A Culture of Everyday Credit: Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750-1920

A Culture of Everyday Credit: Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750-1920

A Culture of Everyday Credit: Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750-1920

A Culture of Everyday Credit: Housekeeping, Pawnbroking, and Governance in Mexico City, 1750-1920

Synopsis

Pawning was the most common credit mechanism in Mexico City in the nineteenth century. A diverse, largely female pawning clientele from lower- and middle-class households regularly secured small consumption loans by hocking household goods. A two-tiered sector of public and private pawnbrokers provided collateral credit. Rather than just providing emergency subsistence for the poor, pawnbroking facilitated consumption by Creole and mestizo middle sectors of Mexican society and enhanced identity formation for those in middling households by allowing them to cash in on material investments to maintain status during lean times.A Culture of Everyday Creditshows how Mexican women have depended on credit to run their households since the Bourbon era and how the collateral credit business of pawnbroking developed into a profitable enterprise built on the demand for housekeeping loans as restrictions on usury waned during the nineteenth century.Pairing the study of household consumption with a detailed analysis of the rise of private and public pawnbroking provides an original context for understanding the role of small business in everyday life. Marie Eileen Francois weighs colonial reforms, liberal legislation, and social revolution in terms of their impact on households and pawning businesses.Based on evidence from pawnshop inventories, censuses, legislation, petitions, literature, and newspapers,A Culture of Everyday Creditportrays households, small businesses, and government entities as intersecting arenas in one material world, a world strapped for cash throughout most of the century and turned upside down during the Mexican Revolution.Marie Eileen Francois is an associate professor of history at Auburn University.

Excerpt

In 1802 an embroidered shawl sat in hock for six months in Mexico City. Its owner, Gertrudis Castillo, a white fifteen-year-old woman from Guadalajara, pawned it for a loan of four pesos at the Monte de Piedad, a public charitable pawnshop. a century later in a private neighborhood pawnshop, a customer listed as “Morena” hocked a string of corals and a silver thimble for a loan of twenty-five centavos, while another identified as “Perez” pawned two pairs of irons for loans of eighty-seven centavos and one peso respectively. Regular small-scale collateral-credit relationships constituted a fundamental continuity in the material history of Mexico City for hundreds of years. This book examines popular credit and the material culture in which it was embedded from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Since at least the 1600s, the most common way for middling as well as poor residents to raise cash in the specie-starved economy of Mexico City was to pawn material possessions such as clothing, tools, and jewels. the regularity of pawning was so much a part of the city’s material culture—so everyday—that a pawnshop found its way onto a popular board game in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Figure 1 reproduces an 1869 version of the popular Juego de la Oca (Goose Game) called “El Camino del Curato o Sea La Oca de la Orquesta” (The Road to the Rectory or It Could Be the Goose of the Orchestra), in which players would advance and backtrack with throws of the dice on thirty-four squares around the game board. the squares of this particular version of the game depict different aspects of political and material culture in Mexico City at midcentury, and the “Montepío” (Pawnshop) in square twenty-one represents a crucial intersection of economy, politics . . .

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