The Many Women (Children and Families Too) of New Spain’s Mining Borderland

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 10:50 AM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York)
Dana Velasco Murillo, University of California, San Diego
The mid- to late sixteenth century witnessed the emergence of colonial Mexico’s northern silver mining district, an elliptical area northwest of Mexico City that encompassed the great production centers of Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, and Parral. The exchanges between Spaniards and the autochthonous native population in this region, both cooperative and contentious, amidst the quest to find silver and the establishment of mining towns, transfigured this region in the sixteenth century into one of America’s first borderlands. Scholars have traditionally populated this space with men, arguing that amongst many men there was usually “one” woman. This paper recovers and reinserts the “many” women that inhabited and shaped the mining borderlands. It will present four short biographical sketches of women from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds. The paper features two Spanish women who moved to the region seeking economic opportunities. It then focuses on two autochthonous Chichimeca women of the region, highlighting their struggles with captivity and the challenges they faced as refugees of the Chichimeca War.