Social Stratification in Central Mexico, 1500-2000

Social Stratification in Central Mexico, 1500-2000

Social Stratification in Central Mexico, 1500-2000

Social Stratification in Central Mexico, 1500-2000

Synopsis

In Aztec and colonial Central Mexico, every individual was destined for lifelong placement in a legally defined social stratum or estate. Social mobility became possible after independence from Spain in 1821 and increased after the 1910-1920 Revolution. By 2000, the landed aristocracy that was for long Mexico's ruling class had been replaced by a plutocracy whose wealth derives from manufacturing, commerce, and finance-but rapid growth of the urban lower classes reveals the failure of the Mexican Revolution and subsequent agrarian reform to produce a middle-class majority. These evolutionary changes in Mexico's class system form the subject of Social Stratification in Central Mexico, 1500-2000, the first long-term, comprehensive overview of social stratification from the eve of the Spanish Conquest to the end of the twentieth century. The book is divided into two parts. Part One concerns the period from the Spanish Conquest of 1521 to the Revolution of 1910. The authors depict the main features of the estate system that existed both before and after the Spanish Conquest, the nature of stratification on the haciendas that dominated the countryside for roughly four centuries, and the importance of race and ethnicity in both the estate system and the class structures that accompanied and followed it. Part Two portrays the class structure of the post-revolutionary period (1920 onward), emphasizing the demise of the landed aristocracy, the formation of new upper and middle classes, the explosive growth of the urban lower classes, and the final phase of the Indian-mestizo transition in the countryside.

Excerpt

This book presents the first longitudinal and comprehensive overview of social stratification in Central Mexico, embracing the time span from just before the Spanish Conquest up to the present (1500– 2000). Central Mexico was the heartland of the Aztec Empire when the Spaniards arrived in 1519, and it is still the country’s economic and political motor. It comprises the present states of Guerrero, México, Morelos, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Puebla, and Veracruz, as well as the Federal District (Distrito Federal), which includes Mexico City (see Maps 1 and 2). Although Central Mexico encompasses only 11.3 percent of the national territory, its 41.5 million inhabitants in 2000 constituted 42.6 percent of the national population of 97.5 million (INEGI 2003: 5–9).

We combine historical and ethnographic materials to construct our portrait of this core area. Students of Mexican anthropology and history will be familiar with Nutini’s more than forty-five years of ethnographic work in the area, some fifteen of them devoted specifically to social class (see Nutini 1995, 2004, 2005). His rich experience is complemented by Isaac’s historical research on the Aztec and early colonial periods, as well as his firsthand observations of Mexican politics and economics, especially among the lower-middle and working classes of Mexico City, during the past twenty years. in short, our approach is eminently anthropological, combining structured interviews and participant observation, but it also reaches deeply into history.

In both Mexico and the United States, the social stratification system that frames every individual’s worldview and life chances remains poorly understood, even among highly educated people. This is so because—in . . .

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