at least some areas.165

In the conquest and colonization of New Spain, the Spanish attitude towards food reveals a number of fundamental themes of the sixteenth-century Spanish mentalité. Foremost among them are a social organic vision and a sense of cultural superiority. Like the Aztec cosmology, the Spanish world-view was predominantly closed to anything outside its cultural experience. Amerindians had to be understood as “man before the fall,” the ten lost tribes of Israel, demonic heathens, Aristotle’s natural slaves— or as incomplete Europeans.166 They could not be understood in the terms of a cultural relativism as nothing more or less than Amerindians. A sense of adhering to the one true culture bound Spaniards in the midst of an alien people, and it forced them to demand European foods. Domination and control of New Spain meant that Mexican lands necessarily had to be tamed and disciplined. Spanish foods were to be grown to bind Spanish community by means of ritual eating. In his observations on Aztec eating and his later ranching and agrarian activities, this was clearly a central mission of Cortés. The soul of the body politic was to be animated by God’s laws and justice, but its physical body also had to be maintained by the appropriate aspects of material culture.

Thematic to Mexican history, the appropriateness of food recurs again and again. Upon travelling in Mexico in 1839-40, Frances Calderón de la Barca noted that General Santa Anna consumed a breakfast that was “very handsome, consisting of innumerable Spanish dishes, meat and vegetables, fish and fowl, fruits and sweetmeats, all served in white and gold French porcelain, with coffee, wines, etc.”167 On the other hand, Calderón de la Barca remarked, “Tortillas, which are the common food of the people, and which are merely maize cakes mixed with a little lime,…I find rather good when very hot and fresh-baked, but insipid by themselves.”168 As with Bernal Díaz, hunger alone made common Mexican fare “tolerable,” while Santa Anna’s European opulence stands in strange juxtaposition to that of the tlatoani Moctezuma.

Imperialistic cultures of conquest must retain a sense of uniqueness in order to maintain a sense of superiority. The Spanish way of eating communicated civilization, hierarchy and reciprocity. It bound Spaniards together, and made Indians alien outsiders, members of the república de los indios. Spaniards remarked that maize was fed to mules as well as Indians, and today’s PRI finds urban consumers ready purchasers of wheat, while the campesino remains a maize eater and “uncouth.”169 Maize was and is the raw stuff of savage nature to Mexican elites, while, to Indians and peasants, it is the base of civilization.170 In short, maize signifies both the savage and the civilized, the raw and the cooked, and in contemporary San Felipe del Progreso, campesinos of mestizo culture refer to themselves as “gente de razón,” while considering the “inditos” an inferior race incapable of progress.171 Obviously, the success of PRI indigenista programs seems more superficial than real, and the Indian continues to be denigrated as he was in colonial times. Although Moctezuma’s eating rituals often paralleled Spanish custom, the Spanish never forgot that he ate the wrong foods— from maize to human flesh.

Convinced of their superiority, Europeans have consistently tried to alter physical nature to suit their ideals.172 For colonial Spaniards in Mexico, this included the raising of cattle and the growing of wheat, grapes, and other crops alien to the environment. Today, the PRI heavily subsidizes wheat cultivation among northern latifundistas, while allowing maize cultivation to remain the task of more traditional campesinos and ejidatarios. Meanwhile, Mexico’s growing urban populati6n, exposed to “Euroculture,” consumes wheat in large quantities, while the rural populations remain maize consumers for the most part. In intricate fashion, PRI corporatism, when not completely erased by capitalist economics, has evolved carefully to reinforce prejudices and social class distinctions originally initiated by the conquistadores. European man was not meant to fit into an indigenous ecosystem. That was for the natives, not for those who were given dominion over nature in the Book of Genesis. From its inception European expansionism attempted to “tame savage nature,” not to accept cultural and environmental diversity.173




After 1965, while the Mexican economy faltered, two things of great significance occurred. As Mexico increasingly became urbanized, lower ranked elements of the Mexican population adopted aspects of material culture long reserved for the more elite segments of society. Thus, wheaten bread and poultry consumption rose. Meanwhile, PRI officials adopted austerity measures at the expense of their old corporatist programs. The lure of the free-market, export-orientation and neomonetarism has grown in the ranks of the PRI elite, while the economically neo-liberal PAN (National Action Party) opposition has embraced both the Catholic Church and the visions of Ronald Reagan.174 If Samuel Ramos was correct in arguing that “Mexican life since the Colonial Era has tended to conform to the cultural molds imported from Europe,” then both capitalist neodependency and European material culture once again have resurfaced as forces with which to be reckoned.175 As the masses become more urbanized, one wonders if the tradition of the ejido and social rebellion embraced by the Amerindians of northern Hidalgo in the 1970’s will persist. The labor of the factory, be it obraje or maquiladora, actually may be more enslaving, materially and mentally, than the “idiocy of rural life.” To the Mexican, a plot of land always has meant liberty and the ability to control one’s destiny. The conquistadores understood this when they took land and demanded tribute, and the intellectual Antonio Dfaz Soto y Gama understood this when he provided Emiliano Zapata with the slogan “Tierra y Libertad.” Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of Mexican history is that this indigenista and corporatist foreshadowed current trends in 1954 when he argued that the ejido system was detrimental to productivity, and to the interests of white and mestizo farmers. He added that only isolated Amerindians, who “need protection against their own irresponsibility,” should be allowed communal land.176 In the tradition of Cosmes and Limantour, Soto y Gama stripped the Mexican Indians of agency and reduced them to the level of passive, plodding children.

In many regions, Mexican land and labor continue to be defined agriculturally, but primarily in terms of increased and more efficient productivity, of reorganized land ownership and management— at least where the PRI elite is concerned. The discourse of factory labor, cost efficiency and productivity has replaced that of the ejido, of “tierra y libertad,” in the “National Plan of Development” for l989-1994.177 The conservation of natural resources is mentioned only as a necessary precondition to further productivity.178Nature, in its “brute” and human forms, has been subordinated to the status of tool.179 In Mexico, elite definitions and categories of understanding have shaped reality since pre-Columbian and colonial times, using land and food management, to define the social order. Mexican nature continuously has been undergoing discipline so that human society, an extension of nature, might be ordered and disciplined.

In The Labyrinth of Solitude, the Mexican poet and political theorist Octavio Paz argues that the act of conquest made Mexicans rootless by ripping away their traditional Amerindian cosmos and introducing the conflict of Spanish and Indian ways. Responding to this, Mexicans have constantly sought out myths of redemption to shape their world and their future. Ritual and fiestas have become the means by which Mexicans seek to construct a sense of community and common purpose, but these rituals only further heighten the conflict between present-day Mexico’s Amerindian and Spanish roots, between the majority of the population and the elite. In Paz’s words, Mexicans hate themselves for being both rapists and rape victims, for trying to be a mestizo culture of conquerors and conquered. The irony is that they have no other choice since that is the history they have made for themselves. It is a history of dissatisfaction on both the material and spiritual levels of existence: “Mexicanism is a way of not being ourselves, a way of life that is not our own.”180

Mexicans want the material progress citizens of the United States revel in, but they also wish to transcend “the sterility of the bourgeois world” through acceptance of a world of myth and redemption:

A fiesta is more than a date or anniversary. It does not celebrate an event: it reproduces it. Chronometric time is destroyed and the eternal present— for a brief but immeasurable period— is reinstated. The fiesta becomes the creator of time; repetition becomes conception. The golden age returns. Whenever the priest officiates in the Mystery of the Holy Mass, Christ descends to the here and now, giving himself to man and saving the world.181

When the Christian myth is no longer accepted, the myth of Zapatista peasant collectivism and the Revolution of 1910 takes its place. The colonial period marked Mexico with a series of dualisms it has been incapable of rejecting, and these conflicts seek resolution in mythic redemption. Paz writes of Sor Juana trying to reconcile her sensuous, poetic drives with her spirituality.182

This essay has also focused on attempted reconciliations and compromises in the sixteenth century, the beginning of mestizo Mexico. The compromises enacted by the Crown and its officials fell short of succeeding, and New Spain, at the start of the seventeenth century, remained a house divided, and paradoxically united by means of an organic world-view which recognized division as necessary. A search for balance in the midst of compromise, conflict and dissatisfaction became the Mexican way of being, as individuals and groups were forced to recognize the existence of the “Other.”

While citizens of the United States have adopted the myth of the melting pot, and its creation of one homogeneous culture, Mexicans, from the very start, have wrestled with the problem of cultural diversity. This has been a legacy left them by their Spanish and Indian forebearers. Both groups were trapped in a process of defining themselves and their cultures in the face of the other. Aspects of material culture and religion divided Spaniards from Indians, while shared cultural traits allowed for discourse between the Old and New Worlds. The Spanish noted that the Aztecs possessed policía like themselves, and Spanish and Aztec methods of rulership and public morality ultimately gave birth to a united Mexico. Still, the unity was tenuous and built on a Spanish acceptance of disunity:

The character of the Conquest is equally complex from the point of view expressed in the various accounts by the Spaniards. Everything is contradictory. Like the reconquest of Spain, it was both a private undertaking and a national accomplishment. Cortés and the Cid fought on their own responsibility and against the will of their superiors, but in the name of— and on behalf of— the kings.183


If Mexico was born in the sixteenth century, we must agree that it was the child of a double violence, imperial and unifying; that of the Aztecs and that of the Spaniards.184

“If Mexico was born in the sixteenth century,” it was born a corporate entity composed of diverse groups struggling for the common good. Daily practices, more than abstract religious and political beliefs, helped to distinguish and differentiate Spanish and Indian cultures in Mexico. The myths and beliefs of these cultures were known by day-to-day material practices such as eating. The spirit of a social organism was known by its deeds. The beliefs and practices of alien cultures were first defined by the language of bodies, something much more easily grasped than either Spanish or Nahuatl. The final and ultimate contradiction of Mexico is therefore quite clear. The Spanish mission, and justification of conquest, claimed to be primarily spiritual and moral, but this spiritual mission could only manifest itself in physical acts. The social organism, on both the individual and collective levels, was an act of material manifestation, and corporatist Mexico remains a material manifestation of the dialogue between the elite and the majority. In the process of that dialogue, differences have arisen, and alienation has set in, as the modern Mexican becomes increasingly aware of the human condition’s involving an endless interaction between victims and victimizers. Mexicans long for an idealized community, and they seek it in their fiestas but the accumulation of social tensions has created dissatisfied individuals, seeking material reward or a mythical return to the organic. A “labyrinth of solitude” is created, and it is felt deeply in Mexico:

Solitude— the feeling and knowledge that one is alone, alienated from the world and oneself— is not an exclusively Mexican characteristic. All men, at some moment in their lives, feel themselves to be alone. And they are. To live is to be separated from what we were in order to approach what we are going to be in the mysterious future. Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition.185

According to Paz, in the twentieth century, communal values pale before solitude and alienation, but the myths and metaphors surrounding individual and social bodies persist. Not only does language try to express difficult political ideas by means of organic analogy; bodies, through their actions, “speak” politically and socially (revealing the solitary self to others and combating alienation):

The body exists, and gives weight and shape to our existence. It causes us pain and gives us pleasure; it is not a suit of clothes we are in the habit of wearing, not something apart from us: we are our bodies. But we are frightened by other people’s glances, because the body reveals rather than hides our private selves.186

Today, the Mexican political discourse of conscious, revealing bodies and ejidos once again is challenged by the entrepreneurial individuals, markets and profits of neoliberal practice. The political elite, recognized by social organicism and corporatism, may be using its status to undermine the reciprocal themes inherent in Mexican history. In a far more complex situation than the Porfiriato’s whole-hearted adherence to economic liberalism, the contemporary Salinas government seems torn between World Bank “free marketeering” and the protection of the national patrimony. Like its past, Mexico’s future proposes to be a complex one, filled with debates and tensions between liberalism and corporatism—and within corporatism itself, as elites emphasize their hierarchical status, and elements within the populace stress social reciprocity. One thing will remain constant: the debate will involve the use of natural resources and land, as well as the transforming role of labor. Values will be defined in terms of physical bodies, both individual and social.


1.In contemporary Mexico, somewhere between 5% to 10% of the population speaks only or primarily an Indian language. This identifies the segment of the population which may be considered culturally Indian. Daniel levy and Gabriel Szdkely, Mexico: Paradoxes of Stability and Change, 2nd ed. (Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1987), 11.return to text

2. Frans J. Schryer, “Peasants and the Law: a History of Land Tenure and Conflict in the Huasteca,” Journal of Latin American Studies 18 (November 1986): 283, 305.return to text

3. Woodrow Borah, Justice by Insurance: The General Indian Court of Colonial Mexico and the Legal Aides of the Half-Real (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983) , 25, 52-5, 63-78, 91-4, 104-05, 144-74.return to text

4. Archivo General de Ia Nación, Fondo Indios, volumen 7, exp. 30, f. 14 a-b.return to text

5. By “corporatism” I mean a system of political and social organization which recognizes the existence of hierarchical ranks or classes as a given and sees the government’s role as that of arbitrator, reconciling the interests of the various classes through compromise and coercion in order to achieve the common good of all. For a more thorough exploration of corporatism in Latin America, see Howard J. Wiarda, Corporatism and National Development in Latin America (Boulder: Westview Press, 1981).return to text

6. Articles 4, 12 and 13. See The Mexican Constitution of 1917 Compared with the Constitution of 1857, trans. H. N. Branch (Philadelphia: The American Academy of Political Science and Social Science, 1917), 2-3, 6-7.return to text

7. Article 28. Ibid., 26.return to text

8. Ibid., 16.return to text

9. Gary W. Wynia, The Politics of Latin American Development, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 42-3; Merilee Serrill Grindle,Bureaucrats. Politicians. and Peasants in Mexico: A Case Study in Public Policy (Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1977), 26-40; Kenneth F. Johnson, Mexican Democracy: A Critical View, rev. ed. (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1978), 7-15.return to text

10. The Mexican Constitution of 1917, 80-6.return to text

11. Virginia Prewett, “Problems of the Cárdenas Govenunent,’ in James W. Wilkie and Albert L. Michaels, eds., Revolution in Mexico. Years of Upheaval. 1910-1940 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984), 248.return to text

12. John W. F. Dulles, “Strikes Under Cárdenas, in Revolution in Mexico, 213; Merilee S. Grindle, “The Response to Austerity: Political and Economic Strategies of Mexico’s Rural Poor,” in William L. Canak, ed., Lost Promises: Debt, Austerity, and Develonment in Latin America (Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1989), 190.return to text

13. P. Lamartine Yates, Mexico’s Agricultural Dilemma (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1981), 2, 5.return to text

14. Ibid., 4, 141.return to text

15. Ibid., 142. By these means, a veritable “middle class” was formed in Mexican agriculture. In 1970, private farms over 12.5 acres earned an average net income of 19,460 pesos, and ejidatarios on their own individual parcelas of 25 acres only 4,426 pesos. But ejidatarios earned far more than small independent campesinoswith farms under 12.5 acres. This last group only earned an average net income of 918 pesos. See Yates, Agricultural Dilemma, 162.return to text

16. According to Peter H. Smith, through the absence of any noticeable bridges between public and private sector employment, the PRI has been able to set itself up as an elite competitive with the interests of big business and vying with business for the manipulation of the common mass. See Peter H. Smith, Labyrinths of Power: Political Recruitment in Twentieth-Century Mexico (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 214-16.return to text

17. Octavio Paz, “Hora Cumplida (1929-1985),” Revista del pensamiento centroamericano 40:188-8 (1985): 22.return to text

18. See Borah, Justice by Insurance; Enrique Florescano, Origen y Desarrollo de los Problemas Agrarios de México, 1500-1821 (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1976), 43-7, 56-7, 67-71.return to text

19. Archivo General de la Nación, Fondo Tierras, volumen 11, 1a parte, exp. 2, 24a-36b.return to text

20. Barbara Luise Margolies, Princes of the Earth: Subcultural Diversity in a Mexican Municipality (Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1975), x, 12-18.return to text

21. John H. Coatsworth, Growth Against Development: The Economic Impact of Railroads in Porfirian Mexico (DeKaib: Northern Illinois University Press, 1981), 152.return to text

22. True of classical liberalism, this position, of course, has been modified since the coming of John Stuart Mill, Henry George and welfare state capitalism.return to text

23. Interestingly enough, liberalism could permit a Zapotec Indian of “talent” like Judrez to rise to the presidency of Mexico, promoting individual rights while destroying group privileges.

Both Juárez and Porfirio Díaz came from the Valley of Oaxaca, where Amerindians continued to hold approximately two-thirds of the land well into the nineteenth century. See William B. Taylor, Landlord and Peasant in Colonial Oaxaca (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), 163. Also see 43, 67, 82- 4, 107-8, 199.return to text

24. Coatsworth, Growth Against Development, 154-8.return to text

25. Ibid., 155.return to text

26. Benjamin Keen and Mark Wasserman, A Short History of Latin America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980), 204-10.return to text

27. Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico, trans. Lysander Kemp (New York: Grove Press, 1961), 143-4.return to text

28. Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980), xv-xx, 1-39.return to text

29. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, et. al. Plan Nacional de Desarrollo. 1989-1994 (Mexico City: Poder Ejecutivo Federal-Secretaría de Programación y Presupuesto, 1989), 77-8, 100-02, 105-7.return to text

30. Nora Hamilton, “State-Class Alliances and Conflicts: Issues and Actors in the Mexican Ecnomic Crisis,” in Modern Mexico: State, Economy, and Social Conflict, eds. Nora Hamilton and Timothy F. Harding (Beverly Hills: SAGE Publications, 1986), 149.return to text

31. “Expenditures for public works fell by 50 percent in 1983 alone.” Grindle, “The Response to Austerity,” in Lost Promises, 194.return to text

32. David Barkin and Gustavo Esteva, “Social Conflict and Inflation in Mexico,” in Modern Mexico, 135; Nora Hamilton, “Mexico: The Limits of State Autonomy,” in Modern Mexico, 97.return to text

33. Juan Felipe Leal, “The Mexican State, 1915-1973: A Historical Interpretation,” in Modern Mexico, 31-2; Johnson, Mexican Democracy, 62.return to text

34. Levy and Székely, Mexico, 54; Leal, “The Mexican State,” 31-2; Johnson, Mexican Democracy, 62.

Mexican real income declined, using a base figure 100% for 1976, to 51.5% in 1984, while the number of strikers also declined from 43,000 in 1980 to 25,000 in 1982. See Edward C. Epstein, “Austerity and Trade Unions in Latin America,” in Lost Promises, 170-5.return to text

35. Grindle, Bureaucrats, Politicians, and Peasants, 80.return to text

36. Viviane Brachet Márquez, “Poverty and Social Programs in Mexico, 1970-1980: The Legacy of a Decade,” Latin American Research Review 23:1(1988): 221; David G. LaFrance, “Mexico Since Cárdenas,” in Twentieth Century Mexico, eds. W. Dirk Rut and William H. Beezley (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 220.return to text

37. Jerry R. Ladman, “Introduction to the Economic Dimension,” in The Future of Mexico, ed. Lawrence E. Koslow (Tempe: Center for Latin American Studies, Arizona State University, 1977), 13; R. Kenneth Godwin, “Mexican Population Policy: Problems Posed by Participatory Demography in a Paternalistic Political System,” in The Future of Mexico, 148.return to text

38. Levy and Szekely, Mexico, 56, 11.return to text

39. Kevin J. Middlebrook, “The Sounds of Silence: Organized Labour’s Response to Economic Crisis in Mexico,” Journal of Latin American Studies 21:2 (May 1989): 195-220; Hamilton, “Mexico: The Limits of State Autonomy,” 95.return to text

40. Grindle, ‘The Response to Austerity,’ in Lost Promises, 196; The Economist 313: 7623 (October 7, 1989): 28.return to text

41. Yates, Agricultural Dilemma, 15; Levy and Szekely, Mexico, 159.return to text

42. Yates, 7; Robert A. Pastor and Jorge 0. Castineda, Limits to Friendship: The United States and Mexico (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), 206-9.return to text

43. Maria Patricia Fernández-Kelly, For We Are Sold. I and My People: Women and Industry in Mexico’s Frontier (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), 35.return to text

44. Richard J. Salvucci, Textiles and Capitalism in Mexico: An Economic History of the Obrajes, 1539-1840 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 149, 3-9.return to text

45. Colin MacLachlan and Jaime E. Rodríguez O., The Forging of the Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1980), 187-92.return to text

46. Salvucci, Textiles and Capitalism, 135-7, 131, 110.return to text

47. Robert A. Potash, Mexican Government and Industrial Development in the Early Republic: The Banco de Avio (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1983), 12, 16, 43-5, 101, 110, 118, 120-4, 136-7.return to text

48. From two speeches given on March 5, 1988 and April 10, 1988. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Nuestra lucha apenas comienza (Mexico City: Editorial Nuestro Tiempo, 1988), 63, 65-6, 48.return to text

49. On July 16, 1988, Cárdenas specifically said, “The relationship of the State to societal organs cannot continue to be corporative.” Ibid., 132.return to text

50. Observations made by the author at a July 6, 1989 political rally. For more on the seventeenth-century Mexico City bread riots, see J.I. Israel, Race, Class and Politics in Colonial Mexico, 1610-1670 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975).return to text

51. Cárdenas, November 29, 1987 and April 10, 1988, in Nuestra lucha, 41-2, 65-6.return to text

52. Fernando Benítez, “Imperialismo, monopolio y hambre,” Cuadernos Americanos 199:2 (marzo-abril 1975): 15-32.return to text

53. Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera, trans. Edith Grossman (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), 266.

For the historical assessment of the validity of such a statement, see Stanley J. Stein and Barbara H. Stein, The Colonial Heritage of Latin America: Essays on Economic Dependence in Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970).return to text

54. See Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas de América y Oceanía, 42 vols., eds. Joaquin F. Pacheco, Francisco de Cardenas and Luts Torres de Mendoza (Madrid: Manuel G. Hernandez, 1864-84). Henceforth referred to as CDIR. The above passage is from “Información en derecho del licenciado Rojas sobre algunas provisiones del Consejo del Indias (1535),” CDIR 10:381. All translations, except where indicated, are my own.return to text

55. “Confirmación de privilegios. 23 de abril de 1497,” CDIR 19: 277-9. For the body metaphor’s medieval roots, see Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 193-232; and R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism(New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1926), 14-36.return to text

56. Francisco López de Gómara, Cortéz: The Life of the Conqueror by His Secretary, trans. Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964), 143-4.return to text

57. Hernán Cortés, “Second Letter,” in The Letters from Mexico, trans. Anthony Pagden (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 109. Also see the “First Letter,” 29; Antonello Gerbi, Nature in the New World: From Christopher Columbus to Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, trans. Jeremy Moyle (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985), 6, 18-19, 95-9.return to text

58. Cortés, “Second Letter,” 108.return to text

59. Bemadino de Sahagún, Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España 4vols., ed. Angel María Garibay K. (Mexico City: Editorial Pornía, 1956), 1:27.return to text

60. John C. Super, Food, Conquest, and Colonization in Sixteenth Century Spanish America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988), 23, 88.return to text

61. Peter Farb and George Armelagos, Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980), 3-14.return to text

62. Claude Lévi-Strauss has demonstrated that cooking mediates between heaven and earth, life and death, nature and society, transfonning the natural into the cultural as it were. Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, trans. John and Doreen Weightman (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 64-5, 169.return to text

63. For the way in which cannibalism is used in that vein, see Bernadette Bucher, Icon and Conquest: A Structural Analysis of the Illustrations of de Bry’s “Great Voyages”, trans. Basia Miller Gulati (Chicago: Universtiy of Chicago Press, 1981), 614, 104-5.return to text

64. Yates, Agricultural Dilemma, 15, 25.return to text

65. A 1480 cédula ordered the evacuation of enclosures set up by farmers under Henry IV, while nine years later an ordinance called the “Defense of the Cañadas” redrew sheepwalk boundaries to expel squatting farmers. In 1491 an edict banned agricultural enclosures in Granada. Husbandmen felt abandoned. See Jaime Vincens Vives, An Economic History of Spain, trans. Frances M. López-Morillas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 302-04.return to text

66. Alfred W. Crosby Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1972), 64.return to text

67. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Stein and Day, 1973), 245-6; and Super, Food. Conquest. and Colonization, 254, 32.return to text

68. For example, in his “Relación del descubrimiento de las provincias de Antiocha (1540),” the adelantado Jorge Robeldo wrote, “In this town Quindio one finds a yellow fruit like grapes…,” CDIR 2:304. Bernal Díaz also wrote of “local grapes,” or granadillas, and “local cherries.” Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), 135, 365.return to text

69. “Relación de Gil Gonzalez Dávila, contador del Rey, de la despoblación de la isla Española…,” CDIR 1:341-2; “Relación de la isla Española envida al Rey D. Félipe II per el licenciado Echagoian, oidor de la audiencia de Santo Domingo,” CDIR 1:17; “Relación de Gil Gonzalez Dávila…de la despeblación de la isla Española…,” CDIR 10:114.return to text

70. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 67-9.return to text

71. “Memorial de las cosas que son menester proveer luego pera despacho de cuarto caravelas que vaya para las Indias. Año de 1495,” CDIR 24:15-17.

Modern day approximations of the weights and measures listed above are as follows: 1 quintal = 100 pounds; 1 tonel = 0.83 ton; I hanega = 1.5 bushels; 1 cahiz = 12 hanegas or 18 bushels.return to text

72. “Informacíon de 105 servicios del adelantado Rodrigo de Bastidas, conquistador y pacificador de Santa Marta (22 de junio de 1521),” CDIR 2:375-6.return to text

73. “Al Cardenal Ximénez de Cisneros, los priores de San Gerónimo, de Santo Domingo de la isla Española á 22 de junio de 1517,” CDIR 1:287; “Capítulos de carta del licenciado Alonso de Cuaco al Emperador, su fecha en Santo Domingo de la isla Española á 22 de enero de 1518,” CDIR 1:292.return to text

74. Julia Hirschberg, “Social Experiment in New Spain: A Prosopographical Study of the Early Settlement at Puebla de los Angeles, 1531-1534,” Hispanic American Historical Review 59:1(1979): 1-33; and Henry Raup Wagner and Helen Rand Parish, The Life and Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1967), 35-45, 60-9, 83-93.return to text

75. Bernal Díaz, 131, 141, 201; Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949), 120; Bucher, Icon and Conquest, 614; “Información hecha per Rodrigo de Figueroa de la población india de las islas é costa de Tierra Firme…(1520), “Memorial que dió el bachiller Enciso de lo ejecutado por él en defensa de los Reales derechos, en la materia de los indios,” CDIR 1: 449.return to text

76. Bernal Díaz, 48.return to text

77. Ibid., 365, 367.return to text

78. Ibid., 227.return to text

79. Luys Alcanyis, Regiment de la Pestilencia (Valencia: Nicholaus Spindeler, ca. 1490), in Hispanic Culture Series, Hispanic Books Printed Before 1601, Reel 33; henceforth to be referred to as HCS. Also see Juan de Cárdenas, Primera Pane de los problemas y secretos marauillosos de las Indias (Mexico City: Pedro Ocharte, 1591), 105-126, 175, HCS Reel 27; and Juan de Avinón, Seuillana medicina, ed. Nicolás Monardes (Seville: Andres de Burgos, 1545), xvi-xxii HCS Reel 225. For the Arabic roots of the European notion of a balanced diet, see Tannahill, 178.return to text

80. For the appearance of chickens in New World tax lists, see “Tasaciones de los pueblos de la provincia de Yucatan,” in Epistolario do Nueva España, 1505-1818, 16 vols., ed. Francisco del Paso y Troncoso (Mexico City: José Pornia e hijos, 1939-1940), 5:103-81, 207-17; 6:73-112. Henceforth ENE. For a representative sampling of such townships in the valleys of Oaxaca and Mexico, see Papeles de Nueva España, 7 vols., ed. Francisco del Paso y Troncoso (Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1905), 4: 9-44, 58-68, 100-08, 163-82, 289-300, 308-13, 5:1-11, 55-65, 99-109, 124-82; 6:1-5, 12-19, 31-4, 87-152, 199-208, 291-305. In the relaciones of the 1580’s, the response to question twenty-seven deals with wild and domestic animals. Henceforth the Papeles de Nueva España will be referred to as PNE.return to text

81. “Real cédula al virrey y audiencia de la Nueva España…. Valencia, 12 de abril do 1599,” in Ordenanzas de hospital de San Lázaro de México, eds. Frances V. Scholes and Eleanor B. Adams (Mexico City: José Pornía e hijos, 1956), 38.return to text

82. Cortés, “First Letter,” 30.return to text

83. Cortés, “Second Letter,” 75.return to text

84. Bucher, Icon and Conquest, 153-4, 158-9.return to text

85. The Aztec term for their ruler, literally “he who possesses speech.”return to text

86. Cortés “Second Letter,” 111-12; Bernal Díaz, 225-6; and López de Gómara, 143-4.return to text

87. Cortés “Second Letter,” 111-12.return to text


88. Cortés, “Second Letter,” 112.return to text

89. Bernal Díaz, 225.return to text

90. Cortés, “Second Letter,” 99, 106.return to text

91. Levy and Székely, Mexico, 59.return to text

92. Instrucciones de Carlos V a Maximiliano y María para el gobierno de Castilla,” (Brussels, 29 September 1548), in Corpus documental de Carlos V, 5 vols., ed. Manuel Fernández Alvarez (Salamanca: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1973-81), 3:33; Antonio de Guevara,” Letra para el marqués de los Vélez, en cual se escribe algunas nuevas de corte,” (Medina del Campo, 18 July 1532), in Libro primero de las epistolas familiares de Fray Antonio de Guevara, ed. José María de Cossío (Madrid: Real Academia Española-Biblioteca Selecta de Clásicos Españoles, 1950), 114-19.return to text

93. Farb and Armelagos, Consuming Passions, 4.return to text

94. Bernal Díaz, 89.return to text

95. Gerónimo de Mendieta, Historia Eclesiastica Indiana (Mexico City: Editorial Porrua, 1971), 24-31.

Of course, communion ultimately was denied the mass of Amerindians, as the Spanish and Indian republics went their separate ways. Spaniards were bound communally by communion, while Amerindians depended on the food shared at fiestas.return to text

96. Mendieta, 107; Sahagún, 3:43-5; and Joseph de Acosta, Historia natural y moral de las Indias, ed. Edmundo O’ Gorman (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1940), 413-16.

Sahagún also listed the foods of the Aztec nobility in detail. Sahagún, 2:305-08.return to text

97. James Lockhart, Spanish Peru, 1532-1560: A Colonial Society (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), 21; Marcelin Deforurneaux, Daily Life in Spain in the Golden Age, trans. Newton Branch (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1979), 150-3; MacLachlan and Rodriquez, Forging of the Cosmic Race, 210, 224-5.return to text

98. Sahagún, 3:95.return to text

99. Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 79.return to text

100. López de Gómara, 143.return to text

101. Cortés, “Second Letter,” 111; Bernal Díaz, 226; López de Gómara, 143-4.return to text

102. Woodrow Borah, New Spain’s Century of Depression (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1951), 2; George C. Vaillant, Aztecs of Mexico: Origin, Rise, and Fall of the Aztec Nation (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966), 135-48; and Nigel Davies, The Aztecs: A History (London: Macimillan, 1973), 92-4.return to text

103. Vincens Vives, Economic History of Spain, 302-04.return to text

104. Linda Martz, Poverty and Welfare in Hapsburg Spain: The Example of Toledo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 1-46; Abel A. Alves, “The Christian Social Organism and Social Welfare: The Case of Vives, Calvin and Loyola, “The Sixteenth Centurv Journal 20:1 (Spring 1989): 3-21; Sahagún, 2:321; Mendieta, 113; and Zorita, “Breve y sumaria relación,” CDIR 2:20.return to text

105. Cortés, “Second Letter,” 75.return to text

106. “Ordenanzas locales dadas por Hernando Cortés para que ellas se rixen e gobiernen los vezinos, moradores, estantes e habitantes de las Villas pobladas e las demás que en adelante se poblaren,” CDIR 40:179-80.return to text

107. Salinas de Gortari, a. al., Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, 105. For the proportionate decline in health and assistance expenditures since President Alemán, see Dale Story, “Policy Cycles in Mexican Presidential Politics,” Latin American Research Review 20:3 (1985):15l.return to text

108. John Womack, Jr., Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 79.return to text

109. Fernand Brandel, The Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible, Vol.1: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, trans. Siân Reynolds (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 120, 161.return to text

110. Acosta, 267, 265-7.return to text

111. Ibid., 265.return to text

112. Ibid., 311-22.return to text

113. Francois Chevalier, Land and Society in Colonial Mexico: The Great Hacienda, trans. Alvin Eustis, ed. Lesley Byrd Simpson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1970), 51-2; “Relación apuntamientos y avisos, que por mandado de S. M. dió D. Antonio de Mendoza, virey de Nueva-España á D. Luis de Velasco,” CDIR 6:492.return to text

114. “Lo que el Visorey e gobernador de la Nueva Spaña y sus provincias… a de hazer… de mas de lo contenido en los poderes y comisiones que lleva…, CDIR 23: 530, 534.return to text

115. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 70.return to text

116. Ibid., 127-34, 51-2; “Testamento y fundación de mayorazgo otorgado por D. Pedro Montezuma en 8 de setiembre de 1570,” CDIR 6:85.return to text

117. “Some perquisites of don Juan de Guzmán, governor of Coyoacan, mid-sixteenth century,” in Beyond the Codices: The Nahua View of Colonial Mexico, translated and edited by Arthur J.O. Anderson, Frances Berdan, and James Lockhart (Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1976), 154-5.return to text

118. “Visitas a la villa do Coyoacán, del marqués del Valle, a mediados del siglo XVI, 1551, 1553, 1564,” in Tributos y servicios personales de indios pan Hernán Cortés y su familia, ed. Silvio Zavala (Mexico City: Archivo General de la Nación, 1984), 250.return to text

119. Ibid., 253.return to text

120. “Pleito contra el licenciado Juan Ortiz de Matiengo y Diego Delgadillo, para recuperar la renta del pueblo de Toluca quo.. .habían dado a Garcia del Pilar durante la ausencia de Cortés en España (año de 1531), Tributos y sevicios para Hernán Cortés, 70-4.return to text

121. With no immunological resistance to European diseases such as small pox and typhus, Indian populations decreased astronomically after the conquest. In the valley of Mexico alone, Woodrow Borali and Sherburne F. Cook estimated a population of 25 million in 1519, but only 1.9 million Indians in 1580. See Borali,Century of Depression, 19, 25, 30.return to text

122. Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964), 280-2; Borah, Justice by Insurance; Super, Food, Conquest, and Colonization, 55-6; and Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 99.return to text

123. “Municipal Council Records, Tlaxcala, 1547,” in Beyond the Codices, 124-5.return to text

124. “Relación de Chichicapa y su partido (15 Mayo, 1580),” PNE 4:119; “Relación de Papaloticpac y su partido (7-11 Diciembre, 1579),” PNE 4: 96.return to text

125. “Relación de Tilantongo y su partido (1 Noviembre, 1579),” PNE 4: 75; “Relación de Mitlantongo (12 Noviembre, 1579),” PNE 4: 79; “Relación de Tamazola (16 Nobienbre, 1579),” PNE 4: 84: “Relación de Tetípac (15 Abril, 1580),” PNE 4: 113; Relación de Nochiztlan (9-11 Abril, 1581), PNE 4: 210; “Relación de Tlacolula y Mitla (12-23 Agosto, 1580),” PNE 4:150; “Relación de Totolapa y su partido (4 Septiembre, 1579),” PNE 6: 10; “Descripción del pueblo de Yetecomac y su tierra (10 Octubre, 1579 – 24 Marzo, 1580),” PNE 6: 23; “Descripción del pueblo de Gueypuchtla y su tierra (10 Octubre, 1579 – 24 Marzo, 1580),” PNE 6: 30; Descripción del pueblo de Tecpatepec y su tierra (10 Octubre, 1579-24 Marzo, 1580),” PNE 6: 37; “Relación de Chiconauhtla y su partido (21 Enero, 1580),” PNE 6:175; “Relación de Zayula (3 Febrero, 1580),” PNE 6: 181.return to text

126. “Relación de Tetela y Ueyapan (20 Junio, 1581),” PNE 6: 288.return to text

127. Vaillant, Aztecs, 140-2; Gibson, Aztecs under Spanish Rule, 346.return to text

128. Super, Food, Conquest, and Colonization, 56-7; and Gibson, 566-7, ch 12 n 87.return to text

129. “Ordenanzas de Su Magestad hechas para los nuevos descubrimientos, conquistas y pacificaciones.–Julio de 1573,” CDIR 16: 142-87. See especially 147-8.return to text

130. “Interrogatorio pan todas las ciudades, villas y lugares… de las Indias Occidentales…,” CDIR 9: 68-9; and José Urbano Martínez Carreras, “Las ‘Relaciones’ de Indias,” in Relaciones Geográficas de Indias—Perú, 3 vols., ed. Marcos Jiménez de la Espada (Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1965), xlvii-lii.return to text

131. The relaciones referred to all dates from 1579 to 1582, with the exception of Villa Rica de Veracruz, which issued a relación in 1571. All these relaciones can be found in the Papeles de Nueva España. They are as follows.

Towns growing wheat: Tewatepec, PNE 6: 314; Gueypuchtla y su tierra, PNE 6: 26-31; Tequizistlan, PNE 6: 209-36; San Esteuan, PNE 5:151-7; Nochiztlan,PNE 4: 206-12; Tetípac, PNE 4: 109-14; Totolapa y su partido, PNE 6: 6-11; Nexapa, PNE 4: 29-44; Guaxilotitlan, PNE 4:196-205; Coatepec y su partido, PNE6: 39-45; Petlaltzingo, PNE 5: 69-74; Taliztaca, PNE 4:177-82; Mitlantongo, PNE 4: 77-82; Tilantongo, PNE 4: 69-77; Texapa, PNE 4: 53-7; Ueipuchtla y su partido, PNE 6:12-19; Chiconauhtla y su partido, PNE 6:167-77; Tetela y Ueyapan, PNE 6: 283-90; Tepepulco, PNE 6: 291-305; Zayula, PNE 6:178-81; Tepeaca, PNE 5:12-45; Tetela, cauecera de obispado de Tlaxcala, PNE 5:143-50; Chilapa, PNE 5:174-82; Macuilsúchil, PNE 4: 100-8; Ocopetlayuca, PNE 6: 251-62; Ycxitlan, PNE 5: 74-7.

Towns which could grow wheat: Xalapa de la Veracruz, PNE 5: 99-105; Chicoaloapa, subjeto de Coatepec, PNE 6:79 86, Yetecomac, PNE 6:19-23; Las minas de Tasco, PNE 6: 263-82; coyatitlanapa, PNE 5: 89-93; Papaloticpac y su partido, PNE 4: 88-99.

Towns incapable of growing wheat: Villa Rica de Veracruz, PNE 5:189-201; Tecpatepec, subjeto de Ueipuchtla, PNE 6: 34-8; Texaluca, PNE 5:84-8; las minas de Zumpango, PNE 6: 313-22; San Miguel Capulapa, subjeto de Tetela, PNE 5: 15743; San Francisco cucumbra, subjeto de Tetela, PNE 5:163-7; San Juan Tututla, subjeto de Tetela, PNE 5:167-73; Cuicatlan, PNE 4:183-9; Ucila, PNE 4: 45-52; Iztepexi, PNE 4: 9-23; Piastla, PNE 5: 77-80.return to text

132. “Relación de Papaloticpac y su partido (7-11 Diciembre, 1579), PNE 4: 92.return to text

133. “Descripción del pueblo de Yetecomac y su tierra (10 Octubre, 1579-24 Marzo, 1580),” PNE 6: 22.return to text

134. “Relación de Tepepulco (15 Abril, 1580),” PNE 4:112; “Relación de Tepepulco (15 Abril, 1581),” PNE 6: 301.return to text

135. “Relación de Coatepec y su partido (16 Noviembre, 1579),” PNE 6: 61.return to text

136. “Relación de Tepeaca y su partido (4-20 Febrero, 1580),” PNE 5: 37-8.return to text

137. “Relación de Intepexi (27-30 Agosto, 1579),” PNE 4: 20; “San Miguel Capulapa (20-29 Octubre, 1581), PNE 5:162, 166-7; “Relación de las minas de Zumpango (10 Marzo, 1582),” PNE 6: 314.return to text

138. “Relación de Milguatlan y su partido (Febrero de 1609),” CDIR 9: 220.return to text

139. S. L. Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 1580-1600: A Social History of an Aztec Town (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986), 139.return to text

140. Taylor, Landlord and Peasant, 5.return to text

141. Gibson, Aztecs under Spanish Rule, 322-3.return to text

142. James Lockhart, “Capital and Province, Spaniard and Indian: The Example of late Sixteenth-Century Toluca,” in Ida Altman and James Lockhart, eds.,Provinces of Earlv Mexico: Variants of Spanish American Regional Evolution (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 1976), 114-15; Gibson, 311-12.return to text

143. Chevalier, Land and Society, 59-114; P.J. Bakewell, Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 59-68.return to text

144. “Descripción de la Villa de Nombre de Dios…en Mayo de 1608,” CDIR 9: 243.return to text

145. “Descripción de Nuestra Señora de los Cacatecas (l608),” CDIR 9: 206.return to text

146. Steven E. Sanderson, The Transformation of Mexico Agriculture: International Structure and the Politics of Rural Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 186, 45-7, 190, 221.return to text

147. Yates, Agricultural Dilemma, 25.return to text

148. Grindle, Bureaucrats, Politicians, and Peasants, 85; Sanderson, Mexican Agriculture, 215.return to text

149. Thomas G. Sanders, “Mexico’s Food problem,” in Twentieth Century Mexico, 275, 282; Margolies, Princes of the Earth, 67-8.return to text

150. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean. 1983, 2 vols. (Santiago: United Nations Publication, 1985), 1:444.return to text

151. The same latifundia that raise wheat often can turn greater profits through the export of tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers, forcing the Mexican government to import wheat to meet growing urban demands. Sanderson, Mexican Agriculture, 192, 208, 210, 226.return to text

152. Yates, Agricultural Dilemma, 15.return to text

153. Johnson, Mexican Democracy, 69.return to text

154. Ibid., 25, 27-8.return to text

155. Frank Cancian, Change and Uncertainty in a Peasant Economy: The Maya Corn Farmers of Zinacantan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), 14, 38.return to text

156. Ronald Waterbury and Carole Turkenik, “The Market place Traders of San Antonio: A Quantitative Analysis,” in Markets in Oaxaca, eds. Scott Cook and Martin Diskin (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1976), 213; Scott Cook and Martin Diskin, “The Peasant Market Economy of the Valley of Oaxaca in Analysis and History,” in Markets in Oaxaca, 21.return to text

157. Steven Weinstock, “The Adaptation of Otavalo Indians to Urban Industrial Life in Quito, Ecuador” (Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1973), 108.return to text

158. Taylor, Landlord and Peasant, 35.return to text

159. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 74.return to text

160. Nancy M. Farriss, Maya Society under Colonial Rule: The Collective Enterprise of Survival (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 292-4; George M. Foster, Culture and Conquest: America’s Spanish Heritage (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1960), 15846; Cline, Colonial Culhuacan, 23, 25, 35, 41, 139.return to text

161. Susan Tax Freeman, The Pasiegos: Spaniards in No Man’s Land (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 50-1; Susan Tax Freeman,Neighbors: The Social Contract in a Castillian Hamlet (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 27.return to text

162. Braudel, Structures of Everydav Life, 164-70; and Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 178, 183.return to text

163. Gibson, Aztecs under Spanish Rule, 566-7, ch 12 n 87; “El Marqués di Villamarique, virrey de Nueva España, al rey, 20 de Julio 1587,” Archivo General de Indias, Cartas y expedientes de los virreyes de Nueva España (Seville: Centro Nacional de Microfilm, 1975), reel 3, number 19; and William B. Taylor, Drinking. Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1979), 38-9.return to text

164. On fiestas, see Foster, Culture and Conquest, 167, 206, 218-9, 225; and Freeman, Neighbors, 90-3. Spaniards took great pride in their New World hospitals, seeing them as sure signs of a caring Christian community. See “Carta al rey del arzobispo de México sobre el patronato y administración del Hospital Real de aquella ciudad.— México, 31 de rnarzo de 1566,” ENE 10: 130-1.return to text

165. Murdo J. MacLeaod, “The Social and Economic Roles of Indian Cofradías in Colonial Chiapas,” in The Church and Society in Latin America, ed. Jeffrey A. Cole (New Orleans: Tulane University Press, 1984), 73-96; Farriss, 266-70; Gibson, 132-3.return to text

166. Lewis Hanke, Aristotle and the American Indians: A Study in Race Prejudice in the Modern World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959).return to text

167. Frances Calderón de la Barca, Life in Mexico (London and New York: Everyman’s Library, 1970), 33.return to text

168. Ibid., 66, 43, 282.return to text

169. Bakewell, Silver Mining and Society, 63.return to text

170. Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, 169; Vaillant, Aztecs, 133, 135; Victor von Hagen, The Aztec: Man and Tribe (New York: Mentor Books, 1961), 68, 72.return to text

171. Margolies, Princes of the Earth, 52, 63.return to text

172. Hannah Arendt, “Thinking,” in The Life of the Mind, ed. Mary McCarthy (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978), 234, 54-5.return to text

173. A recent study which deals with European ecological imperialism in broad terms is Alfred W. Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).return to text

174. Paston and Castafieda, Limits to Friendship, 56-7, 76, 8O-1, 85-6; Levy and Székely, Mexico, 76.return to text

175. Samuel Ramos, Profile of Man and Culture in Mexico, trans, Peter G. Earle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962), 26.return to text

176. New York Times (March 10, 1954), 11:1.return to text

177. Salinas de Gortari, et. al. Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, 71-4.return to text

178. Ibid., 76-8.return to text

179. In the words of Octavio Paz, “Man the intruder has broken or violated the order of the universe.” Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude, 26.

Let it be known that this author does not necessarily assume Nature to be “brute.”return to text

180. Ibid., 169.return to text

181. Ibid., 209-10. Also see 20, 24, 47, 208-12, 72-88.return to text

182. Ibid., 108-13.return to text

183. Ibid., 97.return to text

184. Ibid., 100. Also 99.return to text

185. Ibid., 195.return to text

186. Ibid., 35.return to text