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History > Latin American and Caribbean History

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Beyond the Lettered City

Indigenous Literacies in the Andes

Joanne Rappaport and Tom Cummins

In Beyond the Lettered City, the anthropologist Joanne Rappaport and the art historian Tom Cummins examine the colonial imposition of alphabetic and visual literacy on indigenous groups in the northern Andes. They consider how the Andean peoples received, maintained, and subverted the conventions of Spanish literacy, often combining them with their own traditions. Indigenous Andean communities neither used narrative pictorial representation nor had alphabetic or hieroglyphic literacy before the arrival of the Spaniards. To absorb the conventions of Spanish literacy, they had to engage with European symbolic systems. Doing so altered their worldviews and everyday lives, making alphabetic and visual literacy prime tools of colonial domination. Rappaport and Cummins advocate a broad understanding of literacy, including not only reading and writing, but also interpretations of the spoken word, paintings, wax seals, gestures, and urban design. By analyzing secular and religious notarial manuals and dictionaries, urban architecture, religious images, catechisms and sermons, and the vast corpus of administrative documents produced by the colonial authorities and indigenous scribes, they expand Ángel Rama’s concept of the lettered city to encompass many of those who previously would have been considered the least literate.

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Beyond Wari Walls

Regional Perspectives on Middle Horizon Peru

Edited by Justin Jennings

The scholars whose work is assembled here attempt to better understand the nature of Wari by examining its impact beyond Wari walls. By studying Wari from a village in Cuzco, a water shrine in Huamachuco, or a compound on the Central Coast, these authors provide us with information that cannot be gleaned from either digs around the city of Huari or work at the major Wari installations in the periphery. This book provides no definitive answers to the Wari phenomena, but it contributes to broader debates about interregional influences and interaction during the emergence of early cities and states throughout the world.

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Beyond Windrush

Rethinking Postwar Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Edited by J. Dillon Brown and Leah Reade Rosenberg

This edited collection challenges a long sacrosanct paradigm. Since the establishment of Caribbean literary studies, scholars have exalted an elite cohort of émigré novelists based in postwar London, a group often referred to as “the Windrush writers” in tribute to the SS Empire Windrush, whose 1948 voyage from Jamaica inaugurated large-scale Caribbean migration to London. In critical accounts this group is typically reduced to the canonical troika of V. S. Naipaul, George Lamming, and Sam Selvon, effectively treating these three authors as the tradition’s founding fathers. These “founders” have been properly celebrated for producing a complex, anticolonial, nationalist literature. However, their canonization has obscured the great diversity of postwar Caribbean writers, producing an enduring but narrow definition of West Indian literature.

Beyond Windrush stands out as the first book to reexamine and redefine the writing of this crucial era. Its fourteen original essays make clear that in the 1950s there was already a wide spectrum of West Indian men and women—Afro-Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, and white-creole—who were writing, publishing, and even painting. Many lived in the Caribbean and North America, rather than London. Moreover, these writers addressed subjects overlooked in the more conventionally conceived canon, including topics such as queer sexuality and the environment. This collection offers new readings of canonical authors (Lamming, Roger Mais, and Andrew Salkey); hitherto marginalized authors (Ismith Khan, Elma Napier, and John Hearne); and commonly ignored genres (memoir, short stories, and journalism).

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Big Water

The Making of the Borderlands Between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay

Edited by Jacob Blanc and Frederico Freitas; Foreword by Zephyr Frank

Big Water explores four centuries of the overlapping histories of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay (the Triple Frontier), and the colonies that preceded them. Examining an important area that includes some of the first national parks established in Latin America and one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, this transnational approach illustrates how these three nation-states have interacted over time.
From the Jesuit reductions in the seventeenth century to the flows of capital and goods accelerated by contemporary trade agreements, the Triple Frontier region has proven fundamental to the development of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, as well as to the Southern Cone and South America itself. Although historians from each of these three countries have tended to construct narratives that stop at their respective borders, the contributors call for a reinterpretation that goes beyond the material and conceptual boundaries of the Triple Frontier. In offering a transnational approach, Big Water helps transcend nation-centered blind spots and approach new understandings of how space and society have developed throughout Latin America.
These essays complicate traditional frontier histories and balance the excessive weight previously given to empires, nations, and territorial expansion. Overcoming stagnant comparisons between national cases, the research explores regional identity beyond border and geopolitical divides. Thus, Big Water focuses on the uniquely overlapping character of the Triple Frontier and emphasizes a perspective usually left at the periphery of national histories.

Shawn Michael Austin
Jacob Blanc
Bridget María Chesterton
Christine Folch
Zephyr Frank
Frederico Freitas
Michael Kenneth Huner
Evaldo Mendes da Silva
Eunice Sueli Nodari
Graciela Silvestri
Guillermo Wilde
Daryle Williams

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Black Africans in the British Imagination

English Narratives of the Early Atlantic World

by Cassander L. Smith

In Black Africans in the British Imagination, Cassander L. Smith investigates how the physical presence of black Africans both enabled and disrupted English literary responses to Spanish imperialism. By examining the extent to which this population helped to shape early English narratives, from political pamphlets to travelogues, Smith offers new perspectives on the literary, social, and political impact of black Africans in the early Atlantic world.

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The Black Carib Wars

Freedom, Survival, and the Making of the Garifuna

Christopher Taylor

In The Black Carib Wars, Christopher Taylor offers the most thoroughly researched history of the struggle of the Garifuna people to preserve their freedom on the island of St. Vincent.

Today, thousands of Garifuna people live in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the United States, preserving their unique culture and speaking a language that directly descends from that spoken in the Caribbean at the time of Columbus. All trace their origins back to St. Vincent where their ancestors were native Carib Indians and shipwrecked or runaway West African slaves--hence the name by which they were known to French and British colonialists: Black Caribs.

In the 1600s they encountered Europeans as adversaries and allies. But from the early 1700s, white people, particularly the French, began to settle on St. Vincent. The treaty of Paris in 1763 handed the island to the British who wanted the Black Caribs' land to grow sugar. Conflict was inevitable, and in a series of bloody wars punctuated by uneasy peace the Black Caribs took on the might of the British Empire. Over decades leaders such as Tourouya, Bigot, and Chatoyer organized the resistance of a society which had no central authority but united against the external threat. Finally, abandoned by their French allies, they were defeated, and the survivors deported to Central America in 1797.

The Black Carib Wars draws on extensive research in Britain, France, and St. Vincent to offer a compelling narrative of the formative years of the Garifuna people.

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The Black Christ of Esquipulas

Religion and Identity in Guatemala

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez

On the eastern border of Guatemala and Honduras, pilgrims and travelers flock to the Black Christ of Esquipulas, a large statue carved from wood depicting Christ on the cross. The Catholic shrine, built in the late sixteenth century, has become the focal point of admiration and adoration from New Mexico to Panama. Beyond being a site of popular devotion, however, the Black Christ of Esquipulas was also the scene of important debates about citizenship and identity in the Guatemalan nation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In The Black Christ of Esquipulas, Douglass Sullivan-González explores the multifaceted appeal of this famous shrine, its mysterious changes in color over the centuries, and its deeper significance in the spiritual and political lives of Guatemalans. Reconstructed from letters buried within the restricted Catholic Church archive in Guatemala City, the debates surrounding the shrine reflect the shifting categories of race and ethnicity throughout the course of the country’s political trajectory. This “biography” of the Black Christ of Esquipulas serves as an alternative history of Guatemala and sheds light on some of the most salient themes in Guatemala’s social and political history: state formation, interethnic dynamics, and church-state tensions. Sullivan-González’s study provides a holistic understanding of the relevance of faith and ritual to the social and political history of this influential region.

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A Black corps d'élite

an Egyptian Sudanese conscript battalion with the French Army in Mexico, 1863-1867, and its survivors in subsequent African history

Richard Hill

For several years, the armies of Napoleon III deployed some 450 Muslim Sudanese slave soldiers in Veracruz, the port of Mexico City. As in the other case of Western hemisphere military slavery (the West India Regiments, a British unit in existence 1795-1815), the Sudanese were imported from Africa in the hopes that they would better survive the tropical diseases that so terribly afflicted European soldiers. In both cases, the Africans did indeed fulfill these expectations. The mixture of cultures embodied by this event has piqued the interest of several historians, so it is by no means unknown. Hill and Hogg provide a particularly thorough, if unimaginative, account of this exotic interlude, explaining its background, looking in detail at the battle record in Mexico, and figuring out who exactly made up the battalion. Much in their account is odd and interesting, for example, the Sudanese superiority to Austrian troops and their festive nine-day spree in Paris on the emperor's tab. The authors also assess the episode's longer-term impact on the Sudan, showing that the veterans of Mexico, having learnt much from their extended exposure to French military practices, rose quickly in the ranks, then taught these methods to others.


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Black in Latin America

Henry Louis Gates Jr., 0, 0

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Black Labor Migration in Caribbean Guatemala, 1882–1923

Frederick Douglass Opie

In the late nineteenth century, many Central American governments and countries sought to fill low-paying jobs and develop their economies by recruiting black American and West Indian laborers. Frederick Opie offers a revisionist interpretation of these workers, who were often depicted as simple victims with little, if any, enduring legacy.

The Guatemalan government sought to build an extensive railroad system in the 1880s, and actively recruited foreign labor. For poor workers of African descent, immigrating to Guatemala was seen as an opportunity to improve their lives and escape from the racism of the Jim Crow U.S. South and the French and British colonial Caribbean.

Using primary and secondary sources as well as ethnographic data, Opie details the struggles of these workers who were ultimately inspired to organize by the ideas of Marcus Garvey. Regularly suffering class- and race-based attacks and persecution, black laborers frequently met such attacks with resistance. Their leverage--being able to shut down the railroad--was crucially important to the revolutionary movements in 1897 and 1920.

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