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7. Making a Living

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7. Making a Living

W

ordsworth wrote, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Most people have no trouble with spending. Getting is another matter. According to the reports from city officials over the years, it would seem that the Laredoans had a hard time earning a living and

“wealth” was not a word applicable to most of them. Like anywhere else in the world, there were the few who were well off and had even abundant possessions, and the majority who struggled in various ways to survive and provide for themselves and their families. This was true from the beginning of Laredo. Tomás Sánchez started his settlement owning more horses and mules than all of the other residents put together.2 This wealth was eventually shared by his descendants who were the “nobles” of the town. In a sense, everyone started out equally when the distribution of land was made in 1767, receiving sections of the same size, except that Sánchez received a section on each side of the river.3 The common pasture lands were also open to everyone. As time went on and the colony expanded, more land became available, but not simply for the taking. The Spanish Crown and later the national and state (provincial, departmental) governments were always concerned about land. There are numerous decrees about ownership, registry, and payment for lands.

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3. 1824

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1824

195

bearing cows, and for sheep and goats for wool and skins 700 heads all belonging to one individual. There are 150 wild mares, 55 offspring of all ages, 115 tame horses and 60 mares. There are no mines of any kind in this jurisdiction since none have been found up to now.

The rest of the inhabitants live from their work serving those who employ them in these tasks. All of the day laborers at determined times such as the sowing, trips as muleteers, roundups of cattle are paid for their work as well as during the times that there are roundups of wild horses.

The war that these inhabitants have suffered from the Indians for more than ten years has despoiled them of goods of all kinds which they had previously and in which all of their capital was invested, leaving them in the greatest indigence that only one who has experienced it at first hand could believe. The few goods that are recorded in the previous notes are from just the past year to this date and for that reason haven’t increased.

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5. Sociological Aspects

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5. Sociological Aspects

E

very October 12 when the United States is commemorating Columbus Day, Mexico is celebrating “Día de la Raza,” the day on which a new “race” was born, a new people created from a mixture of those who came from Europe and those who were native to America. The term used to define this mixture is mestizo. Spain was extremely class conscious, and this was only one of a whole catalogue of new terms that were used to define the blood mixtures of the Spanish colonial people. Even second-generation Spaniards born in America were a separate class and known as Creoles. The colonists who came directly from

Spain were generally known as “peninsulars,” but there were distinctions here, too.

There is a wonderful quotation from Shakespeare that sums up the whole situation: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”1 The “born greats” who came to America were few and for the first century at least were generally viceroys and bishops or persons of high rank. Those who achieved greatness were the conquerors and explorers who more often than not came from the lower classes in Spain but received a certain status because of their exploits and became hidalgos (hijos de algo, literally “sons of something”).2 In America many of them were like the feudal lords

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6. Faith and Culture

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6. Faith and Culture

E

ven in the most primitive of cultures, religious belief has always been central to the way of life. The major feasts and celebrations were times of petition and appeasement to the god or gods who were believed to control things. Prayer and ritual accompanied the most mundane of activities, changes in status, sowing and harvesting, healing and health. Often, ways of doing things, the components of culture, were determined by belief. Faith and culture have always been closely combined.1

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, all of western Europe was Catholic. When some of the nations broke away, Spain remained staunchly firm in the faith and thereafter assumed as its right and responsibility the preservation and spread of Catholicism, especially in its colonies in the New World. At the same time, Spain saw itself as an instrument of bringing civilization to the native peoples whom it qualified with such terms as barbarian, savage, and pagan. Spain was absolutely convinced that these people would be far better off learning the ways of the western world and the truths of the Catholic faith than they could possibly have been otherwise. Much has been written about the mixed motivations of glory, God, and gold, but the fact is that religious ideas continued to permeate practices and policies even into the nineteenth century.

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