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Landscapes, Peoples, and Institutions: Constructing the Borderlands

Landscapes, Peoples, and Institutions: Constructing the Borderlands

An International Symposium Sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Southwest

Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas,
Saturday, April 1, 2017
9:30 am – 5 pm
Flowers Hall 230

Constructing the Borderlands

Developments along the US-Mexico Borderlands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had long-lasting effects and contributed decisively to give the region its current configuration. This symposium offers a fresh look at some of the ways in which peoples of diverse ethnic backgrounds and geographical origins adapted to the borderlands environment and to one another during that period. As the conquest and colonization of northern New Spain progressed, crown officials and churchmen endeavored to enhance their knowledge of the land and its indigenous inhabitants, and to extend Spanish civil, military, and religious jurisdictions, social practices, and cultural traditions across the region, often at the expense of native peoples and cultures. The remoteness and harshness of the borderlands setting, the relatively low density of the Hispanic population, and the continuous presence of independent indigenous groups created distinct challenges (and opportunities) for the region’s authorities and residents, favoring the development of distinct borderlands institutions (missions, presidios, haciendas, establecimientos de paz, etc.), and the merger of peoples and cultural traditions.

Chantal Cramaussel - El Colegio de Michoacán | Colonial Cartography of Northern Mexico´s Bolsón de Mapimí
This presentation is the result of archival research as well as intense fieldwork across the endorheic basin known as the “Bolsón de Mapimí” (stretching over parts of Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Durango), to understand its environment and identify the places named in the documentary and cartographic record. In the eighteenth century, as Spaniards established several presidios on the periphery of the Bolsón, the arid region became the object of considerable cartographic attention. Spanish maps, produced largely for military purposes, show the interior of the Bolsón blank, without reflecting the Spaniards´ actual knowledge of the region, which becomes evident in various colonial documents that include many toponyms still in use. For over two centuries, Spaniards had been penetrating the inhospitable Bolsón with three objectives: to collect salt harvested by natives, to hunt wild cattle and mustangs, and to pursue rebellious Indians. Thus, the Bolsón was not simply a “refuge region,” as historians have so far labeled it. This presentation closes with an analysis of Humboldt´s map of New Spain which, given the impossibility of calculating longitude, reduces the extent of the Bolsón and represents it as a zone beyond Spanish control.

José Refugio de la Torre Curiel - Universidad de Guadalajara – El Colegio de Jalisco | Missions and Dioceses of Northern New Spain
This presentation reflects on the manifold forms of interaction that occurred as Spanish settlement expanded toward northern New Spain, as well as on the missions undertaken by members of various religious orders. It also explores the relationship between missionary expansion and the foundation of episcopal sees across northern New Spain. Apart from establishing the cycles of missionary expansion, this presentation discusses the missions´ multiple purposes, explaining in what contexts certain missions became more important as economic centers or as sites of settlement and confinement.

Francis X. Galán - Texas A&M University, San Antonio | Pedro Ramírez and Rosalía: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom on the Eighteenth-Century Texas Frontier
On May 30, 1785, Pedro Ramírez, a free black from Guyana, South America, married Rosalía, a slave from Coahuila, Mexico, in the capital of Texas at San Antonio de Béxar (“San Antonio”). Marriage ceremonies occurred rather frequently on the eighteenth-century Texas frontier, but the backgrounds of this husband and wife appear an anomaly for Spanish colonial society in San Antonio, where Mission Indians, Canary Islanders, and the military formed the nucleus of the community. How did the lives of Pedro and Rosalía come into contact with each other from such distant places? How did they view themselves and those around them? Did marriage bring Rosalía freedom? This presentation seeks to answer these and other questions with the purpose of understanding the complexity and diversity of Hispanic society and culture in colonial Texas just as it exists today. While marriage could bring freedom to slaves and became an important step in the Hispanization process of subjects under Spanish rule through mestizaje, religion, language, and social status, it could also move one in reverse from freedom into coercion and slavery.


María del Valle Borrero Silva - El Colegio de Sonora | The Presidio in the Province of Sonora during the Eighteenth Century
Presidios played a key role in the settlement and defense of the remote provinces of northwestern New Spain (today’s northwestern Mexico and adjacent parts of the US Southwest). Like missions, they were instrumental in the advance and consolidation of Spanish expansion since the late seventeenth century, when the first mestizos, creoles, and peninsulars settled the region. Based mainly on a series of revistas (military inspections) of Sonoran presidios during the eighteenth century, this presentation offers a close look at the population and management of the presidios, explaining also what daily life may have been like in a presidio.

Martín González de la Vara - El Colegio de Michoacán | Surviving Hard Times: The Presidios and the Military Institution in New Mexico, 1821-1846
The traditional historiography on northern New Spain and Mexico argues that frontier institutions such as the mission and the presidio declined after independence, as Mexico’s central government fell into administrative chaos and its northern states and territories stopped receiving subsidies to maintain the presidio system, having to take over their defense institutions. As this presentation argues, in New Mexico, the local military certainly suffered a deep decline until approximately 1835. From then on, however, New Mexican revenues grew consistently, and most of the revenue was used to strengthen the military system. By 1846, there were three presidios and five hundred regular troops in the territory, and the militia forces had been reorganized. This modest but meaningful reinforcement led to better protection of New Mexican interests and a brief frontier expansion.

Salvador Alfredo Álvarez Suárez - El Colegio de Michoacán | The Problem of the Large and Small Estate in Nineteenth-Century Northern New Spain and Mexico
Between approximately 1600 and 1900, the large estate or hacienda was the main instrument of Hispanic settlement in northern New Spain and Mexico, where it also became the principal form of land ownership. This case clearly shows how newly occupied regions neighboring Indian lands and settled by small, militarized, and highly hierarchical communities could not sustain the “farmer” type of settlement prevalent in the nineteenth-century US East and Midwest and argued for in the nineteenth-century Argentinian frontier.  In the borderlands of the Spanish empire, and particularly in northern New Spain and Mexico, colonization based on smallholdings did not occur until the late nineteenth century, and it was of the “ranchero” rather than the “farmer” kind, always dependent on the large estate. As in colonial times, in nineteenth-century northern Mexico the ranch appears not as an “independent” form of property but as an internal, integral part of the large estate, which continued to grow and develop throughout the so called “century of progress.” To illustrate this process, we propose to create an atlas of land ownership in northern Mexico during that period that incorporates the extant geographic charts and maps of haciendas, accompanied with a cartographic synthesis and a general study from the perspective of economic history.

Matthew Babcock - University of North Texas – Dallas | Nantan Yagonglí: Apache Diplomacy During the Last Decades of Spanish Rule
Chihene Ndé (Mimbres Apache) leader Yagonglí, whom Spaniards called Ojos Colorados (Red Eyes), engaged in diplomatic negotiations with Spanish political and military authorities across northern Nueva Vizcaya from 1787 to 1800.  After reaching a peace agreement in May 1790, Yagonglí’s people settled in reservation-like establecimientos (settlements) at Janos, San Buenaventura, and Namiquipa.  Even though Yagonglí engaged in horse raiding and trading while at peace, he was as well the principal informant for Col. Antonio Cordero’s 1796 “Description of the Apache Nation,” providing Spaniards with an extremely accurate and thorough description of Apache culture, social organization, and territory that formed the basis for all subsequent Spanish military reports. Thus, Yagonglí also made a long-lasting contribution to the history and culture of Ndé people.  Combining Spanish archival research, anthropology, and oral history, this paper assesses Yagonglí’s contributions from multiple perspectives.