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La Historia y Población de Aguascalientes (1575 - 1790)

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By Johnnypj - Posted on 03 January 2007

Peter Gerhard described early Aguascalientes history in "The North Frontier of New Spain." On Oct. 22, 1575, La Villa de Aguascalientes was created by decree and affiliated with nearby Santa Maria de los Lagos (now Lagos de Moreno). The first notice of a parish at Asunción was circa 1605, but chaplains served various presidios before that. Bernal Sánchez spoke of a priest at the Villa in 1601, but as we all know, the marriages and baptisms we now have access to only begin in 1616.

It is believed that the Chichimecs at contact numbered about 8,500 (this would have been Guachichiles, Zacatecas and probably some Caxcanes). Gerhard writes that "the period 1561-1589 was one of retrenchment when some haciendas were abandoned." Aguascalientes was founded in 1575 but was reduced to only two vecinos and 16 soldados in 1582-1585. After that, the war subsided and hostilities withdrew north, with the last Indian attack taking place in 1593.

Gerhard notes that "Peace brought a tide of Spanish settlers beginning in the 1590s, mostly cattlemen and farmers, together with Indian (mainly Náhuatl-speaking) and Negro retainers." The Villa became "inhabited by powerful hacendados who monopolized land and water."

Gaspar de la Fuente claims that in 1610, he found 24 or 25 Spanish vecinos, about 50 families of mestizos, over 100 mulatos, 20 Negro slaves and only 10 Indians in La Villa. He explained that "most of these people worked on neighboring haciendas."

Gerhard writes, "By 1681 various haciendas [of Aguascalientes] had chapels and resident clergy." The 1760 Parish census showed 640 Indians and 5,386 non-Indian families for a total of 20,411 "personas de comunión y confesión" - not including Ciénega de Mata. Including infants this may have represented 34,000 persons.

The 1770 census gave a total of 28,074.

The 1790 census gives: 25,715 people, made up of:

1. 10,004 Spaniards
2. 8,617 Indians
3. 3,357 Mulattoes
4. 3,737 Others

Source: Peter Gerhard, "The North Frontier of New Spain" (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

John Schmal

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