Conclusions: Contested Space
Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, for the
early rains have covered it with pools of water.
Psalms 84:r-6
Serrano peoples depended on the confluence of land, water, and labor
to grow their crops and harvest the desert. Their livelihood required
spatial mobility and a wide range of wild and cultivated resources in
the semiarid environment of northwestern Mexico. Spanish colonial-
ism worked long-term structural changes in the ecological and social
relations of production that diverted labor from essential subsistence
tasks and shrank the resource base on which Sonoran communities re-
lied for their own reproduction. The expansion of a market economy
in this frontier province during the second half of the eighteenth cen-
tury prompted a conjuncture of events that deepened the crisis of sur-
vival for indigenous peasants. Not only did Bourbon poliCies increase
the burdens placed on Indian communities, but they altered the mode
of exploitation by commodifying land and labor. The period of transi-
tion between colonial and national rule witnessed the impoverishment
of native pueblos, leading to economic dependency and a dispersal of
the cultural nuclei of household and community.
Social ecology provides a conceptual framework for analyzing the
full import of these processes of change, encompassing both the colo-
nial policies to which peasant communities were subjected and the re-
sponses they developed to adapt and resist. Understood as a complex
web of relations among different indigenous peoples and between them
and their Spanish overlords in reference to the land they occupied, the
concept gives meaning to the values that serrano pueblos espoused and to
the political struggles in which they engaged. Their discourse in defense
of the camtin -reiterated in written petitions, ritualized in syncretic reli-
gious ceremonialism, and politicized in the internal governance of the
pueblos-was concerned as much with the economic components of
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