Otomi People and Colonization

Otomi People and Colonization (OTOMI Case)

About TED Categories and Clusters
     CASE NUMBER:   298
     CASE NAME:     Otomi People and Colonization


1. The issue

     The conquest of the New World was not only a military or
political conquest. It was also a biological conquest.  The
presence of  chickens, pigs, donkeys, goats, sheep, cattle, horses,
and mules are evidence of an ecological revolution brought about by
the European invasion, that caused a shift in the modes of
production from horticulture to some form of agro-pastoralism. In
turn, the expansion of pastoralism enabled the conquest of the
indigenous populations and the domination of vast areas of rural
space. This paper describes the processes by which the grazing
animals entered and dominated a semiarid New World region,
transforming the physical environment and, as a result, the
traditional natural resources of the indigenous communities.
Specifically, this paper focuses in the environmental and social
consequences of the European entrance into a region of highland
central Mexico, the Valle del Mezquital, and the impact that it had
on the Otomi culture. 

2. Description

     The conquest of the New World can be viewed as a biological
conquest too. Spaniards traveled not only with their horses and war
dogs, but with more ordinary animals such as pigs, chickens, sheep,
goats, and cattle. They also carried with them Old World pathogens.
In addition, the introduced species did not discreetly move into
unoccupied niches - they exploded into huge populations that in one
way or another transformed the biological and social regimes of the
New World. 

     According to the ecological imperialism thesis [2], Europeans
did best in temperate regions where climates similar to Europe
allowed their grazing animals and crops to thrive, and where the
indigenous populations were sparse. That would explain why
Argentina, Canada and the United States, for instance, are still
today distinguished by populations of predominantly European
extraction and by the economic predominance of Old World flora and
fauna. The fact that Mexico, for instance, is mostly dominated by
New World peoples, flora, and fauna, support the thesis in that
Europeans failed to transplant their ecosystem due to the arid

     The apparent environmental continuity we see in the American
tropics is misleading [3]. Despite that the Europeans did not
biologically dominate in much of what we know today as Latin
America, the biological status quo was not maintained. The native
biological regimes underwent radical changes following the
introduction of Old World species, and new landscapes that we now
think of as typically New World were formed.

     The expansion of Old World grazing animals and the demographic
collapse of the indigenous populations were major processes in this
transformation. Diseases endemic to Europe such as smallpox,
measles, and influenza, exploded into terrifying and unpredictable
epidemics that swept through the Americas, leaving communities
decimated.  The combination of the virulent nature of the epidemics
themselves and the collapse of the indigenous populations meant
that the Europeans were able to move quickly into even densely
populated and highly organized regions. How  did these alien
species -- the disease organisms and the grazing animals -- expand
into the New World ecosystems? The answer can be found in two
biological processes:

a. Virgin soil epidemics are characterized by an immunologically
defenseless host population, extremely rapid spread, and almost
universal infection. Old-World pathogens were successful because
the New World populations had never been infected by them and had
no defenses. The estimated population decline in Mexico, for
example, was 90-95 percent between 1519, when the Spaniards
arrived, and 1620, when the indigenous population began its slow

b. Ungulate irruption occurs when ungulates are faced with more
food than is needed to replace their numbers in the next
generation, an ungulate irruption is the result.  Non-domestic
ungulates includes, for example, deer, caribou, and bison. Goats,
pigs, sheep, cattle, donkeys, mules, and horse are the common
domesticated ungulates of the Old World. The animals react to the
excess of food in a manner similar to pathogens encountering virgin
soil populations: they increase exponentially until they overshoot
the capacity of the plant communities to sustain them; Then, their
population crash, and finally they reach an accommodation with the
now-reduced subsistence base at a lower density. 

     During the course of an ungulate irruption plan communities
are changed beyond recognition. Selective browsing simplifies
species diversity and reduces the height and density of the
vegetation; species unable to withstand the pressures of heavy
grazing are relegated to relic stands in out-of-the-way places, and
are replaced by others that are either browse-resistant or

     The ungulates that irrupted into the New World environments
were domestic grazing animals that were part of a culturally
defined system of animal and range management: pastoralism. Their
diet, their daily wanderings in search of food and water, even
their life span, were often subject to human choice and decision
making. The lands they grazed also were subject to human choice.
The landscapes not only looked different, with new and different
animals that radically changed the vegetative cover, but access to
and exploitation of the natural resources were changed as well. In
the New World there was a continuum of environmental responses to
the introduction of Old World domesticates that ranged from changes
in the biological regime associated with feral animals to changes
associated with the introduction of pastoralism in combination with
other activities such as cropping, mining, logging, lime
manufacture, charcoal making, road building, and so on.

     As the environment was degraded and the productivity of the
land destroyed - thus radically changing the natural resource base
and forcing further choices. In the Mexican case, the productivity
of the indigenous modes of resource exploitation masked the
fragility of the ecosystems, leading the Spaniards to make choices
based on production levels current at the time of conquest rather
than on the capacity of the land to support new and different
regimes. As a result of their initiatives, the natural resource
base for both indigenous agriculture and the introduced modes of
land use deteriorated rapidly, forcing the development of
extensively grazed latifundia rather than the smaller, more
intensively worked holdings found in other regions of apparently
rich resources.  That is, changing New World realities 
constrained the Spaniards' choices, if not their expectations.

     The major obstacles to Spanish settlement of the Valle del
Mezquital in the early decades were the frosts, the infrequent
rainfall, and, most especially, the dense Native American
population. However, when Europeans first entered these wide, flat
valleys and plains they saw a landscape that had been shaped by
centuries of human occupation. It was a fertile, densely populated,
and complex agricultural mosaic composed of extensive croplands,
woodlands, and native grasslands; of irrigations canals, dams,
terraces, and limestone quarries. Oak and pine forest covered the
hills, and springs and streams supplied extensive irrigation
systems. However, although the soils were fertile, irrigation was
necessary to secure crops. Irrigation, in turn, depended on a
healthy catchment area, which meant the maintenance of vegetative
cover on the hills. 

     The agricultural production in these provinces - occupied by
the Otomi- focused on the classic Meso-american triad of maize,
beans, and squash, together with chilies, tomatoes, beans,
amaranth, sage, and others.  In areas without water for irrigation,
subsistence was based on plant species typical of arid regions:
maguey, nopal cactus, and mesquite, together with a striking number
of wild animals, birds, reptiles, and grubs. 

     It is clear that the Otomi (the Native Americans that occupied
the Valle at the time of the conquest) evolved a successful
approach to living in this high region of little rainfall and
frequent frosts. Although wild game and herbs from the forests and
woodlands were important elements in the diet, this was true of all
small rural Mexican towns in both the pre-conquest and colonial
periods, as it is today. And though the maguey and the nopal cactus
were important in subsistence and trade, the inhabitants of this
region nevertheless were settled agriculturalists who produced
large grain harvests. Indeed, the dense populations, the high
levels of grain production, and the extensive forests of the early
decades masked the fragility of the ecosystems of this semiarid
region, an thus the nature of the relationship between the human
populations and their environment, leading the Spaniards to make
choices that led ultimately to the destruction of this way of life.
By the end of the sixteenth century, the picture had changed. The
fertile flatland were covered in a dense growth of mesquite
dominated desert scrub, the high steep-sided hills were treeless,
and the piedmont was eroded and gulled. Sheep grazing, not
agriculture, took precedence in regional production. Sheep
dominated the ecosystem of the Valle del Mezquital and shaped its

     Spaniards first began to import elements of European
agriculture into areas that conformed to their ideas of lands with
economic potential. They did so because they thought they were
developing the New World in introducing more advanced agricultural
tools. then, wheat was grown for tribute in the more humid south by
order of the royal officials; barley was grown in the arid
northeast. Old World fruit trees such as peers, peaches,
nectarines, apples, quinces, pomegranates, oranges, limes, dates,
figs, and walnuts, as well as roses and grapes, were grown wherever
climate and water resources allowed.  Grazing animals were pastured
within the Indian agricultural lands, thereby putting in motion the
processes by which herbivores and plant communities adjust to one
another. Spaniards did not notice the delicate and fragile
ecosystem built up by Native Americans. They saw a green, fertile
land and they assumed that it was naturally a fertile land. 

     How was the process of adjustment? During the first twenty-
five to thirty years the number of animals introduced was small:
thirty-four flocks of around a thousand head were introduced in the
1530s. The animals were at a relatively low density at this point.
However, that they were maintained within a dense populated.
Intensively worked agricultural lands meant that they caused more
damage than their low numbers imply. The legalization of squatters'
rights, boundary descriptions and disputes, complaints filed by the
Indians of stations encroaching on their village lands, damage done
to crops, and the violent behavior of the herders, make it clear
that the introduced animals were a menace by the middle of the
sixteenth century.  When cattle and horses were expelled from the
Valle del Mezquital, the competition for forage was reduced and the
sheep population irrupted. Flock size increase fourfold during the

     The mid-1560s were a turning point for the indigenous
populations. Before this, the land was still populated by enough
Indians to make the government policy of the protection of their
land rights both necessary and feasible. After 1565, however, this
was any more possible. An epidemic know as the Great Cocolistle
ended Indian regional predominance both in population density and
in production.

     The period from the mid 1560s to the end of the 1570s was
marked by high densities of animals -the product of natural
increase combined with the artificial maintenance of high densities
and the introduction of new flocks in to the region- and rapid
reduction of the height and density of the vegetative cover. This
period saw the takeover of regional production by pastoralism and
the displacement of humans by sheep. As the waves of animals
flooded over the land they transformed the vegetative cover, and by
the end of the 1570s the vegetation of the region was reduced in
height and density. In some places it had been removed altogether
and only bare soil remained. Former agricultural lands  were
converted to grasslands, and the hills were deforested and grazed
by thousands upon thousands of sheep Pasture was exhausted early in
the season, and some flocks were moved west each year to Michoacan
for the dry season pasture. 

     Finally, during the last quarter of the sixteenth century the
plants composing the vegetative cover of the region shifted toward
such arid zone species as lechuguilla maguey, nopal cactus, yucca,
thorn scrub, mesquite, and cardon. As the pasture declined in
quality and quantity during the 1570s, the flock size dropped
sharply.  The flocks further declined in numbers and quality during
the 1590s. Ewes were so underweight that they were beginning their
reproduction cycle later, and the animals slaughtered for meat were
smaller and weighed less. The decline in animal numbers slowed down
by the early seventeenth century and the flocks seem to have
achieved an accommodation with a much-reduced and transformed
vegetative cover.

     The changes in the biological regime, namely diminution of
height, density, and species diversity of the native vegetation;
enlargement of the bare spaces between plants; and an increase in
armed woody species of plants, were complicated by human activities
associated with pastoralism such as the firing of grasslands and
the maintenance of excessively high grazing rates, as well as by
accelerated deforestation to provide timber for the mines and fuel
for lime and charcoal manufactures. The result was extensive
environmental degradation, including sheet erosion, gulling, and
deterioration of the land's catchment value. The sixteenth-century
transformation of the water regime of this region prejudiced future
exploitation. The Valle del Mezquital received increasingly arid
forms of land use. Sheep in the sixteenth century were followed by
goats and cattle in the seventeenth, followed in turn by the
cultivation of the domesticated maguey for the production of
pulque, and by exploitation of the wild lechuguilla maguey for rope
in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries. The importation of water
in the twentieth century confirms the continued inability of the
Valle del Mezquital to internally generate spring water. 
     Today, the soils at the center of the wide flat valleys of the
region are incredibly fertile due to the irrigation plan. However,
the hills are bare rock and the piedmont is scarred tepetate. Water
rushes over theses surfaces in the rainy season and is not
restrained long enough by the sparse vegetation to sink into the
soil and replenish the water table.
3.   Related Cases 

 POTATO case
 CEDARS case
 HUDSON case
 BRONZE case

     Key Words

(1): Mexico
(2): North America
(3): Habitat Loss

4. Draft Author: L. Valentina Delich (May 1996)

B. Legal Cluster

5. Discourse and Status: Disagreement. Complete.

     The expansion of pastoralism in the Valle del Mezquital
combined legal resource exploitation, illegal land grabbing, and
force. The natural resource base of pastoralism is grass. The
Indians did not systematically exploit grass. Grass was used as
needed, in making adobe for example, and it was an element of the
ecological niches ( grasslands, forests, and edge habitats ) of the
wild animals such as deer and rabbits that formed part of the
Indians' subsistence base.

     By contrast, the Spaniards had a specific use for grass. They
considered it a resource for the maintenance of domestic livestock
wherever it grew. Wherever and whenever land was not being used to
grow crops, it could be treated as common pasture; where use could
not be demonstrated, individual claims to the land lapsed. The
principle of the commonality of Nature's fruits was extended to the
New World colonies.  Animals could legally graze wherever grass
grew; there was, therefore, no legal hindrance to the introduction
of grazing animals into even densely populated regions.
Furthermore, because there were no indigenous domesticated grazing
animals, there were no local rules governing the use of grass, and
no cause for concern a about superseding native custom.

     However, in the 1550s Viceroy Velasco had moved to protect
Indian agriculture because, although pastoralism was a crucial
element of Spanish culture and there were strong incentives to
develop ranching in the New World, Indians supplied the food that
maintained the Spaniards. In addition, as subjects the Indians were
entitled to the unmolested use of their lands. In the Valle de
Mezquital, however, these laws did not have the desired result. In
fact, the regulations of the 1550s structured relations between the
Indian agriculturalist and the Spanish pastoralist in such a way
that Indian control over land outside the designated areas was
weakened, leaving it open to Spanish usurpation. 

     In addition, because "stations" to let the animals freely
graze were placed in the hills, and in woodlands and wastes, they
transformed woodlands into eroded badlands that translated into the
loss to the Indian communities of traditional resources for
subsistence and trade, such as herbs and roots, animals and birds,
and wood products (for example sheep ate the leaves of edible roots
so that they could not be found for harvesting and trampled stands
of the shrub tlacol, which was used as a wood substitute in the
production of lime).  Whereas it is true that the laws restricting
animals to specified distances from Indian communities provided a
buffer, however, they also acted to further reduce effective Indian
control over communally held lands, because land outside of the
limits was liable to use and usurpation by the Spaniards. 

6.   Forum: Spain (16-18th centuries)

7.   Decision Breadth: UNIlateral

     Spanish's decisions were applied to the whole New World.
However, Viceroys dictated specific regulation for the region they

8.   Legal Standing LAW

C. Geographic Filters

9.   Geography

a. Continental Domain: North America
b. Geographic Site : Southern North America
c. Geographic impact : Mexico

     The Valle del Mezquital is located in Mexico [4]. It
encompasses  the catchment area of the Tula and Moctezuma rivers,
that falls within the coordinates longitude 98 45'-104 W and
latitude 19 35' -20 55' N; the total surface area is approximately
10,139 square kilometers.

     It is bounded on three sides by high mountains : the Sierra de
Pachuca to the east, the Sierra de Juarez to the north and, to the
south, the mountain range separating Xilotepec from Toluca together
with the Sierra de las Cruces. 

     Today, the Valle del Mexquital is very different from the one
the Spaniards encountered. Although the land is irrigated (grace to
an irrigation plan), and modern agricultural methods are intensive,
they are very different that those practiced by the indigenous
populations at contact. Monoculture has replaced mixed
horticulture, the plow has replaced the digging stick, pastoralism
is and integral part of subsistence.

     Another marked difference between the indigenous and modern
landscapes is the extent and types of forests and woodlands.
Primary forest cover is now confined to the oak and pine forest in
the Sierra de las Cruces and to coniferous forests in the hills to
the north of Huichiapan and Alfaxayuca. The few remaining wooded
hilltops in the Huichiapan area are covered with oaks and live

10.  Sub-national factors:  YES

11.  Type of Habitat : DRY

D. Trade Filters
12. Type of measure: [Regulatory Standard]

     In the 1550s, in response to the problems posed by the rapid
increase in animal numbers, Viceroy Velasco limited the period when
animals could graze in the stubble to January 1 to February 28. But
in 1574, as pasture deteriorated throughout New Spain, the period
during which pastorialists had access to harvested fields was
expanded to December 1 through March 31. In the Valle of Mezquital
the majority of the Indian complaints of Spanish intrusions into
their lands occurred because Spanish pastoralists did not abide by
the rules, and either entered their animals before the period set
aside for "agostadero", when crops had not yet been harvested, or
refused to remove their animals in time to let the Indians prepare
the land for their crops. 

     At the end of his term as Viceroy, Velasco not only enforced
many old regulations, but introduced new ones aimed at clearing the
Indian villages of animals and preventing the use of their lands
for grazing: even the customary right to communal pasture was
prohibited within a radius of one league surrounding the villages.
Also, the densely inhabited central regions of New Spain were
cleared of cattle by his order, and made few grants for stations in
heavily populated agricultural regions.

13. Direct vs. Indirect:  [Indirect]

14. Relation of Measure to Impact

a. Directly Related to Product: No

     Velasco hastened the process of takeover by making so many
grants in the hills and outlying lands that he effectively opened
up, or at least intensified, the exploitation of the natural
grasslands and forested areas.  Despite the move to place the
stations well away from Indian  communities, the Spanish continued
the practice of free grazing in harvested and fallow fields and
ignored the regulations controlling the use of these lands. 

     The shift in viceregal practice from granting "mercedes" in
densely populated areas to granting them for stations in our-of-the
way places had the result of placing them in the hills, and in
woodlands and wastes. Transformation of woodlands and former
agricultural lands into eroded badlands meant the loss to the
Indian communities of traditional resources for subsistence and
exchange, such as herbs and roots, animals and birds, and wood
products. Indeed, the transformation was often so complete that
indications of former modes of land use were erased, leaving only
evidence of sheep grazing.

b. Indirectly related to Product : Yes. Sheep

     The ecological changes  tended to confirm Spanish claims of
ownership of the land by use-right and to deny Indian claims. The
separation of communal rights to Natures's fruit from ownership of
land became the means by which the Spaniards conquered and
dominated. That is, the process of usurpation and the associated
environmental transformation combined with the regulations
restricting Indian control over land no under cultivation to
facilitate the movement of land into the Spanish system of land

c. Not Related:  No

d: Process Related:  Yes  Habitat Loss

15. Trade Product Identification: Many

     Before the conquest, the Otomi and others grew maize, chilis,
squash, tomatoes, beans, amaranth, sage, among a variety of crops.
In areas without water for irrigation, subsistence was based on
plant species typical of arid regions, nopal cactus and mesquite.
Also, the maguey formed a consistent and important element in the
economy of the region as a whole. Up to 1560s, existed adequate
woodlands and extensive croplands. Forest  products such as lumber,
firewood were for domestic use and the lime industry, herbs and
roots for food and medicine as well as forest-dependent wild
animals were an important part of the indigenous economy. At high
altitudes the forest were composed of both oak and pine, while oak
forest alone were more often found lower down. 

     With respect to the animals, there were coyotes, deer, field
mice, bobcats, hares, moles, rabbits, skunks, wolves, squirrels,
and weasels. Birds includes species such as barn owls, buntings,
crows, ducks, eagles , sparrow hawks and llaner falcons. Reptiles
and insects included cicadas crickets, fish, lizards, crustaceos,
locusts, maguey grubs, and toads.

16. Economic Data

Area of land converted to pastoralism expressed as a percentage of
the total surface area.

                         Table 1
Valle del Mezquital (10,029 km2)

By 1539,  2.6% of the land was dedicated to pastoralism
By 1549,  5.8% 
By 1559,  8.4% 
By 1565, 21.4%
By 1569, 22.8%
By 1579, 31.0%
By 1589, 45.3
By 1599, 61.4%

                         Table 2
Estimated number of sheep per decade (in thousands)

By 1539,    34
By 1549,    75
By 1559,   421.2
By 1565, 2,020.5
By 1569, 3,090
By 1579, 3,995
By 1589, 4,376.1
By 1599, 2,913

17. Degree of Competitive Impact: [High]

18. Industry Sector: Many
19. Exporters and Importers : Mexico 

E. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type: Habitat Loss

     The most striking change in the environment was the
development of a dense cover of mesquite-dominated scrub on the
flatlands and piedmont during the last half of the sixteenth
century, associated with increasing aridity.

     As the quality of the forage declined, the average weight of
the animals decreased. Weight loss led to a decline in the
reproduction rates of the ewes, and the production of wool, tallow,
and meat declined in quantity and quality. The thick secondary
growth lowered the numbers of sheep that could be maintained still
further.  The value of these lands for the production of cereals
was lost under secondary vegetation and slope-wash, and cultivated
fields were reduced to Indian subsistence crops on the remaining
humid bottomlands. 

21. Species

     The species mentioned in this section were lost only in the
Valle del Mazquital as a consequence of the introduction of
pastoralism and the following aridization of the region. None of
these species disappeared from Mexico. 

     After the 16th century, it was impossible to grow maize,
chilis, squash, tomatoes, beans, amaranth, or sage in the Valle of
Mezquital. Neither nopal cactus and mesquite. In addition, the
maguey, that formed a consistent and important element in the
economy of the region as a whole, disappeared. Woodlands and forest 
products such as lumber and firewood could not being exploited
anymore and herbs and roots for food and medicine started to be
scarce. At high altitudes the forest became composed of both oak
and pine. However, lower down, only oak forest alone were found. 

     With respect to the animals, there were coyotes, deer, field
mice, bobcats, hares, moles, rabbits, skunks, wolves, squirrels,
and weasels. Birds includes species such as barn owls, buntings,
crows, ducks, eagles, sparrow hawks and llaner falcons. Reptiles
and insects included cicadas crickets, fish, lizards, lobsters,
locusts, maguey grubs, snakes, and toads.

22.  Impact and Effect : [HIGH and Structure]

23.  Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 100s of years

F. Other Factors

25.  Culture: Yes

     If we accept the thesis that the biological changes brought
about by the Spaniards into the New World were the main causes for
the domination of the indians, then it could be said that cultural
changes were a consequence of the conquest, which in turn, was
facilitated by the environment revolution produced by the
     In broad terms, we can say that the cultural impact of the
conquest was as big as the environmental impact. Language is a now
a common characteristic of almost all Latin America. In no other
place in the world is it possible to travel so far, though so many
countries in which the same language is spoken. Also, the cities,
towns, and villages were laid essentially in the same fashion.
Except in those places where the industrial age is rushing in,
destroying the patterns of centuries, the checkerboard streets of
the "grid plan" town surround the central plaza with its cathedral
or church, government buildings, and market. In addition, in
religion, Catholicism is dominant. From the Rio Grande to Patagonia
the cult of the Virgin Mary is the core of religious loyalty; the
same saints are honored on the same days and in essentially the
same fashion, and the same mass draws the faithful each Sunday. It
is possible to understand how the conquerors culture, religion, 
and architecture were so strange to the Otomi culture just in
describing Otomi's culture. 
     For example, Otomi religion and beliefs were far from the
catholic creed. In the eyes of Otomi, people are involved with a
number of powerful beings and gods. The most important of these
were: God, Our Sacred Mother, Our Sacred Father, the Sacred Water,
The Sacred Fire, The Sacred Earth, and the zidqhamy (which means
"respected great lord"). People must maintain diplomatic relations
with the powerful beings in order to receive help. The Otomi had
religious channels through which one could raise to a position of
influence in the community. Because of envy, a peasant could not
achieve high status by accumulating wealth. He usually had only one
means of achieving prestige, respect, and power in his community,
and that was through the sponsorship of religious celebrations.   

    The cultural response of the Otomi to the impact of
Catholicism was to compress the universe into an elevated,
celestial sphere that was put under the guidance of the Christian
god, called "Santisimo" (identified by sun light), on the one hand,
and an inferior sphere, that of the Otomi, where the Devil is
revealed as being the prestigious administrator. With zeal and
punctuality the Otomi devoted themselves to the ceremonial duties
that the christian religion and the celebration of the local
saintly patron prescribed for them.
     Health is another area where Otomi and Spaniards greatly
dissented. Otomi's communities had Shamans to cure their people.
The consultation was the first visit a patient or family member
made to the shaman to discuss a particular problem. During the
consultation the shaman divines, by magical means, the nature of
the problem or illness and outlines a course of action that could
be taken to combat it. There were two categories of illness, "good"
and "bad". Good illnesses appear gradually, run a definite course,
and are alleviated with medicine. They do not trouble people
unduly, although they can result in a 'good' death, at the time
that God has appointed. "Bad" illness, on the other hand, cannot be
cured with medicines and are not sent by god but are the result of
evil acts carried out by people and evil beings. The Shaman was an
specialist in dealing with bad illnesses. There were several kinds
of bad illnesses: sorcery, poisoning, and attacks by airs. 

     In a more theoretical approach, some scholars call
acculturation the processes and results of the contact of cultures.
Although anthropologists generally recognize that an acculturative
process occurs when groups of essentially equal power and cultural
complexity meet, in practice most studies have dealt with
situations in which a more complex or powerful donor group controls
the contact situation and guides at least a part of the
transmission of its culture. in contact situations marked by
disparity in power and cultural complexity, the donor group changes
its ways in some degree, but the major changes are found in the
ways of the
recipient group. In our case, the major changes can be found in the
Otomi life-style.

     How did new animals' introduction by Spaniards impact on
Indian culture? New World domesticated animals were restricted to
a handful of forms like the turkey, guinea pig, and llama, which
were found only in limited areas and which were tended in a fashion
rather different form European livestock practices. It is therefore
not surprising that European animals brought with them a whole
complex of superstitions and of methods of care. In addition,
Pastoralism imposed to the indian no only an economic, social and
legal change, but a change in their daily life.

     A direct effect of the introduction of unknown animals, was
the introduction of new diseases as well. These diseases spread out
decimating indian population. Collective death had a considerable
impact on memories, societies and cultures, by setting up often
irreparable interferences and breaks.     

26.  Human Rights [YES]

     Spanish jurists and theologians dealt for a long time with the
problems set by the conquest, evangelizing and governing of the
native peoples of the New World so alien in appearance, customs and
dress to the conquistadors. It was by a slow progression that these
thinkers came to recognize the natural rights of such peoples to
live and be free, prerogatives which we understand today under the
term "human rights".

     Some of the thinkers who evolved the political philosophy of
the Conquest had never been to the New World; others were
"indianos", that is to say, Europeans with experience of life on
the other side of the Atlantic. A certain difference may be
observed between their respective lines of thought. Moreover,
variations characteristic of the creole, the mestizo or the Indian
soon arose in the attitude towards the New Continent.

     Some Scholastic thinkers and others trained in Renaissance
ways of though adopted the classical theory of the relationship of
civilized men to barbarians, proclaiming the natural subservience
of the Indians and the right of the Spaniards to subdue them by

     In contrast to this theory came the ideology of Stoic and
Christian origin which affirmed the freedom of the indigenous
peoples and viewed the mission of the colonizers as a civilizing

     The first Spaniards to enter the Valle del Mezquital came as
"encomenderos", missionaires, and royal officials. These
representatives of the Spanish regime redefined the hierarchy of
towns and villages and fixed their boundaries according to a new
vision of the natural order. Other Spaniards followed rapidly on
the heels of the encomenderos, the clerics and royal officials.
Merchants come to the region to buy charcoal, wool and rope, to
carry wine to the taverns in the mining areas, to cut wood to mend
their carts, and to buy wheat to carry to Zacatecas.

27.  Trans-bordery Issues [NO]

28. Relevant Literature

Crosby, Alfred. "The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural
Consequences of 1492". Westport, Conn. 1972

Melville, Elinor G. K., " A Plague of Sheep". Environmental
Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico.Cambridge University Press.

Foster, George "Culture and Conquest", America's Spanish Heritage.
Quadrangle Books, 1960.

Gruzinski, Serge, " The Conquest of Mexico" The Incorporation into
the Western World , 16the-18th Centuries. Polity Press. 1988

Zavala, Silvio, " The Defence of Human Rights in Latin America "
Sixteenth to eighteen centuries. Unesco. 1964.


[1] This paper is based primarily on Ms. Melvilles' work "A plague
of Sheep".

[2] The thesis of ecological imperialism has been developed by
Alfred Crosby. See for example "Ecological Imperialism: the
Biological Expansion of Europa, 900-1900" New York, 1986. 

[3] See "A Plague of Sheep", Elinor Melville. Cambridge University

[4] The Valley of the Mezquital was named after the mesquite, a
tough shrub, common in Texas, that needs little water and only
scanty soil to stay alive. 

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May 6, 1996