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Millennium on the Northern Marches: The Mad Messiah of Durango and Popular Rebellion in

Mexico, 1800-1815
Author(s): Eric van Young
Source: Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul., 1986), pp. 385-413
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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Comparative Studies in Society and History.
Millennium on the Northern
Marches:The Mad Messiah of
Durango and PopularRebellion in
Mexico, 1800-1815

Universityof California, San Diego

In Septemberof 1810, with a sudden flash of violent rebellion (precededby

monthsand years of salon conspiracies),the white native-bornprovincialelite
of New Spain began the protractedand painful process of winning political
independencefrom Spain. Although by about 1816 much of the countryhad
been pacified by royal arms, pockets of rebellion continued to smolder and
flare throughoutthe following years. The birthof modem Mexico itself final-
ly occurredin 1821, owing as much to fortuitouspolitical circumstancesin
Spain as to the military and political manipulationsof Agustin Iturbide,the
creole adventurerwho consummatedthe country's independenceand briefly
became its emperor.Programmaticpronouncementsby the creole and mestizo
leadershipof the independencemovement abound in the form of pamphlets,
constitutions,decrees, short-lived newspapers, capturedcorrespondence,et-
cetera, andprovide us with a reasonablyclear view into the complex ideologi-
cal process of political separatismfrom Spain. At least in the early years of
the independencestruggle, however, the insurrectionaryarmies were manned
not primarilyby Mexican-bornwhites or racially mixed groups, but by Indian

For supportof the researchupon which this article is based, the authorgratefullyacknowledges
the Departmentof History and the Instituteof Latin AmericanStudies at the Universityof Texas
at Austin; the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the Chancellor's Office, and the Academic
Senateof the Universityof California,San Diego; and the TinkerFoundation,Inc., of New York.
ChristonArcher made useful comments on an earlier version of this article, as did MarjorieF.
I On these ideologies see, among the abundantliterature,Luis Villoro, El proceso ideol6gico
de la revoluci6nde independencia(Mexico City, 1967); Ernestode la Torre Villar, La constitu-
ci6n de Apatzingdny los creadores del estado mexicano (Mexico City, 1978); idem, La indepen-
dencia mexicana, 3 vols. (Mexico City, 1982); Ana Macias, Genesis del gobierno constitucional
en Mexico, 1808-1820 (Mexico City, 1973); David A. Brading, Los origenes del nacionalismo
mexicano (Mexico City, 1973); Jorge I. Dominguez, Insurrectionor Loyalty:The Breakdownof
the SpanishAmericanEmpire (Cambridge,Mass., 1980); and JacquesLafaye, Quetzalc6atland
Guadalupe: The Formation of Mexican National Consciousness, 1531-1813 (Chicago, 1976).
0010-4175/86/3115-2317 $2.50 ? 1986 Society for ComparativeStudy of Society and History


peasantsfrom ruralvillages all over the centralpartsof the country.2Parallel

to the mobilizationof large, substantiallyIndianarmies, and overlappingit in
many instances, was a series of village riots and uprisings throughoutmost
regions of New Spain, save the far northand south, that reacheda crescendo
during 1811-12, and continued, albeit with lessening frequency, throughthe
end of the decade.
In the plentiful primary documentation of the era there is virtually no
evidence to suggest that Indiansoldiers, rebels, and rioterssubscribed,except
in the vaguest and most passive fashion, to the tenets of protoliberalelite
ideology, and indeed there is abundantindicationthatthey held very different
beliefs and goals from those of the elite creole directorateof the movement.
Thus, while key symbolic elements, such as the Virgin of Guadalupeand
Spanish monarchicallegitimacy, may have attractedthe loyalty of both vil-
lage riotersand creole ideologues, such symbols meant very different things
to different people. But how are we to determinewhat massive and violent
rebellion meantto the thousandsof Indianpeasantswho took up arms-their
bows, slings, clubs, hoes, stones, and rusty guns-against the constituted
authorities between 1810 and 1821? After all, these people were over-
whelmingly illiterate,and often spoke only an Indianlanguage. Living within
a matrixof substantiallyoral village culture, they left almost nothing behind
them of a formally ideological nature except the record of their actions as
filtered throughjudicial and militarydocuments. The latterpartof this essay
analyzes such materialsin an attemptto reconstruct,at least in part, the world
view and ideology of popular rebels in the years after 1810. Yet, as an
alternativeor complement to this sort of collective or sociological inquiry,
individualbiographyis also a valuable aid in reconstructingvanishedsystems
of thought and action. Thus, the first part of the article treats in detail the
history and beliefs of one individual, a disturbed Indian pseudo-messiah,
active in the years 1800-1801. While the career of this individual, Jose
BernardoHerrada,is in itself of limited significance (though fascinating in
detail), certainof the psychosocial themes thatemerge from it clearly resonate
in a striking manner with similar themes present in the collective action of
Indianvillage rebels and riotersa decade and more later. Althoughthe etiolo-
gy of Herrada'sderanged ideas lies substantiallyin his own disturbedemo-
tional background, such as it can be reconstructed, there are nonetheless
enough points of contact with the actions of Indianrebels to allow us to infer
some of their ideation from his and, conversely, to illuminate his behavior

2 The
importanceof Indian peasant participationin the independencestruggle has been ob-
scured to some degree not only by a lack of fundamentalresearch on the social origins and
composition of the movements, but also by the fact that the insurrectioninitially broke out in
1810, underthe leadershipof FatherMiguel Hidalgo, in the region of the countryknown as the
Bajfo, which was not heavily Indianin its racialcomposition. For a brief discussion of the ethnic
composition of New Spain at the end of the colonial period, see text at note 48 below.

with reference to broader, collective phenomena. The appropriatemetaphor

here is thatof a funhousemirror,in which Herrada'sactivitiesrepresenta frag-
mented, distortedimage in the glass, having the essential elements nonethe-
less intact. While the frameworkof analysis is comparative,the comparison
is cross-temporalratherthanthe more usual cross-nationalor cross-cultural.


Jose Berardo Herrada,or Jose Silvestre Sariiana as he came briefly to be

known, did not overtly claim to be an Indianmessiah, nor did he assume the
trappingsof the semidivine as he wanderedthe dusty back-countryroads of
northernNew Spain in 1800 and early 1801. Although his ostensible mission
was to summon the Indians of the north to the imminent coronation of his
father, the governor of Tlaxcala as king of New Spain in March 1801, he
seems also to have been interestedin collecting as much money as possible
from village communaland pious funds. In fact, it is difficult to tell from the
records whether he was a cryptochiliast, a con artist, a crazyman, or all in
combination.3 While it is true that the twin threads of madness and mes-
sianism tangle themselves inextricably in Herrada'slengthy statements and
confession, his view of his own destiny is nowhere stated explicitly. What
follows is an attemptat historicalreconstructionon a numberof levels simul-
taneously, all conflated in the tragicomic history of Jos6 BernardoHerrada,
alias Jose Silvestre Sarifiana.On the first level, we will explore the personal
dramaof the mad messiah himself. From the fragmentarytestimony of Her-
radaand othersone can sense the presenceof a troubledpersonalityand begin
to make some guesses about the etiology of his particulardisturbance,about
the dark shapes of the phantoms that swirled about him as he spoke of his
wanderings. Here the relief of his characterand history, and especially the
natureof his centralpreoccupationabouthis fatherand figures of authorityin
general, is deepened if we have recourse to some ideas about personality
On the second level, Herrada'sstory tells us a good deal about contempo-
rarysocial and political conditions in New Spain on the eve of FatherMiguel
Hidalgo's rebellion in the fall of 1810, and about official and popularreac-
tions to the initial phase of the independence wars.4 The specter of Indian

3 The documentationof Herrada'scase,

comprising about 235 folio pages of confessions,
witnesses' testimony, investigative reports,judicial opinions, letters of transmissionby colonial
authorities,etcetera, is to be found in the Fondos Especiales collection of the Biblioteca Puiblica
del Estado(Jalisco), Archivo Judicialde la Audienciade Guadalajara,section Criminal(hereafter
cited as AJAC), paquete34, expediente 9, documentserial number763 (hereaftercited as 34-9-
763). All citations and quotationsconcerningthe Herradacase are taken from this source, unless
otherwise noted, and subsequentreferences to this document are thereforenot footnoted.
4 The basic modern
English-languagetreatmentof the early phase of the Mexican indepen-
dence movement, initiated in September 1810 by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, is that of
Hugh Hamill, Jr., The Hidalgo Revolt: Prelude to Mexican Independence (1966; Westport,

rebellion in particularhauntedcolonial officials at all levels of government,

and such fears were not unjustified. Indian rebellion, some of it on a fairly
large scale, was endemic in Mesoamericaafter the Spanish conquest.5 Fur-
thermore,in the same years when Herradawas spreadinghis seditious doc-
trines in the northerncountryside, a numberof conspiracieswere discovered
amongthe Indianvillagers of westernMexico, particularlyin the Tepic area.6
Finally, the 1810 rebellion, as mentioned above, was markedlyIndian in its
compositionin certainpartsof the viceroyalty.7Aggravatingfears of massive

Conn., 1981). The literatureon the Mexican independencestruggle is large, though not much of
it concentrateson the natureof the rebellions as social movements. Two of the classic historical
accountsare Lucas Alaman, Historia de Mejico, 5 vols. (Mexico City, 1968); and Carlos Maria
Bustamante,Cuadro historico de la revolucion mexicana, 3 vols. (Mexico City, 1961). Among
moder treatments,see the seminal essay of Eric Wolf on the region where Hidalgo's movement
brokeout, "El Bajio en el siglo XVIII:un analisis de integraci6ncultural," in Los beneficiarios
del desarrollo regional, David Barkin, comp. (Mexico City, 1972), 63-95; and, among others,
Domfnguez,Insurrectionor Loyalty;TorcuatoS. DiTella, "Las clases peligrosasen la indepen-
dencia de Mexico," in El ocaso del orden colonial en Hispanoamerica,Tulio Halperin-Donghi,
comp. (Buenos Aires, 1978), 201-47; EnriqueFlorescano, "Antecedentsof the Mexican Inde-
pendence Movement: Social Instability and Political Discord," in Liberation in the Americas:
ComparativeAspects of the IndependenceMovementsin Mexico and the United States, Robert
Detweiler and Ram6n Ruiz, eds. (San Diego, 1978), 69-86; William B. Taylor, "Rural Unrest
in Central Jalisco, 1790-1816" (Paper delivered at the Conference on Peasant Uprisings in
Mexico, Social Science Research Council, New York, April 1982); Bryan R. Hamnett, "The
Economic and Social Dimension of the Revolution for Independencein Mexico, 1800-1824,"
Ibero-AmerikanischesArchiv,n.s., 6:1 (1980), 1-27; JohnTutino, "AgrarianInsurgency:Social
Origins of the Hidalgo Movement," manuscript(1980); Christon I. Archer, "Banditry and
Revolution in New Spain, 1790-1821," Bibliotheca Americana, 1:2 (1982), 58-89; and Eric
Van Young, "Moving toward Revolt: AgrarianOrigins of the Hidalgo Rebellion in Central
Jalisco" (Paper delivered at the Conference on Peasant Uprisings in Mexico, Social Science
ResearchCouncil, New York, April 1982).
5 On general fears of a race war by the dark-skinnedagainst the light-skinned, particularly
after the famous massacre of whites by Hidalgo's largely Indian and mestizo army at Guana-
juato's alhondiga, see Hamill, Hidalgo Revolt. The conventionalwisdom regardingthis point is
that the slaughter at the alh6ndiga, and others that followed it in rebel-held areas, alienated
creoles who might otherwisehave supportedHidalgo's movementin orderto achieve the political
independenceof the colony. On Indianrebellion in Mesoamericaduringthe colonial period, see,
for example, MariaElena Galaviz de Capdevielle, Rebeliones indigenas en el norte del Reino de
la Nueva Espana, siglos XVI-XVII (Mexico City, 1967); Maria Teresa Huerta and Patricia
Palacios, eds., Rebeliones indigenas de la dpoca colonial (Mexico City, 1976); Robert
Wasserstrom,Class and Society in Central Chiapas (Berkeley, 1983), esp. ch. 3; William B.
Taylor, Drinking,Homicide, and Rebellion in Colonial Mexican Villages (Stanford, 1979), ch. 4;
and FriedrichKatz, "Peasant Revolts in Mexico" (Paper given at the Conference on Peasant
Uprisings in Mexico, Social Science Research Council, New York, April 1982).
6 One of these centered on a mysterious Indianprophetnamed Mariano, and anotheron the
planned destructionof the sanctuaryof the Virgin of Guadalupeand the viceregal palace in
Mexico City in 1800. The Marianoincident is treatedin the Herradadocumentsin AJAC 34-9-
763, and also in considerabledetail by ChristonI. Archer, El ejercito en el Mexico borb6nico,
1760-1810 (Mexico City, 1983), 132-135. For the otherTepic conspiracy, see Archivo General
de la Naci6n (Mexico) (hereaftercited as AGN), Historia, vol. 428, fols. 37r-76r (1801).
7 On Indianparticipationin the early phase of the independencerebellions, through 1812 or
so, particularlyin the form of local uprisingsor village tumultos,see my paper, "Who Was That
MaskedMan, Anyway? PopularSymbols and Ideology in the Mexican Warsof Independence,"
Rocky MountainConference on Latin American Studies, Annual Meeting, Proceedings (Las
Cruces, N.M., 1984), I, 18-35.

Indianrebellionand race war were the somewhatparanoid(though, again, not

completely unjustified) preoccupations with foreign (particularlyEnglish)
conspiracies to join with Indian rebels in the overthrow of the legitimate
colonial order.8 Whatever Herrada's personal obsessions or the degree to
which they reflected deeply runningsocial cleavages and symbols among the
Indian population at large, they would not have assumed such visibility or
interesthad they not fallen into a specific conjunctionof circumstancesasso-
ciated with internationaland imperial politics.
On the thirdlevel, Herrada'shistory displays symptomsof a set of psycho-
social formulationsthat suffused relationsbetween Indiansand Spaniardsby
the close of the colonial period, though these elements must have originated
much earlier in the cultural history of Mexico.9 Despite the delusional and
inconsistentnatureof Herrada'stestimony, the openly seditious characterof
his programwas clear enough: he foretold a kind of Indian millennium in
which effective sovereignty was to pass from the hands of white colonial
authoritiesto those of the Indians of New Spain, in the person of an Indian
monarch. If the programemerged clearly, however, Herrada'sreportedbe-
havior-the affect attachedto the program,as it were-demonstrated a fun-
damentalcontradiction,like a fissure deep beneath an apparentlyplane sur-
face. This contradictionwas his profoundlyambivalentattitudetowardwhites
in general and white authorityfigures in particular,rangingfrom the Spanish
king all the way down to petty provincial officials. Related to this was a
strongly markedhostility, even hatred, toward whites of Europeanbirth, or
gachupines in the pejorative slang of the day. Filled as his pronouncements
were with racist, antiwhitedenunciation,Herradanonethelesssought out, in a
confused way, the approvaland society of whites and even their imprimatur
upon his Indian monarchistprogram. Aside from its quirkiness, this is of
interestbecause it echoes in an idiosyncraticway a widespreadambivalence
toward whites, focussed strongly on the distinction between European-and
American-bornSpaniards, that was to emerge in many instances of Indian
rebellion during 1810 and after. The basic scenario here is one of increasing
racial tension, linked in its turnto socioeconomic conflicts of long standing,
which, in the peculiaralchemy of popularaction and ideology, transformeda
generalizedhostility toward whites into a virulenthatredof gachupines. The
fragmentedand confused elements of Herrada'sprogramand his reasoning
reflect this ambivalence and the accompanyingprocess of "splitting"-the
8 Similar allegations of English involvement were made in the
investigationof the Tepic plot
of 1800 detailed in AGN, Historia, vol. 428, fols. 37r-76r (1801); and in Archer, El ejercito en
el Mexico borbdnico, esp. ch. 4. On the general question of foreign involvementin the indepen-
dence of New Spain, see John Rydjord,Foreign Interest in the Independenceof New Spain: An
Introductionto the Warfor Independence(New York, 1972).
9 The termSpaniard is used here as synonymous for white, regardlessof social statusor place
of birth. The distinction between Spaniardsof European and American birth (peninsularsor
gachupines, and creoles, respectively) was an importantone, however, and will be developed
somewhat more below.

psychic sleight-of-handthat idealizes whites on the one hand while vilifying

them on the other. Mad as Herradamay have been, his story is significanton
this level of analysis because of the vehicles he used to express his particular
inner conflicts. His ramblingsand ravings are thus an overamplifiedversion
of the feeling and subjectivereality common to large groupsof Indiansat that
time-the funhouse-mirrordistortion that nonetheless shows the essential
image intact. The representationshe chose, consciously and unconsciously,
were in some degree historically and culturallydetermined.A study of this
delicate conjunction-of a life history and historical moment, in Erik Erik-
son's phrase-can illumine both the man and his time. Indeed, Erikson's
words, written in anothercontext, help to focus on this illusive relationship:
. deeplyandpathologically upset,butpossessedbothby the visionof a new (or
renewed) world order and by the need . . . to transformmasses of men, such a man
makeshis individual"patienthood" of a universalone, andpromises
"to solve for all whathe couldnot solve for himselfalone."10


On 25 January1801, Don Francisco Antonio de la Bastida y Araziel, chief

magistrateof the Villa de San JuanBautistadel Rio, in the provinceof Nueva
Vizcaya, had an odd interview with an Indian just arrived in the town.11
Althoughat the time he must have been struckwith the man and the conversa-
10 Erik H. Erikson, Life History and the Historical Moment: Diverse Presentations (New
York, 1975), 47; and see in particularthe chaptersentitled "'Identity Crisis' in Autobiographical
Perspective" and "On the Nature of Psycho-HistoricalEvidence."
i I San JuanBautistadel Rio (not to be confused with the town of the same name much further
to the south, near Queretaro)lies about sixty-five miles north of the city of Durango. Around
1800 the total population of the town and its district was approximately 10,300; Bemardo
Bonavia, "Lista o noticia de las jurisdicciones o partidosde la comprensi6nde la provinciade
Nueva Vizcaya. . ," in Descripciones econ6micas regionales de Nueva Espaina.Provincias del
Norte, 1790-1814, Enrique Florescano and Isabel Gil, eds. (Mexico City, 1976), 88. Three
caveatsof a methodologicalnatureshould be made here briefly with regardto the interpretationof
Herrada'sstory on the basis of the evidence. First, the recordsof his interrogationand confession
do not lend themselves as readily as might be hoped to close textual reading, since it is doubtful
that they all representverbatimtranscriptionsof his statements.Second, the colonial authorities
who tried Herradawere interestedin determinationsof fact bearingupon what was essentially a
crime of lese majest6, and not in his beliefs or subjectivestates, as might have been the case had
he fallen under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. This means that a precise reconstructionof
Herrada'sbeliefs and mental condition, based upon an analysis of his words and the nuancesof
expression, is substantiallybarredto us. On the fastidiousnessof Inquisitionlegal proceduresin
this regard, see, for example, two articles of John Tedeschi, "PreliminaryObservationson
Writinga Historyof the Roman Inquisition," in Continuityand Discontinuityin ChurchHistory,
F. Church and T. George, eds. (Leiden, 1979), 232-49; and "The Roman Inquisition and
Witchcraft:An Early Seventeenth-Century'Instruction'on CorrectTrial Procedure," Revue de
l'histoire des Religions, 200:1 (1983), 163-88; and also John P. Demos, EntertainingSatan:
Witchcraftand the Cultureof Early New England (Oxford, 1982). I am gratefulto my colleague
John Marinofor bringingTedeschi's work to my attention.For an outstandingexample of what
such detailed and intimate Inquisitionrecordscan do in reconstructingthe subjective states and
mental universe of a single individual, see Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms:The
Cosmos of a Sixteenth-CenturyMiller (Baltimore, 1980). Finally, the application of psycho-
analyticconcepts to collective action, and to the links between such action on the partof Indian

tion, only subsequentevents broughtthem into sharprelief. The man looked

much like other Indians of the area-certainly there was nothing to remark
him as unusual. He was of stocky build, average height, dark in color, flat-
nosed, sparse of beard, about thirty-five years old, and had a scar on his left
forearm. He claimed his name was CaptainGreen Horn-"capitan Cuerno
verde"-that he had served as interpreterwith a certain Captain Carrasco,
and that he was now dedicatedto bullfighting. He asked license to participate
as a toreadoron foot in the upcomingcelebrationsin the town.12When asked
by la Bastida if he had some kind of valid passport, he said that he did, but
that a group of his friends who had lagged behind him on the road were
bringingit. Green Horn assuredthe magistratethat he would cause no public
disturbanceor nuisance, and was granted permission to stay in the town.
Fourdays later the governorof the town's Indiansinformedla Bastidathat
Green Horn was disturbing the local people with certain seditious expres-
sions, to which the magistrate responded by throwing the stranger in the
public jail. A group of those same local Indians intervened, however, and
asked that Green Horn be transferredto their direct custody in the civic
buildings of the Indian community, to which la Bastida assented. After an-
other three days the magistratereceived from Captain Green Horn a paper
bearingtwo signatures, which the jailed man claimed was his missing pass-
port. The Spanishofficial found the contentsof the documentalarming,wrote
in his reportthat "they can serve as a cause of misunderstanding(engatio) and
restlessness(inquietudes)among these Indians," and had the man returnedto
the public jail to clear up the matter.
The next day, 29 January1801, the magistrateof San Juantook an initial
statementfrom Captain Green Horn in the town jail. The prisoner said his
name was Jose Silvestre Sarifiana,that he didn't know his age, that he had
been born in the Indianbarrio of San Juan Bautistade Analco in the city of
Tlaxcala, and that he had no occupation, but was "capitdn" of 133 native
pueblos in his district.13 The first hint of Herrada'scontrariness,eccentricity,
or outrightmadness appearsat this early point, in his answer to the first real

villagers and the highly individual pathology of the mad messiah of Durango, is somewhat
problematical.This is so because violence in general, and collective violence in particular,seem
largelyoutside the purviewof clinically based psychoanalytictheoryowing to the clinical setting
itself, from which the theory is ultimatelyderived. On this point, see Erikson, Life History and
the Historical Moment, 106; and Otto F. Kernberg,Internal Worldand ExternalReality: Object
Relations Theory Applied (New York, 1980), 217. Despite these difficulties, psychoanalytic
interpretationsof collective action may be employed as a kind of large metaphorfor psychosocial
processes that seem to demand an explanationbeyond the knee-jerkfunctionalismof traditional
social and economic interpretations.
12 Such bullfights were commonly associated with civic and certain religious celebrationsin
provincialtowns; some of the corridas would have been foughton horseback,as well. Judgingby
modem examples of country bullfights in Mexico, the level of the participants' skills was
probablynot high.
13 Ignoranceof one's own age, or the stating of age in very approximatenumbers (usually
roundedto the nearest five years) or estimates, was fairly common among Indians.

questionof his interrogation.When asked to specify the names of the villages

of which he was capitdn, he answered that "it didn't mattereither to the
magistrateor to him-it simply suited him to say so." He said he spoke not
only Spanish, but Tlascalteca (which would have been the Indian lingua
franca of central Mexico, Nahuatl), Otomite (Otomi), Tarasco, Lipan,
Lipillan, Indio Blanco, Gileio, Tejas, Come Crudo, and Pames.14 His father
he namedas Don Jose Antonio PedroAlcantarGonzalez Amarillode Arellan,
and his motheras simply Tomasa-he didn't know her surname.A two-year
absence from Tlaxcala he claimed to have spent travellingwidely. He admit-
ted having told the Indiangovernorthat he (Herrada)could orderthe skies to
rain buckets of fire on the celebrations in the town. Asked to sign his own
statement,he pled inability to write.
The Spanishmagistratenext examined a numberof local Indianwitnesses,
including the general del pueblo and its governor. As to Herrada'sname,
ethnicity, and birthplace, they knew only what he had told them. When he
entered the town with the magistrate'slicense, the Indianofficials had wel-
comed him to a place of distinctionin their governmentbuildingsbecause he
said he was a native of Tlaxcala.16 He told them he had been arrestedpre-
14 Some of the "languages" in this list are deformed, and some ridiculous. "Indio Blanco"
(white indian) is a nonlanguagethat may have some bearingon Herrada'sown inner conflicts,
while "Come Crudo" (he eats it raw) may have been intendedas a taunt, an insult, or simply
nonsense. On the Indian languages of this area, see Norman McQuown, vol. ed., Linguistics,
Vol. V of Handbookof Middle AmericanIndians, Robert Wauchope, gen. ed. (Austin, 1967).
15 At least threeof these individualsbore the common patronymicSarifiana,which is undoubt-
edly the source of Herrada'sassumed name.
16 There is no evidence in Herrada'scase that he had, in fact, any direct relationshipwith the
Indiancity-state. Tlaxcala had played a key role in Cortes's conquest of the Aztecs, furnishing
him with considerablelogistical supportand large numbersof auxiliaries;see Charles Gibson,
Tlaxcala in the SixteenthCentury(Stanford, 1967); RobertC. Padden,The Hummingbirdand the
Hawk: Conquest and Sovereignty in the Valley of Mexico, 1503-1541 (New York, 1970); and
Diego Mufioz Camargo,Historia de Tlaxcala (Mexico City, 1947-48). Because of their aid to
the Spanish, Tlaxcalaand its Indianaristocracyenjoyed certainprivileges throughoutthe colonial
period. Also, because of their presumed loyalty, small groups of Tlaxcalan colonists were
established throughoutmany areas of New Spain by the conquerors, including parts of the far
north, to aid in the pacificationof the country. Gibson, Tlaxcala in the SixteenthCentury, 181-
89, discusses the limited but importantTlaxcalancolonization in Nueva Vizcaya in some detail.
After the early 1590s few if any northerncolonists actually came from Tlaxcala itself to the
northernmarches, but already established mother colonies there continued to send groups.
WhetherSan Juandel Rio itself or other towns in the area had received colonists in the sixteenth
centuryis not clear, but certainlythe Indianofficials of San Juanimplied that Herrada'sputative
Tlaxcalanorigin entitled him to special consideration, ". . . ddndole como dice ser de Tlascala
el lugar correspondiente."Otheremissariesfrom TlaxcalaheraldedIndianrevivalistmovements
as well, includingthe mysteriousMarianowho appearedin the Tepic area about the same time,
claiming also to be a cacique of Tlaxcala and the son of its Indian governor. Communication
betweenthe Indiansof Tepic and those of Tlaxcalaalso figuredvaguely but centrallyin the other
Tepic conspiracy of 1800 (AGN, Historia, vol. 428, fols. 37r-76r (1801)). In early 1811 two
Indianmen in the Cuernavacaarea were arrestedfor fabricatinga letteraddressedto local village
officials, ostensibly from the Indiangovernorof Tlaxcala, claiming that King FerdinandVII was
secretly coming to the town of Cuautitlanand asking (in his name) for contributionsof money
from cajas de comunidad(see AGN, Criminal, vol. 204, exped. 10, fols. 191r-205v (1811)).

viously in Durango for a brief time as a mysterious masked man (en-

mascarado), and that he had come to win them (the Indiansof San Juan)by
fire and blood.17 He showed them the passport,which they sent to la Bastida,
as well as a longer documentwith a numberof signatures,describedby one of
the officials as patent forgeries. Herradathen added that it was the duty of
local Indian officials to defend him against white authorities, by force if
necessary, and promised them some remarkableoccurrences in the coming
monthof March. At this point the Indianofficials decided to denouncehim to
the Spanish magistrate, and his arrest followed shortly. Early in February
1801, further questioning of the prisoner having produced no result, the
magistratela Bastida remandedHerradato BernardoBonavia, the governor-
intendantof Durango, under guard of twelve armed men. In the provincial
capital he was jailed incommunicado.
On 12 February 1801, Herrada's interrogation was resumed by the
intendantof Durangohimself, with the Protectorof Indians(a court-appointed
official) and a defense attorneyin attendance.The interrogationtook several
days and was followed by a more detailed and aggressive questioning on
specific charges, and a judicial confession. The record of these statements
makes fascinatingreading;there is, at risk of introducingan anachronism,a
certainKafkaesquequalityaboutthem. Burstsof loquacityfollow upon sullen
and unresponsive silence, tremendous feats of (apparent)recollection upon
stubbornforgetfulness, and coherent narrativereconstructionof past events
upon disjointed fantasies of things that could never have occurred. The long
and ramblinglists of places and names, doubtless difficult for the notariesto
transcribeeven in rough note form, are prodigious and impressive in them-

Given the anomalous status of Tlaxcala it is hardly surprisingto find Indian revivalist hopes
focussed on it. On this point, see also Archer, El ejercito en el Mexico borb6nico.
17 It was never made clear
exactly whom Herradapurportedto be as the enmascarado,and in
fact the municipal authorities in Durango had no records of such an individual's arrest. The
preponderanceof evidence indicates that this episode was a fantasy of Herrada's.There are two
pointsof interestaboutthis fabrication,however. First, Herradaclaimed in subsequenttestimony
that it was actually his father, the Indian governor of Tlaxcala, who had been arrested in
September 1799, as the enmascarado of Durango. This same identificationwith his father-or
perhapstranspositionwould be a betterword-occurred at anotherpoint in his testimony, lending
supportto the view that he was obsessed with this fantasied figure. Second, the enmascarado
themecame to be fairly common in the political mythology of popularrebellionin 1810 and after,
especially with regard to a mysterious figure in the country districts of New Spain generally
rumoredto be Kind FerdinandVII, come to lead a mass uprising against the gachupines. For
some examples of this, see AGN, Criminal, vol. 134, exped. 3, fols. 36r-50r (Mexico City,
1810); vol. 175, fols. 369r-392v (Cuautla, 1811); and vol. 454, no exped. number, no pag.
(Orizaba, 1811); and, for a discussion, Van Young, "Who Was That MaskedMan, Anyway?" It
is not clear why the masked figure should have been selected as the symbol of these millenarian
hopes. One possible interpretationsuggests itself strongly, however, which is thatthe maskingof
the messianicfigure provideda powerfulmetaphorof selective invisibility. Thus the maskedman
could be corporeallypresent, but perceptibleonly to the elect-especially the Indians-without
violating the fundamentalunities of time and space.

selves. Altogetherthe impression is one of a glimpse into a disturbedmind,

filled with unperceivedcontradictionsand bizarreimaginings.
Herradastatedthathe was marriedto MariaDolores de la Luz, and had two
sons who had come with him to San Juan.18 He claimed to be an Indian
nobleman or cacique of Tlaxcala, a farmer by occupation, and capitdn of
thirty-sixpueblos. When asked about previous arrests,he replied that he had
been jailed thirty-seventimes within the precedingtwo years for making use
of the papersfound on him in Suan Juandel Rio. In some instances, he said,
he got out of jail throughthe use of money (whetherby paying fines or bribes
is not clear from his account), in others by the interventionof powerful
(white?) friends, and in still others throughthe good offices of local Indians
because of the credentials he carried.19On this and subsequent occasions
Herradawas subjectedto some very pointedand intensequestioningabouthis
possible relations with the rebellious Indiansof the Tepic area and the sierra
of Nayar, primarilybecause he said he had travelledthere, but also because of
similarities between his story and testimony regarding the Indian prophet
Mariano, active about this time in the Tepic area. Herrada'stestimony then
presentsa detailednarrativeof his travelsin New Spain in 1799-1800 and the
early weeks of 1801, largely fictitious. He purportedto have left Tlaxcala on
30 September 1799, reachingthe viceregal capital the following day (a jour-
ney impossible to accomplishon foot in such a shorttime), accompaniedby a
contingentof family membersand fourteenother Indiansfrom villages in the
Mexico City area which his father, the governor, had "given" him for the
journey. This large group, under Herrada'sleadership,travelledtogetherfor
some time, but split up on arrivingat the town of Rio Verde, near San Luis
Potosi, with each person then following an individualitineraryas established
in a royal decree (real cedula) given to Herradaby the formerViceroy Miguel
Jose de Azanza. According to this document, never presented in evidence,
Herrada'smission was to collect from all over New Spain "candlesticks,
lamps, military deserters, men, and women" for purposes unspecified. At
this point the testimony becomes garbled, but it appears that there was a
second, covert commission conferredon Herradaby his fatherto collect on a
petition the signaturesof some 40,000 Indians, including especially village
officials, in the area of Rio Verde, San Luis Potosi, and Tula, without the

18 Therewas no evidence to indicatethatany family memberhad accompaniedHerradaon his

travels, or even thathe was married.In her testimony Herrada'smotherstatedthathe had told her
he had marrieda woman namedConcepci6nand had two small children, a boy and a girl. In view
of his apparentlyoedipally chargedrelationshipwith his motherit is interestingthatin speakingto
her he should have chosen the name Concepci6n for his fantasy-wife. This may also throwsome
light on his pathologicallystrong identificationwith his "father." These are at best speculations,
19 Inquiriesmade by the intendantto authoritiesin the towns where Herradaclaimed to have
been jailed producedfew recordedreplies, all negative.

knowledge of the local Spanish officials ("y que no lo entiendiesen [sic] los
espaholes y jueces reales"). He affirmed that he did manage to collect the
40,000 signaturesand sent them off to his fatherin Tlaxcala. In his testimony
on the following day he maintainedthat he had collected only some sixty
signatures, but by the end of his statement the number was again 40,000.
The list thatHerradaspun off in his testimony includedthe localities he had
travelled to and the names of those he claimed had signed his petition; it
covers some seven folio pages. It must have requireda long time to recite and
transcribe,and apparentlyHerradamanagedthis from memory (that is, from
fantasy) without the aid of notes. The recitation is almost frighteningin its
length and detail, and in its compulsive, crazed tone. In its writtenform it has
an automatic,unnuanced,flat quality that can be imagined as not far from its
actual mannerof delivery. By count, the list includes well over 200 names.
He claimed to have been all over northernNew Spain, and his itinerary
included Monterrey,Saltillo, the province of Texas, Nacogdoches, and New
Orleans. Many of the places he cited are nonexistent, or are garbledversions
of real locations. In additionto majorcities the list includes dozens of mining
camps, villages, haciendas, and ranchos. As to the purpose of collecting the
signatures, Herradarecountedat least three different versions. Explicitly the
signatureswere in supportof his father's rule as Indian king of New Spain,
and servedto acknowledgereceiptby the signatoriesof the summonsto attend
the coronationon 29 March 1801. At one point, however, Herradadeclared
thatthe collection of signatureswas merely a pretextto determinethe number
of Spanishinhabitantsin each town and ruralarea(a kind of pharaoniccensus
in reverse). This informationwas needed because the Spaniards
hadoppressedandenslavedtheIndians,andhisfatherhada crownandpower;it wasa
matterof expatriating all [Spaniards]
at his commandas was donewiththeJesuitsat
the samedateandhour.20
The passportshe carriedwere addressedto Indiansand village officials only,
and his real mission was not to be divulged to any white on pain of death.
However, the list containedjust as many, or more, obviously Spanish names
as Indianones. In fact, as the afternoon's interrogationwent on and the list
grew ever longer, Spanish names and titles occurredwith increasingfrequen-
cy, and obviously Indian names droppedout entirely. Some of the Spanish
names, most of which we assume to be fantasized, are variantson the pris-
oner's own surname, Herrada.
Herradastated, in answer to direct questions, that his father's claim to the
throne of New Spain was based upon another royal decree issued in his
father'sfavor by King CharlesIV in 1786, "so that he be crowned, and with

20 The Jesuit order was

expelled from Spain and its Americandominions by royal decree in

absolute faculties to command, do, and dispose."21 Furthermore(and to the

obvious alarmof the examining officials), he said that his father'splans were
supportedand protected by a force of 500 English and 300 French soldiers
poised somewhere off the coast of New Spain-their exact location never
specified-with whom his fatherwas in constantcommunication.In his final
extensive statementof 26 February,Herradabecame increasinglyunrespon-
sive and evasive, finally refusing to answer furtherquestions. For the next
four years, during which, with long hiatuses, the legal case was developed
aroundhim, his voice was silent.
If Herrada'sown words provide us with the primary material and some
inchoate fundamentals-for example, his ambivalence toward whites, his
fatherobsession, etcetera-for the partialreconstructionof his personalhisto-
ry, the testimonyof witnesses in the case, albeit tantalizinglybrief, serves as a
lens that focuses the blurredforms of his innermaelstrominto clearershapes.
A numberof witnesses, mostly from Herrada'snative village, were interro-
gated during late February 1801. From their substantiallyconsistent state-
ments a partialpictureof the mad messiah's backgroundand charactercan be
pieced together. A boyhood companion of "Sarifiana's" identified him as
Jose Berardo Herrada,the son of Jose Tadeo Herradaand Maria M6nica
Leon, both Indiansof Analco. The same witness said that Herrada'sbehavior
since childhood had been bad, that he was unmarried,and that he had no
occupation, but was a "vagabond by profession" ("bagamundo de profe-
sion"). Herrada,he testified, had left his parents'home as an adolescent and
had been absent for some eighteen years, returningonly the previous May
(1800), when he stayed in the witness' house for a few days. After a brief trip
to the north, Herradaeventually ended up in San Juan del Rio. Face to face
with his old companion at the conclusion of his testimony, Herradadenied
knowing the man. A string of other witnesses, mostly Indiansof Analco and
Durango, all identified Sarifianaas Herrada,but little more.
The most interestingtestimony regardingHerrada'sbackgroundcame from
his parents. His mother, Maria Monica Le6n, was an Indianwoman born in
the village of Tunal, contiguous to the city of Durango, married, and more
than forty years old. She identified Sarifianaas her son, born out of wedlock,

21 CharlesIV, of course, did not succeed to the crown until 1788. In this passage Herradasaid
his father'sname was Felipe AlcantaraGonzalez, Marqu6sde Santiago, whereasearlierthe name
given was Pedro or Jose Antonio. Questioned during his confession of 26 Februaryas to this
inconsistency,as well as aboutthe fact thathe himself was namedat the headof the forgeddecree
as the authoritycommandingcompliance from Indianofficials, though the decree was signed by
his father, he replied, ".... por que asi viene escrito su padre, y que siendo el, la misma
persona que su padre, lo mismo es que lo mandeuno que otro," i.e., that he and his fatherwere
one and the same person, not juridically, but physically. See note 17 for anotherinstanceof this
boundarycollapse in Herrada'spersonality.It is also interestingthatHerradaconsistentlyclaimed
that his name was Sariiana, though his father's was Gonzalez-this point was pursued in
interrogation,but was evaded and never resolved.

and noted that his surname, Herrada,had been adopted from her husband,
Jose Tadeo Herrada,the boy's stepfather. The naturalfather had been Jose
Manuelde Sierra, now dead. Her son had left home, she stated, at about the
age of twelve. She had never known him to have an occupation, though when
he returnedhome briefly the previous May, he told her he knew somethingof
smithing. She believed him still to be single, though the previous year he had
told her he was marriedto a woman named Concepci6n, who lived with their
two infants on a nearbyhaciendawhere he had been working for some years
past. (The owner of the haciendatestified thathe had never heardof Herrada.)
On the brief visit of the previous spring she had called him an ingrate (in-
grato), though he claimed to have written four letters to her over the years,
none of which had arrived. She concluded by saying that at that time he had
triedto convince her to go off with him, claiming that she was a widow ("que
entonces trataba de llevarla consigo, reputdndolaviuda").
The stepfather,Jose Tadeo Herrada,a man of more than forty years in age,
of unspecified race, and a mason by profession, agreedthat Sarifianawas his
stepson, and thathe was probablya bachelor.22He knew neitherhis stepson's
professionnor what he had been doing duringhis eighteen-yearabsence from
the village. He had nothing else substantiveto say about his stepson, except
that on the occasion of the previous year's visit they had not spoken to each
other at all, except to say hello, while Herradawas staying in the couple's
The final witness in this stage of the case was a formerIndiangovernorof
Analco, Pedro AlcantaraGonzalez, who testified to a fairly inconsequential
matterregardingHerrada'sbrief northernsojourn of the previous year. The
importantthing about this witness is his name, since the record shows little
else: his was the name that Herradaadoptedfor his mythicalfather,the Indian
governorof Tlaxcala. Why Herradashould have selected this man's name for
the central fantasy-figure in his imagined world of power and rebellion,
beyond the fact that he was obviously a local authorityfigure, we do not
know. Had he at some point befriendedthe runawayadolescent, or become in
the troubledboy's mind a surrogatefather?


We have presented the basic outlines of the mad messiah's case. Given the
sketchinessand necessarily inconclusive natureof the evidence, it is nonethe-
less possible to make some credible statementsconcerning Herradahimself

22 When asked about the recent conduct of his son

(hijo), Herradapointedly answeredthat he
knew nothing about his stepson (hijastro).
23 Of Herrada'svisit in 1800, his
stepfathersaid that "he conversed with him no more than to
say hello on the occasion of visiting his mother"; the record adds: ". . although the said
Bernardowas in the house to visit his mother, wife of the witness, in his presence [Sarifiana/
Herrada]said nothing."

and the significance of his garbled ideas for a general hypothesis about in-
terethnicsocial relations and rebellion in late colonial Mexico.
Herrada'seccentric history lends itself to an explanationin terms of psy-
choanalytictheory, albeit in nontechnicalterms. The basic tenet here is that
the child is fatherto the man, or even, in this case, that the man was fatherto
himself. Born a bastard,Herradaapparentlynever formeda close relationship
with his mother'shusband, and in fact the coldness between them evidenced
by the stepfather'stestimony suggests a certain degree of mutual hostility.
The date at which this second liaison of his mother's was formed is not clear
from the record, but certainlythe fact that Herradaprofessedto considerher a
widow bespoke his search for a legitimacy related to his naturalfather, his
possible loyalty to, or even idealization of, the dead man, and his desire to
negate the existence of the interloping stepfather entirely.24 Herrada's
oedipally chargedrelationshipwith his mothertakes on positively Hamletian
proportionsif one remembersthat on his brief visit in the spring of 1800 he
had tried to convince her to go away with him. Nor is a note of ambivalence
toward his mother within the quadrangularrelationshipmissing. When an-
swering a question in one of the early interrogationsregardinghis parentage,
he had given a long string of names for his fantasy-father(Don Jose Antonio
Pedro AlcantarGonzalez Amarillo de Arellan) but only a single given name
for his mother-Tomasa-and claimed not to know her surname, which
contrastsmarkedlywith the overamplifiedimage of his father. Furthermore,
the fact that Herradaleft his mother and stepfather'shouse at such an early
age, when he might instead have been expected to stay at home until he
marriedor attainedhis legal majority, suggests a certain amountof strainor
conflict within the household.25
How did the conflict within the boy translateitself into the disturbedbehav-
ior of the adult?Unfortunately,the testimony never broughtto light what had
occupied Herradaduringthe eighteen-yearabsence, nor even why he decided
to return when he did for his brief visit. What are discernible in his own
statementsare several characteristicsnot implausiblyrelated to his personal
history as a child. His deep yearning after a powerful and publicly visible
father is all too apparentin the personal fantasy he created for himself. Not
only did he make his fatherinto arguablythe most powerful figure within the
Indiancommunityof New Spain-the paramountgovernorof Tlaxcala-but
also into the annointedmonarchof the colony as a whole, Indianand Spanish.
24 That Herrada's
stepfatherwas on the scene well before the boy left home seems almost
certain, though it is nowhere explicitly stated. Not only did the stepfather identify him from
personalfamiliarity, but also the illegitimate boy carriedthe stepfather'ssurname.
25 Ruralpeople in general, and Indians in particular,seem to have moved aroundthe coun-
trysidea good deal more thanwe had once thought,on both temporaryand permanentbases; for a
general discussion on this point, see Eric Van Young, Hacienda and Market in Eighteenth-
CenturyMexico: The Rural Economy of the GuadalajaraRegion, 1675-1820 (Berkeley, 1981),
245-64. What was unusualin Herrada'scase was not the fact that he left, but his age at leaving.

Whatis more, he identifiedhis father-monarchat one point with the Mexican-

Spanishnobleman, the Conde de Santiago, one of the supposedsignatoriesof
the original decree that Herradapresented to the Spanish authoritiesof Du-
rango, by calling him the Marquesde Santiago.26
Herrada's complex fantasy also displayed a grandiosity with regard to
himself thatcan only have been a compensationfor feelings of insignificance,
powerlessness, rejection, and of having effectively been orphaned.One of the
prosecutorsin the case pointed to his grandiose manner, saying that by his
actions and words Herradahad sought to paint himself "a man of mystery,
power, and authority."27His repeatedclaim to be captainof scores of Indian
villages in the Tlaxcala area amountedto much the same thing, as did also, in
a perverse kind of way, his insistence that he had been arrestedthirty-seven
times in 1800 and 1801. Related to this grandiosityin Herradawas a subtle
strain of autoidentificationwith Christ, whence, presumably, came the de-
scriptionof him as a self-proclaimedmessiah to the Indians. His description
of himself in the fabricateddecree he had presentedto the Indianand Spanish
officials of San Juan del Rio certainly bears this stamp:
. . . because he is the one who is to commandand govern you, the Indians,anddefend
youso thatyouenjoymanybenefits,sinceforyou he hasbeendespisedandscorned,
in order to win you.28

Seen in this light, we may wonder whether the occasional collapsing of

Herrada'spersonality with his father's partooka bit of the mystical identity
between Christ and His Father.
If Herradawas a madman, and if almost every one of his allegations was
systematicallyproven false in the course of interrogationsand otherinvestiga-
tions, why did the authoritiesin Durango and Guadalajara(and in Mexico
City as well, one imagines) take him so seriously? Furthermore,what does
theirconcerntell us of the state of New Spain at the end of the colonial period
and of official and white imaginings about the possibilities of widespread
To begin with, there was considerablequestionamong the Spanishofficials
and lawyersprosecutingand defendingthe case as to whetherthe accused was
actuallymad or not. Three positions were clearly outlined in their lengthy and
articulatewritten opinions: that he was sane and therefore legally culpable;

26 On the real Conde de Santiago, whose name was occasionally associated with the rebel
cause after 1810, see Doris Ladd, The Mexican Nobility at Independence, 1780-1826 (Austin,
1976). In makingthis identification,by the way, however foggy the natureof it may have been in
his own mind, Herradagave clear expression to his own ambivalentfeelings about whites and
simultaneouslybridged the gulf of his ambivalence.
27 ". . . fingiendose una especie de hombre inc6gnito, de poder, y autoridad."
28 For an
interestingtreatmentof the associationof IndianChristfigures with rebellion, which
she calls the passion theme, see VictoriaReifler Bricker,TheIndianChrist, TheIndianKing: The
Historical Substrateof Maya Myth and Ritual (Austin, 1981), esp. ch. 11.

thathe was probablymad, but thatthis ultimatelymade little difference in the

gravityof his crimes;and thathe was quite clearly insane andthereforelegally
innocent. All three positions share the recognitionthat Herradawas in some
degree disturbed,and that his behaviorrepresenteda possibly grave threatto
social order and to the state.
The paranoidtone prominentin much of the official view of the case had at
least a partial foundation, as noted earlier, in the endemic Indian rebellion
characteristicof the colonial period and in the fears this naturallyprovokedin
many whites. Following as closely as it did, moreover, upon the discovery of
the conspiraciesin Tepic, the Herradamatterwas boundto be paintedin lurid
colors. Fueling this understandabletendencywas a notablesimilaritybetween
the Herradaand Mariano cases, which fed official fears that the two men
might be one and the same person. Mariano,too, had claimed that he was by
birtha cacique of Tlaxcala and that his fatherwas governorof the province.
Marianoassertedthat he had actually travelledto Spain and spoken with the
king, who had issued a royal decree in his favor so thathe could returnto New
Spain and be recognized and obeyed as king. His coronation was to have
takenplace in early Januaryof 1800, complete with bannersof the Virgin of
Guadalupe,mountedguards, civil display of variouskinds, etcetera. Mariano
was even said to have remarkedthathe did not want to be crownedwith a gold
or silver crown, but with that of the holy image of Jesus Nazarenoin a local
church "since he came to suffer in order to liberate his sons."29
But if, from the Spanishpoint of view, there was some justificationfor the
dreadof Indianrebellion and the arrivalof an Indian millennium, there was
also in the Spanish attitudea subtle mixtureof projectedaggression and fear
based on longstandingracial and social stereotypes. Indianswere much char-
acterizedat the end of the colonial period as ignorant,lazy, drunken,vicious
sodomites, naturallyprone to violence, barbarism,and rebellion.30 On the
otherhand, however, they were also seen as being highly suggestibleand, in a
certain sense, passive. For example, in 1800 the parish priest of Tem-
ascaltepecin centralNew Spain describedthe Indiansof the area as naturally
prone to vice, irregularconduct, and theft, while their "fragility" and "im-
becility" were also often remarked.31A court official in the trial of some
accused rebels in 1810 declared:
If we takeintoconsideration
theirrace,we see, as experiencedailyshowsus, thatthe
Indiansare of such a malleableconditionthat they easily deny today what they
29 Marianohad
somethingof a programfor his movement, however, involving the restitution
of Indianlands and eliminationof Indiantributes,whereasHerradamade only vague suggestions
as to changes that might follow his father'scoronation.See also Archer,El ejercito en el Mexico
borbdnico, 132-35.
30 This was taken up by postcolonial writerson Mexico, as well; see, for example, Alaman,
Historia de Mejico, I, ch. 1.
31 AGN, Criminal, vol. 250, exped. 1, fols. lr-36r (1800); vol. 47, exped. 15, fols. 443r-
574v (1810); vol. 240, exped. 3, fols. lr-47v (1814).

affirmed yesterday, and they embrace the faction which first offers itself to them
withoutthinkingif it is good or bad.32
This attituderanvery deep among whites at all levels of Mexican society, and
althoughin the recordsof the Herradacase it is nowhereopenly expressed, it
must have lurkedjust beneath the surface of the authorities'perceptionsof
Herradaas a dangerto the state. Surely this idea is implicit in the Spaniards'
view that althoughthey could easily tell that Herradawas mad and his doc-
trines absurd, the Indians could not. The irony is, of course, that Herrada
found no ready response to his fantasticideas among the Indiansof San Juan
del Rio, nor, judging by the case record, among Indians elsewhere in the
north of New Spain.
If the mad messiah of Durangofailed to raise an Indianrebellion, or even to
evoke any notable response among his compatriots, in what way may his
disorganized and contradictoryideas be said to have been a refraction of
anythingat all of Indianideological reality?There were two modes, or levels
of meaning, in which Herrada'spronouncementsfunctionedto articulateun-
derlying Indian psychosocial formulations. In a general and fairly explicit
way, what he said and what he did expressed a widespreaddiscontentamong
the Indiansof New Spain which was to develop, at least in certainpartsof the
country, into substantial support by native villagers for the independence
movement a few years later. The origins of this discontent were exceedingly
complex and reached far back into the colonial period, indeed, to the era of
the conquest itself. These factors were compoundedat the end of the colonial
period, at least in some areas of New Spain, by economic reversals, land
hunger, and falling living standards.33Here the traditionalanalyticaldistinc-
32 AGN,
Criminal,vol. 57, exped. 6, fols. 101r- 16r (Ixmiquilpan, 1810). Anotherasesor in
a trialof accused Indianinsurgentsfrom Amecamecasaid of Indiansin generalthat "where some
jump, all follow blindly without noticing the precipice" (AGN, Criminal, vol. 156, no exped.
number,fols. 20r-167v (1810)). The subdelegado of Etla described the naturalcharacterof the
Indians as being "easily seduced" (AGN, Criminal, vol. 400, no exped. number, no pag.
(1800)). For moreon this point, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market,318-19. For a somewhat
differentview-that villagers in some parts of New Spain were actuallywilling to put up with a
good deal of exploitation as long as it did not violate the principles of their particularmoral
economy-see Taylor, Drinking, Homicide, and Rebellion, esp. ch. 4.
33 I have attempted to sketch these trends in my essay, "The Age of Paradox: Mexican
Agricultureat the End of the Colonial Period, 1750-1810," in The Economies of Mexico and
Peru in the Late Colonial Period, 1760-1820, Nils Jacobsen and Hans-JurgenPuhle, eds.
(Berlin, 1985). For the developmentof a hypothesison how these complex pressuresaffected the
internalsocial dynamics of peasant villages and their relationshipsto outsiders in one region of
Mexico, see Eric Van Young, "Conflict and Solidarityin IndianVillage Life: The Guadalajara
Region in the Late Colonial Period," Hispanic American Historical Review, 64:1 (February
1984), 55-79; Van Young, "Moving towardRevolt"; and, for a full-scale study of late colonial
agrarianchange in one importantregion of the colony, see idem, Hacienda and Market,esp. the
conclusion. Among the best of recentregional studies thattend to substantiatethe views outlined
here are David A. Brading, Haciendas and Ranchos in the Mexican Bajio: Le6n, 1700-1860
(Cambridge, 1978); and Cheryl E. Martin, Rural Society in Colonial Morelos (Albuquerque,

tion between long-termand short-termcauses for the outbreakof the indepen-

dence rebellions in 1810 has a great deal of explanatorypower, since in the
lattercategory one can point to a moderatesubsistence crisis in 1809 and an
ongoing crisis of imperial political legitimacy dating from at least 1808.
Puttingquestionsof first causes and chronology aside, it is clear that Herrada
drew upon a lexicon of familiarIndiansymbols in his attemptto mobilize the
village peasantsof the north, however idiosyncratichis representationof them
may have been. The ideas of the coronationof an Indianking; of the expul-
sion or murderof European-bornSpaniardsin particularor whites in general;
of a kind of conspiratorial,secret Indianshadow-statehidden from but paral-
lel to that of the Spanish colonial government;and even the notion that the
font of political legitimacy for an Indian state redivivus was the Spanish
monarchhimself-all were common to rebellions during the independence
period in Mexico, and to colonial Spanish Americagenerally. These features
of Herrada'serratic thought may be seen, then, as symbols of Indian re-
sistance, and as symptomsof basic conflict between majorsocioethnic groups
within Mexican society.34 The symbol of an Indian king and its related
features functioned within the public domain, as it were, though they only
broke throughto the surface in the form of rebellion and possibly in those
fantasies and inversions characteristicof ritual dramas.35
34 I have used an admittedlyevasive terminologyhere-socioethnic-in labelling large-scale
intergroupconflict in late colonial Mexico because of the formidabledifficulty in applying the
concept of class, except in the most nontechnicalsense, as a structuringprinciple in explaining
collective political violence. This is so because, although there was a great degree of overlap
between economic status and ethnicity in the colony, they were never perfectly congruent, and
the degree of congruence seems to have lessened perceptibly in the late colonial period as the
economy of New Spain developed and ethnic endogamy declined. Nonetheless, Indianpolitical
and culturalautonomy, based on the communal landholdingvillage, survived to a surprisingly
greatdegree. This meantthat insofaras conflict with non-Indianswas concerned, the locus of the
Indianpeasant'seconomic identitywas the same as the locus of his ethnic and culturalidentity-
the village. Peasant proletarianizationand the replacementof social relations based upon eth-
nicity by those based upon class took place within this context. For a moredetailed discussion of
this view, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, 352-53, et passim; and for a stimulating
comparativetreatmentof the historical process of proletarianization,see David Goodman and
Michael Redclift, From Peasant to Proletarian: CapitalistDevelopmentand Agrarian Transfor-
mations (New York, 1982). The degree of congruence between race and class has been the
subjectof an interestingdebate in recentyears, beginningwith the book by John K. Chance,Race
and Class in Colonial Oaxaca (Stanford, 1978), and continuingwith variousarticles and rejoin-
ders aboutcolonial Oaxacain the pages of ComparativeStudiesin Society and History by Chance
and William B. Taylor (1977, 1979); StuartSchwartz, Robert McCaa, and ArturoGrubessich
(1979); and PatriciaSeed, Philip F. Rust, Robert McCaa, and StuartSchwartz (1983).
35 On this point see, again, the extensive treatmentby Bricker,Indian Christ, IndianKing; for
an interestingcomparativeanalysis of inversions and historical re-enactmentrituals in Mexico
and the Andeanarea, see NathanWachtel, The Visionof the Vanquished:The Spanish Conquest
of Peru through Indian Eyes (New York, 1977), esp. pt. 1. For some general comments on
symbol and inversion in ritual dramas, see Victor Turner's "Comments and Conclusions," in
The Reversible World:SymbolicInversion in Art and Society, BarbaraA. Babcock, ed. (Ithaca,
1978), 276-96; for a provocativebut less than convincing interpretationof the Hidalgo revolt of
1810 in termsof psychoanalytictheory, see Victor Turner, "Hidalgo: Historyas Social Drama,"
in his Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors:SymbolicAction in Human Society (New York, 1974),

On a second level of meaning, however, one encountersin Herrada'sideas,

and in the behaviorof Indianrebels and riotersin Mexico as a whole, not the
overt expression of conflict, but an encoded attemptat accommodationto an
oppressive structure.This is the meaning, in a broadersocial sense, of Her-
rada's attractiontoward whites despite his equally clearly expressed hostility
and Indian irredentism.One need not look far into Herrada'sstatementsto
find evidence of this deep-seatedcontradiction.It is true that the anti-Spanish
expressions are more plentiful and explicit. In his forged passport-decreehe
stronglyenjoined all Indians and Indianofficials, on pain of death for them-
selves and the whites involved, to keep secret his mission from all "gachu-
pines or Castilians or those who take themselves for Spaniardsor those who
are mulatto Indians who hold themselves as gentlemen, and troublemakers
. . . and gachupin intendants." To the Indian general of San Juan del Rio
Herradadeclaredthat if necessary all the villages underthe jurisdictionof the
general should be convoked in his defense against the white authorities.He
constructeda grandiose fantasy in which he got the better of a wealthy and
influentialSpaniardof San Luis Potosi and a city magistrateas well, humiliat-
ing them both in the process. Other instances abound in his testimony. The
closest he ever came to giving a historical justification for his schematic
political programwas his insistence that the Spanish had oppressed and en-
serfed the Indians and that the gachupines should all be expelled simul-
taneously from New Spain.
On the other hand, whetherconsciously or unconsciously, Herradarepeat-
edly evidenced a desire to be associated with whites. In the very same docu-
ment in which he enjoined Indianvillage officials not to divulge the natureof
his mission, he commanded, or his father commanded, that Spanish chief
magistrates"renderhim the justice due him because they are esteemed by his
Lofty Highness. ..." He craved and realized, at least in his fantasy, the
society of Spanish officials and military men. Many of the signatoriesto his
petition were Spaniards,though of what derivationit is impossible to deter-
mine. Among these were the officials of many northernsettlements, pre-
sidios, and missions, as well as several intendants and a host of owners,
administrators,and overseers of ruralestates. Moreover, he claimed to have
undertakenhis secret mission under dispensation of a proclamationfrom
Viceroy Azanza. Perhapsmost interestingof all, Herradaassertedtwice that
his father'simpendingcoronationwas to be carriedout by authorityof a royal
decree issued by King CharlesIV in 1786 because the Spanishin Mexico had
oppressedthe Indians and were "rebels against the law."
Herrada'sambivalent attitude toward whites was not unique to him, but
broughthim onto common ground, disturbedas he was, with Indianvillagers
throughoutcentral Mexico. In this way he tappedinto, as it were, an already
strongly runningcurrentof animosity. In a psychic sense he unconsciously
took up and utilized these ideas, fabricatinga garbledbut vivid fantasyof trial
and triumphto compensatefor an apparentlyemotionally impoverishedchild-

hood. It is not entirely clear how his ambivalence toward whites actually
played into his disturbance-what role it assumed in his own internaldrama.
Perhapsthe Spanish authorityfigures he partiallyidentified with represented
for him fathersurrogates.Certainlythe personof the father-king,with whom
he identified to the point of assuming the kingly persona himself at times,
functionedfor him in some complex mediatingrole to reconcile his feelings of
grandeurand powerlessness. Whateverthe case, the informationon the origin
of his disturbance,vague as it is, is more convincing than that on his adapta-
tion. What must concern us here is not the tracing of those links, but the
relationshipof Herrada'sideas to the symbolic and ideational substrateof
Indiancollective violence in the chaotic period beginning in 1810.


Comparedto the actual violence directed against whites, most particularly

European-bor Spaniards,in parts of New Spain in the period 1810-12 and
even after, Herrada'svague threatsof death and expulsion were child's play.
For the present, it will serve to detail but one incident of many, that at the
village of Atlacomulco, near Toluca in central Mexico, in late 1810. On All
Saints' Day 1810, Hidalgo's rebellionhaving brokenout to the northsome six
weeks earlier, a mob of Indianvillagers suddenlyattackedthe house and shop
of Don RomualdoMagdalenoDiaz, a European-bornSpanishmerchantof the
town. The mob, said witnesses including Diaz's widow and daughter,
launched a furious assault on the building with stones, smashed the doors,
brutallymurderedDiaz with knives and clubs, and sacked the store. He was
so mutilatedas to be virtuallyunrecognizable,testified his wife, and was left
by his assassins "a misery, covered with stones." The crowd was variously
estimatedat containingfrom a few score to some hundredsof people. During
the following two days three other European Spaniardswere publicly ex-
ecuted in the village plaza after being reviled and abused by the mob of
villagers. One of the local Indians alleged to have taken a hand in Diaz's
murdertestified that the gachupin "had a very hardhead, that he had hit him
with a club and with stones and he still hadn't died."36 In anotherincident,
Indiansmurdereda gachupin on a country road by an initially mortal lance-
thrust,and then they bashed in his head with stones and stabbedhim several
times for good measure.37 Such murders, in the form both of individual

36 AGN, Criminal, vol. 229, no exped. number,fols. 263r-413v (1811); vol. 231, exped. 1,
fols. lr-59r (1811). For some other instances of mob violence by Indian villagers against
gachupines, see the cases, among others, of Amecamecain AGN, Criminal,vol. 156, no exped.
number,fols. 20r-167v, 175r-416v, 432r-450v, 521r-530v (1810); and of Cuernavacain vol.
147, exped. 15, fols. 443r-574v (1810). For a relatively late instanceof such a riot, see the case
of Jilotepec in AGN, Criminal, vol. 26, exped. 9, no pag. (1818).
37 AGN, Criminal,vol. 45, exped. 6, fols. 150r-181r (1811); vol. 279, exped. 1, fols. Ir-4v

killings and mob actions in village riots (tumultos),while not numerousin the
years after 1810, nonetheless occurred with some frequency.38
One need not dwell on such sensationalincidents to realize that something
more was happening than simple political assassination. The killings of
European-bornSpaniardsin the insurrectionarycontext ordinarilysharedcer-
tain characteristics.First, the victims were almost exclusively gachupines, as
opposed to American-bornSpaniards-this should be stressed. Second, the
victims were often low-status clerks or minor functionarieswho happenedto
be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but could hardly be classed as
"oppressors," though they may have been associated with wealthy and
powerful EuropeanSpaniardsin the popular mind. And, third, many of the
assassinationshad about them a quality of excessive, almost ritual, violence,
as thoughthe acting out of the aggressionwere as importantas the elimination
of the object. The brutalitydescribed by the witnesses to the Atlacomulco
murderswas perhaps unusual in degree, but hardly in kind, and betrays a
compulsive and sacrificial aspect that we have come to associate with ax-
murderersand ice-pick killers.39
Despite the almost preternaturalviolence they inflicted on their gachupin
victims, the Indian villagers of central New Spain demonstratedan am-
bivalence toward European-bornSpaniardsand whites similar in many re-
spects to that of the mad messiah himself. This was particularlyexpressed in
the veneration, almost as for a messiah, in which many rebellious rural
people, especially Indian peasants, held the Spanish king. In one striking
instance, for example, a group of young Indianrebel soldiers from an area in
the Bajio who had followed the banner of Father Hidalgo to the climactic
battle of Las Cruces, near Mexico City, were arrestedand interrogatedin
early November 1810. The king of Spain, they testified, had commanded
them to follow the priest and to kill the viceroy and all other gachupines,
dividingtheirpropertyup among the poor.40The deposed King FerdinandVII

38 Literallydozens of
village riots occurred in central Mexico, broadly defined, in the early
stages of the independence period, particularlyaround 1810-12, though of course they over-
lappedwith other forms of popularrebellionas well. Sometimes linked with the activitiesof local
guerrillabands, most such tumultossharedthe characteristicsof classic peasantjacqueries:they
flared suddenly, were quite violent, had broad local participation,and died down as quickly as
they had begun, often apparentlyas much because of loss of momentumas of effective military
repression.These local, short-liveduprisingswere endemic to certainpartsof New Spain before
1810 and often involved resistanceto outside authorityor conflict with neighboringvillages. For
a detailed treatment,see Taylor, Drinking, Homicide, and Rebellion.
39 On the catharticeffects of violence in anticolonial wars, see the suggestive comments of
FrantzFanon, The Wretchedof the Earth (New York, 1966); and for a chilling reconstructionof
the crime of a "psychotic" killer, see Robert Lindner, The Fifty-MinuteHour: A Collection of
True Psychoanalytic Tales (New York, 1954).
40 AGN. Criminal, vol. 134, exped. 3, no
pag. (1810). Michael Burke cites the same docu-
ment in his provocative "Peasant Responses to the Hidalgo Revolt in Central Mexico, 1810-
1813," manuscript(1980).

was said to be travelling with and underthe protectionof FatherHidalgo (or

his sometime lieutenantIgnacio Allende), and was reportedlywearinga silver
maskto conceal his identity.41In anotherinstance, it was widely rumoredthat
during the same battle of Las Cruces a mysterious person appeared in a
curtainedcarriage: "when people come to see him, they humble themselves
and go away very happy."42 The king's name was also associated in some
instances with that of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a popularrebel symbol par
The most interestingaspect of this ambivalenceis the logical contradiction
lying at its heart. The contradictionconsists in the fact that the king should
have been seen, in the eyes of common people, as the archetypalgachupin,
the intrusive,alien figure of oppressivewhite authority.After all, it was in the
king's name thatjustice was administeredand tributescollected, and his name
was constantlyinvoked to legitimate a social and political hierarchyin which
Indianvillage dwellers occupied the lowest niche. Furthermore,it was in the
monarch's name and under his banners that the royalist armies marched in
1810 and later, sometimes wreakingterriblevengeance in the countrysideof
New Spain. Occasionally this contradictionin popular ideology was even
expressedby the same person at the same time. For example, duringa public
ceremony acclaiming King FerdinandVII in the pueblo of Epazoyuca, near
Zempoala, in late October 1808, the IndianPablo Hilario, carryinga standard
with an image of the Virginof Guadalupeand standingnext to the local Indian
governorwho was carryinga similarstandardwith the pictureof Ferdinandon
it, was heard to shout "Viva Fernando Septimo y mueran todos los
gachupines!"44 Yet the quasi-messianichopes attachedto the Spanish king,
at least in central Mexico, are unmistakablein such popularmanifestations.
To the degree thatthe king was identifiedas a gachupin, he should have been
consideredan enemy of the most down-troddensectorof the Mexican popula-
tion. On the other hand, if he was converted in popular ideology into a
messianic figure, to that degree he must have ceased to be a gachupin. And if
other whites in the countryside were reviled and assassinatedby Indian vil-
lagers and others ostensibly because of an accident of birththey sharedwith
the king, why should he be veneratedand they annihilated?Furthermore,as
far as I have been able to determine,the speculationsabout, and acclamations
of, the king were not associated with any explicit programmaticelements.
The simplest form these might have taken would have been the traditional
slogan "Long live the king-Death to bad government!"but in fact not even

41 AGN, Criminal,vol. 175, no exped. number,fols. 369r-392v (1811); vol. 204, exped. 10,
fols. 191r-205v (1811); vol. 194, exped. 1, fols. lr-13r (1811).
42 AGN, Criminal, vol. 454, no exped. number, no pag. (1811).
43 AGN, Criminal, vol. 147, exped. 15, fols. 443r-574v (Cueravaca, 1810); vol. 454, no
exped. number, no pag. (1811).
44 AGN, Criminal, vol. 226, exped. 5, fols. 267r-361r (1808).

such a primitivepolitical programappearsamong the Indianvillage rebels.45

The pronouncementsone does encounter representnot only the use of the
king's name as an umbrellaof legitimacy for rebellion, but a projectionof the
image of the king himself as a rebel, and an attempt to identify him with
popularforms of rebellion.
None of the conventional schemes regardingthe etiology of these contra-
dictory elements in popular action and ideology in 1810 and after takes us
very far in providingexplanations.The notion that New Spain and otherparts
of the empire were pushed into rebellion by the ruptureof a colonial compact
has little credibility in explaining why the emotional energies of Indian vil-
lagers were engaged by the idea of rebellion. Nor is the loss of legitimacy of
the Spanish ruling dynasty sufficient to explain the villagers' collective vio-
lence against the colonial regime, even if the regime could be dissociated
from the invocationof the king's name in the act of rebellion itself. Insofaras
violence directed against gachupines is concerned, the theories that Indians
actually cared about the perceived political disfranchisementof the colonial
creole elite, that they were somehow incited to do the political dirty work of
discontentedcreoles, that they were moved to rebellion by their own natural
barbarousness,or that the victimization of European-bornSpaniardswas es-
sentially a protest against symbols of an oppressive order-none of these
explanationsconvincingly accountsfor the Indianrebellionor the contradicto-
ry elements it embraced.46
In the face of the implausibilityor inadequacyof these partialexplanations,
an hypothesis may be developed which resolves the apparentcontradictionin
popularaction and ideology and at the same time points toward largersocial
meanings:the violence directedagainstgachupinesby ruralpeople in general
and Indians in particularmay be seen as a process of scapegoating. In this
process, the relatively few and undefended gachupines became the highly
cathected objects of an hostility and aggression whose appropriatetarget
should have been the whites as a whole, including Mexican creoles. In this
scheme, the king became the object of veneration and of messianic hopes
ratherthan of violence for various reasons, chief among them the patriarchal
and protectioniststance traditionallyassumedby the Spanishsovereign vis-a-
vis his Indian vassals.47 Other whites in the countrysidemostly escaped the

45 On the use and significance of this slogan in the comunerorevolt in New Granada(Colom-
bia) in the early 1780s, see the suggestive treatmentof John L. Phelan, The People and the King:
The ComuneroRevolution in Colombia, 1781 (Madison, 1978).
46 For detailed discussion of these traditionalexplanations, see Van Young, "Who Was That
Masked Man, Anyway?" 21-24.
47 Much of the Indian
protectionistlegislation, it is undeniable,was violated in both spiritand
letter:the laws against the free and unconsideredalienationof Indianlands provide an example.
For a fuller discussion of this point for one region, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, 271-
342, et passim. Nonetheless, other royal institutions provided protection in fact as well as in
symbol; one of the most importantwas the General Indian Court, established in the sixteenth

kind of violence meted out to gachupinvictims by Indianrebels and rioters. A

numberof possible explanationssuggest themselves for this, though they can
be discussed only briefly here. In the first place, there were many more
creoles, however narrowly or broadly one wishes to define the term, than
there were gachupines. A war of exterminationagainst them by Indianpeas-
ants-which, in fact, many creoles came to fear after 1810-would have
offered concomitantmilitarydifficulties for the darkand poor ruralmasses.48
In the second place, it was probablydifficult to identify creoles at the local
level in many instances. Numbersof them, especially in ruralareas, were by
lifestyle and social status indistinguishablefrom people of mixed blood, and
were heavily intermarriedwith them.49 Third, and central to the argument
outlined here, it is not unreasonableto assume that the Indians' intense anti-
white sentimentswere to some degree counterbalancedby positive affective
bonds. Thatis, theirfeelings were probablyambivalent,a not uncharacteristic
emotion in symbiotic situations.50Finally, after the outbreak of the 1810
rebellion, a quickly forged though problematicalalliance between white cre-
ole rebels and village Indians, among others, in the face of royalistcounterin-

century, which insuredprivileged access for Indiansto the colonial legal system. See Woodrow
Borah, Justice by Insurance: The General Indian Court and the Legal Aides of the Half-Real
(Berkeley, 1983).
48 On the racialcompositionof New Spain at the end of the colonial period, see Alexandervon
Humboldt,Ensayo politico sobre el Reino de la Nueva Espana (Mexico City, 1966), 35ff; and,
among others, David A. Brading, Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763-1810
(Cambridge,1971), 13-14; Colin M. MacLachlanand Jaime E. Rodriguez, The Forging of the
Cosmic Race: A Reinterpretationof Colonial Mexico (Berkeley, 1980), 197, et passim; and
Nicolas Sanchez-Albornoz,The Population of LatinAmerica:A History (Berkeley, 1974), 135-
38. Humboldt'sfigures have been much criticized, but for presentpurposesthey are sufficient to
indicate orders of magnitude. Out of a total Mexican population exceeding 6 million people,
whites made up slightly more than a million, or about 18 percent, and Indians more than 3.5
million, or about60 percent. European-bornSpaniardsamountedonly to about fifteen or twenty
thousand, much less than 1 percent of the total. On fears of caste war, see Hamill, Hidalgo
Revolt, and DiTella, "Las clases peligrosas."
49 On the relatively high rates of intermarriagebetween Mexican-bornwhites and nonwhites
in general, but especially among ethnically proximategroups in the population,see SherburneF.
Cook and Woodrow Borah, Essays in PopulationHistory: Mexico and the Caribbean(Berkeley,
1974), II, 180-269; David A. Brading and Celia Wu, "PopulationGrowth and Crisis: Le6n,
1720-1860," Journal of Latin AmericanStudies, 5:1 (1973), 1-36; Chance, Race and Class in
Colonial Oaxaca. All these authors point, however, to the considerable regional variationsin
marriagepatternsand racial mixing.
50 Such ambivalence, in fact, is an essential element of the symbiotic mother-childrela-
tionshipof early childhood, and gives rise to the splittingalludedto above. Before the child learns
that its negative and positive feelings may be both received and reciprocatedby its primary
object, the mother,it defends itself from the implicationsof its own occasionally destructiverage
againstthat object by splitting the mother into separatepersonae, one good, the other bad. This
psychic defense, while adaptive in the infantand appropriateto an early developmentalstage, is
inappropriateand even pathological at other stages, and is considered a regression later on. On
this point see, among others, MargaretS. Mahler, "RapprochementSubphaseof the Separation-
IndividuationProcess," Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 41:3 (1972), 487-506; and P. Giovacchini,
Treatmentof Primitive Mental States (New York, 1979), 20-39.

surgentmilitary activity, tended to reinforce hostile attitudestoward gachu-

pines at the village level in many areas. In fact, some local eruptions of
rebellionwere precededor accompaniedby rumorsthat armies of gachupines
were coming to behead entire populationswithout distinctionof age or sex.51
One requirementof this hypothesis is evidence of a generalizedand strong
antiwhitefeeling on the part of Indian peasants, so that gachupines became
the proximateobjects in a kind of collective displacementprocess. While love
may go unrequited,hate ordinarilycannot. In view of ample evidence that
whites at all levels of Mexican society feared and despised Indians, despite a
symbiotic dependence on them, it is difficult to believe that the feeling was
not reciprocated.Substantialevidence of such ill will appearsin the colonial
documentation,and indicates that this situationantedatedthe era of the inde-
pendence struggle.52Although gachupines were victimized very consistently
by village rioters and rebels, and whites as a group were not, there is also
evidence from incidentsafter 1810 demonstratinga generalstance of hostility
and aggressiontowardall whites. For example, an 1817judicial review of the
evidence in the Amecameca riot of 1810 noted that many of the Indianrioters
had wanted to imprisonall Spaniards,whethercreole or gachupin.53A good
deal of testimonyconfirmedthatan 1811 Indianconspiracyin the Chalco area
nearMexico City was awaiting only the arrivalof the insurgents "to take the
heads of all the white residents."54 But the scapegoating or displacement
process hypothesizedhere focussed this hostility against only a small partof
the white group.
The question arises, of course, as to why such a process of psychosocial
splittinginto the "good father" quasi-messianicfigure and the "bad gachu-
pines" was necessary at all. Aside from the reasons suggested above, there
were some more fundamentalfactors at play in the actions and beliefs of

51 Such rumors were associated with the 1810 tumultos at Atlacomulco, Cuernavaca, and
Amecameca, mentionedabove, and with other incidents at Toluca in November 1810 and in the
summerof 1811-AGN, Criminal, vol. 225, exped. 3, fols. 39r-75v (1810); vol. 15, exped. 8,
no pag. (1811); at Tulancingoin May 1811-AGN, Criminal,vol. 61, exped. 7, fols. 303r-323r
(1811); at Ixmiquilpan in June 1811- AGN, Criminal, vol. 64, exped. 5, fols. 108r-162v
(1811); and at Guadalajara,before the climactic battle of Calder6n, in early January 1811-
AGN, Operacionesde Guerra(hereaftercited as OG), vol. 4A, fols. 123r-v (Cruz to Calleja, 7
52 See, for example, the reportsrelating to the general situationin the pubelo of Huautla, in
the Huastecaregion, in the years 1806-8, in AGN, Criminal,vol. 280, exped. 9, fols. 387r-419r
(1808). Specifically with regardto ethnic and social relationson colonial haciendasin one region
of New Spain, see Van Young, Hacienda and Market, 266-68. Although they were not often
made explicit, such feelings must have been behind much of the Indianxenophobiatowardsnon-
Indianoutsidersas described, for example, in Taylor, Drinking, Homicide, and Rebellion, ch. 4.
53 AGN, OG, vol. 9, fols. 63r-65v (1817). Earliertestimony in the Amecameca case indi-
cated that the pejorative coyote was widely used by local Indians to refer to all whites (AGN,
Criminal, vol. 156, no exped. number, fols. 20r-167v (1810)).
54 AGN, Criminal, vol. 274, exped. 2, fols. 3r-49v (1811): ". . que lleguen breve los
insurgentespara quitarles las cabezas a todos los de raz6n."

centralMexican Indian rebels and rioters. The peasants whose tumultosand

other rebellious activities we have discussed were operatingwith an ampu-
tated cosmology. That is to say, as a practicalmatterthey were incapableof
makinga total assaulton the colonial system in the form of denying the king's
mystical authority,attackingall whites, and framingthe alternatereality of a
total millenarianor political program.They had lived so long in the proximity
of whites thatdespite ambivalenceor outrighthostility towardthem the social
cost-effectiveness of a generalized race war would have been too low to
justify the risks. So they preservedwhat they could of a sensible but flawed
social universe by scapegoating the hapless gachupines and venerating the
monarch.The king, in this context, representeda principle of suprapolitical
moral authorityin an otherwise destructuredor anomic universe.55While his
positive image as a patriarchalprotectorof the Indiansassuredhis candidacy
for messianic status, it was only a necessary, and not a sufficient, condition.
The motive force for the simultaneous fury and the messianic fantasy lay
beneaththe surface of Mexican society, awaiting only some fortuitousevent
to unleash it. At base these apparentlycontradictorysocial phenomenawere
really two sides of the same coin, and were both called to the service of
preservingthe integrityof the most importantelement in the Indians'cultural
identity, their villages.56 This inward- and backward-lookingvision also
made a generalized race war unlikely, by the way-a considerableirony in
view of white fears.
While this model of rebellion and psychosocial process may go some way
toward explaining popular violence in central Mexico, it is not completely
congruentwith the facts in the case of Jose Berardo Herrada.Nonetheless,
the points of difference tend rather to reinforce the basic hypothesis with
respect to both sets of data, and to emphasize the resonance between the
culturaland symbolic substrateof collective action in the formercase, and the
locally idiosyncraticand pathological distortionof that same substratein the
latter. There are two major points to be considered here. First, one never
actually sees in the data on Indian riot explicit evidence of the kind of am-
bivalence toward whites that came to the surface in Herrada'sstatementsto
the colonial authorities. What one does see is the ideological polarization
between king and gachupin, and its practical consequences in the form of
quasi-messianismand ritualisticviolence, respectively. The "splitting" hy-
pothesis provides the missing element in this explanation, and allows us to
infer from psychoanalytictheory a link between behaviors which otherwise

55 The idea of a destructuredmoraluniverseis drawnfrom Wachtel, Visionof the Vanquished.

The Church, by the way, would have representedthe same principle of authority, which ac-
counts, at least in part, for the prominenceof ecclesiastics in the early phases of the independence
struggle. Whetherchurchmenled or followed the rebellions is not always clear, however.
56 This
point is made at greaterlength in Van Young, Hacienda and Market, 352-53; idem,
"Conflict and Solidarity"; idem, "Moving toward Revolt," 23-25.

would be irrationallycontradictory.In Herrada'scase the material is fairly

explicit, thoughsomewhatobliquely stated, and may be viewed as the product
of a kind of luxury of expression allowed only to madmen. The fantasy to
which his disturbed mind gave free rein lay buried in a kind of collective
unconsciousin the case of the Indianrioters, and must be rebuiltinferentially.
It is as though we were looking at the two ends of a wrecked ship protruding
from the sand, and had to extrapolate the rest of the structurewhich we
believe lies beneath the surface.
The second point concerns Herrada'sprogram,such as it was. It went one
importantstep furtherthanwhat typically appearsin the evidence from central
Mexico: he put forwardan Indian king to replace the Spanish king. In Her-
rada's fantastic construction of this event there was, admittedly, the pecu-
liarity that the Spanish king voluntarilystrippedhimself of sovereignty over
New Spain in favor of Herrada'sfather,the Indiangovernorof Tlaxcala. Why
this element should be present in the drama is not clear-perhaps it repre-
senteda highly amplifiedplaying out of Herrada'sown delusions of grandeur.
Whateverthe case, the substitutionof an Indian for a Spanish king seems to
have been more characteristicof Indianconspiracyand rebellion in the north-
erly and peripheralregions of New Spain than in the more densely populated
core areas of the country. Although an Indian millennium is nowhere ex-
plicitly mentioned in the evidence, the ideas of Indian rebels outside the
centerof the colony were certainlymore extremeand politically coherentthan
elsewhere. In the Tepic conspiracies the crowning of an Indian king was
central. Similarly, the recurringdisturbancesin the Huasteca and Sierra de
Metztitlanareas after 1810 specifically rejectedthe legitimacy of the Spanish
king, in one instance in favor of the candidacyof Ignacio Allende.57Further-
more, there are at least hints of chiliastic aspects in the Marianoepisode and
in Herrada'scase.
Both of these elements-Indian kings (or at least kings other than the
Spanish), and chiliasm-are conspicuously missing from the instances of
Indian rebellion examined so far for central Mexico. There, the messianic
hopes were pinned on the Spanishking himself. If a full-blown Indianmillen-
nium did not appear even to the north of central Mexico, conspiracies and
rebellion there may have been closer to the millennial end of the continuum
thanthey were in the core of New Spain. In the core area, then, we have the
peculiarity of a messiah without a millennium, the product of a truncated
eschatological vision whose origins are to be found, surely, in the cultural
historyof the country as a whole. I suggest, however, that in areas where the
57 AGN, Criminal, vol. 251,
exped. 10, fols. 309r-319v (Zacualtipan, 1812): "... que no
creyeranen el Rey"; vol. 163, exped. 18, fols. 307r-320r (Molango, 1811): "[Allende] va a ser
nuestro catolico." On an earlier plot in the Tepic area, see AGN, Historia, vol. 428, no exped.
number,fols. 37r-76r (1801); and on Mariano, see the Herradacase, AJAC 34-9-763 (1801-

local Indianpeople were in some sense less acculturatedand less well inte-
gratedinto Spanisheconomic and political life, as they must have been on the
nearnorthernperiphery,rebellionand popularrebelliousprojectstendedto be
more programmatic,in a broad way, and to lack the messianic focus on the
personof the Spanishking.58 Thus, again, the political extremismnotable as
an element in Herrada'sderangedprogrammay be seen as a characteristicof a
certainsubculturewithin colonial Mexico, but well suited to the expressionof
his particularinternalconflicts.59
One final point about popular ideology and collective action during the
early independenceera will bring our argumentfull circle. To believe, as the
conventionalwisdom has it, that rebels at the popularlevel sharedthe same
political agenda as the elite creole directorateof the movement strainsreason
and flies in the face of much of the evidence. Popularideology was couched
in terms more metaphoricaland symbolic than explicitly political. Beyond
this, the goals of elite and much of popularrebellion were not only different
from each other, but incompatible. In the case of the elite creole directorate,
the rebellion representedan effort at a sort of proto-statebuilding.In the case
of the Indianrebels, the issue was ratherone of preservingthe autonomy of
communities that survived outside the state or nation. In any event, these
conclusions point to the necessity of disaggregatingthe independencemove-
ment into a numberof separatemovements or rebellions, conflated at points
but essentially of different natures.

As to Jose Berardo Herrada,alias Jose Silvestre Sarifiana,the mad messiah
of Durango, the final irony is that, having learned so much from his words
both abouthim and the age in which he lived, we know nothingof his fate. In
late November and early December 1805 he was being conductedby stages,
underarmedguard,from Durangoto Guadalajara,and thence to Veracruzfor
transportationto Havanato begin serving his six-year sentence at hard labor.
On the night of 14 December he escaped from the room where he was being

58 The typology of peasantrevolts in Mexico developed by FriedrichKatz in "RuralUprisings

in Mexico," manuscript(1982), recognizes the tendency for those in peripheralareas (i.e.,
outside the center of the country) to take on a more clearly millenarianflavor.
59 Ultimately it is inadvisable to attempt to apply a diagnostic label to Herrada's mental
disturbance,for a numberof reasons. Where the evidence and the expertise of the observer in
clinical evaluation are stronger, however, such efforts can yield fascinating results; see, for
example, the brilliantpiece by ErnstKris, "A Psychotic Artistof the Middle Ages," in Modern
Perspectives in WesternArt History: An Anthologyof Twentieth-CenturyWritingson the Visual
Arts, W. Eugene Kleinbauer,ed. (New York, 1971), 285-92. Kris analyzes in this short article
the work and characterof Opicinus de Canastris,an Italiancleric of the early fourteenthcentury,
and credibly concludes that he was (in the clinical sense) a schizophrenic. It is interesting, in
passing, that Opicinus's work, much of it containing autobiographicalelements, shares certain
characteristicswith Herrada'stestimony:grandiosity,an obsessional quality, occasional disjunc-
tions of thought, etcetera. The reference to Kris's article I owe to Ann R. Milstein.

held on the Hacienda de Tlacotes, outside Zacatecas, and disappeared.The

colonial authoritieswere still looking for him in Februaryof the following
year, but presumablynever found him. Whatbecame of him? Did he continue
to wanderthe dusty roadsof New Spain in searchof his fatherand a few pesos
begged from credulousIndians?Did he live out his life as an eccentric farmer
in a quiet village? One is temptedto think that he took up arms in 1810 under
the bannerof the Virgin and workedupon the chaotic realityof those times the
equally chaotic fantasies in his head. If so, did he end face down in the mud,
like many other tortured modern heroes, on some obscure Mexican bat-
tlefield, at Aculco, or Las Cruces, or Calderon?Part of his story, with its
power and pathos, he left us; the rest of his secrets he never surrendered.

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