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Auerbach Lecture | 18.12.2023 | 18 Uhr

José Antonio Serrano Ortega (History, Michoacán): From subjects of the King to citizens of the Republic. The political culture of indigenous peoples and the fiscal system in New Spain-Mexico, 1750-1850


Before 1821, the population of New Spain lived in a corporativist system that bound certain groups of people to pay certain taxes. The culture of that system stipulated that indigenous peoples had to pay, above all, a kind of ethnic tribute to the King’s treasury, but were exempt from other forms of taxation, such as the alcabalas, a kind of sales tax. After 1780, the indigenous population rose in opposition to the tributary reforms the King sought to apply throughout New Spain to increase Crown revenues. The King of the Spanish Empire urgently needed to augment his resources in order to intervene effectively in the international wars that followed upon the French Revolution. The intense fiscal pressure exerted on indigenous peoples in New Spain caused widespread riots and rebellions. In stark contrast, the year 1810 introduced a political and fiscal revolution that reduced the tax burden on those groups, while later, the so-called Gaditano liberalism would transform the indigenous from subjects of the King to citizens and abolish many of the ethnic taxes imposed by the ancien régime. Refuting the precepts of numerous studies of the impact of liberalism in Mexico, I propose that liberal culture actually benefitted indigenous peoples in both fiscal and economic terms.

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