The Gilded Age in Eastern Yucatán, Mexico: the Age of Betrayal or the Rise of the Middle Class?

Author(s): Rani Alexander

Year: 2015


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 rural farming settlements situated southwest of Valladolid, Yucatan. Analysis of the distribution and architectural characteristics of haciendas and ranchos in this area reveals that small-scale cattle raising was a key entrepreneurial strategy that enhanced social mobility and aided economic recovery in the region. Acasillamiento and debt peonage were practiced on only a few large haciendas, most dating to the early 20th century. Using documentary census data, I measure variation in inequality among households in rural settlements using GINI coefficients for the 1880s and 1900s. The trajectory of globalization in this region offers an important comparison to the pattern observed further west, near Mérida.

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Cite this Record

The Gilded Age in Eastern Yucatán, Mexico: the Age of Betrayal or the Rise of the Middle Class?. Rani Alexander. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395179) ; doi:10.6067/XCV87P90J3

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Rani Alexander

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RTA_SAA_2015_The-Gilded-Age-in-Eastern-Yucat-n_2.docx 1.46mb May 5, 2015 May 5, 2015 4:29:26 PM Public
Paper Presented at the 80th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, April 15-19, 2015, San Francisco.