Sunday, January 11, 2009

Consolidation of El Nuevo Reino de León (1626-1664)

One of the positive economic consequences of the entry of the sheep into el Nuevo Reino de León was the establishment of the workshops for the spinning and weaving of the wool. Manufacturing is an institution of greatest interest -and which is awaiting a serious and detailed study- due to it being, in la Nueva España, the only agency which offers similarities with the modern factory, the only thing we can call a large industry in the epoch (XVI to XVIII centuries). And Chevalier says it: “the manufacture of cloth and workshops which deserved being better known since they represent the first industry that existed in the New World.”175 And Luis Chávez Orozco calls the workshop “embryo of manufacturing.”176 Furthermore, the regimen of work in the neo-Hispanic workshops offers peculiar aspects of major interest since, generally, the workers were, in the majority, galley slaves: convicts who, instead of finishing their sentence in jail, they were turned over by the court to the owners of said workshops. As it was said then, “the temporary service of the galley slaves was sold.” The owners of a workshop, in return for a very low salary and with the charge of making them complete the sentence, avoiding their flight, took advantage of their work, cheapening handwork very much. It had to do with, in other words, a form of slavery by penal sentences. The presence of the galley slaves in the workshops demanded a prison system within them: the shops were enormous wards, poorly illuminated and poorly ventilated by means of long and narrow windows situated up high; many of the workers carried shackles or chains; they were taken to the workshop in formation and with an escort and they slept in dark and bad smelling wards in a horrible promiscuity; they were fed and dressed poorly; and the punishment, even for small faults, were extremely cruel. In all the descriptions and inventories of the workshops, which we know, there are prisons, stocks, collars, shackles and chains. But the truly dramatic of this situation is that, together with these convicts, there worked free men and women who were submitted to the same inhumane treatments. Finally, in all the workshops there was always a certain number of Negro or Mullato and Chichimeca slaves. Many of those Indians, taken from el Nuevo Reino de León, were sold as slaves for penal sentences in the large workshops of Texcoco, Puebla, Querétaro or San Miguel el Grande.

The existence of the workshops in Nuevo León has been ignored by historians up to now. For that reason we want to dedicate a short note to them noting such an interesting subject for the investigators. We have the conviction that the workshops in el Nuevo Reino were a consequence of the entry into it of the herds of sheep. The oldest document that we have found regarding them is dated April 21, 1635, in the city of Monterrey. Due to this document being the first that speaks to us of a factory in the jurisdiction of this city, we believe it important to have it be known:

“In the hacienda they call San Francisco (Apodaca), from the jurisdiction of this city of Nuestra Señora de Monterrey of el Nuevo Reino de León, in twenty-one days of the month of April of sixteen hundred thirty-five years, before Captain Gonzalo Fernández de Castro, mayor in the said city by His Majesty and before me the present secretary and witnesses written below, Captain Alonso de Treviño, resident of this said kingdom, whom I attest to know, awarded, which he gives in distribution, to Don Juan de Guzmán, resident of this kingdom, the workshop which he has in said hacienda, where they make course woolen cloth, sackcloth and blankets, for the time of one year that proceeds and is counted from the day of this writing, for the price of three thousand pesos in silver which he gives in rent, which he should satisfy at the end of the year, all together in one payment. And for its security it is a declaration that he may not dispose of the clothes, which he might make in said workshop, but rather it is that which the gentleman governor of this kingdom would need by necessity (sic) and for that which he would give, there shall be, the said Don Juan, the consent of said captain and for preparation of that which he should have, he give with the said workshop twenty pairs of cards [for combing wool] half for carding and half for printing and seventeen common wheels and all the people which he has today and six hundred arrobas [25 lbs.] of dead wool [sic]; and the said captain obligates himself to support all the people at his cost, as he does it today; and that if he be lacking boys for the winches, give them to him and seek them for him and bring him those who might flee; and at not taking the rent from him, nor ceasing it for any reason until the end of the year, penalty of satisfying it, to the said Don Juan, its interests; and, the s0-said [person] being present, he accepted this rent in the form that has been stated, and he obligates himself to pay the said three thousand pesos in silver to the said Captain Alonso de Treviño or to whom through him should have them, at the end of the year and he will not stop the said rent for any reason, nor will he allege deception nor any other reason, penalty of paying it of vacancy and as if he made use of it, with all the conditions declared in this writing; and in compliance of it, with all the costs, he obligated his person and goods, present and to be had and he empowered the justices of His Majesty of any jurisdiction to be ... Captain Domingo de la Fuente, Diego de Uscanga Guarnizo and Juan de Olivares, residents of this said kingdom, being witnesses ... (Don Gonzalo Fernández de Castro, Alonso de Treviño and Juan de Guzmán sign). Before me, Juan de Abrego secretary of government, justice and war.”177 (rubric).

The importance of this manufacture can be deduced so much from the estate of the leasing -three thousand pesos in silver annually, a very increased quantity for that epoch- like that of the twenty pairs of cards and the “seventeen milling and common wheels.” But the most important part of the document is that which refers to the system of work; from the text it is easily deduced that the workers were Chichimeco slaves who, as such slaves, worked by force: “and the said captain obligates himself to support all the people at his cost, as he does it today; and that if he be lacking boys for the winches, give them to him and seek them for him and bring him those who might flee.” As one can see, the problem of cheap hand workers did not exist in el Nuevo Reino, they only needed to go out hunting to return with the boys and women necessary. Finally, a very obscured passage of the document tells us that those manufactures were considered very common and that their production was intervened in by the government of the kingdom: “ is a declaration that he might not be able to order the clothes that were made in that workshop, but rather it is that which the job the gentleman governor of this kingdom might need.” Through other documents we know that besides those Chichimecan slaves, there were “Spanish” masters in the workshops of el Nuevo Reino -in reality we should read Creoles or mestizos- and naborio[1] Indians or Mexican or Tlaxcaltecan laborers who were able artisans.

Another of the interesting documents that we have had the fortune of finding regarding the subject in this quick investigation is dated in the town of Cerralvo in October 17, 1642, and refers to one of those rich “absentee” herdsmen.

“The captain Don Juan de Zúñiga Almaraz, I appear before Your Lordship for the person of Rodrigo de la Cruz, inhabitant of the town of Cerralvo ... and I say that it must be four years more or less since I entered to populate the town of Cadereyta ... with my wife, children and family and for the said settlement I put in more than five hundred cows of twenty[2] [sic] and sixteen thousand sheep and five hundred breeding mares with their principle donkeys and more than one hundred newly born male mules besides more than forty naborio Indians with their children and wives and many tame oxen, plowshares and agricultural implements to found farming haciendas; I have (in the town of Cadereyta) built some houses for my living quarters that have cost me more than two thousand pesos and I have been digging an irrigation canal for the field, longer than a year, which has cost me more than two thousand pesos for master and Spaniards who are foremen with salary in the said irrigation canal and in the same manner I built and founded a workshop where we wove blankets, sackcloth and coarse woolen cloth for the provisions of the silver mining haciendas that there are in this said kingdom, the workshop that I founded with permission that Your Lordship gave me in the said town of Cadereyta and it is at very great detriment and cost to my estate; because the said Indians, who work at the said workshop, steal much of the clothes of that which they weave and they sell it to the residents and for this reason I need that Your Lordship be served to give me license to have the said workshop in my hacienda, where I live, that I have strong houses built with all that necessary for the said workshop and, moreover I leave that one I have built in the said town to Diego Pérez, a person who served me as steward and master in the said workshop, so that with greater strength, this said kingdom go on to be populated, that from Your Lordship granting this to me it is pro and utility for all the silver mining haciendas, since they make use of all that necessary of clothes to dress the native Indians in the service of the said haciendas ...”178

[1] Indian freemen who worked as a servant.

[2] Obviously misspelled. Probably “vientre” [and not “veinte”] meaning breeding cattle.

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