Traditional views of rural central Mexico during the colonial period commonly overlook the role of the small, subsistence-oriented Spanish ranchos,which in the vicinity of Santiago Tecali, Puebla, far outnumbered the larger hacienda estates. In Tecali, dealings of the local Nahua elite with the ranchos and their proprietors were of greater social and economic import than those with the haciendas. This case study raises questions about the timeworn opposition between the hacienda and the Indian community and suggests that we need to work toward more differentiated models of Spanish agrarian enterprise,on the one hand, and colonial Indian society, on the other.

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