This volume brings together the previously published work of four accomplished historians of Latin American rural society. The first selection is Silvio Zavala’s classic, but now largely outdated, “Orígenes coloniales del peonaje en México, which originally appeared in El Trimestre Económico in 1944.
Udo Oberem’s essay, “Contribución a la historia del trabajador rural de América Latina; ‘Conciertos’ y ‘huasipungueros’ en Ecuador,” published in German in 1967, is here available to readers of Spanish for the first time. By the early seventeenth century, conciertos, whereby Indians exchanged their labor for the right to occupy small plots (huasipungos), were becoming an increasingly important mechanism of labor recruitment on haciendas in the Ecuadorian highlands. According to Oberem, the conciertos evolved into a classic system of debt peonage that endured into the second half of the twentieth century.
Jan Bazant’s “Terratenientes, peones y arrendatarios en San Luis Potosí, 1822-1910” gives a concise overview of his ongoing research on nineteenth-century rural society in Mexico. The findings presented here have appeared in more extended form in Historia Mexicana and elsewhere. This essay focuses on changing labor conditions on Hacienda Bocas from the 1850s to the eve of the revolution of 1910.
Many readers will find the most new information in Hermes Tovar’s “Orígenes y características de los sistemas del terraje y arrendamiento en la sociedad colonial durante el siglo XVIII: El caso neogranadino.” First published in Colombia in 1982, it describes the system of terraje or arrendamiento as it emerged on haciendas in New Granada during the eighteenth century. Tenants usually offered a combination of money, labor, and produce to rent small parcels of land, usually no larger than one or two hectares. Such arrangements permitted landowners to secure a labor force with a minimum cash expenditure, while spreading both the risks of uncertain harvests and the costs of developing new lands.