On the border: Chiapas, between empire and republic

Sarah Washbrook

in Producing Modernity in Mexico

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780197264973
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754128 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

On the border: Chiapas, between empire and republic

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This chapter analyzes the political, economic, and social relations in Chiapas during the colonial era in order to better understand the nature and impact of the modernizing reforms enacted by liberal regimes after independence. The first section presents an overview of the conquest of the region from 1528 to around 1550. The second section examines the institutions of state rule and how they changed over time, emphasizing the break between Habsburg and Bourbon rule after 1750. The third section analyzes the history and structure of the Indian community or república de indios and underscores its important political, economic, and ideological role in colonial society. The next two sections look at controlled markets in commerce and labour (repartimientos), which constituted important means by which surplus labour and produce were extracted from the Indian population. The next section considers the history of the Church in Chiapas, which like the Spanish Crown extracted taxes, fees, and labour from the communities. The Church also structured religious celebration and public ritual in the communities around the corporate institutions of the parish and cofradía, thereby contributing to the consolidation of both colonial rule and Indian ethnic identity and solidarity. Chiapas's hacienda sector, which is examined in the final section, was also dominated by the Church, although production was limited in the province before Bourbon policies fomented the expansion of commercial agriculture in the late eighteenth century.

Keywords: colonial era; conquest; state rule; Habsburg; Bourbon; Indian community; hacienda; church; ethnic identity

Chapter.  14009 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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