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On the Edge of Purgatory

An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado

Bonnie J. Clark

Publication Year: 2012

Southeastern Colorado was known as the northernmost boundary of New Spain in the sixteenth century. By the late 1800s, the region was U.S. territory, but the majority of settlers remained Hispanic families. They had a complex history of interaction with indigenous populations in the area and adopted many of the indigenous methods of survival in this difficult environment. Today their descendants compose a vocal part of the Hispanic population of Colorado.

Bonnie J. Clark investigates the unwritten history of this unique Hispanic population. Combining archaeological research, contemporary ethnography, and oral and documentary history, Clark examines the everyday lives of this population over time. Framing this discussion within the wider context of the changing economic and political processes at work, Clark looks at how changing and contesting ethnic and gender identities were experienced on a daily basis. Providing new insights into the construction of ethnic identity in the American West over hundreds of years, this study complicates and enriches our understanding of the role of Hispanic populations in the West.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Historical Archaeology of the American West Series


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Scholarly research is widely perceived as a solitary act. For archaeologists, whose work is broadly collaborative and often derived from field research, nothing could be further from the truth. Although this project began as my dissertation...

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Introduction: Finding Purgatory

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pp. xv-xxvi

The identity of the Spanish-speaking explorer who named the Purgatoire River has been lost to time, but he chose well to evoke a kingdom that is neither heaven nor hell. The river flows through a region of southeastern Colorado that remains...

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1. Hispanic Colorado

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pp. 1-18

If you find yourself driving south through Colorado, take a look around. You might notice the character of the state changing. Place names provide perhaps the most obvious clue. Colorado Springs gives way to Conejos, and Leadville to...

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2. Inhabiting the Lower Purgatory

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pp. 19-55

The countryside of the Purgatoire River elicits a wide range of responses. On a clear day, someone standing on the broad steppes of the prairie above the river can see the Rocky Mountains many miles to the west. For many people the open...

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3. Making a Living and a Life

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pp. 56-89

Perhaps the most enduring romantic figure in the history of the American West is the cowboy. As the myths portray him, the cowboy rides a beautiful mount through picturesque territory, and the close-up reveals a rugged, typically white...

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4. Plazas and Community

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pp. 90-104

My work as an archaeologist has taken me to canyons, valleys, and prairies across the American West to investigate historic sites. Many of these sites were rural farms or ranches with a single dwelling, a few out-buildings...

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5. Lessons from the Landscape

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pp. 105-116

One of the tools I most enjoy teaching my students is the concept of the cultural landscape. When recast as cultural landscape, the world around them is an artifact, a document written and rewritten by generations who came before...

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Conclusion: The Archaeology of Places

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pp. 117-128

At some level, all sites are evidence of human investment in the landscape. Working for the most part on historic sites in the western United States, I have seen my fair share of places where people did only the minimum to shelter...

References Cited

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pp. 129-144


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pp. 145-148

In the Historical Archaeology of the American West series

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E-ISBN-13: 9780803262751
E-ISBN-10: 0803262752
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803213722
Print-ISBN-10: 0803213727

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 26 illustrations, 6 maps, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Historical Archaeology of the American West Series
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OCLC Number: 797825859
MUSE Marc Record: Download for On the Edge of Purgatory

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Colorado -- Antiquities.
  • Colorado -- History, Local.
  • Colorado -- Social life and customs.
  • Ethnoarchaeology -- Colorado.
  • Hispanic Americans -- Colorado -- Social life and customs.
  • Archaeology and history -- Colorado.
  • Hispanic Americans -- Colorado -- History.
  • Hispanic Americans -- Colorado -- Antiquities.
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