A New World: The Bajío, Spanish
North America, and Global Capitalism
a new world Began in the sixteenth century. For three cen-
turies no region was more important to the creation of that world
than the Bajío, a fertile basin northwest of Mexico City. A little- settled
and often contested frontier between Mesoamerican states to the
south and independent peoples to the north, it saw everything change
with the arrival of Europeans. Disease, war, and displacement re-
moved most natives. Silver linked the region to rising global trade.
Migrants from Mesoamerica and Europe arrived seeking gain; Afri-
cans arrived bound to labor. Production, labor, and communities were
driven by pursuit of commercial profit. Diverse peoples mixed to forge
new and changing identities. Patriarchy orchestrated social hierar-
chies. Catholicism defined and debated everything. By the eighteenth
century the region was dynamically capitalist and socially polarized.
Patriarchy persisted, yet faced new pressures and challenges. Catholi-
cism endured while fundamental debates multiplied within its spa-
cious domain. Then in 1810 the Bajío generated a mass insurgency
that shook the Spanish empire and became a social revolution that
helped create Mexico, transform North America, and redirect global
cap italism.
The world made in the Bajío, a basin beginning around Querétaro
and extending west across Guanajuato, was new in three fundamental
ways. First, immigrant residents, commercial dynamics, social amal-
gamations, and cultural reconstitutions combined to make life in the
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