Fernando Serrano

  • Fellowship year:2016-2017
  • University: University of California, Los Angeles
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Latin America
  • Dissertation Title: Indigenous Workers in the Guanajuato Mines: Labor, Migration, and Capital in the Transformation of Space, 1550-1800
  • Fernando Serrano's dissertation examines the participation of indigenous workers in Guanajuato's colonial mining industry and the impact that this had on them and their communities of origin. As is well-known, Guanajuato- in present day Mexico- played a significant role in the production of silver throughout the colonial period, becoming, by the mid-eighteenth century, the top producer of silver in the world. This has generated much interest among scholars, with most of the attention being placed on analyzing the economic significance of this center, its productive capabilities, and the dominant Spanish group. However, besides some broad generalizations, very little has been said about the workers that provided this important mining center with the labor force it needed. Also, little research has been done to establish with any precision the ethnic identity of the workers since it has been mostly assumed that the workers were predominantly mestizo and that indigenous men and women did not have an important presence in this mining town.
    However, on a closer look, what we find in the historical record is a complicated system of labor recruitment in which the Guanajuato mining center was connected to indigenous communities throughout the region in a web-like structure in which both people and goods moved to and from the mines. Thus, rather than a one-way road to the mines- and to mestizaje- this web-like structure allowed for more complicated relationships in which indigenous workers and their communities had a more significant role to play than so far presumed. Using a regional history approach and ethnohistoric methodologies, the present work will analyze the nature of labor institution utilized to recruit workers to the mines and the impact of the Guanajuato mining industry on workers and their communities. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to highlight the importance of an indigenous presence in this mining town and their continued relevance throughout the colonial period in spite of a dominate mestizo ideology that seeks to minimize, or even deny, that presence.