Glossary of Terms in Mexican History




alcabala    A sales tax imposed one every item sold in colonial Mexico .

Ateneo de la Juventud  A forum of intellectuals calling for a new cultural image for Nexico in the early 20th century .


audiencia  Colonial department set up to represent the Spanish Crown in New Spain. It had multiple functions, including the highest court of appeals in New Spain .


auto de fe  Public punishment of different severity meted out by the Inquisition. The worst punishment being burning at the stake.


Bourbon Reforms  economic and administrative reforms instituted in New Spain in the early 1700s to help the economy grow, protect New Spain from other colonial powers and inrease political control of New Spain by the French Bourbons, who had replaced the Habsburgs on the Spanish throne .


bracero  Mexicans laborers who worked in America during the labor shortage of WW2 . the program was ended in 1964 .


cacique  Orginally referred to a local Indian leader, but later came to be applied to political leaders .


calaveras    Animated skeletons brought out for festivals such as the Day of the dead .


campesino Rural farm worker or peasant


caudillo  Local, state or national leader


Chichimeca  Generic term for the nomadic tribes in northern Mexico, the most famous of which were the Atecs .


chinampa Floating gardens used by the Aztecs in the lakes of Mexico .


cientificos  Advisors for Porfirio Diaz who advocated laissez-faire and social Darwinistic policies .


conhineal  One of the major exports of colonial Mexico. A red dye produced from an insect that lives on the nopal cactus, grown mainly by the Mixtecs in the Oaxaca .


crillo  Person of Spanish parentage, but born in Mexico . Often denied higher level positions in colonial Mexico .


Cinco de Mayo  May 5 national holiday celebrating defeating the french at Puebla in 1862 .


Cristero war  A conservative, pro-church revolt against the anti church policies of the liberals who held power from 1926-29.


CROM  regional Confederation of Mexican Labor, powerful national labor union started by Luis Morones


decena tragica  ' ten tragic day ' from feb 9 to feb 18, 1913 , in which Mexico City became a battlefield in the Mexican revolution


ejido  communial farm that is worked in common and profits are shared, unlike the haciendas


encomieda Grants of Indians for tribute and labor


federales    armed military units of the national government


fueros  privileges granted to priests and army officers exempting them from the jurisdiction of the civil courts



gachupin  derisive term for Spaniards living in Mexico. They usually held the highest positions in New Spain .


Grito de Dolores   Call to arms by Father Miguel Hidalgo for independence from Spain .


hacienda    Large estatesdevoted to farming or ranching


harquebus  Large, matchlock guns invented in Spain and used in the Conquest .


hidalgo members of the colonial aristocracyjefe maximo  Head Chief , used to refer to the rule of Plutarco Callas through puppets


leva  forced conscription used during Diaz and the Mexican Revolution


lucha libre  Mexican professional wrestling


maquiladoras    Twins plants on both sides of the US-Mexican border where goods are assembled in Mexico for distribution in the US .


mestizo  person of mixed white and Indian ancestry


mordida    bribes for public officals


Nahuatl  language of the Aztecs and many other tribes of central Mexico


Olmec  One of the first civilizations of Mexico located in modern day Veracruz state


porfiriato  Regime of Porfirio Diaz from 1876 to 1911.


pragmatica  royal decree


PRI  Revolutionary Institutional Party, dominant political party in the second half of the 20th century. President Fox was the first president who was not from PRI.


pronunciamiento  revolt or military uprising


pulque  alcoholic drink made from maguey, often drunk by the poor and working class, drunk in a pulqueria


Quetzalcoatl    Feathered serpent , Aztec sky and creator god, a combination of quetzal, a brightly colored Mesoamerican bird, and coatl, meaning serpent


rurales  rural police established to stop banditos in the late 18th and early 20 century .


soldaderas     female soldiers in the Mexican revolution




















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