Hijos del Pueblo

[ History ]

Hijos del Pueblo

Gender, Family, and Community in Rural Mexico, 1730-1850

By Deborah E. Kanter

An extraordinary window into the colonial world of Mexico’s Tenango del Valle, bringing to life the daily interactions of a fascinating rural community.

2009

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6 x 9 | 165 pp. | 2 maps, 5 tables

ISBN: 978-0-292-72156-2

The everyday lives of indigenous and Spanish families in the countryside, a previously under-explored segment of Mexican cultural history, are now illuminated through the vivid narratives presented in Hijos del Pueblo ("offspring of the village"). Drawing on neglected civil and criminal judicial records from the Toluca region, Deborah Kanter revives the voices of native women and men, their Spanish neighbors, muleteers, and hacienda peons to showcase their struggles in an era of crisis and uncertainty (1730-1850).

Engaging and meaningful biographies of indigenous villagers, female and male, illustrate that no scholar can understand the history of Mexican communities without taking gender seriously. In legal interactions native plaintiffs and Spanish jurists confronted essential questions of identity and hegemony. At once an insightful consideration of individual experiences and sweeping paternalistic power constructs, Hijos del Pueblo contributes important new findings to the realm of gender studies and the evolution of Latin America.

  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1. "Like Three Feet in One Shoe": The Toluca Region, 1730-1821
  • 2. Hijos del Pueblo: The Limits of Community
  • 3. "In Compliance with Marital Obligations": Women, Men, and Married Life
  • 4. "Not in the Street": Households and the Meanings of Kinship
  • 5. Scandalous Men and Intrepid Women
  • 6. Neither Alone nor Free: Women in Depósito
  • 7. From Fathers to Stepfathers: Life after Independence
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

In the Mexican countryside people often used the phrase, hijos del pueblo. Translated as "offspring of the village," the phrase evokes the vital relationship between family and community in past times and suggests the importance of birthplace in rural society. This kinship metaphor also signifies that a native individual owed deference to the larger community and that the community had responsibilities to its wards.

The translation of hijos del pueblo into English, however, is not so simple. As the phrase was used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, "sons and daughters of the village" may be more accurate. Yet in some documents, the phrase refers only to village sons. The very ambiguity of the plural, hijos, almost winks at us, inviting an examination of the differences between being male and female.

Together with ethnicity, this study advances gender as a central division—"a useful category of historical analysis"—in rural Mexican society. This emphasis on gender implicitly critiques many canonical works on the ethnohistory of Mexico. Charles Gibson and James Lockhart, for example, present meticulous, thoughtful re-creations of how colonial Indian communities worked. Yet by neglecting the essential role of gender, their studies tell an incomplete story. Gender opens up and enriches important topics such as community membership, land tenure, criminality, morality, and the judicial system.

Using gender as a lens on Indian village life implies that women had a different experience from men, not a separate one. In these villages men and women depended on each other, shared a culture, and joined in struggles against outsiders. Although women held significant kinds of power, they hardly stood on equal ground with their male kin and neighbors. Local political structures did not include women. Norms about female subordination and morality placed restrictions on their behavior. Patrilocal residence patterns often isolated women from their natal families, barrios, and villages, thus exposing them to abuse without easy recourse to protection. Being born a daughter or a son had important consequences for "hijos del pueblo." This book explores how gender and family colored community and public life in rural central Mexico.

Place, Region, and Chronology

My research focuses on a specific locality: the Tenango del Valle district in the highland Valley of Toluca. Situated just west of the Valley of Mexico, the Toluca area typifies the central regions of Mexico in terms of the timing and nature of conquest, linkage to the colonial economy, and proximity to Mexico City.

Yet relative success at maintaining community lands and the small number of non-Indian residents (compared to the Valley of Mexico) allowed many village structures and indigenous customs to endure until the late nineteenth century. The region's Indian majority lived in their natal pueblos, bound by ancestry, access to land, and local customs. Most Indians supported themselves by farming on private and village lands. They retained distinctive garb and hairstyles, continued to speak native languages, and, with rare exception, did not marry non-Indians. Although they traveled to supplement their incomes, permanent migration from one's home village was uncommon.

The term Indian, English for indio, appears often in this book. Although indio bore some disparaging connotations in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Mexico, it was also commonly employed to refer to a legal category. In disputes over land or governance, ethnicity mattered a great deal. Both Spanish jurists and native plaintiffs used indio to designate and claim certain rights in the highly ethnocentric and hierarchical colonial world. On a daily basis the people discussed here identified most with their pueblo (e.g., "los naturales de Tenango del Valle"). Yet when native villagers approached the judicial system, they understood that identifying themselves as indios was proper, efficacious, and potentially beneficial. Indio was an acceptable and meaningful term in what James C. Scott calls the "public transcripts" of the colonial world.

The language-based labels—Nahua, for example—that have become popular in recent scholarship do not appear in the documents I consulted. Furthermore, this label would hardly describe the multiethnic population of the Toluca region, which included Othomí and Mazahua speakers. The more common term used in public discourse today in Mexico—indígena—began to appear in more elite writings after independence. In daily speech, however, indio has persisted well beyond the colonial period.

The Indian majority of the Toluca region was culturally distinct but not isolated from others in early Mexico. A substantial non-Indian minority of Spanish and mestizo farmers and townspeople had lived in the Toluca region since the sixteenth century, especially in the head towns. The level of interaction between Indians and their Hispanic neighbors had vastly increased by the late colonial period. Beyond the head towns, separate Indian settlements remained the rule. Regular dealings also took place between some forty Indian villages and the vast Atengo estates, owned by the counts of Santiago, and its employees.

This study takes a distinctly local, even microhistorical approach: I focus on a handful of villages and a single hacienda and their families. I bring to bear knowledge of local socioeconomic conditions, demography, settlement patterns, religious life, and politics in and around the Tenango district to interpret family and other face-to-face relations in a comprehensive way.

Chronologically, this book takes on the challenge of considering the late colonial, independence, and early national periods—from about 1730 to 1850. Given my goal of documenting cultural change in gender, family, and mentalités, beginning or ending with the traditional chronological boundary of political independence (1810 or 1821) made little sense. An examination of the "middle period" offers a more fruitful approach to rural history. Compared to city dwellers, rural Mexicans seldom felt governmental reforms or institutional changes immediately. Thus looking at a longer span of time and assigning a less defining role to political chronology seems more appropriate to the pace and nature of rural social change. As colonial land tenure patterns shaped Indian communities, continuity rather than change characterized life in the Toluca region until the Ley Lerdo, the desamortization law of 1856.

Continuity, however, did not preclude upheavals of various sorts. The period was marked by population growth, numerous subsistence crises, rising food prices, administrative changes, the secularization of parishes, the unprecedented mayhem of the independence wars, and adjustments to government by the Mexican state—phenomena that occurred throughout New Spain.

Population growth conspicuously affected communities and family life in Tenango. An expanding Indian and Hispanic population created a situation of crowding that would continue throughout the nineteenth century. Porfirian statistics would show Tenango as the most densely populated district in the state of Mexico. Crowding provoked bitter inheritance disputes and increased reliance on nonagricultural pursuits to supplement household incomes. Crowding raised the stakes in ongoing disputes between the Atengo estates and neighboring villages. It also further restricted female landholding.

The independence wars (1810-1821) and their aftermath also changed certain aspects of rural life. The social and political ideals of Hidalgo and Morelos's movement found little support in the Toluca region. Indians there appeared less interested in effecting revolutionary change than in righting specific, local wrongs of recent decades. Their preoccupation with local issues such as land tenure and political autonomy continued into the national era. Yet the wars upset everyday life, provoking a notable rise in banditry. The increased level of fear and insecurity among common people did not subside after 1821. The weak Mexican government did not succeed in changing life in the countryside as intended, but its very instability and the abolition of a separate, protected status for Indians bred new uncertainties for rural Mexicans of all ranks.

The illustration on this book's cover encapsulates the uncertainty and degradation of postindependence native life. In an 1855-1856 collection, Casimiro Castro and J. Campillo portray the road from Tacubaya to Chapultepec, near Mexico City. The liberal writer Florencio M. del Castillo's companion text emphasizes the Indians' traditional dress, their poverty, and their generally degraded position as dispossessed, threatened people, who were "even converted into beasts of burden." The women, del Castillo asserts, "work more than the men, and they cover great distances to Mexico City to sell some miserable merchandise that they carry on their backs in the company of their little children." The artists notably depict Indian women and men on the road, well beyond the more secure confines of the pueblo or the home.

Order and Patriarchy

The maintenance of order in Mexico was a primary concern across the period 1730-1850, first for Bourbon officials, then for military officers, and finally for national and state politicians. Bourbon bureaucrats and churchmen saw a society in crisis. Myriad pastoral letters, priests' manuals, and viceregal decrees aimed to stem a seeming flood of vagrants, beggars, half-dressed women, drunken Indians, and abusive estate owners. The painting genre sistema de castas (caste system) popular in eighteenth-century Mexico similarly suggested that the erosion of ethnic divisions was driving society to the brink. Colonial authorities sought to contain this disorder by stressing the proper place for different orders of Mexicans. The Bourbons' alarmist descriptions create a seductive portrait of colonial social disorder, but elites tell only part of the story of crisis and change.

The vast majority of Mexicans lived in the countryside. They too perceived a decline in order, but their concerns differed. Rural Mexicans voiced their concerns in petitions for justice, fights between neighbors, and anonymous misspelled placards. They decried ever scarcer lands and forests, their ongoing impoverishment, and the arrival of ethnic strangers in their communities. Bourbon bishops and intendants disrupted local customs by trying to impose reglas fijas (fixed rules).

Disorder reached new heights in 1810 when both Hidalgo's insurgents and royalist troops created havoc for farming folk. Taking advantage of the chaos, masked bandits plagued the countryside long after Mexico's independence in 1821. Rural people found order and justice harder to attain, given the governmental instability that prevailed for decades.

Although government authorities and rural people understood the decline of order in different terms, they agreed that social stability required a patriarchal system of rule, that is, rule predicated on hierarchy and assuming the inferiority and debility not only of women but also of most individuals. Where the father rules, all those under his government are, to varying degrees, minors. These minors include women, servants, the young, the poor, and the ignorant—all of whom require the patriarch's leadership, corrective hand, protection, and example of moral rectitude. In colonial Mexico patriarchy assumed an additional racial dimension. Spaniards saw Indians as childlike, weak, and feminine and so justified their subordinate position for centuries after conquest. This book explores the many different social realms in which patriarchy, a gendered system of rule and power, shaped people's lives.

The men and women of rural Mexico called on many local authorities as fathers. An alcalde mayor (district officer) or a priest often called common people his hijos, or children. In turn, commoners might seek his help as a padre, or father. A Spanish teniente de justicia (deputy district magistrate), hoping to curb what he perceived as excessive drinking at a village fiesta, ordered villagers to the Indian alcalde's house by declaring, "Children, come with me." These words may sound patronizing to our ears, but villagers themselves also used this language, at least in the public arena. Asked about their Spanish teniente, one pueblo's officers reported that they had experienced "only a loving kindness with which he treats the hijos, efficiently correcting those who deserve it."

With patriarchy, then, came expectations of a paternal, or fatherly, style of rule. Paternalism colored relations within native communities, as typical exchanges between village government (república) officers and villagers show. One village gobernador (governor) explained that Indian officials should "paternally correct and punish" those Indians accused of minor crimes. Another gobernador helped a woman maintain her lands, warning that otherwise she might desert the pueblo, "like many others have because past gobernadores neither cared for nor tended to them." The commonly used term hijos del pueblo connotes the ideal relationship between república officers, the village fathers, and the rest of the pueblo, the children.

The Conde de Santiago, owner of the expansive Atengo estates near Tenango, lived in Mexico City but saw himself as the district's patriarch. To that end the Conde struck a paternal pose vis-à-vis surrounding pueblos. Atengo administrators offered certain favors (such as access to pastures) to villages willing to provide allegiance and services to the Conde's estates. In 1793 the Indians of Metepec declared they owed the Conde gratitude, as "Father and Protector of our pueblo."

During the Conde's sporadic personal visits to Atengo, this fatherly pose was manifested in a display of domination and subordination. From Mexico City the Conde would send word of his impending visit to his administrator, who in turn told his workers, who then notified the nearby pueblos. As the Conde's entourage approached Atengo, villagers would greet him with flowers and music and converge on the estate, bearing gifts of fowl and fruit. During his stay, the Conde would visit neighboring pueblos "with great show and accompanied by friends and adulators, many attendants and employees." On one occasion, some república officers ordered the church bells rung as the Conde's convoy passed by. As the entourage entered each pueblo, it was met with "a great fuss of music, fireworks, and flowers." Descending from his carriage, the Conde himself handed a peso to the gobernador and two or three reales to other officers. He then asked, referring to the pueblo, "Children, to whom does this belong?" His retinue responded, "To Señor Conde de Santiago" or "To our Father the Señor Conde." At that point the Conde threw a few handfuls of half-real coins into the crowd of Indians.6

These performances in the dusty hamlets bordering the Atengo estates offer a prime example of the "public transcript." As Scott points out, such acting occurs from both sides: "If subordination requires a credible performance of humility and deference, so domination seems to require a credible performance of haughtiness and mastery." Despite decades of bitter disputes between the land-hungry pueblos and the avaricious estate, villagers participated in these periodic shows of the Conde's authority as the region's patriarch and his paternal benevolence. Many of the individuals who were present surely perceived the contradictions embodied in these displays. Yet the Conde and the villagers publicly reenacted this patriarchal ritual year after year to foster certain expectations and deference among the villagers.

As a modern reader of historical documents, I cannot help but wonder to what extent the language of fatherly rule was mainly rhetorical. Or did it, in fact, reflect an embedded model of social relations? Even if such words were only words, people throughout Mexican society found advantages in them: this language softened the disparities between the ruler and the ruled and implied their mutual obligations.

Patriarchy can function only if people accept the ruler's authority and their place as minors, awaiting his judgment and charity. For the most part, common people in Mexico accepted this hierarchical rule. As long as officials tended to their needs, they agreed to their subordinate position in the relationship. One Indian widow, for example—poor, burdened with children, sick, and facing a week's service in a nearby hacienda's kitchen—found herself incapable of changing this situation. She went to the alcalde mayor and reminded him of his obligation to help her by saying, "You are my Father." If an authority acted too zealously, people criticized his excesses but not the fatherly tone of his dominion. As Cheryl Martin argues, "Patriarchy furnished a relatively stable, non-negotiable set of governing principles even when all other rules came into question."

It is tempting to see patriarchy challenged in certain cases: for example, when disinherited women petitioned for their share of an inheritance or when a disgruntled wife served a meal to her husband in a surly manner. But such actions did not challenge patriarchy per se; they only aimed to correct harsh or unjust situations. Although women protested individual grievances, they seldom attacked the patriarchal system that fostered the injustices.

In sum, patriarchies of all sorts underlay rural Mexican society. We might conceive of a "patchwork of patriarchies" at work: overlapping hierarchies based on distinct criteria of gender, ethnicity, wealth, age, and colonialism. Subordinates accepted authorities' actions when they were considered just. In this way, order was maintained in rural Mexico.

Colonial Contexts and Methodology

The scholarship on both ethnohistory and Iberian history provides the context for this study, which seeks to add to scholarship on Mesoamerican ethnohistory by documenting the changing meaning of being Indian in the late colonial and early national period. Indians constituted about 90 percent of the Toluca region's population in the late eighteenth century. But the Indians of central Mexico did not exist in isolation. Mexican Indian culture reflected three centuries of colonial rule and interaction with Spanish priests, merchants, and judges. More mundane relations with creole and African neighbors also influenced colonial Indians.

Thus this study considers rural Mexico as part of the early modern Iberian world, albeit with distinct, autochthonous traditions. In their preoccupations and actions, the Indians of central Mexico may strike readers as remarkably similar to the peasants of early modern, especially Mediterranean, Europe. Indeed, Indians shared a great deal with their non-Indian neighbors.

For example, Mexicans of all ranks idealized an order that divided space along gender lines. Women belonged in the house or other secure places; men navigated the more dangerous world of the street. This spatial conception of order and gender was not unique to Mexico but was manifest throughout Latin American and Iberian societies. Given the prevalence of the house/street ideal in early modern Iberia, one might suppose that colonial Indians upheld the concept as inculcated by the Spanish. Ethnohistorical work, however, suggests similar conceptions of space existed in precontact Mesoamerica. But the purpose and ramifications of the Aztec notion of separate or parallel spheres shifted after conquest, reflecting the Catholic emphasis on protecting female chastity. The tension that developed between the house/street ideal and the realities of rural Mexico underlies much of this book. We can best understand this persistent aspect of Mexican culture by drawing on two historiographic traditions, early modern European history and ethnohistory.

Diverse judicial records located at the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN) and the Archivo Judicial del Estado de México (AJEM) form the basis of this study. These records resound with the voices of Indian men and women, their Spanish neighbors, muleteers, and hacienda peons. This book captures the stories of the poor, the illiterate, and the speakers of native languages.

The tribunals that produced most of the documentation used here require some explanation. Under colonial rule, an alcalde mayor (later a subdelegado) or his assistants judged local cases. These district officers performed a range of state functions and often had no training in law. When faced with an unclear case, they sometimes sought the expert opinion of a jurist in Toluca or Mexico City. Local decisions could be appealed or even bypassed by bringing a case to the Real Audiencia or, for Indian subjects, the General Indian Court. With the 1812 Spanish Constitution and after independence, the juez de letras (a person schooled in law) replaced the subdelegado as judge. Whereas the local courts continued to function similarly after 1821, the system of extralocal appeal soon eroded.

Spanish law rested on the opinion of a judge or judges, not that of a jury. Cases came before men who were españoles, if not peninsulares (as was the general rule in the high courts of the late Bourbon period). People expected judges to act paternally, to dispense justice personally to the underprivileged and mistreated. Spanish legal tradition also promoted this role. Colonial rule likewise emphasized the judge's and high official's role as father to Indian subjects.

Woodrow Borah's study of the General Indian Court concludes that royal appointees usually reviewed cases involving Indians impartially and often leaned toward protecting Indian rights. Biased review was more common in local tribunals because the district officer and provincial elites maintained social and business links. Yet my reading of local cases from Tenango del Valle shows a high degree of judicial fairness and support for Indian rights, at least during the colonial period.

Indians believed in the courts' ability to right personal wrongs and to protect their prerogatives. Even minor disputes could bring people before the district judge or one of his assistants to issue a complaint. The people of the Toluca region gained a deserved reputation as litigious. The endless petitions, testimonies, and tales they produced form the bedrock of this book.

As opposed to notarial records and personal letters that document propertied individuals, court records reflect all levels of society. District-level cases often have a spontaneous quality. With the blood barely dry on a knife or an insult still ringing in a person's ears, someone often went straight to the local magistrate to make a report. The magistrate's secretary recorded these declarations (often filtered first through a translator). Despite the official process whereby the cases were assembled, testimonies include crude phrases, remnants of Nahuatl, unflattering confessions, or discursive storytelling that allow the original voices to be heard. The clear, logical entreaties penned by a lawyer or a schooled person easily distinguish themselves from a lone commoner's unpolished declaration. Judicial records generally allow us to approach common people of past times and to hear their concerns, logic, metaphors, and figures of speech.

These court cases greatly enhance our knowledge of rural social relations. Careful reading can reveal how people addressed one another, what activities they shared, how they celebrated, what they bought and sold, and how they might construct an insult. Domestic abuse cases, for example, can reveal a great deal: each spouse's work, the disciplining of children, whether families ate together, and with whom they socialized.

Judicial records present a means to study the relationship between institutional power and gender. While historians have explored how ethnicity affected the judicial process in colonial Mexico, how judges viewed female and male subjects deserves further study. Women often tried to take advantage of their supposedly weaker character to gain the court's paternal mercy. For example, when Rosalia Gil, a humble widow of unstated ethnicity (which suggests she was a mestiza), faced losing a lease, she argued that she needed the land more than Lorenzo, an Indian:

Lorenzo is a man, he has opportunities, means, he could subsist in other ways, and for his race [calidad] and rank, with a little he has a lot. I, on the contrary, am a woman, widowed, with children. Consequently I lack the countless resources that a man has by his sex and that hers denies a woman.

This 1801 petition warned that if denied her status as the preferred tenant, she would be "thrown out of her house and forced to beg asylum elsewhere." Clearly, in forming their argument, Gil and her lawyer assumed that no judge would place a respectable widow and mother in such a vulnerable position.

Indian women could emphasize their pitiful position as both females and Indians. In a dispute over his late sister's land, an Indian argued that she had failed to properly defend family interests for, "because of her sex, as well as her calidad and language, she was unable to make herself understood." Given the many Indian women who proved quite capable of representing themselves in court, the brother likely exaggerated. Yet he apparently hoped the judge would agree that Indian women were inept and thus deserved mercy. Spanish judges favorably reviewed such arguments by Indian widows.

Judicial records present certain drawbacks, however. Reliance on these official sources leads historians to neglect other, more informal means of mediation common in rural Mexico. Hints of an entire judicial substratum can be discerned in formal documents. Most of these judgments were never committed to paper. República officers or the parish priest mediated many local disputes. While my sources do not detail this level of justice, cases often mention that individuals charged with drunkenness or insolence would face imprisonment in a pueblo's zepo (cell, stocks) or the gobernador's house, or, for women, depósito (enclosure) in a private home.

Despite familiarity with the legal process among rural Indians, for them justice might stray from the letter of law. Spanish legal tradition was largely uncodified (with the important exception of the Recopilación) and thus allowed customary procedures to develop. Law, for example, mandated that a notary should draft wills. But in Indian pueblos (which often lacked notaries), the república officers' presence was considered sufficient for a will to be binding. This custom allowed Indian villagers to deviate from the Hispanic principle of partible inheritance. A few Indians neglected legal heirs altogether. While Crown-appointed officers (and later, state appointees) mediated most of the cases discussed in this study, one must bear in mind the existence and influence of local, customary legal procedures.

The historian must consider too the possible manipulation of facts to cater to the judge's beliefs. Even without a lawyer, common people inevitably changed their stories, stressing certain aspects, omitting others, and playing on the court's notions of, say, female virtue or Indian naïveté.

In sum, I hesitate to take these judicial records as simple revelations of fact. But I also do not dismiss them as mere fabrications. I am concerned in this study less with guilt or innocence than with how common people constructed their accusations and defenses, their "fictions," sometimes with lawyers, and how judges received them. When people exaggerated or even invented parts of their stories, they did so hoping their tales would be believed. The drunkenness argument advanced by Indians, for example, did seem to gain some leniency from Spanish judges. Likewise, husbands accused of beating or even killing their wives usually mentioned that their wives had provoked their jealousy and thus rage. This scenario may have been true for many; more important, though, common people knew that a judge would agree that a woman who invited her husband's jealousy deserved his ire. These manipulations perhaps distort "what really happened," but they tell a great deal about the logic and values of people living in a colonial society.

Court cases have certainly led me to overplay conflict and deviance in rural Mexico. For my analysis of married life, for example, I had few reports of compatible couples. Instead, I had to examine the detailed and blood-chilling stories of wife beating that do tell a great deal about married life. I try to use such cases not to focus on violence but rather to explore values, roles, and understandings.

The Organization of the Book

In the following chapters I illustrate ways in which gender and family intersected with community and public life in rural Mexico from 1730 to 1850. Chapter 1 introduces the Toluca region and its people, paying particular attention to the region's population growth, competition for land, pressures on late colonial Indian villages, and local ramifications of the independence wars. Chapter 2 concentrates on changes within Indian pueblos, discussing forms of association and gender and social differences in each type of settlement. I examine land tenure issues to uncover the limited nature of community in Indian pueblos.

I then move into the homes and families of rural Mexico. In Chapter 3, on married life, I discuss the expectations that women and men had of each other and the way in which changing economic and social demands hindered the ideal balance between spouses. Chapter 4 considers the relationship between household and family. Here I contrast the intimate relations an individual might have with family members, servants, friends, or neighbors.

In the final chapters I return to the larger public sphere to illustrate how gender differences figured into rural social relations and the maintenance of order. Chapter 5 tells three cautionary tales of everyday conflict to suggest how early Mexico accepted patriarchy as the model of order. Chapter 6 examines law and society's attitude toward women. The wide use of depósito in the countryside shows how the patriarchal order endorsed the protection of women, yet censured much female conduct. Chapter 7 concludes by linking the issues of community, order, family, and gender to appraise change in the postindependence Mexican countryside.

Abductions, brawls, and curses abound in the following pages. But I urge you to imagine the calmer side of life in rural Mexico. At work: a young wife sweeping her in-laws' patio, boys taking the village livestock into the hills to pasture, a man planting his cornfield. At rest: a mother braiding her daughter's hair on a Sunday afternoon, children playing hopscotch in the street one evening, men drinking and telling stories at the town store. Most days were filled with such activities and in such company for the hijos del pueblo and their neighbors in central Mexico.

By Deborah E. Kanter

Deborah E. Kanter is Associate Professor of History at Albion College in Michigan.

"An exceptionally important contribution to the scholarly literature in Mexican history, culture, and gender studies. . . . Regionally focused and well written—especially in its emphasis on accessible life histories."

—John Tutino, Associate Professor and Chair, History Department, Georgetown University