El Regreso de los Dioses: El Proceso de Reconstitución de la Identidad Étnica en Oaxaca, Siglos XVII y XVIIIby Marcello Carmagnani

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  • El Regreso de los Dioses: El Proceso de Reconstitucin de la Identidad tnica en Oaxaca, SiglosXVII y XVIII by Marcello CarmagnaniReview by: John K. ChanceThe American Historical Review, Vol. 96, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), p. 294Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2164260 .Accessed: 28/06/2014 08:11

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  • 294 Reviews of Books

    executives and politicians on the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway.


    Salem, Maine


    MARCELLO CARMAGNANI. El regreso de los dioses: El proceso de reconstitucion de la identidad e'tnica en Oaxaca, siglos XVII y XVIII. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Econo- mica. 1988. Pp. 263.

    This volume has an ambitious goal: the elucidation of a process of "ethnic reconstitution" in the entire Mexican cultural area of Oaxaca (roughly coterminous with the modern state) in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- turies. Marcello Carmagnani grapples with the prob- lem of how Oaxaca's diverse Indian groups-primarily the Zapotec- and Mixtec-speaking ones-adapted to colonial circumstances without sacrificing a firm sense of ethnic identity.

    At the core of the book is a theory of ethnicity that revolves around sacred spaces: ethnic identity is di- vinely inspired and embodied in "Indian territories," which differed significantly from colonial politico-ad- ministrative units. Carmagnani challenges the conven- tional wisdom that colonialism fragmented Indian ter- ritories into a congeries of separate communities, arguing instead for continuity of "Indian territories" to about 1850.

    Prior to the eleventh century, Indian territories were associated with populations as wholes. In later years, however, they came under the sway of new "terrestrial gods," that is, the native rulers. With the Spanish conquest, these rulers, called caciques, were coopted by the colonial state, and sacred rights in land were gradually reappropriated by the territorial community. To account for this development, the author invokes a "historical memory" that permitted people to use pre- eleventh-century cultural forms to curtail the power of their colonial caciques and in the process ethnically "reconstitute" themselves.

    Separate chapters deal with the economics and poli- tics of reconstitution. Cofradias and hermandades are seen as redistributive mechanisms that internally inte- grated Indian territories, while indigenous trade served to meet subsistence needs on an interterritorial basis. Cabildo (town council) composition and elections are used to show growth in territorially based political hierarchies, founded on a distinction between higher offices located in head towns and lower ones in the subject hamlets. Hierarchy was ever present, but it became increasingly open in the eighteenth century as electoral principles overtook hereditary status as a means to political power. This lengthy process of reconstitution came to an abrupt end during theJuairez reforms of 1847-53, a "second conquest" that shat- tered the colonial Indian territories.

    Does the argument succeed? Not entirely. The book is provocative, but Carmagnani uses what is largely

    circumstantial evidence to oversimplify a very complex topic. There are two main problems. First, it is far from clear how ethnic units were defined and expressed territorially in the preconquest period. But, if it was on the basis of city-state membership, the conventional wisdom that Carmagnani attacks may not be far off the mark. Second, the delineation of colonial "Indian ter- ritories," the cornerstone of the argument, is uncon- vincing. The evidence is sketchy, and after a while these territories begin to look suspiciously like the organization of pueblos and their subject hamlets that Mesoamericanists have been writing about for decades. In the end, ethnic identity is more assumed than demonstrated in this study. Some elements of the larger picture also go unaddressed: is it legitimate to generalize for all of Oaxaca, especially since recent research has uncovered a surprising amount of diver- sity? Is ethnic reconstitution a process unique to Oaxa- ca, or can it be applied to colonial societies elsewhere as well? This is a book that gives us much to ponder.


    Arizona State University

    LOLITA GUTIERREZ BROCKINGTON. The Leverage of Labor: Managing the Cortes Haciendas in Tehuantepec, 1588- 1688. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. 1989. Pp. xxv, 245. $42.00.

    The legacy of Fernando Cortes, as the intrepid con- queror of the mighty Aztec empire, is well known. His role as an economic entrepreneur who transferred European livestock, mining, silviculture, ship building, and other commercial activities to New Spain has also been recognized. His innovation of administrative and managerial practices, however, has not received ade- quate historical attention. In addressing the managerial aspects of the conquistador's livestock estates in the Tehuantepec area of southern Mexico, Lolita Gutier- rez Brockington has taken an important step in pro- viding detail and analysis not only of the economic impact of Cortes but also of the shape and direction of colonial rural commercial practice.

    This excellent case study, on the interplay between labor and administration in a little-examined corner of colonial Mexico, includes a perspective that encom- passes the entire colonial period of New Spain; it is more than merely another hacienda study. Gutierrez Brockington takes seriously works published by other scholars, which allows her to place her findings within the context of existing knowledge about colonial Mex- ican haciendas. The result is a confirmation that these colonial agrarian enterprises were carefully planned, systematically managed, profit-oriented endeavors. The model of the colonial hacienda of Francois Chev- alier (La formacion de los grandes latifundios en Me'xico [1956]), seen as a self-sufficient feudal institution fol- lowing European patterns, is once more convincingly refuted. Also revised, and herein lies the major contri- bution of this book, is the view that clerical institutions

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    Article Contentsp. 294

    Issue Table of ContentsThe American Historical Review, Vol. 96, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. i-xiv+1-331+1(a)-46(a)Front Matter [pp. i-xiv]Family [pp. 1-16]Of Poverty and Primacy: Demand, Liquidity, and the Flemish Economic Miracle, 1050-1200 [pp. 17-41]Peasant Politics? Village Community and the Crown in Fifteenth-Century England [pp. 42-62]The Role of Fear: Transitions in American Emotional Standards for Children, 1850-1950 [pp. 63-94]The History of the Family and the Complexity of Social Change [pp. 95-124]Reviews of BooksGeneralReview: untitled [pp. 125-126]Review: untitled [pp. 126-127]Review: untitled [p. 127]Review: untitled [pp. 127-128]Review: untitled [p. 128]Review: untitled [pp. 128-129]Review: untitled [pp. 129-130]Review: untitled [pp. 130-131]Review: untitled [p. 131]Review: untitled [pp. 131-132]Review: untitled [pp. 132-133]Review: untitled [p. 133]Review: untitled [p. 134]Review: untitled [pp. 134-135]Review: untitled [p. 135]Review: untitled [pp. 135-136]Review: untitled [pp. 136-137]Review: untitled [pp. 137-138]Review: untitled [pp. 138-139]Review: untitled [p. 139]Review: untitled [pp. 139-140]Review: untitled [pp. 140-141]Review: untitled [pp. 141-142]

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