In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Hispanic American Historical Review 82.1 (2002) 149-150

[Access article in PDF]

Book Review

Mercados indígenas en México, Chile y Argentina:

Mercados indígenas en México, Chile y Argentina: Siglos XVIII-XIX. Edited by JORGE SILVA RIQUER and ANTONIO ESCOBAR OHMSTEDE. Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. José María Luis Mora; Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, 2000 . Maps. Tables. Figures. Notes. 211 pp. Paper.

It was not long ago that historians viewed indigenous villages in colonial Spanish America as isolated communities, insulated from the marketplace, except when forced to provide goods or services to their Spanish overlords. Over the past two decades, economic historians have shattered this erroneous image and have constructed a far more complex representation of the colonial economy. The six essays in this volume contribute to this process by increasing our understanding of Indian participation in the market.

The overarching thesis of the essays is that contrary to the older historiography, Indians did indeed engage extensively in market activity. The book's introduction is followed by four chapters that focus on distinct regions of Mexico in the late colonial period. In each the author documents Indian integration into the market, relating the primary goods traded, and the principal commercial circuits. All of the chapters on Mexico are based on the same documentary source. In 1792 colonial officials collected data on indigenous introductions of merchandise into towns and cities, in order to estimate the revenues lost to the Crown by exempting Indians from the alcabala sales tax. This rich and unique source permits global estimates of Indian commerce at least in this one year.

The conclusions drawn are useful although not altogether surprising. Margarita Menegus shows that the Indians of the Valley of Toluca were thoroughly integrated into the market, selling a wide variety of locally produced commodities. Her central argument is that the Tolucans increasingly marketed their surplus as the Bourbon reforms led to the monetization of the valley economy. Investigating Valladolid in 1792 , Jorge Silva also hypothesizes that fiscal pressures drove Indians into the market in search of coin. Among his findings, Silva discovers that Indians contributed more to total trade in the village of Zamora than the city of Valladolid. Antonio Escobar contributes a chapter on indigenous commerce in the Huasteca, a region more remote than the other Mexican regions examined in the book. [End Page 149] Employing the same documentation as the previous authors, Escobar similarly finds that the Indians of the Huasteca were substantially engaged in the market. One of the issues that the author considers is the degree to which money penetrated the economy of colonial Huasteca, but he concludes that his evidence is too slim to make any conclusions. The final article on Mexico, by Rosalina Ríos, examines the important mining region of Zacatecas. While Zacatecas was not densely populated by Indian communities, Ríos nonetheless notes the important contribution of Indians to the region's commerce. Indians sold a wide array of commodities in 1792 , especially textiles and foodstuffs, to the mining center of Zacatecas that was highly dependent on the importation of goods to feed miners and supply mines.

The final two essays in this work focus on frontier economies of South America. Jorge Pinto explores the Chilean region of La Araucanía and its economic links with the Pampas and the broader colonial economy. As Pinto argues, once a fragile peace had been established between the Araucanians and the Spaniards, mutually beneficial trade emerged. The Indians marketed a variety of goods produced both locally and obtained from great distances, most important of which were livestock and salt. Far from leading to the exploitation of the Amerindians, commercial expansion contributed to the maintenance of peace between Spaniards and Araucanians. As Pinto argues, this is "an excellent example to demonstrate that the indigenous economy was not incompatible with the capitalist economy" (p. 149 ). The final essay by Silvia Palomeque examines indigenous market participation in the Puna of Jujuy in the southern Andes, a region that was commercially...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 149-150
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2004
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.