- In the Wake of Mexican Patrimonio: Material Ecologies in San Miguel Coatlinchan
- Anthropological Quarterly
- George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
- Volume 89, Number 1, Winter 2016
- p. pp. 181-219
- View Citation
San Miguel Coatlinchan, a town 35 miles east of Mexico City, became famous following an episode of state-perpetrated dispossession. In 1964, the Mexican state enforced its legal claim to pre-Hispanic material culture as national property by removing a colossal pre-Hispanic monolith from its lands and transporting it to the capital’s National Anthropology Museum. Ever since, the stone sculpture that represents an ancient rain deity has stood at the entrance of the museum as an emblem of Mexico’s ancestral indigenous heritage or patrimonio. For the residents of Coatlinchan, however, the monolith’s removal brought about ecological and social disruptions: drought and other forms of scarcity which profoundly altered their town and its surrounding landscape. In this article, I draw on an ecological framework to explore the productive effects of dispossession and absence in Coatlinchan. Rather than analyzing its residents’ loss as that of a bounded artifact, I argue that material traces from the pre-Hispanic past are embedded within and integral to webs of environmental, material, and social relations that are essential for the production and reproduction of life itself.