Familia, Oro y Poder: Las tramas del parentesco. San Juan (1790-1815).*


Eliana Beatriz Fracapani Ríos[1]


Reception: 24/05/2015

Evaluation: 18/06/2015

Approval: 22/10/2015

Research and Innovation Article.




El propósito de este artículo es mostrar las familias dedicadas a la actividad minera y explicar cómo se fueron tejiendo las redes familiares, para interpretar la estructura de poder, la acumulación de capital y forma en que se articularon las relaciones de producción en el territorio de la actual provincia de San Juan a fines del periodo colonial. Para la reconstrucción de las mismas se dispone de fuentes de primera mano, como protocolos de escribanos, testamentos y expedientes judiciales.


Palabras Claves: Explotaciones mineras, Propietarios, Redes Familiares, Poder.


Family, gold and power: The plots of kinship. San Juan (1790-1815).




The purpose of this paper is to present the families dedicated to mining and explain how family networks were woven, in order to interpret the power structure, the accumulation of capital, and the form in which production relations were articulated, at the end of the colonial period, in the territory of the current province of San Juan. In order to do this, first-hand sources such as Notarial protocols, wills and judicial records are used. 


Key words: Mining, owners, family networks, power.







Famille, or et pouvoir: les réseaux de la parenté à San Juan (1790-1815).




Le but de cet article est d’étudier les familles consacrées à l’activité minière et d’expliquer comment elles ont construit certains réseaux, de manière à interpréter la structure du pouvoir, l’accumulation de capital et les voies par lesquelles ont été articulées les relations de production dans le territoire de l’actuelle province de San Juan à la fin de la période coloniale. Pour ce faire nous disposons de sources primaires, comme les protocoles de greffiers, des testaments et des dossiers judiciaires.


Mots clés: Exploitations minières, Propriétaires, Réseaux Familiaux, Pouvoir.


1. Introduction


The search for precious metals drove the advance of territorial conquest throughout America as from the fifteenth century. Contemporary historians agree that precious metals were not only a source of wealth for Spaniards and a scourge for indigenous workers, but also became the engine of the economy and the basis of the formation of the early society, whose features would endure and shape the later evolution of the Hispano-American social formations[2]. Authors such as Peter Bakewell, who has studied the mines of New Spain and Peru, or Germán Colmenares in the case of the New Kingdom of Granada, have pointed out that the search for gold and silver was what prompted the exploration of various territories and the establishment of state-wide populations[3].



The purpose of this investigation, rather than to approach from an economic perspective the profitability of the mining production, is ascribed in the line of the history of the family. In this sense, we proceeded to observe the families engaged in mining and the relations among them, with the aim of interpreting the power structure, the accumulation of capital and the way in which the relations of production were coordinated.


As in any pre-capitalist society, family patrimony was not formed from a single source of resources. Thus, through alliances, production relations were coordinated and for the specific case of mining, a market had to be created to supply the productive centers, both for the consumption of the labor force and for the supply of inputs necessary for mining. The formation of these family networks allowed a small group to control economic activities. It is well known that in colonial Hispano-America these groups wielded both political and economic power.


Until now, local history has asserted the existence of mining centers, based on the accounts of chroniclers and reports to the crown[4], although they did not reach the relevance of the main American mining centers due to their difficult extraction and work, and therefore, their exploitation was disregarded. It was only at the end of the 19th century that, in the context of the implementation of a new economic model, under the influence of D. F. Sarmiento, actions were taken to develop this activity. However, in the archives of the province, documents are preserved referring to the denunciation of mines from the late colonial period and the beginning of the period of nationhood. In addition, in a visit to San Juan by Perez del Viso in 1796, he referred to mining operations when detailing the accounts of Felipe Barboza's expenses[5], the privileged sites for these undertakings were the Huachi and Hualilán mines[6].


Family History seems to us today as a key to understanding society. Monica Ghirardi defines the family as a "plastic" concept because its multiple conceptual scopes can be defined from a variety of discourses, from the religious, moral, legal, and cultural. Her approach also involves multiple interpretations that include not only blood relatives but also other members united by spiritual or political bonds, proximity, friendship and other relationships involving reciprocal duties and obligations[7].


Since the appearance of the Annales school, history has not only been concerned with new research topics, but also with incorporating new social groups that have been marginalized by history, such as the history of women, slavery, children, daily life, mentalities, among others. Faced with the diversity of themes, the study of the family appears as a central axis of Social History, since through it one can study everyday life, mentalities, kinship networks, production relations and gender relations.


The study of the family has been approached from different perspectives and disciplines, anthropology, sociology and demography. It is with demography that the study of the family found the basis to develop a methodology that allowed it to advance in the study of the population over time. One of the pioneers was Luis Henry who worked on census sources in France inquiring into fertility rates. Later, together with Michel Fleury, he designed the method of family reconstruction, which allowed the organization and classification of information from the sources of parochial archives, giving rise to the study of historical demography in a scientific way.


In the case of Latin America, interdisciplinary convergence is highlighted, to account for a more diverse and complex universe. The colonization itself integrated culturally different worlds. Although colonial domination imposed a predominant family model governed by the Church and Spanish legislation, new research on the period[8] shows the coexistence of multiple forms of families.


In Latin America, family studies began in the 1970s, but it was in the 1980s and 1990s that several lines of research were defined: one aimed at unravelling the relations between family and economy and the other the relationship between family and politics. The two pioneer countries in family studies were Mexico and Brazil, while now research has expanded, including those undertaken in Argentina and Chile.


The contributions made by Historical Demography to the History of the Family in Argentina are significant:


[…] studies on racial mixing, nuptiality, fecundity, illegitimacy, household structures - in their different relationships with geographic, economic, social and mentality variables- approached for different periods and regions, provide valuable analysis for understanding the current reality of which it is a reflection[9].


Also, the studies carried out by the Work Group for the History of the Population in Argentina of the National Academy of History, directed by César García Belsunce, with teams formed in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba, Catamarca and Cuyo (Institute of Applied Geography, Faculty of Philosophy, Humanities and Arts-UNSJ, directed by Ana Fanchin). It is within the framework of the latter that the present investigation is inserted, which tries to contribute to the knowledge of a provincial society that lived at the end of the colony and at the dawn of the nation, focusing attention on those families linked to mining. In the analysis, there is a particular interest in the recognition of their links in the intricate network of interpersonal relationships, based on kinship - either by marriage or by affinity - of friendship or proximity.


Among the works of history that served as an inspiration for this work, I must highlight "Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico (1763-1810)" by David Brading, which, published in 1975, has pioneered the use of social perspective in the study of mining in Latin America, and more recently, that of the Chilean historian Luz Maria Méndez Beltrán “El comercio minero terrestre entre Chile y Argentina 1800- 1840) Caminos, arriería y exportación minera.”(2009), (The overland mining trade between Chile and Argentina 1800-1840". Roads, mining and exportation.), which forays into daily life, recovering previously anonymous protagonists. Together, these studies are a great contribution to Social History, because they analyze mining from another perspective without leaving aside the economic analysis.


The methodology that allowed us the historical approach to this research was carried out in three stages. First, we focused on the study of documentary and bibliographic sources. The data obtained was incorporated into manual and computer databases. Secondly, we performed a qualitative and quantitative analysis of this data and contrasted it with the problems raised by performing a critical analysis. Useful documents for this investigation were consulted in the General Archives of the Province (A.G.P., by its acronym in Spanish), mainly those preserved in the Courts Fund and the Judiciary Archives (A.P.J., by its acronym in Spanish). Books of Protocols were consulted, dating from the middle of the seventeenth century, being more abundant than those from the eighteenth. They contain contracts for the sale of land, mines or slaves, granting of powers, gifts, wills and codicils, and also reveal conflicts caused by unpaid debts. The practice of leaving a will was widely spread among different sectors of the population; this act consisted of leaving a sincere testimony of what they had accomplished during their earthly life, at the same time as they were stripped of temporal goods to embrace the eternal[10].


With respect to civil and criminal trials, in the General Archive of the province they are arranged chronologically in folders and have suitable analytical indexes that facilitate their consultation. Similar work has been undertaken in recent years in the Archives of the Judiciary, where a large number of documents corresponding to the eighteenth century were stacked on shelves for a long time and their consultation was forbidden to researchers[11]. Chaplaincies can also be consulted there that are guarded by a private company, so they must be requested in advance.


Through these sources, mainly wills and contracts of sale, it was possible to obtain information on the reconstruction of families, the material assets of the families, the location of their lands and hereditary transfers. On the other hand, the criminal trials revealed to us different facets of daily life and feelings reflected in the expressions of victims, perpetrators and witnesses.



2. The mines and their owners: Huachi and Hualilán.


The development of human societies generates changes in the natural environment in which they are inserted, and in turn, the changes in ecosystems cause modifications in the way of life of human beings. Thus, every stage in the life of human societies generated changes in ecosystems, which in turn accelerated new forms of social organization. Each of the forms of organization of human beings has a peculiar way of relating to nature and therefore generates specific environmental impacts.


The landscape of the American Continent underwent great modifications after the conquest and colonization, which was not uniform, it had variations which influenced the conditions of the natural environment and the political objectives of the empires that acted. Wild plants receded before cultivated seeds and weeds, depopulation meant the desertification of many irrigated areas, much of the native ecosystems were modified: forests became savannahs and agricultural areas, irrigated desert areas[12].



The Conquest produced a rupture between space and man, proper to the new territorial order, without taking into account that the American space had a particular form of occupation since ancient times. Each type of division usually involves a specific model of society; or conversely, every change in the social structure of power often leads to a change in the political-administrative grid.



The territory of the present province of San Juan, is located on the eastern slopes of the Andean mountain range; the different altimetric levels in the orography map out a series of ecological and biogeographic floors with a variety of landscapes from west to east, with the predominance of characteristics of aridity and water scarcity[13].



The mountain ranges of the foothills are separated by valleys crossed by the San Juan and Jáchal rivers. These water tributaries, fed by mountain snowmelts, have allowed the formation of oases of cultivation, the main one being irrigated by the San Juan River where it now houses 95% of the total population of the province. However, this concentration is in line with technological advances, especially infrastructure works capable of controlling water resources and expanding areas of cultivation, which only materialized in the 20th century[14].


Since its foundation in 1562, San Juan de la Frontera was part of the Corregimiento of Cuyo, with its head in the city of Mendoza, integrating the General Captaincy of Chile, pertaining to the Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1751 the Villa of San Jose de Jáchal was founded, which was directly dependent of the Populations Board of Chile, Independent from the Corregimiento of Cuyo and of the Cabildo of San Juan[15].



With the advent of the reign of the Bourbons, a series of administrative-territorial reforms were introduced. When the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was created in 1776, Cuyo happened to form part of it, and with the Implementation of the Royal Ordinance in 1782 was subject to the Governing Council of Cordova of Tucumán. From this moment, the Villa of San Jáchal was also included in Cuyo. In San Juan, the valleys distant from the founding center, have different geographic features, and although the mountain range was a major obstacle in relations with Chile, this did not impede commercial traffic. San Juan constituted an important linking feature between Río de la Plata and Chile.


The valleys in which the population was established were: Tulum Valley, Ullum-Zonda Valley, Jáchal, Barreal Calingasta, Pismanta-Rodeo, Mogna, Ampacama, Guandacol, and Valle Fertil. According to the census of 1812, the population exceeded 12,500 inhabitants, almost 5,000 inhabitants more than those who registered the 1777 census. They were classified according to the category of Americans (Creoles), European Spaniards, foreigners, natives, slaves, free blacks and religious. The distribution of the population was characterized by a greater percentage of natives and mestizos in the zone outside the walls and the countryside, unlike the whites that settled in the city - in the area of ​​the Tulum Valley, maintaining an intense mobility. With regard to the slave population, it is also worth noting their residence in urban areas, a lesser proportion in the neighboring areas and almost non-existent in the more remote areas such as the Villa de Jáchal, where they represented 2% compared to 82% of natives[16]. The large number of aboriginal people in the remote valleys (Jáchal and Valle Fertile) stands out, which contradicts the arguments maintained by the traditional history of the region regarding their complete disappearance in the first years of the colonization due to forced relocations to Chile.


Due to the geographic characteristics of San Juan, the economy revolved mainly around viticulture, trade in its derivatives and mining. These economic activities were to be complemented, viticulture, mining, commerce, breeding of cattle, general stores and other activities, come to form a whole in the regional economy. Many mine owners, had vineyards, engaged in commerce, and owned general stores. They were also very connected to power, as most of those who were linked to this activity, were part of the local elite, both they and their offspring occupied important political positions. The families would become involved with one another and weave a complex social fabric, in which power blocks would be formed and would control both the economy and politics.


In San Juan, the records of mine discoveries that are preserved date back to the year 1790, but we cannot guarantee the existence of complaints prior to that date, as for unfortunate causes - natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods; as well as the expunging of documents - historical documentation has been lost. Nevertheless, the preserved sources are revealing in that there was constant activity until the first years of nationhood. The wars of independence and the numerous interprovincial conflicts would affect their development, even causing the abandonment of some mining operations. Then, around 1825, the resumption of productive activities is noticed in response to requests for concessions for abandoned mines[17].


The mines of Huachi and Hualilán (Mines mainly of gold, but also of silver) are located in the foothills of the province of San Juan, although there is a road that unites them which belongs to two different centers. The San Bartolomé de Huachi mine was one of the most exploited during this period, located at the center of the foothills to the north-west of Jáchal.


As for the Hualilán Gold Mine, it is currently located in the Ullum Department, about 120 km northwest of the capital city. On the right side of the road that leads to Pismanta, you can see the vestiges of a mining past - old fireplaces, the ruins of houses, sheds, warehouses, tools, dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The material testimonies preserved from this site, constitute, as of 2003, part of the cultural and natural heritage of the province[18].




Image 1.

Created by the Sonia Véliz, Bachelor Degree in Geography, I.G.A (Applied Geography Institute)



Image 2.

Material remains of the Hualilán mines. End of the 19th century. Source: Remains of the Hualilán mines, Photographer Federico Agustín. In federicoagustín.tumblr.com


These mines have a long history, the first settlers began to extract metals, the records of mine discoveries that are preserved date back to the year 1790, but we cannot guarantee the existence of complaints prior to that date, as for unfortunate causes - natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods; as well as the expunging of documents - historical documentation has been lost. Nevertheless, the preserved sources are revealing in that there was constant activity until the first years of nationhood. The production of these mines was a key factor in the economic development of the region, their production would fluctuate between periods of abandonment of the mines and reactivation. Undoubtedly the prospect of exploitation in the Hualilán mines has been a constant throughout history. The wars of independence and the numerous interprovincial conflicts would affect their development; even cause the abandonment of some mining operations. Then, around 1825, the resumption of productive activities is noticed in response to requests for concessions for abandoned mines[19].


The mines were normally exploited[20] by means of the open excavation system, to then deepen the exploration to greater depth in search of richer mineral concentrations. The first improvement that led to a notable rationalization of underground operations was the excavation of tunnels: slightly inclined tunnels from the surface intersected the lower galleries of the mine. The shafts allowed ventilation and drainage, and facilitated the extraction of the minerals and the rubble[21].



The following tables were reconstructed from the data that was provided by the documents, in which information was also detected about the miners and their belongings. In the documents, mention is made of metalliferous deposits of different forms, as owners of gold or silver mines (mineral deposits, could contain many veins), of mines stakes (it is the legal property of a mine) and owners of veins of gold and silver (long strata of minerals, different to the rocky formation that surrounds them). They also detailed other assets they owned and the public positions that some of them had.



 ORES OF HUALILÁN 1790-1815                                                                                       






Don Diego Almeida

Gold Mine

José M Alvarado

Gold Mine

Don Ramón de Costa

Stake in Mine

called Leonera

Juan Súarez

Stake in Mine


Don Juan Manuel de


Gold Mine

* Slaves                                                                      


Don Sebastián de


Gold Mine


Francisco Toribio


Gold Mine

Don Manuel Vicentela

de la Rosa.

Gold Mine

*Hacienda with 

Alfalfa crops.                                                  

* Slaves.

Mayor of


Agustín Carbajal.

Gold Mine

Don Bruno Roco

Stake in Gold Mine



Don Nicolás Sánchez

Gold Mine

Javier Yañes.

Gold Seam

Don Miguel Pérez

Gold Mine

Martín Gormas

Gold Mine

Table 1: Owners of the Hulilán mines.



Table created by the author. Source: General Archive of the Province (A.G.P., by its acronym in Spanish): Historical Section. Court: Box 18, folder 75; Box 19, folder 79,83, 82; Box 20, folder 83; box 21, folder 86; box 22, folder 91; box 23, folder 93; box 24, folder 94.

Archive of the Judiciary (A.P.J., by its acronym in Spanish): Criminal Section: box 2 and 6 – 18th century. Notarial Protocols: J. V. Navarro 1790, 1793, 1794; Navarro – Ortega 1796-7; José Navarro 1799, 1802-3; J. V. Morón 1802-3, 1804-5; Navarro Doncel 1804-5.















































Table 2: Owners of the Huachi mines.


                                                    HUACHI MOUNTAIN 1790-1815





Don José Ramón


Gold seam

*Lands with alfalfa crops


* 1792 Mayor of la Santa


* Between 1801- 1805

Vice- Mayor of  Minas

In the Villa de Jáchal.                               

Don Eugenio Pereyra

Gold seam

Don Luis Antonio


Stake in mine



Don Clemente


Stake in gold mine



Antonio Díaz

Gold mines

Juan Gregorio Espejo

Gold mines

Don José Eduardo


Gold mines

* District judge of la Villa

de Jáchal.

Antonio álvarez


Gold seam

Don Juan Manuel de

Castro y Carreño

Gold seam

*Public store with

Products from Castilla.                                            

* Business   selling


* Administrator of Tobacco

& Royal Vice-Minister of


Don José Ignacio


Gold seam

* 14 Blocks of land in

la Bebida

* Mayor


*Deputy for San Juan in

Government Committee between


*Governor of San Juan

in 1820.

Antonio San Ramón

y Zevallos

Stake in mine

Don José Navarro

Mine called

el oro blanco. 

Gold and silver seam

* Slaves                                          

* Plot of land.                                

* Lands of 3 and a half blocks 

On the main square


* Notary.                                                 

* Mayor de plaza in 1814.                             

* Judge Overseer of ores

of Hualilán 1816.                                         

* Governor of San Juan


Manuel Osorio

Gold mines

José Manuel Cabrera

Stake in mine

Luis Maldonado

Stake in mine


Table created by the author. Source: General Archive of the Province (A.G.P., by its acronym in Spanish): Historical Section, Court: Box 18, folder 75; box 19, folder 79,83, 82, box 20, folder 83; box 21, folder 86; box 22, folder 91; box 23, folder 93; box 24, folder 94.

Archive of the Judiciary (A.P.J., by its acronym in Spanish: Criminal Section: box 2 and 6 – 18th century.  Notarial Protocoles: J. V. Navarro 1790, 1793, 1794; Navarro – Ortega 1796-7; José Navarro 1799, 1802-3; J. V. Morón 1802-3, 1804-5; Navarro Doncel 1804-5.














































The collected data allows for the identification of the owners, their mines and their possible performance of public functions. It is of interest to recognize the possession of other assets, because in this way it is possible to form a more complete idea of ​​their economic viability; thus, the usufruct of a hacienda would reduce the costs of indispensable inputs -mules and food-; likewise, the availability of a grocery store allowed the circulation of capital and profits by recovering a good part of the wages paid to its own labor. On the other hand, in recognizing the public positions they held, we confirm their participation in local power, that is, this informs us about their accumulated material and symbolic patrimony.



Therefore, Don Jose Ramon Villamarín possessed an estate with alfalfa fields that would serve for the grazing of animals, his own or rented, useful for the working of the mines. The same can be said of Don Jose Navarro, heir of good fortune and to whom his father-in-law Don Sebastián de Castro, also the owner of a mine in Hualilán, transferred the title of public notary-as part of the dowry given to his daughter upon marriage- ensuring for himself and his descendants a favorable social position, which later would enable him to serve as the Governor of the Province.



It is well known that families began to form in colonial societies around the first conquerors and settlers who were given the main sources of wealth. They were strengthened by marriage bonds between their descendants and new immigrants, consolidating the family fortune over time. The ability of these families to diversify their economies and to occupy a place in politics, allowed them to preserve their dominion and maintain themselves as a power block.



3. The plots of kinship


Family alliances were completed, expanded, and reinforced through the establishment of personal bonds that served as spiritual and material support when necessary, and these ties were formed through bonds of friendship, compadrazgo, and also through business. Bourdieu refers to the role that connections through marriage played in the families of elites, comparing it to a game of cards, stating that:



Assuming that the marriage of each of the children represents the equivalent of a game of cards for a family, it can be seen that the value of that play (measured according to the criteria of the system) depends on the quality of the game, in the double meaning, that is to say, the hand is a set of cards received, whose strength is defined by the rules of the game, and the more or less skillful way of using those card[22].



What Bourdieu proposes is that family strategies aimed at achieving a good marriage, that is, maximizing the economic and symbolic benefits associated with the establishment of a relationship. It was these family blocks that would move the threads of society; in this sense it can be said that these family networks based on long-term kinship structures would constitute one of the main sources of colonial power.


The elite families[23] held, in the colonial period, a fundamental importance in the assembly and operation of economic activities and in social and political relations, they would confer stability or social movement onto others, in addition to influencing status and social classification. For this reason, the term family was always linked to elements that go beyond the limits of consanguinity, in which was intermingled the kinship that includes relationships, rituals, and economic and political alliances[24].



This is the case of the Espinosa family, who were linked to mining. Don Luis Antonio Espinosa, legitimate son of Don Marcelo Espinosa and Doña Antonia González, was a native of Valdivia of the Kingdom of Chile who settled in San Juan where he dedicated himself to mining, and contracted marriage with Josefa Benegas. The marriage produced five children Doña Aurelia, Doña Maria Eulalia, Doña María Úrsula, Doña Angela and Don Clemente. Luis did not amass a great fortune from mining, on the contrary, he accumulated numerous debts. Don Luis Espinosa was concerned that his family should be linked to families of renown through marriages; most of the ties formed were linked not only to mining production but also to other economic activities such as agriculture.


Dona Maria Eulalia married Joaquín Navarro, who was marrying for the second time. He was a member of one of the most important families of the city, the legitimate son of Don Carlos Navarro and Doña Rosa Ladrón de Guevara, the father of Jose Navarro (notary, miner and governor of San Juan during 1825-1826) born of his first marriage with Doña Antonia Rivas. From this marriage was born Doña Mercedes Navarro Espinosa, who in turn married Don Jose M. Moreno, and of that marriage was born Don Federico Moreno Navarro, who served as governor of San Juan between the years 1887-1888.



Doña María Úrsula, another of the daughters of Don Luis Espinosa, married Alejandro Suarez, also in the mining trade, who declared in his will that he worked a mine with Don Juan Manuel de Castro y Carreño[25] (Royal Lieutenant Minister of Hacienda of the City). He was also related to families of great renown and excellent economic status, he chose as the executor of his will, the Priest Jose Ignacio del Carril (linked to mining). In his will he states that he owes money to Francisco Javier del Carril[26] (José Ignacio's brother), to Don Fernando de la Rosa (Mayor) and to Don Antonio Aberastain; this gives account of the connections and the relations of friendship and business that Suarez had with the most important families of the city.



For her part, another of the daughters of Don Luis, Doña Angela, married Valentín Arguello, a miner and Luis Espinosa's trusted man, in 1795 he granted the power to him and to his son Clemente Espinosa so that in his name they could carry out and execute his will[27]. Clemente Espinosa, the only son of Don Luis, was also dedicated to mining and married Narcisa Maradona, a descendant of a family of great social importance in colonial times and during the period of independence. His relatives, Don José Ignacio and Plácido Fernández de Maradona, were linked to mining. Don Jose Ignacio declared to own a gold mine along with Antonio Álvarez Peralta, in the mining area of San Bartolomé de Guachi. He performed functions as Mayor, was Deputy of San Juan to the second board of the national government between 1810 and 1811; Governor of the province in 1920 and grandfather of Timoteo Maradona - eight times governor of the province between 1828 and 1843 and ecclesiastical governor in the vacancy of the bishopric of Cuyo between 1852 and 1851. His brother Plácido Fernández de Maradona, was also linked to mining, held the position of Mayor of Minas, was mayor of San Juan when he joined the first board of government in 1810 and was governor of the province in 1825[28].


Another of the families linked to mining production was Sebastián de Castro, a native of the Kingdom of Chile, the legitimate son of Don Gaspar de Castro and María de la Candelaria Gormas. Married first to Doña Narcisa de la Cueva, and their marriage produced the legitimate children: Doña Teresa, Don Sebastián, Don Javier, Don Joaquin, Don José and Doña María Escalada de Castro. Upon remarriage, he wed Maria Josefa Bolaños, and they had four legitimate children: Doña Petrona, Doña Maria Bernarda, Doña Eudevigues and Doña Antonia[29].



Don Sebastián de Castro declared in his will that his son-in-law Don Jose Navarro was in charge of paying a debt that he had with Santiago Jofré, for a clerkship that he bought for him. He also stated that he had business with Don Hemerigildo Navarro (father of Dionisio Navarro judge overseer of Minas). This gives us an overview of the business relationships he entered into with members of the colonial elite who were also linked to mining. His son Sebastián de Castro owned a mine on the Hualilán hill. His daughter Antonia Castro married José Navarro, Joaquín Navarro's legitimate son, from his first marriage to Doña Antonia Rivas, also linked to mining. In 1803, Melchor Vázquez, a neighbor of the city of Mendoza, a mining prospector laborer discovered a vein of silver and gold on the hill of Bartolomé de Huachi, and awarded it to José Navarro to administer and exploit[30].



His daughter, Isabel Navarro Castro, married Geronimo de la Roza, belonging to one of the prominent families of the city. From this marriage were born Fernando de la Rosa and Manuel Vicentela de la Rosa. The eldest son, Fernando, served as Governor of the Province in 1830, while his brother Manuel was linked to mining and agriculture, owned a gold mine and a hacienda with alfalfa cultivation, as well as acting as the mayor of Minas.


With these relations established between the families that treasured riches and status, the integrated exploitation of mining, agriculture and commerce emerged. These family networks have been able to make up the social and political structure for three or more generations, succeeding in making their lineages survive the vicissitudes of history - conquest – the time of nationhood and the liberal period.


Despite the differences of what were the great colonial elites, here, in a smaller space, San Juan de la Frontera, is a group with relative autonomy when making decisions for itself. Most of these families had rank, because they had some military and political power, and many still retain the use of the "Don"[31] that could only be used by those who had it by family inheritance. They were the owners of mines, lands, slaves, were engaged in commerce, above all they sought to secure themselves economically, in the space where they were. With these relations established among the families that held wealth and status, the companies that integrated mining, agriculture and commerce emerged.


But the testimonies consulted revealed that not all the characters that were linked to mining and who held positions, were descended from families of ancestry, although for sure, they tried to hide any trait that could discredit them. The socio-ethnic factor among the elite operated as a fundamental mechanism of ideological and political legitimation over the rest of society and as a factor of social cohesion among them, where family and marriage alliances played a decisive role in the reproduction of their lineages.



This is the case of the already mentioned Ramon Villamarín, who in 1805 initiated a judicial[32] case against José Espíndola, for having injured his wife Dona Agustina Quiroga by calling her a mulatta. Ramon Villamarín did not belong to a family of the colonial elite; although in some documents the "Don" is placed before his name. In addition, in his statements he tried to justify his social status by the political positions he occupied, but did not refer to his family ancestry. This leads us to suppose that he tried to cover up his origin. He worked in mining[33], in 1792 he held the position of Mayor of the Holy Brotherhood, between 1801 and 1805 he was Mayor Lieutenant in the town of Jáchal. In his statements Villamarín states that because of his socio-ethnic status, he took as a wife someone of his own social position, but this shows us other objectives when choosing who was to be his wife.



 […]for all these attributes that distinguish me, it is therefore that in order to contract me in a state of marriage to which God called me in this city, I had to look for she who I was going to take as my wife, and today is my legitimate companion, the ornaments of birth and good reputation in the civil and moral customs [...] resulting from my secret investigation before contracting me the connection that by her four grandfathers has the Don Quirogas Don Rosas, Don Carriles sons of the late Don Juan del Carril, the descendants of Don Santiago Santiago Jofré, who was one of the most prominent in this city, on the same footing as I have said, Don Recabarren and others, whom I omit for not making my writing diffuse, I found myself able to have my distinction accompanied by that in the offspring God gave us successively shine the brightness of both births to the earliest generation[…][34].


In his declarations, he demonstrated several issues. First the importance of belonging to a high social class, since being a mulatto went beyond being a simple offense, it discredited him socially. He justifies his socio-racial position through the kinship of his wife, citing the patronymics from which his wife descended. It shows a double question, all the families that he names are part of the elite, and therefore, would justify the origin of his wife, it also highlights how economic interests and business played an important role in getting married.



Three of the families he named were linked to mining like him, as well as agriculture, trade and they owned lands that in some cases had been granted by royal mercy. The Carril family, one of the most illustrious of this time, were dedicated to viniculture and to commerce, but they were also linked to mining. According to Ana María Rivera Don Domingo, Don Pedro, Don Juan and the Presbyter Don José Ignacio del Carril made investments in this area[35].



Another of the people named was Santiago Jofré[36], a very important public figure descended from the father and mother of the founding families of the city, their descendants held public office in the Hispanic era and then went on to exercise them in the period of freedom. His relationship with mining is reflected in his will, when he declares that he owns as property in the town of Jáchal a gold mill[37], whose lands were granted by the mercy of the assigned judge of said town. In the same Villa[38], he had a ranch with heads of cattle and a general store. The latter was a very important business because it made it possible to minimize losses by capturing the surplus of production, which was sold as retail to the laborers themselves.



He also names the de la Rosa family of, which had a very close relationship with Manuel de la Rosa, sharing family ties, friendship and work linked to mining. The de la Roza family not only exerted a great influence during the colonial period but also during the independent period, and thus, Fernando de la Rosa, Manuel's brother, would occupy the position of governor of the province during the year 1830. Fernando and Manuel de la Rosa, were the legitimate children of Geronimo de la Rosa and Isabel Navarro Castro, the Navarro - Castro family, were also linked to mining.



4. Final Words


The ability of these families to diversify their income and to occupy a place in politics, allowed them to preserve their dominion and to remain as a power block. In this circle of friends and relatives, lineage, friendship, and kinship tended to coincide more often in the decisions that were made, the friendships were also the result of the convenient commercial and economic actions carried out between two or more individuals.


In that sense, in the colony, family networks functioned as an element of identification of the individual, the historical trajectory of the group of relatives allowed them recognition in society, to know who they were, where they came from so as to enable their insertion in the social world. This case shows that there were also people who did not belong to the elite, neither by social position nor by purity of blood, but who were able to join families of ancestry through mining.


Being part of a family of renown was a very important element that shaped the social structure, but this does not remove the fact that there was no mixture with different ethnic groups and that the social structure was not as rigid as it was supposed. At least at this late stage of the colony, the hoarding of goods allowed the achievement of social recognition, beyond the color of one’s skin. In addition, there is no doubt that the links between the families were the most conducive to social positioning.




Documentary sources




Sección Histórica. Fondo de Tribunales.

Caja 16, Carpeta 68, Documento 8.

Caja 18, Carpeta 75, Documento 1; 4; 6; 8 y 9.

Carpeta 77, Documento 6.

Caja 19, Carpeta 78, Documento 11.

Carpeta 79, Documento 7.

Carpeta 81, Documento 4; 5 y 14.

Carpeta 82, Documento 4.

Caja 20, Carpeta 83, Documento 8.

Carpeta 84, Documento 1.

Caja 21, Carpeta 85, Documento 2 y 8.

Careta 86, Documento 18.

Caja 22, Carpeta 91, Documento 12.

Caja 23, Carpeta 92, Documento 11.

Caja 24, Carpeta 93, Documento 4.

Carpeta 94, Documento 4 y 5.



Sección Penal: Documentos sin Clasificar

Caja 2 Siglo XVIII, Año 1794

Caja 6, Años 1805 – 1806

Caja, Año 1809, 1810 y 1811.


Registros Notariales

Protocolo J. V. de Navarro, Años 1790, 1791, 1793, 1794.

Protocolo Navarro – Ortega 1796 – 1797.

Protocolo J de Navarro 1802 – 1803.

Protocolo J. V. Moron Años 1800, 1802 – 1803, 1804 – 1805.

Protocolo Navarro Doncel 1804 – 1805.








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Brading David. Mineros y comerciantes en el México borbónico (1763-1810), México, Fondo de  cultura económica, 1795.


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To cite this article:

Eliana Beatriz Fracapani Ríos, “Family, gold and power: The plots of kinship. San Juan (1790-1815.” Historia y Memoria N° 12 (January-June, 2016): 157-184.




* This article is linked to the research project: Family, Gender and Relations of Production. San Juan (17th – 19th Century) of the Applied Geography Institute – Geography Department of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan by Dr. Ana Teresa Fanchin.

[1] Degree in History with orientation in American History. Currently part of the team responsible for the development of the Legal Digest of the Province of San Juan, within the framework of Law No. 8.277 and the Legal Digest of Municipalities of the Chamber of Deputies of the Province of San Juan. Fulfilling tasks of Archivist and Documentary Analysis of the Norms. Member of the research team led by the Dr. Ana Teresa Fanchin in the Applied Geography Institute of the Geography Department of the Faculty of Philosophy, Humanities and the Arts of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan. elianafracapani@yahoo.com.ar 



[2] Note: An overall view of the economy on the Spanish American colonial economy can be seen in the works of Carlos Sempat Assadourian “El Sistema de la economía colonial” and “Transiciones hacia el sistema colonial andino” and the work of Héctor Omar Noejovich “Los albores de la economía americana”.

[3] Jorge Augusto Gamboa “El papel de la minería en la formación económica y la sociedad colonial del Nuevo Reino de Granada, siglos XVI-XVIII” In: Revista de Indias, vol. 64, issue. 232. (September - December 2004): 749-770.

[4] Horacio Videla in his work La Historia de San Juan.makes a review of mining during the colonial period, stating that the mines existed for the reference of the chroniclers and for the report of the Marquis de Sobre Monte.

[5] José M. Mariluz Urquijo. El Virreinato del Río de la Plata en la época del Marqués de Avilés (1799-1801). (Buenos Aires, Ed. Plus Ultra, 1987), 187.

[6] The terms Huachi or Guachi, Hualilán or Gualilán can be used interchangeably because they are adaptations of the aboriginal phonetics to the Castilian spelling; here we choose to unify these toponyms with the formant “Hua”.

[7] Mónica Ghirardi Matrimonio y Familias en Córdoba. Prácticas y Representaciones 1700- 1850 (Córdoba, Centro de Estudios Avanzados, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, 2004)15.

[8] Studies like that of Pilar Gonzalbo in México, Raquel Gil Montero for the populations of the altiplano, in Argentina the studies carried out by Mónica Girardi and Rosa Carbonari for Córdoba and for San Juan the studies carried out by Ana Fanchin. All of these investigations show us that because of the complexity of cultural diversity there was not just one family system, but instead they were multiple and complex.

[9] Mónica Ghirardi. Matrimonio y Familias… 23.

[10] Ana Teresa Fanchín “Familia y Redes Sociales en San Juan (siglos XVII-XVIII).” (Doctoral Thesis in History, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Mendoza, 2013). 49.

[11] When Dr. Ana Teresa Fanchin assumed the leadership of the project “Espacio y Población. Cuyo S.XVIII”, in 1999, she requested the authorization to consult them, and as from then other investigators have also consulted them. This influx, plus the disposition of the staff of the institution that has tended to order and classify them temporally, ensure their good conservation. Although they are classified by date, there is no index with the existing documentation; this hinders the work of the researcher.

[12] Antonio Elio Brailovsky. Historia Ecológica de Iberoamérica. De los Mayas al Quijote (Buenos Aires, Kaieron, 2009), 142-144.

[13] Ricardo Héctor Acosta “El medio natural de Cuyo en el Siglo XVII” in Espacio y población. Los valles cuyanos en 1777. (San Juan, Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Academia Nacional de la Historia, 2004), 19-46.

[14] Ana Teresa Fanchín “Familia y Redes Sociales... 56.

[15] Carmen P. de Varese, Héctor D. Arias. Historia de San Juan (Mendoza, Editorial Spadoni S.A., 1966), 22-30.

[16] Ana Fanchin, Patricia Sánchez. “Espacios urbanos y rurales en San Juan de la Frontera, en tiempos de la emancipación”. Revista Dos Puntas, San Juan, Year II, N° 2, San Juan (2010): 78-80.

[17] General Archive of the Province, from here on (A.G.P., its acronym in Spanish). San Juan – Argentina.  Sección Histórica, Fondo de Tribunales Box 26, Folder 106, Document 10 and 12, year 1825. Box 27, Folder 109, Document 3, year 1828.

[18] Ana T Fanchin. “Oro y Poder: El triunfo de las solidaridades familiares. Hualilán 1797-1803”. Revista Dos Puntas, San Juan, Year 1, N° 1 (2009): 100.

[19] AGP San Juan – Argentina.  Sección Histórica, Court. Box 26, Folder 106, Document 10 and 12, year 1825. Box 27, Folder 109, Document 3, year 1828.

[20] Expense account of gold extraction from the mines of Huachi between Eugenio Pereyra and Ramón Villamarín. A.G.P., Box 18, Folder 75 Document 8, Year 1795. The expense accounts consulted provided us with very interesting data on the type of exploitation that was developed, what materials were used, the labor used and the cost of transportation both for the transfer of materials and for the workers in the mines.

[21] Peter Bakewell, “La minería en la Hispanoamérica colonial”, in Leslie Bethell Historia de América Latina. (Barcelona, Crítica, T. III, 1990) 54

[22] Pierre Bourdieu. El Sentido Práctico (Buenos Aires, Siglo XXI Editores, 2007) 236.

[23] When we refer to this social group, we refer specifically to the elite families, who, taking the definition of David Brading correspond to the social group holding both wealth and power.

[24] María Rosa Carbonari and Iván Baggini, Población y familias en la región del Río Cuarto. Fines del Siglo XVIII (Argentina, 2007) https:www.fee.tche.br/sitefee/download/jornadas/1/s4a5.pdf (15 February 2014).

[25] Archive of the Judiciary, from here on (A.P.J., its acronym in Spanish) Notarial Protocols - Navarro Ortega 1796-7, folio 111.

[26] Son of Don Juan Vásquez del Carril and Javiera Salinas y Cabrera y Quiroga Sarmiento, quoted in  Ana María Rivera Medina “Negocios en Familia. Vitivinicultura y Patrimonio en los Vázquez del Carril (1731-1815) San Juan Argentina.” (Argentina, ed. Eudem con coedición de EFU, 2007), 39.

[27] A.P.J. notarial protocol -Navarro Cano Oro 1795, folio 16.

[28] Guillermo Collado Madcur Gobernantes y primeras damas en San Juan (1810-1917), Descendientes del Capitán Diego Jufré y Montesa, hermano del fundador de la ciudad.” Reconstrucción de una genealogía”,  in the  Center for  Genealogy and Heraldry of San Juan Argentina, Publicación Extraordinaria, 450° Aniversario de la Fundación de San Juan de la Frontera, Año V, N° 5, 2012, 169.

[29] A.P.J., Notarial Protocols -Navarro Ortega 1796-1797, Folio 250. Will of Don Sebastián de Castro.

[30] APJ Notarial Protocols - Juan Ventura Morón 1802-1803, Folio 60. 4 July 1803.

[31] Guillermo Collado in his article “El tratamiento del “Don” recibido por los pueblos originarios en la jurisdicción de San Juan de la Frontera. Reconstrucción de una genealogía”shows the etymology of the term and its adaptation to America. At first the term was only used by the popes, a word consisting of the first syllable of dominus, which means Lord, a title that was originally reserved for God, then the title passed to the bishops, abbots, etc. When the conquest of America was curtailed, even among the noblemen, as early as the eighteenth century the use of Don and Doña was extended to the descendants of noble families and the founders of the cities.

[32] A.P.J. Caja 1805- 1808. Criminal lawsuit: Don Ramón Villamarín versus José Espindola for the defamation of his wife Doña Agustina Quiroga. Criminal complaint of Don Ramón Villamarín against José Espindola for insulting his wife Doña Agustina Quiroga.
[33] In 1795 (A.G.P.). Historical Section, Court, box 18, folder 75, document 8, year 1795. They present a gold mining expense account of the huachi mines between José R. Villamarín and Antonio Pereyra.

[34] A.P.J. Box 1805 – 1808. Criminal complaint of Don Ramón Villamarín against José Espindola …folios 1-2.

[35] Ana María Rivera. Negocios en Familia,… 142-143.

[36] The Jufré or Jofré who inhabited the city of San Juan de la Frontera did not descend from the founder of the city, General Juan Jufré and Montesa, but from his brother Diego (Captain) whom his brother left in Cuyo when he returned to Santiago – Chile.
[37] The metal mills played a very important role in the process of obtaining metals, as it was the place where the ore extracted from the mine was refined.

[38] A.P.J. Notarial Protocols - Juan Ventura Morón 1800, Folio 153. Will of Santiago Jofré.