- Quito 1599: City and Colony in Transition
This addition to the University of New Mexico's Diálogos series makes a significant historical contribution, particularly as a teaching tool, by evaluating a myriad of colonial experiences in a "second tier" Spanish colony rather than in Peru or Mexico. It not only supplies information on a periphery of the empire, but it will also help students to re-evaluate the colonial centers and to develop a more sophisticated understanding of colonial life. Historian Kris Lane's examination of the [End Page 491] Audiencia of Quito highlights the problematical relationships between center and periphery, prosperity and captivity, crystallization and chaos. It is not—as the author rightly insists—a "snapshot" of the city and colony in the year 1599, but rather an exploration of individual lives and political economy during the region's formative period between conquest and mature colony. Lane chooses this period to highlight (interrelated) themes that he claims are at the heart of Spanish colonization in early Quito: gold lust and human captivity.
Following a Preface and an Introduction meant to situate readers both analytically and historically, each of the book's six central chapters opens with an engaging and well-written account of an individual experience or event, then progresses to consider how this story either highlights or contradicts broader structural patterns in colonial history. The book takes the reader from the coast (with its castaways, non-European leaders, and piracy), to Quito and its surrounding highlands (political and population center of the Audiencia), and then down into the Amazon basin (where riches and conquest eluded the Spanish). Each chapter rests on its own, yet relates well to other chapters, making it an excellent and flexible teaching tool; in particular, the interplay of micro- and macro-history in this book presents ample opportunities to discuss the craft of studying history with students.
Lane's commitment to complicating notions of power is symbolized by the painting on its cover—Andrés Sanchez Gallque's 1599 portrait of Don Francisco de Arobe and his sons Pedro and Domingo. Painted by a native Quiteño and portraying Afro-indigenous lords of Esmeraldas in Shakespearean garb, this depiction defies simplistic categorization. The portrait, and subsequent information on successful resistance and maroon societies, shows that Europeans were not always united or dominant, and that Africans and native Americans carved out important niches of power. Examinations of the peripheral areas within the Audiencia demonstrate this best: in Esmeraldas, the very shipwrecks that imperiled Europeans often brought freedom to African slaves; moreover, European castaways frequently depended upon the good will of autonomous indigenous and/or African leaders in order to survive. In the Amazon, Jívaro peoples successfully evaded conquest despite their proximity to gold deposits, providing an interesting juxtaposition with the conquest and colonization of indigenous societies in the highlands. Although this book accurately portrays the captivity and cruelty to which African and indigenous peoples were subjected in order to enrich Europeans, it also celebrates how subaltern men and women resisted, adapted to, and occasionally even prospered under (or outside of) Spanish rule.
Discussions of the various consequences of European gold lust are particularly enlightening—not surprisingly, given the author's extensive research on mining. Although gold mining benefited owners most and cost laborers dearly, traders and merchants also prospered in the mining economy. When gold mining declined, mine-centered trade ensured continuing prosperity for the Spanish, who established highland estates/textile mills to produce wool for transport and sale to laborers working in the perpetual cold of the silver mines of Potosí. Lane is at his best when [End Page 492] addressing either the margins or the urban center of this second tier colony, bringing to light the numerous, conflicting, and often contradictory meanings of colonization. When discussing both the city of Quito and remote regions of the colony, Lane brings alive the struggles and aspirations of men and women from all walks of life. His discussion of...