By the end of the eighteenth century, Puebla’s economic dynamism was a faded memory. Chroniclers of the period bemoaned this loss of prestige in artisan and trading realms, and documented the shift of agrarian supremacy to other climes. Modern historians propose theories to explain the perceived transformation of New Spain’s economic balance. In its heyday, Puebla was a center for both internal and external commerce, administered the mercury monopoly (azogue), produced textiles which were sold as far away as Peru, and grew wheat for international consumption. The general decline of Puebla’s economy affected all these areas, but in this essay I will attempt to shed new light on the gradual deterioration of Poblano agriculture over the course of the century.

Spanish settlers populated the Puebla area soon after the conquest, transforming the region into Mexico’s breadbasket. Iberian-oriented farms supplied wheat for Mexico City; bizcocho for the naval fleets of both the Atlantic and the Pacific; and cereal for Yucatán,1 Cuba,2 and, at times, Venezuela.3 Wheat from the Atlixco area commanded a higher price than products from other regions, and the quality of Poblano grain, in general, assured it markets.4 Yet, by the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Poblano grain farmers no longer held this supremacy; they lost their internal markets to Toluca and the Bajío as consumers no longer found Poblano wheat to be competitive in price or quality.5 Even farmers in Michoacán outstripped the Poblanos in production of grain.6 Within the archdiocese of Puebla, tithe records indicate that the area of greatest wealth shifted from the wheat-producing lands of the altiplano to the coastal regions of Córdoba and Orizaba by the end of the Bourbon period.7 The slump of Poblano agriculture is clear, but a definitive explanation still eludes historians.

The root causes of Puebla’s irrevocable deterioration in agrarian competitiveness have been attributed to both external and internal factors. Such chroniclers as Clavijero claimed that other regions—the Bajío and Michoacán, for instance—began aggressive expansion of their fields and undercut the former giant of cereal production.8 Juan Carlos Garavaglia and Juan Carlos Grosso, Enrique Florescano, and Claude Morin have also argued that other areas were more efficient in their agricultural production.9 Garavaglia and Grosso further note that Puebla suffered from the fact that its farms were more distant from the increasingly vital economic poles of the northern mining industry.10 Even the products of the Anglo-American colonies, with lower taxes and duties, began to outsell Poblano grain in the Caribbean.11 Certainly, demographic shifts within New Spain did not favor the region, nor did the farmers of Puebla seem able to productively absorb the capital available to the agrarian sector in the Bourbon century.12 Changes within New Spain’s economy created new conditions and challenges for the Poblano wheat farmers—challenges which they were not able to surmount. Yet, the decline cannot be blamed on external factors exclusively, since productivity and the growth of the Poblano economy fell dramatically during this period.13 Internal weaknesses form the core of the reason why Poblano farming could not adapt to the transformation of the colonial economy.

A group of scholars—Alejandra Moreno Toscano, Guy Thomson, Garavaglia and Grosso, and Arístides Medina Rubio—have tried to pinpoint these internal failings. Moreno Toscano blames the prevailing practice of absentee landlordism, while Thomson attributes the decline to a rigid adherence to the latifundio in the face of changing conditions.14 Medina Rubio links the decadence of the agrarian sector to climatic crises at the end of the eighteenth century, which he asserts the Poblano haciendas could not withstand, encumbered in debts as they were.15 Apart from their valuable explanation of external pressures on the Poblano economy, Garavaglia and Grosso posit that decreasing yields of the fields within the wheat-producing area, as well as a higher cost for labor, made the Poblano farmers less competitive.16 These explanations all have some validity and perhaps form different facets of the entire picture. They remain, however, mostly proposals rather than definitive explanations. All of them need further amplification in order to explain the problem of lack of competitiveness of Puebla agriculturalists.

Strangely, historians studying Poblano haciendas and agriculture devote little attention to the question of the decline.17 Therefore, any attempt to study the internal weaknesses of the region’s agriculture can only advance a tentative and partial explanation. This essay suggests a different approach to the crisis, examining it from the particular vantage point of conflicts over water rights in the area. My intention is to add to the current literature and to propose questions which may point toward future solutions to the puzzle.

Access to water was fundamental to farmers of the region, especially to farmers producing the predominant cash crops: wheat and sugar. Irrigation extended the growing period in areas dominated by the wet/dry seasonal pattern, and was necessary for certain plants. In Puebla, especially in the area surrounding Atlixco, waterings from perennial streams extended the growing season before the rains came, or over the winter, and thus made two annual crops of wheat possible.18 In addition, unirrigated wheat remained vulnerable to such forms of rust as chahuistle, a fungal parasite.19 Sugar simply needs constant water, and, in the case of ingenios, streams provided power for the milling process. Because both sugar and wheat cultivation in Puebla implied use of irrigation, and because both could only grow in certain altitudes, the sample of cases used for this article is limited by these same factors. To be exact, the regions covered consist of central and southern Puebla. This area is categorized as semiarid,20 but also was a center of commercialized agriculture from the beginnings of Spanish colonialism in Mexico and an area intensely farmed before contact with the Europeans (see Map I). The eighteenth century—the period of decadence within this farming economy—saw a dramatic increase of fights over water rights in Puebla along with a rise in indebtedness and the transfer of long-held properties to creditors21 (see Figure I). We must seek the origins of this crisis in the years before the period under study, but an examination of its effect on agriculture will clarify some of the internal weaknesses of the eighteenth-century Puebla economy.

When one reviews provincial testimony from cases involving conflicts over water rights, several issues which concerned large numbers of agriculturalists become apparent. First, long-term farmers noted gradually decreasing reserves of irrigation. Second, the Poblanos blamed both an increase of population and the rise of demand/prices for commercial crops for stimulating massive encroachments on available water resources.22 The effect of these phenomena on eighteenth-century Puebla agriculture was to increase the farming costs in the region, to frustrate attempts at greater productivity, and to cause many farmers to become irrevocably enmeshed in litigation. Ultimately, these problems led to the lack of competitiveness of agriculture, the encumbrance of Puebla landholdings by large debts, and the crumbling of Puebla’s supremacy as Mexico’s primary cereal producer.

Puebla’s eighteenth-century scarcity of water resources had two historical roots: ecological changes that sixteenth-century Iberian settlers accelerated and the demographic recovery of the late seventeenth century. Ecological change is hard to document, since, if not cataclysmic, transformations of the landscape are imperceptible to inhabitants over the short term. In the records of Poblano communities’ complaints over water allocation, the statements of village elders are therefore the best evidence of ecological change. These elders testified to a decrease of the strength and volume of streams used by their collectivities.23 At various times, villages reported decreasing resources in the areas of Axalpa, Huejotzingo, Tehuacán, Chietla, Cholula, and Izúcar.24 In 1783, Axalpa backed up its claim for water with a merced of 1689, which specified that its local stream measured ten surcos, while at the time of their protest it carried only nine and three-quarters surcos.25 Jack Licate also mentions that in the areas of Quecholac and Tecamachalco springs and streams provisioning farmers in the sixteenth century had disappeared by the eighteenth century.26 Without dendroclimatological studies, it is impossible to ascertain whether changes in the weather patterns and precipitation caused these perceived decreases in the quantity of water in perennial streams, or whether erosion was at the root of the phenomenon. Nevertheless, the impact of the lessening of water supplies on the agriculturalists was profound.

Iberian settlement in the area entailed changes in the landscape; in particular, Spanish colonialism intensified deforestation and introduced livestock. In the early colonial period, new construction and the needs of Spanish society stimulated the felling of reserves of trees—a process which can only be harmful to the ecological equilibrium of any area. Deforestation causes a more rapid run-off of rain, then the loss of the retentive capacity of the soil, and finally a lowering of the water table.27 Puebla did not escape this phenomenon, since the demands of a new metropolis as well as other construction needs were heavy.28 By the end of the sixteenth century, wood cutters of the Puebla and Tepeaca jurisdictions began to cross into Tlaxcala, forced by their declining supplies of lumber,29 and by 1746, Bermúdez de Castro described the cerro de Amalucán just out-side the City of Angels as “muy consumido y desfrutado.”30 Concurrently, Trautmann describes a process in nearby Tlaxcala in which Indian communities turned to selling firewood progressively as they lost their land.31 By the eighteenth century, many indigenous villages in Puebla had undergone the same transformation and farmed their montes without respite. Coincidentally, these communities often suffered from a reduction in the volume of their streams.32 Ursula Ewald likewise mentions several haciendas that the Jesuits converted to pastoralism and wood-cutting/charcoal enterprises when the harmful practices of flood irrigation on hillside fields destroyed the carrying capacity of their lands.33

Livestock also aggravates ecological degradation by destroying ground cover and thus facilitating increased erosion. Elinor Melville shows that such degradation of areas devoted to pastoralism could be extremely rapid; and she questions the chronology of erosion as presented by Cook.34 Melville’s work demonstrates that the introduction of sheep into the Mezquital Valley caused a radical change in only 60 years. It would be foolhardy to suggest that any such dramatic deterioration occurred in Puebla, but perhaps it is not too risky to suggest that the introduction of livestock into the area must have had an impact on the environment. Certainly research on regions surrounding Puebla indicates that pastoralism did cause some harm. In the nearby Mixteca Alta, Ronald Spores concludes that damage by the “introduced” animals was not immediately obvious, but led to “overgrazing, forest stripping, erosion and ultimately the reduced carrying capacity of Mixteca lands.”35 Charles Gibson also noted a decrease in quantity of water in Chaleo after the introduction of livestock.36 And, though Puebla was never a major producer of cattle or sheep, its farms and estates did keep livestock in some numbers.37

In general terms, Garavaglia and Grosso speak of the advantages of “newer” areas of exploitation even within the Puebla region, comparing the relative prosperity of Cholula, San Martín Texmelucán, and Huejotzingo to the state of the first colonized area of Atlixco—already in relative decline.38 The Poblano farmers themselves, according to Morin, complained in 1766 that agriculturalists in Michoacán had an ecological edge over them.39 Changes in the balance of nature are an inevitable result of human Intervention; and the acceleration of change caused by the harmful practices of the Spanish had, by the eighteenth century, left their marks on the Poblano countryside. Can we assume, then, that there is a relation between the reports of decreased hydraulic resources and erosion caused by pastoralism and deforestation?40 Whatever the final answer might be, the transformation and partial desiccation of the countryside did not have an immediate impact in the sixteenth century, since there was drastic depopulation at the time due to epidemic disease. However, two interrelated factors contributed to make the harmful effects of ecological change apparent to eighteenth-century Poblano farmers; the recovery and expansion of the population led to growing demand for available resources, both through the immediate pressure of numbers and because population growth aided the increasing dynamism of the Mexican economy.

While the radically depleted population of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries left baldíos and lessened demand for irrigation, the last quarter of the seventeenth century marked a demographic recovery in New Spain. According to Gunter Völlmer’s figures, the population trends of Puebla, with the exception of the city of Puebla and its environs, corresponded to the general pattern established for central Mexico—drastic decline in the sixteenth century and first three-quarters of the seventeenth and recovery and increase in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth.41 The population growth increased community requirements for water at a time when access to it was limited because of competing demands or insufficient quantity. Petitioners cited the fact that available water rations were no longer adequate for the then larger communities or expanded haciendas.42 The result was often migration to Mexico City or the North43; plaintiffs declared that families were fleeing from agrarian towns because of a lack of water.44 Toward the middle of the eighteenth century, Indian villages began to discover that it was no longer safe to rent water to other parties since this practice often led to usurpation of the use of streams.45 The naturales of Chietla justified their opposition to Don José Bringas Manzaneda’s use of their water by stating, “[I]t is happening continually that when Indians enter into agreements over the use of their resources, they lose this property over time as tenants allege possession.”46 Other documentation confirms this view.

At the same time, partly because of the demographic expansion of the viceroyalty, the Mexican economy was fueled to an increased vigor. The renewed economic system created markets in swelling urban centers and funneled capital into the countryside to increase agrarian production.47 Given this set of circumstances, the important question is why Puebla—a region with a strong tradition of commercial agriculture—was not able to absorb this capital and expand its hold over these new markets. Indeed, the success of Puebla agriculture until this juncture was renowned, and investors did not shy away from owning properties in the region. Cofradías of Mexico City, convents from Puebla, and various merchants owned haciendas and ingenios, especially in the fertile jurisdictions of Atlixco and Izúcar. Large landholders were not, however, the only farmers who were commercially minded. Both the labradores and many indigenous communities discovered that wheat and sugar gave very advantageous returns—a situation which seems to be particular to the Puebla area.48 Over the eighteenth century, the situation became less straightforward. The message of the market was to expand, plant more—and lower costs. Indeed, one of the major problems of the Poblanos was that their agrarian products were no longer competitive. A 1793 report to the Real Tribunal de Contaduría Mayor and the Audiencia cited the higher costs of wheat sold in Puebla de los Ángeles as an impediment for its use by the authorities except when it was directed to the Caribbean colonies.49 Moreno Toscano asserts that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries consumers purchased Atlixco wheat at a premium because of its quality, yet by the late eighteenth century, Poblano wheat could not compete within its own markets.50 Agrarian expansion was only possible with access to irrigation. Therefore, Poblano farmers wishing to cash in on market demand by expanding their fields or planting wheat or sugar discovered either that irrigation was insufficient or that, to gain access to water, they needed to do battle. This cycle explains the increased number of litigants at this time, and also sheds light on the decline of agrarian competitiveness in Puebla.

During the Bourbon century, the necessity of acquiring irrigation rights through purchase or by legal maneuvering was accentuated by the steady decrease in grants of water awarded by the crown. Accordingly, many hacendados began aggressive campaigns of aggrandizement, sometimes simply for the acreage but also frequently to gain access to the water rights associated with other properties. By infringing on the available water of indigenous communities and small- or medium-scale farmers, powerful hacendados such as the Pintos, Calvos, and Rabosos built up their rights to enormous quantities of irrigation while devoting their fields to the cultivation of profitable crops.51 Plaintiffs often noted the adoption of cash crops or expansion of tilled fields as the source of problems over access to waters.52 In 1794, the villagers of Ayutla twisted this logic to argue that they should receive some disputed waters because their rival—Putla—merely planted corn.53

Hacendados became more predatory in their attempts to expand their access to water; indigenous communities tried to defend or increase their own rights to irrigation. All became involved in the struggle for water since it was vital to expansion or survival, and one result was almost continual litigation. The lack of any means of reaching quick solutions to disagreements or special on-site authorities such as the guardianes de agua typical of the North prolonged conflicts which possibly could have been avoided under a more centralized system.54 But legal battles were only one aspect of the struggle. In addition, more day-to-day conflicts involved a rising level of sabotage, violence, and intimidation. The character of social relations changed over the course of the period, and the farmers’ priorities became enmeshed in hostilities not conducive to higher levels of production.

Spanish colonial society was characterized by an extraordinary litigiousness. Not only did Iberians engage in complex legal maneuvers, but the Indians also quickly learned to use the judicial system. Documents such as mercedes and composiciones were the primary tools of the defendants, but, even without them, proof of antigua y pacífica posesión or prior use could suffice to defend a claim.55 On the other hand, the practical realities were more complex, since conflicting and overlapping claims contradicted each other. The lack of clear-cut legal rights exacerbated the problem of access to water resources and made lawsuits long and involved.56 Litigation over specific rights to irrigation often spanned generations within the same families or villages, or sometimes was transferred from one owner to the next.57 Of note is the struggle over the waters of the Atotonilco between the villages of Ayutla and Putla, a rivalry that lasted more than 50 years and continued beyond the period under study into the nineteenth century.58 The absorption of the protagonists into this fight was such that in 1789 the wives of Putla petitioned Subdelegado Joseph de Uriz to end the conflict on the ground that their husbands were always in Mexico City and their absence from the fields caused even more damage to the harvests than the actual problems of irrigation.59 A lawyer and agrimensor of the period, Don José Saénz de Escobar, also commented on this phenomenon. In a text dating from 1749, he correlated the price and demand for wheat and the expanded tilling of soil, which he reasoned had caused an increased demand for irrigation and heightened legal strife over water.60

While these judicial battles were necessary to protect the future productivity of any farm, an involvement in a lawsuit meant considerable expense and, at times, travel to the Audiencia.61 Moreover, while Spanish law and local practices concerning the rights to water were well defined by the eighteenth century, the process of legal defense was slow and cumbersome. Irrigation was particularly vital at the seedling stage, when water meant the difference between bringing in a crop or not, a bountiful harvest or a measly one. Therefore, if the difference between a harvest and none was linked to access to water at a specific moment, a lawsuit, although perhaps a sufficient resolution to differences over the long term, could rarely solve the immediate problem. The consequences of this time lapse are well demonstrated in the example of the villages of Huilango, Huaquechula, and the town of Atlixco. Their complaint that the mayordomo of Hacienda Santa Catarina Esteban usurped their portion of the Guichital River in 1771 was upheld by the Audiencia almost immediately. The mayordomo could not, however, be forced to accede to the court’s decision until the critical period of irrigation of the estate’s seedlings had passed. The hacienda’s harvest thus was relatively assured, while the fields of the towns were barren.62 Many other communities and individuals recognized the problem caused by the lag between judicial action and application, and sought to escape this trap through direct action. Hacendados and labradores complained regularly that their fields were fruitless because of sabotage to their water supply,63 and indigenous communities reported lesser harvests and their inability to fulfill financial obligations because of the usurpation of their irrigation.64 In effect, litigation was only the tip of the iceberg. The most obvious legacy of the period of strife over irrigation is contained in the legal documents recording these battles, but these were not always the very first line of defense for the victims of usurpation.

Many farmers took matters into their own hands, while still filing for restitution with the courts.65 The people of San Martín Huaquechula, for example, destroyed the illegal dams made by Don Thomas de Burgos four or five times even as they petitioned to have the sanctity of their rights to the stream reaffirmed.66 Hacendados also used forceful means against each other. In the jurisdiction of Cholula, around 1731, Don Domingo de Apreza y Moctezuma was concerned about the clash between employees of two haciendas over water rights, stating that a fatality was possible if no strong action was taken by the judicial officials.67 Indians and Spaniards alike performed acts of sabotage of dams and partidores whereby seedlings were killed and future crops destroyed.68 These actions did not represent a total contempt for the law, nor for the processes of litigation. Rather, they were recognition that state officials could not intervene rapidly enough to protect future crops.

Nor was the sabotage of irrigation works always undertaken simply to reclaim resources considered one’s own. It might instead be geared to the creation of an inexpensive labor force or to eliminate economic rivals. The gradual annexation of streams could render a community totally subservient to hacendados, as happened between Don Juan and Don Ascensio del Castillo and the village of San Gerónimo Coyula. In this instance, the hacendados ensured the village’s economic debility by depriving it almost entirely of water, and so kept the villagers completely dependent on them for employment.69 At times, Spanish landholders stole water even when they already enjoyed an abundance.70 Don Yldefonso Prieto, for example, controlled so much water that he rented it back to the very same indigenous community from which he had usurped it.71 Hacendados used similar tactics, although usually in less dramatic fashion, to attack neighboring landowners, often causing the bankruptcy of their estates.72

When situated in an advantageous position upstream, Indian communities also wreaked havoc on the fields of haciendas and labradores73 and sometimes those of other villages,74 ‘maliciously’ (in the words of the plaintiffs) diverting water from other users. The naturales of Necoxtla and San Mateo did so to the despair of Don Juan de Paredes, owner of the ingenio San Juan Bautista Atotonilco and Hacienda de Calantla.75 In another instance, Huaquechula refused water to the inhabitants of nearby Teutla, ostensibly in order to enforce what the Huaquechulanos understood to be the duties of their neighbors in contributions to fiestas, the local church, and public works.76

The destruction of water works or denial of irrigation had consequences ranging from the loss of a harvest, to bankruptcy, or to utter subjection. With so much at stake, judicial defeats, sabotage, and usurpation were not accepted lightly. Victims often responded with more violence, intimidation, or, in the case of communities, minor rebellions. The large landholders, however, held considerable political power which they could use in contesting the claims of the indigenous population or smaller-scale labradores. Many cases successfully fought by Indian groups ended in an impasse when no authority or official imposed the final decision for fear of reprisals.77 Indian officials of Huejotzingo expounded their reservations about Don Andrés de Arze quite candidly, saying that “if Don Andrés is present at the time of adjudication, it will be impossible for the witnesses to testify truthfully, some because of fear and others because of respect.”78 If more concrete actions were necessary, hacendados could often count on the collusion of judicial officials to jail “troublemakers,”79 or simply instruct their servants to attack resisting Indians and to confiscate the livestock and other possessions.80 As a last resort, Spaniards were not unwilling to meet Indian resistance with brute force, as did the Bachiller Don Juan Berdejo and his fellow labradores in Tehuacán.81 With political and physical power, the hacendados could often make either indigenous groups or middling labradores accept an allocation of water that condemned them to a losing battle in the struggle to maintain the integrity of their communities and their economic competitiveness.

As already indicated, indigenous groups were not always the recipients of abuse. They, too, could assert their limited resources of power and intimidation, and even when direct clashes were avoided, the Indians responses contributed to a more confrontational rural society. The patterns of resistance were not uniform, but, for a community, the alboroto or tumulto was the most common reaction. It often served either to intimidate hacendados and labradores or simply to disrupt hacienda work schedules to such an extent that some accommodation was necessary.82 Rioting was also successfully used by the inhabitants of Teutla to force the Huaquechulanos to restore their water privileges.83 In 1791, when a new repartimiento de aguas prejudiced the Indian barrios of Izúcar, the hostility and belligerence of the Indian population sufficed to make Iberians plead for reinforcements and assistance from Mexico City.84 Only ten years earlier, the people of Izúcar launched a major revolt, and many Spaniards were not unsympathetic to their cause since the repartimiento basically only benefited one ingenio and was disadvantageous to many Iberians as well as to the Indians.85 Bellicose attitudes likewise resulted in some small triumphs when the naturales exerted this pressure on religious institutions that were owners of haciendas, apparently because convents were more concerned with maintaining a facade of respectability than the average landholder.86

Whether there is a direct correlation with the problems of access to irrigation or not, over the course of the eighteenth century alternate patterns of land tenure for Spanish estates appeared. Land tenure was not the focus of my investigation, so that I noted these trends in a peripheral manner. However, just as indigenous communities suffered new pressures which threatened their economic/agrarian integrity, the large haciendas also felt these new stresses. The response may well have been an increase in rental arrangements. By the mideighteenth century, many hacendados were referring to tenants in their complaints. Even important hacendados such as Don Pedro Pinto apparently rented portions of land to individuals,87 although the exact relationship between owner and lessee was not explicitly defined. In Pinto’s statement, tenant and hacendado appeared to be cooperating to reach common goals, and there was no indication of a subservient or sharecropping type of arrangement. In other references to tenants, hacendados displayed a protective tone, or sometimes tenants were totally in charge and acted on their own behalf.88 This pattern does not reflect the standard view of the Poblano hacienda,89 although it is not out of line with some of the recent research of Garavaglia and Grosso.90 Perhaps it indicates how some large landholders were dealing with the increased pressures on all farmers. These adaptations do not seem to have been entirely successful, though, since by the last half of the eighteenth century, many large estates were embroiled in complex concursos de acreedores or were sold.91 Religious institutions often purchased the estates—the Augustinians, Dominicans, and the Inquisition were the most actively involved.92 These patterns, although set forth in impressionistic form here, suggest first a response to more difficult conditions of agriculture and then a trend toward replacement of individuals by institutional ownership.

Puebla’s decline within the economy of New Spain clearly was a problem which perplexed the chroniclers of the region. Although these observers presented some explanations for the diminished textile industry and the fading mercantile status of the City of Angels, the root causes of agrarian problems of the period were not as easy to pinpoint even for contemporary observers. As a result, eighteenth-century writers generally described the symptoms of the agrarian crisis, but provided few clues as to the causes. Present-day historians have expanded our knowledge, but the problem still is only partially understood. This overview of some of the internal problems of the eighteenth-century Poblano agrarian economy makes clear, however, that changes in the colonial Mexican economy aggravated weaknesses already existing in the system. The effects of a decrease of available water supplies due to ecological degradation were necessarily worsened by the general rise in population of both the region and the colony. This demographic trend, as well as the increasing dynamism and expansion of the agrarian sector in New Spain brought challenges and opportunities, but Puebla was not able to keep pace with developments. Instead, the expansion of fields and greater planting of cash crops led to a rising level of strife over water resources and direct clashes between large landholders, indigenous communities, and labradores. By midcentury, emigration within the indigenous segment of the population reflected the decline. Haciendas, generally encumbered by debts, sometimes changed their land tenure patterns, but, in the end, many suffered bankruptcy and were taken over by religious institutions. While blank spaces still exist in the picture of eighteenth-century Poblano agriculture, this sketch of the internal debilities of the agrarian sector and their aggravation by external trends fills in at least some of the gaps.


Enrique Florescano, Origen y desarrollo de los problemas agrarios de México (Mexico City, 1986), 92.


Juan Carlos Garavaglia and Juan Carlos Grosso, “La región de Puebla/Tlaxcala y la economía novohispana (1670-1821),” Historia Mexicana, 35:4 (Apr.-June 1986), 549-600. Several scholars refer to the crisis, only Garavaglia and Grosso provide a general overview of the evidence and writings both of chroniclers and twentieth-century historians on the Poblano eighteenth-century crisis. They attribute the decline of the textile industry to the loss of the Peruvian market. The loss of the administration of certain monopolies, as well as changes instituted by the Bourbons in trade policies, affected Puebla’s status as a mercantile clearing house.


Arístides Medina Rubio, La iglesia y la producción agrícola de Puebla, 1540-1795 (Mexico City, 1983), 123, 247-250; François Chevalier, Land and Society in Colonial Mexico; The Great Estate (Berkeley, 1952), 59; Alejandra Moreno Toscano, “Regional Economy and Urbanization: Three Examples of the Relationship between Cities and Regions at the End of the Eighteenth Century,” in Urbanization in the Americas from its Beginnings to the Present, Richard Schaedel, ed. (The Hague, 1978), 401; Antonio Diego Bermúdez de Castro, Theatre ángelopolitano: Historia de la Ciudad de la Puebla de los Angeles (n.p., 1835, 1st ed., 1746), 64; Guadalupe Albi Romero, “La sociedad de Puebla de los Ángeles en el siglo XVI,” Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirschchaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas, 7 (1970), 76-145.


Moreno Toscano, “Regional Economy,” 405.


Ibid.; Florescano, Origen y desarrollo, 88.


Claude Morin, Michoacán en la Nueva España del siglo XVIII: Crecimiento y desigualdad en una economía colonial (Mexico City, 1979), 152.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “La región de Puebla-Tlaxcala y la economía novohispana, 1680-1810,” in Puebla de la colonia a la revolución (Puebla, 1987), 80.


F. J. Clavijero, Breve descripción de la provincia de México de la Compañía de Jesús, en tesoros documentales (Mexico City, 1944), 327.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “La región de Puebla,” 579-580; Morin, Michoacán, 143, 257; Florescano, Origen y desarrollo, 88. Moreno Toscano, “Regional Economy,” 420, concludes that the farmers of the Bajío were more secure in their market and so invested heavily in irrigation works, unlike those of Puebla. This construct does not take into account the differences of hydrology of the two regions.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “La región de Puebla, 579, also emphasize that since wheat was heavy the costs of transport to more distant markets were prohibitive for the Poblano farmers.


Florescano, Origen y desarrollo, 93. This is also mentioned in Archivo General de la Nación (hereafter AGN), Civil, vol. 568, exp. 1, 1795.


Eric Van Young, “The Age of Paradox: Mexican Agriculture at the End of the Colonial Period, 1750-1810,” in The Economies of Mexico and Peru During the Late Colonial Period: 1760-1810, Nils Jacobsen and Hans-Jürgen Puhle, eds. (Berlin, 1986), 67, asks whether demographic shifts away from the Poblano region caused the decline, and more generally documents the greater capitalization of the agrarian sector in the late eighteenth century.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “Puebla y la economía,” 85, estimate that by the end of the period, the Poblano economy was growing at 5.8 percent annually.


Moreno Toscano, “Regional Economy,” 404; Guy Thomson, “The Cotton Textile Industry in Puebla During the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,” in The Economies of Mexico and Peru, 177.


Medina Rubio, La iglesia, 247-250.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “Puebla y la economía,” 107.


There are two important hacienda studies for the Poblano region: Ursula Ewald, Estudios sobre la hacienda colonial en México: Las propiedades rurales del Colegio Espíritu Santo en Puebla (Wiesbaden, 1976) and Herbert Nickel, Morfología de la hacienda mexicana (Mexico City, 1988), but neither addresses the question of the eighteenth-century decline directly. Mexican anthropologists have written about indigenous agriculture and land tenure in Puebla concentrating on the sixteenth century: Carlos Paredes, “Agricultura y sociedad en Atlixco (Ph.D. diss, U.N.A.M., 1973) [forthcoming]; Hildeberto Martínez, Tepeaca en el siglo XVI, tenencia de la tierra y organización de un señorío (Mexico City, 1984): and Mercedes Olivera, Pillis y Tnacehuales: Las formaciones sociales y los modos de producción de Tecali del siglo XII al XVI (Mexico City, 1978). While valuable, these works do not really contribute to this discussion since they fail to examine Poblano agricultural economy from a broad perspective or beyond the sixteenth century. Bernardo García Martínez’s work, Los pueblos de la sierra: El poder y el espacio entre los indios del norte de Puebla hasta 1700 (Mexico City, 1987) has a different regional focus and does not cover the eighteenth century. Medina Rubio’s book provides some insights about the subject but is really an examination of the problem of tithes and does not analyze their place in the agrarian sector. Luis Henao, Tehuacán: Campesinado e irrigación (Mexico City, 1980) presents a study of the domination of water resources as a debilitating factor in indigenous structures. Finally, a new monograph by Kjell Enge and Scott Whiteford, The Keepers of Water and Earth: Mexican Rural Social Organization and Irrigation (Austin, 1989) is an important contribution on the problem of irrigation and social organization.


Chevalier, Land and Society, 60.


Michael Murphy, Irrigation in the Bajío Region of Colonial Mexico (Boulder, 1986), 212-213.


Aldolfo Orive Alba, La irrigación en Mexico (Mexico City, 1970).


Medina Rubio, La iglesia, 247.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1436, exp. 1, 1715; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1869, exp. 7, 1802; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3681, exp. 3, 1754; AGN, Mercedes, vol. 65, fols. 14v-15, 1698; AGN, Tierras, vol. 901, exp. 1, 1679-1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 222, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1705; AGN, Indios, vol. 40, exp. 10, 1716; AGN, Tierras, vol. 565, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1736; AGN, Indios, vol. 38, exp. 51bis, 1712; AGN, Tierras, vol. 273, exp. 4, 1709-11.


Manuel Rendón Castro, e.g., was 59, Viceregal and Ecclesiastical Mexican Collection (hereafter VEMC), Tulane Latin American Library, box 117, leg. 61, exp. 15, 1739; Miguel Patiño, an Indian, 85 years, AGN, Tierras, 2a parte, exp. 1, fols. 2v-3v, 1730; Joseph Fernández, a mestizo, who had experience with the town of Chilac for 45 years, AGN, Reforma Agraria, caja 11, exp. 4, fols. 73v-74v, 1718; Francisco Majares, a Spaniard, 56 years old, AGN, Tierras, vol. 635, exp. 1, 1742.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 901, exp. 1, 1679-1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 222, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1705; AGN, Indios, vol. 40, exp. 10. 1716; AGN, Tierras, vol. 565, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1736; AGN, Indios, vol. 38, exp. 51 bis, 1712; AGN, Tierras, vol. 273, exp. 4, 1709-11.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 901, exp. 1, 1679-1788. A surco represents a water measurement and corresponds approximately to the water flowing through the space of eleven square inches.


Jack Licate, Creation of a Mexican Landscape, Territorial Organization and Settlement in the Eastern Puebla Basin (1520-1605) (Chicago, 1981), 106-107. Licate also links pasturing of livestock on hillsides with a change of vegetation in the area and then erosion and the reduction of the water table.


Elinor Melville, “The Pastoral Economy and Environmental Degradation in Highland Central Mexico, 1530-1600” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1983), 151.


Julia Hirschberg documents the early rapid growth of Puebla in “A Social History of Puebla de los Angeles, 1531-1560” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1976), 2 vols.


Wolfgang Trautmann, Las transformaciones en el paisaje cultural de Tlaxcala durante la época colonial (Wiesbaden, 1981), 227. Nickel, Morfología, 186, says that this area of Tlaxcala, Tepeaca, and Amozoc are so badly eroded that much land is no longer cultivatable.


Bermúdez de Castro, Theatro ángelopolitano, 37.


Trautmann, Transformaciones, 227-228.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1772, exp. 13, 1799; AGN, Historia, vol. 578 B, fols. 18-21, 1770; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, 1754; Archivo Judicial de Puebla (hereafter AJP), fols. 11-11v, 1716, AGN, Padrones, vol. 38, exp. 1, 1791.


Ewald, Estudios, 143.


Sherburne F. Cook, The Historical Demography and Ecology of the Teotlalpan (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1949), 53-54, posits that the worst ecological degradation in this area was caused by populations inhabiting the area before contact with the Europeans. But Melville, “The Pastoral Economy,” 3, states that “[w]hile I agree that the large preconquest populations must have caused some deterioration in the environment, I found no evidence to support Cook’s contention that the process had reached the point of extensive sheet erosion with the removal of the fertile top soil by the time of the conquest.” Cook also examines one region of Puebla, the Upper Tepeaca Valley, in Soil Erosion and Population in Central Mexico (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1949), 24-32, finding extensive erosion in the twentieth century.


Ronald Spores, The Mixtec Kings in Ancient and Colonial Times (Norman, 1984), 221.


Charles Gibson, The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule (Stanford, 1964), 303 and “The Role of the Environment in the Valley of Mexico,” in The Indian Background of Latin American History: The Maya, Aztec, Inca, and Their Predecessors, Robert Wauchope, ed. (New York, 1970), 42-43.


Some records of the presence of cattle in the region can be found in AJP, 1732 #8, fols. 18-21v, Izúcar; AJP, Fondo de Micropelículas del Museo de Antropología (hereafter Ant.), roll 27, #4/3 1747; AGN, Indios, vol, 64, exp. 138, 1773; AGN, Mercedes, vol. 73, fols. 98v-99v, 1734; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1152, exp. 1, 1787; AGN, Indios, vol. 40, exp. 73, 1716; AGN, Tierras, vol. 612, exp. 4, 1740; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1404, exp 21, 1809; AGN, Tierras, vol. 57, exp. 3, 1795; Biblioteca Nacional-Colección Tenencia de la Tierra en Puebla (hereafter BN-TTP), caja 7, 1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3398, exp. 2, fol. 33, 1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 888, exp. 4, 1763; Archivo General de Indias, Indiferente, leg. 1659, 1753; AGN, Indios, vol. 47, exp. 75, fols. 136-140, 1723; Archivo Judicial de Tecali (hereafter AJT), Ant., roll 2, #69, 1739; BN-TTP, caja 33, 1708.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “Puebla y la economía” 108.


Morin, Michoacán, 256.


Reports of serious erosion in the twentieth century are found in Henao, Tehuacán, 17 and Nickel, Morfología, 186.


Gunter Völlmer, “La evolución cuantitativa de la población indígena de la región de Puebla (1570-1810),” Historia Mexicana, 23:1 (July-Sept. 1973), 43-51.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1263, exp. 1, 1795; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, 1754; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1313, exp. 16, 1798; AGN, Tierras, vol. 635, exp. 1, 1742; AGN, Indios, vol. 47, exp. 140, fols. 291-298, 1723.


Thomson, “The Cotton Textile Industry,” 175-176. Also Miguel Ángel Mateos Cuenya, “Evolución demográfica de una parroquia de la Puebla de los Ángeles,” Historia Mexicana, 37-3 (Jan.–Mar. 1987), 443–464, says that this migration begins approximately in 1692. F. J. de Villa Sánchez, Puebla sagrada y profana, Informe dado a su muy ilustre Ayuntamiento el año de 1746 (Puebla, 1835), 42, as cited by Garavaglia and Grosso, “Puebla y la economía” 92.


AGN, Indios, vol. 41, exp. 224, 1717; BN-TTP, caja 5, 1790; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2691, exp. 9, 1799; AJP, 1732, #8; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3512, exp. 2, fols. 4-8, 1775.


Sonya Lipsett, Water and Social Conflict in Colonial Mexico; Puebla, 1680–1810," (Ph.D. diss., Tulane University, 1988), 43–45.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1084, exp. 3, 1782.


Van Young, The Age of Paradox,” 67; Medina Rubio, La iglesia, 145, notes an extension of the areas producing wheat at the midpoint of the seventeenth century although Atlixco and Nopalucán continued to dominate the trade.


The practice of indigenous participation in the cultivation of wheat is documented in AGN, Tierras, vol. 3684, exp. 3, 1754, Izúcar; AGN, Mercedes, vol. 65, fols. 14v–15, 1698; AGN, Tierras, vol. 188, exp. 3, 1700; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1869, exp. 7, 1802.


AGN, Civil, vol. 568, exp. 1, fols. 50-52, 16 noviembre, 1793; Bermúdez de Castro, Theatre ángelopolitano, fol. 90, also notes that the Poblanos were able to control the markets of Veracruz and Antequera, as cited by Garavaglia and Grosso, “Puebla y la economía” 95.


Moreno Toscano, “Regional Economy and Urbanization,” 405; Fabián y Fuero, cited by Enrique Florescano, Origen y desarrollo, 93.


Don Martín Calvo is a good example of this aggressive expansionism. He attacked the preserves of both Spanish and Indians, at times pitting one against the other for his benefit. Originally, Don Martín Calvo Viñuelas combined the ingenio San Nicolás and the Hacienda Santa María Magdalena. The former had an original grant of 8 surcos and then 7 more surcos that the previous owners had acquired, while the second had nine surcos for a total of 24 surcos of water available to it. See AGN, Tierras, vol. 3339, exp. 3, fols. 79-80, 1753; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1321, exp. 15, 1800. By 1754, Hacienda San Pedro Mártir, also known as “Ballinas,” was estimated to receive between 20 and 50 surcos. Don Pedro Pinto, the owner, gained these resources at the expense of the neighboring estate of the Pérez Delgado, by supporting an Indian suit against them and also by usurping the Indian communities’ rights to these waters. See AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, fols, iv, 1783. Other documents which describe similar developments are AGN, Tierras, vol. 1179, exp. 2, 1789, Izúcar; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3339, exp. 3, 1753. Izúcar; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2058. exp. 1, 1734.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1436, exp. 1, 1715; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3581, exp. 3, 1754; AGN, Tierras, vol. 188, exp. 31, 1700; AJP, 1736, #8; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3681, exp. 3, 1754; AGN, Reforma Agraria, caja 4, exp. 2, 1783 (Epatlán); AJP, 1736, #8, fols. 4-5, Chietla; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2691, exp. 9, 1799; AGN, Tierras, vol. 635, exp. 1, 1742; AGN, Tierras, vol. 959, exp. 1, 1772; AJP, 1701. #3; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1097, exp. 1, 1783.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1123, exp. 1, 1759.


It should be noted that there was apparently no formal system of guardianes de agua in Puebla at this period. Anthropologists such as Robert and Eva Hunt who study the problem of irrigation in society have developed a literature on water systems and centralization, obviously influenced by Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (1957). For a discussion of this topic and its literature, see Enge and Whitelock, The Keepers of Water and Earth, 7-12.


There are many studies of the law regarding water rights. William B. Taylor. “Land and Water in the Viceroyalty of New Spain,” New Mexico Historical Review, 50 (1975), 189-212; Murphy, Irrigation; Betty Earle Dobkins, The Spanish Element in Texas Water Law (Austin, 1959); Francisco de Solano, Cedulario de Tierras, Compilación de legislación agraria colonial (1497–1810) (Mexico City, 1984); Richard Greenleaf, “Land and Water in Mexico and New Mexico, 1700-1821," New Mexico Historical Review, 47:2 (Apr. 1972), 85–112; and Michael M. Meyer, Water in the Hispanic Southwest (Tucson, 1984).


Nickel, Morfología, 198, also comments on this trend.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1064, exp. 6, 1781, Izúcar; AGN, Tierras, vol. 299, exp. 2, 1713, Atlixco; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, 1754; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1064, exp. 6, 1781; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1095, exp. 6, 1781; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1095, exp. 2, 1783; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2710, exp. 1, 1787; AGN, Tierras, vol. 939, exp. 2, 1769; AGN, Tierras, vol. 635, exp. 1, 1742; AGN, Tierras, vol. 939, exp. 2, 1769; AGN, vol. 959, exp. 1, 1772; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1063, exp. 2, 1781; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1869, exp. 5, 1802.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1123,exp. 1, 1759; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1179, exp. 2, 1789; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2684, exp. 4, 1793; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3031, exp. 6, 1796; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1320, exp. 9, 1800; AJP, Ant., roll 32, 1796; AJP, 1759 #2, fol. 23.


Izúcar, Nov. 20, 1789, BN-TTP, caja 41, #1110, 1784.


Don José Saénz de Escobar, AGN, Tierras, vol. 3706, exp. 1, fols. 3–3v, 1749.


Nickel, Morfología, 209-210, comments on the expenses incurred.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 13, exp. 2, 1771.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1458, exp. 5, 1680; AGN, Tierras, vol. 515, exp. 1, 1731; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1959, exp. 5, 1738; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1062, exp. 1, 1781; BN-TTP, caja 7, 1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1404, exp. 21, 1809; AGN, Tierras, vol. 225, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1705; AGN, Tierras, vol, 1354, exp, 7, 1804; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1300, exp. 8, 1798; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1152, exp. 1, 1787; AGN, Tierras, vol. 540, exp. 3, 1734; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2078, exp. 7, 1802; AGN, Tierras, vol, 502, exp. 1, 1679-1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 273, exp. 4, 1709-1711; Cheryl Martin, Rural Society in Colonial Morelos (Albuquerque, 1985), 109–110, 113, 115 reports similar fears on the part of the owners of ingenios in Morelos during this period.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 565, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1736; AGN, Tierras, vol. 540, exp. 3, 1734; AGN, Tierras, vol. 635, exp. 1, 1742; AGN, Mercedes, vol. 69, fol. 709, 1711; AGN, Tierras, vol. 901, exp. 1, 1679-1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 902, exp. 1, 1796; AJP, 1737, #6; AJP, 1732. #19; AJP, 1732, #8; AGN, Indios, vol. 27, exp. 67, 1681; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2710, exp, 1, 1712; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1321, exp. 15, 1800.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1300, exp. 8, 1790; AGN, Indios, vol. 40, exp. 10, 1716; AGN, Indios, vol. 38, exp. 37, 1717; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1459, exp. 5, 1738; AGN, Tierras, vol. 485 2a parte, exp. 1, 1729; AGN, Tierras, vol. 901, exp. 1, 1679-1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2672, 2a parte, exp. 31, 1740.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 13, exp. 2, 1771.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 515, exp. 1, 1731; also AGN, Indios, vol. 30, exp. 188, 1688.


AJP, 1737, #6; AJP, 1701, #3; AGN, Tierras, vol. 901 exp. 1, 1679-1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 515, exp. 1, 1731; AGN, Tierras, vol. 225, 2a parte, exp. 2, 1705; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1132, exp. 2, 1785; AJP, 1736, #8; AGN, Tierras, vol. 540, exp. 3. 1734; AGN, Indios, vol. 27, exp. 67, 1681; AGN, Tierras, vol. 273, exp. 4, 1709–11.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1110, exp. 6, 1784.


AGN, Indios, vol. 64, exp. 138, 1773; AGN, Indios, vol. 64, exp. 138, 1775; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1064, exp. 6, 1781; Florescano, Origen y desarrollo, 95, posits this type of behavior in relation to land.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 902, exp. 1, 1796.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 3339, exp. 3, 1753; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1321, exp. 15, 1800; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, 1783.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1458, exp. 5, 1680; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1859, exp. 5, 1738.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1063, exp. 2, fols, 11v-112, 1781; AGN, Tierras, vol. 939, exp. 2, 1769; AGN, Tierras, vol. 959, exp. 1, 1772; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1869, exp. 5, 1802.


AGN, Mercedes, vol. 73, fols. 102-1-2v, 1734.


AJP, 1732, #8.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 2078, exp. 6, 1797; AGN, Tierras, vol. 952, exp. 2, fol. 13, 1769.


AGN, Indios, vol. 38, exp. 51bis, 1712.


Raboso not only jailed members of the local population, but he made them work on his irrigation canals under very dangerous conditions which caused the death of some prisoners and led to his eventual denunciation. AGN, Criminal, vol. 393, exp. 17, fols. 1-7, 1794.


AJT, Ant., roll #69, 1739; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1084, exp. 3, 1782; AJP, 1736, #8; AGN, Tierras, vol. 2078, exp. 6, 1797; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1084, exp, 3, 1782; AGN, Indios, vol. 40, exp. 10, 1716; AGN, Indios, vol. 100, fols. 183-184, 1811; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1869, exp. 5, 1802.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 485, 2a parte, exp. 1, 1729, Tehuacán.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1458, exp. 5, 1680; AGN, Tierras, vol. 485 2a parte, exp. 1, 1729; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1321, exp. 17. 1802; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1300, exp. 8, 1798.


AJP, 1732, #8.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 2672, 2a parte, exp. 31, 1790.


Ibid.; AGN, Reales Cédulas Originales, vol. 123, exp. 58, fol. 1, 1782; AGN, Reales Cédulas Originales, vol. 127, exp. 64, fols, 1-1v, 1784; AGN, Correspondencia de Virreyes, 1a serie, vol. 129, fols. 279-289, 1781; vol. 128, fols. 251-255V., 1781; William B. Taylor also comments on this rebellion in Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford, 1979) 120.


AGN, Tierras, exp. 7, 1804; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1300, exp. 8, 1789.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, 1754. Herman Konrad, A Jesuit Hacienda in Colonial Mexico, Santa Lucia, 1576-1767 (Stanford, 1980), 169-170, also notes a pattern of increased rentals to individuals, although his reasoning for this trend is different. He believes that the renters formed a type of buffer zone between the hacienda and increasingly aggressive indigenous communities.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 1321, exp. 17, 1802; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3324, exp. 6, 1754; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3681, exp. 3, 1754; AGN, Tierras, vol. 626, exp. 1, 1741; AGN, Tierras, vol. 1459, exp. 5, 1738; AJP, 1743, #6; AJP, 1736, #8; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3398, exp. 1, 1788; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3399, exp. 3, 1794; AGN, Tierras, vol. 3467, exp. 1, 1791; VEMC, box 117, leg. 61, exp. 15, 1739.


Thomson, “The Gotten Textile Industry.” 177, indicates that the Poblano hacendados were rigid in their adherence to traditional latifundismo.


Garavaglia and Grosso, “Mexican Elites of a Provincial Town: The Landowners of Tepeaca (1700-1870),” HAHR, 70:2 (May 1990), 255-293.


Medina Rubio, La iglesia, 247, notes that by the end of the eighteenth century, most Poblano hacendados had overextended their credit, and, as a result, were facing serious difficulties. Moreno Toscano, “Regional Economy,” 404, also refers to a greater proportion of leases and mortgages on property. There are numerous references to concursos over the properties under study in the Ramo of Tierras. See AGN, Tierras, vol, 3682, exp. 1, 1755; AGN, Tierras, vols. 3297. 3311, 3324, 3334, 3339, 3340, 3483, 3485, 3495-3497, 3499, 3500, among many others.


AGN, Tierras, vol. 3682, 1755; vol. 3683, 1756. Also a report by Manuel de Flon indicates the high level of indebtedness of the landed estates of the Cholula area in particular. AGN, Intendentes, vol. 48, exp. 2, 1790.

Author notes


Research for this article was made possible by generous grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Mesoamerican Ecology Institute. The author would like to thank Richard Greenleaf, Noralyn Masselink, Donald Wright, Sergio Rivera Ayala, and Liz Kopp for the map.