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Velázquez Cárdenas de León, Joaquín (1732–1786)

Velázquez Cárdenas de León, Joaquín (1732–1786)

Joaquín Velázquez Cárdenas de León (b. 12 June 1732; d. 7 March 1786), Mexican lawyer, mathematician, and miner. Velázquez de León was born near Tizicapán (state of Mexico) where his father and uncle were miners. After his father's death he was tutored in native languages by Manuel Asensio. Later he was placed in the care of his uncle, Carlos Celedonia Velázquez de León, vice-rector of the Colegio Seminario de México, who encouraged his nephew to study science and mathematics. In 1765, Velázquez de León became an instructor at the Real y Pontífica Universidad. From 1765 to 1768, Velázquez de León and Juan Lucas de Lassaga (a Spaniard) studied various aspects of mining and mineralogy, especially smelting methods. In 1766 they presented a plan to the Spanish crown for separating gold from silver. After experimenting for two years, however, the plan proved to be flawed.

In the early 1770s, Velázquez de León visited Europe, where he was already known for his astronomical observations and maps. Upon his return he and Lucas de Lassaga published the Representación que a nombre de la minería de ésta Nueva España (1774). It portrayed a deteriorating mining industry that should be reorganized to include a guild and a tribunal to give overall direction, a bank to provide credit and loans, and a mining college to teach modern techniques. Its most important finding was that the industry would benefit from miners supplementing their practical knowledge with scientific knowledge. Some reforms were implemented during the next decade, although the college was not launched until after Velázquez de León's death in 1786. How much the reforms contributed to the acceleration in output of silver remains open to debate. As director general of the Mining Tribunal, Velázquez de León was also in charge of technical education and experimentation. He helped to write the new mining code (1783), which tried to bring mining laws into conformity with mining practices, and he participated in the founding of the tribunal's bank.

See alsoMining: Colonial Spanish America .


Walter Howe, The Mining Guild of New Spain and Its Tribunal General 1770–1821 (1949).

Clement G. Motten, Mexican Silver and the Enlightenment (1950, 1972).

Roberto Moreno, "Apuntes biográficos de Joaquín Velázquez de León—1732–1786," in Historia mexicana 25 (Julio-Septiembre 1975): 41-75.

Additional Bibliography

Bakewell, Peter J. Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546–1700. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Couturier, Edith Boorstein. The Silver King: The Remarkable Life of the Count of Regla in Colonial Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

Nunis, Doyce Blackman, Chappe d'Auteroche et al. The 1769 Transit of Venus: The Baja California Observations of Jean Baptise Chappe d'Auteroche, Vicente de Doz, and Joaquín Velázque Cardenas de León. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 1982.

Uribe Salas, José Alfredo, ed. Historia de la minería en Michoacán. Morelia: Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, 2002.

                                        Richard L. Garner

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