New Mexico, in the 19th century, was a region experiencing political turmoil. Governmental control moved first from the Spanish empire to the Mexican state and finally to the United States when the region became a territory. With change to American governmental control, Spanish New Mexicans, once politically and socially powerful, became dominated by English speaking governors, a situation that mirrors in some respects what happened to the native peoples of New Mexico in the 16th and 17th centuries. This research asks how people in ethnically diverse colonies react to new economic opportunities and constraints, especially when the politically dominant culture does not match the ethnically dominant culture. We examine how political shifts and expanded trade opportunities affected Spanish New Mexican household economies that were already demonstrate ethnically complex interactions.
Badly damaged by a former landowner with earthmoving equipment, the PB site contains the remains of a 19th century ranch. We found evidence for a domestic structure and several midden deposits. While occupation of the immediate area was a mix of several ethnic groups, this site appears to have been occupied by Hispanic people, primarily during the 19th century. The majority of determinable artifacts date to between 1775 and 1900. In the 1880s a railroad line was laid along what is now the paved roadbed, and residents of the valley tell us that a stagecoach trail ran on the first bench above the site. So while today, the site is on a narrow relatively quiet road, during the 19th century, it may well have been a bustling, active place.
Material culture from the site include a vulcanite comb, an Anglo American-style horseshoe, the clasps for a ladies’ purse, charred machine woven cotton fabric, a Civil War era button, coal, and a railroad spike. Ceramics from this area include both locally made Pueblo wares and local micaceous wares and whitewares imported from the eastern US. Worked sherds were common. The majority of the imported ceramics, especially those from the latest levels of the site, appear to have been made in the eastern United States. In midden deposits we found both bottle and flat glass fragments, some faunal remains, several beads and buttons. We found several pieces of an aquamarine scroll flask, which may have been made in the Midwest, perhaps in the Pittsburgh area. The general scroll flask style was most popular from the 1830s to the 1850s, but this particular form was manufactured as early as 1813. From the lowest levels of one of the midden deposits, we found a piece of Mexican majolica; from another deep midden context we found a piece of Nopaltepec polychrome – a majolica which was produced in Mexico as early as 1775 and as late as 1900.
Plant and Animal Remains
Plant remains from the site include peach pits, bread wheat kernels, wheat rachis fragments, wheat stem pieces, wheat glumes, and a bean. The wheat rachis fragment is the part of the plant that holds the kernel to the stalk and the glumes are the part of the plant that covers the kernels. These plant parts are typically removed from the wheat kernels during threshing, which suggests that wheat was grown or at least threshed nearby. Faunal remains from the site include both livestock and poultry: chickens, sheep or goat, and horse. Some of these bones were burned; some have butchery marks. One bone appears to have been used as a scraper.
Our data suggest that accessibility and availability of imports rather than their source and cultural affiliation played a large role in choices Hispanos at the Parker Borrego Site made. It is interesting that even though the Chihuahua trade continued throughout the 19th century, that the people at the Parker Borrego site dropped or reduced their use of Mexican wares in favor of Anglo-American ceramics. This could relate to the location of the site which is much closer to the Taos trade fairs where goods coming in from the Santa Fe Trail could be found than the more distant trade venues in Chihuahua, Mexico. Nevertheless, Anglo-American imported goods appear to have replaced Mexican status goods, and choosing imported material culture made by Anglo-Americans perhaps signaled some sort affinity for the United States rather than Mexico.
Related Masters Theses
Peles, A. (2010). Spanish-American Foodways and Culture Change in Colonial New Mexico. Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA.