How was the life of the different social classes in the times of New Spain

In the times of New Spain, society was highly stratified, a situation that conditioned people’s daily lives. (Photo: Alonso Sánchez Coello)

The way in which people lived their day to day in the times of the New Spain it totally depended on their economic and social position, since, after the conquest, societies were divided according to their “race”.

This system of social classification served the authorities of the Spanish crown to assign the inhabitants specific roles. As it was expected, the upper classes were the most benefited and those who most enjoyed walks and countless privileges.

Mexican politician and military Vincent Riva Palacio expose in your text Mexico through the centuries that shortly after the official formation of New Spain, multiple wealthy Spaniards began to arrive in the former Mexica territory. Later they began to found their homes and establish their Spanish customs in indigenous societies.

This class he enjoyed showing off his ostentatious accessories that came from France. His luxuries became so scandalous that the Spanish Crown had to decree the so-called Royal Pragmatic of Dresses. It was a law that established the dress codes of the privileged classes to avoid “great annoyances and disturbances”.

Women in New Spain had only two options: they got married or went to the convent.  (Photo: UNAM Gazette)
Women in New Spain had only two options: they got married or went to the convent. (Photo: UNAM Gazette)

The Mexican author comments that the main reason why this decision was made was because the nobles who belonged to the court did not agree with the fact that the garments of the peninsular will overshadow their appearance.

However, after multiple agreements it was established that this law was only addressed to criollos and mestizos For this reason, they were prohibited from using “clothes made of silk, chamelot, woven or spun gold embroidery.” For this reason, when people saw people with extravagant clothing, they knew that it was someone who had been born in Europe.

after a while the Creoles revealed themselves and they decided not to abide by these rules, since they argued that Spanish blood ran through their veins and therefore, they had the same rights as those of European nationality.

Map of New Spain (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Map of New Spain (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were characterized by “the hypocrisy of the rich”, the reason for this statement is because the favorite tasks of the elite was to found hospitals, build temples and they poured the money into charitable works, however, their actions with the mestizos and the indigenous people were totally inhumane.

On the other hand, the magazine Mexican Archeology mentions that the daily life of indigenous society was consigned to oblivion. They were not allowed to approach the areas most popular with peninsulars and they had to show respect at all times to their encomendero, this was the person -Spanish- who was in charge of supervising that the surrounding lands were worked.

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, who was in charge of writing about the life of this social class for a long time, said that they regularly got drunk with pulque and were transformed by “eating mushrooms.” These types of descriptions only led to further stigmatization of this sector and there were “arguments” to relegate them to the background.

Those who were also relegated were women, as their social position depended on their roots and their economic level. If they were European, they could attend important events, elite parties, without neglecting their housework and with their husbands.

If they were mestizas or criollas They only had two possible destinations: marriage or the convent. Most of the time they couldn’t even choose and their future depended on their parents, who decided to hand them over to some “good party” or force them to leave home to be educated in a religious institution.

Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz She was one of the most outstanding women of this time because she managed to defy numerous standards of that time. In fact, she became the example to follow for many young women who believed that their existence was limited solely to serving God and men.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz decided to challenge different stereotypes of the time and inspired other women to do the same.  (Photo: UNAM Gazette)
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz decided to challenge different stereotypes of the time and inspired other women to do the same. (Photo: UNAM Gazette)

It should be noted that, like most Western societies, theThe Church and the upper classes were the authorities who imposed all kinds of customs and beliefs. To ensure their control, they established coercive mechanisms that prevented the people from rising up, as an example is the Inquisition, the ecclesiastical institution in charge of punishing all those who did not want to abide by the rules.

People were accused of “heretics” and under that pretext they were punished with the death penalty. Although it was lived like this for a long time, little by little the minorities were organizing themselves until in 1810 the Independence, the armed movement that demanded better living conditions for the Creoles, the indigenous and the castes.


What was the intimate life of the Mexica before the arrival of Hernán Cortés
How was the intimate life in the Mexico of Porfirio Díaz
What is known about the intimate life of Maximiliano and Carlota

Leave a Comment