Twilight of the Mission Frontier: Shifting Interethnic Alliances and Social Organization in Sonora, 1768-1855

Twilight of the Mission Frontier: Shifting Interethnic Alliances and Social Organization in Sonora, 1768-1855

Twilight of the Mission Frontier: Shifting Interethnic Alliances and Social Organization in Sonora, 1768-1855

Twilight of the Mission Frontier: Shifting Interethnic Alliances and Social Organization in Sonora, 1768-1855

Synopsis

Twilight of the Mission Frontier examines the long process of mission decline in Sonora, Mexico after the Jesuit expulsion in 1767. By reassessing the mission crisis paradigm-which speaks of a growing internal crisis leading to the secularization of the missions in the early nineteenth century-new light is shed on how demographic, cultural, economic, and institutional variables modified life in the Franciscan missions in Sonora.

During the late eighteenth century, forms of interaction between Sonoran indigenous groups and Spanish settlers grew in complexity and intensity, due in part to the implementation of reform-minded Bourbon policies which envisioned a more secular, productive, and modern society. At the same time, new forms of what this book identifies as pluriethnic mobility also emerged. Franciscan missionaries and mission residents deployed diverse strategies to cope with these changes and results varied from region to region, depending on such factors as the missionaries' backgrounds, Indian responses to mission life, local economic arrangements, and cultural exchanges between Indians and Spaniards.

Excerpt

Although we speak of the ‘Spanish mission’ or the ‘mission system’,
in reality each mission recorded a distinct, even diverse, history.
The networks of missions in different regions and in different epochs
may have been analogous, but they were certainly not the same
.

In general terms, most modern analysts of the transformation of mission communities in northern New Spain agree that by the late eighteenth century, mission towns had entered a period of change that disrupted local economies, affected communal land tenure systems, and accentuated local patterns of miscegenation and Indian mobility. In some cases, narratives on the transformation of land tenure systems speak of a gradual transfer of control over productive resources from communal to private ownership, emphasizing xv

Charles Polzer, Kino. A Legacy: His Life, His Works, His Missions, His Monuments (Tucson: Jesuit Fathers of Southern Arizona, 1998), 127.

Cynthia Radding, Las estructuras socioeconómicas de las misiones de la Pimería Alta, 1768–1850 (Hermosillo, Sonora: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1979), 12–15; Kieran McCarty, A Spanish Frontier in the Enlightened Age: Franciscan Beginnings in Sonora and Arizona, 1767–1770 (Washington, DC: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1981), 5–10; Patricia Escandón, “Los problemas de la administración franciscana en las misiones sonorenses, 1768–1800,” in Actas del IV Congreso Internacional sobre los Franciscanos en el Nuevo Mundo (Madrid: DEIMOS, 1992), 290–91; Miguel León Portilla, “El periodo de los franciscanos, 1768–1771,” in Panorama histórico de Baja California, ed. David Piñera Ramírez (Tijuana: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1983), 117–25; Patricia Escandón, “La nueva administración misional y los pueblos de indios,” in Tres siglos de historia sonorense (1530–1830), ed. Sergio Ortega Noriega (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1993), 333–34; Ignacio Almada Bay, José Marcos Medina Bustos, and María del Valle Borrero, “Hacia una nueva interpretación del régimen colonial en Sonora: Descubriendo a los indios y redimensionando a los misioneros,” Región y Sociedad 19, special issue (2007): 237–65; Ignacio Almada Bay, “La descomposición de las misiones en las provincias de Sonora y Sinaloa, 1690–1767: Un acopio de factores internos y externos a la Compañía de Jesús,” in Misiones del Noroeste de México: Origen y destino 2005, eds. José Rómulo Félix Gastelum and Raquel Padilla Ramos (Hermosillo, Sonora: Fondo Regional para la Cultura y las Artes, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2007), 169–88.

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