Social Characteristics of the Mexican Town


During the long period of peace between Apaches and Spaniards from about 1790 until just after 1830 the population of Tubac built up considerably after its refounding in 5931787. Several hundred persons resided there by the time of independence and through the good years when the momentum of Spanish rule carried newly independent Mexico along through a decade of high morale and great elan. Even after serious hostilities with the Apaches were renewed, the population was about four hundred in 1840 (Browne 1950:150) or a few years later (Velasco 1850:113). Only the nearby town of Tumacácori remained of all the outposts settled during the former period of Apache peace, for Sonoita and Canoa and the other outlying ranches had been abandoned. Even the little settlement at Calabazas had been abandoned although its residents worked a rich mine (ibid.) by the late 1840's, and evidently Sopori, too, was abandoned sometime after 1843.

1. Marriage

The marriage customs of the Mexican settlement at Tubac simply continued from the Spanish colonial period for several years until the expulsion of Spanish priests and resulting loss of a resident priest in the Tubac-Tumacácori settlement complex radically changed formal marriage patterns.

Surviving records of marriages at the military post provide a small sample of sixteen marriages during the first years of independence, 1822, 1823 and part of 1824 (Libro de las Partidas Tubac...). Twenty-five per cent of the marriages were celebrated during the month of October. January, April, June, July each saw twelve and 594a half per cent of the total, and August, September and November each saw six and a quarter per cent. The difference between this small sample and the larger sample for the preceding twenty years suggests that there was no preferred month for marriage at Tubac, so the pattern varied randomly through time.

Settlement endogamy was much more pronounced at Tubac during the first three years of independence than it had been during the last score of years under colonial rule. Ninety-three and three-fourths per cent of the marriages were in effect endogamous. Eighty-seven and a half per cent of the marriages united couples who were Tubac natives so far as available records show, with the possible exception of soldiers involved in a quarter of the marriages in the sample. One bride who was a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, had lived at Tubac for a number of years when she married Leon Herreras, proprietor of the San José de Sonoyta land grant, in 1822. One Tubac girl left to live with her husband at Arispe, the only case of real exo-gamy in the sample.

Remarriages were slightly more frequent after independence than during the late colonial years when a third of the sample consisted of unions of one or both spouses who had been married previously. The early republican sample included forty-three and three-fourths per cent remarriages. Marriages of widows to widowers made up a quarter of the sample; marriages of widowers to spinsters comprised another eighteen 595and three-fourths per cent. There were no widows marrying bachelors at Tubac during the first three years of independence.

2. Morality

It might be expected that with the expulsion of Spanish priests and the resulting increased isolation of the people of Tubac from centres of ethical standards, immorality tended to increase in the absence of immediate ecclesiastical sanctions and preaching. Such may have been the case at Tubac, but the folkways of the people and particularly the social leaders in the community may have preserved some of the morality of pre-expulsion days.

At any rate, sexual immorality did exist at Tubac during Mexican times just as it had during colonial times. Again the evidence is not abundant but it does exist. When Br. Trinidád García R. visited Tubac on August 24, 1845, be baptized eight children, of which one was illegitimate (Libro de Bautismos No. 1 de Santa María Magdalena, f. 169v-171). On his return southward he baptized another illegitimate girl on September 5th (ibid., f. 175). This small sample of births suggests an illegitimacy rate of over twenty per cent-one out of every four or five children born being born out of wedlock.

When the same priest visited Tubac in the spring of the following year the fruits of baptism were rather different. 596Of ten infants he baptized on May 15, 1846, one was an Apache, two were legitimate and seven were illegitimate (Libro de Bautismos No. 2 de Magdalena, p. 50-53)! That was a seventy-seven and eight-tenths per cent illegitimacy rate!

When García Rojas revisited Tubac on January 10, 1848, he baptized one legitimate and one illegitimate besides one Apache infant (ibid., p. 200-201). In other words, in a sample of twenty baptisms of children born at Tubac and baptized during a two and one-half year period, half were legitimate and half illegitimate. Quite clearly the absence of a local priest had by that time taken its toll on the formal morality of the Tubac community. The matings which produced many of the illegitimate children may have been socially recognized by the people of Tubac, but they did not meet the general standards of the Church and wider society.

Even the leading families shared in this moral deterioration produced on the frontier. Two descendants of Toribio de Otero who were born in this late 1840's Tubac community showed the effects of their rearing in that lax frontier community by a life-long aversion to church marriage although they produced numerous socially recognized offspring.

3. Caste-Class Leveling

One of the differences between republican and colonial Tubac was a significant diminution in caste and class differences. The expulsion of Spaniards already described removed 597the few representatives of the upper class from the Tubac-Tumacácori settlement complex who had reached that remote frontier during colonial times. The migration of well-trained officers of the Sonoran provincial elite to the national or state capitals to take over the business of running the government upon the overthrow of Spanish rule removed most of the upper class families from Tubac and the other frontier posts. Thus the upper class was seriously weakened in the outposts of civilization and command devolved upon less capable remnants or upon upwardly mobile families in the middle class.

At the same time, as republicanism became the ideal form of government in the newly independent nation, its rulers realized that the colonial form of involuntary servitude was not compatible with the new form of self-government, and they considered it repugnant to the concept of citizen basic to the republican scheme of politics as well as the French-derived doctrine of the rights of man. Significant social reforms radically altering the status of the lower caste and lowest classes followed within a few years of the departure of the upper class from the frontier for centres of political decision-making.

The state legislature of the State of the West was one of those which early outlawed traffic in Indian slaves with the wild tribes beyond the frontier, doing so in its constitution (Dobyns, Ezell, Jones & Ezell 1957:56). This provision 598was being enforced at Altar by 1827, and presumably was also enforced at Tubac about the same time. This state provision was strongly reinforced by action at the national level.

A federal law passed on July 13, 1824, forbade the importation and sale of slaves (Bancroft 1885:V:79 fn 25). On September 16, the anniversary of independence in 1825, then-President Guadalupe Victoria liberated a number of slaves purchased with a special fund and those slaves conveyed by their owners. Finally, during the period where President Vicente Guerrero had extraordinary executive powers, he signed a decree of total abolition of slavery on September 15, 1829 (ibid., V:79).

There were few Negro slaves on the Sonoran frontier who could have been affected by these changes, but the general temper of the republican state and national governments undoubtedly did much toward ending Indian slavery at Tubac and other frontier posts, thus co-opting the lowest caste into the general body politic, and further reducing caste differences in newly independent Mexico. The traffic in Yuman-speaking Indian captives from beyond the frontier evidently petered out at Tubac in the late 1820's or early 1830's. The general attitude and specific items of legislation such as the law already mentioned which ended legal distinction between mission and non-mission Indians also had the effect of lessening social differences between the various ethnic groups in the Tubac community.

H. Health Conditions

The garrison at Tubac started its service under republican rule with a continuation of the very healthy conditions enjoyed in the final years of colonial rule with the exception of the epidemic year 1816. Surviving burial records for the first few months of 1822 indicate health conditions remained unchanged, at least in terms of random mortality.

This fortunate health situation did not long endure, however, and the accumulating social and economic problems were aggravated by psychological stress due to rising morbidity and mortality rates. The Tubac Pima Company had not really suffered from an infectious epidemic until the one in 1816 since it escaped the 1799 contagion. It probably remained free of epidemic infection for only a decade after 1816, since smallpox again swept northern Mexico in 1826. Seven years later the dread cholera appeared in Sonora at the same time that Apache raids began to occur frequently.

Epidemics aside, locally endemic diseases began taking a much heavier toll of the Tubac population so that by the eve of abandonment in 1848 the death rate was very high. One fragment of the burial records for Tubac for 1847-1848 has been discovered (Libro de las Tubac...f. suelto) which happens to include the entries for exactly one year from February 26, 1847 through February 25, 1848. During that one year period thirty-seven persons were 600buried and it is possible others died on visits elsewhere or were not recorded for other reasons. It is possible to estimate the crude death rate at Tubac in the final years of its existence with this information. The total population had not exceeded 400 individuals earlier in the decade (Velasco 1850:113) so it was almost surely lower by 1847. Even if the total population had been 400, the crude death rate would have been 92.5 per 1,000 population so this may be taken as theminimal death rate at Tubac in 1847-1848! For September election purposes in 1848, the Tubac population was counted as 249 individuals (Gándara Sept. 27, 1848:2), presumably based upon a count sometime earlier in the year. This represented the population surviving after the deaths of the thirty-seven persons dying up to Feb. 26, 1848, and some additional period. Using 250 total population to compete a maximum death rate for the settlement yields a crude death rate of 148 per 1,000 population.

Since the total population of Tubac between February of 1847 and 1848 was some number between 250 and 400, the crude death rate was actually some value between 92.5 and 148 deaths per 1,000 population. It was at least ten times as high as the recent United States death rate!

The apparent birthrate at this period, based on the 1845 and 1846 baptisms, was approximately 22.5 to 36 births per 1,000 population, and the drop in baptisms in early 1848 suggests a sharp drop in birth rate then. The population 601of Tubac in the two years immediately preceding its abandonment was very clearly a dying population, with at least three deaths for every birth. This very high mortality rate must have been one important factor in disheartening the people of Tubac.

Since the psychological effect of Apache raids on the Tubac populace and its critical importance in the final abandonment has been stressed repeatedly, it is significant that only one of the thirty-seven deaths between February 26, 1847, and February 25, 1848, was Apache caused. Endemic disease was taking a very high toll of the small Tubac population.

Deaths from endemic disease were so scattered that their total psychological impact was undoubtedly less than the spectacular results of an Apache attack such as the one in December of 1848 which killed nine persons at Tubac (El Sonorense Feb. 21, 1849:3:1) all at once and motivated the final abandonment. Yet their cumulative impact must not be too greatly discounted as a contributory factor.

For one thing, it must have been painfully apparent to the people of Tubac that the settlement was dying through inability to reproduce itself. Not only was the birth rate much lower than the death rate, but infant mortality seems to have been carrying off most of the children under about five years of age during the last years of the post. Fifty-nine and a half per cent of the deaths during the 1847-1848 sample period were infants in the lowest age group. In that group sixty-three and six-tenths per cent of the fatalities were 602males-nearly two boys dying to every girl. Older children and adolescents were the healthiest group at the post (or the smallest), only five and two-fifths per cent of the deaths occurring in that age group. Married persons made up only ten and eight-tenths per cent of the fatalities.

For unknown social and probably economic reasons, the dying town of Tubac was extremely unhealthy for widows who comprised twenty-four and three-tenths per cent of the deaths. There were no male fatalities recorded during the year in this age category.

An estimation of the crude death rate for 1848 provides somewhat of a check on the estimate above for the year up to February 26, 1848. The mid-year population of approximately 250 individuals (the mid-year population is the figure used in computing the United States crude death rate today) lost at least twenty-five persons during 1848 prior to final

abandonment. Sixteen are recorded in the frag mental burial records for January and February and nine are known to have been killed by Apaches in December. How many more died between February and December is not known although some must have. The post lost, therefore, a minimum of ten per cent of its population during 1848-a high enough loss to persuade any army commander to break off an action. The crude death rate was at least 100 deaths per 1,000 population, confirming the pre-vious estimate of the minimum death rate.

6051. The Measles Epidemic in 1826

The people living at Tubac probably suffered considerable mortality during a severe measles epidemic which spread through northern Sonora during the spring and summer of 1826.  Lack of burial records for Tubac forces inferences as to the effects of the epidemic there from information about its execution elsewhere in the area.

Cocospera--The period of epidemic fatalities at Cocospera Mission began on April 2 and ended April 22. During those three weeks two-thirds of the deaths during 1826 at Cocospera occurred in a clear epidemic pattern. Ninety per cent of the Cocospera fatalities were children five years of age or less and the oldest fatality was only eleven. Two Pápago children died at Cocospera in April and from this and similar mission contacts the desert dwelling Indians contracted the fatal disease (Libro de Entierros de Santiago de Cocospera, f. 3v-4v). Since only Santa Cruz lay between Cocospera and the Tubac-Tumacácori settlement complex, the contagion very likely reached the fort during April.

Pitiquito--The epidemic evidently spread west along the Altar-Magdalena or Concepción River, and many Pápagos congregated at Pitiquito for the celebration of St. John's day on June 23, 1826, contracted measles. The missionary at Caborca moved to Pitiquito to minister to the stricken Indians in their huts awaiting death, or if still uninfected, awaiting contagion (Libro de Bautismos de San Diego del Pitiqui, No. 3, f. 72v).

6062. Cholera in 1833

Seven years after the 1826 measles epidemic, a new contagion more deadly to adults spread through Sonora. This was cholera which had prostrated much of Mexico. Direct evidence of its presence at Tubac is again lacking, but it almost certainly reached there.

The cholera emergency prompted legislation by the state.  The social havoc wrought by cholera elsewhere in the republic was known in Sonora, so an emergency fund was authorized to meet the unusual costs entailed in treating patients (Escalante y Arvizu, Nov. 2. 1833). Larger towns with city councils were ordered divided into sections or wards according to the number of councilmen, each taking responsibility for a sector of the town. The section or ward leader was to see that the neighborhood was kept scrupulously clean, swept up by its inhabitants, and free from standing water or mud.  This precaution was to extend not only to public thoroughfares, but also to private houses and corrals. The ward leader was supposed to visit houses of cholera victims frequently to find out the material needs of the patients and meet them out of emergency funds. He was also charged with responsibility for data-collection for forwarding to the state government (ibid., p. 1).

Smaller settlements such as Tubac which had only a Justice of the Peace, his substitute and a sindic were ordered divided into three wards, each the responsibility of one of these officials as in the larger towns. Smaller towns were 607at a financial disadvantage in that the larger settlements with city councils could use their municipality funds for the epidemic emergency fund, but the small towns depended upon their share of rebate monies and voluntary donations. A committee of the Justice of the Peace, curate and two citizens elected by the people was authorized in the smaller towns to administer the expenditures from the epidemic emergency fund.  Where there was no curate, as at Tubac, the three committeemen were to select a fourth. The legislature contemplated use of emergency funds to purchase maize, beans, rice, garbanzos and other staple foods needed by cholera patients, especially the very poor, any remainder to go toward buying blankets and bedding (ibid., p. 2).

As a means of cutting down on the psychological impact of the epidemic on infected settlements, the legislature interdicted tolling church bells to signal the dispatch of viaticum or deaths for the duration of the contagion. Public funerals were also prohib-ited.

Responsible local officials were ordered to guard the cemeteries to see that they were kept clean and that bodies were buried only in the cemetery during the epidemic period at any settlement. Those towns which lacked public cemeteries were ordered to establish them where the local curates designated suitable sites outside the towns. Special care was ordered in burying cadavers deeply and covering them well.

The legislature instructed the governor of the diocese (acting for the bishop) to transmit to curates and vicars the608extraordinary faculties with which he had been invested by the apostolic see for the duration of the epidemic so they could offer spiritual security to the faithful and tranquilize the spirits of the dying during their final moments.

As a further sanitary measure, the legislature ordered authorities of any town menaced by the epidemic to place an absolute embargo on the importation or sale of any type of fruits or vegetables which came to the settlement from elsewhere, this embargo to continue for one month after the epidemic ended at that place.

As an aid to maintaining public order, the legislature further ordered local authorities to close down all liquor dispensing establishments at the same time (ibid., p. 3) fining violators twenty-five pesos which went into the epidemic emergency fund. Liquor was to be sold during this prohibition period only upon prescription for curative purposes. The liquor store operators and fruit and vegetable vendors received a proportionate tax break from the state, which ordered local officials to keep track of the days such businessmen were closed down and submit this information to the government for computing the proper discount on tax bills.

The emergency legislation closed on a realistic if disheartening note. If any of the local officials died during the epidemic, his place was to be promptly filled by local popular election (ibid., p. 4).

Mortality Patterns by Months at the Mexican Fort at Tubac: 1822[12K]
Mortality Patterns by Months at the Mexican Fort at Tubac: 1822[12K]
Mortality Pattern by Months at the Mexican Fort at Tubac: 1847-48[12K]
Mortality Pattern by Months at the Mexican Fort at Tubac: 1847-48[12K]


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