Prior to the Aztec and the Spanish conquest, Mexico was home to the matlatzinca people who were the original indigenous inhabitants that were eventually conquered by the Aztecs in 15th century. The Aztecs according to Brian Tomaszewski, were peoples from the legendary city of Aztlan who migrated south into the valley of Mexico. They eventually grew stronger and defeated the central city of mexico, the Azcapotzalco and formed their own government and civilization. Thus, long before the conquest of Spain, the indigenous society of Mexico, the Aztec communities, were already established communities with established social relationship.
Historians noted that despite of varied conceptions of collective responsibility, these indigenous communities often worked land cooperatively and had various forms of community service built into their societies. However, the Spanish viewed these relationships to the land and to each other backward and oblige the conquered people to adopt the Christian concepts of civilization and service. The Spanish sought to transform the ways of life of the Aztecs communities but their efforts were largely rejected by these indigenous people although many of them also adapted the Spanish Catholic concept into their ideas of community.
During the colonial period, the Spanish conquerors founded charitable organizations linked to the church that provided services including hospitals and education. They also established political systems in an attempt to make all of the native inhabitants Spanish subjects. According to Tomaszewski, the highest level of political organization was the encomienda, who took charge of large existing native states dividing them among various ecomiendos or ruler, and combine smaller native states into one territorial unit.
The rulers of these political units were responsible to convert the native people to Christianity and to make them vassals of the Spanish crown. On the religious aspect, the Aztecs according to Dale Hoyte Palfrey (1998) were not resistant to adopt Catholicism, as there were some similarities on some rituals between the Aztecs religion and Christianity such as the consummation of the Holy Eucharist or the body and blood of Christ, compared to human sacrifice.
Different Races in Mexico during the Colonial Times According to Yetzchok Levine, Mexico was inhabited by different Indian races for centuries. But among these races only six were considered to be the most influential, namely, the Olmecs, the Teotihuacans, the Toltecs, the Mayans, the Zapotec/Mixtec, and the Aztects The Olmecs civilization according to Kimberly Lavin is made-up of four diverse eras. Olmec I existed during 1500- 1200 B. C. Olmec II during 1200- 600 B. C. , while Olmec III, 600- 100 B. C. and the post classic 100 onwards.
Lavin pointed out that during the Olmec period; they had made many advances in life including agriculture. The Olmec according to Lavin was a typical Indian group that we imagine of today. Teotihuacan race according to Kathy O’Halleran, existed around 1200- 100 B. C. and was the largest city comprising of 125,000 at its height. However, this race collapsed in AD 700, the reason for the collapse remains a mystery, but their civilization marked an advanced industrial and religious society.
The Maya civilization according to O’Halleran was believed to be the origins of the Aztecs and their contribution to the development of the Mesoamerican civilization was in written language, arts, and architecture nevertheless this race collapsed in AD 900. The Toltec on the other hand shared religious belief with the Aztec implying similarity in their religious life and culture. The Living Conditions Living condition during the colonial period was miserable, for two reasons: First, the people were plagued by rampant and dreadful disease that killed hundreds of thousands of Aztecs.
Second, there was no peace as sporadic rebellions, attacks, and wars continued to dominate the condition of the society reducing the population from about 8,000,000 to 2,000,000 (Radar Tours). What was life like for the Indians Life for the Indians during the colonial times was difficult as the society was characterized by unjust treatment. The indigenous people remained in impoverished situation while the Spanish land owning class absorbs all the wealth of the country from its entire mineral and natural resources.
Life for the Indians during the colonial times according to Country Guides was a life of under privilege, depressed, and poor (Country Guides). Means of Transportations There seemed to be not enough records of transportation facilities during the colonial period of Mexico but it would be quite probably that animals were utilized during this time on land transportation, and ships and boats on sea travel. The Five Social Classes Among the five social classes during the colonial period of Mexico, the Gachupines which was the most distinguished and most influential during the colonial times. According to Prof.
German Estrada (2006), gachupine is the same term as peninsulares applied to high royal officials and prelates, which were generally men of learning, mostly professionals and lawyers, and they had the monopoly of best jobs, government, and the church. They were tactless and discriminating. Criollos on the other hand are the Spanish born outside of Mexico particularly in the new world. This group was next to the gachopines. The criollos were the sons and daughters of the conquistadores who were born in the new world. They held an indistinguishable place in the society because of their color.
They were neither white nor brown to be categorized as Indians or mestizos, however, they could avail high education such as law and medicine. Thus they could handle sensitive position too. The mestizos were the mixed blood or offspring of Spanish born with non-Spanish mother or father and comprised the largest part of the colonial population. They were a class bit higher than the Indian societies but they were also the most confused due to their vague identity, and were discriminated by the gachupine and the criollos. The Indians however, were the native people who were the descendants of the Aztecs community.
They were called Indian or perhaps Indio to emphasize their being natives and they were most victims of injustice, oppression, and exploitation. The Negro society was probably the lowest society of people during the colonial times in Mexico. The term Negro was a Spanish term meaning black. They were also the most discriminated and the most oppressed people through slavery. They were mostly slave labor in mines, which were extremely dangerous to their lives. The Negro class was the source of the forced labor for Spain and in important mining such as Guanajuato, San Luis, and Hidalgo.