Colonial Latin America (Xxxx)

Julio Huato juliohuato at
Sun Jun 10 10:17:10 MDT 2001

Xxxx Xxxxxx <xxxxxxxxxx at>:

>Read Marx's Imperalism on India and Brewer's book on Imperialism. Marx says
>***" England has broken down the entire framework of Indian society,
>without any symptoms of reconstitution yet appearing"*** (p. 654, Tucker
>ed, Marx -Engels reader)

So, you are obviously not referring to the term 'imperialism' in the
Leninist sense.  Welcome aboard.

>it was an oligarchic capitalist class (large agricultural producers), but
>not a feudalist class in the classical sense. We are talking about
>latifundias in the 17 th century (Mexico) here, with varieties of labor
>working on the land--forced laborer, debt peonage, permenant laborers
>(gananes), compulsory wage laborer, etc..(Wallerstein, _mercantalism and
>the consolidation of the world economy_, p.155)

I was trying to make sense of your paragraph in the previous posting.  You
don't refer to mining but to latinfundios.  Mining was definitely aimed to
supply the foreign market.  The bulk of the labor utilized in the mines was
forced.  A lot of Indians died or escaped from the mines.  Black slaves were
brought to replace them.  There was no meaningful wage labor system in place
in this industry.  Now, let me address the latifundios.

In my understanding, in 17th century colonial Mexico, the rural landscape
was still -- to a large extent -- dominated by the 'encomiendas'.  As the
Indian population declined, tributes dwindled and the Spaniards and criollos
directly took over the land and organized agricultural production, the
encomiendas evolved into 'haciendas'.  (Given technical conditions that
demanded an extensive exploitation of the land, the haciendas had to be
latifundios.  After the Mexican independence in the early 19th century,
smaller haciendas and vaquerías in central and northern Mexico had a better
chance).  You suggest that the haciendas existed only or mainly to supply
the foreign market.  This is a very shaky hypothesis.

There was certainly production for the foreign market, but obviously that
had to be limited to products that endured trans-Atlantic shipping (grains
and raw materials like henequen or cotton).  Dairy products, vegetables,
fresh meat, and fruits could not make it.  If you look at the ruins of a
typical colonial hacienda in central or northern Mexico, it's obvious that
production was very diversified.  There's a sense of self-sufficiency in
them.  Obviously, historians dwell on foreign trade statistics, because they
exist.  The Crown got handsome revenues from tariffs that the Viceroyalty
collected at the ports.  Their collection system was relatively
well-organized and the data exist.  But that should not lead us to ignore
that a lot (probably most) of the output of the haciendas was intended for
the domestic market and for self-consumption.  If you look at the colonial
cities built in the period in central and northern Mexico, it's obvious that
there was a relatively large and growing domestic market.  The haciendas
supplied the towns with agricultural products.

Now, even if -- as you suggest -- the reason of existence of New Spain's
haciendas was its integration to the world market, still that doesn't mean
that the mode of production in the haciendas was capitalist.  They were
capitalists only in the sense that they produced a sizable chunk of their
produce for the market, local and foreign.  IMO, the comparison with the
feudal system(s?) in Europe and Asia may be useful, but what matters is that
-- whatever the peculiarities of the mode of production in the haciendas --
the labor employed in them was forced labor.  There was not a meaningful
labor market and wage system in place.

> > Latifundistas exploited 'cheap labor' OR 'for direct export to the
> > metropolises'?  What do you mean 'or'?
>They are technically the same thing. It was with the exploitation of cheap
>labor in the periphery that surplus was transferred to the core. The
>citation should be self-explanatory.

IMO, they are not the same thing.  And the citation is not self-explanatory.

>Where are the authors saying that _pre_ and _post_ revolutionary
>latifudismos were technically the _same_ social structures? What they are
>rather implying is that latifundismo did not entirely disappear with the
>agrarian reform after the1930s. It was _renewed_ or _reconstructed_ with
>new varieties of  social relations  building upon previous ones.

To be meaningful, the term 'latifundismo' must refer to some economic
structure (social relations) based on certain technical conditions.  By
saying that 'latifundismo' was 'renewed' or 'reconstructed', one is saying
that the old and the new are -- in some sense (technical or social) -- the
same thing.  Only if by 'latifundismo' one means concentration of land
property at large scale, your assertion makes sense.  This would imply that
the concentrations of large plots of land in the US Midwest are also
latifundios.  But obviously you didn't mean it in this sense.

Large privately-owned farms in modern Mexico are overwhelmingly based on the
capitalist mode of production.  Labor is wage labor, there is a labor
market, and capitalist owners are constantly revolutionizing the technical
conditions.  Except for the fact that we're talking about agricultural
products and the use of large extensions of land, the mode of production in
the new "latifundios" has nothing to do with the mode of production in the
latifundios in colonial Mexico and little to do with the mode of production
in the latifundios in pre-revolutionary Mexico.

The true latifundios in pre-revolutionary Mexico were split into much
smaller pieces by the land reform.  A good chunk of that was allotted to
Indian peasants, in some cases because they had historical rights over them
in the form of 'ejidos' and 'comunidades'.  But the true antecedent of
modern capitalist agriculture in Mexico must be sought for not in the
latifundios, but in the smaller 'haciendas' organized on the basis of the
'American farm model' in the region called La Laguna (Coahuila and Durango)
and, to a lesser extent, in El Bajío.  That these farms had little in common
with the latifundios is witnessed by the sharp social contradictions between
them.  Historians (e.g., Friederich Katz) have established that the source
of the revolutionary movement against latifundios in northern and central
Mexico came MAINLY from these farmers, some of whom armed their workers to
join the revolution.  So, there's a clear historical break between the
latifundios in pre-revolutionary Mexico and modern capitalist agriculture.

So, even in terms of the size of the property, it's obvious that today's
Mexican capitalist farms are one or two orders of magnitude smaller than the
latifundios in pre-revolutionary Mexico.  Where are in today's Mexico the
"latifundios" that can be meaningfully compared with the ones of the
Terrazas family in Chihuahua or of the García-Pimentel family in Morelos?
You won't find them.

The true traces of the old latifundio in Mexico are to be found, not in
Mexico's modern capitalist agriculture, but in the south, where something
more akin to the plantation system survived.  The Kantors and the
Castellanos are the true 'latifundistas' in modern Mexico.  But that won't
last long, largely thanks to the Indian struggle under the EZLN.
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