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The Mexican Aristocracy: An Expressive Ethnography, 1910–2000

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    The Mexican Aristocracy
    Book Description:

    The Mexican aristocracy today is simultaneously an anachronism and a testimony to the persistence of social institutions. Shut out from political power by the democratization movements of the twentieth century, stripped of the basis of its great wealth by land reforms in the 1930s, the aristocracy nonetheless maintains a strong sense of group identity through the deeply held belief that their ancestors were the architects and rulers of Mexico for nearly four hundred years.

    This expressive ethnography describes the transformation of the Mexican aristocracy from the onset of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, when the aristocracy was unquestionably Mexico's highest-ranking social class, until the end of the twentieth century, when it had almost ceased to function as a superordinate social group. Drawing on extensive interviews with group members, Nutini maps out the expressive aspects of aristocratic culture in such areas as perceptions of class and race, city and country living, education and professional occupations, political participation, religion, kinship, marriage and divorce, and social ranking. His findings explain why social elites persist even when they have lost their status as ruling and political classes and also illuminate the relationship between the aristocracy and Mexico's new political and economic plutocracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79846-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-29)

    This book is a continuation ofThe Wages of Conquest(Nutini 1995), which is concerned with theMexican aristocracy, the superordinate class of the country since the Spanish Conquest. Together the two volumes constitute a comprehensive structural and expressive treatment of this social class, its evolution throughout nearly five centuries, and its place in the stratification system of Mexico. Although each is essentially a self-contained monograph, a certain amount of background information will help the reader. Therefore, in these introductory remarks I summarize the most salient points and themes discussed in the first volume. Since themethodological and theoretical framework on which...

    (pp. 30-50)

    Perhaps the most diagnostic characteristic of all variants of theWestern aristocracy is its self-awareness and its consciousness of itself as a social class, or estate, from before the end of the eighteenth century. This self-conscious awareness is enhanced in Mexico and other NewWorld aristocracies, where there is an important ethnic-racial component. There is an invariant component, reinforced by centuries of colonialism, that heightens self-identification, resulting in a high degree of consciousness of class, group belonging, and an ever-present milieu that emphasizes ‘‘we’’ and ‘‘others.’’

    Formally speaking,Mexican aristocrats belong to a social class in the standard use of the term by...

  6. CHAPTER 2 THE RELATIONSHIP OF CLASS AND ETHNICITY Somatic and Racial Considerations
    (pp. 51-76)

    Mexico is a complex nation state where phenotypic categories and characteristics blend with cultural categories and definitions in capricious, contextual, occasionally contradictory, and always baroque individual and collective types. Racial and physical categories that originally (in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) had clear and precise denotations have throughout the centuries acquired cultural denotations, with an array of connotations that only time, place, and context can make specific—terms such asblanco(white),europeo(European),indio(Indian),negro(black),mestizo(various combinations of white and Indian),mulato(various combinations of white and black; a rarely used term),criollo(originally a Spaniard...

    (pp. 77-94)

    I have deliberately postponed discussion of themethodological considerations underlying this book. It is more appropriate to undertake this task based on some of the main domains of expressive realization, as presented in the foregoing chapters. That procedure should bemoremeaningful to the reader than discussingmethodological matters in abstract form. This departure from traditionalism has been dictated by the fact that there are no models for presenting an expressive ethnography, particularly one that extrapolates to other social classes.

    Substantively, this monograph is primarily an ethnography of the Mexican aristocracy during its period of rapid decline, roughly from the late 1940s to the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 THE ORGANIZATION OF URBAN LIVING Settlement, Residence, and the Household
    (pp. 95-138)

    Since the foundation of the Spanish city on the ruins of Tenochtitlan,Mexico City has been the political, economic, social, and religious capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain and afterward of independent Mexico. A significant percentage of the aristocracy was always concentrated in Mexico City. At no time since 1530 did Mexico City harbor less than 30 percent of the national aristocracy, and at times it was as high as 50 percent. With the exodus from the provinces to the capital beginning after the 1910 Revolution, practically all of the aristocracy became enfranchised in Mexico City.

    In the civic center...

    (pp. 139-168)

    It is difficult to characterize the aristocracy as a distinct segment of the Mexican superordinate stratification system in terms of material culture and its economic base, except, of course, for the household and other core elements of the aristocracy (as analyzed in Chapter 4). Politically, however, the aristocracy is a distinct, if insignificant, social group; only during the past generation have considerable numbers of its members engaged in tangible action. In this chapter I contrast the organization of material culture, economic activities, and political involvement that characterize the three main sectors of thehaute bourgeoisie, focusing on the aristocracy.


  10. CHAPTER 6 RELIGION Ideology,Worship, and the Ritual-Ceremonial Complex
    (pp. 169-220)

    It is well known that, as the largest and most widespread division of Christianity, Catholicism has many variants that usually but not always correlate with nation states.Thus Catholicism in France, Italy, and Spain exhibits quite distinct features; even within Italy there are significant differences between north and south, to say nothing of the differences between the somewhat ‘‘Protestantized’’ (in several pragmatic domains) Catholicism of the United States as contrasted with that of most European nations. The same, of course, obtains in Mexico. Mexican Catholicism is quite uniform throughout the country but exhibits a number of traits that depart significantly from...

  11. CHAPTER 7 SOCIAL ORGANIZATION The Configuration and Interrelationship of Kinship Units and Institutions
    (pp. 221-281)

    Aristocratic kinship is basically bilateral but diverges from the standard Spanish system from which it stems: it is somewhat more patrilineally biased. This characteristic has nothing to do with any changes that the Spanish system underwent inMexico; rather, it reflects differences between the standard Spanish system (that of the commonality while the estate system was in place and that of most Spaniards today) and the system of the aristocracy, which in Mexico has thrived from colonial times to the present. This difference, by the way, obtains in pretty much the same fashion in all Western European countries and can be...

    (pp. 282-317)

    As I have indicated in Chapter 7, the gestalt of the Mexican aristocracy and the monolithic image its members project are significantly different from the actual organization of the group. The aristocracy is a mildly ranked social class in which the standing of individuals and families depends on several factors: mainly, antiquity of lineage in the country, degree of contemporary and traditional wealth, and achievements and notable deeds of illustrious ancestors. In this chapter I analyze these and other factors in order to give the real— as contrasted with the ideal—view of the group, which (in a large variety...

    (pp. 318-340)

    With different degrees of intensity and elaboration, the most salient issues and themes of the expressive ethnography presented in this book may be summarized as follows.

    First, this study chronicles aristocratic decline in the twentieth century from the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to the present, including loss of economic power due mainly to the 1934–1940 land reform, the rise of a powerful plutocracy, and expressive constraints to emulate plutocratic ways.

    Second, a new, postrevolutionary plutocracy (which includes a large segment of the political class) arose that supplanted the aristocracy as a ruling class. Due to the accumulation of great...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 341-346)
    (pp. 347-356)
    (pp. 357-366)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 367-386)