Wealth and Ownership of Indigenous Goods among Spanish Colonizers

Author(s): Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Archaeology and Material Culture of the Spanish Invasion of Mesoamerica and Forging of New Spain" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Scholars have debated the relationship between ownership of indigenous goods among Spanish colonizers and different economic, cultural, and social variables. Some argue that wealth had a strong impact on consumption patterns, and wealthy colonizers used more European imports and less indigenous goods than poorer colonizers. Others have argued that wealth did not determine consumption patterns, and scholars should focus instead on social and political factors that affected consumption, including strategies of cultural separatism or alliance-building. I contribute to this debate by examining data from the probate inventories of 39 Spanish colonizers who died in Mexico City in the 16th century. The probate inventories allow calculating two separate statistics that will be useful: the wealth of each decedent, and the ratio of European to indigenous goods that each decedent owned. Results indicate that the wealth of these colonizers varies widely, and so does the ratio of European to indigenous goods found in their inventories. But is that variation correlated with wealth? Or can other variables explain the pattern better? The results will help address the broad implications of economic, political and cultural explanations of consumption among colonizers, and they will aid in understanding archaeological patterns better.

Cite this Record

Wealth and Ownership of Indigenous Goods among Spanish Colonizers. Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450581)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 18.48 ; max long: -94.087; max lat: 23.161 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23672