Laura Machuca’s and Juliette Levy’s first monographs explore Yucatecan hacendados before henequen and the making of the mortgage market that financed the peninsula’s famed fiber boom, respectively.

Machuca productively combines economic analysis of haciendas (their size, capitalization, labor relations, and inheritance patterns) with a prosopography of hacendados. Expanding on existing scholarly literature, she documents how some hacendado clans prospered through officeholding, credit from the church, debt servitude, and commercial income. Yucatecan landowners were not latifundists, as five out of six of their estates were quite modest. Through original, painstaking research, Machuca documents how some colonial landowning dynasties thrived after independence by adapting to the new republican politics and by arranging strategic marriages with the new political and commercial elites. The ill-fated Escuderos, in spite of pioneering commercial henequen cultivation, fell victim to infighting, endogamy, and ideological rigidity (one scion sat in the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian I’s cabinet).

Challenging the conventional...

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