This article considers the roles and experiences of indigenous women in the silver mining town of Zacatecas, Mexico, from the early seventeenth century through the late colonial period (1620–1770). Indigenous women of all ages and civil statuses migrated and settled in Zacatecas through the colonial period. Using Spanish sources, this article highlights the importance of their contributions to the production of silver and to the settlement of the city and its four Indian towns. It argues for a broader understanding of the labor involved in silver production to include activities performed outside the mines by women. Some of this work involved the preparation and distribution of goods and foodstuffs and basic housekeeping at mining haciendas, and women’s engagement with small-scale trade, market activities, and the management of properties in the city. Indian women also contributed to the vitality of the city and its Indian communities, migrating and settling in Zacatecas in large numbers even during periods of mining declines. Within these communities, episodes of high male absenteeism often left Indian women in charge of their households. As primary caretakers, they cared for their children and often used legal measures to protect them from abusive labor practices common to mining towns. Ultimately, this article argues that indigenous women’s roles above ground were as important as those performed by their male, silver-extracting counterparts below ground.

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