16261866 · Chalmuch, Merida, elsewhere in Yucatan
Law suits between Yucatan hacienda owners (one a woman), and hacienda owners and Indians; estate inventories and land transfers (three in Maya); materials showing usefully characteristic environmental effects — from the early 17th century and continuing through the middle of the 19th, these documents chronicle the development of the Chalmuch hacienda, situated approximately 12 kilometers west of the center of Merida.
In the Yucatan — for geographic, geologic. ecologic, and economic reasons, particularly the quality of the soil and the lack of water for irrigation — haciendas had a later appearance than in other parts of Mexico, especially in the center and north, where hacienda development began in the decade after the fall of the Aztec Empire. It was not until the 17th century that haciendas began to be established in the Yucatan Peninsula.
The earliest document in these five sewn-files is dated 18 May 1626 and concerns the settlement of a law suit between Bernardo de Sosa Velazquez and the Indians of the towns of Santiago, Cauqall, and Vac regarding unused lands and hills. The suit was settled in favor of Sosa with the provisos that he occupy the lands, build on and populate them, and bring in cattle within one year. The addition of new land to this original sitio is the substance of the remaining documents. Among them are two estate inventories and three documents of the first third of the 18th century in Maya (land transfers).
In the 1850s and 60s there was a land dispute between Doña Pastora Castillo, owner of the Oxcun hacienda, and Bernardo Cano, owner of the Chalmuch hacienda (represented by Sr. José Vicente Solís, his agent), concerning the need for a survey of boundaries. The dispute dragged on and in 1866, during the attempted reforms of Maximilian's Empire, these documents were presented before the state's Land Inspection Section and were certified by the Chief of Inspection with his stamp. The Land Inspection Section was responsible for the preparation and revision of plans, the comparison of land documents, and the measurement of land held by each hacienda, as well as certification of location, boundaries, and owners.
Provenance: From the private archive of the Chalmuch hacienda.
Documents such as these showing the growth and development of haciendas in the central part of Mexico are fairly common but extremely uncommon for the Yucatan. Similarly colonial-era documents in Nahuatl are fairly commonly available in the marketplace but comparable ones in Maya are rare. => This is the first gathering of land documents for the Yucatan and the first manuscripts in Maya that PRB&M has had in its decades of dealing in Mexican colonial-era manuscripts.
Manuscripts from the Yucatan are notorious for having suffered environmental and ecological damage: damp and insect problems. These are no exception, but as such they are excellent for teaching purposes as well as traditional research. One cahier has extensive worm/insect damage, another has faded ink from exposure to long-term humidity, and others are just fine. Here is the opportunity to show (and for students to practice) how to use light sources of various wave-lengths for making faded writing jump off the page and how to carefully interleave a document with thin Mylar sheets to save leaves from further damage during reading and page-turning.
(We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the state archive of the Yucatan in explaining the significance of the stamps of the Land Inspection Section that appear in some of the documents. It is good to be assured that they are indication of private, not government, ownership.) Each cahier is housed in a Mylar sleeve and the five are contained in a blue cloth clamshell box. Condition is extremely variable: as above, one cahier has extensive worm/insect damage, another has faded ink, and others are just fine. Stamps are present as mentioned above. => A rare surviving compilation and one that is instructive from multiple perspectives. (Inventory #: 40308)