The Mexican state of Guanajuato is better known for agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism in its colonial cities than for its archaeological heritage. This article examines the intersection of midcentury infrastructure development, tourism, and efforts to advance archaeological knowledge about the region’s precontact past. The field notes and paper drafts of Mexican archaeologist Beatriz Braniff provide one of the primary lenses for analyzing these intersections. Braniff documented findings that challenged predominant understandings of the region’s Indigenous past. In addition to providing evidence of the long history of Indigenous settlement in the region, Braniff’s notes capture contemporary political and economic concerns and reveal the power of certain historical narratives to silence others in the interest of development priorities. While Guanajuato now boasts several significant archaeological sites, including the pyramid complex La Cañada de la Virgen, the long erasure of Indigenous history and the marginalization of contemporary Indigenous peoples enabled the forms of economic development that continue to define the state in the present. Paradoxically, those very same development strategies helped uncover much of what we do know about the region’s precolonial past.


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pp. 35-54
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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