Spaniards and Indians in Southeastern Mesoamerica: Essays on the History of Ethnic Relations

By Murdo J. MacLeod; Robert Wasserstrom | Go to book overview

Introduction

This volume brings together a group of historically-minded anthropologists and anthropologically-minded historians who, in their own individual ways, discuss a common theme: the genesis in precolonial, colonial, and early republican society of contemporary Indian cultures in Yucatan, Chiapas and Guatemala.

Some three years ago the editors of this volume undertook a review of ethnohistorical work on southeastern Mesoamerica, a review that included the writers in this volume and many others. They concluded that research on the region had reached a stage where a cohesive reappraisal, a pulling together of findings, would be not only interesting to scholars but also in some ways essential before further variety and advances were introduced. Clearly, southeastern Mesoamerica has emerged as distinctive, in many ways quite unlike the better-known structures and patterns of central Mexico.

Such cohesive reviews are inherently incomplete. Writers and scholars are idiosyncratic. Some are local, and hate to stray from their own familiar turf. Others are too quick to lay claim to large and poorly-mapped territories. As readers will soon perceive, this group of writers is no exception. Nevertheless, they all aim at synthesis, at a broader understanding of the processes going on in their regions as found in the corpus of research available to them. Each of them, too, has tried to open some doors to the future. What are the prospects? Where is research going? Where, given the many unknowns in southeastern Mesoamerica, should it be going?

A certain commonality of themes also emerged. Not all of the essayists covered or even mentioned every topic, but the reader will find that certain questions and structural features, some of them peculiar to this area, recur with frequency, often in different forms and guises. These

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