The partido system was a formalized patron-client relationship that dated back to the Spanish colonial period. Most nuevomexicanos lacked the resources or capital to secure their own sheep or implements. Under the system, a rico patron furnished an agreed upon number of sheep to a partidario for a fixed amount of time, typically three to five years. During that period, the partidario took care of the flock and worked to enhance its size. Customarily, the partidario contracted to return a set amount of lambs and wool each year, and then to return the original number of sheep to the patron at the end of the full partido period.
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