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6. Faith and Culture

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6. Faith and Culture

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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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2. Laredo’s Leaders

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2. Laredo’s Leaders

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olitics and the weather are probably the most talked about topics everywhere. While we can not do much about the second, we consistently try not to let the first interfere with our lives too much, or else we try to figure out ways in which we can use the current political situation to our advantage. A civilized society can not really exist without government, but in the long run the government can be successful only insofar as the citizens themselves have something to say about it.

How did all of this affect the local situation in Laredo?

Spain was a monarchy and as such had established a highly centralized system that was used throughout the Spanish empire. The chain of command was clear and authority unquestioned. Leaders at various levels considered themselves little kings and they often used their positions to influence events or situations and some of them were not above fattening their bankrolls in whatever way possible. There are archival documents forbidding the sale of vacant positions.1

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8. Communications

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8. Communications

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he history of Laredo found in the archives exists first of all because there were continuous efforts to preserve the documents, including those mentioned at the beginning of this book. Secondly, it exists because there was reasonably good communication between the various towns and particularly with the capital of the department or province, which transmitted its own official documents and those that came from

Mexico City. The local officials filed away the various contracts, deeds, wills, and other legal documents and each mayor passed these on to his successor. The vast majority of the documents, however, and especially in the earlier years, came from the Crown, federal, or state officials who also disseminated the decrees of the legislatures. The fact that they are still extant says something about the way in which they got from one place to another. People went from place to place, too, which is another kind of communication.

The Laredoans themselves did not live in a totally isolated world though they consistently complained of being neglected and forgotten. No one, of course, could move about freely in colonial times without permission. Those who came from Spain had to have permission to leave the country and the passenger lists provide wonderful genealogical information. But even in the American colonies it was necessary

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1. 1789

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4. 1828

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4. 18285

T

he town of San Agustín de Laredo belongs to the State of

Tamaulipas in the Mexican federation. It was founded the 25th of August, 1755 and in the twelfth year of its existence it was given the land for six leagues around it from the center in all directions, recognizing at the same time as its jurisdictional limit the open territory of some 20 leagues: to the North, up to the Nueces river; to the south, along the banks of the Rio Grande to the 75 sections granted to the deceased

Citizen José Vásquez Borrego who at the time had three thriving ranches which today are deserted because of the devastation of the War. It

[Laredo] is located on the north bank of the Rio Grande, distant from the capital to the south by some 150 leagues, and from the closest town Ciudad Guerrero, also to the south, by some 20 leagues. Going southwest it is 30 leagues to the town of Vallecillo; to the west there are 35 leagues to Lampasos in the state of Nuevo León. To the northwest it is 40 leagues to the town of Guerrero in the state of Coahuila.

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