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Hispanic American Historical Review 83.4 (2003) 754-756
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Quito 1599: City and Colony in Transition . By Kris Lane. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002. Photographs. Illustrations. Maps. Tables. Figures. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xix, 292 pp. Cloth, $45.00. Paper, $21.95.
What distinguishes Kris Lane's Quito 1599 from other studies of the audiencia is that, unlike previous scholars, Lane does not treat the audiencia as a coherent, seamless entity, but as a multiseamed constellation of different regions with distinct historical trajectories. With the exception of chapter 3, "Tilling the Center," Lane's interests lie with the so-called margins, both geographically and thematically. Lane's attempt to decenter the audiencia calls into question its existence as an articulated whole. There is as much incoherence in Lane's treatment of the region as there is coherence—an emphasis on difference that correlates with the tenets of recent postmodern works. [End Page 754]
The book is a series of six relatively unlinked explorations into the region traditionally known as the Audiencia of Quito. Chapter 1, "Castaways," is a quintessential example of the "difference" that is heralded so often in the rest of the book. It chronicles the maroon colonies of Afro-Amerindians in the coastal province of Esmeraldas, a gold-producing region, and their vacillating relationship with the church and state authorities in the capital city of Quito. Illescas, a shipwrecked castaway, became the leader of an independent chiefdom of maroons and was said to be the "key" to the province, the undisputed governor. He played cat-and-mouse games with the audiencia and the Catholic Church for years, as did his successors. First pretending to cooperate with official efforts at rapprochement and then rejecting Spanish rule, Esmeraldas maroons (who intermarried with indigenous peoples of the region) were able to maintain their independence from the audiencia for most of the colonial period.
In Lane's lengthy discussion of the like-minded but fiercer Jivaros, we likewise see not the aggregating orientation of Spanish expansion but its more than occasional centrifugal tendencies. Spaniards were able to mine this gold-rich region for a few decades in the latter half of the sixteenth century but eventually were driven out by the Jivaros, a label applied to what is actually a multitude of small Amazonian groups whose main characteristic was extreme individualism—not a propitious attribute for Spanish submission. The Jivaro never came under Spanish control either.
Thematically, Kris Lane also focuses on the marginal. The audencia's slave population is the best example—marginal in being fairly small and tangential to most of the audiencia's economic activities, with the exception of the northern gold fields. In the capital city, Africans were very expensive and served more as status symbols for the elite than anything else. The women, who were imported in equal numbers to men, were mostly domestic servants, especially wet nurses, while the men worked in transport and as artisans, domestic servants, and even town criers. Here Lane tries to carve out a theme of "captivity and redemption," but it seems forced to this reader.
Chapter 4, "Mining the Margins," is perhaps the "center" of Lane's work. He chronicles the vicissitudes of gold mining in the audiencia: from the northern mines outside Popayán to the Zaruma mines near Cuenca, all the way to the most southeasterly mines of Zamora and Jivaro country. Taking up a challenge few historians have attempted, Lane puts together production statistics from 1535 to 1609. He concludes that gold mining was a significant economic activity in Quito and that the sixteenth-century gold cycle was central to the colony's economic formation (p. 132). In chapter 5 he ties the gold cycle to Quito's dynamic market and conspicuous consumption. He then outlines the transition from gold to textiles as an exchange product, an evolution that connected Quito to Potosí and Lima. He ends with a chapter on pirates, Quito's many soldiers of fortune, and the so-called cannibals of Barbacoas—more marginal subjects, until now. [End Page 755]