5512 - Exports, Ethnicity and Enganche: a Comparison of Labour Contracting in Chiapas, Mexico and Cajamarca, Peru, c. 1880-c. 1930

This paper explores the relationship between ethnicity and labour supply in two regions of plantation development – southern Mexico and northern Peru - during the export boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These regions produced coffee and sugar, respectively, for sale on world markets. Labour demands varied due to differing international prices and the different technological characteristics of production and processing of each commodity. Furthermore, sugar had been grown on coastal Peruvian haciendas for centuries, using the labour of black slaves until 1854 and then Chinese coolies until 1874. Coffee, by contrast, was a new commodity in southern Mexico, established after 1870 in regions of predominantly Indian and mestizo peasants. Nevertheless, ostensibly homologous processes of debt labour contracting (enganche) developed after 1880 that supplied temporary migrant workers from more densely populated highland regions – the department of Cajamarca in Peru and the central highlands of the state of Chiapas in Mexico - to lowland plantations that were unable to meet their rising labour requirements from amongst the local population. The first part of the paper gives an overview of the enganche of sugarcane workers in Cajamarca and of coffee workers in Chiapas and argues that extra-economic coercion played a relatively greater role vis-à-vis market forces in the latter than the former. How might ethnicity have influenced this situation? Part two compares the ethnic, socio-economic, and demographic characteristics of the two regions. Part three looks at politics and the role of the state. Finally part four discusses the relative importance of these factors and others, such as commodities, communications and technology, and how they may have interacted to influence the recruitment of plantation labour.

Palabras claves: Exports, Plantations, Ethnicity, Debt Labour Contracting, Indians

Autores: Washbrook, Sarah (St Antony's College, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)


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