Introduction: Community and Conflict

In describing the social context of mid-nineteenth-century Bonapartist politics, Karl Marx likened the French small-holding peasantry to a sack of potatoes—a “homologous magnitude” lacking internal differentiation or political consciousness. A somewhat similar view until fairly recently has characterized the attitude of many writers toward Latin American peasantries, which have been seen as being historically uniform and static social groups.1 This image was conditioned by prevailing historiographical concerns rather than by availability of documentation, and was the outcome, one suspects, of institutional history done from the top down and of the inevitable social foreshortening inherent in such a perspective. More recently historians, ethnohistorians, and anthropologists have drawn a picture of Latin American peasantries as being a diverse group of family farmers, ranchers, tenants, laborers, and other relatively low-status rural dwellers occupying different social and economic niches in given historical situations.2 Specifically with regard to colonial Spanish America, this more nearly three-dimensional view of peasants has added much to our understanding of social and economic change between conquest and independence. Furthermore, we know that the indigenous peasant cultures of the New World did not all respond to the conquest and the imposition of European rule in the same way, that they did not fare equally under the colonial regime, and that they faced the Europeans with anything but a united front. As colonial society developed, the social climbing, opportunism, internal differentiation, and uneven acculturation that characterized Indian groups may have left the mass of the population identifiably peasant, but nonetheless looking much different from the preconquest period.3

A major object of interest in the continuing study of postconquest peasant society has been the independent landholding village, the basic cell of Indian life in the centuries since the coming of the Europeans. The sweeping away of the great pre-Columbian states in Mesoamerica and the Andes, the collapse of the overarching structures of legitimacy and belief, and the social compression of native life have been dubbed by one French writer, with typical Gallic élan, as the process of destructuration.4 Into this partial social and cosmological vacuum came the Spanish conquerors, making their dual efforts both to exploit and to acculturate the conquered. The Europeans brought with them a secularizing mentality and a concept of labor and property not as religious and communal expressions, but as commodities to be bought and sold in the market place. Under the impact of these forces, and in competition against other foci of social life including rural estates and growing cities and towns, the communal landholding village served as the major element of Indian cultural identity through the colonial period. Indeed, in many places to refer to someone as an Indian without linking him to a village was as the sound of one hand clapping. Yet modern observers have sometimes been more surprised at the unevenness of the acculturation process in Latin America than at the resilience of the communal Indian village.5

We have, then, indications of two apparently contradictory tendencies within colonial Indian peasant society: one of increasing internal social differentiation, strongly encouraged if not wholly initiated by the Spanish conquest, and probably gaining momentum in the late colonial period; and a second of the continuing survival and vigor of corporate, landholding Indian peasant villages during the same time. The apparent contradiction consists in the fact, well established by anthropologists studying both contemporary and historical peasant communities, that the cosmological assumptions and social arrangements characteristic of such communities normally push toward minimizing internal social distances in favor of egalitarianism and intragroup solidarity.6 The purpose of the present article is to examine this apparent contradiction and to see how it was at least temporarily resolved through the deflection of intragroup conflict to the world outside the Indian peasant village. A hypothesis will be developed that links economic change in the broader society to structural strains within the village community, and thence to the contradiction mentioned above. The hypothesis, in turn, is based upon theoretical concepts drawn from sociological and anthropological studies on the nature and causes of social conflict, particularly as they apply to intragroup conflict and group solidarity.7 The approach used is that of a case study, with the area under consideration the Guadalajara region in western central Mexico. The general frame of reference is the response of Indian villages to far-reaching changes in the structure of regional economy and society during the eighteenth century. Two lines of historical evidence are developed: first, the increasing pressure on land resources caused by the growth of a commercial agricultural economy within the Guadalajara region concurrent with a substantial increase in the overall regional population; and second, a trend toward the concentration of wealth and a resulting social differentiation within village peasant society. An examination of these issues can deepen our knowledge of the mechanisms and social meanings of village survival, contributing to a more nuanceci view of both the complexity of peasant society and Indian response to the imposition of an alien culture.

To anticipate the discussion that follows, let us briefly sketch the central argument of this article and its underpinnings in social conflict theory. The working hypothesis links together rural population growth during the late colonial period, the process of socioeconomic differentiation within landholding Indian villages, the growth of a commercialized regional agricultural economy centering on the city of Guadalajara, and an increasing inelasticity of land resources, particularly within the Indian peasant economy.8 It is proposed that landholding Indian communities, from about 1750 onward, were subject to newly intensified pressures against their continued integrity as social units. As village population grew, the peasant subsistence economy began to bump up against the relatively inelastic bounds of land resources, and per capita access to agricultural lands declined. On the other side, a vigorously expanding commercial agriculture, dominated by large grain- and meat-producing haciendas, placed increasing demands on the peasant sector for labor, and effectively occupied ever greater amounts of land. In addition to an overall decline in land resources in the village peasant economy, however, wealth distribution within Indian pueblos became more skewed in the direction of some individuals, among them the village notables and those Indians linked with the superordinate white society. The increased economic chafing in individual pueblo communities produced intragroup tensions and a potential for open conflict that ill accorded with the cosmological assumptions underlying group identity, or with the functional prerequisites of the village as a corporate landholding entity.9 As both Eric Wolf and George Foster have pointed out, the closed corporate nature of such communities, their typically limited land resources, and the fact that effective control over productive resources inhered only in the status of community members, gave rise to social mechanisms that tended to redistribute wealth within the community through positive and negative checks.10 Where those mechanisms failed to work effectively, and where a growing internal differentiation threatened to rend the fabric of the community, one practicable alternative for the village as a whole was to displace its internal aggressions onto external objects. This venting or displacement achieved the primary goal of relieving internal social tensions and the secondary gain of reinforcing in-group solidarity through conflict with outsiders. In the case of late colonial Indian villages, ready objects for such displacement were to be found in non-Indian landowners, especially the owners of large haciendas. Engaging in legal and extralegal conflict over land with such outsiders was also pragmatic, since these landowners did, in fact, represent a real threat to village economic resources. Finally, conflict with outsiders tended to reinforce preexisting cleavages based on class and ethnicity, and ran easily in the already deep-cut channels of social prejudice.

Theoretical grounding for such a hypothesis is to be found in the sociological and anthropological study of social conflict, particularly of intra-group tensions. Social conflict has generally been defined as the struggle between two or more parties over values and claims to scarce status, power, and resources.11 Such struggle is seen by many theorists to be endemic and “normal” in human societies, and of course forms the central analytical strain in much social thought, including Marxism, Social Darwinism, and other schools. Within tightly knit social entities, such as the corporate, relatively closed landholding villages dealt with here, conflict is likely to be particularly intense and difficult of resolution. On the one hand, such groups tend to absorb the total personalities of their members and demand deep involvement, leading in turn to considerable hostility and ambivalence toward other group members. On the other hand, these social systems are unlikely to provide legitimate or institutionalized outlets for the expression of hostility, fearing the disruptive effects on the community as a whole.12 One workable means for the community to deal with such tensions before they eventuate in crippling open conflict is to deflect feelings of hostility onto substitute objects outside the group. This dynamic, widely recognized across the social and behavioral sciences (psychology, sociology, political science, and so forth) as displacement, is seen to be at the root of such diverse human phenomena as dreaming and ethnic prejudice.13 For a situation to arise in which intragroup tensions are conducive to the displacement process, two preconditions must exist. First, the fundamental legitimacy of the uneven distribution of scarce status, goods, and so forth must be called into question for feelings of hostility to generate a real or potential conflict within the group. Second, there must be some change external to the system—a “stress”—which significantly alters the material conditions and normative assumptions within which the group functions. In the case addressed here, this stress would be the growth and increasing penetration of land-hungry commercialized agriculture in the Guadalajara region, and the limits it imposed on the peasant community’s ability to adapt to substantial internal demographic pressure. Under such conditions, strain is generated within the system—that is, a situation in which culturally induced predictions about normative behavior fail to meet reality. In the words of Beals and Siegel:

An organization is likely to present a unified front in the face of a stress if the stress occurs as a solvable perceived threat to all members of the organization. Where a stress is not easily perceived, where the problems posed are not easily solved, and where different members of the community receive positive and negative reinforcement from the stress, unity is far less likely.14

The applicability of social conflict theory to the case of late colonial Indian villages in the Guadalajara region depends upon how tightly knit those communities were and how strong the “strain” factors came to be within them. In general, the observed and inferred behaviors of Indian peasant communities in the area conform reasonably well to the model of the closed corporate peasant community in Mesoamerica developed by Wolf some years ago.15 A brief inventory of their major social characteristics will help to provide a framework upon which to hang the theoretical discussion of conflict processes. Such communities tended toward a high degree of social insularity—that is, they prohibited the entry of outsiders and sought to limit membership through ascriptive rides of birth. Along with this went a tendency to endogamy, and the localocentric mental attitudes (campanilismo) often noted of similar communities the world over. Communal control of land resources was marked, although private property in land did exist along with it. Organized religious expression was public and communal, and tied into a prestige economy whose object was to convert economic wealth into local social status. Attitudes against the accumulation of substantial individual wealth were strong, and tended to push in the direction of an egalitarian norm and the destruction of economic surpluses. A cultural correlate of this social structure, and of the low degree of elasticity in peasant economic production, has been elaborated by Foster in his idea of the “Image of Limited Good.”16 According to this formulation, peasant members of closed corporate communities act as though they perceived the universe as a zero-sum game in which all desirable commodities—land, wealth, health, love and friendship, honor, respect, status—are seen to exist “in finite quantity and are always in short supply, as far as the peasant is concerned.”17 A mental representation of the world such as Foster proposes would naturally classify the accumulation of wealth and related social differentiation within the community as threatening not only to individuals but to the group as a whole, and would seek some means to neutralize it. One such means would be to ignore the intractable problem, in a sense, by projecting the aggression inherent in such threatening behavior onto outsiders, thus achieving by a kind of psycho-social sleight of hand what the redistributive mechanisms and the impaired normative consensus within the community failed to achieve.

My aim has been to present a fairly elaborate hypothesis, which is not inconsistent with certain lines of evidence and which, if correct, helps to explain certain things about late colonial society in Mexico and perhaps elsewhere in Latin America as well. My analysis rests on the well-worn notion that human social behaviors have latent as well as manifest functions—that is, social consequences that may not be anticipated or perceived by the actors in a given situation, and that may not consciously motivate their actions, but that are nonetheless important. In the words of sociologist Joseph Himes,

The latent functions of conflict can be recognized and investigated only after the fact. They have no prior existence in the form of aims, goals, or plans that can direct the observer in his search. They must be sorted out from among the residue of struggle.18

To link recorded behaviors to their latent functions without the explicit assent of the historical actors is problematical, but necessary. The purpose of a hypothesis, in one sense, is to join truncated lines of evidence in a kind of non-Euclidean leap of faith.

The Region: Growth and Change

Guadalajara, along with a number of other Mexican provincial capitals, enjoyed considerable growth and prosperity during the Bourbon century. As early as 1793 it ranked fourth in size among the cities of New Spain, after the viceregal capital, Puebla, and Guanajuato.19 As the capital of Nueva Galicia, a major administrative division of sprawling New Spain, the city experienced a major population increase during the eighteenth century. From a relatively small, dusty town of about 5,000 in 1700, Guadalajara grew to about 12,000 at mid-century, to some 30,000 in 1793, and 40,000 in 1820.20 The engine of the city’s development was primarily trade, since it served as the commercial emporium for much of western and northwestern Mexico, deriving considerable benefit from the Far East trade through Acapulco, as well. Guadalajara also acted as a banker, administrative center, and supplier of manufactured goods to the hinterland that fell directly under its influence. This area of the direct economic dominance of the city constituted what is here called the Guadalajara region, embracing about 20,000 square kilometers stretching from Lake Chapala in the south to San Cristóbal de la Barranca in the north, and from the Altos of Jalisco in the east to Ameca in the west. During the eighteenth century, relative regional population growth as a whole was roughly equivalent to that of the city, increasing eight or ten times over by 1800. The total regional population, including the city itself, was well over 200,000, by the end of the century.21 As Guadalajara’s population increased, growing by 50 percent in the two decades preceding the outbreak of the independence movement alone, its importance as a regional market and consumer of foodstuffs and raw materials also increased, inducing significant changes in the economic and social structure of the city’s hinterland.

The ever-growing demand of the urban population for grain and meat was met primarily through the expansion of estate agriculture. The thriving commerce of the region and the mining economy, in conjunction with the church, provided investment capital for the construction of hacienda buildings, storage facilities, irrigation canals and dams, and the recruitment of large labor forces. The traditional regional economy, based on extensive livestock production oriented toward extraregional markets, was transformed during the eighteenth century into a more labor- and capital-intensive mixed farming regimen stressing internal markets. The area of cultivation, and particularly of irrigated cereal lands, expanded dramatically after mid-century, and livestock herds shrank or were displaced from more favored arable lands. Changes in production and land-use patterns, together with the growing market, underwrote a substantial rise in the profitability of hacienda agriculture, reflected in the increasing value of rural estates and ownership stability. Conspicuously absent from this development, however, was any major technological innovation in agriculture or stock-raising, so that productivity remained low despite an absolute rise in the level of production.

Under the impact of these changes, land, which in the older, extensive livestock economy had been of little value, became in the latter part of the eighteenth century an increasingly valuable production factor. At the same time, about half the regional population, or some 100,000 people, were Indians living on rural estates, in country towns, and in the city itself, but primarily in communal landholding villages and hamlets. In the conditions of an aggressively expansionist commercial agriculture, therefore, a fierce competition over land resources grew up between estate and peasant agricultural sectors. Circumstances generally worked to the favor of the commercial sector, however, since the growth of rural population and the institutional structure of land ownership kept the peasant sector, for the most part, from expanding the area under its control.

A particularly telling illustration of the way Indian landholding villages were liable to be scissored between population growth on the one side and the demands of commercialized agriculture on the other, is the case of the pueblo of Tizapán el Bajo (or Tizapanito, as it was genet ally known), lying between Acatlán and Cocula to the west of Lake Chapala. Through a series of protracted and bitter legal suits against powerful neighboring hacendados, the village sought unsuccessfully to gain control of lands that it claimed had been granted to it by viceregal merced at the beginning of the seventeenth century. At mid-century, if not earlier, the 1,000 or more villagers had scarcely enough land to meet their farming needs. By 1800 the villagers themselves stated:

Now we have not even a small piece [palmo] of unsown land to use, because of the large number of villagers and the great scarcity of land, since our powerful neighbors have callously destroyed us with repeated suits and have encroached on our lands as far as they want.22

In 1819 the population of the village had grown to more than 1,700 souls, but it still had the same land base as seventy years earlier. One need not take the claims of Indian villagers at face value to find in the records of late colonial litigation overwhelming evidence of land shortages and population pressure in the region as a whole, and particularly to the south and west of the city.23 The problem, of course, was not only village population growth, but also that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries much land had been legally preempted by non-Indian landowners, especially large estates.

Per capita land resources in the Indian peasant economy therefore shrank. Indians kept more of their farming surpluses for their own domestic use than previously, and to some extent withdrew from the urban market, where they had occupied a strong position as late as the middle of the century. Seeking relief from unemployment and underemployment, Indians reentered the market as sellers of labor or labor-intensive craft products. Interstitial, labor-intensive economic activities—wood-collecting, charcoal-burning, brick-making, pottery-making, and the like—while they relied in the main upon large inputs of labor, also required access to land resources, often marginal in nature and unsuited for cultivation. The same lands were vital for the commercial sector for some of the same reasons, and additionally for rough pasture. The late colonial competition for land, therefore, often involved not prime arable areas, but marginal ones.

The clash between the commercial and peasant agricultural sectors assumed a variety of forms, most of which can be traced in late colonial records of litigation over land titles. These included conflicting claims between Indian villages and their hacienda neighbors over putatively untitled parcels of land, the illegal invasion of estate lands by Indian peasants, squatting, and the incursion onto communally held Indian village lands by haciendas. A particularly interesting form of effective expropriation, reminiscent of parallel economic changes in Europe, was the enclosure of formerly open lands by estate owners or the extinction of certain prescriptive rights of common usage.

Three general points may be made about judicial conflicts over land ownership in the Guadalajara region during the eighteenth century.24 First, the frequency of litigation increased markedly after about 1750, and this cannot reasonably be attributed to changes in the coverage of available documentation. The generally held impression that Indians in particular were innately litigious seems to have become more widespread, or at least more widely acknowledged, from that time. Powers of attorney given to Spanish lawyers by Indian communities to act in their behalf proliferated after mid-century, and villages drew large sums from their areas de comunidad (“community treasuries”) to pay the rising legal costs associated with land suits.25 While contemporary Spanish officials might ascribe Indian litigiousness to imbecilidad or rusticidad, suits by Indian pueblos very often issued in favor of communities against private landowners.26

Second, late colonial conflicts over land were marked by a bitterness and an almost ritualized violence seldom noted in earlier disputes. In one case in 1818, for example, a hacienda owner engaged in a conflict with a neighboring village made a number of raids on the village accompanied by his armed retainers, not only imprisoning some of the hapless Indians in the hacienda’s granary buildings, but also burning many homes and stealing the images of the saints out of the church. This suggests a desire literally to annihilate the village physically, to deny its very existence by depriving it of the most important symbols of community identity, its holy images.27 If the 1818 case was somewhat extreme, nonetheless, physical intimidation, name-calling, rock-throwing, beatings on country roads, and the violent destruction of property all came to be regarded as commonplace in late-colonial conflicts over land. Nor did such violence characterize conflicts between Indian villages and haciendas alone, but was often seen (as our hypothesis would predict) among peasant villages, as well.28 Whether the frequency and intensity of such violence actually increased as the eighteenth century went on is almost impossible to determine, but one has the impression that it did since the circumstances that gave rise to it became ever more common.

Third, the same forces that impelled villages and haciendas to battle over land—population growth and the development of commercial agriculture—lay behind similar competition within the indigenous community. In the second half of the eighteenth century, for example, a number of Indian villages in the districts of Tala and Tlajomulco, among them San Agustín, Santa Ana Tepetitlán, San Sebastianite, and Santa María, engaged in a protracted, tangled suit regarding access to rough grazing lands (montes). Several of the villages depended almost entirely for their cash income on the collection of wood and the making of chai coal, so that access to these lands was vital to them. The terrain in question was extremely rough and virtually useless for agricultural purposes.29 The struggle over economic resources could be complicated considerably if the issue of independent pueblo versus barrio status was injected into the dispute, as often happened.30 This tendency toward intraethnic struggle on the village level echoes the opportunism of individual Indians within their own communities. It points as well to the replacement of loyalties to tribe, lineage, or state by those to the village, the atomization of Indian society, and its reconstruction along lines of territoriality.31 Insofar as conflict over land resources was concerned, the eighteenth century was a Hobbesian world in which the war of all against all was played out not only in the market place, but also on country roads and in the colonial courts.32

The Village: Internal Differentiation

If the converging trends of population pressure and expanding commercial agriculture constituted one set of forces working to increase conflict over land resources, a second, less generally recognized set of forces working toward the same effect was the growing social and economic differentiation within village communities. The convergence of these developments has been aptly described by Eric Wolf in the following terms:

The life risks of a peasantry are raised by any threat to its basic source of livelihood, the land, and to the produce which is raised on that land. These threats come both from within and without the community. Natural population growth within the community would serve to decrease the amount of land available to members of the community, as would unrestricted purchase and hoarding of land by individual community members.33

The tendency toward concentration of wealth within Indian society, particularly of landed wealth, was an old one, though difficult to document with precision. Nor was such concentration in the countryside unique to the Indian sector; it appeared in non-Indian towns as well.34 The increasing monetarization of the regional economy during the eighteenth century created new opportunities for the acquisition of wealth within Indian communities, both among Indian peasants in general, and among members of village elite groups in particular. The main point is the contradiction between an increasing degree of social and economic differentiation within village society and the cosmological assumptions—cultural notions about wealth, equality, and group identity—underlying the integration and continuity of that society.35

The wealth of Indian villagers, whether commoners or elite-group members, was based for the most part on land and depended to a large degree upon their ability to acquire land through private purchase.35 Though most such purchases, because of their small size, would be unlikely to show up in contemporary documentation, the repeated viceregal prohibitions of them are strong presumptive evidence of their existence.37 As the regional economy developed during the eighteenth century, the amount of buying and selling of land probably increased, and along with it the amount of credit and debt at all levels of rural society, bringing more possibilities for social and economic mobility, both upward and downward. The transitory nature of such accumulation under the dual pressures of population growth and inheritance patterns does not belie its importance in introducing the element of inequality into village life.

An example of a village fortune is that of Francisco Miguel, a tributary Indian of the pueblo of Santa Cruz, in the district of Tlajomulco, near Guadalajara, who died in 1743, leaving a detailed testament. According to his will, Miguel was without personal capital at the time of his marriage to a local mestizo woman, and without any dowry from his wife, hut he managed to build up a substantial personal estate mostly through his own labors. He owned eighteen separate parcels of land planted in maize and wheat, eleven of which had been purchased from local Indians, and the remaining seven inherited or held by right of his citizenship in the village. His large number of livestock included more than a hundred horses, ten cattle, five yoke of oxen, and a number of pigs. Other property included agricultural implements, two small houses, and a quantity of small debts payable to him. The debts may explain the manner in which he built up his holdings, since he had obtained one of the houses and at least one of the parcels of land in payment of debts from local people. At Miguel’s death, his fortune was dissipated by its division between his widow and their eleven living children.38 Francisco Miguel’s fortune, if larger than most, was in no way atypical in its composition. Other testaments from the same area and time confirm that Indian wealth, noble and non-noble, was made up of land, houses, livestock, and debts. Such was the case of Antonio Almao, another Indian commoner of Tlajomulco, who died in 1746. He left among his other possessions at least five small plots of land, which he had purchased (one planted in wheat), a house and an empty house lot (solar), more than fifty head of horses and cattle, and various small debts owing by and to him.39 The same patterns of wealth, both in its composition, and its acquisition and dispersion, prevailed at the end of the eighteenth century.40

What proportion of the village population in the region attained the level of wealth of Francisco Miguel or Antonio Almao is impossible to say, but at a guess it could hardly have been more than 5 percent or so. For purposes of illustration, one might draw the analogy between such individuals and the kulaks of prerevolutionary Russia. By contrast, most peasant families probably farmed only one or two small parcels of land, and many did not even own a yoke of oxen for their plowing, but had to rent from their more prosperous neighbors.41 The testaments of non-Indian rancheros suggest the same skewed distribution of property within the group. There seems almost to have been some sort of natural ceiling above which peasant wealth was seldom able to rise.12 The impression emerges strongly from contemporary documentation that, despite a wide variation in wealth, property ownership in country districts approximated a kind of bimodal distribution, with a few wealthy individuals at one end and the majority of the farming population at the other.43 Neither was the uneven distribution of wealth likely to change in those rural industries and interstitial activities that occupied large segments of the country population for much of the year. Around mid-century, for example, the thriving ceramics manufacture in the villages of Tonalá and Tlaquepaque, although organized lor production on a household basis, was effectively dominated in its marketing aspects by a few individuals of means (de caudal). Four men in Tonalá (Juan Martín, Juan Matheo, Diego Ibañes, and Luis Caras) habitually bought up the pottery at low prices and resold it to passing muleteers (arrieros) at high prices, making substantial profits along the way and thus concentrating the income from a fairly widespread rural craft industry.44 The major point to be made, however, is not the absolute level of wealth accumulated, or its proportional weight within the overall village economy, but the very existence of such differentiation and its impact on the perceptions of peasant villagers.

The wealth of power-holders within Indian village society—the caciques, principales, and Indian alcaldes—consisted of much the same goods as that of ordinary Indian peasants: houses, livestock, credit, and land. Testaments from the pueblos of Analco and Tlajornulco demonstrate the similarity between the wealth of Indian nobles and commoners throughout the century.45 José Pantaleon de Lara, for example, an Indian principal of Analco, died in 1789, with his wife of thirty years his only heir. His property included a substantial house with a shop (tienda), which he operated himself, about fifty head of livestock, a maize plot of some thirty-five acres, ten cargas of threshed wheat, and various personal effects.46 Francisco Cortés de Velasco (his name bore the honorific don in his testament), a cacique of Tlajomulco, upon his death in 1753 left a small retail establishment and four houses in the pueblo.47 When he died in 1780, Juan Gaspar, alcalde de primer voto in the same village, mainly left scattered agricultural plots and livestock to be inherited by his three daughters.48 Antonio Lorenzo, a principal of Tlajomulco, at his death in 1789 left a somewhat more diversified fortune. He had worked as an arriero and small merchant in the pueblo. He left three houses in town, nearly a hundred head of livestock (mostly cattle and oxen), about forty acres of land planted in maize and wheat, and a miscellany of personal goods.49

Ultimately, the wealth of Indian village elites was distinguished less by its nature than by the means of its acquisition. In addition to the accumulation of wealth through inheritance, purchase, or the extension of credit, the village cacique, principal, or alcalde might use the power of his office or the prestige of his social position to advantage. The outright expropriation of common lands by caciques for their private use was a common enough practice, for example.50 A by no means unusual case of this occurred in the pueblo of Mesquitán, near Guadalajara, in 1800. A village cacique, who had entered the priesthood, exerted his strong influence on the Indian alcalde to divest three of the cacique’s cousins of a small inheritance of land, which the cacique then redistributed among his clients in Mesquitán.51 In addition to such expropriation of village resources, village power-holders could manipulate them in a more indirect manner for their own benefit. They could favor their kin or develop a political clientele within the pueblo by granting land allotments or using the income from village lands rented to outsiders. Those commoners who objected to such cynical power-broking might be silenced by threat of punishment.52 Abuses were compounded when village notables worked in collusion with powerful outsiders, such as white officials, priests, or land-owners, to ensure the favored access of such people to village land resources. Local magistrates or priests, often themselves landowners, struck deals with pueblo officials on occasion or managed to impose their own creatures in village political posts.

How widely acknowledged was such malfeasance within village communities, and to what degree was resentment about it publicly manifested? This is a difficult question to answer, particularly with regard to village Indian elites. Certainly the Indian commoners of Tlajomulco did not hesitate to launch a complaint in 1805 against the pueblo officials, parish priest, and teniente of the district for allegedly renting out a large tract of village lands to outsiders in the face of a clear need for the same land by the villagers themselves.53 Internal struggles did erupt over such dealings, and factions might form over the issue of village land distribution, often polarizing around groups of notables or commoners.54 In any case, even though evidence on this point is not abundant, one has the distinct impression from contemporary sources that such strains within the village polity did exist, that they were explicitly and publicly acknowledged, and that they often focused on the disposition of land resources.

Even where land or the disposition of village resources were not explicitly at issue, however, and where the displacement mechanism did not come into play, instances of intracommunity conflict can reveal much about the dynamics of village life. A particularly piquant example of the relationship of a pueblo notable to non-Indian outsiders, and of the strain such a relationship might create in the cultural fabric of the community, is the case of Miguel Santa Ana Silva, principal of the pueblo of San Pedro Tlaquepaque, in the district of Tonalá near Guadalajara. In the early morning hours of April 24, 1815, Silva, alcalde of the pueblo during the previous year, was called to the municipal offices (casas reales) by the two current alcaldes, and by their order was tied to a post, whipped severely, and then briefly imprisoned. He lodged a complaint with the subdelegado of Tonalá, alleging that the punishment had been completely without justification, and was nothing more than revenge exacted by the current alcaldes for personal motives. Indeed, several witnesses to the events attested to the vindictive utterances made by the Indian officials during the whipping, such as “by the yardstick one uses is he himself measured” (“en la vara que uno mide es medido”). On their side, the two alcaldes (one of whom was a relative of Silva’s) adduced a number of ostensible reasons for disciplining the former official. First, on the previous evening he had created a public disturbance by forcing his way into one of their homes, while drunk, on the pretext of collecting contributions for the arca de comunidad, for which he was still responsible.55 Second, there had been complaints about him (unspecified in nature, but presumably arising from his behavior while in office the previous year) from the pueblo in general. And third, when questioned on these charges at the casas reales, he had answered with haughtiness (altanería) toward the al caldes. The two officials also claimed by way of a post hoc exculpation that Silva, while being whipped, had called them “indios alcaldes tontos” and “insurgentes.” The testimony of a number of townspeople was divided as to whether Silva had been a good or bad alcalde. But the victim himself, his persecutors, and several other people highlighted the underlying reason for his general unpopularity in the village, which was that he had always identified more with the whites (gente de razón) in the district than with the Indians. He was well thought of by the local subdelegado, parish priest, and other ecclesiastics, while, according to his own statements, most Indians in the village regarded him with “odio y aborrecimiento” because of his inclination to deal with the whites. One witness even went so far as to call him a “criatura” of the local white power structure.56

What lay behind the deterioration of Silva’s relations with his neighbors and his adherence to non-Indian ways? Had he grown rich himself through his alliance with outsiders, or provided access to power or resources in the community? The surviving documentation does not answer these questions. Nor does what we know of the case neatly conform to the model of conflict and solidarity developed here. We do know that Tonalá and its subordinate towns were hard-pressed at the end of the eighteenth century by population pressure and voracious commercial agriculture, which challenged them for control over land resources. In fact, Tonalá and its neighboring villages turned to labor-intensive craft industries and urban wage labor to supplement increasingly inadequate land resources. Why did open conflict break out in this instance within the community? Was Silva already so marginalized socially that some kind of consensus developed within the community which allowed his ostracism without posing a threat to the social integrity of the village? Or had San Pedro’s proximity to Guadalajara already fatally compromised the closed corporate nature of its structure, so that the defensive strategy of displacement was no longer efficacious? Whatever the answer to these questions, the case of Silva and San Pedro illustrates the kind of strains to which such communities might be subjected.

If the survival of Indian landholding villages was threatened from without by commercial agriculture, and from within by population growth and socioeconomic differentiation, it was also vulnerable to the competition of both non-Indian towns and haciendas as foci of attraction for peasant villagers. The city of Guadalajara particularly, with its urban amenities and the comparative freedom it offered to many peasants from the chafing constraints of village life, attracted a constant stream of immigrants from the countryside. Much of the city’s notable growth during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was underwritten by such immigration, with the districts closest to the city contributing the largest numbers of immigrants. By 1822, a third of Guadalajara’s inhabitants had been born outside the city.57

On the other hand, rural estates could develop as surrogate communities that offered advantages to their permanent residents, among them regular access to credit, goods, and money wages, a more-or-less cohesive communal life, and the protection of the owner as patriarch of an extended pseudo-family. This obviously tended to weaken the traditional Indian social structure and encouraged the secularization of Indian society. Life outside the village, if it undermined the productive autonomy of Indian peasants, also brought with it freedom from some potentially irksome or even ruinous community obligations, such as the payment of tribute or the assumption of community office. This would have been the case especially where land resources were becoming increasingly scarce, and where the gains of remaining within the formal community structure were outweighed by the losses rendered up in surpluses or services. Village elites that saw their constituencies slipping away in this manner did not relinquish control without a battle. In 1794, for example, the Indian alcalde of the pueblo of Buenavista, in the jurisdiction of Lagos, plaintively informed the Audiencia of Guadalajara that village Indians living and working on local haciendas refused to honor the traditional claims of the pueblo. They refused to acknowledge the authority of the alcalde, to contribute toward fiesta expenses, to perform labor on the church or the casas de comunidad, or to accept pueblo offices.58

An even more circumstantial description of the conflict between traditional village life and hacienda settlements, but with the addition of a third competing element—the church—is that concerning the pueblo of San Martín de la Cal, near Cocula, in 1803. The Indians of San Martín petitioned the Audiencia of Guadalajara in that year that they he relieved of their traditional obligation for labor service to the Franciscan monastery of Cocula, on the grounds that because of their dispersed living pattern, the work was a great nuisance. The traditional duties of the Indians of San Martín and of Cocula to the Franciscan fathers had included the supply of eight permanent sirvientes; peons on an occasional basis for labor on the monastery; the running of a mail service to Guadalajara and other local towns; a weekly supply of straw, firewood, chicken, eggs, and fish for the monastery; and the formation of the yearly parish census (padrón) at the Indians’ own cost.

The Franciscans’ counter-complaint was that the Indians failed to show up for work, especially, and that when they did, they did not follow instructions, they were disrespectful, they worked with “mala gana,” and they demanded wages, which they had never previously received. In a general way, the padres ascribed this recalcitrance to the fact that a great many of the Indians of the two towns lived as “continuos sirvientes” on the haciendas and ranchos of the district or worked as arrieros for the large merchant community of Cocula. Not only were the Indians refusing to perform their traditional labor service; they were not attending mass and they were hiding their dead so as to avoid paying burial fees to the Franciscan fathers. A request by the Franciscans to the local subdelegado that the Indians be forced to reside in their pueblos proved ineffective. The padres also maintained that the Indians were guilty of lack of religious observance, robberies, and thefts (“infidelidades, robos y latrocinios”), which were impossible to bring to justice because of the dispersed living pattern and the fact that they protected each other from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The local teniente added that many Indians “are no longer pure, but mixed with non-Indians” (“ya no lo son puros, sino es [sic] mixtos con las demás gentes de razón”), and that they were attempting to escape their tributary classification by paying various fees as Spaniards and other castas. Finally, the same official stated that many inhabitants drifted out of the area because of a lack of employment (“por no encontrar donde trabajar en esta jurisdicción”), which suggests overpopulation.59 Cases such as this indicate a certain attenuation of the traditional bonds of village life, and their replacement in some areas by those of hacienda communities. Population pressure in the countryside and the resulting scarcity of land allotments within the traditional village structure may then be seen as a negative influence, and the benefits of the peon-hacienda symbiosis as positive, in accounting for the strong growth of permanent estate labor forces during the eighteenth century.

Conflict and Solidarity

Under attack, as it were, from all sides, the Indian landholding village nonetheless managed substantially to maintain its identity as a social and economic entity through the end of the colonial period, through the nineteenth century, and in many instances into the twentieth century. It appears that a major consideration in this survival and in the adjustment to a changing social and economic environment was the integrating function of conflict with the outside world itself, most prominently over land ownership, whether in the colonial courts or in less formal confrontations.60 Other countervailing forces working against the dissolution of the land-holding village also came into play, such as the bonds of kinship, love of the natal land, and the intervention of the Spanish state. Given the assumptions we have already identified, the conflict model explains a variety of social phenomena.

On the manifest level of behavior, it was simply pragmatic for villages to defend themselves as best they could against the aggressive expansionism of the commercial agricultural sector, and to attempt to maximize their own access to land resources, even in competition with other villages. This became ever more critical as rural population grew and per capita availability of land declined. Even though private ownership of land within Indian society was widespread by the eighteenth century, the access of village-dwellers to common and allotment lands, and their prescriptive rights to the limited use of privately owned lands, still constituted the keystones of communal economic life. The farther one stood down the village economic scale, probably, the more important such traditional privileges became. Furthermore, it seems clear that autonomy, in the sense of control over productive resources, was the preferred condition of the Indian peasantry, and even where it was compromised by the encroachment of external forces, the greater the degree of autonomy, the better, as far as the peasant was concerned. Defense of the land, then, by any means, ranging from the hurling of epithets and stones to the initiation of costly and protracted litigation, was one of the most important mechanisms in ensuring that the village-dwelling Indian did not descend in condition from peasant to rural proletarian. Considering the built-in biases in favor of the rich, the powerful, and the white, colonial courts were used with surprising effectiveness by Indian communities in preserving their land bases.

Below the manifest level of function, the evidence suggests that conflict over land between Indian and non-Indian served to express in a formal, institutionalized manner the endemic racial and social tensions that existed in the countryside.61 Such a sublimation of hostility into socially tolerated channels did not, of course, preclude other more antisocial expressions or ad hoc incidents of violence.62 Equally important to the institutionalized expression of the tensions themselves (in Coser’s terminology, unrealistic conflict), however, was the reinforcement of village solidarity that must have been the by-product of such expressions.63 By assuming a collectively aggressive stance toward powerful outsiders, or even against other villages, the community automatically defined its own bounds and temporarily, at least, plugged the actual gaps in the ideal but all-too-permeable wall of its identity.

This brings us to the third function of conflict for village survival, also latent, but having more to do with the internal structure of communal life than with exogenous forces. Put simply, conflict over land with outsiders served the purpose of deflecting social tensions generated within village society by an increasing tendency toward economic differentiation. The premise here, as we have seen, is that such differentiation compromised the ideally egalitarian, organic nature of the village as a social system and needed somehow to be neutralized for some kind of equilibrium to be preserved.64 Collective anger and frustration within the village were therefore directed toward the outside world, for the most part, instead of toward more proximate social objects, and the behavior that was perceived as undermining the traditional equilibrium was imputed to outsiders instead of to the villagers themselves.65 Such an interpretation does not minimize the danger of the actual external threat, of course, but simply seeks to provide a second etiology for the same behavior. In a displaced conflict of this sort, strains attendant upon contradictions within the village social structure would be remedied, but not the material conditions themselves. Such a resolution would allow the continued existence of the community on the basis of the same cosmological assumptions as before, despite observed reality. It is not necessary to assume for the validity of the hypothesis that this behavior was perfectly adaptive— that is, that it could completely eliminate all signs of intravillage conflict. In the case of the complaint initiated by the villagers of Tlajomulco in 1805, for example, it is only required to admit the possibility that intracommunity conflict would have been sharper in the absence of an external theater for the acting out of aggressions.

We have noted above that socioeconomic differentiation within Indian villages in the Guadalajara region was probably accelerating and more perceptible than previously toward the end of the colonial period.66 Not only was such a general process at work within village society, but also a particular tendency for village elites to engage in such anomic behavior, which because of their visible position would have been doubly threatening to the fabric of village life. Village power-holders themselves, however, collaborated in the expression of the collective unconscious, which directed intravillage tensions toward the outside world. In so doing they reaped considerable rewards, and it is interesting to speculate a bit upon the nature of those rewards. Often more oriented in their thinking and aspirations toward the superordinate groups beyond the narrow horizons of the pueblo, village elites nevertheless must have been aware that their efforts at social climbing were predicated on their access to prestige, power, and wealth at the village level. What is being suggested here is that members of the village elite often attempted to transmute the old coin of local status and authority into the new coin of wealth and status within superordinate white society. I11 the process of achieving this, they of course undermined their own credibility and legitimacy to some extent. A countervailing strategy was to direct the frustration of the village community outward. A convenient pretext for such deflection—though real enough in its own terms—was the conflict with outsiders over land, its mechanism the initiation of litigation in the name of the village as a whole. The mass of the village-dwelling population, on its side, faced a dilemma: either stay within the village structure and be subject to exploitation by the local power-brokers, or leave the village and escape the exploitation, but at the same time lose the degree of independence that even such an imperfect environment offered. In either case, the bringing of conflict with nonvillagers into the public arena reinforced communal identity and served to shore up the eroding authority of village elites.

On the whole, most Indian peasants, where they could, seem to have opted for the latter course—that of continued membership in a landholding village. The major alternative, that of taking up permanent residence on a rural estate, did offer certain attractions, it is true. In any case, as population grew, an active choice was not vouchsafed for latecomers because of land scarcities in peasant villages. For those village-dwellers who managed to maintain their economic footing in the autonomous Indian communes, often in combination with rural wage labor or some other non-farming activity, a precarious life with a degree of autonomy was clearly preferable to descent into the ranks of the growing rural proletariat. Wracked as it was by such strains, the notable resilience of the communal landholding village was directly attributable to its adaptability to these conflicting goals. Village elites sought to preserve the village, and through it their power and their preferential access to goods and status, in order to enter the non-Indian society. This they might accomplish as priests, merchants and moneylenders, landowners, or the political creatures of powerful outsiders. The mass of the village peasants sought to preserve it in order to resist their proletarianization. Thus, both groups used the village for opposite purposes: the one for social mobility, the other for social immobility. Eric Wolf makes the case that such defensive strategies on the part of peasants may slow the process of community dissolution, but not stop it.

This is not to say that their defensive functions are ultimately adequate to the challenge. The disappearance of closed corporate peasant communities where they have existed in the past, and the lessening number of surviving communities of this type, testify to the proposition that in the long run they are incapable of preventing change. Internal population surpluses can he pushed off into daughter villages only as long as new land is available. Retained within the boundaries of the community, they exercise ever-increasing pressure on its capacity to serve the interests of its members.67

The major point to be grasped is that groups with conflicting ends availed themselves of the same means, the existence of the communal landholding village. Their ultimate lack of success was not the result of any inappropriateness in their respective strategies, but of changes afoot in the society as a whole that neither could hope to control.


Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, with Explanatory Notes (New York, 1964), p. 124; Marx’s phrase is a vivid one and conveys much of the sense of post-Marxian thought, as well. This view seems to be implied, for example, in John H. Rowe, “The Incas Under Spanish Colonial Institutions,” Hispanic American Historical Review (hereinafter, HAHR), 37 (Feb. 1957), 155-199; more recently in Fredrick B. Pike, Spanish America, 1900-1970: Tradition and Social Innovation (New York, 1973); and in some passages of Enrique Senio et al., México: Un pueblo en la historia, 4 vols. (Mexico City, 1981), vol. 1.


For examples of this more recent view of Latin American peasantries, see Arnold J. Bauer, “Rural Workers in Spanish America: Problems of Peonage and Oppression,” HAHR, 59 (Feb. 1979), 34-63; Kenneth Duncan and Ian Rutledge, eds., with the collaboration of Colin Harding, Land and Labour in Latin America: Essays in the Development of Agrarian Capitalism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge, 1977); and David Goodman and Michael Redclift, From Peasant to Proletarian: Capitalist Development and Agrarian Transitions (New York, 1982), and the large interdisciplinary literature reviewed therein.


The phrase “social climbing” is borrowed from Karen Spalding, particularly from “Social Climbers: Changing Patterns of Mobility among the Indians of Colonial Peru,” HAHR, 50 (Nov. 1970), 645-664; see also her interesting collection of essays, De indio a campesino: Cambios en la estructura social del Perú colonial (Lima, 1974). Spalding is not alone in her recognition of this important phenomenon. For Peru, Wachtel had dealt with the same themes; and for Mexico, Eric Wolf, Charles Gibson, and William Taylor, among others, have made similar findings.


Nathan Wachtel, The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Conquest of Peru Through Indian Eyes, translated by Ben and Siân Reynolds (New York, 1977), pp. 85fr.


For a recent discussion of this resilience, see William B. Taylor, Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford, 1979), pp. 152-170.


See, particularly, Eric R. Wolf, “Closed Corporate Peasant Communities in Mesoamerica and Central Java,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 13 (Spring 1957), 1-18; “Aspects of Group Relations in a Complex Society,” in Teodor Shanin, ed., Peasants and Peasant Societies: Selected Readings (Harmondsworth, 1971), 50-68; George M. Foster, “Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good,” in Jack M. Potter, May N. Díaz, and George M. Foster, eds., Peasant Society: A Reader (Boston, 1967), 300-323; and Marvin Harris, Patterns of Race in the Americas (New York, 1964). We are obviously dealing here with the “closed corporate peasant community” as an ideal type, and not as the norm or average. In fact, the social characteristics of peasant communities would range along a continuum from more open to more closed. The more open such a community—the more socially permeable its group boundaries and heterogeneous its population—the less well the model elaborated in the following pages would fit its particular experience.


Among the work of sociologists consulted, that of Lewis Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict (Glencoe, Ill., 1956), is still central to the revived interest in social conflict theory; it is an exegesis and modification, in its turn, of the famous essay by Georg Simmel, Conflict, translated by Kurt H. Wolff (Glencoe, Ill., 1955), written around the turn of the century; see also Coser, Continuities in the Study of Social Conflict (New York, 1967), and Joseph S. Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management (Athens, Ga., 1980), who relies heavily on Coser but provides a far-ranging synthesis and review of work in the field of social conflict theory. Among anthropologists, the work of Max Gluckman, Custom and Conflict in Africa (Oxford, 1966) is very suggestive; and that of Alan R. Beals and Bernard J. Siegel, Divisiveness and Social Conflict: An Anthropological Approach (Stanford, 1966), essential to the present study. For pithy short essays on the psychological, political, sociological, and anthropological aspects of conflict, see the entries by Edward J. Murray, Robert C. North, Lewis A. Coser, and Laura Nader, respectively, in David L. Sills, ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, s. v. “conflict” (New York, 1968), III, 220-242.


For a detailed treatment of all these trends in the Guadalajara region, see Eric Van Young, Hacienda and Market in Eighteenth-Century Mexico: The Rural Economy of the Guadalajara Region, 1675-1820 (Berkeley, 1981).


The position adopted in this essay is that such intragroup tension and conflict was dysfunctional for the village community as a social system; that is, that it reduced group solidarity and was conducive to the weakening or dissolution of the system. The notion of dysfunctionality depends, of course, on the kind of social unit or activity one is studying. Coser has made the point, in a trenchant critique of the treatment of social conflict in the sociology of Talcott Parsons and others, that functionalists in this context tend to use “dysfunctional” as a kind of euphemism for “bad,” in the sense that social conflict, as a disequili-brating force, is seen to be destructive of any social system. The contribution of Coser, and of Simmel before him, was to point to a wide range of latent functions of conflict, over and above its potentially destructive force, which actually might increase intragroup or societal cohesion, or provide other social benefits. Furthermore, Coser maintains that the study of conflict and equilibrium are not contradictory, but complementary, and should both find a place under the rubric of “normal” sociology; see Coser, Continuities in the Study of Social Conflict, p. 10; The Functions of Social Conflict, esp. chap. 1; and International Encyclopedia, III, 232–233; see also Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management, chap. 1, and Nader, International Encyclopedia, III, 237. In the present context, when considered from the viewpoint of any given community member, from that of outside groups, or from that of colonial Mexican society as a whole, intravillage tension and conflict may have been functional or beneficial; this would not be incompatible with the view developed here regarding their dysfunctionality for the village community per se.


Wolf, “Closed Corporate Peasant Communities,” pp. 12-14; Foster, “Peasant Society,” passim. Wolf (pp. 2, 10) also notes the role of the state in encouraging village autonomy and, ipso facto, the social norm of “shared poverty.” By positive check, I mean the redistribution of wealth through the religious cargo system, for example. By negative check I mean the social opprobrium attendant upon violating group norms regarding the excessive accumulation of wealth, as well as the post hoc rationalization or neutralization of such excess.


Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict, p. 8, and International Encyclopedia, III, 232. Much of the discussion in this paragraph is based on Coser, though many other writers agree with him on the fundamentals of conflict theory.


The central role of preexisting group structure in determining the nature and intensity of social conflict, and the employment of ideology and violence in conflict, is developed at length by Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict, pp. 152ff. For the function of plural, crisscrossing social relationships in moderating potentially conflictual situations, see Gluckman. Custom and Conflict in Africa, esp. chap. 1; and for the question in general, see Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management, passim.


Coser makes the important distinction (taken up by other writers) between "realistic and "unrealistic” conflict. The former uses the conflict itself as an instrument to resolve some preexisting problem, while the latter stresses not so much the rational or instrumental nature of the conflict, as its usefulness in reducing tensions caused by aggressive feelings. Displacement would fall within the category of "unrealistic” conflict, according to Coser’s analysis, because its major significance is as an affective expression or catharsis; see Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict, pp. 44ff. In the present case, however, the focusing of such aggressive feelings on non-Indian landowners would also have its "realistic” component.


Beals and Siegel, Divisiveness and Social Conflict, p. 114; see pp. 68ff, for their discussion of “stress” and “strain”; and see also Nader, International Encyclopedia, III, 238.


Wolf, “Closed Corporate Peasant Communities,” passim.


Foster, “Peasant Society,” passim.


Ibid., p. 304.


Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management, p. 129.


Alexander von Humboldt, Ensayo político sobre el Reino de la Nueva España, edited by Juan A. Ortega y Medina (Mexico City, 1966), p. 38: Archivo Histórico Municipal de Guadalajara (Guadalajara) (hereinafter AHMG), caja 15, 1793. For a more detailed discussion of the city’s growth during the colonial period, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, pp. 29-36.


Jean-Pierre Berthe, “Introduction à l’histoire de Guadalajara et de sa région," in Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut des Hautes Études de l’Amérique Latine, Recherche Coopérative no. 147, Villes et Régions en Amérique Latine, 2 vols. (Paris, 1970), I, 71; Sherburne F. Cook and Woodrow Borah, Essays in Population History: Mexico and the Caribbean, 3 vols. (Berkeley, 1974-80), I, 181; AHMG, cajas 15, 41, 48; Luís Páez Brotchie, Guadalajara, Jalisco, México; Su crecimiento, división y nomenclatura durante la época colonial, 1542-1821 (Guadalajara, 1951), p. 185.


For the basis of these figures, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, pp. 36-38. A major component of the demographic increase was accounted for by the recovery of the regional Indian population from its nadir in about 1650. The terms of the demographic equation had shifted substantially by the end of the century, however, by which time non-Indian ethnic groups were increasing relatively faster than the Indians; see Cook and Borah, Essays, I, 338-339.


Archivo de Instrumentos Públicos de Guadalajara (Guadalajara), Ramo de Tierras y Aguas (hereinafter, AIPG, Tierras), leg. 27, exp. 7; leg. 62, exps. 24 and 25.


For a detailed discussion, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, pp. 273-285, among similar cases mentioned there are those of the pueblos of Santa Cruz, Zacoalco, Jocotepec, Cocula, San José de Analco, and Tequila, documentation for all of which appears in AIPG, Tierras.


Not all conflicts over land came into the colonial court system: some were resolved extrajudicially, and some were never resolved at all.


E.g., AIPG, Protocolos de notarios públicos (hereinafter, AIPG), Berroa, various years; Tierras, leg. 5, exp. 8, and leg. 20, exp. 10, 1803.


AIPG, Tierras, leg. 5, exp. 9, 1807; AHMG, caja 13, 1791.


Biblioteca Pública del Estado (Guadalajara), Archivo Judicial de la Audiencia de la Nueva Galicia (hereinafter, BPE-AJA), 265:3:3615, 1818.


On the pervasiveness of physical violence in conflicts oser land, see the statement of the comisario in the suit between the two great haciendas of Cuisillos and Buenavista, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 25, exps. 16-18, 1760; for violence on the part of villagers toward non-Indians, see the cases of the pueblo of San Lucas vs. the hacienda of San Lucas. AIPG, Tierras, leg. 12, exp. 2. 1750-1772. and the pueblo ol Nestipac against the hacienda of Santa Lucía, BPE-AJA, 256:7:3443, 1810: and among Indian pueblos, see the instances of San José de Analco vs. San Andrés, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 30, exp. 8, 1788, and Jocotepec vs. San Cristóbal Zapotitlán, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 78. exps. 3-12. 1767.


BPE-AJA, 173:1:1931, 1776: AIPG. Tierras, leg. 20, exp. 8, 1790; leg. 21. exps. 3-4, 1745 and 1748; leg. 46, exp. 9, 1790. Other examples of intervillage conflict over land are Covala vs. Tonalá, AIPG, prot. Ayala, 1:156v, 1702; San Lucas vs. Cuyutlán, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 41. exp. 25, 1717; Cuvutlán vs. Tlajomulco. AIPG, prot. Maraver, 1: no page nos., 1736; Tonalá vs. Salatitán, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 5, exp. 7. 1737; Chapala vs. Tlayacapán, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 20, exp. 15, 1756; and Santa Cruz de las Huertas vs. Tlaquepaque, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 21, exp. 10, 1780.


E.g., barrio of Santa María vs. Poncitlán, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 27, exp. 12, 1802; pueblo of San Martín vs. Jocotepec, AIPG, Tierras, leg, 78, exps. 3-12, and leg. 33, exp. 13, 1750-1773; and see the interesting remarks by Charles Gibson, The Aztecs under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519-1810 (Stanford, 1964), pp. 50-57.


Gibson, The Aztecs under Spanish Rule, p. 36 and passim.


For a more detailed discussion of late colonial conflicts over land, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, chap. 14.


Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Communities,” p. 12.


In the important farming town of Cocula, to the west of Guadalajara, for example, cadastral surveys for the years around 1650 and 1800 indicate a substantially increased concentration of property ownership toward the latter date: AIPG, Tierras, leg. 51, exp. 1; see also the discussion of Cocula in Eric Van Young, “Rural Life in Eighteenth-Century Mexico: The Guadalajara Region, 1675-1820” (Ph.D. Diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1978), pp. 499 503.


The evidence that social and economic differentiation within Indian peasant villages was increasing is admittedly largely inferential, since the number of surviving wills and inventories is insufficient to allow systematic comparisons between the beginning and end of the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, other evidence regarding Indian withdrawal from the agricultural market, the increasing commercialization of the regional agrarian economy, rural population growth, and intravillage social conflict all point in the direction of increasing inequality.


Numerous other variables, of course, came into play in any given case: persona] talent and personality characteristics, kinship alliances, geographical considerations, the vagaries of the weather, and luck. And the discussion of Indian wealth is concerned mostly with private ownership of property, not with land allotments that came to individuals by virtue of their membership in communal landholding villages.


The Recopilación de Indias (Ley 27. título 1, libro 6) and subsequent viceregal decrees of 1778, 1780, and 1781 established strict conditions for the sale of privately owned Indian lands, though Viceroy Mayorga noted in 1781 that earlier regulations had been largely ignored. The reasons for royal concern with the practice were typically ambivalent. They arose, on the one hand, out of the traditionally paternalistic desire of the crown to protect the Indians, who were regarded as naturally rustic and vulnerable; and, on the other, from a desire to keep Indian tributes from declining as a result of peasant impoverishment; see AIPG, Tierras, leg. 41, exp. 20; Colección de acuerdos, órdenes y decretos sobre tierras, casas y solares de los indígenas. Bienes de sus comunidades, y fundos legales de los pueblos del estado de Jalisco, 6 vols. (Guadalajara, 1849-82), II, 287-289; and for a more detailed discussion of this topic, Van Young, “Rural Life in Eighteenth-Century Mexico,” pp. 584-585.


AIPG, Tlajomulco, vol. 2, no page nos., 1743.


Ibid., 1746.


E.g., wills of Maríano Cecilio Cuervo, 1793, and Ventura Canal, 1803, both Indian commoners of Tlajomulco, in AIPG, vol. 2, no page nos., 1793, and vol. 1, no page nos., 1803, respectively.


BPE-AJA, 228:3:2965: report by teniente of San Martín de la Cal, jurisdiction of Cocula, 1803.


See, for example, the thirty ranchero testaments from the districts of Zapotlanejo and Tlajomulco, spanning the period 1744–1808, in AIPG, Zapotlanejo and Tlamojulco; and for a more detailed discussion of ranchero property holding, see Van Young, "Rural Life in Eighteenty-Century Mexico, pp. 494-510.


One important mechanism for the accumulation of wealth within peasant villages may have been manipulation of the resources of Indian religious sodalities (cofradías) by certain of their members, including using funds for their own economic activities and lending them out at interest; Julie Hale, graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, engaged in master’s thesis research on Indian colladías of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Oaxaca, personal communication. The colonial cofradías of central Jalisco held considerable economic resources, primarily in the form of livestock; see Ramón María Serrera Contreras. Guadalajara ganadera: Estudio regional novohispano. 1760-1805 (Seville, 1977), passim.


BPE, Bienes de Difuntos (hereinafter. BPE-BD), leg. 86, exp. 3, 1739.


Analco was often referred to as a barrio of Guadalajara, but was not officially incorporated into the city until 1821.


AHMG, caja 25, 1789.


AIPG, Tlajomulco, vol. 2, no page nos., 1753.


Ibid., 1780.


AIPG, Tlajomulco, vol. 1, no page nos., 1789.


AIPG, Tierras, leg. 40, exp. 11, 1798, and leg. 14, exp. 7, 1800.


AIPG, Tierras, leg. 14, exp. 7, 1800.


For example, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 27, exp. 4, 1789.


AIPG. Tierras, leg. 27, exp. 5.


E.g., AIPG, Libros de Gobierno de la Audiencia de Guadalajara, 29: 3r-11v, Tlajomulco, 1711; AIPG, Tierras, leg. 78, exps. 3-12; leg. 27, exp. 4; and prot. Berroa, 22: 95v, Jocotepec, 1790s.


It turned out that the house was the site of an illegal tepachería.


BPE-AJA, Criminal, leg. 1, exp. 28, 1815.


Sherburne F. Cook, “Las migraciones en la historia de la población mexicana: Datos modelo del occidente del centro de México, in Bernardo García Martínez, ed., Historia y sociedad en el mundo de habla española: Homenaje a José Miranda (Mexico City. 1970). Centro de Estudios Históricos, Nueva Serie 11, pp. 365-367.


BPE-AJA, 205:3:2570, 1794.


BPE-AJA. 228:3:2695.


Nationalism and xenophobia would be two recognizable modern equivalents of the mechanism discussed here.


These tensions were themselves partially due to conflict over economic resources, leading us into a kind of chicken-and-egg circularity. But conflict over land was not the only situation that might have engendered such feelings, and, in any event, the effect itself probably became separated from its immediate origins and diffused into assumptions and stereotypes that acquired their own life and inherent validity, as often happens in such cases.


For one such case, involving the murder of an estate manager by a peon on a hacienda in the Guadalajara area in 1757, see Eric Van Young. “Un homicidio colonial,” Boletín del Archivo Histórico de Jalisco, 3 (1979), 2-4.


Eric Wolf obliquely suggests the same thing: “The very threat of a hacienda’s presence unified the villagers on its fringes in ways which would have been impossible in its absence”; “Aspects of Group Relations in a Complex Society: Mexico," American Anthropologist, 58 (1956), 1065-1078. Reprinted in Teodor Shanin, ed., Peasants and Peasant Societies: Selected Readings (Harmondsworth, 1971), pp. 50-68; citation from p. 57.


Wolf, “Closed Corporate Peasant Communities,” p. 12; and Foster, “Peasant Society,” passim. Foster’s theory may not be universally applicable even within Latin America, where it seems to fit best. African peasant societies, for example, seem to function on different assumptions regarding the accumulation of wealth. Nor do open frontier situations, in which land is an elastic resource, seem compatible with the Foster model. As for Mexico, Foster himself acknowledges that modern prosperity has a tendency to erode such a peasant world view (George Foster, personal communication, Mar. 1981). For a recent critique of Foster’s formulation as straddling the theoretical fence between materialist and idealist approaches, see Marvin Harris, Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture (New York, 1980), pp. 297-300.


If one were discussing intrapsychic instead of social events, these operations might be called displacement and projection, respectively.


Wolf describes this process well, but dates it only from the advent of the national period in Mexico; “Aspects of Group Relations.” pp. 54-58.


Wolf. “Closed Corporate Peasant Communities.” p. 13.