Ross Frank’s examination of New Mexican society in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship on northern Mexico. Frank tells two stories here: one of the economic development of the province in the last decades of the colony, the other of the creation of a distinct “vecino” culture that even today distinguishes the region. From the adversity of the post-1750 period, New Mexican society emerged with a reordered power dynamic and a Hispanic sector that was stronger, more clearly defined, and unquestionably dominant. From the Hispanic perspective, this is a story of renewal and redemption; not so, however, from the perspective of the Pueblo Indians.

Eighteenth-century New Mexico was characterized by two distinct economic systems, separated in time by what Frank, borrowing from Oakah Jones, labels the “defensive crisis” of the 1760s and 1770s. The first system, developed in a...

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