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Agiotista, derogatory term used in nineteenth-century Mexico to describe those who made short-term loans to governments at very high rates of interest, usually assessed monthly rather than yearly, and often paid directly from tariff collections at the ports. The practice began in 1827 when Mexican treasuries, unable to borrow from abroad, started to rely on merchants for enough cash to meet a portion of their payrolls. Given their low creditworthiness, Mexican governments accepted loans whose face values were comprised of virtually worthless debt paper as well as cash. When tax collections shrank, agiotistas also received debt paper, forcing many into bankruptcy. It would appear that the practice ended in 1867 with the restored republic, but it is equally likely that it assumed different forms until banking achieved a firm foothold at the end of the nineteenth century.


Ciro F. S. Cardoso, ed., Formación y desarrollo de la burguesía en México: Siglo XIX (1978).

Barbara A. Tenenbaum, México en le época de los agiotistas, 1821–1857 (1985) and "'Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be': Financial Constraints and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo," in The Mexican and Mexican American Experience in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Jaime E. Rodríguez O. (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Serrano Ortega, José Antonio, and Luis Jáuregui, eds. Hacienda y política: Las finanzas públicas y los grupos de poder en la primera República Federal Mexicana. Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacán; Mexico, D.F.: Instituto Mora, 1998.

                             Barbara A. Tenenbaum