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Volume 60 / Humanities

HISTORY: MEXICO


General and Colonial Period

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


THIS CHAPTER OF HLAS 60 contains more reviews than usual owing to the transition to a new editor at the Handbook and changes in the production process. The General Section covers works that either stride between colonial and independence eras, or cover the complete span of Mexican history. This section also includes archival guides. The Colonial General and Colonial North sections include reviews of monographs and articles of a shorter span and are bound by chronological and geographical boundaries.

The publication of two new histories of Mexico and a revised edition of another indicate a renewed interest in synthesis and incorporation of new forms of analysis and interpretation. (See The Oxford History of Mexico, edited by Meyer and Beezley (2000); El Gran Pueblo: A History of Greater Mexico, by MacLachlan and Beezley (1999); and Mexico: From Montezuma to NAFTA, and Beyond, by Suchlicki (item #bi2001001579#).) The production of local and regional guides to archival sources as well as the publication of research resources continue apace. Jalisco and western Mexico are examined under the intellectual scrutiny of the Colegio de Jalisco and the French Center of Mexican and Central American Studies (e.g., see item #bi2001000909#). These institutions maintain a high standard of historical research and publication. Noteworthy is the second volume of the annotated guide to the Inquisition edited by Agueda Méndez (item #bi2003003660#).

The bulk of historiographical production focuses on the central core areas of the Viceroyalty, with limited output for southern Mexico or the Yucatán. A revisionist study of the repartimiento in Oaxaca by Baskes is one of the most challenging works on southern Mexico, focusing on the textile industry and indigenous revolts (item #bi2001000929#). Viqueira (items #bi 00004970# and #bi 98009519#) and Grijalva (item #bi2001001557#) also contribute productive academic research on southern Mexico.

The evangelization of indigenous peoples, including both methods of conversion and their results, remains an intriguing theme of investigation and debate. Castro Gutiérrez's multifaceted works on Michoacán (items #bi 99005003# and #bi 99007187#), and Menegus' research on indigenous groups deserve praise (item #bi 00004981#), while García Castro's new work on the Otomis brings that neglected group into focus (item #bi2001001591#). The most impressive book on colonial Indians is the comprehensive demographic study of late-18th century education by Tanck Estrada, winner of the 2000 Howard F. Cline Prize (item #bi2001001561#). The conveyance of Christianity, the assimilation of its message, and the significance of popular interpretations of religion keep historians and ethnohistorians searching for nuances as they question and revise what were assumed to be well-established truths. Brading's scrutiny of the Virgin of Guadalupe and her rise as an object of worship adds fuel to this always appealing topic (item #bi2001004462#). On the other hand, examinations of 17th-century beliefs and expressions of piety by Rubial García unfold a rich panorama of a colonial society fixated on the worship of saints and relics (items #bi 00003959# and #bi 99007185#).

Colonial society and colonial elites are well represented in a group of works covering a broad spectrum of topics. Altman revisits the immigration process and settlement patterns from a social viewpoint (item #bi2001005048#); a work edited by Castañeda focuses attention on the political elites of peripheral areas (item #bi2001000917#); Díaz Cruz analyzes the social and religious hierarchies of Mayas in Chiapas (item #bi 00002010#); Zárate aptly explores the attitudes of the nobility regarding death (item #bi2001001544#); while Rubial García offers a comprehensive and extremely readable overview of daily life in 17th-century Mexico City (item #bi2001001601#).

Issues of women and gender continue to be treated discretely, mostly in articles (see, for example, item #bi 99004999#). Work on nuns links women to the Church and underlines the importance of the only significant corporate presence in colonial female life. Some of the works reviewed for HLAS 60 also introduce the topic of spirituality (items #bi 99009567#, #bi2002002195#, #bi2002001197#, and #bi 00007005#). In a category of its own is Gonzalbo's study of women and family, the product of many years of archival research (item #bi2001000792#), which effectively combines the sensitivity for the human aspects of personal relations with statistical data. Her latest edited work on Latin American families contains essays on Mexican family history throughout the 20th century (item #bi2002003508#).

Credit, agricultural production, regional economy, and industrial development are represented by some important works such as Cervantes Bello on regional economy (item #bi 00003954#) and Wobeser on chantries (item #bi2003004429#). Revisionist views on trade, commerce, and agricultural production by Ouweenel and Studnick-Gizbert indicate that economic historians continue a lively exchange of opinions on this staple branch of history (items #bi2001001602# and #bi2001000024#, respectively).

A beautiful three-volume collection on Mexican history, profusely illustrated with the best expression of national painters, rises above the usual standard for coffee table books. One volume addresses daily life while the others, companion volumes to an exhibition bearing the suggestive name "Paintbrushes of History," consist of thoughtful, well-written essays that draw heavily from history and propose a fresh perspective on the visual representation of key themes and events of national life from the 16th century through 1860 (items #bi2001005102#, #bi2003000259#, and Pintura y vida cotidiana en México, 1650–1950 (1999)).

Three subjects, especially important for the history of northern New Spain, have emerged since we reviewed books and articles for HLAS 58: the history of Saltillo, ethnohistory, and the role of the Jesuits. On Saltillo, three works deserve mention: De la Teja's "St. James at the Fair" (item #bi2001002479#); Offutt's Saltillo, 1770–1810: Town and Region in the Mexican North (item #bi2003006064#); and Garza Martínez and Pérez Zevallos' publication of the cabildo records of that city (item #bi2003006060#).

The outstanding works in ethnohistory include Radding's chapter, "The Colonial Pact and Changing Ethnic Frontiers in Highland Sonora, 1740–1840" (item #bi 98010513#), and a number of works on the Tlaxcalans and their role both in relation to other indigenous groups as well as with Spaniards and mestizos. The works of Sego (item #bi2002006681#) and Cavazos Garza (items #bi2001000968# and #bi2002002763#) are of special interest. Also commendable is the work by Sheridan on the Seri Indians, which analyzes the conflicts of nomadic versus sedentary indigenous peoples (item #bi2001005216#). Jackson's edited collection of essays by leading North American scholars of the region, New Views of Borderlands History (item #bi2002006848#), indicates the increasing maturity and sophistication of research into this aspect of the history of northern New Spain.

On the Jesuits, the works of Hausberger are especially worthy of note. His work on the daily life of Jesuits in the northwest is of special interest because of the details it reveals about frontier conditions for missionaries (item #bi 98009093#). Nolasco Armas' work on Jesuits in the Northwest should also be mentioned (item #bi2002004783#), as well as the work by Messmacher on Jesuits in Baja California (item #bi2003004168#).

Another noteworthy piece is Del Rio's examination of the insanity of José de Gálvez during his inspection of Sonora (item #bi2001005219#). In addition, Basques in the northwest emerge in the edited collection by Olveda (item #bi2002004784#), complementing a three-volume work on Vascos en las regiones de México, siglos XVI a XX, edited by Garritz, which is the product of papers from four conferences and includes a number of essays about the north (item #bi2002002194#).

Increasing attention to the field has been enhanced by works too numerous to be included in this section. North American and central Mexican historians working on the history of indigenous peoples in the north, as well as the increasing dominance of the north by the military; missionaries; indigenous groups from central Mexico; and white, mestizo, and Afro-Mexican settlers, add increasing information and sophistication to the written history of the region.

This section was completed with the collaboration of Patricia Harms and Brian E. Cassity.


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