The Archaeology of Spanish and Mexican Ranchos: Daily life, labor, and heritage management

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

The roots of North American cattle industries can be traced to Spanish and Mexican –era ranchos. Ranchers representing colonial efforts of Spain, and later Mexico, during the 18th and 19th centuries created a wholly new culture in North America, centered on animal husbandry. These ranchos were usually owned by individual families who supervised a cadre of Indian laborers and vaqueros. The ranch owners owed their livelihood to the sale and trade of the products, primarily hide and tallow, derived from cattle. Historical records often provide a narrative of the rancho owner and capital products. Very little is known about the mundane day-to-day activities of the rancho owners, much less the Indian laborers. In this symposium, we bring together archaeologists studying rancho sites in Texas and California to discuss recent analysis, exploration of research themes tied to daily life and labor, and heritage management practices at these colonial institutions.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • All Them Ditches: The Spanish Colonial Water Management System of San Antonio de Bexar (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Antonia L Figueroa.

    Remnants of one of the largest and most extensive Spanish Colonial acequia water systems in the United States can be found in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. Acequias contributed to the flourishing of the missions and colonial farming settlements in San Antonio de Bexar. This extensive system of ditches redirected water in various parts of present day Bexar County for agricultural and household purposes. At least six principal acequias and numerous secondary branches have been identified with...

  • Archaeological Investigations of the Treviño-Uribe Rancho (41ZP97), San Ygancio, Zapata County, Texas (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ashley E. Jones. Steve A. Tomka. Kristi M Nichols. Mark P. Luzmoor.

    Recent archaeological investigations of foundations and anomalies encountered during a previous ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey at the Treviño-Uribe Rancho (41ZP97) provided insight into the lives of ranchers on the Spanish Frontier in the borderlands region. In 1820, Jesús Treviño was granted the land as part of the Nuevo Santander Colony (c. 1748-1835).  By 1830, Treviño constructed a one-room, fortified shelter as an outpost.  Additions to this structure created a...

  • California Public Education and the Mexican Ranchos - Looking Beyond 4th Grade (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Melinda M. Berge. Alyssa N. Cheli.

    The Mexican Ranchos of the 18th and 19th centuries represent a niche in California history which is not often well understood by students of any age. From elementary school education to popular media, the focus in California tends to be on either the precontact Native Americans or the Spanish Missions. The Ranchos are host to a pluralistic community, including laborers, visitors, traders, owners, and overseers. Fairly representing these multiple voices can be difficult, but by presenting diverse...

  • Comales and Colonialism - Identifying Colonial Inequality through a Spatial Analysis of Foodways on a Seventeenth Century New Mexican Spanish Estancia. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Adam C Brinkman.

    During the late sixteenth and seventeenth century colonization of New Mexico by Spanish colonists and indigenous Mexican auxiliaries, rural ranches or estancias, were established in close proximity to autonomous Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande. These estancias were the setting for complex negotiations of colonial power structures which were based upon the exploitation of labor from indigenous peoples. At LA-20,000, an early colonial estancia located off a branch of El Camino Real near Santa...

  • Con Un Pie En Cada Lado: Nuevo Santander Ranching Communities Along The Lower Rio Grande (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary Jo Galindo.

    Before the Río Grande became a contested border between the United States and Mexico, and between predominantly Latino and Anglo-American societies, it was the northern frontier of Spanish Nuevo Santander and a border between Spanish Mexico and indigenous societies to the north. The pobladores, or colonists, who moved into the region—and their descendants to the present day—had to adapt constantly to the changing political, economic, and social environment. The eighteenth-century colony of Nuevo...

  • Interpreting a Changing Cultural Landscape – A California Rancho (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Donna L Gillette.

    The Dana Adobe, site of an 1837 Mexican Land Grant issued to William Goodwin Dana, provides a model example of a managed landscape with a story to tell. This chronicle, situated on the Central California Coast, includes the prehistoric past, rancho period, emergence of statehood, the American Period, and a look to the future in the stewardship and management of the land and resources.  This unique 130 acre site, which is a California State Historic Landmark and on the National Registry, is owned...

  • Room for All: A Pluralistic Approach to Privileged Spaces (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Ellison. Ryan C. Phillip. Alyssa N. Cheli.

    During the 18th and 19th centuries, California Rancho adobe residences were the center of daily interactions between laborers, visitors, traders, owners, and overseers. Common interpretive recreations of the region’s adobe residences emphasize the land owners and residential uses of adobe structures. This is done to the exclusion of understanding the pluralistic nature of the adobe uses in space and time, and the diverse community of colonists and indigenous laborers who worked and lived within...