Hispanic American Historical Review 83.2 (2003) 367-368
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Extractos de escrituras públicas: Archivo General de Centroamérica. Vol. 1, 1567-1646, A-D. By JUAN JOSÉ FALLA. Guatemala City: Museo Popol Vuh de la Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Auditorio Universidad Francisco Marroquín; Editorial Amigos del País, Fundación para la Cultura y el Desarrollo, 1994. Map. Index. xiii, 558 pp. Cloth.
Extractos de escrituras públicas: Archivo General de Centroamérica. Vol. 2, 1543-1659, E-M. By JUAN JOSÉ FALLA. Guatemala City: Museo Popol Vuh de la Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Auditorio Universidad Francisco Marroquín; Editorial Amigos del País, Fundación para la Cultura y el Desarrollo, 1996. Map. Index. xi, 563 pp. Cloth.
Extractos de escrituras públicas: Archivo General de Centroamérica. Vol. 3, 1538-1657, M-Z. By JUAN JOSÉ FALLA. Guatemala City: Museo Popol Vuh de la Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Auditorio Universidad Francisco Marroquín; Editorial Amigos del País, Fundación para la Cultura y el Desarrollo, 2001. Map. Index. xi, 579 pp. Cloth.
The result of decades of effort by genealogist Juan José Falla, these volumes are a useful guide to the riches of Guatemala's notarial archives for the period from roughly the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. Himself an attorney and notary, Falla has abstracted a large number of notarial acts, or escrituras, of all kinds, sworn before 33escribanos practicing in the colonial city of Santiago de Guatemala (today's Antigua). The collection, based on manuscript registers found in Guatemala City's Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA), is by no means complete, and it tends to reflect Falla's own research interests, especially the affairs of the colony's most prominent families and the history of specific properties in the central city. Even so, the selection is broad enough to provide a vivid picture of social and economic life in the early colonial period, including material on the personal and business affairs not only of such well-known individuals as Pedro and Jorge de Alvarado, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Juan Vázquez de Coronado, and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, but also of hundreds of lesser-known and humbler permanent and temporary residents of Santiago.
Falla organized the collection alphabetically by notary and chronologically by individual act. All sorts of notarial acts are represented here, including wills, conveyances, [End Page 367] powers of attorney, contracts, and obligations, as well as transactions peculiar to the period and culture, such as the so-called cartas de no jugar, which profligate colonials took upon themselves in an effort to swear off financially ruinous gambling habits. While some records warrant only a brief summary, Falla abstracts others in substantial detail; this is especially useful to historians in the case of documents that contain inventories. He also facilitates the analysis of urban real estate transactions with the inclusion of editorial notes that direct researchers to the location of the properties on a map that is reproduced in each volume. Each volume also features an extensive and detailed index, which will enable scholars to locate quickly escrituras dealing with specific individuals or families, or with specific topics.
The reward structure of North American academia does not encourage laborious compilations of primary materials of this sort, but they remain valuable nonetheless. Having Falla's guide at hand will speed the work of colonial historians who must consult notarial records in the AGCA or in the extensive microform collections of Guatemalan notarial materials found at McMaster University and the Genealogical Society of Utah. They will also prove valuable to scholars who desire to introduce graduate students to the kinds of analysis that research in notarial archives can support. We may be grateful that, in Central America, dedicated and competent individuals outside the historical profession, such as Juan José Falla, continue to devote their own time and resources to maintaining the respected isthmian tradition of amateur historiography.
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