Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico

Synopsis

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico examines pluralistic communities that navigated between colonial and indigenous practices to negotiate strategic alliances with both sides of generations-old conflicts. The rich history of the southwestern community of Casitas Viejas straddles multiple cultures and identities and is representative of multiple settlements in the region of northern New Mexico that served as a "buffer," protecting the larger towns of New Spain from Apache, Navajo, Ute, and Comanche raiders. These Genizaro settlements of Indo-Hispano settlers used shrewd cross-cultural skills to survive.

Researching the dynamics of these communities has long been difficult, due in large part to the lack of material records. In this innovative case study, Jun U. Sunseri examines persistent cultural practices among families who lived at Casitas Viejas and explores the complex identities of the region's communities. Applying theoretical and methodological approaches, Sunseri adds oral histories, performative traditions of contemporary inhabitants, culinary practices, and local culture to traditional archaeology to shed light on the historical identities of these communities that bridged two worlds.

Excerpt

How do families make homes and community in a warzone? Colonial New Mexico was not unique in having its least privileged making the greatest sacrifices for a dominant regime. in the 18th century, families of lower status committed to borderlands service, hoping that returning soldier-citizens and their communities could expect some reciprocation on the home front. Rewards such as grants of land and titles could solidify their place one rung higher in a social and political order that existed far from the battlefield. But what of those who could expect to live their new deal only upon that very field of arms? This story explores the material record of families who not only built homes, established economies, and organized labor in harm’s way but also married their erstwhile enemies, raised children on the front lines, and aligned themselves across the lines of skirmish as both fighters and ambassadors. As an archaeological tale, it tracks the tensions of early Spanish colonial suppositions about the racial hierarchy known as the sistema de castas to modern-day silences and stereotypes about pluralistic communities who refuse simple categorization. the material record attests to the lived experiences of people who have long occupied the middle ground (R. White 1991) and defied any straightforward approach to pigeonholing identity.

Northwest from Santa Fe, a two-lane road winds its way into striking mesas of red and buff, a landscape to which Georgia O’Keefe famously moved in order to paint. This beautiful inspiration would likely have been the end of the artist if it had not been for the patience and care of those families who knew it best and for generations had worked to . . .

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