By Ramon Ruiz
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Additional info for Mexico: Why a Few Are Rich and the People Poor
Mayeques, usually conquered people bound to the soil like the serfs of medieval Europe, tilled the lands, bestowed as a reward for a meritorious deed—valor in war, for example—to a tectecubtzin, or lord. By the sixteenth century, the owners of these lands formed a powerful landed nobility. Democracy, as Westerners know it, was nowhere to be found. A hierarchy of priests shaped politics, their presence felt even in military affairs. At the pinnacle of the theocracy stood the monarch, both priest and warrior, as well as chief priest, chief general, and chief judge.
The rot was not simply in the political sphere. It sapped the strength of agriculture and commerce. The crown’s eagerness to intervene arbitrarily in colonial affairs compelled merchants and hacendados to operate with one ear attuned to politics. They used family relations, political inﬂuence, and family prestige to obtain loans and credit, to win lucrative contracts, to avoid paying import duties, and to defend fraudulent land claims. This was the inheritance bequeathed to Mexicans. To quote one scholar, “We know now that with rare exceptions ex-colonials .
Meanwhile, the macehualtines, the poor, not only did the cooking, cleaning, and caring for children of the home but, in addition, labored in the ﬁelds, made ceramic pots, wove cloth, and cooked tortillas and tamales for sale in the marketplace. Like men the world over, Aztec males, whatever their status in society, employed a double standard. ” It was the duty of women to bear children, to care for them, and, most important, to transmit Aztec culture and traditions to them. ” Men of the elite prized virginity in their women, equating it with honor, but were themselves polygamists.