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Introduction

For a great deal of time, the ruling elites of Antequera, now called Oaxaca had the ability to inflict hegemony on fellow citizens. Hegemony is the method by which the ruling elites and the state are able to impose social and political conflict by creating a common framework. So essentially, it is a method of domination to impose social orders on the population. This was from which it formed its social and political culture. This topic is addressed in this book report. It will address the social life and actors who had a hand in the political culture of Antequera. 

Now, Oaxaca was known as Antequera for most of the colonial period and was inhabited by roughly 18000 people by the middle of the eighteenth century. It was located in the bosom of Mexico's most fertile valleys that was shared most grudgingly between Indian villages and Creole and Spanish families. These families owned estates in the region. The fertility and strategic location of the region made it an administrative and commercial center. They had a bishop that was a spiritual leader of the entire province, but who happened to live in Antequera. This man is said to have wielded spiritual influence and informal political power.

Historical context

The city also hosted the Corregidor, a high-flying Spanish official of strong political influence. People came for consultation on matters of lawsuits in his court. All this suggests that the city was, in a way, tied to the overall running of the state even though how informal it may have been. Another emerging fact is that, though the Spanish colonial system did not employ many individuals, it still encouraged the popularity of the city as a commercial centre. The Spanish and Creole merchants controlled and directed this commercial network. This elite group of individuals channeled the commodities, from the labor of the citizens, into wider and exclusive markets.

In the social system of Antequera, there existed a social group called the plebeians. These, as distinguished from the Roman versions, were of a lower status in the society. They did not own property and did not need to care about the obligations that governed the rest in society. In fact, they rarely involved themselves in court petitions. When they did, they would be the accused party. The other feature of the plebeians was that they did not have a preoccupation with race. This seemed to be a common feature with the elites.

There were factors that confused the social scheme. One was the difference between the Spanish born 'peninsulares' and the 'criollos'. These were of pure Spanish blood. The former were the elite who tended to control the economic and political system. The second factor was the increase of mixed races. The illegitimate offspring of Spanish men and Indian women created problems in social classification. This was because, at that time, people were classified according to the relationship between their father and mother. As this went on, offspring of mixed descent multiplied, almost exponentially. These were so numerous that they needed a separate classification.

Political culture in Antequera

It was clear that the elite and the plebeians shared different views when it came to issues of race (Guardino 25). They seemed to share a similar take on the political direction. They had an idea about social order, which was linked to overall justice. The wealthy and the poor in the society worshipped in the same churches (Guardino 25). This is an indication that they believed in the same deity, and had similar judgments on social order. They often offered similar arguments to judges in courts.

Political structure during the period before the bourbon era was not defined in one relationship to the king. This was because there were a number of different organizations that existed at the time. These organizations all had different individuals, and all of these individuals all had different relationships to the king. This often meant that some individuals were meant to be tried in particular courts. This was simply because of their organizational membership.

Now in this era, several disputes erupted due to tensions between the nobles and the peasants. This was because of the privileges that the nobles and their families were entitled to even though they were not quite well off in the first place. This went on and caused electoral disputes. Officials called the 'principales', typically held these elections (Guardino 55). In 1774, they held an election at the turn of the year without consultation or involvement from the caciques, saying that they were not elders. The Spanish officials threw out the results. They, however, discovered that many of the caciques that were already serving in high offices. This qualified them as being able to have the rank of principales.

Yet again in 1814 in Lalopa, some caciques held an election without acknowledgement of other principales. When they found out, they protested. A Spanish judge scheduled an election by himself. The results were unpalatable for the caciques that they almost all lost. However, their protest was so strong that the judge was forced to hear them in the end. He finally picked members from each group as a solution. There were virulent clashes between villages in parts of Oaxaca. This was between the non-plebeian Indians and the plebeian Indians. It was during this time that there was a need for political power by the plebeians.

A cargo system catered for the society as a form of community service that the indigenous individuals had to endure. Another important factor that the community valued in that period was unity at communal level. An example of this is illustrated when the village of Santo Domingo Tepuxtepec made a complaint in 1799 about an interpreter who was working for the district administrator. He was reported to have extorted and manipulated them to prepare them for an eventual harm. This was done without the help of any other villages.

On the gender side of equity, women played the least roles possible in politics. Their husbands climbed the political ladder, and they gained prestige in the process. They, however, never became principales. In short, they never attained any formal political rights or privileges thereof. They could participate in conflict only when it was their families, who were the subject of the argument. At this point, they could even intervene physically, but they mostly did it verbally. There are examples of this happening: If a husband is given a lowly cargo post, a vengeful wife may insult the justices and so on.

Unfortunately, women seemed to be the victims in most of these conflicts. For example, the authorities would get back at the husbands and fathers by hitting at their women and daughters instead. This would be through public punishment like flogging that, although primitive, was effective in its task. This could now be used as leverage over the male petitioners. Nevertheless, women served essential roles especially during riots. They ran at the front of the chaos and took substantial physical risks at the aim of defending their families. This it seems was a strategy to activate their men to see how serious an occasion was.

Conclusion

The picture of social organization in Colonial Latin America is that of Spanish greed and cruelty to Native Americans (Taylor 195). They relentlessly expanded their property into Indian holdings and territories. This brought the picture of the Spanish elite as the villains who took without mercy. The Indians were the victims who could do little but watch as they were displaced from their land. This was also compounded by the many epidemics that plagued them. Some changes took place because of these events.

Taylor (197) writes that the Mayeque class gradually disappeared, and the nobility surely lost their economic power. There was redistribution of wealth that leveled the Indian society. This, however, does not mean that the Indians were too weak or docile to protect their land. In fact, the Indians of the valley were quite aggressive in defending their land by legal means and use of force. This constant turmoil made the foreigners unsure about investing in agriculture. This is because they would not know its fate in the future. 

There was much ignorance about the effects of the social organization and the distribution of wealth in colonial Latin American history. Most of it tended to amplify the Spanish's greed and depict how cruel they were to the Native Americans. This although had varying degrees depending on which region one was talking about. The effect of the spread of the haciendas on the Indian land was not severe. The caciques of the valley and the pueblos retained quite a bit of land. This was quite enough to keep them from the Spanish landowners as well as meet their ends. This was in contrast with the viceroyalty Indians who seem to have lost everything to the Spanish. What they did not lose to the Spanish, they gave to disease. It seems that the Indians were bound to lose, either way.

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