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Understanding who they were; peninsulares and criollos

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By Patricia Burton - Posted on 30 August 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dear Researchers--

One of my favorite books is called History of Mexico by Inigo Fernandez, translated by David Castledine. The first edition was published in 2002 and my fifth reprint was done in 2006. In Chapter 2, The Conquest of Mexico and the Viceroyalty (1519-1808), pg 41-42, it states the following:

"At the very top of New Spain's society were the Spaniards who, because of having carried out the Conquest or being descendents of them, had taken possession of the these lands. In time, two types of Spaniards were differentiated: those from Europe (peninsulares) and those born in Mexico (criollos). The strange thing was that although the law laid down that both were Spaniards, in practice the peninsulares discriminated against the criollos.

"Many of the European-born Spaniards who arrived in the country during the colonial era came with the viceroys: poor professionals wanting to make headway, opportunists who were looking to make quick fortunes and soldiers. Most of them shared the ambition to become rich, some by legal means, others illicitly. Obviously, the peninsulares held the best administrative and religious posts, and were held in high esteem by criollos, who dreamed of their daughters marrying into their families to gain prestige and improve their social status. Most peninsular Spaniards lived in the large cities of New Spain.

" The criollos felt proud of being Spanish, even though the Crown allowed them to occupy only minor administrative and religious posts. This situation, irksome to the criollos, came to be so ridiculous that even a "scientific" justification was sought which held that those born in New Spain were inferior because the prevailing climate made them weak of character and there was no solution to this degenerative process.

"Criollos wanted the Crown to allow them to rise to pending posts and very few thought about independence since most of them just wanted to see a change within the viceroyalty. Criollo reaction centered rather on a strong current pride in having been born in America, which has been named criollismo.

"For many, the great frustration of New Spain's criollos lay in the fact that they were just as Spanish as the peninsulares, had greater economic power than the Europeans, but were not admitted into political power. In short, they shared culture, traditions and a sense of belonging with the peninsulares, but were treated as second-class Spaniards."

I have found that the more I study the history of Mexico, the picture I have/had is not always the same or true according to the people of that time and place. It really is important to read widely on the subject and ask the experts.

Diane G.

--- On Sat, 8/30/08, Daniel Mendez wrote:

> From: Daniel Mendez
> Subject: Re: [Nuestros Ranchos] New
> To:
> Date: Saturday, August 30, 2008, 9:12 AM
> I am sure Lomelini is from ITaly, about the indígenas being
> Lomelini, I believe it might be since
> it was custom for slaves to take on their
> "master's" surname, it is possible a mulatto
> line. Mine aare usually registered as Español, eventhough
> their italian, in México all white people would be
> considered spanish eventhough their actually portuguese or
> italian, french, etc. -Daniel
> _________________________________________________________________
> Get thousands of games on your PC, your mobile phone, and
> the web with Windows®.

This is an interesting point Diane, Criollos were seen as lower though in the upper middle class still were seen inferior, it is interesting I have some instances where my ancestors would sometimes go back to Spain or Portugal just so they can be born to become a penínsular. Now days Criollos still make about 12% of México population. -Daniel
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