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Conflict and Solidarity in Indian Village Life: The Guadalajara Region in the Late Colonial

Author(s): Eric Van Young
Source: The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Feb., 1984), pp. 55-79
Published by: Duke University Press
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Hispanic Amnerican Historical Revietv
64(1), 1984, 55-79
Copyright C 1984 by Duke University Press

Conflict and Solidarity in Indian

Village Life: The Guadalajara Region
in the Late Colonial Period


Introduction: Community and Conflict

IN describing the social context of mid-nineteenth-century

Bonapartist politics, Karl Marx likened the French small-
holding peasantry to a sack of potatoes a "homologous
magnitude" lacking internal differentiation or political consciousness. A
somewhat similar view until fairly recently has characterized the attitude
of many writers toward Latin American peasantries, which have been
seen as being historically uniform and static social groups.' This image
was conditioned by prevailing historiographical concerns rather than by
availability of documentation, and was the outcome, one suspects, of in-
stitutional history done from the top down and of the inevitable social
foreshortening inherent in such a perspective. More recently historians,
ethnohistorians, and anthropologists have drawn a picture of Latin Ameri-
can peasantries as being a diverse group of family farmers, ranchers, ten-
ants, laborers, and other relatively low-status rural dwellers occupying
different social and economic niches in given historical situations.2 Specif-
ically with regard to colonial Spanish America, this more nearly three-

i. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumnaire of Louis Bonaparte, with Explanatory Notes
(New York, 1964), p. 124; Marx's phrase is a vivid one and conveys much of the sense of post-
Marxian thought, as well. This view seems to be implied, for example, in John H. Rowe,
"The Incas Under Spanish Colonial Institutions," Hispanic Anmerican Historical Review
(hereinafter, HAHR), 37 (Feb. 1957), 155-199; more recently in Fredrick B. Pike, Spanish
America, 1900-1970: Tradition and Social Innovation (New York, 1973); and in some pas-
sages of Enrique Semo et al., Mexico: Un pueblo en la historia, 4 vols. (Mexico City, 1981),
vol. I.
2. For examples of this more recent view of Latin American peasantries, see Arnold J.
Bauer, "Rural Workers in Spanish America: Problems of Peonage and Oppression," HAHR,
59 (Feb. 1979), 34-63; Kenneth Duncan and Ian Rutledge, eds., with the collaboration of
Colin Harding, Land and Labour in Latin America: Essays in the Development of Agrarian
Capitalism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge, 1977); and David Good-
man and Michael Redclift, From Peasant to Proletarian: Capitalist Development and Agrar-
ian Transitions (New York, 1982), and the large interdisciplinary literature reviewed therein.

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dimensional view of peasants has added much to our understanding of so-
cial and economic change between conquest and independence. Further-
more, we know that the indigenous peasant cultures of the New World
did not all respond to the conquest and the imposition of European rule
in the same way, that they did not fare equally under the colonial regime,
and that they faced the Europeans with anything but a united front. As
colonial society developed, the social climbing, opportunism, internal dif-
ferentiation, and uneven acculturation that characterized Indian groups
may have left the mass of the population identifiably peasant, but none-
theless looking much different from the preconquest period.3
A major object of interest in the continuing study of postconquest
peasant society has been the independent landholding village, the basic
cell of Indian life in the centuries since the coming of the Europeans. The
sweeping away of the great pre-Columbian states in Mesoamerica and the
Andes, the collapse of the overarching structures of legitimacy and belief,
and the social compression of native life have been dubbed by one French
writer, with typical Gallic elan, as the process of destructuration.4 Into
this partial social and cosmological vacuum came the Spanish conquerors,
making their dual efforts both to exploit and to acculturate the conquered.
The Europeans brought with them a secularizing mentality and a concept
of labor and property not as religious and communal expressions, but as
commodities to be bought and sold in the market place. Under the impact
of these forces, and in competition against other foci of social life includ-
ing rural estates and growing cities and towns, the communal landholding
village served as the major element of Indian cultural identity through
the colonial period. Indeed, in many places to refer to someone as an In-
dian without linking him to a village was as the sound of one hand clap-
ping. Yet modern observers have sometimes been more surprised at the
unevenness of the acculturation process in Latin America than at the re-
silience of the communal Indian village.
We have, then, indications of two apparently contradictory tendencies
within colonial Indian peasant society: one of increasing internal social
differentiation, strongly encouraged if not wholly initiated by the Spanish

3. The phrase "social climbing" is borrowed from Karen Spalding, particularly from
"Social Climbers: Changing Patterns of Mobility among the Indians of Colonial Peru,"
HAHR, 50 (Nov. 1970), 645-664; see also her interesting collection of essays, De indio a
campesino: Cambios en la estructura social del Perui colonial (Lima, 1974). Spalding is not
alone in her recognition of this important phenomiienon. For Peru, Wachtel had dealt with
the same themes; and for Mexico, Eric Wolf, Charles Gibson, and William Taylor, among
others, have made similar findings.
4. Nathan Wachtel, The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Conquest of Peru
Through Indian Eyes, translated by Ben and Siadi Reynolds (New York, 1977), pp. 85ff.
5. For a recenit discussion of this resilience, see William B. Taylor, Drinking, Homicide
and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford, 1979), pp. 152-170.

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conquest, and probably gaining momentum in the late colonial period;

and a second of the continuing survival and vigor of corporate, landhold-
ing Indian peasant villages during the same time. The apparent contradic-
tion consists in the fact, well established by anthropologists studying both
contemporary and historical peasant communities, that the cosmological
assumptions and social arrangements characteristic of such communities
normally push toward minimizing internal social distances in favor of egal-
itarianism and intragroup solidarity.6 The purpose of the present article is
to examine this apparent contradiction and to see how it was at least tem-
porarily resolved through the deflection of intragroup conflict to the
world outside the Indian peasant village. A hypothesis will be developed
that links economic change in the broader society to structural strains
within the village community, and thence to the contradiction mentioned
above. The hypothesis, in turn, is based upon theoretical concepts drawn
from sociological and anthropological studies on the nature and causes of
social conflict, particularly as they apply to intragroup conflict and group
solidarity.7 The approach used is that of a case study, with the area under
consideration the Guadalajara region in western central Mexico. The gen-
eral frame of reference is the response of Indian villages to far-reaching
changes in the structure of regional economy and society during the eigh-
teenth century. Two lines of historical evidence are developed: first, the
increasing pressure on land resources caused by the growth of a commer-

6. See, particularly, Eric R. Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Coilmmunities in Meso-

america and Cenitral Java," Soutthwestern Joturnal of Anthropology, 13 (Spring 1957), 1- i8;
"Aspects of Group Relations in a Complex Society," in Teodor Shanin, ed., Peasants and
Peasantt Societies: Selected Readings (Harmondsworth, 1971), 50-68; George M. Foster,
"Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good," in Jack M. Potter, May N. Diaz, and
George M. Foster, eds., Peasant Society: A Reader (Boston, 1967), 300-323; and Marvin
Harris, Patterns of Race in the Amiiericas (New York, 1964). We are obviously dealing here
with the "closed corporate peasant community" as an ideal type, and not as the norm or
average. In fact, the social characteristics of peasant communities would range along a con-
tinuum from more open to more closed. The miiore openi such a comimunity-the more so-
cially permeable its group boundaries and heterogeneous its population-the less well the
model elaborated in the following pages would fit its particular experience.
7. Among the work of sociologists consulted, that of Lewis Coser, The Functions of So-
cial Conflict (Glencoe, Ill., 1956), is still central to the revived interest in social conflict the-
ory; it is an exegesis and modificationi, in its turn, of the famllous essay by Georg Simnmel,
Conflict, translated by Kurt H. Wolff (Glencoe, Ill., 1955), written around the turn of the
century; see also Coser, Continuities in the Study of Social Conflict (New York, 1967), and
Joseph S. Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management (Athens, Ga., 1980), who relies heavily
on Coser but provides a far-ranging synthesis and review of work in the field of social conflict
theory. Among anthropologists, the work of Max Gluckimian, Customz and Conflict in Africa
(Oxford, 1966) is very suggestive; and that of Alan R. Beals and Bernard J. Siegel, Divisive-
ness and Social Conflict: An Anthropological Approach (Stanford, 1966), essential to the
present study. For pithy short essays on the psychological, political, sociological, and anthro-
pological aspects of conflict, see the entries by Edward J. Murray, Robert C. North,
Lewis A. Coser, and Laura Nader, respectively, in David L. Sills, ed., International Ency-
clopedia of the Social Sciences, s. v. "conflict" (New York, 1968), III, 220-242.

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cial agricultural economy within the Guadalajara region concurrent with a
substantial increase in the overall regional population; and second, a
trend toward the concentration of wealth and a resulting social differen-
tiation within village peasant society. An examination of these issues can
deepen our knowledge of the mechanisms and social meanings of village
survival, contributing to a more nuanced view of both the complexity of
peasant society and Indian response to the imposition of an alien culture.
To anticipate the discussion that follows, let us briefly sketch the cen-
tral argument of this article and its underpinnings in social conflict theory.
The working hypothesis links together rural population growth during
the late colonial period, the process of socioeconomic differentiation
within landholding Indian villages, the growth of a commercialized re-
gional agricultural economy centering on the city of Guadalajara, and an
increasing inelasticity of land resources, particularly within the Indian
peasant economy.8 It is proposed that landholding Indian communities,
from about 1750 onward, were subject to newly intensified pressures
against their continued integrity as social units. As village population
grew, the peasant subsistence economy began to bump up against the
relatively inelastic bounds of land resources, and per capita access to agri-
cultural lands declined. On the other side, a vigorously expanding com-
mercial agriculture, dominated by large grain- and meat-producing ha-
ciendas, placed increasing demands on the peasant sector for labor, and
effectively occupied ever greater amounts of land. In addition to an over-
all decline in land resources in the village peasant economy, however,
wealth distribution within Indian pueblos became more skewed in the di-
rection of some individuals, among them the village notables and those
Indians linked with the superordinate white society. The increased eco-
nomic chafing in individual pueblo communities produced intragroup
tensions and a potential for open conflict that ill accorded with the cos-
mological assumptions underlying group identity, or with the functional
prerequisites of the village as a corporate landholding entity.9 As both

8. For a detailed treatment of all these trends in the Guadalajara region, see Eric Van
Young, Hacienda and Market in Eighteenth-Century Mexico: The Rural Economy of the
Guadalajara Region, 1675-1820 (Berkeley, 1981).
9. The position adopted in this essay is that such intragroup tension and conlflict was
dysfunctional for the village community as a social system; that is, that it reduced group
solidarity and was conducive to the weakeninig or dissolution of the system. The notion of
dysfunctionality depends, of course, on the kinid of social unit or activity one is studying.
Coser has made the point, in a trenchant critique of the treatment of social conflict in the
sociology of Talcott Parsons and others, that functionalists in this context tend to use "dys-
functional" as a kind of euphemism for "bad," in the sense that social coniflict, as a disequili-
brating force, is seen to be destructive of any social system. The contribution of Coser, and
of Simmel before him, was to point to a wide range of latent functions of conflict, over and
above its potentially destructive force, which actually might increase intragroup or societal
cohesion, or provide other social benefits. Furthermore, Coser maintains that the study of

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Eric Wolf and George Foster have pointed out, the closed corporate na-
ture of such communities, their typically limited land resources, and the
fact that effective control over productive resources inhered only in the
status of community members, gave rise to social mechanisms that tended
to redistribute wealth within the community through positive and nega-
tive checks.'0 Where those mechanisms failed to work effectively, and
where a growing internal differentiation threatened to rend the fabric of
the community, one practicable alternative for the village as a whole was
to displace its internal aggressions onto external objects. This venting or
displacement achieved the primary goal of relieving internal social ten-
sions and the secondary gain of reinforcing in-group solidarity through
conflict with outsiders. In the case of late colonial Indian villages, ready
objects for such displacement were to be found in non-Indian landowners,
especially the owners of large haciendas. Engaging in legal and extralegal
conflict over land with such outsiders was also pragmatic, since these
landowners did, in fact, represent a real threat to village economic re-
sources. Finally, conflict with outsiders tended to reinforce preexisting
cleavages based on class and ethnicity, and ran easily in the already deep-
cut channels of social prejudice.
Theoretical grounding for such a hypothesis is to be found in the so-
ciological and anthropological study of social conflict, particularly of intra-
group tensions. Social conflict has generally been defined as the struggle
between two or more parties over values and claims to scarce status,
power, and resources." Such struggle is seen by many theorists to be en-
demic and "normal" in human societies, and of course forms the central
analytical strain in much social thought, including Marxism, Social Dar-
winism, and other schools. Within tightly knit social entities, such as the

conflict and equilibrium are not contradictory, but complementary, and should both find a
place under the rubric of "normal" sociology; see Coser, Continuities in the Study of Social
Conflict, p. 1o; The Functions of Social Conflict, esp. chap. 1; and International Encyclope-
dia, III, 232-233; see also Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management, chap. i, and Nader,
International Encyclopedia, III, 237. In the present context, when considered from the
viewpoint of any giveni community member, from that of outside groups, or from that of
colonial Mexican society as a whole, intravillage tension and conflict may have been fuLnc-
tional or beneficial; this would not be incompatible with the view developed here regarding
their dysftinctionality for the village community per se.
io. Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Communities," pp. 12-14; Foster, "Peasant So-
ciety," passim. Wolf (pp. 2, io) also notes the role of the state in encouraging village auton-
omy and, ipso facto, the social norm of "shared poverty." By positive check, I mean the
redistribution of wealth through the religious cargo system, for example. By negative check
I mean the social opprobrium attendant upon violating group norms regarding the excessive
accumulation of wealth, as well as the post hoc rationalization or neutralization of such
i i. Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict, p. 8, and International Encyclopedia, III,
232. Much of the discussion in this paragraph is based on Coser, though many other writers
agree with him on the fundamentals of conflict theory.

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corporate, relatively closed landholding villages dealt with here, conflict
is likely to be particularly intense and difficult of resolution. On the one
hand, such groups tend to absorb the total personalities of their members
and demand deep involvement, leading in turn to considerable hostility
and ambivalence toward other group members. On the other hand, these
social systems are unlikely to provide legitimate or institutionalized out-
lets for the expression of hostility, fearing the disruptive effects on the
community as a whole. 12 One workable means for the community to deal
with such tensions before they eventuate in crippling open conflict is to
deflect feelings of hostility onto substitute objects outside the group. This
dynamic, widely recognized across the social and behavioral sciences
(psychology, sociology, political science, and so forth) as displacement, is
seen to be at the root of such diverse human phenomena as dreaming and
ethnic prejudice. 13 For a situation to arise in which intragroup tensions
are conducive to the displacement process, two preconditions must exist.
First, the fundamental legitimacy of the uneven distribution of scarce sta-
tus, goods, and so forth must be called into question for feelings of hos-
tility to generate a real or potential conflict within the group. Second,
there must be some change external to the system a "stress" which
significantly alters the material conditions and normative assumptions
within which the group functions. In the case addressed here, this stress
would be the growth and increasing penetration of land-hungry commer-
cialized agriculture in the Guadalajara region, and the limits it imposed
on the peasant community's ability to adapt to substantial internal demo-
graphic pressure. Under such conditions, strain is generated within the
system-that is, a situation in which culturally induced predictions about
normative behavior fail to meet reality. In the words of Beals and Siegel:

An organization is likely to present a unified front in the face of a

stress if the stress occurs as a solvable perceived threat to all mem-
bers of the organization. Where a stress is not easily perceived,
where the problems posed are not easily solved, and where dif-

12. The central role of preexisting group structure in determining the nature and inten-
sity of social conflict, and the employmiient of ideology and violence in conflict, is developed
at length by Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict, pp. 152ff. For the function of plural,
crisscrossing social relationships in moderating potentially conflictual situations, see Gluck-
man, Custom anid Conflict in Africa, esp. chap. i; and for the question in general, see
Himes, Conflict and Conflict Managemenlt, passim.
13. Coser makes the importanit distiniction (taken up by other wr-iters) betweenl "realis-
tic" and "unirealistic" conflict. The former uses the conflict itself as anl inistrument to resolve
some preexisting problemii, while the latter stresses not so much the rational or instrumental
nature of the conflict, as its usefulness in reducing tensions caused by aggressive feelings.
Displacement would fall withini the category of "unrealistic" conflict, according to Coser's
anialysis, because its major significanice is as an affective expression or catharsis; see Coser,
The Futnctions of Social Conflict, pp. 44ff. In the present case, however, the foctusing of such
aggressive feelings oni nioni-Indiani landowners would also have its "realistic" componient.

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ferent members of the community receive positive and negative

reinforcement from the stress, unity is far less likely. 14

The applicability of social conflict theory to the case of late colonial

Indian villages in the Guadalajara region depends upon how tightly knit
those communities were and how strong the "strain" factors came to be
within them. In general, the observed and inferred behaviors of Indian
peasant communities in the area conform reasonably well to the model of
the closed corporate peasant community in Mesoamerica developed by
Wolf some years ago. 15 A brief inventory of their major social characteris-
tics will help to provide a framework upon which to hang the theoretical
discussion of conflict processes. Such communities tended toward a high
degree of social insularity that is, they prohibited the entry of outsiders
and sought to limit membership through ascriptive rules of birth. Along
with this went a tendency to endogamy, and the localocentric mental atti-
tudes (campanilismo) often noted of similar communities the world over.
Communal control of land resources was marked, although private prop-
erty in land did exist along with it. Organized religious expression was
public and communal, and tied into a prestige economy whose object was
to convert economic wealth into local social status. Attitudes against the
accumulation of substantial individual wealth were strong, and tended to
push in the direction of an egalitarian norm and the destruction of eco-
nomic surpluses. A cultural correlate of this social structure, and of the
low degree of elasticity in peasant economic production, has been elabo-
rated by Foster in his idea of the "Image of Limited Good." 16 According to
this formulation, peasant members of closed corporate communities act as
though they perceived the universe as a zero-sum game in which all desir-
able commodities land, wealth, health, love and friendship, honor, re-
spect, status are seen to exist "in finite quantity and are always in short
supply, as far as the peasant is concerned." 17 A mental representation of
the world such as Foster proposes would naturally classify the accumula-
tion of wealth and related social differentiation within the community as
threatening not only to individuals but to the group as a whole, and would
seek some means to neutralize it. One such means would be to ignore the
intractable problem, in a sense, by projecting the aggression inherent in
such threatening behavior onto outsiders, thus achieving by a kind of
psycho-social sleight of hand what the redistributive mechanisms and the
impaired normative consensus within the community failed to achieve.

14. Beals and Siegel, Divisiveness and Social Conflict, p. 114; see pp. 68ff, for their
discussion of "stress" anid "strain"; and see also Nader, International Encyclopedia, III, 238.
15. Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Communities," passim.
i6. Foster, "Peasant Society," passim.
17. Ibid., p. 304.

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My aim has been to present a fairly elaborate hypothesis, which is not
inconsistent with certain lines of evidence and which, if correct, helps to
explain certain things about late colonial society in Mexico and perhaps
elsewhere in Latin America as well. My analysis rests on the well-worn
notion that human social behaviors have latent as well as manifest func-
tions-that is, social consequences that may not be anticipated or per-
ceived by the actors in a given situation, and that may not consciously
motivate their actions, but that are nonetheless important. In the words
of sociologist Joseph Himes,

The latent functions of conflict can be recognized and investigated

only after the fact. They have no prior existence in the form of
aims, goals, or plans that can direct the observer in his search.
They must be sorted out from among the residue of struggle. 18

To link recorded behaviors to their latent functions without the explicit

assent of the historical actors is problematical, but necessary. The pur-
pose of a hypothesis, in one sense, is to join truncated lines of evidence in
a kind of non-Euclidean leap of faith.

The Region: Growth and Change

Guadalajara, along with a number of other Mexican provincial capi-

tals, enjoyed considerable growth and prosperity during the Bourbon
century. As early as 1793 it ranked fourth in size among the cities of New
Spain, after the viceregal capital, Puebla, and Guanajuato.'9 As the capital
of Nueva Galicia, a major administrative division of sprawling New Spain,
the city experienced a major population increase during the eighteenth
century. From a relatively small, dusty town of about 5,000 in 1700,
Guadalajara grew to about 12,000 at mid-century, to some 30,000 in 1793,
and 40,000 in 1820.20 The engine of the city's development was primarily
trade, since it served as the commercial emporium for much of western
and northwestern Mexico, deriving considerable benefit from the Far

i8. Himes, Conflict and Conflict Management, p. 129.

19. Alexander von Humboldt, Ensayo politico sobre el Reino de la Nueva Espania, edited
by Juan A. Ortega y Medina (Mexico City, 1966), p. 38; Archivo Hist6rico Municipal de
Guadalajara (Guadalajara) (hereinafter AHMG), caja 15, 1793. For a more detailed discus-
sion of the city's growth during the colonial period, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market,
pp. 29-36.
20. Jean-Pierre Berthe, "Introduction aI l'histoire de Guadalajara et de sa region," in
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut des Hautes Etudes de l'Amerique
Latine, Recherche Cooperative no. 147, Villes et Regions en Amnerique Latine, 2 vols. (Paris,
1970), I, 71; Sherburne F. Cook and Woodrow Borah, Essays in Population History: Mexico
and the Caribbean, 3 vols. (Berkeley, 1974-80), I, i8i; AHMG, cajas 15, 41, 48; Luis Paez
Brotchie, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico; Su crecimniento, divisi6n y nomnenclatura durante la
epoca colonial, 1542-1821 (Guadalajara, 1951), p. i85.

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East trade through Acapulco, as well. Guadalajara also acted as a banker,

administrative center, and supplier of manufactured goods to the hinter-
land that fell directly under its influence. This area of the direct economic
dominance of the city constituted what is here called the Guadalajara re-
gion, embracing about 20,000 square kilometers stretching from Lake
Chapala in the south to San Cristobal de la Barranca in the north, and
from the Altos of Jalisco in the east to Ameca in the west. During the
eighteenth century, relative regional population growth as a whole was
roughly equivalent to that of the city, increasing eight or ten times over
by i8oo. The total regional population, including the city itself, was well
over 2oo,ooo, by the end of the century.2' As Guadalajara's population in-
creased, growing by 50 percent in the two decades preceding the out-
break of the independence movement alone, its importance as a regional
market and consumer of foodstuffs and raw materials also increased, in-
ducing significant changes in the economic and social structure of the
city's hinterland.
The ever-growing demand of the urban population for grain and meat
was met primarily through the expansion of estate agriculture. The thriv-
ing commerce of the region and the mining economy, in conjunction with
the church, provided investment capital for the construction of hacienda
buildings, storage facilities, irrigation canals and dams, and the recruit-
ment of large labor forces. The traditional regional economy, based on ex-
tensive livestock production oriented toward extraregional markets, was
transformed during the eighteenth century into a more labor- and capital-
intensive mixed farming regimen stressing internal markets. The area of
cultivation, and particularly of irrigated cereal lands, expanded dramat-
ically after mid-century, and livestock herds shrank or were displaced
from more favored arable lands. Changes in production and land-use pat-
terns, together with the growing market, underwrote a substantial rise in
the profitability of hacienda agriculture, reflected in the increasing value
of rural estates and ownership stability. Conspicuously absent from this
development, however, was any major technological innovation in agri-
culture or stock-raising, so that productivity remained low despite an ab-
solute rise in the level of production.
Under the impact of these changes, land, which in the older, exten-
sive livestock economy had been of little value, became in the latter part

21. For the basis of these figures, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, pp. 36-38. A
major component of the demographic increase was accounted for by the recovery of the re-
gional Indian population from its nadir in about 1650. The terms of the demographic equa-
tion had shifted substantially by the end of the century, however, by which time nlon-Indian
ethnic groups were increasinig relatively faster than the Indians; see Cook and Borah, Es-
says, I, 338-339.

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of the eighteenth century an increasingly valuable production factor. At
the same time, about half the regional population, or some iLoo,ooo peo-
ple, were Indians living on rural estates, in country towns, and in the city
itself, but primarily in communal landholding villages and hamlets. In the
conditions of an aggressively expansionist commercial agriculture, there-
fore, a fierce competition over land resources grew up between estate and
peasant agricultural sectors. Circumstances generally worked to the favor
of the commercial sector, however, since the growth of rural population
and the institutional structure of land ownership kept the peasant sector,
for the most part, from expanding the area under its control.
A particularly telling illustration of the way Indian landholding vil-
lages were liable to be scissored between population growth on the one
side and the demands of commercialized agriculture on the other, is the
case of the pueblo of Tizapain el Bajo (or Tizapanito, as it was generally
known), lying between Acatlan and Cocula to the west of Lake Chapala.
Through a series of protracted and bitter legal suits against powerful
neighboring hacendados, the village sought unsuccessfully to gain control
of lands that it claimed had been granted to it by viceregal merced at the
beginning of the seventeenth century. At mid-century, if not earlier, the
i,ooo or more villagers had scarcely enough land to meet their farming
needs. By i8oo the villagers themselves stated:

Now we have not even a small piece [palmo] of unsown land to

use, because of the large number of villagers and the great scarcity
of land, since our powerful neighbors have callously destroyed us
with repeated suits and have encroached on our lands as far as they
want. 22

In 1819 the population of the village had grown to more than 1,700 souls,
but it still had the same land base as seventy years earlier. One need not
take the claims of Indian villagers at face value to find in the records of
late colonial litigation overwhelming evidence of land shortages and pop-
ulation pressure in the region as a whole, and particularly to the south
and west of the city. 23 The problem, of course, was not only village popula-
tion growth, but also that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
much land had been legally preempted by non-Indian landowners, espe-
cially large estates.
Per capita land resources in the Indian peasant economy therefore

22. Archivo de Instruinentos P6blicos de Guadalajara (Guadalajara), Ramo de Tierras y

Aguas (hereinafter, AIPG, Tierras), leg. 27, exp. 7; leg. 62, exps. 24 and 25.
23. For a detailed discussion, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, pp. 273-285;
among similar cases mentioned there are those of the pueblos of Santa Cruz, Zacoalco,
Jocotepec, Cocula, San Jose de Analco, and Tequila, documentation for all of which appears
in AIPG, Tierras.

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shrank. Indians kept more of their farming surpluses for their own domes-
tic use than previously, and to some extent withdrew from the urban mar-
ket, where they had occupied a strong position as late as the middle of the
century. Seeking relief from unemployment and underemployment, Indi-
ans reentered the market as sellers of labor or labor-intensive craft prod-
ucts. Interstitial, labor-intensive economic activities wood-collecting,
charcoal-burning, brick-making, pottery-making, and the like while
they relied in the main upon large inputs of labor, also required access to
land resources, often marginal in nature and unsuited for cultivation. The
same lands were vital for the commercial sector for some of the same rea-
sons, and additionally for rough pasture. The late colonial competition for
land, therefore, often involved not prime arable areas, but marginal ones.
The clash between the commercial and peasant agricultural sectors as-
sumed a variety of forms, most of which can be traced in late colonial rec-
ords of litigation over land titles. These included conflicting claims be-
tween Indian villages and their hacienda neighbors over putatively
untitled parcels of land, the illegal invasion of estate lands by Indian peas-
ants, squatting, and the incursion onto communally held Indian village
lands by haciendas. A particularly interesting form of effective expropria-
tion, reminiscent of parallel economic changes in Europe, was the en-
closure of formerly open lands by estate owners or the extinction of cer-
tain prescriptive rights of common usage.
Three general points may be made about judicial conflicts over land
ownership in the Guadalajara region during the eighteenth century.24
First, the frequency of litigation increased markedly after about 1750, and
this cannot reasonably be attributed to changes in the coverage of avail-
able documentation. The generally held impression that Indians in partic-
ular were innately litigious seems to have become more widespread, or at
least more widely acknowledged, from that time. Powers of attorney
given to Spanish lawyers by Indian communities to act in their behalf pro-
liferated after mid-century, and villages drew large sums from their arcas
de comunidad ("community treasuries") to pay the rising legal costs as-
sociated with land suits.25 While contemporary Spanish officials might as-
cribe Indian litigiousness to imbecilidad or rusticidad, suits by Indian
pueblos very often issued in favor of communities against private
landowners. 26
Second, late colonial conflicts over land were marked by a bitterness

24. Not all coniflicts over land came into the colonial court system: some were resolved
extrajudicially, anid some were never resolved at all.
25. E.g., AIPG, Protocolos de notarios p6blicos (hereinafter, AIPG), Berroa, various
years; Tierras, leg. 5, exp. 8, and leg. 20, exp. io, 1803.
26. AIPG, Tierras, leg. 5, exp. 9, 1807; AHMG, caja 13, 1791.

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and an almost ritualized violence seldom noted in earlier disputes. In one

case in iSi8, for example, a hacienda owner engaged in a conflict with a
neighboring village made a number of raids on the village accompanied
by his armed retainers, not only imprisoning some of the hapless Indians
in the hacienda's granary buildings, but also burning many homes and
stealing the images of the saints out of the church. This suggests a desire
literally to annihilate the village physically, to deny its very existence by
depriving it of the most important symbols of community identity, its holy
images.27 If the iSi8 case was somewhat extreme, nonetheless, physical
intimidation, name-calling, rock-throwing, beatings on country roads,
and the violent destruction of property all came to be regarded as com-
monplace in late-colonial conflicts over land. Nor did such violence char-
acterize conflicts between Indian villages and haciendas alone, but was
often seen (as our hypothesis would predict) among peasant villages, as
well.28 Whether the frequency and intensity of such violence actually in-
creased as the eighteenth century went on is almost impossible to deter-
mine, but one has the impression that it did since the circumstances that
gave rise to it became ever more common.
Third, the same forces that impelled villages and haciendas to battle
over land population growth and the development of commercial agri-
culture-lay behind similar competition within the indigenous commu-
nity. In the second half of the eighteenth century, for example, a number
of Indian villages in the districts of Tala and Tlajomulco, among them San
Agustin, Santa Ana Tepetitlan, San Sebastianito, and Santa Maria, en-
gaged in a protracted, tangled suit regarding access to rough grazing lands
(montes). Several of the villages depended almost entirely for their cash
income on the collection of wood and the making of charcoal, so that ac-
cess to these lands was vital to them. The terrain in question was ex-
tremely rough and virtually useless for agricultural purposes.29 The strug-

27. Biblioteca Publica del Estado (Guadalajara), Archivo Judicial de la Audiencia de la

Nueva Galicia (hereinafter, BPE-AJA), 265:3:3615, i8i8.
28. Oni the pervasiveness of physical violence in conflicts over land, see the statement
of the comisario in the suit between the two great haciendas of Cuisillos and Buenavista,
AIPG, Tierras, leg. 25, exps. i6- i8, 1760; for violence on the part of villagers toward non-
Inidians, see the cases of the pueblo of San Lucas vs. the hacienda of San Lucas, AIPG,
Tierras, leg. 12, exp. 2, 1750- 1772, and the pueblo of Nestipac against the hacienda of Santa
Lucia, BPE-AJA, 256:7:3443, i8io; and among Indian pueblos, see the instances of San Jose
de Analco vs. San Andres, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 30, exp. 8, 1788, and Jocotepec vs. San
Crist6bal Zapotitlan, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 78, exps. 3-12, 1767.
29. BPE-AJA, 173:1:1931, 1776; AIPG, Tierras, leg. 20, exp. 8, 1790; leg. 21, exps.
3-4, 1745 and 1748; leg. 46, exp. 9, 1790. Other examples of intervillage conflict over land
are Coyula vs. Tonala, AIPG, prot. Ayala, i:i56v, 1702; San Lucas vs. Cuyutlan, AIPG,
Tierras, leg. 41, exp. 25, 1717; Cuyutlan vs. Tlajomulco, AIPG, prot. Maraver, i: no page
nos., 1736; Tonala vs. Salatitan, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 5, exp. 7, 1737; Chapala vs. Tlayacapan,
AIPG, Tierras, leg. 20, exp. 15, 1756; and Santa Cruz de las Huertas vs. Tlaquepaque,
AIPG, Tierras, leg. 21, exp. 10, 1780.

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gle over economic resources could be complicated considerably if the

issue of independent pueblo versus barrio status was injected into the dis-
pute, as often happened.30 This tendency toward intraethnic struggle on
the village level echoes the opportunism of individual Indians within
their own communities. It points as well to the replacement of loyalties to
tribe, lineage, or state by those to the village, the atomization of Indian
society, and its reconstruction along lines of territoriality. 31 Insofar as con-
flict over land resources was concerned, the eighteenth century was a
Hobbesian world in which the war of all against all was played out not only
in the market place, but also on country roads and in the colonial courts.32

The Village: Internal Differentiation

If the converging trends of population pressure and expanding com-

mercial agriculture constituted one set of forces working to increase con-
flict over land resources, a second, less generally recognized set of forces
working toward the same effect was the growing social and economic dif-
ferentiation within village communities. The convergence of these devel-
opments has been aptly described by Eric Wolf in the following terms:

The life risks of a peasantry are raised by any threat to its basic
source of livelihood, the land, and to the produce which is raised
on that land. These threats come both from within and without the
community. Natural population growth within the community
would serve to decrease the amount of land available to members
of the community, as would unrestricted purchase and hoarding of
land by individual community members.33

The tendency toward concentration of wealth within Indian society, par-

ticularly of landed wealth, was an old one, though difficult to document
with precision. Nor was such concentration in the countryside unique to
the Indian sector; it appeared in non-Indian towns as well.34 The increas-
ing monetarization of the regional economy during the eighteenth cen-

30. E.g., barrio of Sarnta Maria vs. Poncitlan, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 27, exp. 12, 1802;
pueblo of San Martin vs. Jocotepec, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 78, exps. 3-12, and leg. 33, exp. 13,
1750-1773; anid see the interesting remarks by Charles Gibson, The Aztecs tinder Spanish
Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519-1810 (Stanford, 1964), pp.
31. Gibson, The Aztecs uinder Spanish Rule, p. 36 and passimn.
32. For a more detailed discussion of late colonial conflicts over land, see Van Young,
Hacienda and Market. chap. 14.
33. Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Communities," p. 12.
34. In the important farming town of Cocula, to the west of Guadalajara, for example,
cadastral surveys for the years around 165o and 18oo indicate a substantially increased con-
centration of property ownership toward the latter date: AIPG, Tierras, leg. 51, exp. 1; see
also the discussion of Cocula in Eric Van Young, "Rural Life in Eighteenth-Century Mexico:
The Guadalajara Region, 1675-1820" (Ph.D. Diss., University of California, Berkeley,
1978), pp. 499-503.

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tury created new opportunities for the acquisition of wealth within Indian
communities, both among Indian peasants in general, and among mem-
bers of village elite groups in particular. The main point is the contradic-
tion between an increasing degree of social and economic differentiation
within village society and the cosmological assumptions cultural notions
about wealth, equality, and group identity underlying the integration
and continuity of that society. 35
The wealth of Indian villagers, whether commoners or elite-group
members, was based for the most part on land and depended to a large
degree upon their ability to acquire land through private purchase.36
Though most such purchases, because of their small size, would be un-
likely to show up in contemporary documentation, the repeated viceregal
prohibitions of them are strong presumptive evidence of their existence.'37
As the regional economy developed during the eighteenth century, the
amount of buying and selling of land probably increased, and along with it
the amount of credit and debt at all levels of rural society, bringing more
possibilities for social and economic mobility, both upward and down-
ward. The transitory nature of such accumulation under the dual pres-
sures of population growth and inheritance patterns does not belie its im-
portance in introducing the element of inequality into village life.
An example of a village fortune is that of Francisco Miguel, a tributary
Indian of the pueblo of Santa Cruz, in the district of Tlajomulco, near
Guadalajara, who died in 1743, leaving a detailed testament. According to

35. The evidence that social and economic differentiation within Indianl peasanlt villages
was inicreasing is admittedly largely inferential, since the numiiber of survivinig wills and in-
ventor-ies is insufficient to allow systematic comparisons between the beginning and end of
the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, other evidenice regarding Indian withdrawal from the
agricultural market, the increasing commercialization of the regional agrarian economy,
rural population growth, anid initravillage social conflict all point in the directioni of inicreas-
inig inequality.
36. Numerous other variables, of course, came into play in any giveni case: personial
talenit anid personality characteristics, kinship alliances, geographical considerations, the va-
garies of the weatlher, anid luck. And the discussion of Indiani wealth is conicerned miiostly
with private ownership of property, not with land allotmenlts that came to individuals by
virtue of their membership in communal landholdinig villages.
- 37. The Recopilaci6n de Indias (Ley 27, tftulo 1, libro 6) and subsequent viceregal de-
crees of 1778, 1780, and 1781 established strict conditions for the sale of privately ownied
Indian lands, though Viceroy Mayorga nioted in 1781 that earlier regtulationls had been
largely igniored. The reasons for royal concerni with the practice were typically ambivalent.
They arose, on the onie hand, out of the traditionally paternialistic desire of the crown to
protect the Indians, who were regarded as naturally rustic and vulnerable; and, on the
other, from a desire to keep Inidiani tributes fromii declining as a result of peasant impoverish-
menit; see AIPG, Tierras, leg. 41, exp. 20; Colecci6n de acuerdos, 6rdenes y decretos sobre
tierras, casas y solares de los indigenas. Bienes de stos comutnidades, yftundos legales de los
pueblos del estado de Jalisco, 6 vols. (Guadalajara, 1849-82), II, 287-289; and for a more
detailed discussion of this topic, Van Younig, "Rural Life in Eighteenth-Century Mexico,"
pp. 584-585.

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his will, Miguel was without personal capital at the time of his marriage to
a local mestizo woman, and without any dowry from his wife, but he man-
aged to build up a substantial personal estate mostly through his own la-
bors. He owned eighteen separate parcels of land planted in maize and
wheat, eleven of which had been purchased from local Indians, and the
remaining seven inherited or held by right of his citizenship in the vil-
lage. His large number of livestock included more than a hundred horses,
ten cattle, five yoke of oxen, and a number of pigs. Other property in-
cluded agricultural implements, two small houses, and a quantity of small
debts payable to him. The debts may explain the manner in which he
built up his holdings, since he had obtained one of the houses and at least
one of the parcels of land in payment of debts from local people. At Mi-
guel's death, his fortune was dissipated by its division between his widow
and their eleven living children.38 Francisco Miguel's fortune, if larger
than most, was in no way atypical in its composition. Other testaments
from the same area and time confirm that Indian wealth,noble and non-
noble, was made up of land, houses, livestock, and debts. Such was the
case of Antonio Almao, another Indian commoner of Tlajomulco, who
died in 1746. He left among his other possessions at least five small plots
of land, which he had purchased (one planted in wheat), a house and an
empty house lot (solar), more than fifty head of horses and cattle, and
various small debts owing by and to him.39 The same patterns of wealth,
both in its composition, and its acquisition and dispersion, prevailed at
the end of the eighteenth century. 40
What proportion of the village population in the region attained the
level of wealth of Francisco Miguel or Antonio Almao is impossible to say,
but at a guess it could hardly have been more than 5 percent or so. For
purposes of illustration, one might draw the analogy between such indi-
viduals and the kulaks of prerevolutionary Russia. By contrast, most peas-
ant families probably farmed only one or two small parcels of land, and
many did not even own a yoke of oxen for their plowing, but had to rent
from their more prosperous neighbors.4' The testaments of non-Indian
rancheros suggest the same skewed distribution of property within the
group. There seems almost to have been some sort of natural ceiling
above which peasant wealth was seldom able to rise.42 The impression

38. AIPG, Tlajomulco, vol. 2, no page nos., 1743.

39. Ibid., 1746.
40. E.g., wills of Mariano Cecilio Cuervo, 1793, and Ventura Canial, 1803, both Inidian
commoners of Tlajomulco, in AIPG, vol. 2, no page nos., 1793, and vol. 1, no page nlos.,
1803, respectively.
41. BPE-AJA, 228:3:2965: report by teniente of Sani Martfn de la Cal, jurisdiction of
Cocula, 1803.
42. See, for example, the thirty ranchero testamiients from the districts of Zapotlanejo

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emerges strongly from contemporary documentation that, despite a wide
variation in wealth, property ownership in country districts approximated
a kind of bimodal distribution, with a few wealthy individuals at one end
and the majority of the farming population at the other. 3 Neither was the
uneven distribution of wealth likely to change in those rural industries
and interstitial activities that occupied large segments of the country pop-
ulation for much of the year. Around mid-century, for example, the thriv-
ing ceramics manufacture in the villages of Tonala and Tlaquepaque, al-
though organized for production on a household basis, was effectively
dominated in its marketing aspects by a few individuals of means (de cau-
dal). Four men in Tonala (Juan Martin, Juan Matheo, Diego Ibafies, and
Luis Caras) habitually bought up the pottery at low prices and resold it to
passing muleteers (arrieros) at high prices, making substantial profits
along the way and thus concentrating the income from a fairly widespread
rural craft industry.44 The major point to be made, however, is not the
absolute level of wealth accumulated, or its proportional weight within
the overall village economy, but the very existence of such differentiation
and its impact on the perceptions of peasant villagers.
The wealth of power-holders within Indian village society-the caci-
ques, principales, and Indian alcaldes-consisted of much the same
goods as that of ordinary Indian peasants: houses, livestock, credit, and
land. Testaments from the pueblos of Analco and Tlajomulco demonstrate
the similarity between the wealth of Indian nobles and commoners
throughout the century.45 Jos6 Pantale6n de Lara, for example, an Indian
principal of Analco, died in 1789, with his wife of thirty years his only
heir. His property included a substantial house with a shop (tienda),
which he operated himself, about fifty head of livestock, a maize plot of
some thirty-five acres, ten cargas of threshed wheat, and various personal
effects.46 Francisco Cort6s de Velasco (his name bore the honorific don in

and Tlajomulco, spanning the period 1744- 18o8, in AIPG, Zapotlanejo and Tlamojulco; and
for a more detailed discussioni of ranchero property holding, see Van Young, "Rural Life in
Eighteenty-Century Mexico," pp. 494-510.
43. One important mechanism for the accumulation of wealth withini peasant villages
may have been manipulation of the resources of Indian religious sodalities (cofradias) by
certain of their members, including using funds for their own economic activities and lend-
ing them out at interest; Julie Hale, graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin,
engaged in master's thesis research oni Indian cofradias of seventeenth- and eighteenth-
century Oaxaca, personal communication. The colonial cofradias of central Jalisco held con-
siderable economic resources, primarily in the form of livestock; see Ram6n Maria Serrera
Contreras, Guadalajara ganadera: Estudio regional novohispano, 1760- 1805 (Seville,
1977), passim.
44. BPE, Bienes de Difuntos (hereinafter, BPE-BD), leg. 86, exp. 3, 1739.
45. Analco was often referred to as a barrio of Guadalajara, but was not officially incor-
porated into the city until 1821.
46. AHMG, caja 25, 1789.

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his testament), a cacique of Tlajomulco, upon his death in 1753 left a small
retail establishment and four houses in the pueblo.47 When he died in
1780, Juan Gaspar, alcalde de primer voto in the same village, mainly left
scattered agricultural plots and livestock to be inherited by his three
daughters.48 Antonio Lorenzo, a principal of Tlajomulco, at his death in
1789 left a somewhat more diversified fortune. He had worked as an ar-
riero and small merchant in the pueblo. He left three houses in town,
nearly a hundred head of livestock (mostly cattle and oxen), about forty
acres of land planted in maize and wheat, and a miscellany of personal
Ultimately, the wealth of Indian village elites was distinguished less
by its nature than by the means of its acquisition. In addition to the accu-
mulation of wealth through inheritance, purchase, or the extension of
credit, the village cacique, principal, or alcalde might use the power of
his office or the prestige of his social position to advantage. The outright
expropriation of common lands by caciques for their private use was a
common enough practice, for example.50 A by no means unusual case of
this occurred in the pueblo of Mesquitan, near Guadalajara, in i8oo. A
village cacique, who had entered the priesthood, exerted his strong influ-
ence on the Indian alcalde to divest three of the cacique's cousins of a
small inheritance of land, which the cacique then redistributed among his
clients in Mesquitin.' In addition to such expropriation of village re-
sources, village power-holders could manipulate them in a more indirect
manner for their own benefit. They could favor their kin or develop a po-
litical clientele within the pueblo by granting land allotments or using the
income from village lands rented to outsiders. Those commoners who ob-
jected to such cynical power-broking might be silenced by threat of pun-
ishment.52 Abuses were compounded when village notables worked in
collusion with powerful outsiders, such as white officials, priests, or land-
owners, to ensure the favored access of such people to village land re-
sources. Local magistrates or priests, often themselves landowners,
struck deals with pueblo officials on occasion or managed to impose their
own creatures in village political posts.
How widely acknowledged was such malfeasance within village com-
munities, and to what degree was resentment about it publicly mani-
fested? This is a difficult question to answer, particularly with regard to
village Indian elites. Certainly the Indian commoners of Tlajomulco did

47. AIPG, Tlajomulco, vol. 2, no page nos., 1753.

48. Ibid., 1780.
49. AIPG, Tlajomulco, vol. 1, no page nos., 1789.
50. AIPG, Tierras, leg. 40, exp. 11, 1798, and leg. 14, exp. 7, 18oo.
51. AIPG, Tierras, leg. 14, exp. 7, 18oo.
52. For example, AIPG, Tierras, leg. 27, exp. 4, 1789.

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not hesitate to launch a complaint in 1805 against the pueblo officials, par-
ish priest, and teniente of the district for allegedly renting out a large tract
of village lands to outsiders in the face of a clear need for the same land by
the villagers themselves.53 Internal struggles did erupt over such deal-
ings, and factions might form over the issue of village land distribution,
often polarizing around groups of notables or commoners.5 In any case,
even though evidence on this point is not abundant, one has the distinct
impression from contemporary sources that such strains within the village
polity did exist, that they were explicitly and publicly acknowledged, and
that they often focused on the disposition of land resources.
Even where land or the disposition of village resources were not ex-
plicitly at issue, however, and where the displacement mechanism did
not come into play, instances of intracommunity conflict can reveal much
about the dynamics of village life. A particularly piquant example of the
relationship of a pueblo notable to non-Indian outsiders, and of the strain
such a relationship might create in the cultural fabric of the community, is
the case of Miguel Santa Ana Silva, principal of the pueblo of San Pedro
Tlaquepaque, in the district of Tonala near Guadalajara. In the early
morning hours of April 24, 1815, Silva, alcalde of the pueblo during the
previous year, was called to the municipal offices (casas reales) by the two
current alcaldes, and by their order was tied to a post, whipped severely,
and then briefly imprisoned. He lodged a complaint with the subdele-
gado of Tonala, alleging that the punishment had been completely with-
out justification, and was nothing more than revenge exacted by the cur-
rent alcaldes for personal motives. Indeed, several witnesses to the
events attested to the vindictive utterances made by the Indian officials
during the whipping, such as "by the yardstick one uses is he himself
measured" ("en la vara que uno mide es medido"). On their side, the two
alcaldes (one of whom was a relative of Silva's) adduced a number of osten-
sible reasons for disciplining the former official. First, on the previous
evening he had created a public disturbance by forcing his way into one of
their homes, while drunk, on the pretext of collecting contributions for
the arca de comunidad, for which he was still responsible.55 Second,
there had been complaints about him (unspecified in nature, but presum-
ably arising from his behavior while in office the previous year) from the
pueblo in general. And third, when questioned on these charges at the
casas reales, he had answered with haughtiness (altaneria) toward the al-

53. AIPG, Tierras, leg. 27, exp. 5.

54. E.g., AIPG, Libros de Gobierno de la Audiencia de Guadalajara, 29: 3r- iiv, Tla-
jomulco, 1711; AIPG, Tierras, leg. 78, exps. 3-12; leg. 27, exp. 4; and prot. Berroa, 22: 95v,
Jocotepec, 1790S.
55. It turned out that the house was the site of an illegal tepacheria.

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caldes. The two officials also claimed by way of a post hoc exculpation that
Silva, while being whipped, had called them "indios alcaldes tontos" and
"insurgentes." The testimony of a number of townspeople was divided as
to whether Silva had been a good or bad alcalde. But the victim himself,
his persecutors, and several other people highlighted the underlying rea-
son for his general unpopularity in the village, which was that he had al-
ways identified more with the whites (gente de razon) in the district than
with the Indians. He was well thought of by the local subdelegado, parish
priest, and other ecclesiastics, while, according to his own statements,
most Indians in the village regarded him with "odio y aborrecimiento"
because of his inclination to deal with the whites. One witness even went
so far as to call him a "criatura" of the local white power structure.56
What lay behind the deterioration of Silva's relations with his neigh-
bors and his adherence to -non-Indian ways? Had he grown rich himself
through his alliance with outsiders, or provided access to power or re-
sources in the community? The surviving documentation does not answer
these questions. Nor does what we know of the case neatly conform to the
model of conflict and solidarity developed here. We do know that Tonala
and its subordinate towns were hard-pressed at the end of the eighteenth
century by population pressure and voracious commercial agriculture,
which challenged them for control over land resources. In fact, Tonala
and its neighboring villages turned to labor-intensive craft industries and
urban wage labor to supplement increasingly inadequate land resources.
Why did open conflict break out in this instance within the community?
Was Silva already so marginalized socially that some kind of consensus de-
veloped within the community which allowed his ostracism without pos-
ing a threat to the social integrity of the village? Or had San Pedro's prox-
imity to Guadalajara already fatally compromised the closed corporate
nature of its structure, so that the defensive strategy of displacement was
no longer efficacious? Whatever the answer to these questions, the case of
Silva and San Pedro illustrates the kind of strains to which such commu-
nities might be subjected.
If the survival of Indian landholding villages was threatened from
without by commercial agriculture, and from within by population growth
and socioeconomic differentiation, it was also vulnerable to the competi-
tion of both non-Indian towns and haciendas as foci of attraction for peasant
villagers. The city of Guadalajara particularly, with its urban amenities
and the comparative freedom it offered to many peasants from the chafing
constraints of village life, attracted a constant stream of immigrants from
the countryside. Much of the city's notable growth during the eighteenth

56. BPE-AJA, Crimiiial, leg. 1, exp. 28, 1815.

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and nineteenth centuries was underwritten by such immigration, with
the districts closest to the city contributing the largest numbers of immi-
grants. By 1822, a third of Guadalajara's inhabitants had been born out-
side the city.57
On the other hand, rural estates could develop as surrogate commu-
nities that offered advantages to their permanent residents, among them
regular access to credit, goods, and money wages, a more-or-less cohesive
communal life, and the protection of the owner as patriarch of an ex-
tended pseudo-family. This obviously tended to weaken the traditional
Indian social structure and encouraged the secularization of Indian so-
ciety. Life outside the village, if it undermined the productive autonomy
of Indian peasants, also brought with it freedom from some potentially
irksome or even ruinous community obligations, such as the payment of
tribute or the assumption of community office. This would have been the
case especially where land resources were becoming increasingly scarce,
and where the gains of remaining within the formal community structure
were outweighed by the losses rendered up in surpluses or services. Vil-
lage elites that saw their constituencies slipping away in this manner did
not relinquish control without a battle. In 1794, for example, the Indian
alcalde of the pueblo of Buenavista, in the jurisdiction of Lagos, plain-
tively informed the Audiencia of Guadalajara that village Indians living
and working on local haciendas refused to honor the traditional claims of
the pueblo. They refused to acknowledge the authority of the alcalde, to
contribute toward fiesta expenses, to perform labor on the church or the
casas de comunidad, or to accept pueblo offices.58
An even more circumstantial description of the conflict between tradi-
tional village life and hacienda settlements, but with the addition of a
third competing element-the church-is that concerning the pueblo of
San Martin de la Cal, near Cocula, in 1803. The Indians of San Martin
petitioned the Audiencia of Guadalajara in that year that they be relieved
of their traditional obligation for labor service to the Franciscan monas-
tery of Cocula, on the grounds that because of their dispersed living pat-
tern, the work was a great nuisance. The traditional duties of the Indians
of San Martin and of Cocula to the Franciscan fathers had included the
supply of eight permanent sirvientes; peons on an occasional basis for la-
bor on the monastery; the running of a mail service to Guadalajara and
other local towns; a weekly supply of straw, firewood, chicken, eggs, and

57. Sherburne F. Cook, "Las migraciones en la historia de la poblaci6n mexicana: Datos

inodelo del occidente del centro de Mexico," in Bernardo Garcia Martinez, ed., Historia y
sociedad en el mundo de habla espaniola: Homenaje a Jose Miranda (Mexico City, 1970),
Centro de Estudios Hist6ricos, Nueva Serie ii, pp. 365-367.
58. BPE-AJA, 205:3:2570, 1794.

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fish for the monastery; and the formation of the yearly parish census
(padron) at the Indians' own cost.
The Franciscans' counter-complaint was that the Indians failed to
show up for work, especially, and that when they did, they did not follow
instructions, they were disrespectful, they worked with "mala gana," and
they demanded wages, which they had never previously received. In a
general way, the padres ascribed this recalcitrance to the fact that a great
many of the Indians of the two towns lived as "continuos sirvientes" on
the haciendas and ranchos of the district or worked as arrieros for the
large merchant community of Cocula. Not only were the Indians refusing
to perform their traditional labor service; they were not attending mass
and they were hiding their dead so as to avoid paying burial fees to the
Franciscan fathers. A request by the Franciscans to the local subdelegado
that the Indians be forced to reside in their pueblos proved ineffective.
The padres also maintained that the Indians were guilty of lack of reli-
gious observance, robberies, and thefts ("infidelidades, robos y latrocin-
ios"), which were impossible to bring to justice because of the dispersed
living pattern and the fact that they protected each other from the civil
and ecclesiastical authorities. The local teniente added that many Indians
"are no longer pure, but mixed with non-Indians" ("ya no lo son puros,
sino es [sic] mixtos con las dema's gentes de razon"), and that they were
attempting to escape their tributary classification by paying various fees
as Spaniards and other castas. Finally, the same official stated that many
inhabitants drifted out of the area because of a lack of employment ("por
no encontrar donde trabajar en esta jurisdiccion"), which suggests over-
population.39 Cases such as this indicate a certain attenuation of the tradi-
tional bonds of village life, and their replacement in some areas by those
of hacienda communities. Population pressure in the countryside and the
resulting scarcity of land allotments within the traditional village struc-
ture may then be seen as a negative influence, and the benefits of the
peon-hacienda symbiosis as positive, in accounting for the strong growth
of permanent estate labor forces during the eighteenth century.

Conflict and Solidarity

Under attack, as it were, from all sides, the Indian landholding village
nonetheless managed substantially to maintain its identity as a social and
economic entity through the end of the colonial period, through the nine-
teenth century, and in many instances into the twentieth century. It ap-
pears that a major consideration in this survival and in the adjustment to a

59. BPE-AJA, 228:3:2695.

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changing social and economic environment was the integrating function
of conflict with the outside world itself, most prominently over land own-
ership, whether in the colonial courts or in less formal confrontations.60
Other countervailing forces working against the dissolution of the land-
holding village also came into play, such as the bonds of kinship, love of
the natal land, and the intervention of the Spanish state. Given the as-
sumptions we have already identified, the conflict model explains a vari-
ety of social phenomena.
On the manifest level of behavior, it was simply pragmatic for villages
to defend themselves as best they could against the aggressive expansion-
ism of the commercial agricultural sector, and to attempt to maximize
their own access to land resources, even in competition with other vil-
lages. This became ever more critical as rural population grew and per
capita availability of land declined. Even though private ownership of
land within Indian society was widespread by the eighteenth century, the
access of village-dwellers to common and allotment lands, and their pre-
scriptive rights to the limited use of privately owned lands, still consti-
tuted the keystones of communal economic life. The farther one stood
down the village economic scale, probably, the more important such tra-
ditional privileges became. Furthermore, it seems clear that autonomy,
in the sense of control over productive resources, was the preferred con-
dition of the Indian peasantry, and even where it was compromised by the
encroachment of external forces, the greater the degree of autonomy, the
better, as far as the peasant was concerned. Defense of the land, then, by
any means, ranging from the hurling of epithets and stones to the initia-
tion of costly and protracted litigation, was one of the most important
mechanisms in ensuring that the village-dwelling Indian did not descend
in condition from peasant to rural proletarian. Considering the built-in
biases in favor of the rich, the powerful, and the white, colonial courts
were used with surprising effectiveness by Indian communities in pre-
serving their land bases.
Below the manifest level of function, the evidence suggests that con-
flict over land between Indian and non-Indian served to express in a for-
mal, institutionalized manner the endemic racial and social tensions that
existed in the countryside.6' Such a sublimation of hostility into socially

6o. Nationalism and xenophobia would be two recognizable modern equivalents of the
mechanism discussed here.
61. These tensioins were themselves partially due to coniflict over economic resources,
leading us into a kind of chicken-anid-egg circularity. But conflict over land was not the only
situation that might have engendered such feelings, and, in any event, the effect itself
probably became separated from its immediate origins and diffused into assumptions and
stereotypes that acquired their own life and inherent validity, as often happens in such

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tolerated channels did not, of course, preclude other more antisocial ex-
pressions or ad hoc incidents of violence.62 Equally important to the
institutionalized expression of the tensions themselves (in Coser's termi-
nology, unrealistic conflict), however, was the reinforcement of village
solidarity that must have been the by-product of such expressions.63 By
assuming a collectively aggressive stance toward powerful outsiders, or
even against other villages, the community automatically defined its own
bounds and temporarily, at least, plugged the actual gaps in the ideal but
all-too-permeable wall of its identity.
This brings us to the third function of conflict for village survival, also
latent, but having more to do with the internal structure of communal life
than with exogenous forces. Put simply, conflict over land with outsiders
served the purpose of deflecting social tensions generated within village
society by an increasing tendency toward economic differentiation. The
premise here, as we have seen, is that such differentiation compromised
the ideally egalitarian, organic nature of the village as a social system and
needed somehow to be neutralized for some kind of equilibrium to be
preserved.64 Collective anger and frustration within the village were
therefore directed toward the outside world, for the most part, instead of
toward more proximate social objects, and the behavior that was per-
ceived as undermining the traditional equilibrium was imputed to out-
siders instead of to the villagers themselves.65 Such an interpretation does
not minimize the danger of the actual external threat, of course, but sim-
ply seeks to provide a second etiology for the same behavior. In a dis-
placed conflict of this sort, strains attendant upon contradictions within
the village social structure would be remedied, but not the material con-

62. For one such case, involving the murder of an estate manager by a peon on a ha-
cienda in the Guadalajara area in 1757, see Eric Van Young, "Un homicidio colonial,"
Boletin del Archivo Hist6rico de Jalisco, 3 (1979), 2-4.
63. Eric Wolf obliquely suggests the same thing: "The very threat of a hacienda's pres-
ence unified the villagers on its fringes in ways which would have been impossible in its
absence"; "Aspects of Group Relations in a Complex Society: Mexico," American An-
thropologist, 58 (1956), io65- 1078. Reprinted in Teodor Shanin, ed., Peasants and Peasant
Societies: Selected Readings (Harmondsworth, 1971) pp. 50-68; citation from p. 57.
64. Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Communities," p. 12; and Foster, "Peasant So-
ciety," passim. Foster's theory may not be universally applicable even within Latin America,
where it seems to fit best. African peasant societies, for example, seem to function on dif-
ferent assumptions regarding the accumulation of wealth. Nor do open frontier situations, in
which land is an elastic resource, seem compatible with the Foster model. As for Mexico,
Foster himself acknowledges that modern prosperity has a tendency to erode such a peasant
world view (George Foster, personal communication, Mar. 1981). For a recent critique of
Foster's formulation as straddling the theoretical fence between materialist and idealist ap-
proaches, see Marvin Harris, Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture
(New York, 1980), pp. 297-300.
65. If one were discussing intrapsychic instead of social events, these operations might
be called displacement and projection, respectively.

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ditions themselves. Such a resolution would allow the continued exis-
tence of the community on the basis of the same cosmological assump-
tions as before, despite observed reality. It is not necessary to assume for
the validity of the hypothesis that this behavior was perfectly adaptive-
that is, that it could completely eliminate all signs of intravillage conflict.
In the case of the complaint initiated by the villagers of Tlajomulco in
1805, for example, it is only required to admit the possibility that intra-
community conflict would have been sharper in the absence of an external
theater for the acting out of aggressions.
We have noted above that socioeconomic differentiation within Indian
villages in the Guadalajara region was probably accelerating and more
perceptible than previously toward the end of the colonial period."6 Not
only was such a general process at work within village society, but also a
particular tendency for village elites to engage in such anomic behavior,
which because of their visible position would have been doubly threaten-
ing to the fabric of village life. Village power-holders themselves, how-
ever, collaborated in the expression of the collective unconscious, which
directed intravillage tensions toward the outside world. In so doing they
reaped considerable rewards, and it is interesting to speculate a bit upon
the nature of those rewards. Often more oriented in their thinking and
aspirations toward the superordinate groups beyond the narrow horizons
of the pueblo, village elites nevertheless must have been aware that their
efforts at social climbing were predicated on their access to prestige,
power, and wealth at the village level. What is being suggested here is
that members of the village elite often attempted to transmute the old
coin of local status and authority into the new coin of wealth and status
within superordinate white society. In the process of achieving this, they
of course undermined their own credibility and legitimacy to some ex-
tent. A countervailing strategy was to direct the frustration of the village
community outward. A convenient pretext for such deflection-though
real enough in its own terms-was the conflict with outsiders over land,
its mechanism the initiation of litigation in the name of the village as a
whole. The mass of the village-dwelling population, on its side, faced a
dilemma: either stay within the village structure and be subject to exploi-
tation by the local power-brokers, or leave the village and escape the ex-
ploitation, but at the same time lose the degree of independence that
even such an imperfect environment offered. In either case, the bringing
of conflict with nonvillagers into the public arena reinforced communal
identity and served to shore up the eroding authority of village elites.
On the whole, most Indian peasants, where they could, seem to have

66. Wolf describes this process well, but dates it only from the advent of the national
period in Mexico; "Aspects of Group Relations," pp. 54-58.

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opted for the latter course-that of continued membership in a landhold-

ing village. The major alternative, that of taking up permanent residence
on a rural estate, did offer certain attractions, it is true. In any case, as
population grew, an active choice was not vouchsafed for latecomers be-
cause of land scarcities in peasant villages. For those village-dwellers who
managed to maintain their economic footing in the autonomous Indian
communes, often in combination with rural wage labor or some other non-
farming activity, a precarious life with a degree of autonomy was clearly
preferable to descent into the ranks of the growing rural proletariat.
Wracked as it was by such strains, the notable resilience of the communal
landholding village was directly attributable to its adaptability to these
conflicting goals. Village elites sought to preserve the village, and through
it their power and their preferential access to goods and status, in order to
enter the non-Indian society. This they might accomplish as priests, mer-
chants and moneylenders, landowners, or the political creatures of pow-
erful outsiders. The mass of the village peasants sought to preserve it in
order to resist their proletarianization. Thus, both groups used the village
for opposite purposes: the one for social mobility, the other for social iun-
mobility. Eric Wolf makes the case that such defensive strategies on the
part of peasants may slow the process of community dissolution, but not
stop it.

This is not to say that their defensive frLnctions are ultimately ade-
quate to the challenge. The disappearance of closed corporate
peasant communities where they have existed in the past, and the
lessening number of surviving communities of this type, testify to
the proposition that in the long run they are incapable of prevent-
ing change. Internal population surpluses can be pushed off into
daughter villages only as long as new land is available. Retained
within the boundaries of the community, they exercise ever-
increasing pressure on its capacity to serve the interests of its
members 67

The major point to be grasped is that groups with conflicting ends availed
themselves of the same means, the existence of the communal landhold-
ing village. Their ultimate lack of success was not the result of any inap-
propriateness in their respective strategies, but of changes afoot in the
society as a whole that neither could hope to control.

67. Wolf, "Closed Corporate Peasant Communities," p. 13.

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