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Volume 62 / Humanities

HISTORY: ETHNOHISTORY


Mesoamerica

ROBERT HASKETT, Professor of History, University of Oregon
STEPHANIE WOOD, Assistant Professor of History, University of Oregon

ONE OF THE NOTABLE DEVELOPMENTS since our last survey is a surge in ethnohistorical scholarship pertaining to regions and indigenous groups that have heretofore been overshadowed by the typically more concentrated attention given by scholars to the Nahuas and the Mayas. The stream of investigation utilizing materials produced by the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, for instance, continues to widen. This trend is epitomized by María de Los Angeles Romero Frizzi's anthology, Escritura zapoteca (item #bi2006001313#), which features 12 articles by the likes of Joyce Marcus, Judith Frances Zeitlin, Joseph Whitecotton, and Michel Oudijk. Another stellar example of this new wave of studies is Romero Frizzi and Oudijk's fine study of Oaxacan primordial titles (item #bi2006001332#). Doesburg also makes a notable contribution (item #bi2006001340#). As a group, these are intellectually energizing studies of fascinating, native historical records and memories.

Complementing the rise in studies from and about Oaxaca is a large number of works on the Purépecha, thanks, above all, to the labor of Hans Roskamp and the encouragement of El Colegio de Michoacán. Roskamp's Los Códices de Cutzio y Huetamo, about little-known, 16th-century manuscripts concerned with tribute (item #bi 2004002186#); "Documentos pictográficos indígenas de Michoacán," a thoughtful historiographical discussion (item #bi2006001338#); his study of the previously obscure "El Lienzo de Nahuatzen" (item #bi2006001339#); and his work with Monzón entitled "El testamento de Doña Ana Ramírez," an examination of a mid-17th-century testament written in alphabetic Purépecha (item #bi2006001328#), are complemented by such works as J. Benedict Warren and Cristina Monzón's critical transcription and translation of what they believe to be the earliest extant text in alphabetic Purépecha, "Carta de los principales de Pátzcuaro al obispo Vasco de Quiroga" (item #bi2006001341#). Collectively, the work of Roskamp and others interested in the Purépecha offers significant examples of transcribed, translated, and interpreted ethnohistorical sources, important in their own right as well as in a comparative sense. On the other end of the scale, unfortunately, are the Otomies (as well as other Mesoamerican indigenous groups attracting no attention at all), the independent focus of only one study here: Episodios novohispanos de la historia otomí (item #bi2004002195#).

El Colegio de Michoacán is the editorial home of an important organ that has come into its own as a vehicle for high quality scholarship that is often ethnohistorical in nature, the journal Relaciones. Aside from its laudable attention to studies of Michoacán and the Purépechas, recent issues of Relaciones have featured numerous articles on other peoples and themes that we have annotated in these pages: Enrique Florescano's "Sahagún y el nacimiento de la crónica mestiza" (item #bi2006001314#), as well as this eminent scholar's tour-de-force "La saga de Ce Ácatl Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl" (item #bi2006001315#); García Castro and Arzate Becerril's intriguing look at forged land titles presented to the colonial authorities in the late 18th century by Mazahua citizens of Metepec, "Ilustración, justicia y títulos de tierras" (item #bi2006001316#); and Michael E. Smith's archeological/ethnohistorical study of provincial households and trade networks, "Los hogares de Morelos en el sistema mundial mesoamericano postclásico" (item #bi2006001299#). We hope that this fine journal becomes more widely available to scholars in the US and Europe, and that all of our colleagues will think of it as an important vehicle for scholarly publication.

Notwithstanding the renaissance in scholarly production surrounding the native peoples of Oaxaca and Michoacán, a majority of scholars continue to give their attention to the Aztecs (and the broader group of Nahua peoples of the central highlands) and the Mayas, above all the lowlanders of southeastern Mesoamerica. A precontact emphasis is particularly marked among the Mayanists. In addition to Ancient Maya Women (item #bi2006001298#), an outstanding anthology that moves beyond a traditional concern with political and religious elites of the precontact (and particularly the classic) era, there is the excellent anthology of 11 scholarly articles, Ancient Maya Commoners, edited by Lohse and Valdez (item #bi2004003575#). Two publications—La guerra entre los antiguos mayas, edited by Trejo (item #bi2003003787#), and "Maya Warfare: Sources and Interpretations," by Van Tuerenhout (item #bi2004002524#)—comprise cutting edge investigations of armed conflict. Looper's Lightening Warrior offers exacting ethnohistorical analysis of historical memory, rulership, and the sacred at 8th-century Quirigua (item #bi2004003415#). The Maya and Teotihuacan: Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction, deftly edited by Braswell, presents us with 13 scholarly contributions that collectively challenge older notions about the nature of cultural and political influences that flowed between these two classic-era civilizations (item #bi2006001325#), while Rivera Dorado, La ciudad maya, traces the origins and spread of urbanism in precontact times (item #bi2003003802#).

Turning to the Mayas living in the colonial period, Bricker and Miram give us an exacting critical edition of a significant ethnohistorical source in An Encounter of Two Worlds: The Book of Chilam Balam of Kaua, including the first full transcription and translation of this text (item #bi2006001304#). Gubler takes us to a world of suspicion, alleged idolatry, and the sometimes-rocky relations between Catholic clergy and Yucatecan Mayas in "Sánchez de Aguilar and His Informe contra idolorum cultores" (item #bi2006001318#). A continued scholarly interest in the unconquered Mayas who lived beyond Spanish control in the Yucatan is represented by Bracamonte y Sosa's important book, La conquista inconclusa de Yucatán: los mayas de las montañas, 1560–1680 (item #bi2003003803#). Late-colonial land tenure tensions involving Mayas living within the Spanish zone of control are chronicled by Güémez Pineda (item #bi2005004738#).

Like the Mayanists, Nahua specialists have contributed a number of noteworthy studies focused on the precontact eras. Enrique Florescano provides a typically impressive installment in his quest to understand the nature of indigenous historical memories in an outstanding piece entitled "Los paradigmas mesoamericanos que unificaron la reconstrucción del pasado" (item #bi2003006787#). One point of analytical departure in Florescano's piece is the myth of Quetzalcoatl as the ruler of Tula, which he also explores in "La saga de Ce Ácatl Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl" (item #bi2006001315#). Aguilera García takes on another deified figure in Coyolxauhqui: The Mexica Milky Way (item #bi2003003754#). Lee Jonsoo calls into question the "deification," or, in this case, the postconquest "Christianization" of the precontact Texcocan ruler Nezahualcoyotl ("Westernization of Nahuatl Religion: Nezahualcoyotl's Unknown God," item #bi2006001324#).

Moving away from a concentrated focus on the sacred (though this is appropriately never entirely absent as a category of investigation), Berdan and Smith tackle large-scale issues of trade and what might be called precontact Mesoamerican "globalization" in "El sistema mundial mesoamericano postclásico" (item #bi2006001300#). Just as Rivera Dorado investigates urbanism among the Mayas, Gussinyer i Alfonso traces the evolution of the Mexica capital in "México-Tenochtitlán en una isla" (item #bi2003000628#). A good number of these themes (as well as others) are brought together in the celebratory anthology In Chalchihuitl in Quetzalli = Precious Greenstone, Precious Quetzal Feather: Mesoamerican Studies in Honor of Doris Heyden, edited by Quiñones Keber, which features high-quality studies by well-known scholars honoring and reflecting Heyden's varied and essential ethnohistorical work (item #bi2003003752#).

The transcription, translation, and study of important colonial-era ethnohistorical works concerned with the Nahuas continues as well with four examples being particularly worthy of mention here: Anónimo mexicano, until now an undeservedly obscure historical text from Tlaxcala (item #bi2006001296#); Before Guadalupe, Burkhart's excellent publication and study of indigenous-language texts about the Virgin Mary dating from the century before the appearance of the famous 1649 Laso de la Vega story of the Guadalupan apparition (item #bi2006001305#); Nahuatl Theater, Burkhart and Sell's critical edition of a set of 17th-century Nahuatl-language religious plays (item #bi2006001329#); Rojas Rabiela, Real López, and Medina Lima's excellent three-volume publication of 16th- and 17th-century Vidas y bienes olvidados: testamentos indígenas novohispanos (item #bi2006001337#); and Sell's significant presentation of Nahuatl-language cofradía records (item #bi2003005024#). As in the case of some of the Purépecha and Maya studies noted above, postconquest historical manuscripts in what can be called an "indigenous tradition," such as lienzos, primordial titles, and Techialoyans, have kept the attention of scholars, as we see in Oudijk's "La toma de posesión: un tema mesoamericano para la legitimación del poder" (item #bi2006001331#); Blanca Jiménez Padilla and Samuel Villela Flores, "Rituales y protocolos de posesión territorial en documentos pictográficos y títulos" (item #bi2006001323#); Santamarina Novillo's search for knowledge about the old Tepanec state as he believes it was organized in "El 'Círculo del Tepanecayotl' del Códice García Granados" (item #bi2002004949#); and the present section editors' recent books (item #bi2006001319# (Haskett); and item #bi2003005007# (Wood)). A group of more general works on codices is particularly graced by León Portilla's comprehensive Códices: los antiguos libros del Nuevo Mundo (item #bi2004002189#).

Other aspects of Nahua life and culture are examined by researchers such as Jeanette Favrot Peterson, "Creating the Virgin of Guadalupe" (item #bi2006001335#), who, like Burkhart, looks back "before Guadalupe" (in the sense of before the appearance of the famous 1649 Nahuatl text), this time to conduct an intriguing—and challenging—study of the renowned image of the Virgin and its origins. The physical dislocations offered by the colonial era are probed in Natalia Silva Prada's article, "Impacto de la migración urbana" (item #bi2002000037#), which looks at indigenous migration in and around Mexico City in the late 17th century. In a similar vein, América Molina del Villar, "Tributos y calamidades" assesses the impact of epidemics on indigenous communities in late-colonial Toluca and Hidalgo (item #bi2006001326#). Three authors have been concerned with tracing the activities of the Tlaxcalans as colonists, in one case following them all the way to South America: Pedro Antonio Escalante Arce, Los tlaxcaltecas en Centro América (item #bi2003003792#); Alejandro González Acosta, "Migraciones tlaxcaltecas hacia Centro y Sudamérica" (item #bi2002005978#); and Cecilia Sheridan Prieto, "'Indios madrineros': colonizadores tlaxcaltecas en el noreste novohispano" (item #bi2001008214#). Also worthy of note are two excellent anthologies, Gobierno y economía en los pueblos indios del México colonial (item #bi2003003783#) and El héroe entre el mito y la historia: ponencias (item #bi2003003782#).

One obvious feature of the body of works we reviewed for this volume is the near absence of scholarship focused primarily on gender, a departure from recent trends. Among the many books and articles that crossed our desks was only one thoroughly significant new piece: the anthology Ancient Maya Women, edited by Traci Ardren (item #bi2006001298#), a collection of 12 well-written articles collectively presenting readers with a stimulating analytical mixture of archeological, ethnohistorical, epigraphic, and even ethnographic source materials. We must hasten to add, however, that "gender" as an analytical category is certainly a component of many of the works found in our roster of notable books and articles.

A few works worth mentioning in this survey treat peoples who lived beyond the usually accepted borders of "Mesoamerica," either farther to the north, in what some scholars refer to as "Aridamerica," or to the southeast in Central America and the amorphous divide between "Mesoamerican" and "South American" cultures. These studies either incorporate information somehow related to Mesoamerica, or make analytical comparisons with "mainstream" Mesoamerican cultures. Of particular note in this group are the publications of van Broekhoven (Nicaragua) (item #bi2004002191#), Deeds (Nueva Vizcaya) (item #bi2006001312#), Rodríguez Tomp (Baja California) (item #bi2003003797#), Humberto Ruz (Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) (item #bi2001007964#), and Viramontes (Querétaro and the Bajío) (item #bi2003003786#). As in the past, some of this work suggests that "Mesoamerica" as a cultural entity should be allowed to grow and shift with new scholarly discoveries.

What follows, then, is our most recent selection of works we consider meritorious in some way. Space limitations preclude the addition of some works dating from before 2000 which had not come to our attention as we prepared our submission for HLAS 60, but these works can be found in the electronic versions of the Handbook: HLAS Online and HLAS Web.


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