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History > Latin American and Caribbean History
A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador
Once isolated from the modern world in the heights of the Andean mountains, the indigenous communities of Ecuador now send migrants to New York City as readily as they celebrate festivals whose roots reach back to the pre-Columbian past. Fascinated by this blending of old and new and eager to make a record of traditional customs and rituals before they disappear entirely, photographer-journalist Judy Blankenship spent several years in Cañar, Ecuador, photographing the local people in their daily lives and conducting photography workshops to enable them to preserve their own visions of their culture. In this engaging book, Blankenship combines her sensitively observed photographs with an inviting text to tell the story of the most recent year she and her husband Michael spent living and working among the people of Cañar. Very much a personal account of a community undergoing change, Cañar documents such activities as plantings and harvests, religious processions, a traditional wedding, healing ceremonies, a death and funeral, and a home birth with a native midwife. Along the way, Blankenship describes how she and Michael went from being outsiders only warily accepted in the community to becoming neighbors and even godparents to some of the local children. She also explains how outside forces, from Ecuador’s failing economy to globalization, are disrupting the traditional lifeways of the Cañari as economic migration virtually empties highland communities of young people. Blankenship’s words and photographs create a moving, intimate portrait of a people trying to balance the demands of the twenty-first century with the traditions that have formed their identity for centuries.
Silverman shows that Cahuachi was much larger and more complex than portrayed in the current literature but that, surprisingly, it was not a densely populated city. Rather, Cahuachi was a grand ceremonial center whose population, size, density, and composition changed to accommodate a ritual and political calendar. Silverman meticulously presents and interprets an abundance of current data on the physical complexities, burials, and artifacts of this prominent site; in addition, she synthesizes the history of previous fieldwork at Cahuachi and introduces a corrected map and a new chronological chart for the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage system.
On the basis of empirical field data, ethnographic analogy, and settlement pattern analysis, Silverman constructs an Andean model of Nasca culture that is crucial to understanding the development of complex society in the Central Andes. Written in a clear and concise style and generously illustrated, this first synthesis of the published data about the ancient Nasca world will appeal to all archaeologists, art historians, urban anthropologists, and historians of ancient civilizations.
Trinidad and the United States Occupation
In a compelling story of the installation and operation of U.S. bases in the Caribbean colony of Trinidad during World War II, Harvey Neptune examines how the people of this British island contended with the colossal force of American empire-building at a critical time in the island's history.
The U.S. military occupation between 1941 and 1947 came at the same time that Trinidadian nationalist politics sought to project an image of a distinct, independent, and particularly un-British cultural landscape.
The American intervention, Neptune shows, contributed to a tempestuous scene as Trinidadians deliberately engaged Yankee personnel, paychecks, and practices flooding the island. He explores the military-based economy, relationships between U.S. servicemen and Trinidadian women, and the influence of American culture on local music (especially calypso), fashion, labor practices, and everyday racial politics.
Tracing the debates about change among ordinary and privileged Trinidadians, he argues that it was the poor, the women, and the youth who found the most utility in and moved most avidly to make something new out of the American presence.
Neptune also places this history of Trinidad's modern times into a wider Caribbean and Latin American perspective, highlighting how Caribbean peoples sometimes wield "America" and "American ways" as part of their localized struggles.
Trauma Narrative and Social Action in Latin American Testimonio
As if in direct response to The New Yorker's question of “The Power of the Pen: Does Literature Change Anything?” Kimberly Nance takes up the relationship between ethics and literature. With the 40th anniversary of the testimonio occurring in 2006, there has never been a better time to reconsider its role in achieving social justice. The advent of the testimonio--loosely, a political autobiography of a Latin American activist who hopes, through the telling of her life story, to bring about change--was met with a great deal of excitement by scholars who posited it as a radical new form of literature. Those accolades were almost immediately followed by a series of critical problems. In what sense were testimonios "true"? What right did privileged scholars in the U.S. have to engage accounts of suffering with traditional modes of criticism? Were questions of veracity or aesthetics more important? Were these texts autobiography or political screeds? It seemed critics didn't know quite what to make of the testimonio and so, after a brief bout of engagement, disregarded it. Nance, however, argues that any form as prolific as the testimonio is well worth examining and that these questions, rather than being insurmountable, are exactly the questions with which scholars ought to be wrestling. If, as critics claim, that the testimonio is one of the most pervasive contemporary Latin American cultural genres, then it is high time for a comprehensive study of the genre such as Nance's.
Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492–1763
Philip Boucher analyzes the images—and the realities—of European relations with the people known as Island Caribs during the first three centuries after Columbus. Based on literary sources, travelers' observations, and missionary accounts, as well as on French and English colonial archives and administrative correspondence, Cannibal Encounters offers a vivid portrait of a troubled chapter in the history of European-Amerindian relations.
Baltasar Obregón and the 1564 Ibarra Expedition
Although Obregón’s role in the Ibarra expedition was that of soldier-explorer, and despite his lacking an advanced education, he would go on to compose Historia de los descubrimientos de Nueva España twenty years later, expanding his narrative to include the years before and after his own firsthand experiences with Ibarra. Obregón depicts the storied landscape of the northern borderlands with vivid imagery, fusing setting and situation, constructing a new reality of what was, is, and should be, and presenting it as truth.
In Capturing the Landscape of New Spain, Rebecca A. Carte explains how landscape performs a primary role in Obregón’s retelling, emerging at times as protagonist and others as antagonist. Carte argues that Obregón’s textualization offers one of the first renderings of the region through the Occidental cultural lens, offering insight into Spanish cultural perceptions of landscape during a period of important social and political shifts.
By examining mapping and landscape discourse, Carte shows how history and geography, past and present, people and land, come together to fashion the landscape of northern New Spain.
In Caribbean and Atlantic Diaspora Dance: Igniting Citizenship, Yvonne Daniel provides a sweeping cultural and historical examination of Diaspora dance genres. Daniel investigates social dances brought to the islands by Europeans and Africans, including quadrilles and drum/dances as well as popular dances that followed, such as Carnival parading, Pan-Caribbean danzas, rumba, merengue, mambo, reggae, and zouk. She reviews sacred dance and closely documents combat dances, such as Martinican ladja, Trinidadian kalinda, and Cuban juego de manÃ. In drawing on scores of performers and consultants from the region as well as on her own professional dance experience and acumen, Daniel adeptly places Caribbean dance in the context of cultural and economic globalization, connecting local practices to transnational and global processes and emphasizing the important role of dance in critical regional tourism. Throughout, Daniel reveals impromptu and long-lasting Diaspora communities of participating dancers and musicians.
Slavery and the Transformation of English Society, 1640-1700
English colonial expansion in the Caribbean was more than a matter of migration and trade. It was also a source of social and cultural change within England. Finding evidence of cultural exchange between England and the Caribbean as early as the seventeenth century, Susan Dwyer Amussen uncovers the learned practice of slaveholding.
As English colonists in the Caribbean quickly became large-scale slaveholders, they established new organizations of labor, new uses of authority, new laws, and new modes of violence, punishment, and repression in order to manage slaves. Concentrating on Barbados and Jamaica, England's two most important colonies, Amussen looks at cultural exports that affected the development of race, gender, labor, and class as categories of legal and social identity in England. Concepts of law and punishment in the Caribbean provided a model for expanded definitions of crime in England; the organization of sugar factories served as a model for early industrialization; and the construction of the "white woman" in the Caribbean contributed to changing notions of "ladyhood" in England. As Amussen demonstrates, the cultural changes necessary for settling the Caribbean became an important, though uncounted, colonial export.
Leisure Culture and the Middle Class
It is commonly assumed that Caribbean culture is split into elite highbrow culture-which is considered derivative of Europe and not rooted in the Caribbean-and authentic working-class culture, which is often identified with such iconic island activities as salsa, carnival, calypso, and reggae. In Caribbean Middlebrow, Belinda Edmondson recovers a middle ground, a genuine popular culture in the English-speaking Caribbean that stretches back into the nineteenth century.
Edmondson shows that popular novels, beauty pageants, and music festivals are examples of Caribbean culture that are mostly created, maintained, and consumed by the Anglophone middle class. Much of middle-class culture, she finds, is further gendered as "female": women are more apt to be considered recreational readers of fiction, for example, and women's behavior outside the home is often taken as a measure of their community's respectability.
Edmondson also highlights the influence of American popular culture, especially African American popular culture, as early as the nineteenth century. This is counter to the notion that the islands were exclusively under the sway of British tastes and trends. She finds the origins of today's "dub" or spoken-word Jamaican poetry in earlier traditions of genteel dialect poetry-as exemplified by the work of the Jamaican folklorist, actress, and poet Louise "Miss Lou" Bennett Coverley-and considers the impact of early Caribbean novels, including Emmanuel Appadocca (1853) and Jane's Career (1913).