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Methodological Considerations

I devised a methodology to answer questions as the following: How did the "flows" of land between various social groups evolve over time? How did the size distribution of land parcels offered for sale vary between different social groups? The notarial contracts render bits and pieces of information, permitting the judicious construction of a scheme for categorizing all participants in transactions. They normally list occupation, place of birth and residence, capacity to speak Spanish, and—less dependably—the socioethnic origin and any public offices held by each party. I gathered these data in an index of all participants in notarial transactions, containing some


eight thousand cards, and assigned each party to a notarial transaction to one of the following categories:

1. Indigenous peasant

2. Hispanized large landholder

3. Intermediate group (including persons of indeterminable social status)

4. Church

5. Beneficencia pública

Internal consistency of assignments was maintained through the use of clear criteria in the evaluation of the social indicators. Some values placed the person into category 1 ("indigenous peasants"): for example, the occupations labrador and pastor , the socioethnic labels indígena or indio , lack of knowledge of Spanish, and residence in a parcialidad or ayllu. Other values indicated that a person belonged to category 2 ("hispanized large landholders"): for example, occupations such as hacendado or abogado , knowledge of Spanish, and holding of offices such as gobernador, subprefecto , or juez de primera instancia . Certain terms were used so indiscriminately that I considered them to be neutral. Some notaries applied the occupational labels propietario and comerciante as an insoluble pair to all individuals, the peasant selling a parcel for 50 soles m.n. as well as an hacendado selling an estate for 5,000 soles m.n.

At least two social indicators had to point unequivocally to category 1 or 2 to make an assignemtn. For example, in order to assign a person to category 1 ("indigenous peasant"), he or she had to be described as indígena and labrador, as a non-Spanish speaker and living in a parcialidad. If the social indicators showed any ambivalence, or if there was only scanty information on a party to a contract, I placed the case in category 3. Thus, two subgroups constitute the members of this category: persons for whom information was insufficient, and persons for whom the social indicators seemed ambiguous, truly an intermediate group on the range from indigenous peasant to hispanized large landholder.

This problem brings us to the conception underlying the categorization scheme. Azágaro's social stratification was considerably more complex during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than this scheme implies. However, what mattered here was to choose a scheme that reflected an underlying structural element of Azángaro's society while allowing the categorization of most contract parties despite limited information on their social backgrounds. Thus, the scheme strikes a compromise


between the exigencies of an all-too-imperfect source and the issues that I sought to investigate.

The categories are viewed as lying on a continuous scale in which the various status groups in Azángaro's society grade imperceptibly into each other. The scale is bounded on both ends by ideal types formed by a total clustering of all social indicators capable of defining a category. Categories 1 and 2 are meant as such ideal types at polar ends of Azángaro's social scale: on the one hand, the indigenous peasant who was born and lives in an Indian community, lives poorly from the income derived from herding and crop raising on small parcels of land, is a monolingual Quechua speaker without any schooling, is labeled as "Indian" by members of all other social groups (including notaries), wears rough, self-made baize clothes, and derives supplementary income from working on nearby haciendas, from artisanal home production, or from petty trade activities that remain secondary and do not break through the predominantly agrarian pattern of his life. On the other end of the scale is the hispanized large landholder, the ideal type of category 2, who speaks Spanish, has enjoyed formal education, owns one or more large estates employing dozens of peasant families as colonos, usually lives in a townhouse in the provincial capital, might even own a house in Puno, Arequipa, or Lima, dresses in European garb, consumes imported goods, holds important administrative, legislative, and judicial positions in the province or the department, and maintains close contacts with higher strata of regional and national society. This construction of ideal types describes both the fluidity and the stark polarity in the socioethnic stratification of Peru's sierra.[3]

Most individuals appearing in notarial transactions were not idealtypical "indigenous peasants" or "hispanized large landholders" but rather approximated one of the two polar constructs. I felt justified in including most merchants and officeholders in category 2, since they were pulled toward the ideal type of the hispanized large landholders. This, after all, is why they appeared so often before the notary as land purchasers. Socially they had more in common with the largest hacendados of the province than with the Indian peasantry. Category 2 thus encompasses all sectors of Azángaro's provincial elite, of which the large landholder was the dominat figure.

Category 3 includes petty traders, owners of minimal estates (perhaps employing two or three colonos) imperceptibly shading into peasant estancias, persons about whose knowledge of Spanish the notarial records waver back and forth, and persons who generally lived in the district capitals but who may also have resided on their modest landholdings. The distinction between this intermediate group and impoverished hacendados


on the one hand, and affluent peasants on the other, is minimal in most cases. For this study the distinction is based on an arbitrary cut in the continuous scale by requiring two social indicators, the minimal sign of "clustering," for assigning an individual to one of the two polar categories.

Although information on the economic situation of the contracting parties (e.g., the amount and type of land property held prior to their participation in notarial transactions) has influenced their assignment to one of the social categories, the transactions themselves were not used for this purpose. To be sure, a person buying or selling a large estate was excluded ipso facto from category 1. But because the accumulation or loss of landed property has to be viewed as one important indicator for social mobility in Azángaro, consideration of the notarial transactions for determining an individual's social category would have resulted in a circular argument. Thus, a person who in early contracts shows all the traits of an indigenous peasant will be treated as such for all subsequent contracts, even though he might purchase such an amount of land that at the end of his "career" he might more meaningfully be placed in category 3 or even category 2.

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