Toward Unimagined Revolution
BeFore 1808 no one in The BaJío imagined the breakdown
of the Spanish empire, the Hidalgo revolt, or the social revolu-
tion that followed. While provincial elites resented escalating de-
mands for revenues, including the recall of ecclesiastical mortgages
in the consolidation that began in 1804, they grumbled, negotiated,
and paid. Entrepreneurs struggled during uncertain times, especially
in textile markets as years of blockade alternated with periods of open
trade. Still, most found profits in an economy driven by silver, popu-
lation growth, and commercial cultivation. Meanwhile working pro-
ducers, urban and rural, faced deepening poverty, frustrating insecu-
rities, and threats to patriarchy. But while the economy prospered and
the regime held on, few challenged prevailing ways. Revenue demands
and economic uncertainties frustrated elites, especially those without
the resources of a patriarch like don José Sánchez Espinosa. Worsening
poverty, insecurity, and threats to patriarchy angered many in work-
ing families, creating tensions revealed in local contests at Puerto de
Nieto, La Griega, and other communities. Yet frustrations among pro-
vincial elites and producing families remained just that—frustrations
lived differently in diverse communities, negotiated within patriarchal
hierarchies, and debated within evolving religious understandings.
Only after Napoleon invaded Spain, took Madrid in May 1808, and
claimed the Crown for his brother, proclaimed José I, did an unfore-
seen sequence of events set off the conflicts that brought revolution to
the Bajío. People in Madrid (memorialized in Goya’s famous Third of
May paintings) and across the Spanish countryside resisted Napoleonic
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