In the nineteenth century, Latin American rulers in countries such as Mexico had to address the problem of how to control the indigenous population. The colonial regime had relied on the cooperation of caciques and village governments in return for a great deal of local autonomy, but that system had come into being when there were almost no nonindigenous people living in the villages. By 1800 the number of so-called vecinos (non-Indians) living in the countryside had increased dramatically, and thus new mechanisms for control seemed to be both available and desirable.

This book analyzes the problems that the government of Yucatan had in trying to change the system of rule without losing control of the indigenous population. After a brief attempt to rule without any Indian participation, the rulers found it impossible to collect taxes and therefore had to reestablish the...

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