Based on early documents in the Parral archives (1632-1821), Mayer’s study of blacks in northern mining communities sheds some interesting light on their legal and social status, but little else. Though Mayer estimates the number of slaves sold in Parral by 1641 at about 350 (mostly creoles and Angolese), this figure excludes free blacks and slaves arriving with their masters. The role of blacks in Parral’s labor force remains unclear, with only a third of those analyzed being males of suitable age for mine work. Given Parral’s Spanish population of about 800 vecinos by 1639, the proportion of even potential black miners seems modest indeed.
Punctuated with factual and stylistic inaccuracies and a carelessly printed text, Mayer’s monograph is further marred by his obviously limited knowledge of seventeenth-century Spanish notarial script and its common abbreviations. Spanish words and proper names are misspelled repeatedly. Moreover, in checking the text of the three sample documents he transcribes (App. I) against identical microfilm copies in my own library, I find much of Mayer’s text so horribly mu-tilated as to cast doubt on his reliability in handling source material of this kind without special training. Given a topic as potentially rewarding, and Mayer’s obvious promise as a Mexicanist, some formal training in paleography would seem justified.