The Pérez Gálvez Letters: A Glimpse of Colonial Mexico

February 27, 2019 leanna_barcelona

by Eloisa Haynes, Assistant Director of Advancement Services

At the end of the 18th century, when the grip of the Spanish empire on the New World began to weaken, and the dawn of Mexico as a sovereign, independent nation was in sight, lived the Count Antonio Pérez Gálvez.

The Texas Collection at Baylor University houses the John N. Rowe III papers, which include a series of documents written in Spanish dating from the mid-1600s through the late 1800s. Within those documents we find the Pérez Gálvez collection, which contains dozens of business and personal letters written to or by Pérez Gálvez. These letters are written in elegant script and a few of them still have traces of the original red wax seal that their authors melted and pressed on them more than 200 years ago.

Letter to Pérez Gálvez. Note the red wax seal and the word “Veracruz” on red ink on the left side of the paper.

The Pérez Gálvez documents point to an enigmatic time in history and to the intriguing life of a wealthy Spaniard living in New Spain (now Mexico). He was a businessman involved in silver mining, one of the most important economic sectors of New Spain. By the end of the 18th century, the region provided more than 60 percent of the world’s silver supply.[1] Pérez Gálvez was a shareholder of “La Valenciana,” a highly productive mine.[2] He lived in the province of Guanajuato, a historically important territory labeled “the cradle” of the fight for Mexico’s independence. Because of his title as count, we can infer that Pérez Gálvez earned such a designation through payment and service to the Spanish crown,[3] which leads us to wonder how he fared through the bloody war for independence, which lasted from 1810-1821. Did he fight to defend the crown, or did he aid the insurgents? Was he ever captured like his relative and business associate the Count Diego Rul?[4] How did a decade-long war affect mining? What was life like for a former count once Mexico became an independent nation? We hope that researchers utilize the Pérez Gálvez collection to enrich our understanding of life during the dwindling days of the Spanish empire and the promising days of Mexico as a new, sovereign nation independent from Spain.

Central New Spain, 1810. Pérez Gálvez resided in the province of Guanajuato, an area rich in silver mining.

References

[1] Sánchez Santiro, Ernest. 2002. La minería novohispana a fines del periodo colonial. una evaluación historiográfica. Estudios De Historia Novohispana (27): 123-26.

[2] Ayuntamiento de Guanajuato, Expediente 8 Oct 1823 – 23 Dec 1823

[3] Morales Moya, Antonio. 1984. Movilidad social en la España del siglo XVIII: Aspectos sociológicos y jurídicos de la concesión de títulos nobiliarios. Revista Internacional De Sociología 42 (50): 465-68.

[4] Archer, Christon I. 2008. Royalist scourge or liberator of the patria? Augustin de Iturbide and Mexico’s war of independence, 1810–1821. Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 24 (2): 327.

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