Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

St. James at the Fair: Religious Ceremony, Civic Boosterism, and Commercial Development on the Colonial Mexican Frontier*

  • Jesús F. de la Teja (a1)

Extract

Every year a fair is held in the last days of September at which not only the inhabitants of Saltillo provision themselves for the entire year, but also those of the Kingdom of Nuevo León, Coahuila, Texas, and a great part of the colony of Santander as well. They come to sell wool, deer skins, salt, mules, and some other products that those places produce, and return with clothes, tanned hides, soap, saddles, and a variety of foodstuffs that come from Michoacán and Nueva Galicia, such as rice, sugar, chickpeas, and other commodities harvested in those lands. As a result, Saltillo has become a sort of warehouse, where the neighboring provinces provision themselves not only at fair time, but where they come between-times to stock themselves of those articles that they lack, which are considerable because of the impossibility of preserving them in such hot places.

Copyright

Footnotes

Hide All
*

Research for this article was made possible by a Southwest Texas State University Research Enhancement Grant. I wish to thank José Antonio Fernández, Ross Frank, and the editors of The Americas for their constructive comments on earlier versions. Special thanks to the staffs of the Archivo Municipal de Saltillo and the Instituto Estatal de Documentación de Coahuila for their generous assistance.

Footnotes

References

Hide All

1 Quoted in Robles, Vito Alessio, Acapulco, Saltillo y Monterrey en la historia y en la leyenda (Mexico City: Editorial Porrua, 1978), p. 190. All translations are the author’s unless otherwise stated.

2 Feria refers both to a special market of greater importance and less frequency than the routine market day, and to a local feast held on specific dates from year to year. In the latter sense, the term tends to be used synonymously with romería, a popular celebration including food and dancing held in the vicinity of a shrine or sanctuary on the feast day of the site’s patron saint. See, for instance, Santos Solla, José Manuel, “Fiestas, ferias y mercados de Galicia,” in El Rostro y el discurso de la fiesta, ed. Rodríguez, Manuel Núñez (Santiago, Spain: Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, 1994), p. 301. Moreover, fairs exist on numerous levels and for multiple reasons. Fair classification may be based on primary function (commerce, religion, education), type of product (speciality, manufactures, miscellaneous), or scope of influence (local, regional, national, international). My classification is a modification of a very simple and straightforward scheme presented by Eugene Cleef, Van, Trade Centers and Trade Routes (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1937), pp. 141–42.

3 Quote: Christian, William A., Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 118. On the subject of the fairs as social and religious celebrations see, e.g., Braudel, Fernand, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century, Volume II: The Wheels of Commerce, trans. Reynolds, Siân (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 85, 90; Saldivar, María Villanueva, “Las ferias medievales y su influencia en las ferias mexicanas” (Thesis, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1963), p. 14; Isherwood, Robert M., “Entertainment in the Parisian Fairs in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of Modern History 53:1 (Mar. 1981), pp. 2425.

4 In early modern times fairs constituted the most advanced economic institutions of the times in the West. According to Fernand Braudel, in Civilization and Capitalism, “Their function was to interrupt the tight circle of everyday exchanges. . . . they could mobilize the economy of a huge region: sometimes the entire business community of western Europe would meet at them, to take advantage of the liberties and franchises they offered which wiped out for a brief moment the obstacles caused by the numerous taxes and tolls” (p. 82).

5 In his seminal article on New Spain’s fairs, Manuel Carrera Stampa notes that as a formal institution the Jalapa fair came into existence relatively late, 1720, but that long before that the transactions between European merchants and those of New Spain had gone by the term fair. Stampa, Manuel Carrera, “Las ferias novohispanas,” Historia Mexicana 2:3 (enero-marzo 1953), pp. 319–42. Although there is no work specifically on Indian trade fairs, the following works make references to these events: Moorhead, Max L., New Mexico’s Royal Road: Trade and Travel on the Chihuahua Trail, (1958; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), pp. 4213; Kenner, Charles L., The Comanchero Frontier: A History of New Mexican-Plains Indian Relations, (1969; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), p. 40; Martin, Cheryl English, Governance and Society in Colonial Mexico: Chihuahua in the Eighteenth Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 116, 120–21.

6 Gálvez, María Angeles and Ibarra, Antonio, “Comercio local y circulación regional de importaciones: la feria de San Juan de los Lagos en la Nueva España,” Historia Mexicana 46:3 (enero-marzo 1997), pp. 581616.

7 The works of Vito Alessio Robles include, aside from Acapulco, Saltillo y Monterrey en la historia y la leyenda, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial 2nd ed. (Mexico City: Porrúa, 1978). See also Cuellar Valdés, Pablo M., Historia de la ciudad de Saltillo (Saltillo: Biblioteca de la Universidad de Coahuila, 1982).

8 Morfi, Juan Agustín, Viaje de indios y diario del Nuevo México (Mexico City: Porrúa, 1980), p. 251.

9 Harris, Charles H. III, A Mexican Family Empire: The Latifundio of the Sánchez Navarros, 1765–1867 (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1975), p. 87.

10 Cuello, José, El norte, el noreste y Saltillo en la historia colonial de México (Saltillo: Archivo Municipal de Saltillo, 1990); Cuello, José, “The Economie Impact of the Bourbon Reforms and the Late Colonial Crisis of Empire at the Local Level: The case of Saltillo, 1777–1817,” The Americas 44:3 (Jan. 1988), pp. 301–23; Offutt, Leslie Scott, “Urban and Rural Society in the Mexican North: Saltillo in the Late Colonial Period” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1982), first quote p. 26, second quote p. 27; López, Alvaro López, La ciudad y su tiempo histórico: Saltillo siglos XVIII–XIX (Saltillo: Instituto Tecnológico de Saltillo and Instituto Estatal de Documentación, 1996), pp. 153–56, 257–59.

11 Cuello, José, “Saltillo in the Seventeenth Century: Local Society on the North Mexican Frontier” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1981), pp. 1420, 31–33.

12 On the importance of Saltillo to the development of northeastern New Spain see Las raíces coloniales del regionalismo en el noreste de México,” in Cuello, José, El norte, el noreste y Saltillo, pp. 171–90. See also Jones, Oakah L. Jr., Los Paisanos: Spanish Settlers on the Northern Frontier of New Spain (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), pp. 2223, 33, 48–49, 70.

13 Robles, Alessio, Acapulco, Saltillo y Monterrey, pp. 163–67; Jones, , Los Paisanos, p. 32; Offutt, , “Urban and Rural Society,” p. 64.

14 Although the region north of San Luis Potosí does not figure directly in his work, John Kicza’s discussion of the relationship between provincial shopkeepers and Mexico City wholesalers fits the available evidence for Saltillo. Kicza, John, Colonial Entrepreneurs: Families and Business in Bourbon Mexico City (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983), especially pp. 8185, 96–99.

15 Cuello, , “Saltillo in the Seventeenth century,” pp. 159–68, 212–26.

16 Jones, , Los Paisanos, p. 31.

17 Cuello, , “The Economic Impact of the Bourbon Reforms,” p. 307.

18 Marker of D. Francisco Dubai, Bexar, [2]/2/173[3], in Carpeta de correspondencia de las Provincias Internas por los años de 1726 a 1731 con los Exmos. Sres. Marqués de Casa y Fuerte y Conde de Fuenclara, Ramo Provincias Internas, Archivo General de la Nación de México, vol. 236, microfilm at the Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin (hereafter AGN:PI); Petition of Vicente Alvarez Travieso, Jan. 30, 1735, AGN:PI vol. 236; Autos de pedimiento de varios soldados del presidio de S. Antonio de Béjar, provincia de Texas, May 29, 1735, AGN:PI vol. 163; Proceso de diligencias seguidas en virtud de superior mandamiento del limo, y Exmo. Señor Arzobispo Virrey de esta Nueva España, por D. Manuel de Sandoval, governador de la Provincia de Texas, AGN:PI vol. 163; Copia de la carta que comprehende las resoluciones tomadas en la revista de inspección pasada por mi el mariscal de campo marques de Rubí, Audiencia de Guadalajara, Archivo General de Indias, 104-6-13, transcript in Spanish Materials from Various Sources, vol. 45, p. 211, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. See also de la Teja, Jesús F., San Antonio de Béxar: A Community on New Spain’s Northern Frontier (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995), pp. 105–06, 115–16, 130; Jones, , Los Paisanos, pp. 4043.

19 Quoted in De la Teja, , San Antonio de Béxar, p. 135.

20 Cuello, , “The Economic Impact of the Bourbon Reforms,” pp. 309–12; Offutt, , “Urban and Rural Society,” pp. 64, 77.

21 Valle, Rafael Heliodoro, Santiago en América, facsimile ed. (Mexico: Fideicomiso del PremioRafael Heliodoro Valle,” 1988), pp. 1933; Lafaye, Jacques, Quetzalcóatl y Guadalupe: La formación de la conciencia nacional en México, 2nd ed. (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1985), p.288; Simmons, Marc, “Santiago: Reality and Myth,” in Santiago: Saint of Two Worlds, photos. Myers, Joan, essays Simmons, Marc, Pierce, Donna, and Myers, Joan (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991), pp. 1621.

22 According to Weckmann, Luis, La herencia medieval de México 2nd ed. (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1994), Today there are still eighty-one place names in Mexico bearing his name, many others, including Saltillo, Monclova, and Querétaro, having dropped the saintly patronymic prefix following independence (p. 316). See also Robles, Alessio, Coahuila y Texas, p. 389; Cuello, , El norte, el noreste y Saltillo, p. 95.

23 William B. Taylor makes clear that even as official devotion to Santiago declined, his patronage remained a powerful local symbol at specific places. In the case of Saltillo and its neighboring Tlaxcalan community, both of which strongly identified with the Spanish conquest of the region in the sixteenth century, devotion to Santiago served as an important element of local identity. Taylor, William B., Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp.297–98.

24 Founded in 1591 and adjoining the Spanish settlement of Santiago del Saltillo, San Esteban remained a separate jurisdiction until after Mexican independence. The town provided colonizing families for a number of frontier communities throughout the seventeenth and into the eighteenth century. See Adams, David B., Las colonias tlaxcaltecas de Coahuila y Nuevo León en la Nueva España (Saltillo: Archivo Municipal de Saltillo, 1991).

25 Personal communication from Elizabeth Butzer concerning San Miguel de Aguayo, now Busta mante, Nuevo León, the municipal archives of which record orders for the annual “revista” from the late seventeenth and throughout the eighteenth century.

26 Chapa, Juan Bautista, Texas and North-Eastern Mexico, 1630–1690, ed. Foster, William C. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997), pp. 3839.

27 Robles, Alessio, Coahuila y Texas, pp. 355, 292–93.

28 Valdés, Cuellar, Historia de la ciudad de Saltillo, p. 24.

29 Actas de Cabildo, Archivo Municipal de Saltillo, Mexico, (hereafter AMS:AC), Sept. 23, 1696, libro 1–III, acta 15, and Aug. 29, 1700, libro 2, acta 1; Cuadernos de nombramientos de regidores del cabildo, Jul. 28, 1738, Presidencia Municipal, Archivo Municipal de Saltillo, Mexico, (hereafter AMS:PM), caja 14, exp. 32 [this document is mistitled, as it refers to the town’s obligation to the feast and the naming of captains].

30 “Quejas, reclamos, peticiones y otros negocios de ningún valor, 1683,” AMS:PM caja 3/1, exp. 60, doc. 17.

31 The practice at San Felipe el Real de Chihuahua, today’s Ciudad Chihuahua, of making its major patronal celebration the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which occurs on October 4, suggests that city fathers throughout northern New Spain took the climate into consideration in making their public holidays decisions. Cheryl Martin, in Governance and Society in Colonial Mexico, describes the week-long celebration as “the most important local fiesta.” According to her, the festivities “began with a religious observance that featured music and a sermon. A full round of secular amusements followed, including fireworks, horse races, comedies, and re-enactments of the medieval battles between Moors and Christians. Most exciting of all, however, were the bullfights held in the central plaza, which was especially fenced for the occasion. People traveled to San Felipe from great distances to observe these spectacles and to enjoy the gambling, dancing, and other entertainments that also marked the San Francisco celebration” (p. 100).

32 AMS:AC Aug. 30, 1754, libro 4, acta 85. See also AMS:AC Sept. 11, 1789, libro 5, acta 136, and Sept. 3, 1805, libro 6, acta 128.

33 Poole, Stafford, Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Origins and Sources of a Mexican National Symbol, 1531–1797 (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1995), p. 176; Lafaye, , Quetzalcóatl y Guadalupe, pp. 357–61.

34 AMS:AC Sept. 19, 1737, libro 4, acta 32.

35 Expediente sobre la dedicación de la iglesia parroquial de esta villa del Saltillo, año de 1800, AMS:PM caja 52/1, exp. 35.

36 AMS:AC Sept. 14, 1820, libro 8, f. 59.

37 Cuello, , El norte, el noreste y Saltillo, pp. 179–80.

38 Cuadernos de nombramientos de regidores del cabildo, Jul. 28, 1738, AMS:PM caja 14, exp. 32 [see note 33].

39 AMS:AC Aug. 4, 1764, libro 5, acta 18.

40 AMS:AC Sept. 11, 1789, libro 5, acta 136.

41 Coues, Elliott, ed., The Expeditions of Zebulon Montgomery Pike, in two vols. (1895; reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1987), vol. 2, p. 778.

42 Harris, , A Mexican Family Empire, p. 107; Arizpe, Miguel Ramos, Discursos, memorias e informes, (Mexico City: Ediciones de la Universidad Autónoma, 1942), pp. 5152; Año de 1785 y 86. Ynformes y oficios de los señores sub-Ynspectores Generales D. José Espeleta y Dn. Pedro Mendinueta sobre manejo de Yntereses de las tres compañías volantes, AGN:PI vol. 26, exp. 12; Collector of alcabalas of Saltillo José Pereira de Castro to Rafael Martínez Pacheco, Nov. 13, 1788, Bexar Archives, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (hereafter BA); Martínez Pacheco to Pereira de Castro, Dec. 8, 1788, BA; Pereira de Castro to Martínez Pacheco, Dec. 26, 1788, BA.

43 Braudel, , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 8283; Stampa, Carrera, “Las ferias novohispanas,” pp. 323–26; Wolfe, Martin, “French Views on Wealth and Taxes from the Middle Ages to the Old Regime,” Journal of Economic History 26:4 (Dec. 1966), p. 468.

44 There was a temporary elevation of the rate to 4 percent between 1746 and 1756. See Cuello, José, “The Economic Impact of the Bourbon Reforms,” p. 305.

45 Ibid., pp. 308–09.

46 Robles, Alessio, Coahuila y Texas, pp. 591–95; Cuellar, , Historia de la ciudad de Saltillo, pp. 2728; Cuello, , “The Economic Impact of the Bourbon Reforms,” pp. 305–07; Weber, David J., The Spanish Frontier in North America, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), pp. 224–25.

47 Moderación de Alcabalas en la villa del Saltillo, 1782, Fondo Colonial, Archivo General del Estado de Coahuila, Instituto Estatal de Documentación del Estado de Coahuila, Saltillo, Mexico (hereafter AGEC:FC), caja 10, exp. 27.

48 Cuello, , “The Economic Impact of the Bourbon Reforms,” pp. 312–16; Regencia, Madrid, Mar. 26, 1814, Decretos, Archivo General del Estado de Coahuila, Instituto Estatal de Documentación del Estado de Coahuila, Saltillo, Mexico (hereafter AGEC:D); Gálvez, and Ibarra, , “La feria de San Juan de los Lagos,” 592; Decree of José de Iturrigaray, Dee. 18, 1805, AGEC:FC caja 20, exp. 60.

49 There is also no evidence of the participation at the Saltillo Fair of unassimilated Indians such as Apaches.

50 AMS:AC Aug. 18, 1785, libro 5, acta 111; Requisitoria del comandante militar al justicia mayor del Saltillo sobre una partida gruesa de indios que están en las inmediaciones de Ciénegas, año de 1769, AGEC:FC caja 7, exp. 45; Order for the removal of roadside crosses, 1784, AMS:PM caja 36, exp. 74; Bandos de buen gobierno del gobernador d. Jacobo de Ugarte, año de 1772, AGEC:FC caja 7, exp. 62; Orden pasada al Alcalde Ordinario mas antiguo del Saltillo para que pusiese en prisión al extranjero don Agustín Guillermo Espangemberg; y diligencias que aquel practicó en su consecuencia, año de 1795, AGEC:FC caja 13, exp. 32; AMS:AC Sept. 29, 1808, libro 6, acta 208, Sept. 29, 1810, libro 7, actas 8–15, and Sept. 28, 1817, libro 7, f. 82v. Manuel Royuela, treasurer, to Gov. Miguel José de Emparán, Aug. 23, 1794, AGEC:FC caja 13, exp. 10; Robles, Alessio, Coahuila y Texas, p. 392 ; Harris, , A Mexican Family Empire, pp. 3539.

51 Pedro José de Padilla’s ordinance for the celebration of the Santiago fair, Sept. 27, 1779, AMS.PM caja 32, exp. 4.

52 Petition of José Miguel Lobo Guerrero and Manuel Antonio de Morales for delay in the start of the fair, [Sept. 16, 1790], AMS:PM caja 42/1, exp. 74.

53 AMS:AC Dec. 29, 1786, libro 5, acta 119.

54 AMS:AC Aug. 29, 1700, libro 2, acta 1, Aug. 30, 1754, libro 4, acta 85, Aug. 24, 1789, libro 5, acta 137, Aug. 22, 1805, libro 6, acta 125, Aug. 20, 1807, libro 6, acta 180.

55 AMS:AC Dec. 29, 1786, libro 5 acta 119, Oct. 11, 1792, libro 5, acta 147, Aug. 1, 1805, libro 6, acta 121, Oct. 31, 1805, libro 6, acta 134, Sept. 18, 1810, libro 7, acta 5; Sept. 7, 1820, libro 8, f. 55; Expediente sobre situación de los puestos de vendimia durante las fiestas en la Villa del Saltillo, año de 1798, AGEC:FC caja 15, exp. 9, and Ayuntamiento of Saltillo to Gov. Cordero, Sept. 7, 1802, AGEC:FC caja 18, exp.24; Documents regarding auctioning of plaza during the annual fair of 1807, AMS:PM caja 57, exp. 64.

56 Cuello, , “The Economic Impact of the Bourbon Reforms,” pp. 318–21.

57 Valdés, Cuelar, Historia de la Ciudad de Saltillo, p. 30.

58 AMS:AC Sept. 30, 1810, libro 7, f. 14, Sept. 28, 1817, libro 7, f. 82v, Aug. 3, 1820, libro 8, f. 52v, Sept. 7, 1820, libro 8, f. 55; Governor to Señor Presidente y vocales de seguridad de la Junta del Saltillo, Aug. 16, 1811, Archivo Municipal de Monclova, photocopy in Instituto Estatal de Documentación del Estado de Coahuila, Saltillo, Mexico; Regencia, Madrid, Mar. 26, 1814, AGEC:D. The war of independence on northern frontier, particularly in Coahuila and Texas, is treated in Robles, Alessio, Coahuila y Texas, pp. 627–65.

59 Presentación hecha por Luis Mariano Menchaca, Mar. 31, 1783, BA; Expediente promovido por Santiago de Zúñiga sobre cantidad de dinero que demanda contra D. Simón de Arocha, May 9, 1788, BA; Autos que sigue Francisco Martínez de Aguirre, vecino y del comercio de México, contra José Julián de la Rosa y Primo Alvarez, Ramo de Consulado, Archivo General de la Nación de México, vol. 188, exp. 9.

60 Copia de la instancia hecha por el Cabildo Eclesiástico de Monterrey, N.L., para que este radique en la Villa de Saltillo, Coah., por las ventajas que presenta. Año de 1797, Archivo de la Secretaría de Defensa Nacional, exp. 1186, microfilm roll 39, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

61 Arizpe, Ramos, Discursos, p. 54.

62 Alonzo, Armando, Tejano Legacy: Rancheros and Settlers in South Texas, 1734–1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), pp. 7071; Green, Stanley C., The Mexican Republic: The First Decade, 1823–1832 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987), p. 137; Karras, Bill, ed., “First Impressions of Mexico, 1828, by Reuben Potter,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 79:1 (July 1975), pp. 55, 67.

63 Karras, , “First Impressions of Mexico, 1828,” 67.

64 AMS:AC Oct. 2, 1831, libro 10, acuerdo 640, July 25, 1844, libro 19, acuerdos 85–89, Sept. 15, 1846, libro 19, acuerdos 1812–14; Santiago Vidaurri’s promulgation of the secularization law of 1859, Aug. 4, 1859, AMS:D, Caja 3, exp. 324; La Union, Saltillo, Mexico, Oct. 28, 1854, Archivo General del Estado de Coahuila, Instituto Estatal de Documentación del Estado de Coahuila, Saltillo, Mexico, N58 TI PI; Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M., Historia de Mexico I. El progreso de gestación de un pueblo, 2nd ed. (Mexico City: Alhambra Mexicana, 1994), 483.

65 Municipal president Albino de León’s announcement of the 1861 fair, Aug. 8, 1861, AMS:D caja 3 exp. 560; Governor Evaristo Madero’s promulgation of law regulating the Saltillo Fair, Jan. 3, 1882, AMS:D caja 6 exp. 3; Governor José María Galan’s promulgation of the law reforming article 1 of decree 443, July 14, 1886, AMS:D caja 7 exp. 152.

* Research for this article was made possible by a Southwest Texas State University Research Enhancement Grant. I wish to thank José Antonio Fernández, Ross Frank, and the editors of The Americas for their constructive comments on earlier versions. Special thanks to the staffs of the Archivo Municipal de Saltillo and the Instituto Estatal de Documentación de Coahuila for their generous assistance.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

St. James at the Fair: Religious Ceremony, Civic Boosterism, and Commercial Development on the Colonial Mexican Frontier*

  • Jesús F. de la Teja (a1)

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.