José de Monterde and Alonso Hernández's 18th-century land dispute

Jose de Monterde used this tactic to try to remove Alonso Hernández's house from him, but he failed to account for the town's united front in defense of the home.

José de Monterde and Alonso Hernández's 18th-century land dispute
Reference: AGN, Colonial Institutions, Criminal, vol. 53, exp. 20.

During the 18th century, economic responsibility fell on the haciendas. In their eagerness to obtain more land, the hacienda owners sought to take advantage of the lack of land demarcation to gain space. This is how José de Monterde tried to take his house from Alonso Hernández, although he did not count on the fact that the entire town would defend the property. Finally, the Royal Audience intervened and delimited the areas to avoid further problems.

During the first half of the 18th century, the constant economic, political, and social changes in New Spain made possible the consolidation of the haciendas as the main centers for the production and supply of grains and livestock. The role that hacienda production played in the economy of New Spain was so important that they had to expand their original borders. This led to the invasion of lands that mostly belonged to indigenous communities and caused fights between the hacienda owners and the communities.

One of these conflicts arose in 1744 between José de Monterde y Atillón, owner of the Señor San José de Axacuba hacienda, and the inhabitants of the town of Axacuba, a territory belonging to the jurisdiction of Tetepango-Huipmtla (the present-day state of Hidalgo).

Monterde, in an effort to expand his territory, set about the task of trying to destroy the house of Alonso Hernandez, one of the neighbors, by means of his economic position. Thus, he resorted to the authorities to request the measurement of leagues (a measure of length to establish the dimensions of land used in the courts) of his neighbor's house on the pretext that it was invading part of his property. He also said that he needed the land to grow crops, which would bring more money into the town.

The landowner sent his men to demolish his house, but the people put up resistance and came out to defend Alonso's land. Among the tumult, there was a group of indigenous women who gave clubs to those who tried to demolish the house. A great commotion ensued. The whole town defended Alonso, except for the ecclesiastical authorities, who remained inside the chapel.

It should be noted that this was not the first time that José de Monterde sought to take possession of the town's private or common property. Before, he had made it hard for people to get to the community watering place and only let his animals use it. He said this was because it hadn't been taken care of in a while, which he was willing to do as long as it helped his territory.

The disagreement between José de Monterde and Alonso Hernández got so bad that the Royal Court stepped in and decided to start a trial over the landline. Unfortunately, they also decided to imprison those who had participated in the disturbance and warned that the same would happen to anyone who tried to do anything against Monterde's hacienda.

At the end of the trial, the people who had been in the fight were let go, and by 1747, the problem was over because the land of both the hacienda and the town had been clearly defined.