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

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

Spanish-Indian Relations in Highland Guatemala, 1800-1944

Robert M. Carmack


Introduction

I intend to discuss ethnohistorical studies of the highland Guatemalan Indians from 1800 to 1944 A.D. Robert Wasserstrom has recently shown that the post-1944 revolutionary period in Guatemala, as it relates to the Indians, can also be treated ethnohistorically.1 But a proper understanding of Indian culture for that period requires heavy reliance on ethnographic studies, and also continues to be steeped in political controversy. Therefore, I limit my summary to the pre-revolutionary years.

I admit that the time period and subject selected for review -- highland Guatemalan Indian cultures between 1800 and 1944 -- have received scant ethnohistoric attention. Unquestionably, prehispanic, colonial, and post-1944 periods are much better known. This limitation, however, can work to our advantage. It directs our attention to the need for more studies of that time period, while at the same time it forces us to make better use of the information already available. The situation also tends to promote greater integration of the disciplines, especially history and anthropology. At least, I feel this has been true in my own case, as I have turned to historians and other social scientists more than usual when anthropological studies are relatively abundant. Finally, the situation has freed me to use more of my own research, including unpublished manuscripts, than might otherwise be appropriate.

In my analysis, I begin with a review of general studies dealing either with highland Guatemala or with Mesoamerica as a whole for the period under discussion. I have selected only those studies that pay substantive attention to the Indians or to relations between the Indians and ladinos. In the second section of the essay I examine ethnohistoric studies of specific highland Guatemalan Indian institutions. Little research of this kind has

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