Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Conflict in Colonial Sonora: Indians, Priests, and Settlers

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Conflict in Colonial Sonora: Indians, Priests, and Settlers

Article excerpt

Conflict in Colonial Sonora: Indians, Priests, and Settlers.

By David Yetman. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 280. $45.

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

By Jose Refugio De la Torre Curiel. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press; Berkeley, Calif.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2013. Pp. xxx, 323. $65.

The two works under review continue the valuable borderlands scholarship begun in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Herbert Eugene Bolton. In Conflict in Colonial Sonora, David Yetman describes the "conflicts among three distinct social groups--Indians, religious orders of priests ... and settlers" (1) in northwestern colonial Mexico, ca. 1640-1770. He offers seven distinct perspectives derived from seven different instances of the ongoing three-sided conflicts, thus moving beyond the usual simple narrative and generalizations or romanticizations that portray settlers as always against Indians, priests consistently for indigenous peoples, and natives perpetually on the side of natives. Instead, he presents a well-argued account of the complex dynamics of Sonoran history in which, for example, some settlers supported Indian rights in opposition to some clerical activities, and missionaries experienced conflicts within and between their orders (Jesuit and Franciscan), as well as difficulties with secular clergy. His argument is based on a large and focused body of primary documents, including letters between priests, legal documents (such as the Tuape Indian suit, which is in the book's appendix), and written accounts sent back to Spain of town hall meetings. The seven themes of the seven chapters, which for the most part are chronologically organized, provide an informative trajectory of the processes that ended with victory for the settlers, expulsion of the Jesuits, and consignment of the indigenous peoples to the hinterlands.

In Twilight of the Mission Frontier, Torre Curiel reassesses the long trajectory of general mission decline faced by the northern Franciscan missions in colonial New Spain and later in fledgling Mexico, namely, Sonora, and particularly in the districts of Pimeria Alta and Pimeria Baja. His well-documented study contradicts the general opinion that the increasingly limited resources of the missions prevented the missionaries from continuing to actively engage in the market economy. …

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