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Mexico's Indigenous Communities

Their Lands and Histories, 1500-2010

By Ethelia Ruiz Medrano, Translated by Russ Davidson

Publication Year: 2011

"I know of no other work of its kind or in its league. It is entirely original: a wonderfully narrated uncompromising history that is thoroughly and masterfully researched. This book is bound to be a classic. . . a model for future research on the indigenous peoples of the Americas."—Kevin Terraciano, UCLA

A rich and detailed account of indigenous history in central and southern Mexico from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries, Mexico's Indigenous Communities is an expansive work that destroys the notion that Indians were victims of forces beyond their control and today have little connection with their ancient past. Indian communities continue to remember and tell their own local histories, recovering and rewriting versions of their past in light of their lived present. Ethelia Ruiz Medrano focuses on a series of individual cases, falling within successive historical epochs, that illustrate how the practice of drawing up and preserving historical documents-in particular, maps, oral accounts, and painted manuscripts-has been a determining factor in the history of Mexico's Indian communities for a variety of purposes, including the significant issue of land and its rightful ownership. Since the sixteenth century, numerous Indian pueblos have presented colonial and national courts with historical evidence that defends their landholdings. Because of its sweeping scope, groundbreaking research, and the author's intimate knowledge of specific communities, Mexico's Indigenous Communities is a unique and exceptional contribution to Mexican history. It will appeal to students and specialists of history, indigenous studies, ethnohistory, and anthropology of Latin America and Mexico.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-ix

Tables and Maps

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xvi

My work on this book would not have been possible without the generous support of three organizations: the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, which awarded me a Latin American–Caribbean area research grant in 2006; Mexico’s Consejo Nacional...

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pp. 1-9

The pueblo of San Miguel Ecatepec, Tequiscistlán, located in the Oaxacan district of Tehuantepec, presented a “faithful copy” of a colonial codex to the agrarian authorities. The copy, done in black and white on paper and certified by the municipality’s agent, was produced...

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1: Historical Background: Indian Access to Colonial Justice in the Sixteenth Century

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pp. 11-78

A few years after the conquest of Mexico, a Spanish judge, Don Alonso de Zuazo, heard and pronounced judgment in a dispute concerning matters of land that arose among members of the native nobility. The conflict was apparently serious enough that it not only dragged...

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2: Indigenous Negotiation to Preserve Land, History, Titles, and Maps: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

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pp. 79-149

Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the colonial justice system witnessed the Europeanization of such basic institutions of Mesoamerican indigenous society as the family, marriage, and access to property. This transformation took place with greatest...

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3: Indigenous Negotiation to Preserve Land, History, Titles, and Maps: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 151-209

As the eighteenth century drew to a close, New Spain’s Indian communities faced continuing challenges and threats. A new set of issues made their relationship with the colonial authority even more complex. Two factors in particular—an increase in the native population...

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4: Defending Land: Indian Pueblos’ Contemporary Quest for the Origins of Local Community History

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pp. 211-282

As we have seen repeatedly, the primacy of land for the Indian pueblos and its interweaving with ancient documents, primordial titles, and local history form part of a complex process of negotiation the pueblos undertook in the face of state power as a way of defending...

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pp. 283-291

In this work I have attempted to demonstrate the singular importance a particular range of historical documents holds for many Indian pueblos in Mexico and also to show how pueblos have used these same documents—produced by the Indians themselves...


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pp. 293-301

List of Libraries and Archives Consulted

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pp. 303

List of Significant Towns Mentioned in the Book

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pp. 305-308


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pp. 309-323


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pp. 325-338

E-ISBN-13: 9781607320173
E-ISBN-10: 1607320177
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321330
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321335

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 63
Publication Year: 2011