Cotton Production

Gossypium hirsutum

Before the Spaniards inhabited the area cotton or “taman” was used by the Mayans the Aztecs and other indigenous populations. Francis F. Berdan describes many uses for the cotton plant, “Scalp diseases were treated with hot crushed flowers; ulcers and other skin diseases were treated with crushed leaves; and ‘a certain veneral disease’ was treated with the flowers of the cotton plant.” Many uses for the entire cotton plant were used by the indigenous populations. The shoots were crushed and used for asthma, the seeds were used for “tenesmus.” The leaves were boiled down and used in a bath for aching bones, and convulsions. While the flower was used to cure ear infections, and “the toasted leaf is squeezed into the eye to stop twitching.” Even though the obvious use for cotton is clothing, the uses for this particular plant stretch far beyond vanity.


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The Spanish were already familiar with cotton from India, however, there was still great interest in the crop. As well, Francis F. Berdan offers detailed descriptions from primary sources, “Hernandez (1959, vol. I: 426) speaks of the use of the pulverized stem to relieve ulcers, and of the crushed (young plants?) curing “admirably” the bites of scorpions, snakes, and other venomous creatures. Other medicinal uses are mentioned by Martinez (1959: 30-31). Other (non-Mesoamerican) groups used parts of the cotton plant for food.” Other uses including paper, currency, oil, shields and armor, allowed this crop to be a valuable resource for everyone at Compostela. h

Crop Layout.

While Compostela is being inhabited by the Spaniards, the local crop production would be in full planting season. Preparations for the wet season in February would be in full swing. While we know that cotton was available to the Spaniards upon arrival, little is known about the cotton production in Mexico before their arrival. However, “prime cotton growing areas also extend inland from the coasts along river valleys, which provide adequate moisture through rainfall or irrigation, suitably warm temperatures, and protection from frosts,” makes Compostela a desirable location.

Berdan, Frances F. Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, Vol. 3, No. 2. (California University Press. Summer, 1987), 235-262

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