Colonial Mexico (1519-1821) was Mexico under Spanish rule, beginning with the Spanish conquistadors and ending with Mexican independence. It was part of New Spain, which in turn was part of the Spanish Empire. What is now the south-western US, from Texas to California, was part of colonial Mexico.
Born in genocide: When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1519, Mexico had at least 25 million people. By 1600 only a million were left. It has taken Mexico over 300 years to recover. It was not enough for the Spanish to defeat the Aztecs and other Meso-Americans in battle: they destroyed the land and used the mass killing of unarmed people as an instrument of terror.
Disease: Epidemics came one after another, of smallpox, measles and haemorrhagic fever. There was little natural immunity to such diseases in Mexico, so it was like the Black Death in Europe, but made much worse because Mexico was now a broken land. There is a thin line between disease and genocide.
Columbian Exchange: The Spanish gave Mexico not only smallpox, measles, typhus, malaria and influenza, but also Catholicism, liquor, onions, pigs, cows, sheep, horses, wheat, olives, grapes, oranges, rice, sugar, etc. Mexico in turn gave the world maize, beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla, among other things.
Doctrine of Discovery: The pope in Rome gave the Spanish the right to take over non-Christian countries for the sake of bringing them to Christ. The Spanish did in fact set up missions that taught Meso-Americans the Christian faith, but in return the Spanish got land, labour, silver and gold. To make all this seem right and good the Spanish gave Mexico something else:
- 0.3% peninsulares (Spanish-born Whites)
- 18% criollos (Mexican-born Whites)
- 21% casta (mixed-race)
- 11% mestizos (part Native)
- 10% mulatos and zambos (part Black)
- 60% indios (Native Americans)
- 0.2% negros (Blacks)
The Great Whitening of the Americas did not start till the middle 1800s.
Labour: a mix of slaves, wage workers and forced labour (the hated repartimiento).
Uprisings: the most famous was the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Joined by some mestizos and mulattoes, they drove the Spanish and their hangers-on out of New Mexico for a time. They destroyed churches, washed off the stain of baptism and annulled their Catholic marriages, returning to the old ways.
California, New Mexico, Texas: Early Spanish explorers like Coronado found no silver or gold, so there was little to draw the Spanish there. In the 1600s and 1700s the Spanish set up missions that would later grow into cities like Santa Fe, San Antonio and Los Angeles (thus the religious Spanish names). They built the Camino Real, the Royal Road that went north from Mexico City to the silver mines of Zacatecas and on to the Rio Grande and Sante Fe, New Mexico.
The economy was built to make Spain rich. It had mines, farms and ranches, but few businesses or industries of its own. After independence, the Spanish pulled out their money and the economy went broke.
– Abagond, 2016.
Sources: mainly “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” (2011) by Rodolfo Acuña; “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” (1542) by Bartolome de Las Casas.
- Welcome to Hispanic Heritage Month 2016
- Colonial Mexico:
- The Spanish
- Vine Deloria, Jr: Conquest Masquerading as Law – more on the Doctrine of Discovery