Debate, although more often oblique than direct, more often expressed orally than committed to paper, is the stuff of scholarship. It clarifies the issues. It challenges scholars to brighten their imagery, reevaluate their evidence, and sharpen their analysis. Jorge Gelman’s thoughtful objections to our article on rural workers promises such a controversy, and on unique terms. Unlike previous disagreements, Gelman and we have analyzed the very same primary documents—the account books of the Estancia de las Vacas in the late eighteenth-century Banda Oriental—and we reach different conclusions.1 We differ over the capitalist nature of the estancia, over the factors conditioning the pattern of employment at the estate, and, above all, over the power of the workers to control their own labor. Gelman’s critique calls on us to look again at the old problem of gauchos and rural society in the Río de la Plata.

Our article proposed that, during the late colonial period, peons possessed the power to influence the labor market of the Banda Oriental. At the time, the environment was characterized by fluctuating external demands for hides and tallow and by a limited control of the countryside by colonial authorities. The mulattos, Indians, and mestizos who formed the rural working class came and went according to their private needs, because they retained access to means of subsistence other than just working for large estancias. Gauchos entered the wage nexus whenever they needed silver money for tobacco, yerba, a poncho, a facón, and for aguardiente to enjoy with their friends. At other moments, they squatted on land, hunted wild bulls, slaughtered branded cattle, and stole horses and hides. Obviously, the gauchos of the East Bank wished to preserve certain cultural traditions. Among them were personal freedom, spatial mobility, and enjoyment of leisure time. These workers continued to exercise their independent lifestyles, forcing employers to pay higher wages, and resisted attempts to render their work habits more efficient.

Gelman’s reading of the same documents yields opposite conclusions. He proposes that the employment patterns were related to the seasonal demand of wheat production within the wider economy. Labor turnover was not the result of the peons’ cultural attachment to a particular lifestyle; rather, they left to harvest wheat on their own plots and in the numerous farms of the area. To support his argument, Gelman provides monthly data of employment at the estancia, presents excerpts of the administrator’s letters to the owners, and estimates the demand for labor in the wheat harvests of Buenos Aires province. “The cattle estancia in this region,” he reports, “had no major problems in recruiting free laborers . . . except in some specific moments.” By minimizing the existence of labor shortages during the rest of the year, Gelman shifts the explanation of the estate’s pattern of employment from workers’ culture and resistance to the conflicting labor demands of two productive activities, cattle ranching and wheat farming.

Gelman also ventures a reinterpretation of the nature of rural society in the late colonial Río de la Plata. He cites the continuing study of tithes by Juan Carlos Garavaglia and published works to emphasize that agriculture was as important as cattle ranching to the region’s economy. Therefore, he speculates, there may have existed a large peasantry in the colonial period, and the nomadic gaucho may have been a creation of the later independence movement and of militia impressments. The dispossession of peasant farmers by nineteenth-century Argentine cattle barons as they grabbed the land would have had the same effect in his view.

Two Areas of Agreement

Let us consider first the areas in which we concur. First, we agree that wheat growing was important in the Banda Oriental. In fact, we never said it was not. The Estancia de las Vacas itself produced from 60 to 120 fanegas of wheat annually. (One fanega equals 102 kilograms.) In 1798, for instance, the management set four peons to plowing during April, another two men in May to breaking ground, five men in June to planting seeds, five more men in July to building a fence around the sown field, and thereafter someone to care for the chacra until harvest time. We also know that only five men worked a total of four days each in harvesting the crop during January 1799. This particular harvest yielded only 14 fanegas of grain, because “all this bank has suffered from the polbillo ysoca that has come in abundance this year.”2

In truth, most wheat harvests at Las Vacas were larger, yet neither the men engaged in the harvest nor the days of the harvest were particularly numerous. The harvest of January 1790 lasted 5.5 days and occupied an average of 12 persons per day. In contrast, 1793 was a good year for wheat. Twenty-one men worked, but few actually stayed for the entire harvest.3 In 1795, 16 men worked the harvest but only for an average of 5 days each. The harvest of 1798 was another good one, 7 men bringing in 101 fanegas in 20 days.4 The harvest could be, in the short term, relatively labor intensive.

Second, we agree that this seasonal demand for labor had its effects on the estancia. A system of varied land tenancy surrounded this former Jesuit estancia on the East Bank. Melchor Albín owned a substantial estate on the opposite side of the Arroyo de las Vacas, and several independent agregados, or squatters, lived in primitive dwellings along the creeks. The list of neighbors, moreover, indicates the varied ethnic origins and social status of the inhabitants. There were Doña Petrona Xibaja, José Antonio Indio, Tía Angelina, Juan Estevan Mulato, Safa’s widow, Don Francisco Castro, “Old Peralta,” Peralta’s son-in-law, and others.5 From this population at least part of the estancia work force was drawn, and Gelman has shown how, in January, workers left the estancia for harvests—and for higher pay—elsewhere in the vicinity. Our notes also indicate that workers had this as well as other alternatives.

The Four Fallacies

These areas of agreement do not prevent us from believing that Gelman derives unsupportable notions from the wealth of Las Vacas documentation. His first fallacy concerns the estimation of a “global demand” for labor during the wheat harvest. According to Gelman’s calculations, about half of the rural population of the Buenos Aires countryside was engaged in harvesting wheat in the first month of every year. However, the calculation of aggregate labor requirements from microestimates of productivity and gross figures of production—as in his study—poses innumerable risks. Because employment coefficients per unit of output vary significantly according to the size of the productive unit, the social organization of production, and the habits of the work force, it is extremely difficult to evaluate the accuracy of Gelman’s estimates.6 Biases in these coefficients (in relation to the “true” population average), added to any possible error in the total figure of production, generate doubtful assessments of labor needs. Unfortunately, Gelman does not provide us with a wider range of cases by which to judge the accuracy of his estimates. Therefore, we can only examine the validity of his procedures.

Here we find reason for skepticism. Gelman takes the number of workers the estancia hired for a few days as representative of a month’s requirement, which overstates the “average” labor requirements by several times. Las Vacas, because it was a large estate, had the financial resources to hire laborers during the harvest. In this way, it concentrated work to just a few days. Small labradores, unable to pay wages, would have to spread their work over a longer time. Although the work of 15 laborers working ten days is equivalent to 5 workers during a month, the latter yields a better estimate, assuming that most producers were peasant small farmers.

The evidence from the Estancia de las Vacas leads us to believe that few workers were engaged in the task. Harvest employment (84 to 169 work-days per year) represented only 0.6 to 1.1 percent of the total amount of work-days put in at the estancia. Groups of 13 to 17 persons worked from 6 to 9 days and seldom produced more than 120 fanegas. But the Estancia de las Vacas was a cattle estate, made up of nine estancias and various puestos extending over 113,800 hectares of land.7 For this reason, extrapolating from the estancia’s labor requirements to obtain those of small-scale agriculture on the other side of the estuary seems, a priori, unjustified.

In Buenos Aires, wheat farming constituted a productive endeavor separated from cattle ranching both locationally and socially. The chácaras occupied the intermediate area between the quintas and the estancias, about six to eight leagues from the city. In 1798, 2,000 labradores, each producing between 20 and 60 fanegas, supplied the city with 90,000 to 100,000 fanegas of wheat.8 Surpluses being limited to years of abundant rainfall, the viceroy rejected a proposal to export wheat to other Spanish American colonies. With the population of Buenos Aires disproportionately concentrated in the city, the harvest continuously suffered from labor shortages. The cabildo of Buenos Aires even imposed a ceiling on wages and withdrew workers from other activities for compulsory farm labor. Landowning farmers, limited to the designated tierras de laboreo, had little room to advance economically or socially. At the same time, they were not under heavy pressure to become proletarians.

The countryside of the Banda Oriental differed from that of Buenos Aires in several respects. First, wheat farming was less strictly oriented to local consumption. Of the 60,000 fanegas of wheat produced in 1787, 11,000 were exported to Havana (mainly as flour). Second, the degree of land concentration and deprivation of independent producers was more pronounced than in Buenos Aires. The East Bank served as the principal center of colonial cattle ranching, the first saladeros having been established there in the 1790s. The administrators of the Estancia de las Vacas were justifiably concerned with keeping squatters off the ranch properties: agregados stole cattle from which export profits could be made.9 The existence of numerous agregados and landless peons bespeaks the spread of latifundios in the last two decades of the eighteenth century (to the extent that colonial officials devised plans of land reform) and, at the same time, the diversity of occupations and residential patterns of rural workers.10 These differences should prevent us from hastily transporting our conclusions from one bank of the Río de la Plata to the other.

A second fallacy in Gelman’s argument concerns the relationship of the Estancia de las Vacas to the market. He views the estancia as a noncapitalistic enterprise whose function was not that of “capital accumulation” but the support of a hospital and an orphanage in Buenos Aires. He cites the response of the estancia to the decline in prices of 1796-97, when it produced even more hides, as an indication that the estate tried to maintain a constant level of revenue, which he finds not truly capitalistic.

True, the estate was owned by the Hermandad de la Caridad, a lay brotherhood. Its corporate ownership notwithstanding, the Estancia de las Vacas depended on markets and wage labor, and its administrators were keenly concerned with profits and work discipline. It produced hides for export and wheat, kindling, fence posts, lime, soap, grease, tallow, and dried and salted meat for domestic markets. Profits were divided among the charities and the estate administrators. Furthermore, management positions on the estate were economic plums. The estate administrator, usually a Spaniard, drew a salary of up to 400 pesos per year, and he may have shared in some of the profits. The resident chaplain earned between 150 and 300 pesos, and an ayudante (administrator’s helper) received 200 pesos.11 Moreover, sale of the estancia goods was brokered by the Hermandad’s members, most of whom were Spanish-born overseas merchants. The hermano mayor usually obtained personal financial benefits from his ability to appoint and dismiss administrative personnel, secure contract labor, distribute estancia products, and furnish consumer goods for sale (at marked-up prices) at the estancia store.12 Although the estancia possessed slaves, production depended heavily on its ability to procure temporary hired laborers, for whom wages constituted the main mechanism of recruitment. Finally, the Hermandad’s concern with deriving profits from its operations at Las Vacas led it to face the problem of work discipline. Productivity and work intensity figured prominently in the various instrucciones drafted by the owners during this period.

The estancia’s response in 1796-97 was not different from what one would expect from a market-oriented enterprise. Sales measured at constant prices—a better indicator of an estate’s production than sales at current prices—continued growing during those years. The effects of the 1796 blockade of Cádiz were not felt in the Río de la Plata until a year later. With a market still expanding, the estancia seems to have devoted more labor to the skinning of hides, an export product which brought the cash needed to retain peons. Gelman is right in that the number of man-days at the estancia continued rising even after sales were much reduced. But this was more the result of an extension of the average duration of employment than of an increase in the number of workers. The duration of employment, we believe, was related to the payment of wages in silver. Peons stayed longer because they had been receiving cash wages in the previous two good years. It should not be difficult to understand, in any case, why the response of a market-oriented institution was to increase production and sales when prices suddenly dropped. Its management was committed to making profits. However, extra sales could not be maintained during prolonged periods of low prices because reduced earnings sooner or later alienated the wage-earning workers. They left when the administrator ran out of money.

By overemphasizing the effect of the wheat harvest on a ranching economy, Gelman subscribes to a third fallacy: he minimizes the labor shortage that plagued the rural economy. Gelman finds “surprising regularity” in the seasonality of employment, a phenomenon related to the importance of the wheat harvest. Yet his own figures do not show such “regularity” to operate during the whole year. His more disaggregated data do capture the sharp decline in employment at harvest time, in January, but for the rest of the year, they show no convincing pattern of seasonality.13 In 1797, employment grew to high levels during July to October. In 1795, the number of peons reached peaks in March, May, and July, oscillating greatly from one month to the next. In 1798, employment remained almost constant from March to November. According to Gelman’s Table I, the egresos de peones during April to October constitute between 38 and 65 percent of the total. Why did these workers abandon the estate? Not because of the harvest.

Actually, the dearth of labor forced the estancia management to accomplish production activities when peons could be found—not according to a perfect seasonal timetable. In the first place, the varied production of the colonial estancia balanced labor demands throughout the year. The wheat planting itself involved labor over a period of months, as mentioned above. In 1798, the estancia was also delivering 30 head of live cattle per month, every month, under contract to the Martín García penal colony. Two hundred ten cartloads of kindling were sold throughout that same year, the largest sales occurring in April, May, and November.14 Branding and castration of cattle and horses might occur during July, as in 1792, at the same time that other peons might be planting, and still others building a hide roof for the wheat mill. Between January and September of 1799, from one to six men per month were engaged in cutting posts and constructing corrals. In the early spring of 1797, one capataz and twelve peons worked for two months erecting a huge corral of 80 square varas for the rounding up and domesticating of wild cattle. Other springtime activities might include the hunting of wild dogs, for which peons earned a premium for each tail brought in.15 Although the prime staking season was in late spring and summer, dried hides were produced all year round. In 1798, for instance, while peons and slaves produced 50 and 90 hides monthly, itinerant peons were brought in from August to December in order to raise production to between 100 and 700 hides per month.16 Still, when workers were not available, many of these jobs had to be postponed from one month to the next.

A fourth fallacy concerns Gelman’s inference, which he bases on his findings about the role of wheat farming, as to the nature of rural society. The Río de la Plata’s rural society, he contends, featured a “numerous peasantry,” small labradores cultivating wheat during most of the year and working part time for the estancia. In an attempt to revise the view of the gaucho as a wandering horseman, Gelman proposes a new hypothesis about the formation of the gauchos, namely that they developed from the expropriation of peasant land in the early nineteenth century. Consequently, he dismisses the documentation on cattle rustling, hide stealing, and wandering that might indicate the presence of gauderíos and changadores in the Banda Oriental since the late seventeenth century.

We do not believe that it is accurate to separate Gelman’s peasant from our gaucho, not in the Banda Oriental at this period of time.17 Some gauchos were campesinos in the sense that they produced part of their subsistence from the soil—from both farming and cattle raising. But they also obtained additional portions of their subsistence from stolen property and a variety of wage work.18 The writings of contemporary observers often confused campesinos and gauchos (the term pequeños labradores y criadores appeared often as the positive side of the word gaucho). Other indicators—like the composition of José Gervasio Artigas’s rural militias during the insurrection and exodus of 1811-12, the evidence on land evictions, and Garavaglia’s work on the tithes—tend to support the idea of a rural society composed of small producers.19 But this says little about their habits of work and their lifestyles. Nor does it add to a comprehension of their residential patterns. In order to discover elements in which the rural inhabitants of the Banda Oriental approximate other peasantries, one would have to complement the little we know from the records of the Estancia de las Vacas with militia records, parish registers, population censuses, and other sources revealing of “peasants’ culture.”

At the heart of the issue are the degree of mobility of rural people and their resistance to domination by the landowners. Gelman’s interpretation strikingly departs from ours on this point. For him, direct appropriation was a product of aberrant behavior, immaterial to what he sees as a symbiotic and harmonious relationship between the hard-working peasantry and the big landowners. For us, cattle and hide theft was symptomatic of the clash between the tradition of an individual’s free access to wild cattle and the new property rights of an expanding capitalist economy. As for the other expression of rural workers’ autonomy—the abandonment of work—Gelman reduces its significance to the conflicting labor demands of wheat farming and cattle raising. This is unjustified. The high rates of turnover found at Las Vacas constituted the rural workers’ defense of their traditions of mobility and independence and also their response to relations of power within the estancia—including both the wage nexus and authoritarian forms of supervision.

Three Proofs of an Itinerant Work Force

These objections to Gelman’s critique lead to the principal thrust of our article. We dealt not with the nature of rural society (whether made up of campesinos or gauchos) but with a different subject: the issue of incomplete proletarianization under a situation of fluctuating exports. Proletarianization was incomplete because each rural inhabitant spent such a brief amount of time in wage labor. Their successful resistance to proletarianization, we suggest, relates to the gauchos’ work habits and lifestyles. That there was a wheat harvest does not alter our principal thesis. On the one hand, the short duration of employment is consistent with what contemporaries said about the attitudes of gauchos. A second, and not so traditional, finding pertains to our observation that gauchos on and off the estancia fought for the preservation of their cultural preferences. They wished to preserve the traditions of direct appropriation, of refusing to work, of being on the move, and of exercising independence. To a large extent, they succeeded.

To demonstrate our points, we must now turn to additional proofs of the workers’ influence over the labor market. The first proof is this: few peons ever came back to work at the Estancia de las Vacas. We evaluated more than 1,200 pay vouchers, most for the years 1791 to 1800. Only 16 percent of these peons ever returned to work at the estate a second time—and not necessarily in succeeding years. Gelman ignores these critical data for good reason. If most workers never came back to work, what does this say about his image of a settled, hard-working, wheat-cultivating peasantry who picked up a few extra pesos at the neighboring estancias? We believe that it supports our conclusion that wage workers came from a transient population of itinerant Guaraní Indians, mestizo and mulatto migrants from the interior provinces, and a mobile group of mestizos and mulattos who made up the Banda Oriental’s rural inhabitants.

That peons did not return to the estancia yearly meant continued insecurity for the estate since naturally the few returnees and the resident slaves did not suffice to do all the work. Boatloads of workers had to be dispatched to the estancia from Buenos Aires throughout the year. Here are some instances:

  • —in August 1790, the Hermandad advanced 190 pesos to a labor contractor, Salvador Rubio, and 20 peons to work at Las Vacas; each peon got a 2-peso advance on his two months pay plus a bonus of seven pesos before leaving Buenos Aires;20

  • —in October 1791, boatman Julián Pazos received 16 pesos for transporting 27 peons from Buenos Aires;21

  • —in June 1792, a launch arrived from Buenos Aires with 8 men to work at Las Vacas;22

  • —in March 1793, the administrator welcomed two boatloads from Buenos Aires bringing 31 men, who began the slaughter of two thousand bulls, a job that had been postponed for some time for lack of peons;23

  • —in 1794, the workers coming over from Buenos Aires were mostly Santiagueños, who demanded to be paid in silver—not in goods—and who would soon return to the interior;24

  • —on March 25, 1800, 18 peons under capataz Ruidíaz were sent out from Buenos Aires;

  • —and on April 1, 1800, 13 additional peons, apparently from the surrounding area, arrived for branding, but not being enough, 21 more men were dispatched from Buenos Aires on April 18.25

The owners’ dependence on drafting large numbers of itinerants rendered the estate susceptible to workers’ pay demands. Urgent appeals went out from the estate administrator to the Hermandad to send money for wages in 1796. Why? “In order that [the peons] feel satisfied and continue willingly at their tasks,” wrote Administrator García.26 When the owners had no silver, especially during trade depressions, peons were reluctant to enter into the employ of the estate, as in October 1799. At that time, the administrator had been unable to deliver cattle to the saladeros, because the latter could not pay in the specie the estate needed to compensate its laborers.27

The second proof relates to the paradoxically high status of some slaves in the production process of the Estancia de las Vacas. Because the labor process of cattle raising often was dispersed over great distances, the control the owners wanted to impose on them was not always effective. The newest slaves, such as the five negros bozales at the estate in 1796 who were just off the boat from Africa and helplessly unfamiliar to the new surroundings, suffered the worst treatment. They were locked up at night, worked on foot rather than on horseback, and received the smallest rations.28 The rest, about 20 experienced slaves who were the estancia’s longest residents, actually dominated the cadre of ranch foremen. Ten out of the twelve foremen listed for the estate in 1794 were slaves. Even the capataz mayor, Patricio de Belem, was a slave. Married to a free parda, he was responsible for the cattle herds, the branding, the location of rodeos and puestos, the horses, the workers, and the faenas (hunting of wild dogs and of wild cattle).29

The position of these capataces esclavos demanded some paternalistic regard and much expense. When agents of the Hermandad visited the estate, the slaves would accost them with demands to find marriageable women for them. Every now and then, the owners purchased slave women to marry the slave foremen.30 Owning slaves in the Banda Oriental was not inexpensive, as the initial cost of a slave might be 200 pesos or more. Slaves demanded extra clothes, food, yerba and bombillas, salt, soap, and tobacco. Capataces esclavos usually obtained ponchos, calzones (breeches), and saddle equipment, befitting their rank in production. In 1794, the management of the estate expended 444 pesos on slaves’ “goods.”31 Slaves also ran away—seven between 1795 and 1799. On January 31, 1799, the administrator wrote: “This month a mulatto slave named Francisco Antonio has escaped. Despite my writing to the alcaldes of Santo Domingo Soriano, Capilla Nueva, Montevideo, and the other districts, there has been no news about him.”32 Nevertheless, slaves formed the most reliable estancia workers, in view of the mobility and independence of free wage laborers.33

The above two proofs—lack of repeat workers and need for slaves as important permanent workers—contribute to our final proof about the influence of workers over the labor market. That is, the Estancia de las Vacas could have been more productive if it only had enough workers. Take, for example, the large number of wild cattle, ganado alzado. In the inventory of 1791, the estate listed 39,500 head of wild cattle and 15,611 head of domesticated cattle (ganado de rodeo). By 1799, 32,000 head of the cattle on the estate remained alzados, while the domesticated herds had grown to nearly 33,000. But a report of 1798 mentioned that only 10,552 head, or one-third of the domesticated cattle, were branded.34

The above information lends credence to the constant complaints of the administrator about lack of peons to round up and domesticate the cattle, to brand them, and to keep them from scattering. A visitor from the Hermandad found in 1795 that the ganado de rodeo had not been branded in two years, nearly ran wild, and mixed with the neighbors’ herds. There were not enough peons to watch the herds, the report concluded.35 The dearth of workers also prevented efficient use of the animals’ products. Slaughtering was often done only for the hides, wasting the grease, tallow, and meat. The Hermandad was none too pleased with this inefficiency. Its hermano mayor wrote of sales contracts at Buenos Aires going unfulfilled because not enough sebo and grasa had been arriving from Las Vacas. The owners tired of the administrator’s excuses about lacking both peons and cash to pay them. Arriving for an inspection in January 1800, one agent of the Hermandad wrote of great disorganization on the estancia: wheat going unharvested, few peons in residence, dispersal of herds, and nonpayment of back wages. The inspector blamed all this on the administrator.36 But what was the administrator to do? He had to deal, on a daily basis, with slaves for foremen, itinerants from the interior, and a mobile local population having other alternatives to wage labor. To ignore the difficulty of employers in finding and keeping employees does an injustice to the autonomy of the rural workers of the Banda Oriental.

A final comment is in order. Gelman’s treatment of seasonality, of the relationship between farming and cattle ranching, and of the noncapitalistic response of the estancia administrators rests on an assumption that the economic system alone, or predominantly, determines the fate of rural workers. In effect, those economic indicators that influence the decisions of the propertied and the powerful are the keys to understanding the nature of rural society. This perspective is all too common among historians. Instead of seeking social harmony and finding it, we might view our documents in fresh ways that will permit us to acknowledge that peons are not entirely creatures of the economic system. They help mold the modes of production just as much as they, in turn, are affected by economic change. The history of the Río de la Plata is more than the reproduction rates of cattle, seasonality of crops, and occurrences of drought. It is also the story of flesh-and-blood people who think, connive, resist, and vote with their feet, and who are capable of shaping their own lives.


Ricardo D. Salvatore and Jonathan C. Brown, “Trade and Proletarianization in the Late Colonial Banda Oriental: Evidence from the Estancia de las Vacas, 1791-1805,” HAHR, 67:3 (1987), 431_459; Jorge Gelman, “New Perspectives on an Old Problem and the Same Source: The Gaucho and the Rural History of the Colonial Río de la Plata,” HAHR, this issue. Independent of our work, scholars within Argentina are engaging in the same debate over the colonial peon. See the articles by Gelman, Juan Carlos Garavaglia, Samuel Amaral, and Carlos Mayo in the Anuario IEHS, 2 (1987). Like Gelman, Amaral also supports the position that the demand for labor accounts For the high rate of worker turnover. See Amaral, “Rural Production and Labour in Late Colonial Buenos Aires,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 19:2 (Nov. 1987), 263-264.


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1796-1798,” Archivo General de la Nación, Buenos Aires (hereafter AGN) Sala IX 6–8–4, leg. 5; “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1799-1800,” AGN Sala IX 6-8-5, leg. 6.


“Varias cuentas de estancias encargadas a varios capataces,” 1789-1790, AGN Sala IX 34–2–6 (2526); “Cuaderno en que se Ileba la cuenta del jornal diario de los individuos empleados en la faena de ciega que da principio en 2 de enero de 1793,” AGN Sala IX 6–8–2.


“Estancia de las Vacas, libro de asientos,” 1795, AGN Sala IX 37-5-4 (E. 15); “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1796-1798.”


“Expediente promovido q. el Cura Vicario de las Viboras dn. Casimiro Josef de la Fuente . . .,” 1802, AGN Sala IX 35–1–1 (E. 21).


Wheat yields varied significantly from one report to another. The regidor decano of the Buenos Aires cabildo estimated that in 1789 a ratio of one worker to ten arrobas of wheat was the norm. Tadeo Haenke reported that yields of 1:20 and 1:30 were common in normal years. Manfred Kossok, El Virreynato del Río de la Plata (Buenos Aires, 1959), 97; Haenke, Viaje por el Virreinato del Río de la Plata (Buenos Aires, 1943), 88-89.


An inventory listed the property as having a frontage on the Río Uruguay of 6.5 leagues and an equal depth. [Visita de Bolaños, 1799], AGN Sala IX 6–8–5. We calculate the work days spent at the harvest from the sources listed for Table II, Salvatore and Brown, “Trade and Proletarianization in Late Colonial Banda Oriental,” 438.


Haenke, Viaje por el Virreinato, 87-88; Kossok, El Virreynato del Río de la Plata, 97.


José Manuel Pérez Castellano, Selección de escritos: Crónicas históricas, 1787-1814 (Montevideo, 1968), 4; García, report for Mar., “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1794-1796,” AGN Sala IX 6-8-3; Juan Carlos Nicolau, Antecedentes para la historia de la industria argentina (Buenos Aires, 1968), 38-39; Horacio Juan Cuccorese and José Panettieri, Argentina, manual de historia económica y social (Buenos Aires, 1971), I, 96-98.


See José P. Barrán and Benjamín Nahum, Bases económicas de la revolución artiguista (Montevideo, 1964), 96-104. According to Luisa Sala de Tourón et al., agregados worked as craftsmen, faeneros, carreros, desholladores, leñeros, etc. for farmers and ranchers. Sala de Tourón et al., Estructura económico-social de la colonia (Montevideo, 1967), 149-150.


“Estancia de las Vacas. Libro de asientos, 1795,” AGN Sala IX 37–5–4 (E. 15); “Espediente promovido Sr. Dn. Luis de Zaldarriaga a nombre de Fr. Dom. Viera,” 1803, AGN Sala IX 23–5–6 (E. 326).


Tomás Antonio Romero to Hernández, Buenos Aires, Dec. 20, 1798, AGN Sala IX 6–9–2; José González Bolaños to Florencio García, Buenos Aires, Jan. 10, 1799, Sala IX 6–8–5.


Our Table V, which expresses the seasonal distribution of employment as a percentage deviation from average annual employment, also shows a systematic decline in employment during the first quarter. See Salvatore and Brown, “Trade and Proletarianization,” 445.


“Libro de entradas y salidas de efectos,” 1798, AGN Sala IX 31-7-4 (1116).


Report of July 1792, AGN IX 6–8–2; “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1799-1800”; “Florencio García. Administrador de la Hermandad . . . presenta libro de asiento de salarios,” 1797, AGN Sala IX 31–7–2 (1053); “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1794-1796.”


“Libro de entradas y salidas de efectos,” 1798.


Nor is it fair to read our depiction of rural workers as the stereotypical gaucho of Sarmiento’s writings. We do not use the term gaucho to refer to the character portrayed in the nineteenth-century gauchesco literature (gaucho malo, gaucho ladrón, gaucho perseguido) but in the sense of a culturally distinctive group of people residing in the countryside, neither nomadic nor stable, and only partially integrated into the estancia export economy.


In 1798, of a group of tobacco smugglers arrested near the frontier with Brazil, one declared himself to be a peón de labranza, another was a peón de campaña, and another was an entendido in labranza y ejercicio de campo. The same happened with another group of smugglers arrested in 1794. Sala de Tourón et al., Estructura económico-social, 156-157.


Salvatore, “The Breakdown of Social Discipline in the Banda Oriental and the Argentine Littoral, 1790-1820,” in Revolution and Restoration of Order in Nineteenth Century Argentina, edited by Brown and Mark D. Szuchman (forthcoming).


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1740-1790,” AGN Sala IX 6–7–9.


“Entrada y salida de caudales desde primero de julio de 1791 . . .,” AGN Sala 31-5-7 (E. 736).


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1791-1792,” AGN Sala 6-8-1.


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1792-1793,” AGN Sala 6-8-2.


[Posadas to Altolaguirre], AGN Sala IX 6-8-3.


“El Hermano Mayor de la Sta. Caridad sobre que se obligue al Administrador . . ." (1800), AGN Sala IX 37–5–4 (20).


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1794-1796.”


Manuel de Lavardén to Almandos y Capdevila, Buenos Aires, Jan. 19, 1802, AGN Sala 6–8–6; García to Bolaños, Calera, Nov. 15, 1799, Sala IX 6-8–5; Libro de cargo y data,” 1799, Sala IX 31-7-6 (E. 1178).


“Libro de cargo y data de generos remitidos de Buenos Ayres,” 1796, AGN Sala IX 37–5–4 (9); “Expediente sobre propuesta del administrador Florencio García para continuar en el cargo,” 1799, AGN Sala IX 37–5–4 (E. 19); “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1803-1805,” AGN Sala IX 6–8–7.


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1791-1792”; “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1794-1796.”


Capataz Fernando, a slave, even had the freedom to court María Rita, the black servant of a neighbor. In 1792, he requested permission to marry her. [Visita de Félix de la Rosa, 1792], AGN Sala IX 6-8–1; “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1796-1798.”


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1803-1805”; “Libro de entradas y salidas de efectos,” 1797, Sala IX 37–5–4 (E. 10); “Libro de cargo y data del año del 1798,” 31-7-4 (1115); “Estancia de las Vacas. Libro de entrada y salida de efectos y caudales,” 1795, AGN Sala IX 37-5-4 (E. 11).


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1799-1800.”


This conclusion conflicts somewhat with that of Amaral, who says of estancia slavery at Buenos Aires, “The advantage of using slaves for permanent jobs was their lower longterm cost, whereas the advantage of employing peons was their higher daily profits.” Amaral, “Rural Production and Labour,” 272.


“Expediente sobre propuesta del administrador Florencio García para continuar en el cargo”; “Hermandad de la Caridad, 1796-1798.”


García to Lezica, Jan. 31, 1795, AGN Sala IX 37-5-4 (E. 19).


“Hermandad de la Caridad, 1799-1800”; Lavardén to Almandos y Capdevila, AGN Sala 6-8-6.