Despite appearances to the contrary, weights and measures were well regulated in Spanish and Mexican-era New Spain. Among these was vara, which served as a symbol of judicial authority as well as an important measuring tool. This presentation will examine how weights and measures were regulated, how the vara was utilized as a simple measuring device in every-day commerce, in the distribution of land, and how the traditional function of the vara survives in the canes the Pueblos treasure as their symbol of authority and independence.

Robert Tórrez served an the New Mexico State Historian from 1987 to 2000. He is the author of several books and has contributed to numerous anthologies and textbooks. Since 1992, he has published more that three hundred columns on a broad variety of New Mexico topics under his monthly ‘Voices From the Past’ byline.