The discovery of silver in the Spanish America changed the regional parts of the country. There were two main areas of silver mining that were explored in the sixteenth century.1 The regions included the northern and western parts of Mexico City; Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and the Potosi. Potosi was commonly referred to as the mountain of silver.
It was situated in the Peruvian Andes. Zacatecas was predominantly an arid land with infertile soil and poor rain distribution. It drew a great deal of attention from many after the discovery of silver. There was a problem of labor shortage as the demand increased due to the high numbers of industries and mining companies.
As the main administrators of the region, the Spanish crown was ready to receive tax from the locals. The cash collected was used to fund the Spanish economy and also guard the vast empires all over the world in terms of military funding.
The crown claimed all the land rights in the region, but as a way of attracting labor and investment from private individuals, it embarked on a state-directed means, and to some extent, private initiatives to lure a strong labor force and more investment. Capital was a necessity in funding all the mining activities and future explorations.2
Major Arguments- Silver in Spanish America
Indians and Mestizo laborers were lured into the ridges from Mexico. They were offered relatively high wages and attractive incentives such as rewarding loyal workers in terms of promotion, medical cover, and being given time off to spend with their respective families.
This ensured a large pool of workforce and improved the mining processes. African slaves also formed part of workforce in the region. And in this effect, the Trans Atlantic slave trade increased. This promoted the rise in the number of deaths as the slaves brought with them new diseases. The slaves were also overworked to death.
Influx of people into this region brought a lot of challenges in terms of population increase and insecurity issues. The large population required a lot of food to remain healthy. A settlement scheme was required to cater for the rising population in the area.
In the New Spain, silver workers constructed a kind of aristocratic labor force with relatively greater privileges and freedom as compared to the Indians who were held in Encomianda. Accidents were also common in the mining sites. Therefore, the area was so dangerous; lives were lost.3
“Hispanization” also spread swiftly across the country and mostly among the Indians, Mezistos and the African workers in Zacatecas compared to anywhere else in New Spain. Therefore, Spanish workforce ensured the required jobs were done. The collective force created increased efficiency of the work and greatly improved the output. Common language meant an ease of communication.
Directions and orders were clearly understood. It also became easy to solve disputes as both sides clearly expressed their feelings in a common language. The rising of industries in the region was also significant.4 This helped to cater for the vast population’s needs of food and clothing.
Therefore, textile industries mushroomed as well as food industries. This also involved the artisan work and craftwork. The diverse employment opportunities helped improve the living standards of the people in the region as they got regular income from the activities they engaged in. Trade also became another important event that resulted from the silver discovery.
There was a need to have middlemen and suppliers of various goods. A great deal of consideration was given to the high number of deaths that were recorded due to new diseases that were introduced by the incoming population of foreigners from Europe. Europeans came to trade silver while some came with the intention of exploring the lands and the silver mines.
This implied that they stayed there for long. Exploration took a lot of time and so interaction with the locals was inevitable. There also emerged a great interest in education as people developed an interest for record keeping.5 European traders and explorers also introduced some analytical techniques such as observing, analyzing, arranging and recording of issues.
These were quickly adopted by the locals who saw the need to keep records of their activities and possessions. There also changed perception about wealth. Land was no longer the basis of determining a person’s wealth as other valuable things emerged such as precious metals like silver.
Bauer, Wise. The story of the world: history for the classical child. Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2003.
Marichal, Carlos. Bankruptcy of Empire: Mexican Silver and the Wars between Spain, Britain, and France, 1760-1810. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Stein, Stanley. Silver, Trade, and War: Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2000.
1 Wise Bauer. The story of the world: history for the classical child (Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2003), 34.
2 Stanley Stein. Silver, Trade, and War: Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2000), 45.
3 Stanley Stein. Silver, Trade, and War: Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2000), 56.
4 Carlos Marichal. Bankruptcy of Empire: Mexican Silver and the Wars between Spain, Britain, and France, 1760-1810 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 98.
5 Wise Bauer. The story of the world: history for the classical child (Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2003), 34.
Silver In Spanish America