The henequen boom coincided with the rule of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911). During the boom, many Maya in Yucatan lost their rights to land and moved to henequen haciendas. As part of the implicit contract with hacendados, peons accumulated large debts at the time of marriage, most of which were never repaid. We argue that the debts bound workers to the hacienda as part of a system of paternalism and that more productive workers incurred more debt. We examine the institutional setting in which debt operated and stress the formal and informal institutional contexts within which hacendados and workers negotiated contracts.
John Kenneth Turner1
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