Capital, Craft, and Consumption in Mesoamerica after the Spanish Invasion

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The contributors to this session examine the archaeological consequences of uneven capitalist development for urban and rural communities in Mesoamerica over the last 500 years. As Thomas Piketty has claimed, industrial capitalism generally widens the gulf between reach and poor. Yet, natural disasters, economic depression, and warfare often diminish available capital and disrupt its accumulation, thus leveling economic disparities in some periods. In Spain's former American colonies the periodic economic upturns and downturns of the global economy severely affected generation of wealth, the development of monetary and debt instruments, market growth, and the organization of commodity chains from the sixteenth century down to the present day. These vicissitudes created uneven trajectories of local and regional development as Spain's American colonies became severely undercapitalized in the wake of the European invasion and again following the wars of independence. The papers in this session focus on the archaeological consequences of shifts in capital, commodity and craft production, and consumption at regional, local, and household scales. Shifts in the social construction of class, identity, and place are manifest in the archaeological record - in landscape configurations, architecture, ceramics, tools and technology, zooarchaeological and paleoethnobotanical remains, and mortuary patterns and ritual practices.

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  • Documents (11)

  • Booms, Busts, and Changing (Anti)Market Engagement in Pacific piedmont Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Luisa Escobar. Guido Pezzarossi.

    Located in the cacao-rich Pacific piedmont region of Guatemala, the colonial period Kaqchikel Maya community of San Pedro Aguacatepeque produced cacao for the Iximche Kaqchikel polity prior to colonization. With the 16th century global cacao boom that followed Spanish colonization, cacao producing communities in the region became critical sources of this increasingly desired regional and global exchange good. The bust of the global cacao market in the latter part of the century, coupled with...

  • Capitalism and Material Culture of the Poor: Consumption, Reuse, and Discard of Glass Bottles at Hacienda San Pedro Cholul, Yucatan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hector Hernandez.

    In Yucatan at the turn of the twentieth century, industrialization of henequen production and the export of binder twine heightened socioeconomic inequality and encouraged consumption of non-local manufactured items within native communities. Yet, the official history of capitalist expansion and globalization in Latin America has been written by and for the dominant class. Often, the material record shows that new and traditional technologies were appropriated in particular ways by poor people...

  • Close to the Edge; 19th Century Maya refugees at Tikal, Guatemala. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Meierhoff. Joel Palka.

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, the ancient Maya city of Tikal, Guatemala, was briefly re occupied by Yucatec refugees fleeing the Caste War of Yucatan. The Tikal village was poised on the confluence of the frontiers of Mexico, Guatemala and British Honduras, as well as the belligerent Santa Cruz Maya from Yucatan. Despite the limited presence of settled European diasporas in the northern Petén, colonial institutions were still able to reach indigenous communities seeking refuge...

  • Consequences of Warfare, Reforms, and Capitalism in Late Colonial Port of Veracruz, Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Krista Eschbach.

    At the beginning of the 18th century, Spain and its American colonies were still steeped in mercantilism with the Spanish Crown and elite merchants struggling to maintain a monopoly over trans-Atlantic trade. Over the next hundred years, this economic system was transformed as a result of political and economic events in Europe and the Spanish colonies. By the end of the 18th century, the Port of Veracruz, once one of the few legal ports in Spain's American colonies, was now one of many ports...

  • Conspicuous Consumption in the Basin of Mexico: Chinese Porcelains as Prestige Markers in the Eastern Teotihuacan Valley (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cynthia Otis Charlton. Patricia Fournier G..

    Beginning with the 16th century opening up of the New World, New Spain was integrated into the complex trade networks of the expanding world system as part of the Spanish Empire in the Indies. Prior to the rise of capitalism in Europe, mercantilism dominated sociopolitical and economic development trends. Indirect contact with the imperial power of China by way of the Philippines led to the establishment of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade starting in the 1570s. Exotic goods, including...

  • Firing Pots in Durango: Craft manufacture of glazed wares and the origins of consumption and production inequality in northern Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Patricia Fournier. Bridget M. Zavala.

    The historiography of nineteenth century industrial development in the northern Mexican state of Durango has tended to focus on the biography of a few successful business men, rather than on the local production and consumption of daily material culture. Specifically, the inhabitants of this northern territory, experienced greater socioeconomic inequality as only the minority that belonged to the entrepreneurial class reaped the benefits of industrialist projects. Thus only a small number of...

  • The Gilded Age in Eastern Yucatán, Mexico: the Age of Betrayal or the Rise of the Middle Class? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Full-Text Rani Alexander.

    The social transformations produced by rapid industrialization and expansion of henequen production in the late nineteenth century in western Yucatan were not what happened in Maya-speaking communities further to the east. The Gilded Age in eastern Yucatan was attenuated because communities suffered the protracted aftershocks of the Caste War of Yucatan (1847-1901), which may have repressed wealth disparities instead of heightening them. In this paper, I examine the archaeology of haciendas and...

  • Landscape and the Impact of Late Colonial Industrial Agriculture on Indigenous Communities in the Tehuantepec Region of Mexico. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Aileen Balasalle. Judith Zeitlin.

    During the late colonial period, the political economy of the Oaxaca Isthmus of Tehuantepec, like many areas of rural New Spain, witnessed dramatic changes in response to Bourbon political reforms and as a consequence of increased engagement with global capitalism. These changes are particularly apparent in the sheltered piedmont zone of the Rio de los Perros, where Zapotec elites had managed to control productive agricultural lands into the early 18th century. New creole landowners emerge in...

  • Landscapes of Labor (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Newman.

    During the last quarter of the 19th century, Mexico experienced a period of rapid social and economic modernization under the leadership of dictator Porfirio Diaz. Central to this was the dismantling of community-held lands, a practice that was intended to undermine the social aspects of the agrarian/indigenous lifestyle. The nineteenth century architects of Mexico’s progress believed that by dismantling communal villages lands and thus communal indigenous communities, they were moving Mexico’s...

  • Mahogany and Sugar for Tobacco, Booze, and Salt-Pork: Consumerism and Consumption at 19th-Century Lamanai, Belize (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tracie Mayfield.

    During the nineteenth-century, the Caribbean region was a hotbed of trade and commerce driven principally by extractive industries such as agriculture (principally sugar) and hardwood collection. Such ventures required large injections of capital into the creation and maintenance of discrete, productive landscapes as well as for hiring, housing, and feeding the workers who provided physical labor and management. The following presentation will explore a long-term residential area of one such...

  • Potters' signatures and changes in the maiolica craft from colonial Mexico as an expression of the doctrine of blood purity (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Veronica Velasquez.

    The aim of this paper is to explore the potential that the potters’ signatures on maiolica vessels have to gain insights to the shifts in the craft industry from the mid-seventeenth century and onwards. It will be argued that the modifications that are observable on the personal imprints of the potters may have been related with changing attitudes towards their cultural identities. The analysis of archaeological samples from different sites in Mexico City enabled the identification of a variety...