The inhabitants of the department of Antioquia have played a particular role in Colombia’s economic history. During the colonial period, Antioqueño placer miners supplied a substantial portion of New Granada’s gold exports; their nineteenth-century descendants pioneered investments in lode mining, colonization, international commerce, banking, stockraising, tobacco, and coffee, while their twentieth-century counterparts initiated the industrialization of their regional capital, Medellín. Numerous theories have been posited to account for this enterprise ranging from ethnic interpretations which see Antioqueños as descended from Jewish or Basque ancestry, to psychological ones which portray Antioqueños as driven to succeed due to status deprivation, to historical interpretations which emphasize variables including the region’s geographical isolation, its mining heritage, or its coffee export economy.1

A critical evaluation of these theories has suggested a need for more rigorous documentation and greater specificity. While the linkage of Antioquenos with Jews has no historical base, the timing of such accusations does correspond with peaks of Antioqueño commercial, financial, or industrial expansion. Comparing the provinces of origin of Spanish immigrants to Antioquia reveals that eighteenth-century Basques were no more enterprising than their proportion of the population would normally indicate.2 No convincing data shows that Antioqueños had inferiority complexes vis-à-vis other Colombians.3 Debate continues as to whether the origins of Antioqueño entrepreneurial behavior should be traced to the late eighteenth century when miners and merchants were confined to a provincial focus, to the early republic when merchants and financiers expanded investments to a national scope, or to the mid and late nineteenth century, when elites moved into export agriculture.4 This essay focuses on the closing years of the colony and aims, through examination of the composition and values of Medellín’s elite, to identify possible connections between an eighteenth-century and a later entrepreneurship.

Methodological Considerations

In 1787, 16,750 inhabitants lived in the valley of Aburrá which marked the cabildo jurisdiction of the villa of Medellín.5 Who of these belonged to a local elite? Examination of municipal council records, house-to-house censuses, fundición and merchant registers, and a provincial genealogy yield the names of 805 Medellinenses who formed such a potential pool. To understand who was included in this data base and who was not requires explanation of the origin and use of some familiar as well as some less common source material.

Of those documents which inform this study, cabildo records and house-to-house censuses are most often found in colonial archives. In this case, the records of the municipal council from 1780 to 1810 provide the names of Medellinenses who were political officers, whether in the cabildo or as local appointees in the partidos, or subjurisdictions of that body.6 Municipal minutes also name vecinos who served as alfereces, or stewards of the annual religious holidays celebrated by the villa. Further information derives from a 1787 house-to-house census which, although not available for all partidos, lists vecinos, estimates land ownership, details crops normally planted and the usual yield, counts animals, enumerates additional properties held, and concludes with an estimate of vecino wealth.7

Economic data supplied by fundición and merchant registers remains as testament of Antioquia’s predominance as one of the gold-producing provinces of New Granada. Located in the provincial capital city of Antioquia, the fundición was the smelting house where colonists brought their gold dust to be purified, turned into gold bars, and taxed.8 Although elaborate procedures regulated this transfer of gold dust from mining field to fundición, an analysis of the gap between legislation and reality suggests the gold dust that sluice miners brought to the fundición more closely approximated their exportable excess, or profits, than their actual production.6 Even so, smeltry records identify Medellín’s miners, and also provide, by the addition of each miner’s gold dust entries, some indication of each producer’s relative rank within the mining sector.

Merchant registers were yet another product of royal efforts to tax gold production. Although sluice miners were the elite of the mining sector, mazamorreros (simple panners) accounted for two-thirds to four-fifths of Antioquia’s eighteenth-century gold production.10 Since the crown could not locate these itinerant prospectors, it taxed their consumption, as roughly measured in the value of provincial imports. When each Antioqueño merchant entered the province, he had to bring his merchandise to a local customhouse where royal officials estimated the average selling price. Merchants then had three years to enter an amount in gold dust equal to the value of these imports at the fundición.11 These promises of payment, or merchant registers, not only list the names of Medellín’s traders, but, used over time, provide indicators of the value of each merchant’s total imports, a useful approximation of his standing in the mercantile community. Two other sources, a genealogy of prominent local families and a catalog of mining title petitions, also figure in this data base.12 The first provides information on the earliest Antioqueño settlers as well as traces their late eighteenth-century descendants. The second reproduces lists of miners who registered titles to mines; those Medellinenses who did so from 1780 to 1810 are included in this survey.

Many Medellinenses appear in more than one of the sources consulted. The following cases illustrate the type of raw data accumulated by such a methodological approach. A profile of vecino Don Carlos Gaviria shows that he served in 1792 as procurador general of the Medellín cabildo. He was a miner for he brought 4,459 gold pesos to the fundición and registered a claim in 1783.13 The 1787 census from the partido of Otrabanda notes that he owned a house, 150 cows, 80 mares, 6 goats, 200 pesos worth of moveable goods, a mine in the Santa Rosa District, eighteen slaves, and that his estimated worth was 8,000 pesos. Another vecino, Don Patricio Correa, served in the non-cabildo office of alcalde juez pedáneo in the partido of Envigado in 1792. He must not have been a miner or merchant; at least he does not appear in those records. The 1787 Envigado census indicates that he owned a plot of land and estimated his worth at 400 pesos. Mateo Molina never held a political office. He was one of Medellín’s most important traders importing merchandise evaluated at 58,263 pesos. Cabildo minutes note that in 1804 he served as alferez of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, the feast day celebrating the patroness of the villa. If a vecino held political office, served as an alferez, brought gold to fundición, registered a title to a mine, imported merchandise, or was a prominent landholder, he was most likely included in this pool of 805.

Eighteenth-Century Economic Developments

Since prominent trends in Antioquia’s eighteenth-century economic development importantly affected elite recruitment, some commentary on this subject appears in order. There is considerable controversy here, not only concerning the impact of Antioquia’s own Bourbon reformer, Juan Antonio Mon y Velarde, but also concerning domestic response to the broad spectrum of Bourbon reforms. One school applauds Mon y Velarde, a Bogotá oidor and visitador from 1785-1788 as the “Regenerador de Antioquia.” They argue that the visitador’s ambitious programs, the formulation of a revised mining code, the introduction of silver currency, the encouragement of merchant competition, and the revival of municipal institutions, not only ended Antioquia’s colonial depression, but created effective structures for nineteenth and even twentieth-century entrepreneurship. Manuel Monsalves is but one historian who dates Antioquia’s “modern” period “from Mon y Velarde to the present,” while a recent dissertation also assigns much credit to this reformer.14

A less personalistic approach to Antioquia’s Bourbon era is epitomized by exchanges between William McGreevey and Frank Safford. The first concedes that Antioquia’s mining sector experienced a considerable revival during the Bourbon years; yet he argues that the benefit of such augmented production did not redound to the local populace, but was siphoned off to Spain through increased and more effective tax collection. Safford takes issue with this and argues that eighteenth-century official reports, which emphasize Antioquia’s poverty and which form the basis for McGreevey’s argument, need not be taken at face value. Rather Safford argues that a mining revival provided some capital for a local elite to embark on entrepreneurial ventures on a limited scale.15 Examination of fundición records, merchant registers, and house-to-house censuses not available to these interpreters leads to a revised view of Mon y Velarde, a more complex appraisal of the Bourbon years, and some first suggestions of a possible bridge between colonial and later Antioqueño enterprise.

The fundición figures can but indirectly represent key trends in mining production as they derive, technically, from the sum of sluice miner profits and merchant register entries. Even so, such figures are a valid, albeit approximate, reflection of the amounts of bullion circulating in the provincial gold dust economy and, since this bullion derived directly from mining, some key to the output of that sector. During the late seventeenth and throughout the eighteenth centuries, fundición figures rose in three discernable and ever-increasing plateaus: from 1670 to 1749, smelting house figures fluctuated between 10,000 and 45,000 pesos with an average of 23,000 pesos. From the 1750s to the 1770s, average fundición more than doubled to 59,000 pesos within a range of 45,000 to 110,000 pesos. From the 1780s to independence, average fundición quadrupled over the previous period to 236,000 pesos within a range of 110,000 to 310,000 pesos.16

The timing of fundición increases, particularly the 1750 to 1770 plateau, shows that Mon y Velarde cannot be considered the architect of Antioquia’s economic revival. Gold production began a steady rise three decades before he entered the province. A reconsideration of Mon y Velarde’s program demonstrates that some of his most praised measures, the mining code for one, were never put into effect; while others such as the introduction of silver currency took decades to bear first fruit. By the time of Mon y Velarde’s visita, Antioquia’s mining revival was well underway fueled not by Bourbon reformers or reform, but by the opening of placers in the Bionegro and Santa Rosa highlands, by the development of valley agriculture to supply such sites, and by a population boom which provided mazamorreros to work them. Mon y Velarde’s reforms should thus be considered more as response than as stimulus to a domestic recovery.17

The McGreevey-Safford debate turns less on the role of Mon y Velarde as on whether Antioquia’s increased gold production acted as catalyst in a capital formation process which developed an entrepreneurial elite or whether such potential was negated by Bourbon taxation. Merchant registers, which quintupled in value from the 1760s to the 1800s, leave little doubt that (more in line with Safford’s than McGreevey’s thesis) significant benefits accrued to Antioquia’s consumers and to those merchants who supplied them.18 Panning put gold dust, which was Antioquia’s currency, directly into the hands of the mazamorreros whose efforts supplied two-thirds of domestic production and who were scattered over the highland districts. This geographical and capital distribution, however, created markets which could not be monopolized by a few trading families. From 1763 to 1810, 20 merchants imported one-third of the value of Antioquia’s imports (1,974,050 pesos or thirty-three percent of 5,971,913 pesos), a substantial intermediary group of 106 traders accounted for another third (2,171,828 pesos or thirty-six percent total), and 902 vecinos, the remainder (1,827,025 pesos or thirty-one percent) for peddler trade and home consumption.19 The very structure of Antioquia’s late colonial mining economy thus dictated that although mining and commercial elites might develop in response to augmented gold production, their capital accumulation potential was limited, given the impossibility of monopolizing either production or profits.

Throughout the colony, Antioquia’s third economic sector, agriculture, was subordinate to mining and commerce. The mountainous terrain, the resulting lack of an agricultural export, the absence of a cheap labor force, and the great attraction of the mining sector had led by the late colonial period to a division of land tenure and land use between the vast, unexploited wilderness holdings of some conquest grantees and the small, intensively worked valley plots of later settlers. Although some Antioqueños held title to immense acreages, these were of minimal practical value without accompanying mineral rights or population centers. Rather, dating from the conquest, the main thrust of colonist settlement extended into the fertile valleys of Antioquia, Medellín, and Rionegro where, by the late eighteenth century, sluice miners and mazamorreros lived and farmed in the temperate valleys and relocated during the rainy season to the highland placer camps.20

Some 1787 census data from two Medellín partidos, Otrabanda, situated across the river from the villa, and San Cristóbal, located farther down the valley, show the predominance of these family-worked farms. In Otrabanda, seventy-two percent (178 of 246 vecinos) owned some land, with forty-five percent of these declaring themselves self-sufficient in foodstuffs; while comparative figures for San Cristóbal were sixty-two percent (137 of 221) and forty-two percent.21 Since valley land was at a premium and widely divided among vecinos and since the cabildo set price controls on agricultural products and farmer profits, it became usual for affluent Medellinenses, once they had acquired the requisite house and solar in the villa and a respectable family farm in the valley, to scatter any remaining acquisitions throughout the province.22 Wills of prominent Medellinenses demonstrate that Don Vicente Restrepo had a house and solar in Envigado, but the remainder of his land was in Don Matías, Guanancas, Yarumal, Santa Rosa, and Riogrande, areas outside the jurisdiction of the Medellín cabildo, while holdings of Don Rafael Fonnegra were spread over five locations and those of Don Ignacio Uribe over six.23 Both the presence and absence of particular human and natural resources combined in Antioquia to make property holding of less interest than other enterprises. It was this abundant opportunity for limited gain that shaped the development of Medellín’s eighteenth-century elite.

The Political Elite

Numerous studies of colonial Latin American elites have shown that identification of political officers provides a shortcut toward recognition of other elites, for example, those resting on wealth or birth.24 Although this thesis holds true for Medellín, it is also important to note that there were few incentives other than enhancement of status for a Medellinense to hold office. Since Medellín was not the colonial capital, council positions did not lead to close and presumably advantageous connections with the governor and fiscal administrators. By the late colony the Valley of Aburrá, which formed the cabildo jurisdiction, was mostly in private hands. Therefore, with the exception of ejido rentals, which were noncontroversial, cabildo officers exercised negligible influence over land tenure or use. While the municipal council did control the price of arepas, beans, and com in times of scarcity, even this prerogative was challenged by the governor and audiencia. Medellín’s cabildo mostly confined itself to housekeeping tasks within the jurisdiction.25 Since status was the primary reward of civic service, it is no wonder that vecinos did not always serve willingly. Instead, they considered the prestige attached to a particular civic position, decided if such service would enhance their own standing, and credited this against the responsibilities and the expenditures of the office. Nomination to the office of regidor, election to an annual office, or designation as an alcalde juez pedáneo evoked distinct responses from local citizenry which provide not only a guide to a vecino’s self-image of his status within the community, but of peer evaluation of his rank within a local hierarchy.

The highest prestige pertained to the regidores who obtained rank through royal nomination, held permanent cabildo positions, voted in the annually elected members, and occupied places of honor in local ceremonies. Yet, by the time a Medellinense had acquired the necessary prerequisites of such office—political experience and wealth—he found little incentive to serve for, as one nominee remarked, the position would add nothing to his “honor” but instead would be a heavy burden. Although nominated Medellinenses eventually agreed to serve, they either did so reluctantly, as Don Manuel Jaramillo who pleaded tolerance for his “sick liver,” or Don Nicolás de Ochoa who grumbled that he already was a corregidor, or even ungraciously, as Don Antonio Adriano Gómez who insisted that his mine must receive top priority in his busy schedule.26 In office, regidores consistently took care to flaunt their status through confrontations with governor or audiencia, the election of Medellinenses to annual cabildo offices, or the occupation of reserved places at civic or religious ceremonies, while they consistently avoided more time-consuming responsibilities such as weekly attendance at cabildo meetings. Regidor Don Miguel Carrasquilla epitomized this attitude when, in 1790, he arrived in church to take his reserved seat even though he had absented himself from every cabildo meeting that year. Finding his place occupied, Carrasquilla sued the cabildo and called on the governor to confirm him as one of the most prestigious of the regidores.27

Standing in sharp contrast to the attitudes of the regidores are those of Medellín’s annually elected officers: the alcalde primero and alcalde segundo, enforcers and interpreters of royal and viceregal orders; the procurador general, advocate for local petitioners, the procurador de menores, guardian of orphans’ interests; and the two alcaldes de la Santa Hermandad, keepers of law and order within the cabildo jurisdiction. These offices must have conferred status for from 1780 to 1810 not one elected Medellinense refused to serve. Once sworn in, these cabildo members performed responsibly; for example, those members required to attend weekly meetings did so faithfully, while the two alcaldes and the procurador general effectively ran the villa during their elected year.28

Although Medellinenses might hunger for status, they were selective in the price they paid for it as seen in local attitudes toward the office of alcalde juez pedáneo which was not a cabildo position. These men headed the partidos, or subjurisdictions of the Medellín cabildo, and were nominated by their predecessors with confirmation by the cabildo and the governor. They collected local taxes, directed neighbors in the annual clearing and fixing of roads, apprehended smugglers, made tax lists of mazamorreros, and took the annual census.29 Medellinenses exercised considerable ingenuity to avoid such tasks, suffering, so they alleged, from a suspiciously high number of broken legs, bad livers, and worse kidneys. One reluctant candidate found to his dismay that although the father of eleven, he did not have the requisite number of males, six, to obtain a royal exemption from such public service.30 The cabildo brooked no opposition and ordered him, as well as the rest, to appear and take their oaths. Once in office, alcaldes jueces pedáneos complained bitterly of the minimal status of their positions charging that their neighbors and even the cabildo accorded them scant respect. A particularly galling episode concerned a day in 1799 when the cabildo ordered these officials to appear, berated them “in harsh tones” for neglect of duty, and failed to offer them seats.31 Such grumbling notwithstanding, those who served as alcaldes jueces pedáneos invariably listed this item when petitioning for favors or suing for justice since such service marked them as honorable, responsible men and distinguished them from those thousands of Medellinenses who never attained even this, the lowest of civic positions.

Medellinenses, then, did not necessarily covet political office. A vecino’s self-image of his status within the community, his perception of whether his standing might or might not be enhanced by public service, and the particular duties attached to a position determined his attitude toward officeholding. Some, such as the regidores, saw their appointed positions as but further confirmation of their prestige. Others, the annually elected officers, enhanced their status through public service. Those alcaldes jueces pedáneos with ambition might use their office as a stepping-stone to cabildo position; those without such prospects saw it as a millstone around their necks.

Occupation and Wealth

From 1780 to 1810, 183 Medellinenses did accept positions on the cabildo, either as regidores (35) or as annually elected officials (148). Comparison of these officeholders with the names of miners entering gold to fundición and merchants registering goods at customhouses reveals the preponderant influence of these two economic sectors. Table I shows that of the thirty-five Medellinense regidores, four (eleven percent) were miners; sixteen (forty-six percent) were merchants, ten (twenty-nine percent) were active in both occupations, while five (fourteen percent) were most likely landowners.32 At least eighty-six percent, then, of Medellín’s permanent officers were miners and merchants.

This pattern repeats in examining the professions of the annually elected officials in that thirty-six (twenty-four percent) were miners, thirty-seven (twenty-five percent) were merchants, thirty-three (twenty-two percent) demonstrated involvement in both occupations, while forty-two (twenty-nine percent) were primarily landowners. Considered as a group, miners and merchants accounted for seventy-one percent of Medellín’s elected political elite.

Miners and merchants not only held the large majority of cabildo positions, but also served in the most prestigious ones. Although they held seventy-one percent of all elected cabildo posts, eighty-four percent of the alcaldes primeros, ninety-three percent of the alcaldes segundos, and eighty-eight percent of the procuradores generales were miners or merchants or both. These two occupations were proportionally represented in the office of procurador de menores, for sixty-seven percent were miners or merchants, compared to seventy-one percent of the elected cabildo. Miners and merchants were greatly underrepresented in the lowest cabildo office, alcalde de la hermandad (forty-seven percent miners-merchants, seventy-one percent elected cabildo). This evidence suggests that when Medellinenses met to elect cabildo officers, a person’s occupation played a key role in determining whether he was to serve and the status of the position he might occupy.

Wealth, a natural corollary of occupation, also affected a Medellinense’s standing in the cabildo. At least economic indicators (fundición registers, merchant registers) show that miners and merchants who were alcaldes primeros, the highest elected municipal magistrates, averaged more than Medellinenses in lower offices such as procurador general. As Table II illustrates, alcaldes primeros who were miners brought an average of 5,529 pesos of gold dust to fundición, almost twice that of the procuradores generales’ 2,929 pesos. Merchant alcaldes primeros imported an average of 11,307 pesos worth of goods, a sum five times greater than the average import, 1,890 pesos, of the merchant procuradores. Such correlation suggests that Medellín’s cabildo officers must have been keenly aware of a potential candidate’s wealth when voting him a particular spot on the municipal council.

The degree of correlation between political and economic elites can be yet more precisely charted by determining how many Medellinenses who met the economic averages of Medellín’s highest elected officers, the alcaldes primeros (5,529 pesos for miners and 11,307 pesos for merchants), were or were not voted into cabildo positions. Of the 67 Medellinense miners who brought gold to fundición, only 14 equalled the 5,529-peso average of the alcaldes primeros, while but 38 of Medellín’s 270 merchants brought more than 11,307 pesos’ worth of goods into the province. Since these 14 miners accounted for sixty-five percent of Medellinense gold entering the fundición while these 38 merchants imported sixty-four percent of the region’s merchandise, they comfortably belonged to any economic elite.

Of the fourteen most prominent Medellinense miners, seven were cabildo officers. Six of the remaining miners were not eligible for membership as all were clerics. With the exception of one, the eligible mining elite paralleled the political elite. Of the thirty-eight merchants who imported more than 11,307 pesos’ worth of goods into Medellín, twenty-three were cabildo members. Of the remaining fifteen, six were transient merchants and two were royal officials.33 No reason explains the absence of four of the remaining seven. The three other merchants, as well as the one miner who did not serve, labored under particular handicaps as they were either illegitimate or mestizo.34 By and large then, the correspondence between wealth and officeholding was almost exact as the political elite mirrored the economic elite.

Alternative Status Positions

Those Medellinenses who met the economic criteria for cabildo membership but were denied such positions due to illegitimacy or mestizaje were not pariahs within local society. The case of Mateo Molina illustrates how achieved wealth could, and could not, overcome such ascribed handicaps. Molina belonged, albeit on the wrong side of the blanket, to one of Medellín’s most prominent families, the Rodríguez de Zeas. His half brother was Francisco Antonio Zea of independence fame.35 Since Molina did not assume the family name, it is probable that he was not publicly recognized by his father although he may possibly have received some financial backing in his early ventures as a peddler in the mining districts.36 Molina parlayed this modest beginning into a more than respectable business indicated by the fact that from 1793 to 1808 he brought in 58,263 pesos’ worth of merchandise, a sum which established him as Medellín’s seventh largest importer.37 No matter what his wealth, Molina’s illegitimate background meant that his merchant contemporaries would not vote him to a seat on the municipal council. Nor could financial success purchase a bride from elite circles. Significantly Molina married the daughter of Francisco Gonzales, another trader of illegitimate birth who had imported 46,354 pesos’ worth of goods prior to independence.38

Although Molina’s illegitimacy barred him from political office or from marriage into elite circles, local society granted certain compensations to one with such wealth. The disadvantages attached to illegitimacy did not extend to Molina’s daughter, Teresa. She married the son of Don Juan Carrasquilla, who was a regidor on the cabildo, and a merchant who imported 54,914 pesos’ worth of goods into the province.39 Molina himself was elected to serve as alferez of Medellín’s most prominent feast, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. This was a costly honor, as alfereces often spent 500 pesos in hosting this week-long celebration where they supplied town residents with liberal quantities of alcohol, tobacco, pastries, and fireworks.40 Although it was usual for the villa’s first families to sponsor this feast, this was one occasion where wealth could overcome disadvantages of birth.41 Specifically, three of those four Medellinenses who exceeded the wealth levels of alcalde primeros but who did not serve due to illegitimate or mestizo birth were elected to sponsor the feast. During the celebration, Mateo Molina (merchant, 58,263 pesos, illegitimate), Francisco Gonzales (merchant, 46,354 pesos, illegitimate), Antonio Muños (merchant, 31,139 pesos; miner, 700 pesos, mestizo) received tribute generally reserved to men of “honor.”

At the beginning of the feast, the cabildo visited their homes as a mark of respect and during the celebration the alfereces entertained both civil and religious authorities. At the masses marking the occasion, the alfereces sat in prominent positions in the front of the church. In future fiestas their celebrations were remembered and compared with others.42 In the case of Mateo Molina, the only time he entered the cabildo except as a petitioner was when, as an equal, he entered to cast his vote for future alfereces of La Candelaria.43 There was, then, some flexibility within Medellinense society. Wealth could purchase social mobility for children while positions such as alferez allowed those with questionable birth, but unquestionable wealth, to enhance their status within the villa.

Political Experience and Mobility

Although birth, occupation, and wealth played paramount roles in the incorporation of Medellinenses into the political elite, a vecino’s desire, as evidenced by his willingness to serve, might also promote a limited political mobility. Examination of civic careers of Medellinenses suggest that there were three routes by which vecinos entered public service and ascended from lower to higher positions within the cabildo. Medellinenses could either be elected directly to the highest cabildo positions, such as the two alcaldes, or they could first serve in lower cabildo positions and then, in a kind of cursus honorum, rise to the highest elected posts; or candidates could first serve as alcalde juez pedáneo and then attain cabildo office.

Table III reviews the political experiences of Medellinenses holding the three highest elected posts and shows that forty-eight percent of the alcaldes primeros, fifty-eight percent of the alcaldes segundos, and thirty-eight percent of the procuradores generales had held lower cabildo positions prior to obtaining these offices. The remaining alcaldes and procuradores generales may or may not have had previous experience as some no doubt held office prior to the 1780 cutoff date. The position of alcalde juez pedáneo did not operate as a stepping-stone, for fewer than ten percent of Medellinenses attained these offices by service in this non-cabildo position.

Some provocative differences emerge in an evaluation of the previous political experiences of the procurador de menores and alcaldes de la hermandad. Those Medellinenses who became procuradores de menores were by far the least experienced officeholders; seventy-five percent had held no previous cabildo position. Nor did service as an alcalde juez pedáneo aid upward mobility given that only three Medellinenses (thirteen percent) advanced by this route. This pattern differs from that of the alcaldes de la hermandad. Since this was the lowest cabildo position, it is logical to find that no hermandad alcaldes had ever served in higher cabildo positions. However, a striking forty-three percent of the hermandad alcaldes had first served as alcaldes jueces pedáneos.

These statistics indicate that there were three general patterns of movement into and within the cabildo. The first trend is self-evident. Slightly more than half of Medellín’s cabildo members were elected without prior political experience. A second pattern emerges when one examines the later careers of the procuradores de menores. Since a full seventy-five percent of these officers had had no previous political experience, perhaps this office served as a first step in an Antioqueño cursus honorum. This seems plausible, given that ten, or fifty-five percent, of the procuradores de menores went on to higher cabildo positions. Of the three Medellinenses who had served on lower cabildo positions and then were procuradores de menores, all went on to higher cabildo positions. This is not true of the three vecinos who had been alcaldes jueces pedáneos, and then procuradores de menores, for none attained higher office. To those with no experience, or with service in a lower cabildo position, the office of procurador de menores often served as the first or second step in a pattern of advancement within the cabildo. To those who had been alcaldes jueces pedáneos, this cabildo office was a dead end.

Did some process also discriminate against those Medellinenses who had been alcaldes jueces pedáneos and then alcaldes de la hermandad? It appears so, for none of the twenty vecinos in this category moved to a higher cabildo position. This distinguished them from the twenty-seven alcaldes de la hermandad with no prior experience; nine of these men moved upward within the cabildo. Therefore, in addition to a first pattern of election directly to the cabildo without prior experience, or a second one of movement within the cabildo, there remains a third: movement from the non-cabildo office of alcalde juez pedáneo to a low cabildo position such as procurador de menores or alcalde de la hermandad, but with no further mobility.

Evidence suggests that the occupations of the alcaldes jueces pedáneos hindered their political mobility. Of those Medellinenses with upward mobility, eight of the procuradores de menores and seven of the alcaldes de la hermandad were either miners or merchants. Although house-to-house censuses show that the alcaldes jueces pedáneos were sometimes men of means, their usual absence from fundición or commercial records marks them as predominantly farmers, rather than sluice miners or merchants. This connection of alcaldes jueces pedáneos with agricultural occupations was logical since their duties took place outside the villa’s limits, as did those of the officers of the hermandad, the cabildo post usually attained by these partido officials.44 There was, then, discrimination as well as flexibility within Medellín’s political structure. Those who did not attain a certain standard of occupation or wealth could aspire at least to the lower cabildo positions if they first were willing to serve in the partidos.

Thus, two discrete but overlapping groups composed Medellín’s political and occupational elite. The first included those individuals who moved directly or through a cursus honorum to hold the highest offices. Although they owned some land, their primary occupations were mining and commerce. The second group consisted of those who served as alcaldes jueces pedáneos with limited access to lower cabildo positions and with primary economic interests in agriculture. The latter might be more accurately designated as a subelite.

The addition of economic criteria from fundición and merchant registers allows the establishment of a more exact distinction between an elite and a subelite. Families belonging to Medellín’s elite had to meet the following criteria. Politically, they had to include cabildo members serving in positions higher than the hermandad. Economically, their members had to have claim to more than the 5,529 peso (mining) or 11,307 peso (commercial) requirement for the alcaldes primeros. These qualifications distinguished them from the subelite who, by political definition, served as alcaldes jueces pedáneos or alcaldes de la hermandad, and who, by economic criteria, failed to achieve the 5,529 or 11,307 peso requisite.

Particular interest attaches to these identifying marks of Medellín’s elite because local cabildo members, whether consciously or not, chose peers who demonstrated occupational flexibility, who were not primarily bound to land, and who met nicely defined standards of wealth. Did such criteria reflect an Antioqueño value system which rewarded continued investments and thus promoted entrepreneurial behavior? One way to test this would be to determine if a fifth or sixth generation creole was as likely to meet these standards as a second or first generation Medellinense.

Generations and the Elite

The data base of 805 Medellinenses included information on eighty families whose members figured in the political and economic life of the villa from 1780 to 1810. Using Gabriel Arango Mejía’s Genealogías de Antioquia y de Caldas, it was possible to locate an eighteenth-century Medellinense in the data base, and then in the genealogy, to construct a chart from that person back to the family founder and count the number of intermediate generations, thereby determining which generation of a particular family was active during these years. Often more than one generation of a family was prominent from 1780 to 1810. Of these, the dominant generation either contained the most members or engaged in activities spanning the longest number of years. Such genealogical charts did not include all family members, but only those about whom any political or economic data could be found. Since the late eighteenth century marked a new wave of Antioqueño colonization, only by locating one reference to an individual could it be certain that he still lived within the jurisdiction of the Medellín cabildo.45 These charts thus listed the founder and the direct ancestors of each Medellinense who held political office, who imported goods into the area, who brought gold to fundición, or whose name appeared in house-to-house censuses. The criteria for “elite” and “subelite” were then applied to these families. If at least one member of a family met the “elite” criteria, the family as a whole was placed in this category.

Of those eighty Medellinense families politically and economically active from 1780 to 1810, Table IV shows that fifty-five or sixty-nine percent placed at least one member within the elite. This can be considered the average percentage of all elite Medellinense families contained in the data base. Table V shows how this percentage compares to a generational breakdown of all Medellinense families analyzed.

If a Medellinense was a peninsular, or belonged to the second or third generation, he had the greatest possibility of belonging to the elite. Family founders who were Spaniards, sons of Spaniards, or grandsons of Spaniards had a higher percentage of elite members (eighty-four percent, seventy-one percent, eighty percent) than Medellin families considered as a whole (sixty-nine percent). Peninsular and third-generation Medellinenses were equally effective in placing members in the elite (eighty-four percent, eighty percent), with second-generation Medellinenses not far behind (seventy-one percent). It appears, then, that at least the second and third generation of Medellinenses demonstrated staying power within the local elite.

If a Medellinense belonged to the subelite, the chances were high that he was the great-grandson of the founder of his family, or the fourth generation in Antioquia. While generation four had more families in the subelite (fifty-six percent) than in the elite (forty-four percent), generations seven through five performed substantially the same, placing fifty-six percent or five families in the elite and forty-four percent or four families in the subelite. Medellinense families antedating the fourth generation placed less members in the elite than Medellín’s families overall while later generations performed significantly better than the whole.

An examination of fourth-generation families in Medellín suggests some reasons for that group’s comparatively lackluster performance. These families arrived in Medellín and in Antioquia from 1655 to 1705 during some crucial turning points in the history of the villa and the province.46 These decades marked the populating of the valley of Medellín, the official granting of the title of villa (1675), and the parceling out of fertile valley land accompanying the establishment of the cabildo. Possibly one reason why Medellíns fourth generation, active from 1780 to 1810, tended to have more alcaldes jueces pedáneos and members of the hermandad was that their ancestors had established a rural base.

A somewhat similar circumstance explains why fewer of Medellín’s fourth generation qualified as members of the mining or commercial elite. The founders of these families arrived in the Medellín valley during the blacker decades of Antioquia’s mining history. By the late seventeenth century, the lode mines of Buriticá and the placers of the Cauca and the Nechí, which had formed the backbone of conquest mining, were exhausted. The transition to the highland placers of Santa Rosa and Rionegro, the nucleus of eighteenth-century gold production, had not yet occurred. These ancestors might have perceived agriculture and cattle-raising as more viable economic opportunities.47

Although it is true that Medellinenses belonging to the fourth through seventh generations did not do as well as later arrivals, at least half of these families did respond to the changing economic opportunities characteristic of the eighteenth century. A glance at a representative fifth and sixth-generation Antioqueño family, the Jaramillos, implies that the response of the older Antioqueño families was a selective one. Although this family met the criteria for the elite, there was a distinct pattern of elite-subelite groups within family branches, a pattern duplicated in other Antioqueño families as well.

The Jaramillos were already third-generation Antioqueños when Medellín became a villa, and the grandson of the family founder, Don Alonso, became the first alcalde.48 His sons, presumably the heirs to any land received upon incorporation of the villa, subsequently headed the family’s three branches.

By 1810, those Jaramillos belonging to branch one of the family were clearly members of Medellín’s subelite. Of the ten Medellinenses located, nine were alcaldes jueces pedáneos, and none served on the cabildo. The economic activity of branch one was equally unimpressive. Four of these Jaramillos imported goods into the province but their register totals (302 pesos, 191 pesos) suggest that the majority of these goods were for family consumption. There was one miner in this branch who brought 400 pesos to fundición.

The four Jaramillos located in branch two did not improve on the political or economic activities of branch one. One member was an alcalde juez pedáneo while another served on the cabildo after 1810. In the economic sphere, branch two included four miners (two with titles to mines and two bringing 1,613 and 2,581 pesos to fundición), and one merchant (1,447 pesos’ worth of imports). Their low fundición and register total combines with their lack of cabildo service to place all branch two Jaramillos in the subelite.

It is branch three of the Jaramillos that marks the family as members of the elite. Of the eight members of this branch active from 1780 to 1810, four served on the cabildo. These Jaramillos tended to occupy the higher positions for two were alcaldes primeros, one was alcalde segundo, and one was a member of the hermandad. Branch three of the Jaramillos also reflects the family’s mining interest but with much greater success. The four Jaramillo miners in this branch brought 12,083, 6,508, 5,007 and 1,120 pesos to fundición, with at least two thus meeting elite criteria. The Jaramillos were also merchants importing 36,102 and 3,076 pesos’ worth of goods into the province. This branch, by all political and economic indicators, contained the most members of Medellín’s elite.

Examination of the genealogical histories of Medellinense families suggests that those who belonged to the villa’s elite had arrived by a number of different routes. Descendants of fourth through seventh-generation Antioqueños were more likely to belong to the cadet branches of their families. Possibly their grandfathers and great-grandfathers had been younger sons who had not inherited familial landholdings when, with commerce and mining depressed, Medellín’s valley land was the choice inheritance. Their descendants profited from their ancestors’ lesser dependence on the land and continued mining and commercial activities. When the late seventeenth-century depression ended, the cadet branches of these creole families were, by experience, in a better position to take advantage of the mining and commercial boom. This group then joined those Medellinenses from the first, second, and third generations whose ancestors had been selectively attracted to Antioquia by the economic possibilities of the region, whose descendants continued mining and commercial investments, and who remained in both the political and economic elites.

Although a rigorous delineation of the transference of occupation from generation to generation must await further research, the existing data base does permit some first explorations. Often two generations of a Medellinense family were politically or economically active from 1780 to 1810. Clearly fundición or register totals themselves cannot be used as a guide because a son, for example, might be beginning his career at the end of the time period. The sums he brought to fundición or the value of his imports would bear no relation to his potential lifetime activity. Still, just the indication, by mention in the fundición or commerce records, that a son was actively following his father’s occupation can give a rough indication of transference of occupation.

A first step uses genealogical tables to identify those Medellinenses who were miners, merchants, or both, and who also had locatable sons. These offspring might be included because of their mining or commercial activities or because they served on the cabildo or if they were alcaldes jueces pedáneos. It was assumed that if a son was deemed responsible to hold a political office, he would also be of sufficient age to be a miner or merchant. Whenever the chart listed a miner or merchant father, it was noted which sons had followed his occupation and which had not.

As Table VI shows, there were fifty-one miner-merchant fathers who had a total of 122 sons also appearing in the data base. Seventy-nine of these sons or sixty-five percent were miners or merchants or both. Therefore, more than half of Medellinense sons who could be located followed their fathers into the mines or imported goods from outside the province.

Closer examination of these figures discloses other patterns. Sons of Medellinense miners were the least likely to become involved in commerce or mining as only fifty-three percent were engaged in these occupations compared to sixty-four percent of merchant sons and seventy-two percent of sons whose fathers were both miners and merchants. This latter figure suggests that the more enterprising the father, at least as seen in his combined occupations, the more so the son.

This statement is further confirmed by focusing on the wealthier Medellinense miners and merchants. Using the 5,529 miner and 11,307 merchant peso base lines, it is possible to separate those father-son combinations where the fathers belonged to the economic elite and then determine if these sons had a greater tendency to continue their fathers’ occupations.

The high number of priests who were elite miners meant that there was only one father-son combination where the father had brought more than 5,529 pesos to fundición. Here one son became a miner while one did not. Where fathers belonged to Medellín’s merchant elite, sons clearly followed in their footsteps. The seven Medellinense merchant fathers importing more than 11,307 pesos had seventeen locatable sons. Thirteen or seventy-seven percent went into commerce or mining or both. This compares with Medellín merchant fathers importing less than 11,307 pesos who had twenty-eight of forty-seven located sons with sixty percent involved in either occupation. Thus, although more than half of the sons of merchants continued their fathers’ profession, there was a greater tendency for sons of the merchant elite to do so.

This trend is even more prominent in the case of sons whose fathers were both miners and merchants. There were seven Medellinense fathers who had either fundición and register totals above the 5,529 or 11,307 peso standard. These seven fathers had twenty sons, and sixteen or eighty percent of them continued in mining, commerce, or both. This was greater than the sons of miner-merchant fathers who did not belong to the economic elite, for sixty-three percent of these sons followed in their fathers’ footsteps. Thus, the most enterprising and wealthier fathers had the greatest number of miner-merchant sons.

A typical member of Medellín’s elite, then, would be a white male, of legitimate birth, a cabildo member, either a miner, merchant, or both, and also a landowner. His occupation as miner or merchant would speed his election to the cabildo and his mobility within it. The greater his wealth, the higher the offices to which he might aspire. He would most likely be a peninsular, a second or a third-generation Medellinense, or belong to the cadet branch of an older family. His sons would show a marked tendency to follow him into the mining fields or the retail store, and the more successful his own career, the greater the likelihood that they would continue his occupation. Given these criteria, do Medellinenses exhibit notable entrepreneurial behavior by the late colony?


Any evaluation of the entrepreneurial potential of late eighteenth-century Medellinense society cannot be undertaken in a vacuum but necessitates a comparative focus. These final remarks rely on Louisa Hoberman’s picture of seventeenth-century Mexico City merchants, Peter Marzahl’s discussion of their Popayán contemporaries, John Wibel’s portrait of eighteenth-century Arequipa, and David Brading’s recreation of Guanajuato to provide at least some first perspectives.

In their desire for wealth, their keen exploitation of the economic potentials of their region, or their pattern of multiple investments, Antioqueños appear no more enterprising than most colonial Latin American elites. In the seventeenth century, Mexico City merchants did not content themselves with domination of the Atlantic trade; they invested in the Manila galleon, in sugar estates, wheat farms, or in mining shares. Their Popayán counterparts controlled New Granada’s southern trade, sent their slave gangs into the gold-rich Chocó, and coveted encomiendas. In Arequipa estate owners not only produced fine liquors, but some traded with coast and sierra and mined as well. The great Mexican families like the Fagoaga’s were not reluctant to mine, to trade, and to farm.49 The usual practice during the colony was for investors to diversify and not to become specialists.

If Medellinenses significantly deviated from this norm, it was less in how they acquired their capital than in how they subsequently invested it. No pattern in Medellín matches the tendency of local elites in Mexico City, Popayán, Arequipa, and Guanajuato to channel the major portion of their investments into land and often to discontinue those very activities which had created their fortune, either in the generation which first accumulated capital or the next. Particularly notable is the movement away from commerce as an occupation which was often accompanied by local discrimination against traders holding certain high-status civic positions. Hoberman notes, for example, that Mexico City merchants “had the desire to abandon trade in favor of land ownership and the holding of public office.” This led to a “lack of congruence between the consulado and cabildo” because the price of admission to the latter usually accompanied a revocation of membership in the former.50 In Popayán, Marzahl chronicles a similar movement away from commerce toward, in this instance, the acquisition of encomiendas. “No son of a successful merchant continued in his father’s footsteps. To succeed in commerce meant to abandon it.” Although some traders served on the local council, even in Popayán “long distance merchants” were excluded from cabildo office.51 In Peru, although commerce might supply the wealth for an Arequipeño to become a landowner, a creole “had to surrender the elite status he enjoyed by birth to start a career in commerce as a small trader,” and even if he succeeded, “only a comparatively few large wholesale merchants came to enjoy considerable wealth and unqualified elite status.” Significantly, no Arequipeño identified as a merchant ever reached the cabildo rank of regidor.52 Although Guanajuato’s cabildo was staffed at all levels by miners and merchants, “The fortunes created in mining and commerce were invested in land….”53

Contrary to these Mexican, New Granadan, and Peruvian elites, Medellinenses found that attainment and retention of status depended upon continued investments in mining or commerce. In Medellín, miners and merchants formed a secure clique at the apex of not only the economic but the social pyramid. The high status attached to these occupations is seen in the predominance of miner-merchant regidores and also in the actions of Medellín’s cabildo members, who as miners and traders themselves were quick to vote a promising compatriot to political office, to grant him rapid upward mobility within that body, or to elect him as alferez. The relegation of Medellinenses with majority interests in land to the lower cabildo or to the partido offices and their restricted political mobility suggest that agriculturalists received only grudging recognition and suffered comparatively low status. These criteria both reflected and sustained a milieu which encouraged sons to follow their fathers into the mines or into trade, thus maintaining their family’s position within the villa’s elite.

This Medellinense propensity to eschew most land for the mine or the retail store was a natural response to both the potentials and the limitations of their colonial environment. For Antioqueños, unlike elites elsewhere, the option of acquiring land was more narrowly circumscribed given the rapid disappearance of the indigenous population, the masses’ potential to pan (mazamorrear), and the lack of an agricultural export or a sizeable internal market for produce. Nor could Antioqueños purchase haciendas elsewhere because the elite’s inability to monopolize gold production or imports restricted its capital accumulation and investment potential to provincial limits. While historians today, or members of colonial Mexican, New Granadan, and Peruvian elites, might debate as to whether substantial investments in land were financially productive or marginal, to colonial Antioqueños the case was clear—it was suicidal.

It was part of Antioquia’s colonial heritage, then, for elites to attach no particular mystique to possession of land. One of the first acts of Antioquia’s independence legislature was the passage, in 1812, of a colonization bill which provided generous terms for settlers to establish family farms in unpopulated terrain.54 Although nineteenth-century Antioqueños might acquire interests in private colonization schemes, or in cattle or coffee properties, these formed but part of portfolios also based on continued mining and commercial investments.55

Neither a peculiar personal virtue, nor a native entrepreneurial bent, but rather the existing limits and potentials of their colonial environment initially forced Antioqueños along enterprising pathways. Both economic and social success in eighteenth-century Antioquia necessitated capital fluidity, multiple and continued reinvestment, and lack of dependence on land. The continuation of Antioqueño investments suggests that by the end of the Bourbon period this modo de estar, or adaptation to a specific economic reality, had been transformed into a modo de ser, or way of life that now transcended the historical conditions that had created it.56 Although nineteenth and twentieth-century Antioqueños no longer operated within the restrictions of the colonial experience, maintenance of their own “conservative” tradition led them to excel not only as the miners and merchants, but also as the colonizers, bankers, tobacco growers, railroad builders, coffee producers, and industrialists of Colombia.


Eduardo Zuleta, “El semitismo antioqueño” in Papeles viejos y nuevos (Caracas, 1929), pp. 12-28; Emilio Robledo, “El semitismo antioqueño,” Colombia, Revista Semanal (Medellín), July 22, 1922, pp. 565-576; Enrique Otero D’Costa, “El semitismo antioqueño,” Archivo Historial (Manizales), 34 (Oct. 1924), 252-282; Mariano Ospina Rodrigues, “Los israelitas y los antioqueños,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades (Bogotá), 3 (Dec. 1905), 511-512; Tulio Ospina, “Conferencia dictado por Don Tulio Ospina, Presidente de la Academia de Historia Antioqueña en la sesión celebrada en Medellín por las Academias de Historia, Jurisprudencia, y Medicina, para conmemorar el centenario de la independencia de Antioquia,” Boletín de Historia y Antigüedades, 9 (Apr. 1915), 705-720; Everett Hagen, On the Theory of Social Change: How Economic Growth Begins (Homewood, Ill., 1962), pp. 353-384; Leonard Kasdan, “Family Structure, Migration and the Entrepreneur” in Peter Kilby, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (New York, 1971), pp. 225-239; James Parsons, Antioqueño Colonization in Western Colombia, revised ed. (Berkeley, 1968); Luis Ospina Vásquez, Industria y protección en Colombia 1810-1930 (Medellín, 1955); Keith H. Christie, “Antioqueño Colonization in Western Colombia: A Reappraisal,” HAHR, 58 (May 1978), 260-283; Frank Safford, “Foreign and National Enterprise in Nineteenth-Century Colombia,” The Business History Review, 39 (Winter 1965), 503-526; Safford, “Significación de los antioquenos en el desarrollo económico colombiano: Un examen crítico de la tesis de Everett Hagen,” Anuario Colombiano de Historia Social y de la Cultura, 2:3 (1965), 18-27; William Paul McGreevey, An Economic History of Colombia: 1845-1930 (Cambridge, England, 1971); Alvaro López Toro, Migración y cambio social en Antioquia durante el siglo diez y nueve (Bogotá, 1970); Luis H. Fajardo, The Protestant Ethic of the Antioquenos: Social Structure and Personality (Cali, n.d.); Roger Brew, “The Economic Development of Antioquia from 1850 to 1920” (Ph.D. Diss., Oxford University, 1973); Ann Twinam, “Miners, Merchants, and Farmers: The Roots of Entrepreneurship in Antioquia, 1763-1810” (Ph.D. Diss., Yale University, 1976).


Twinam, “Antioqueño Entrepreneurship, the Myth and the Reality” in Proceedings from S.U.L.A., 2 vols. (Buffalo, 1973), II, 184-207.


Safford, “Commerce and Enterprise in Central Colombia, 1821—1870” (Ph.D. Diss., Columbia University, 1965), p. 388.


Parsons, Ospina Vásquez, and Safford establish benchmarks in the late eighteenth century, Brew and Hagen in the mid, and McGreevey in the late nineteenth century.


José Manuel Pérez Ayala, Antonio Caballero y Góngora, virrey y arzobispo de Santa Fe, 1723-1796 (Bogotá, 1951), p. 395.


This article is based on material consulted in the following Colombian archives: Archivo Histórico Nacional, Bogotá; Archivo Histórico de Antioquia, Medellín; Archivo del Consejo Municipal, Medellín (hereafter cited as AHN, AHA, ACM, respectively). The cabildo minutes of weekly meetings are contained in volumes 31-76 of the ACM. The minutes for 1793 and 1802 are missing.


ACM, vol. 41, no. 33, 1788 contains the 1788 house-to-house censuses for the partidos of Atoviejo, Altavista-Copacabana, Quebrada Arriba, Aguacatal-Guayabal, Itagüi, San Cristóbal, Otrabanda, and Envigado. Once the information on political offices, fundición, and merchant register totals had been assembled, this data base was correlated with these censuses to determine each vecino’s estimated wealth, and whenever possible, the nature of his resources (land, commerce, mining).


The AHA preserves ninety-one years of smeltry records from 1670 to 1807. For complete archival citation of existing years, see Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 28, 29.


Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 29-36, 44-45, 80. Also AHN, Miscelánea, vol. 11, fols. 495-599, 1785; AHN, Consulados, vol. 3, fols. 304—431.


Visitador Juan Antonio Mon y Velarde estimated that mazamorreros accounted for two-thirds of gold production in 1787, AHN, Virreyes, vol. 6, fols. 743-813, 1787; while José Manuel Restrepo calculated that these wandering miners produced four-fifths of provincial output by 1808; “Ensayo sobre la geografía, producciones, industría y población de la Provincia de Antioquia en el Nuevo Reino de Granada” in Francisco José de Caldas, Semanario del Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá, 1808-1810; reprint ed. in 3 vols., Bogotá, 1943), I, 243-286. Neither panning nor sluice mining permitted substantial capital accumulation. Sources consistently describe mazamorrero output as subsistence level while Mon y Velarde estimated that even the most productive sluice mine yielded but 2,000 pesos annually for five continuous years. AHN, Minas de Antioquia y Cundinamarca, one volume, fols. 548-549, 1787.


Whenever a merchant brought goods to the customhouse, royal officials estimated the medio precio, or the average selling price of this merchandise in the region. AHA, vol. 748, Real Hacienda, no. 12007. Addition of these estimates provides a guide to each merchant’s imports from 1763-1810. During these years, three primary aduanas (Antioquia City, Medellín, Rionegro) and two later establishments (Marinilla, 1791; Santa Rosa, 1799) kept merchant registers. The AHA preserves 29 such annual lists for Antioquia City, 41 for Medellín, 40 for Rionegro, 15 for Marinilla, and 9 for Santa Rosa. For complete archival citation of existing years, see Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 92, 93.


Gabriel Arango Mejía, Genealogías de Antioquia y Caldas, 2d ed., 2 vols. (Medellín, 1942). José M. Mesa Jaramillo, Minas de Antioquia: Catálogo de las que se han titulado en 161 años desde 1739 hasta 1900 (Medellín, 1906), pp. 5-15.


All peso amounts quoted are in pesos de oro. In Antioquia one gold peso equaled two silver ones, at the official rate used in merchant registers. AHA, vol. 687, Comercio, no. 10965, 1806. Unofficially, Antioqueño merchants received fifteen percent added value when they traded in gold bars outside their home province. AHN, Cabildos, vol. 3, fols. 833-897, 1797-1799.


Manuel Monsalves M., Antioquia: Economía y estadística (Medellín, 1939), p. 86; Ospina, “El Oidor Mon y Velarde, regenerador de Antioquia,” Repertorio Histórico (Medellín), 2 (Sept. 1918), 412-136; Emilio Robledo, Bosquejo biográfico del Señor Oidor Juan Antonio Mon y Velarde, Visitador de Antioquia, 1785-1788, 2 vols. (Bogotá, 1954); Brew, “Economic Development of Antioquia,” pp. 16, 28-29.


McGreevey, Economic History, pp. 28-29, 191; Safford, “Commerce,” pp. 390-392.


These statistics derive from the fundición registers in the AHA. See also Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 46-52.


Ibid., pp. 49-52,110-111, 61-73.


Ibid., p. 94. The value of commercial imports went from 37,483 gold pesos in 1760 to 209,139 pesos by 1801.


These statistics derive from the addition of the total annual imports registered at each functioning customhouse from 1763 to 1810. Distribution is calculated by determining the total imports of each merchant from 1763 to 1810 and placing each within the above categories. See Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 127-147.


Ibid., pp. 166-205. AHN, Historia Civil, vol. 9, fols. 53-316, 1799-1807.


ACM, vol. 41, no. 34, 1788 (Otrabanda); vol. 38, no. 2, 1787 (San Cristóbal). Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 179-186 provides a fuller analysis.


Miners and merchants on the cabildo regulated grain prices to their advantage. AHN, Historia Civil, vol. 9, fols. 53-316, 1799-1807; ACM, vol. 62, no. 25, 1799.


Don Vicente Restrepo, ACM, vol. 40, no. 10, 1788; ACM, vol. 42, no. 19, 1789; Don Rafael Fonnegra, AHN, Testamentarias de Antioquia, vol. 8, fols. 167-188, 1800; Don Ignacio Uribe, AHA, vol. 327, Mortuorias, no. 6216, 1800.


D. A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763-1810 (Cambridge, England, 1971), pp. 303-328; Peter Marzahl, “Creoles and Government: The Cabildo of Popayán,” HAHR, 54 (Nov. 1974), 636-656; John Frederick Wibel, “The Evolution of a Regional Empire and Peruvian Nation: Arequipa, 1780-1845” (Ph.D. Diss., Stanford University, 1975), p. 195.


Franklin W. Knight, “Origins of Wealth and the Sugar Revolution in Cuba,” HAHR, 57 (May 1977), 238, discusses certain financial advantages attached to Havana cabildo office which were not replicated in Medellín. See Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 186-197, 207-211.


One vecino noted, “los que se eliguen por regidores ya no tienen honor alguna con este empleo, pues siempre son de aquellas familias condecoradas con los honores publicas; asi ninguna cosa añade a su lustre el que de individuos sean regidores internos. Por otra cosa estos empleos son una pesada carga para los vecinos que no reporta utilidad alguna .…” ACM, vol. 74, no. 24, 1808; vol. 40, no. 2, 1788.


ACM, vol. 46, no. 58, 1790. In 1787, Visitador Mon y Velarde was so outraged by the regidores’ cavalier attention to their offices that he dismissed the lot and nominated a new batch who were confirmed by governor, audiencia, and viceroy. Except for replacements due to death and illness this group remained in office until 1808 when regidores became annually elected officials voted in by the outgoing cabildo. ACM, vol. 41, no. 28, 1788; vol. 73, no. 1, 1808.


In late December, the sitting cabildo informally caucused at a member’s home to pick the annually elected officers for the forthcoming year. From 1780 to 1810, this caucus reached a consensus about two-thirds of the time (22 of 31 times). When this occurred the agreed upon slate was presented at the January 1 meeting and a unanimous vote was but a formality. If, however, the December caucus could not decide, then the January 1 vote was a real election with members officially registering their choices of desired candidates. ACM, vol. 70, no. 1, 1805, comments on the caucus. Disputed elections occurred in 1780, 1790, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1800, 1805, and 1810. ACM, vol. 31, no. 1, 1780; vol. 46, no. 1, 1790; vol. 55, no. 1, 1794; vol. 57, no. 4, 1800; vol. 70, no. 1, 1805; vol. 76, no. 1, 1810. Tallies of cabildo attendance show the alcaldes and procurador general as the most active.


The alcaldes jueces pedáneos acted as judges in criminal and civil suits within their partidos. ACM, vol. 44, no. 17, 1790. The duties of these officers are detailed in ACM, vol. 43, no. 44, 1789; vol. 48, no. 25, 1791; vol. 62, no. 20, 1799; vol. 64, no. 2, 1800.


Some of the more ingenious excuses can be found in ACM, vol. 31, no. 1, 1780; vol. 43, no. 32, 1789; vol. 57, no. 8, 1795; vol. 59, no. 34, 1796; vol. 65, no. 13, 1800.


ACM, vol. 62, no. 13, 1799.


Spot-checks of house-to-house censuses strongly suggest that this was so.


Don José Mariano Ponton was administrator of mail and Don Antonio Valle of royal rents. ACM, vol. 73, no. 1, 1808; Arango Mejía, Genealogías, II, 456. The “transient” merchants were either not listed as vecinos of Medellín or brought but a few large cargos into the villa within a short time period.


Mateo Molina and Francisco Gonsales were illegitimate; Josef and Antonio Muños were mestizos. Arango Mejía, Genealogías, I, 401; ACM, vol. 38, no. 6, 1787.


Arango Mejía, Genealogías, II, 560.


Estanislao Gómez Barrientos, “Ojeada al centenario episcopal de la ciudad de Antioquia,” Antioquia Histórica, nos. 27-31 (Jan. 1929), 548 on Molina’s early career.


Twinam, “Miners,” p. 162.


Arango Mejía, Genealogías, I, 401.


Ibid., I, 176-177.


Descriptions of the fiesta appear in AHN, Miscelánea, vol. 27, fols. 1054-1068, 1792; ACM, vol. 37, no. 20, 1786; vol. 41, no. 20, 1788; vol. 32, no. 6, 1781.


One Medellinense noted that “people of low rank” were not elected to be alfereces. ACM, vol. 38, no. 6, 1787.


Antonio Muños was an alferez in 1787, Francisco Gonzales in 1805, and Mateo Molina in 1808. ACM, vol. 38, no. 7, 1787; vol. 70, no. 1, 1805; vol. 73, no. 1, 1808.


ACM, vol. 75, no. 1, 1809.


The oath of the officers of the hermandad emphasized their rural duties: “selando y rondando los campos y limpiandoles de ladrones y malhechores.” ACM, vol. 39, no. 20, 1782-1783. While vecinos nominated to be alcaldes jueces pedáneos served within their partido, the location of a vecino’s house did not much influence whether he might or might not be elected to the cabildo as most Medellinenses were within a five minute (Otrabanda) to one hour (San Cristóbal) ride away from the central plaza.


For analysis of Antioqueño colonization see Parsons, Antioqueño Colonization, López Toro, Migración y cambio social, and Christie, “Antioqueño Colonization.”


Arango Mejía, Genealogías, notes the dates of arrival and important dates in the lives of family founders. For example, he records that Don Baltasar Tamayo (whose descendants are fourth generation in 1780-1810) wrote a will in Medellin in 1672 (II, 368), or that Don Martin Chavarriaga married in Medellín in 1668 (I, 213).


Twinam, “Miners,” pp. 65-73.


Arango Mejía, Genealogías, I, 466—486 contains the Jaramillo genealogy.


Louisa Schell Hoberman, “Merchants in Seventeenth-Century Mexico City: A Preliminary Portrait,” HAHR, 57 (Aug. 1977), 493, 499; Marzahl, “Creoles and Government,” pp. 647-648; Wibel, “Evolution of a Regional Empire,” p. 196; Brading, Miners and Merchants, pp. 173-182.


Hoberman, “Merchants in Seventeenth-Century Mexico City,” pp. 499, 482.


Marzahl, “Creoles and Government,” pp. 651-652, 648.


Wibel, “Evolution of a Regional Empire,” p. 136. Wibel notes that “several” merchants were alcaldes in the later years of the eighteenth century, p. 195.


Brading, Merchants and Miners, p. 219.


AHA, vol. 824, Documentos Varios, no. 13014, 1812.


Brew, “Economic Development of Antioquia,” pp. 69-72.


Ospina Vásquez, Industria y protección, p. 310, speaks of an Antioqueño modo de ser.

Author notes


The author, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati, thanks Professors Richard M. Morse and Frank Safford, and the late Luis Ospina Vásquez, for their comments and acknowledges the research support of the Foreign Area Fellowship Program and the Brodie and Taft Funds of the University of Cincinnati.