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A History of the Censuses of 1821 and 18221
by Dr. Rod Anderson, Project Director

 Just how did these two remarkable censuses come to be? The story begins in the summer of 1821. Under the command of Col. Agustín de Iturbide, the Mexican insurgent "Army of the Three Guarantees" had swept aside the last significant Spanish resistance. Mexico's long, bloody struggle for Independence was over. On 13 June, Iturbide's commander in western Mexico, General Pedro Celestino Negrete, occupied Guadalajara without opposition. Leaving behind a provisional government under the command of Col. José Antonio Andrade y Baldomar, General Negrete soon left Guadalajara at the head of his army, marching north to combat a small royalist force still at large in the northeastern sector of his district.2

    In that chaotic summer of 1821, as national Insurgency leaders negotiated the surrender of a powerful Spanish garrison in Mexico City (something accomplished only in mid-September), there is no evidence that either the provisional national government or Andrade's provincial administration were considering something so complex as a population census. Nonetheless, the new government's urgent need for funds created the first step in that process.3

    The decade-long civil war devastated the traditional sources of government revenue based on silver production and agriculture. Moreover, the insurgency movement which profited from attacking Spanish taxes and monopolies found it politically expedient to surrender those traditional revenues. Faced with a large military budget as well as the usual government debts, Iturbide resorted to a "one time" call for "spontaneous donations" from all patriotic citizens. In June the soon-to-be Emperor of the first Empire of Mexico, Gen. Agustín Iturbide, addressed the nation: "Being that Independence benefits all inhabitants..., justice, reason and individual interest demands that everyone contribute according to their resources, excepting no persons ecclesiastical or secular....the millionaire as well as the artisan and the laborer." In case anyone should mistake the appeal to patriotism as offering a serious choice, the Iturbide added that all those who choose not "to concur with the public welfare will be imposed a forced contribution by the city government."4

    On the 8th of July the Andrade government published Iturbide's bando in its entirety. That week the city government published a list of twenty-one "patriotic" citizens and the relatively modest sums which they had contributed to the cause. Not content to rely on such modest generosity, Andrade instructed the district chiefs (alcaldes) to provide a list of their adult residents for purposes of enforcing the bando of 8 July. Although most alcaldes responded by providing only names, addresses and occupations, several, including Cuartel two's diligent alcalde, helpfully evaluated their constituents'facultades (wealth). Most were "poor," "scarce" or "very scarce," but some were "middling" (medianas) or "sufficient", or rarer still "abundant."5

    Given the context of the need for government revenues, it is not surprising that the political authorities decided to take a population and economic census, as a means of securing fiscal data on their constituents. This does not mean that there were not other, more long term goals behind the Padrón of 1821 but that the immediate looming need for revenue certainly must be considered paramount. By the 1st of August and probably earlier a special two-man Commission was already working on plans for a complete economic and population census (Padrón) for what the document still called (the former colonial kingdom of) Nueva Galicia but which were under the late colonial government termed the Intendencies of Guadalajara and Zacatecas. The formal document proposing the census was signed by Col. Andrade on October 8.6 (See Census Authorization)

    The initiating authority for this census was Andrade. I have seen nothing to suggest that the census was ordered by the national government, although one must assume that Iturbide had given at least some sort of generic approval for whatever means necessary to raise revenue. The order was officially presented before the Treaty of Cordoba was signed between the insurgent leaders and the last Spanish Viceroy, Juan O'Donoju, recognizing the political autonomy of the former colony. Indeed, it was signed before the formal surrender of the Mexico City garrison on September 13 and the organization of a national government later that same month. Lyman Platt's lists of the known censuses for Mexican principalities in 1821 and 1822, only Jalisco, Zacatecas, Nayarit and Aguascalientes-all former Nueva Galicia provinces-consistently had local censuses for those years.7

    The law ordered each municipal official together with the parish priest, to conduct "an accurate and exact census list with all the particulars of all the inhabitants of his district, men and women alike, old and young, with regards to age, ethnicity, occupation." The decree went on to justify the necessity of the new census by criticizing the previous royal census of 1813-14 as inexcusably incomplete and inaccurate and calling on local officials to make sure of the accuracy and completeness of their data. In addition to the population data, the degree ordered officials to provide a list of eighteen types of geographic or economic data, including the exact location of the town and its surrounding haciendas and ranchos, the amount of land under cultivation and the types of crops planted; the presence of religious houses, mines, industries, etc. Two months was given as the deadline for submission of the data. Although the data gathered took far longer than the time allotted, one must acknowledge that the data itself is of considerable value to the history of Jalisco at the beginning of national independence.8

    In Guadalajara, the city government turned over to newly-named police "comisarios" (one for each cuartel) the task of conducting the census. None of the royal alcaldes whose names we know, appear in the records as comisarios. This may indicate that their (assumed) association with the old regime made them politically suspect or at least politically expendable. A few comisarios completed their task by the end of October but most turned their padrones over to the city government in November and December, 1821. The last to comply was Salvador Velasco, who turned in his Padrón on January 1, 1822.9 Despite the fires, earthquakes, war and revolution of nearly two centuries, the handwritten manuscripts have survived with ink as dark and the handwriting as clear as the day they were penned. See Census Pages for sample pages from various cuartels in 1821 and 1822.

    Meanwhile, the city fathers had little luck in encouraging the tapatíos to contribute to the "voluntary" tax. Donations were so slow in coming in that in February 1822 an amendment to the original bando was posted in the public plazas of the city. Entitled "Al Público," it reminded its citizens that article four of the bando had given the city government the right to exact a "forced contribution" and suggested that those who had neglected to make their contribution do so soon at the store of regidor Don Cayetano Bobadilla.10

This change in the Ayuntamiento tactics to a more "pro-active"stance coincided with the appointment of a new intendent. Iturbide's government had replaced Andrade with Don Antonio Basilio Gutiérrez y Ulloa as the "Intendente de la Provincia de Guadalaxara y Jefe Político Superior." The documents were always careful to note, however, that the new Intendente was acting under the authority of General Pedro Celestino Negrete, who was referred to as the "Captain General of Nueva Galicia." The motives behind the change are not known, but the new appointee, Don Antonio Basilio Gutiérrez y Ulloa, quickly made his own position clearly, ordering the city to provide the new provincial government with a "loan" of a million and a half pesos.11

    By the end of March one can see the results of the changing administration by the lists each cuartel chief sent to the Ayuntamiento secretary. Although the vast majority of their constituents were listed as "pobre" or "sin proporciones," the pesos began to accumulate. The city's resident small and medium size landowners (called"labradores") contributed the largest amount, $28,500 followed by the city's merchants who donated $26,570 and weavers a more modest sum of $1809. The small storekeepers (tendajoneros) contributed $1332, the reboceros $660, etc. The grand total was $64,239 pesos. However, the number of contributors were few relatively speaking (141), and two of those, merchant Bartolo Martínez and landowner, Francisco Estrada, gave $10000 and $12000 respectively.12

Others gave somewhat more reluctantly.

    "I am unaware of the authority with which you in your official letter of yesterday demanded from me the quantity of four thousand pesos. Nevertheless, wishing to comply with the Bando of 8 June [sic] requiring all to contribute according to ourfacultades and being not unaware of the necessities of the fatherland,...there has been sent on your account the expressed quantity which has been assigned to me."13

    Others claimed that poverty due to war loss, sickness, or business reversals rendered them unable to satisfy their required donation. A few ranchers gave horses instead of cash. Many citizens, of course, were in fact simply too poor to afford to give a donation, as their district chiefs often noted in their lists.14

    In any case, in May, Dr. Mateos renewed his public call for donations. This time he pointedly noted that two of the city's regidores had been assigned to every four cuarteles and would "personally pass among the homes of the citizens of each Cuartel in order to collect [the donations and loans], providing the corresponding receipts."15 It sounded very much like a threat. (See Documents: Voluntary Tax)

The results of this more "personal" collection are not fully known; however, documents of the city's archives reveal that between June 17th and the 13th of July, in eight separate collections the regidores personally collected only $3,775 pesos from two hundred individuals.

    A second census was taken in the fall of 1822; however, its origins remain obscure. Whether it was ordered to provide additional, more current information with which to extract further donations or whether it was simply an expression of authority on the part of the new Ayuntamiento officials elected at the end of the previous year, is not clear from the evidence that has survived. Whatever the motives for its origins, the census of 1822 provides a rare opportunity to "revisit" the households of a city not long after an earlier census. Even with the survival of only eleven manuscripts of the twenty four cuarteles for 1822, that opportunity is exceptionally important. For a detailed discussion of the value of this second census. (See The Importance of the Censuses of 1821 & 1822)

How Accurate?

    A commonly asked question is to what extent can the official census data for those years be relied upon? This is really a two part question. First, did those padrones capture all the residents of the city? The answer to that is clearly "no." There are many reasons why not. Citizens of the city had reason to believe that the padrón might be used to enforce the "voluntary contributions" requested by the government. Young men may have feared the possibility of conscription into the army; a padrón was taken for that specific purpose, in fact, in 1825. We also can be sure that a rather considerable number of transients slipped through the census takers nets. They would have been en route from one place to another, or staying temporarily in places that would have been difficult to find for all but the most intrepid city official. Some residents would simply have been too poor to have attracted the interest of the census takers, often living in out-of-the way hovels or in places where no government official would have been welcome. The problem of including everyone in a census was recognized at the time and has not been entirely overcome in recent times.16 Having said this, the second part is to what extent the missing persons affected the accuracy and the usefulness of the census?

    If contemporary estimates that previous padrones missed as much as a sixth of the population are true, is that figure so large as to limit the reliability of the data which remain? Certainly it affects the reliability, but in very specific and recognizable ways. For those looking for specific individuals, the odds are something like five or six to one that such individuals will be found. Whether these are good odd or not depend on the person doing the acting. If one is looking for only one person, than one would certainly wish for better odds. If one is looking for larger numbers, say close to one hundred or more, than the loss is less critical.

    If one is studying marginal people, the homeless, the transients, perhaps the shadowy underworld of crime, than the loss is near total and one should look elsewhere. If one is studying the poor, say, or the unskilled workers, than the thousands of persons in those categories will certainly offset the 15 to 20 percent of those groups who are missing, particularly if certain "weights" are assigned to represent the missing. Also, the large numbers of persons captured by these censuses guarantee that only in cases where very few of certain groups were recorded would the data be unreliable. One group which does appear to be affected in ways which are unclear are young men in their twenties. The sex ratio of female to male in that age group is near two to one, suggesting that group may have migrated out of the city in large numbers. Whether their loss is permanent, or not, is not known, nor if they were in some way "unrepresentative" of the group of young men in their twenties who remain (of which there are thousands of course). Otherwise, the number who remain would be sufficient to represent that group, in the aggregate.

    How large this missing element would have been is a matter of speculation. Humboldt and Navarro both estimate that earlier padrones missed as much as one-sixth of the actual population. If we use that estimate to adjust our original figure for the padrón of 1821, we arrive at a total population of 44,435. It is interesting to note that the parish census taken by the Church in 1823 shows a population of 40,272.17 This figure is less than our adjusted one but more than the official 1821 count. This may mean that the parish count was more accurate than the official census, a not unlikely possibility. There is some evidence that the city was losing population after 1821. Of the eleven cuarteles of 1822 for which there are also surviving data for the same cuartel in 1821, six show declines in recorded population. And on balance, for those eleven cuarteles there is actually a net decline in population in the ten months to a year between the two padrones.

One final thought on the issue of persons missed in the 1821 count. If the purpose of one's study is to capture the reality of the city, and not obtain some artificial "completeness" of information, than the missing data which can be accounted for by those who are in transience out of the city, perhaps to work in the fields or the mines, or to follow the armies, or to live temporarily elsewhere for whatever reasons may be a reflection of the life of the city, not a weakness in the historical perspective which the censuses should provide. In other words, those individuals and groups who are missed because they would be missed in most randomly chosen census dates are, in fact, providing the historian with important information about life in the city. Granted, in the best of all possible worlds, the missing persons would leave behind all their relevant personal data so that historians (or contemporary authorities) could build a detailed picture of their persona. Lacking that unlikely information, historians must procedure as best they can, sketching in the missing data with what evidence remains. Were they married, for example? Find married women whose husband are absent. These are familiar tasks which traditionally fall to historians and, while difficult, are not necessarily impossible. And where impossible, those who are missing nonetheless perform their role as clues, alerting the investigator that they have missed someone, and must account for that gap in the data by using the techniques which is at their disposal for that very purpose. Even the lack of knowledge, is knowledge.


1. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Guadalajara (AHMG), cajas 1121 and 1123, leg. 39, 41 BIS and one unnumbered legajo entitled "Varios Padrones 1821." The Archivo has created a new numbering system but a conversion index is available. Please note that the legajos are sometimes labeled as "paquetes" to identify the type of cardboard containers in which they are keep. Some confusion exists as to the exact number and timing of the censuses taken in the years immediately after Independence. Demographic historian Sherbourne Cook describes his sources for a study migration as the census year 1822, and notes that his data come from seven of the twenty-four cuarteles (1, 6, 11, 12, 17, 20, 23). (See "Migration as a Factor in the History of Mexican Population: Sample Data from West Central Mexico, 1793-1950," in Pierre Deprez, ed., Population and Economics. Proceedings of Section V of the Fourth Congress of the International Economic History Association, 1968 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1970.) Of those seven cuartels, I have been able to locate the census manuscripts of four (11,12,17,20) for 1822, of which only 11 and 17 have birthplace data. However, the 1821 cuartels 1,6,11,20 and 23 do have birthplace data. I suspect that the manuscripts used by Cook were a combined 1821 and 1822. Apparently, Cook was of the impression that the census manuscripts he used were taken over a period from 1821 to 1824; see Cook and Woodrow Borah, Essays in Population History: Mexico and the Caribbean, vol. 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 181-83. In fact there were four separate population counts. Besides 1821 and 1822, a parish count was taken in 1823 which obtained a total of 40272; see AHMG, caja 1135, legajo 38. A further official census was taken in 1824, of which nine cuartel manuscripts survived; see AHMG, caja 1131, legajo 49. However, the latter appears to be for military purposes and often does not include women or children. Further confusing this issue are the population counts published contemporarily by Victoriano Roa, in his Estadística del Estado Libre de Jalisco. Formado de Orden del Supremo Gobierno mismo Estado. Con presencia de las noticias que dieron los pueblos de su comprensión en los años 1821-1822 (Guadalajara: Unidad Editorial, 1981; 1st ed. 1825). Roa clearly states that he is publishing the padrones taken earlier, for which his title indicates 1821 and 1822 (the ones we use here) but in his text he states the padrones were "hechos en los años de 1822 a 1823." (Ibid., p. 11) Despite the confusion of dates, it is almost certain that he means the padrones taken in 1821 and 1822 (although possibly other principalities in the new state of Jalisco were as late as 1823. His actual population count for Guadalajara is 46804, far higher than the one actually taken in either 1821 or 1822 but, as he states, augmented by himself to reflect the likely undercounting of the population in the original census. See also Rodney D. Anderson,Guadalajara a la consumación de la Independencia: estudio de su población según los padrones de 1821-1822 (Guadalajara: Unidad Editorial, 1983), 19-23 and 161-67.

2. Luis Pérez Verdía, Historia particular del estado de Jalisco, desde los primeros tiempos de que hay noticia, hasta nuestros días, 3 vols., vol. 2 (Guadalajara, 1952 ed.), pp. 218-222.

3. For national events, see Linda Arnold, Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats in Mexico City, 1742-1835 (Tucson, Arizona, 1988), 50-51.

4. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Guadalajara (AHMG), caja 1123, legajo 41BIS, exp. 18. Dated and signed by Agustín de Iturbide, at Acambaro, junio de 1821 and, in Guadalajara, by José Antonio Andrade, 8 julio de 1821. The phrase was "contribución forzosa," later repeated by several of the city's cuartel chiefs in their census lists. See, for example, the "extracto del Padrón Quartel n. 2" in 1821 and cuartel 22 in 1822 (AHMG, CS3/1821; paquete 38, leg. 3.) In October 1821 the provisional governing junta voted to maintain the colonial fiscal system, although several years later the Congress appropriated for the states traditional revenue sources formerly monopolized by the federal government. Arnold, Bureaucracy and Bureaucrats in Mexico City, 94.

5. Ibid. The total was $386 pesos or a median of $12 pesos. The largest amount were two contributions of $50 pesos each from Don José Ma. Lopes and Don Ignacio Cañedo, well known landowners with substantial urban economic interests. Other contributors were:alcaldes Don Benito Domínges and Don Manuel del Campo ($25 pesos), Don Ramón Murúa ($25), Don Juan Camberas ($4), Don Alfonso Leñero ($25), Don José de la Madrid ($12), Don Manuel Quevedo ($25), Don Miguel Portillo ($10), Don Mariano Flores ($25), Don Cayetano Bobadilla ($25), Don Manuel Capetillo ($25), Don José Ma. Santos Coy ($6), Don José Ma. Cano ($6), Don Ventura Gutiérrez ($6), Don Juan Puente ($4), Lic. Don Francisco Cortes ($12), Lic. Don Manuel Nogueras ($10), Don Urbano Sanrroman ($10), Stro. Dr. Don Victoriano Mateos ($6). The latter was the Secretary of the Ayuntamiento and the chief administrative officer of the city government. Most names are recognizable as members of the Merchant's guild (Consulado) and/or belonging to well-known families. AHMG, legajos 38, 39,43, 45, 46, 48. Lists have survived for seventeen of the city's twenty-four cuartels. It is not clear whether these alcaldes were appointed by the former colonial government or by the Andrade regime, although I suspect the former. When the full census is taken that fall of 1821, the cuartel authorities conducting the census were all "comisario de policía" and none were the former alcaldes. Perhaps the comisarios were viewed as interim officials because when the 1822 census was taken, the authorizing cuartel officials were the victors of the city election of December 24, 1821. None of the new 1822 officials for whom we have names were holdovers from the previous year.

  6. The commissioners signed the decree on 20 August 1821; city officials Antonio Gutiérrez y Ulloa and Lic. José Anastasio Reynoso on September 25, 1821 and Col. Don José Antonio; Andrade on 8 October ( AHMG, caja 1123, legajo 41, exp. 230). The two commissioners who drew up the census requirements were Juan Manuel Caballero and Rafael Riestra. Caballero was linked politically to General Negrete and Andrade; it was at Caballero's home in San Pedro Tlaquepaque on the eve of the insurgent occupation of Guadalajara that the two insurgent leaders signed their adherence to the Plan de Iguala. See Ramiro Vallaseñor y Villaseñor, Los primeros federalistas de Jalisco, 1821-1834 (Guadalajara: Unidad Editorial, 1981), p. 12.

7. Lyman D. Platt, Census Records for Latin America and the Hispanic United States(Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998). However, at least one other state--Puebla--took a census that year. See Guy P.C. Thomson, Puebla de los Angeles. Industry and Society in a Mexican City, 1700-1850 (Boulder, Colorado: Westsview Press, 1989).

8. Although the latter data did not appear among the city's population manuscript returns, the data for Jalisco was latter published in a useful book by Victoriano Roa,Estadística del Estado Libre de Jalisco. Many of the manuscript censuses for the provincial towns have survived and are available on microfilm from the Genealogical Society of Utah. See Padrones 1821, 0168823-0168830, catalogued under MEXICO, JALISCO, GUADALAJARA, CENSUS: Iglesia Catolica. Diocesis de Guadalajara. Padrones, 1637-1875. For a full list of available padrones, see Platt, Census Records. The padrones were not parish censuses, of course, but because many were taken by parish priests, I assume that the manuscript copies found their way to the Diocesis de Guadalajara, where they were photocopied in the 1960s. I have not seen either the economic descriptions of Guadalajara or the state municipalities' descriptions or census manuscripts in either the AHMG or the State archives.

9. For our purposes, we consider this cuartel as part of the "1821" census, just as we consider the second Padrón for cuartel 22 as a "1822" Padrón, even though it was completed in December, 1821.

10. AHMG, caja 1123, legajo 41 BIS, exp 18. Dated febrero 6 de 1822, "Segundo de la independencia del imperio mejicano."

11. AHMG, caja 1123, paquete 41.

12. These figures come from only six cuarteles (3,6,10,11,20,24) of the twenty four. Others provided assessment on the capacity of the persons to pay, but listed no donations. The documents are scattered throughout AHMG. Of the labradores, the number of contributors were 21; the mean donation $1357 and the median only $200. Of the merchants, the number were 24; the mean contribution $1107 and the median $250.

13. AHMG, Legajo 41, exp. 70, Pedro Diaz, Febrero 19 de 1822. "Desconosco la autoridad con que Us. en su oficio de ayer me exige la cantidad de quatro mil pesos sin embargo de haber cumplido con el Bando esta 8 de Junio contribuyendo según mis facultades, pero no desconosco las necesidades de la Patria;... de haber hecho propio este negocio...,han mandado enterar por su cuenta la expresada cantidad que en el repartimiento de que Usted hace mensión se me ha asignado."

14. As an example of pleas of poverty, see a letter to the Sres. Presidente y Vocales del Ayuntamiento de esta capital from José Ventura García y Sancho, febrero 20 de 1822 in AHMG, legajo 41, exp. 62. Rafael Dávila gave 100 horses and Manuel G. de Quevedo gave $500 cash and 30 horses; see Pérez Verdía, vol. 3, p. 239.

15. "Habitantes de Guadalaxara" in AHMG, legajo without a number entitled "varios padrones, 1821."

16. For the conscription padrón, see AHMG, legajo 58, 1825. In the 1980 U.S. census, 4.8 percent of the nation's Afro-American population were uncounted by the census takers. This was actually a better performance than in 1970, when 7.6 percent were missed. The U.S. Census Bureau have often requested permission from Congress to sample the larger cities which they believe, correctly according to most experts, would give a more accurate count of population than an actual count! For various political reasons, the Congress has always refused. The same issue arose with the 2000 population count with the same results.

17. The Parish census document can be found in the AHMG, caja 1135, legajo 53, exp. 15.




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