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Volume 56 / Humanities


South America

SUSAN E. RAMIREZ, Professor of History, DePaul University

THE FIELD OF ETHNOHISTORY as manifested in the publications reviewed here continues to develop and advance. The books and monographs can be divided into several, overlapping categories. The most basic are three items that will facilitate research, including two guides to archives. One is a wide-ranging primer on manuscript references on native life in colonial Paraguay found in the archives of that country and in those of Argentina and Spain (item bi 95001510). The second is a truly superb catalog of the "Caciques e Indios" section of the National Archive of Colombia, which has recently moved to more spacious quarters in an ultra-modern new building near the presidential palace (item bi 95001442). The catalog's four indexes (toponyms, personal names, years, and themes) make it a model for investigative efficiency. It should be noted, too, that this archive is a leader in the microfilming of colonial sources, and all of the papers in this section can be obtained on film. The third item is a short overview of the field in the Southern Cone by Kristine Jones that will prove of interest not only to those focused on southern South America, but perhaps, too, to those looking for information to compare and contrast with their own findings elsewhere (item bi 94009962).

To these research aids can be added published primary sources. The transcription and editing of unpublished sources is now a long-established practice that we hope continues. Such work, whether it be of standard works, such as the reedition of the Relación de la religión y ritos del Perú hecha por los padres agustinos (item bi 95001530) or El Tercer Concilio Limense (item bi 95001447), or of "new finds," such as the Toledo-ordered Visita of Tiquipaya (item bi 95001477) or a court case over land involving Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala (item bi 95001527), give many home-bound investigators access to materials necessary to carry out their work.

By far the largest category of works deals with local histories, defined either by territorial boundaries or by ethnic group. Most studies concentrate on indigenous groups in a given territory during various historical epochs. We find here examples about different areas of Peru (Cusco, Piura, Juliaca, Lima, and Southern Peru), Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, and French Guiana. Other studies disregard the modern frontiers of nation-states and smaller administrative districts to study indigenous groups wherever they lived. To the already well-studied Tiwanaku (item bi 95001462), Chankas (item bi 95001518), Aymara (item bi 95001523), and Guarani (items bi 95001459 and bi 94011505), we here add studies of the less well-known peoples identified as the Pijaos (item bi 95001460), Cazuetíos (item bi 95001503), Pakaxe (item bi 95001508), Muiscas (items bi 95001532 and bi 94009644), Tomuza (item bi 95001545), Soito (item bi 95001546), Puelches (item bi 95001493), Guaikuru (item bi 95002779), Mojos (item bi 95008083), and Churumatas (items bi 94010584 and bi 94010595).

Interest in the Inca has not diminished. To the recent book-length reinterpretations of the empire (e.g., Bauer, Geoffrey Conrad, etc.), we add two more: one by Gustavo Valcárcel (item bi 95001451) and one by Martti Pärssinen (item bi 95001540). Other works include an imaginative study on frontiers by Catherine Julien (item bi 95001434); the Inca use of space (item bi 95001478); and three articles on irrigation by Jeanette Sherbondy (items bi 96004649, bi 96002730, and bi 96002785). Although these local histories offer a grab-bag of foci and methodologies, they indicate significant ethnohistorical progress, helping correct the almost total neglect in surveys of the native side of the story. Studies of the history of peoples who never had contact with the Inca, who may have lived in the lowlands and jungle regions far from the highland Inca administrative center or Spanish population centers, give readers some understanding of the diversity and range of indigenous cultures that existed. They also remind us that the so-called "conquest" and/or "invasion" of the Spanish, Portuguese, and other European powers (the French in Guyana) did not take place in two years (at Tenochtitlán), or an afternoon (at Cajamarca), but was gradual. Decades and centuries passed before some native groups experienced the full weight of colonial domination.

These realizations and other ethnohistorical perspectives (as opposed to strictly European views) are just beginning to be reflected in "national" history textbooks (e.g., those by María Rostworowski and Waldemar Espinoza Soriano). These local histories will help diversify and balance the "centralized" (i.e., Lima- or Cusco-centered) and "Western" biases of many colonial and national overviews. The study of the various ethnic groups living under Inca hegemony will also help readers counter the Cusco-centered, top-down, imperial biases of many chroniclers. We can hope that the future authors of textbooks used in the US will find more space than that currently dedicated to an overview of the Aztecs and the Incas (usually in an initial chapter) to add these findings and undo the "history written by the victors" slant of many such works.

Another large group of monographs and articles is thematically organized. The numerous studies of indigenous resistance and rebellion, following the lead of such scholars as Scarlett O'Phelan and Steve Stern, mark the death knoll of the myth of the passive peasant, should there still be any lingering doubt. Several of the studies, most notably Ward Stavig's article (item bi 94009005), use violence and revolt as a way to recover and understand the values and mindset of the actors. With or without the Jesuit missions, the Guarani and cross-cultural contact continue to attract scholarly attention.

Themes underrepresented here include women (items bi 95001469 and bi 95006592); huacas and looting (item bi 95001456, although Rostworowski is planning a text on the same topic); Kuracas (item bi 95001472); Inca succession (item bi 95001466); and mitmaq (item bi 95001541). Only one item dealt with medical practices (item bi 95001522), although one can hope that other authors will be attracted to the theme, given the world-wide interest in the medicinal properties of plants native to the fast-disappearing rainforests. Trade and exchange relationships (items bi 95006589 and bi 94008098) need more attention to more fully describe the contacts between highland and lowland peoples (item bi 94010086). The scant attention to migration (item bi 95001509) was another surprise given recent interest in the topic by Nicolás Sánchez Albornoz, Ann Whitman, David Robinson, and Karen Powers, whose book on colonial Ecuador deals, in part, with the topic (item bi 96011242).

The one disappointment is the absence of work from a comparative approach. Although such studies bring unique perspectives to scholarship, their funding can be problematic. Nonetheless, they often prove valuable not only to ethnohistorians of Latin America, but also to specialists of other disciplines and with other regional and temporal interests. Some works in this broad category were, from my perspective, "most memorable" either for methodological or thematic reasons. Included here are works calling attention to hitherto relatively neglected themes, such as the anthologies on drinking (item bi 95001507) or the mestizo (item bi 95001501), both of which are so ubiquitous as to escape particular notice, until now. The psychohistory of Garcilaso de la Vega (item bi 95001535) relates well to studies of indigenous memory, identity, and mindset (items bi 95001461, bi 94008502, and bi 94009000), illustrating how new insights can be coaxed out of standard sources. Catherine Julien's book on the boundaries of Condesuyo represents a topic that has rarely been systematically and closely studied; it is based on both archaeological and historical analysis (item bi 95001434). A study of toponyms as indicators of the economic resources used by native peoples during their seasonal itineraries offers a model for study of place names elsewhere (item bi 95006589). Finally, Golte's monograph (item bi 95001514) on Moche iconography promises to prove helpful in understanding the ritual role of important native officials in early colonial times, perhaps thus confirming strong continuities between the Moche and the Chimu (the latter under Inca rule).

Finally, some of the items reviewed here were published to commemorate the Quincenntenary. These range in focus and scholarly appeal. These and other, more popular, publications are of note, because they help maintain interest in the past by making professional efforts accessible to the general public.

In sum, new data, new interpretations, and new topics combine to make the field of ethnohistory an exciting one to read.

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