Defiance and Deference in Mexico's Colonial North: Indians under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya

Defiance and Deference in Mexico's Colonial North: Indians under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya

Defiance and Deference in Mexico's Colonial North: Indians under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya

Defiance and Deference in Mexico's Colonial North: Indians under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya

Synopsis

In their efforts to impose colonial rule on Nueva Vizcaya from the sixteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth, Spaniards established missions among the principal Indian groups of present-day eastern Sinaloa, northern Durango, and southern Chihuahua, Mexico- the Xiximes, Acaxees, Conchos, Tepehuanes, and Tarahumaras. Yet, when the colonial era ended two centuries later, only the Tepehuanes and Tarahumaras remained as distinct peoples, the other groups having disappeared or blended into the emerging mestizo culture of the northern frontier. Why were these two indigenous peoples able to maintain their group identity under conditions of conquest, while the others could not?In this book, Susan Deeds constructs authoritative ethnohistories of the Xiximes, Acaxees, Conchos, Tepehuanes, and Tarahumaras to explain why only two of the five groups successfully resisted Spanish conquest and colonization. Drawing on extensive research in colonial-era archives, Deeds provides a multifaceted analysis of each group's past from the time the Spaniards first attempted to settle them in missions up to the middle of the eighteenth century, when secular pressures had wrought momentous changes. Her masterful explanations of how ethnic identities, subsistence patterns, cultural beliefs, and gender relations were forged and changed over time on Mexico's northern frontier offer important new ways of understanding the struggle between resistance and adaptation in which Mexico's indigenous peoples are still engaged, five centuries after the "Spanish Conquest."

Excerpt

“Three hundred Tarahumara, Pima, Guarijío and Tepehuan governors came to the appointed meeting. One more time they listed their needs: the 70,000 Indians of the Sierra Tarahumara lack job opportunities; the ejidal sawmills barely operate, not only because of the scarcity of credit, but also the high cost of technical assistance in forestry; and in addition to chronic malnutrition there is hunger in the sierra because the harvests were affected by frost and hail.” This contemporary newspaper report continues to enumerate problems: land conflicts; lack of adequate medical care, education, and potable water; the struggle for indigenous autonomy in the face of growing brokerage from outside the community; and finally drug trafficking. the gathering of Indian leaders in Creel, Chihuahua, was suffused with a high level of frustration over perpetually ineffectual dealings with municipal, state, and national government institutions. One of the ejidatarias/communal property holders in attendance, Doña Teresa, challenged officials. “I almost didn’t come here. I am really angry. To whom can I address my complaint? I’ve already gone through all the proper channels. Now I am tempted to go to Chiapas to ask for help.” Echoing the concerns of indigenous peoples throughout Mexico, these northern groups continue to seek self-government in the areas of the Sierra Madre Occidental where they live.

Four hundred years after Europeans invaded this region, the contemporary scene bears a striking resemblance to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As Spaniards imposed a structure of colonial rule in the northern Mexican province of Nueva Vizcaya, indigenous concerns also centered on the struggle to preserve cultural autonomy, the need to obtain sustenance from the land and other natural resources of the rugged and unpredictable sierra environment, and recurrent battles with disease . . .

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