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Volume 58 / Humanities

HISTORY: MEXICO


General and Colonial Period

ASUNCION LAVRIN, Professor of History, Arizona State University at Tempe
EDITH B. COUTURIER, Independent Scholar


TRADITIONAL AND WELL-TRIED APPROACHES characterize the general books on the historiography of Mexico as it stood in the early-to-mid-1990s, as well as works focusing on the colonial period. There were few thematic or methodological surprises in this biennium.

The general histories focus on cities (item #bi 95025733#), housing (item #bi 98000018#), regions (item #bi 97004752#); or study one of a few select themes, such as women (items #bi 97013533# and #bi 97003346#) or the political roots of the Mexican state (item #bi 97017261#). As usual, we have placed guides to archives, documentary collections, anthologies, collections of essays resulting from conferences, or individual compilations in the General section, as long as they cover a significant period of time. Good examples are the festschrift in honor of Jean-Pierre Berthe (item #bi 00002865#) and the volume on ecclesiastical sources for Mexican social history edited by Connaughton and Lira (item #bi 98009978#). A special tribute is owed to Father Lino Canedo's latest and posthumous archival review (item #bi 98005139#), which demonstrates his lifetime interest in unearthing and organizing sources for future research.

Resources and guides that cover only limited time periods or small areas, such as a municipality or a city, are found in the Colonial section. See, for example, the 20-year guide to the municipality of Colima (item #bi 97017929#) or the notarial records of Toluca (item #bi 97017915#). The second guide to personal cases and writings scrutinized and sometimes banned by the Inquisition has a place of singular importance (item #bi 97017949#). This rich source for 17th-century counterculture contains writings of a literary nature, sermons, and processes of investigation against individuals. All the preceding works testify to the vigorous engagement of local and regional historians in understanding their own past and promoting its interpretation.

Established areas of economic history, such as internal trade, mining, commodity prices, and the hacienda-market relationship form a solid core of information in works reviewed this biennium (items #bi 97005538#, #bi 95025603#, and #bi 98002558#). New and useful directions of research, such as hacienda ownership analysis, the contributions of the indigenous population to trade rather than agriculture, the muleteer industry, and the relevance of regional markets offer a fresh perspective. Among them, the works of Garavaglia and Grosso (items #bi 97017932# and #bi 97015481#), as well as those of Ibarra (items #bi 98003639# and #bi 98002554#) deserve special mention.

Ethnographic studies are enriched by revisionist works on the role of indigenous peoples in the economy and the economic impact of labor and landownership systems on indigenous populations. For example, Jeremy Baskes challenges traditional interpretations of repartimiento (item #bi 96008184#), Grosso clarifies peon-patrón relationships through case studies (item #bi 97006213#), and Menegus defines the differences between Indian and Spanish market activities (item #bi 98002555#). In-depth studies of indigenous communities are missing this biennium. However, studies of the class split between caciques and macehuales (item #bi 96024839#) and indigenous rebellions indicate a continuous expansion of ethnographic studies at the local level. Equally important, in a similar direction, are the studies of the population of African descent. The works annotated here are an indication of renewed interest in this topic, further highlighted by several national conferences. Garavaglia and Grosso's study of mestizaje and class suggests the need to use contemporary colonial definitions and understandings of race and class (item #bi 96000436#).

Ecclesiastical history has enough sample studies of religious orders to reassure readers that the genre is still being cultivated. However, it is religious evangelization and the lives of men and women within the faith that compel attention. Francisco Morales' re-examination of the process of evangelization helps in understanding the accommodation between Christian and non-Christian beliefs (item #bi 98003098#), while Corcuera de Mancera points to problems plaguing that process (item #bi 94013167#). Evangelization made few inroads in more remote areas such as Nayarit, according to Mylene Péron (item #bi 97015286#), and this clarifies, in part, the root of the rebellions chronicled by Itarch Ramón (item #bi 96001692#) and Macleod (item #bi 97014841#). Within the Catholic tradition, the study of familial religiosity by Loreto (item #bi 97015252#) and devotional practices by Mazín (item #bi 96008340#) stand out as new trends of analysis. The substantive study of the clergy by Taylor (item #bi 98008544#) turns the interest of colonialists to the secular church, which has so far remained in an ancillary position. Mazín's study of the Michoacán cathedral cabildo and Trasloheros' study of the episcopacy of Michoacán Bishop Marcos Ramírez de Prado reinforce this trend (items #bi 00002867# and #bi 00003927#, respectively).

Studies of women and gender relations were limited in scope, mostly amplifying established knowledge on honor and sexuality. A literary analysis on the meaning of Malinche extends the debate on this challenging figure (item #bi 97017923#).

Among the materials annotated in the HLAS section now called North, rather than North and Borderlands, we find a number of publications issued by institutions in the northern states. These works provide tangible evidence of the high level of activity in the field of northern Mexican history; activity that includes conferences and historical research.

Works reviewed this biennium seem to strengthen a revisionist view of land tenure. It appears that the prior picture of domination of the land by haciendas failed to take into account the true complexity of land tenure, particularly the existence of small- and medium-sized landholders and the strength of the communities that supported them. The works of Cynthia Radding (items #bi 96006792# and #bi 97004963#) are particularly important in this respect, as well as in their elucidation of mission history. Among others, the works by Romero on Sonora (item #bi 97003349#) and Osante on Nuevo Santander (item #bi 98005145#) contribute to our understanding of this phenomenon. Robert Jackson's continued critiques of the mission system through careful analysis of population figures (item #bi 97009751#), meanwhile, represent an important addition to our understanding of indigenous-white relations.

Contributions focusing on the history of California include a new collection of original works called Contested Eden (item #bi 98003323#) and León Portilla's collection of articles about Baja California (item #bi 97003344#). Another notable work on California is the careful study of San Juan Capistrano by Haas (item #bi 98009477#). A new edition of the letters of Palau from California provides a documentary contribution (item #bi 97017260#). Discussion of the reasons for the failure of Gálvez's colonization project provides another interesting perspective on the nature of Spanish control over California (item #bi 98005140#). Finally, a study of the missions of Junípero Serra constitutes an original contribution to the mission history of California (item #bi 97012113#).

Notable also is the augmented depth of understanding of local communities. Cheryl Martin's work on Chihuahua provides an important new view of a northern colonial city. This work (item #bi 98009480#) underscores the possibilities in writing local histories of the north. It is based on one small part of an enormous microfilming project carried out by the Univ. of Texas system for the northern states of Mexico, making primary materials available for the use of scholars at their own institutions. David Brading provides another study of a colonial town in the north with his work on the origins of the mining community of Catorce (item #bi 97015290#).

Thanks to new research, a far more interesting and nuanced history of the northern regions is emerging. One hopes to see this trend continue well into the future.


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