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rey en contra de las cajas de comunidad, 1793“1806. Cultura pol´tica en torno a los reglamentos
para los pueblos de indios,” unpublished paper, 1995.
For information on the comunal treasures and schools, see Dorothy Tanck de Estrada, Pueblos de indios
y educaci´n en el M´xico colonial, 1750“1821 (Mexico: El Colegio de M´ xico, 1998).
o e e
Imperial Tax State 63



Thousands of silver pesos







1600- 1610 1620 1630 1640 1650 1660 1670 1680 1690 1700 -1710 1720 1730 1740 1750 1760 1770 1780

Figure 2.2. Revenue from Indian Tribute in New Spain, 17th and 18th Centuries
(average annual income per decade).
Source: Daniel Marino “El af´ n de reacaudar y la di¬cultad en reformar. El tributo ind´gena en la Nueva
a ±
Espana tardocolonial,” in C. Marichal and D. Marino, eds., De colonia a naci´n, Impuestos y pol´tica en
o ±
M´xico, 1750“1860, Mexico, El Colegio de M´ xico, 2001, pp. 76“78.
e e

of tribute was linked to the paternalistic judicial system that had its axis
in the General Indian Court, which assisted Indian peasant communities
in land disputes, as demonstrated by Woodrow Borah in a magni¬cient
historical study. .46
A third branch of income was that derived from taxes on trade, most of
which were duties on internal commerce (alcabalas) and on native alcoholic
beverages (pulques), producing 24 percent of net receipts in the 1790s. The
alcabalas were actually a medieval ¬scal instrument of Arabic origin, which
was introduced into Spanish America from early in the sixteenth century.
These sales taxes were levied in the colonies in almost identical form to
counterparts in Spain and France.47 The entire population of New Spain
normally paid the alcabalas at all local markets and fairs as well as in urban
stores at a rate of 6 percent on the market value of most products sold; but
during times of international wars, rates were frequently jacked up. These
taxes were popular with royal administrators, largely, because of the large

46 Woodrow Borah, El Juzgado General de Indios en la Nueva Espa˜ a (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura
Econ´ mica, 1985).
47 In Spain, these sales taxes were known as consumos but ¬gured under the ¬scal category of rentas
provinciales. For a precise discussion, see Miguel Artola, La Hacienda del antiguo R´gimen, pp. 336“
64 Bankruptcy of Empire

Millions of pesos
Manuel Payno
Garavaglia y Grosso




1801 1805
1781 1785 1789 1793 1797 1809

Figure 2.3. Sales Taxes (Alcabala) Revenue in New Spain, 1777“1811.
Source: Appendix II, Table I.

volume and relative stability of their yield, although in times of agrarian
crises (like the terrible calamity that devastated rural Mexico in 1784/1785)
revenues fell drastically. (See Figure 2.3.)
According to the detailed studies of Garavaglia and Grosso, the gross
product of these sales taxes increased from the 1760s until the mid 1780s
because of growing commerce in countryside and in towns but also as a
result of increasing pressure exerted by collectors.48 A complement to the
alcabalas was the pulque tax, charged on the most popular alcoholic beverage
consumed by the Indian and popular sectors. The impact of a severe agrarian
crisis such as that of 1785 “ which caused an estimated 300,000 deaths “
was translated directly into a decline in revenue collection; in fact, after the
crisis, pulque tax receipts never recovered previous levels, but rather tended
to decline. (See Figure 2.4.)
Another set of indirect contributions were port taxes, paid on ware-
housing of imported goods and other port services, although these were
generally set at low rates and were apparently not considered extortionate.
While there existed speci¬c taxes on external trade and such as the almo-
jarifazgo (a toll on ships using the harbor), port customs were not of great
importance. Merchants who imported goods did not have to pay customs
duties in the colonial era, although as in the case of domestic commodities,
they were obliged to pay the alcabala at rates that ranged from 6 percent

48 On alcabala trends, see Juan Carlos Garavaglia and Juan Carlos Grosso, Las alcabalas novohispanas,
1776“1821 (Mexico: Archivo General de la Naci´ n, 1987). On pulque collections, see Jos´ Jesus
o e
Hern´ ndez Palomo, La renta del pulque en Nueva Espa˜ a, 1663“1810 (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios
a n
Hispanoamericanos, 1980).
Imperial Tax State 65

thousands of pesos
Fonseca y Urrutia





1765 1770 1775 1780 1785 1790 1795 1800 1805 1810

Figure 2.4. Pulque Tax Income in New Spain, 1765“1810.
Source: Appendix II, Table II.2.

in the 1770s, 8 percent in the 1780s, 6 percent in the 1790s, rising sub-
sequently during the wars of independence (1810“1820), to as much as
15 percent.
The highest growth in revenues in late-eighteenth-century New Spain
came from various state monopolies, the most important being the tobacco
monopoly. Established in New Spain in 1767, it had become the sin-
gle largest source of public revenues by the end of the century, then
providing almost 30 percent of the viceroyalty™s net income.49 Sales of
tobacco increased prodigiously in the second half of the century and so
did monopoly receipts. The state-owned tobacco factory in Mexico City
employed over 8,000 workers by 1800, although this was only a part
of the total number of people who depended on the monopoly for their
livelihood: these also included some two thousand administrative and com-
mercial employees and several thousand tobacco farmers.50 However, net
income tended to stabilize at around three million pesos a year in the 1790s
as a result of the increasing costs of key imported supplies such as paper. (See
Figure 2.5.)
The tobacco monopoly was the greatest individual enterprise in New
Spain, but it was not autonomous: it maintained close ¬nancial, commercial,
and productive links to the tobacco monopoly in Cuba, Louisiana, and

49 Also important were the powder and salt monopolies as well as those on playing cards and on
cock¬ghts. The state lottery also provided additional income. A detailed description of the different
¬scal branches can be found in the various volumes of F. Fonseca and C. Urrutia, Historia General.
50 Susan Deans-Smith, Bureaucrats, Planters and Workers: The Making of the Tobacco Monopoly in Bourbon
Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992) is an excellent study of the Mexican state tobacco
enterprise in this period.
66 Bankruptcy of Empire

Millions of pesos
Total expenses
Net Income
Total Income







1765-66 1771 1776 1781 1786 1791 1796 1801 1806

Figure 2.5. Tobacco Monopoly Income and Expenses in New Spain, 1765“1809.
Source: Appendix II, Table III.

Spain.51 More tenuous were relations with the state tobacco establishments
in other colonies of the empire, including Venezuela, Peru, New Granada,
Costa Rica, and the Phillipines.52 In any case, this extended royal ¬rm was
a vast and multiregional royal company, perhaps the largest of its kind in
the eighteenth-century world.
Other public revenues were obtained from a mosaic of ¬scal instruments.
For instance, the colonial government received a number of ecclesiastical
¬scal transfers, including the media anata, bulas, and a percentage of the
tithes collected from peasants and landlords. These arrangements, dating
back to the sixteenth century, bespeak the fact that the Catholic Church
was closely linked to the Crown not only ideologically but also in ¬scal
In diverse and complementary essays, Herbert Klein has described the
fundamental trends of tax income in eighteenth-century colonial Mexico:

51 On relations between the Mexican tobacco monopoly and that of Cuba, see Laura Nater, “El tabaco y
˜ ˜
las ¬nanzas del imperio espanol: Nueva Espana y la metr´ poli, 1760“1810,” Ph.D. thesis, El Colegio
de M´ xico, 1998.
52 On the operations of the tobacco monopoly in Venzuela, Peu, and the Phillipines, see Eduardo Arcila
Farias, Historia de un monopolio. El estanco del tabaco en Venezuela (1779“1833) (Caracas: Universidad
Central de Venezuela, Instituto de Estudios Hispanoamericanos, Facultad de Humanidades y Edu-
caci´ n, 1977); Catalina Vizcarra and Richard Sicotte, “El control del contrabando en el Peru colonial:
el caso del monopolio del tabaco, 1752“1813,” in Carlos Contreras and Manuel Glave, eds., Estado
y mercado en la historia del Per´ (Lima: Ponti¬cia Universidad Cat´ lica, 2002), pp. 184“211; Josep
u o
M. Fradera, Filipinas, la colonia m´ s peculiar: la hacienda p´ blica en la de¬nici´n de la pol´tica colonial,
a u o ±
1762“1868 (Madrid: CSIC, 1999); Luis Alonso Alvarez, “Los problemas de Hacienda ¬lipina y el
estanco del tabaco, siglos xvi-xviii,” in Agust´n Gonz´ lez Enciso and Rafael Torres S´ nchez, eds.,
± a a
Tabaco y econom´a en el siglo XVIII (Pamplona, Spain: EUNSA, 1999), pp. 89“112.
Imperial Tax State 67

tribute tended to move with population, increasing or falling as demo-
graphics did. Mining taxes diminished in relative importance because of
lowered rates, but were still enormously important.53 Alcabalas and port
taxes tended to increase regularly until the 1790s and came to provide
approximately 25 percent of total income. Tobacco revenues grew steadily
until right down to the wars of independence and also contributed around
a quarter of the colonial administration™s ordinary revenues. But was there


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