The Americas 60.4 (2004) 661-662
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Few residents of today's Santa Fe, New Mexico (competing for parking spaces at De Vargas Mall), have ever heard of tireless Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino (1645-1711), and not many in Tucson, Arizona (hurrying to the airport on Kino Boulevard), know of recolonizer Diego de Vargas (1643-1704). Although neither Kino nor Vargas appears in the pages of her book, Susan Deeds offers a corrective to the parochialism of colonial New Spain's farther northern provinces. Contemporary turmoil in Nueva Vizcaya (roughly the present-day Mexican states of Durango and Chihuahua) explains in large part the failure of Kino's expansionist plans for Alta California and of Vargas's hopes to restock New Mexico from Nueva Vizcaya. So much of what Deeds analyzes in the heartland applies as well, or does not, to New Mexico and Sonora-Arizona.
Deeds tracks five indigenous peoples—Xiximes, Acaxees, Tepehuanes, Tarahumaras, and Conchos (listed roughly from south to north)—from their earliest contact with Spaniards in the sixteenth century to their fates by the mid-seventeenth century. She asks why some Tepehuanes (Odame) and Tarahumaras (Rarámuri) survive today, while the other groups passed from the scene. In her Introduction and in notes, she discusses the requisite theoreticians and other secondary works, then applies "a theoretical eclecticism" (p. 6) to probe her veritable mountain of documentary sources: Jesuit cartas anuas, all manner of other correspondence, administrative and military reports, Inquisition and criminal cases, sacramental records, labor and land and water instruments, and many others. Her points of convergence are Nueva Vizcaya's Spanish missions, which she argues were "never closed communities" (p. 8). "They were transactional and transitional crossroads where ethnic identities, subsistence patterns, cultural beliefs, and gender relations were forged and changed over time in a frontier only slowly conquered by non-Indians" (Ibid).
Although inspired by colleagues' "commitment to indigenous peoples" (p. xii), Deeds maintains an exemplary balance. To get at Indian voices, for example, she has "sought to mute and cross-question the preponderant textual voice of the [End Page 661] Jesuits" (p. 131), except in Chapter 6, where they speak out as European civilizers. Fascinating references to ethnically mixed fiestas, cofradías, and witchcraft abound, yet the documents offer no clear picture of the folk Catholicism that evolved in the missions' wake. And despite the author's keen eye for gender, as well as certain "tantalizing glimpses of women's roles" (p. 65), her sources reveal little on the subject, confirming once again the depth of the colonial patriarchy.
What she has accomplished is perhaps best stated by Deeds herself. "The elements of mediated opportunism developed in this study, the different impacts of conquest, the nature of precontact indigenous warfare and culture, the degree of economic pressures exerted, the ecological environment, comparative demography and epidemiology, and the availability of empty zones too unattractive or difficult for the invaders, combined in more complex patterns than the conventional models posit" (p. 202). There are simply no easy answers. The book, incidentally, is superbly edited.
Although Deeds's major interest remains throughout Indians and missions, her work underscores the constant and pervasive influence of mining on Nueva Vizcaya's biological and physical environment. With its insatiable demand for forced or voluntary labor, lumber and charcoal, foodstuffs, leather and tallow, mining affected every aspect of life. Yet mining stalled north of the subsequent Mexican-United States border, even if prospectors' hopes did not. In its absence, New Mexico and far northern Sonora (today's southern Arizona), not to mention Texas or California, evolved quite differently. Deeds's multifaceted ethnohistory should stimulate comparative studies. Surely her "mediated opportunism" applies as well to Pueblos, Apaches, and Tohono O'odham (who survive), to the San Pedro and Santa Cruz river Akimel O'...