The Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean 1138675822, 9781138675827

This wide-ranging introduction to the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean offers broad coverage of culture a

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The Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean
 1138675822, 9781138675827

Table of contents :
Half Title
List of figures
List of tables
Preface to the second edition
1 Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean
Why study the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean?
Documenting and explaining everyday life
Imagining and inventing Latin America and the Caribbean
Countries and peoples
Landscapes and physiographic regions
South America
Guiana and Brazilian Highlands
Amazon Basin
Mexico and Central America
Central Plateau
Southern Highlands
Gulf Coastal Plains
Yucatán Peninsula
Central American Highlands
Concluding thoughts
2 Before the Europeans
Perspectives on social complexity
South America
South America and Caribbean
The Maya region
Mesa Central
South America and the Incas
The Maya region
Mesa Central and the Aztecs
Gender and empire
Concluding thoughts
3 Conquest, colonialism, and resistance
The conquest
Voyages and explorations
How did (and could) it happen?
Incas and Aztecs
Entrenching colonialism and technologies of rule
Pillars of the colonial economy
Resisting colonialism
Andean rebellions
Haiti’s slave revolution
“Everyday” forms of resistance
Gendered colonialism
Sexuality, marriage, and power
Towards a male and heterosexual-centered cosmology
Remembering Columbus
Concluding thoughts
4 Independence and nation-building
Independence and nationalisms
Forging nation-states
Print media and schools
Gendered states of mind
Cuisine, cookbooks, and nation-building
Bridging the racial and ethnic divide
Health and the diseased nation
In the United States: the invention of Cinco de Mayo
Concluding thoughts
5 Cultural politics of race and ethnicity
Race: biological fallacy, socially constructed – or both?
Race during the colonial period
Blood and colonial race-like thinking
Castes, the colonial body, and casta paintings
Race and cultural miscegenation at the “bottom”
Pseudo-racial identities
Ethnicity and culture: moving away from race
Indigenous movements and the multicultural turn
Chile’s Mapuche
Evo Morales and Bolivia’s indigenous state
Ethnic mobilizations in Colombia
Genetics and the revival of “scientific” racial thinking in Mexico and Brazil
In the United States: race, culture, and the making of “Hispanics”
Concluding thoughts
6 Gender, sexuality, and reproduction
Gender and sex
Pre-colonial gender and sexuality
The fluidity of gender and sexual identities
Parallelism and complementarity
Engaging politics
Bridging the house–street divide
Heading households
Same-sex desires
Gay masculinities
Brazilian travestis
Zapotec muxe
Policing reproduction
The politics of same-sex marriage: Argentina and Mexico
In the United States: negotiating cross-border masculinities
Concluding thoughts
7 Religion and everyday life
The colonial encounter and Popular Catholicism
Living with the supernatural
The Virgin Mary
The Devil
The saints
Welcoming the dead
The African heritage
Religion and healing
Shamanism and ayahuasca
Competing for healing power
Divine healing
The Protestant tide
Catholic Pentecostalism
Guatemala’s religious turn
Evangelical Venezuela
In the United States: celebrating the Day of the Dead
Concluding thoughts
8 Food, cuisine, and cultural expression
Why food and culture?
Historical and cultural sketch of LAC foods
The Columbian Exchange
Food and cuisine as cultural battlegrounds
Distinctions: race, class, ethnicity
Food and agency
Eating, memory, and remembering home
Religion, ritual, and food
Cooking, eating, and national identity
Are “hot” and “cold” foods healthy?
In the United States: the appeal of Latino taste
Concluding thoughts
9 Striving for health and coping with illness
Medical anthropology
Poverty, inequality, and ill-health
Tuberculosis (TB)
Kharisiris in Bolivia and Peru
Folk illnesses
Mal de ojo
Grisi siknis
The expressive and healthy body
Andean bodies, communities, and mountains
Amazonian body and knowledge
Jamaican bodies: health, fluids, and sociality
Health and politics in the United States and Cuba
In the United States: migrant farmworkers and their struggle for health
Concluding thoughts
10 Violence, memory, and justice
Why reflect on violence and memory?
The Central American civil wars
El Salvador
Chile’s Pinochet
Argentina’s terror
Colombia’s violencia
Mexico’s Zapatistas
Peru’s Shining Path
The violent legacy of violence: transnational gangs
Seeking closure: transitional justice, truth, and human rights
In the United States: to be or not be Maya
Concluding thoughts
11 Neoliberalism, NAFTA, and immigration
What is neoliberalism?
Hopes, promises, fallouts
Neoliberalism, multiculturalism, resistance
In the United States: immigration quagmires
Debating policy
Immigrant and undocumented workers in the US economy
Resisting the “alien invasion” of the US
Ensnaring undocumented kids, youths, and families
Separating children from their parents
Concluding thoughts
12 More connections: popular culture, tourism, and digital cultures
Globalization and popular culture
Soccer, national identity, and inequality in Brazil
Chilean soccer and politics
Argentina, soccer, and Jewish identity
Dominican baseball, poverty, and nationalism
Revolutionary baseball in Cuba
Beauty contests
Venezuelan transformistas and beauty queens
Guatemala’s Maya beauty pageants
Heritage tourism in Peru
Caribbean sex tourism
Seeking health care: medical tourism
Digital connections
Political activism
Narcocorridos, culture, and music
In the United States: transnational television media
Concluding thoughts
Epilogue: looking back and ahead

Citation preview

The Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean

This wide-ranging introduction to the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean offers broad coverage of culture and society in the region, taking into account historical developments as well as the roles of power and inequality. The chapters address key topics such as colonialism, globalization, violence, religion, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, health, and food, and emphasize the impact of Latin American and Caribbean peoples and cultures in the United States. The text has been thoroughly updated for the second edition, including fresh case studies, and new chapters on independence, neoliberalism and immigration, and popular culture and the digital revolution. Students are provided with a solid overview of the major contemporary trends, issues, and debates in the field. Each chapter ends with a summary, up-to-date recommendations for viewing films/ videos and websites, and a comprehensive bibliography for further reading and research. Harry Sanabria is Associate Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, USA.

The Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean Second Edition

Harry Sanabria

Second edition published 2019 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 Harry Sanabria The right of Harry Sanabria to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. First edition published by Pearson 2007 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-1-138-67582-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-67581-0 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-56042-7 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC

Dedication Para mis padres, Luis Manuel y Adelaida, quienes me enseñaron en el diario vivir que sin una apreciación del pasado y la cultura corremos el riesgo de deambular por la vida sin sentido.

For my parents, Luis Manuel and Adelaida, who taught me in the course of everyday life that without an appreciation of the past and culture we run the risk of straying aimlessly through life.

Y a mi hija Katarina Sophía, para que nunca corra ese riesgo.

And to my daughter Katarina Sophía, so she will never run that risk.


List of figures    xv List of tables    xvii Preface to the second edition    xviii


Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean    1 Why study the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean?   1 Documenting and explaining everyday life   4 Imagining and inventing Latin America and the Caribbean   6 Countries and peoples   8 Landscapes and physiographic regions   12 South America  13 Andes  13 Altiplano  15 Llanos  16 Guiana and Brazilian Highlands   16 Amazon Basin  18 Pampas/Patagonia   19

Mexico and Central America   20 Central Plateau  22 Southern Highlands  22 Gulf Coastal Plains   22 Yucatán Peninsula  22 Central American Highlands  23

Concluding thoughts  25 Films/videos  26 Websites  27 References  27

2 Before the Europeans   31 Perspectives on social complexity   31 Paleo-Indian  32




Archaic   34 South America  35 Mesoamerica  37

Formative  38 South America and Caribbean   38 Mesoamerica  43 The Maya region   44 Mesa Central  46

Horizon   49 South America and the Incas   49 Mesoamerica  55 The Maya region   55 Mesa Central and the Aztecs   57

Gender and empire   63 Concluding thoughts   64 Films/videos   64 Websites  65 References  65


Conquest, colonialism, and resistance    69 The conquest   69 Voyages and explorations   69 How did (and could) it happen?   70 Incas and Aztecs  71 Maya  74

Entrenching colonialism and technologies of rule   75 Pillars of the colonial economy   80 Resisting colonialism  82 Rebellions  82 Andean rebellions  82 Haiti’s slave revolution   83

“Everyday” forms of resistance   84

Ethnogenesis  85 Gendered colonialism  87 Sexuality, marriage, and power   88 Towards a male and heterosexual-centered cosmology   90



Remembering Columbus   91 Concluding thoughts   94 Films/videos   94 Websites   95 References   95


Independence and nation-building    99 Independence and nationalisms   99 Forging nation-states  101 Print media and schools   102 Gendered states of mind   104 Cuisine, cookbooks, and nation-building   106 Bridging the racial and ethnic divide   108

Health and the diseased nation   112 Syphilis  112 Tuberculosis  113 Smallpox  113

In the United States: the invention of Cinco de Mayo   116 Concluding thoughts  120 Films/videos  120 Websites  120 References  120


Cultural politics of race and ethnicity    123 Race: biological fallacy, socially constructed – or both?   123 Race during the colonial period   126 Blood and colonial race-like thinking   126 Castes, the colonial body, and casta paintings  129 Race and cultural miscegenation at the “bottom”   133

Pseudo-racial identities  133 Ethnicity and culture: moving away from race   136



Indigenous movements and the multicultural turn   137 Chile’s Mapuche  137 Evo Morales and Bolivia’s indigenous state   139 Ethnic mobilizations in Colombia   140

Genetics and the revival of “scientific” racial thinking in Mexico and Brazil   142 In the United States: race, culture, and the making of “Hispanics”   144 Concluding thoughts   147 Films/videos   147 Websites   147 References   148


Gender, sexuality, and reproduction    151 Gender and sex   151 Pre-colonial gender and sexuality   152 The fluidity of gender and sexual identities   152 Mesoamerica  152 Andes  153

Parallelism and complementarity   154

Femininities  155 Marianismo  155 Engaging politics   156 Bridging the house–street divide   158 Heading households  160 Same-sex desires  161

Masculinities  163 Machismo  163 Masculinities  165 Gay masculinities  166 Transgender(ed)  167 Brazilian travestis  168 Zapotec muxe  170

Policing reproduction  172 The politics of same-sex marriage: Argentina and Mexico   174



In the United States: negotiating cross-border masculinities   177 Concluding thoughts   179 Films/videos   179 Websites  180 References  180


Religion and everyday life    184 The colonial encounter and Popular Catholicism   184 Living with the supernatural   186 The Virgin Mary  187 Mexico  187 Haiti  189 Bolivia  190

The Devil  191 The saints  193 Welcoming the dead   194 The African heritage  197

Religion and healing   201 Shamanism and ayahuasca  201 Competing for healing power   203 Divine healing  203

The Protestant tide   205 Catholic Pentecostalism  208 Guatemala’s religious turn   208 Evangelical Venezuela   210

In the United States: celebrating the Day of the Dead   211 Concluding thoughts  213 Films/videos  213 Websites   214 References   214


Food, cuisine, and cultural expression    217 Why food and culture?   217 Historical and cultural sketch of LAC foods   218



The Columbian Exchange   220 Food and cuisine as cultural battlegrounds   220 Distinctions: race, class, ethnicity   223 Food and agency   225 Eating, memory, and remembering home   229 Religion, ritual, and food   230 Cooking, eating, and national identity   232 Are “hot” and “cold” foods healthy?   235 In the United States: the appeal of Latino taste   237 Concluding thoughts   240 Films/videos   240 Websites   240 References   241


Striving for health and coping with illness    245 Medical anthropology   245 Poverty, inequality, and ill-health   249 Diseases  251 Tuberculosis (TB)  252 Kharisiris in Bolivia and Peru   252 Mexico  253 Haiti  253

AIDS  254 Brazil  254 Haiti  255

Zika  256

Folk illnesses   258 Susto  258 Mal de ojo  259 Nervios  260 Grisi siknis  263

The expressive and healthy body   264 Andean bodies, communities, and mountains   264 Amazonian body and knowledge   265 Jamaican bodies: health, fluids, and sociality   265



Health and politics in the United States and Cuba   266 In the United States: migrant farmworkers and their struggle for health  268 Concluding thoughts   269 Films/videos  270 Websites  270 References  270


Violence, memory, and justice    273 Why reflect on violence and memory?   273 The Central American civil wars   274 Nicaragua  275 El Salvador   276 Guatemala  278

Chile’s Pinochet  280 Argentina’s terror  282 Colombia’s violencia  285 Mexico’s Zapatistas   286 Peru’s Shining Path   289 The violent legacy of violence: transnational gangs   292 Seeking closure: transitional justice, truth, and human rights   295 Argentina  296 Chile  298 Guatemala  300

In the United States: to be or not be Maya   301 Concluding thoughts  303 Films/videos  303 Websites   304 References  305




Neoliberalism, NAFTA, and immigration    309 What is neoliberalism?   309 NAFTA  311 Hopes, promises, fallouts   311 Maquiladoras  313 Neoliberalism, multiculturalism, resistance   315 Feminicide  318

In the United States: immigration quagmires   320 Debating policy  321 Immigrant and undocumented workers in the US economy   322 Resisting the “alien invasion” of the US   325 Ensnaring undocumented kids, youths, and families   329 Separating children from their parents   332 DREAMers   333

Concluding thoughts  335 Films/videos  335 Websites  336 References  337


More connections: popular culture, tourism, and digital cultures    341 Globalization and popular culture   341 Sports   342 Soccer  342 Soccer, national identity, and inequality in Brazil   343 Chilean soccer and politics   345 Argentina, soccer, and Jewish identity   347

Baseball  348 Dominican baseball, poverty, and nationalism   348 Revolutionary baseball in Cuba   350

Carnaval  351 Beauty contests  355 Venezuelan transformistas and beauty queens   355 Guatemala’s Maya beauty pageants   356



Tourism  358 Heritage tourism in Peru   359 Caribbean sex tourism   359 Ecotourism   361 Seeking health care: medical tourism   363

Digital connections   364 Political activism  365 Narcocorridos, culture, and music   367

In the United States: transnational television media   369 Concluding thoughts  372 Films/videos  372 Websites  372 References  373

Epilogue: looking back and ahead   378 References   379

Glossary  380 Index   385


1.1 Latin America and the Caribbean 9 1.2 Physiographic regions of South America 14 1.3 The Andes 15 1.4 Altiplano 16 1.5 Llanos de Mojos, Bolivia 17 1.6 Guiana Highlands, Venezuela 18 1.7 Amazon Basin 19 1.8 Pampas, Argentina 20 1.9 Patagonia, Argentina 21 1.10 Physiographic regions of Mexico and Central America 21 1.11 Mesa Central, Mexico 23 1.12 Chiapas Highlands, Mexico 24 1.13 Southern Lowlands, Petén, Guatemala 24 1.14 Central American Highlands 25 2.1 Band, tribal, chiefdom, and state societies 32 2.2 Rise of social complexity 33 2.3 Paleo-Indian cave painting, Monte Alegre, Brazil 34 2.4 Chinchorro mummy, Peru 37 2.5 Muisca gold mask, Colombia 39 2.6 The Castillo, Chavín de Huántar, Peru 42 2.7 Olmec colossal head 43 2.8 San Bartolo polychrome mural, Guatemala 45 2.9 Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán, Mexico 47 2.10 Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico 48 2.11 Moche warrior 50 2.12 Tiwanaku, Bolivia 52 2.13 Cusco Valley, Peru 53 2.14 El Castillo Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico 56 2.15 Shrine of Rosalila, Copán, Honduras 57 2.16 Stela 29, Tikal, Guatemala 58 2.17 Toltec warriors, Tula, Mexico 59 2.18 Basin of Mexico and city of Tenochtitlán, 1519 61 3.1 Indigenous political leaders, Pisac, Peru 77 3.2 Mapuche demonstrating against Columbus Day, Santiago, Chile, 2015 93 4.1 Cinco de Mayo celebration, Washington, D.C. 116 5.1 Eighteenth century casta paintings 131 5.2 Hispanic origin and race questions, 2010 Census 145 6.1 A Zapotec muxe170 7.1 Canonization of Juan Diego, Mexico City 188 7.2 Commemorating the Virgin Mary, Pampa, Bolivia 191 7.3 Todos Santos altar, Pampa, Bolivia 196



F i g ures

  7.4 Calaveras, Days of the Dead, Guanajuato, Mexico 197   7.5 Celebrating the Day of the Dead, Escuelita Arcoiris, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 212   8.1 Puerto Rican pasteles222  8.2 Ajiaco stew 233   8.3 Goya Foods, Miami, Florida 239  9.1 Favela on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 247 10.1 La Moneda under attack, September 11, 1973, Santiago, Chile 281 10.2 Mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina 283 11.1 Working at a maquila, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico 314 327 11.2 Protesting against Joe Arpaio, Arizona 11.3 Rally in support of undocumented youths and DREAMers, Los Angeles, 2017 334 12.1 Protests, Confederations Cup Match, Rio de Janeiro, 2013 345 12.2 Bolivian Diablos (Devils) dancers, 2018 Oruro Carnaval, Bolivia 354


  1.1 Countries and population   1.2 Language families and languages  5.1 Casta categories and parental genealogies   5.2 Some Brazilian racial terms   5.3 Brazilian Census racial categories   6.1 Female heads of state   6.2 Matrifocality in a Miskitu community, Nicaragua   6.3 The language of masculinities in the Dominican Republic   7.1 Percentage of Protestants and Catholics, select countries, 2008   9.1 Rates of infant/maternal mortality, tuberculosis (TB), and HIV/AIDS  9.2 Mal de ojo in Guatemala, Mexico, Texas, and Connecticut   9.3 Cuba’s public health accomplishments 11.1 US federal immigration initiatives, 1965–2017 (select list) 11.2 Immigrant workers in the US by industry (pooled data, 2011–2013)

8 11 132 135 136 156 161 165 205 250 261 267 321 323


P R E FA C E TO T H E S E C O N D EDITION A great deal has happened in, and an immense amount of scholarly work has appeared on, Latin America and the Caribbean since this book was first published in 2007. Well aware of the challenge of including so much history and scholarship over the past decade without turning this second edition into an excessively long book, I  opted for first considerably streamlining the first edition text and then incorporating some new issues, themes, and debates. Other authors could have easily chosen different ones. This edition also includes updated film/video recommendations and annotated websites, and mostly recent bibliographic citations for each chapter intended to serve as useful research guides for both instructors and students. Some features of the first edition have remained the same. This second edition continues to draw on a wide, interdisciplinary scholarship, and for this reason, this textbook will be useful in anthropology, sociology, humanities, and Latin American and Caribbean studies courses, as well as on ethnic and cultural diversity in the Unites States. I still find it useful to convey voices of both scholars and the peoples they study and, therefore, once again chose to include more quotations than perhaps appear in other textbooks. And I am convinced as ever of the significance of a political economy approach – worldview, really – that assigns considerable weight to power, inequality, history, and agency in explaining cultural change and social behavior. Readers will also notice that I delve into and take a stand on contentious issues. This too reflects my perspective that scholars never take a distanced, neutral stance on issues they reflect on and write about. Otherwise known as positionality, standpoint theory, and other terms, this view holds that studying the cultural and social world entails much more than merely uncovering, compiling, and presenting to readers “objective facts.” Rather, its key premise is that what we choose to write on and what we write are always exercises in interpretation profoundly influenced by our upbringing, life’s circumstances, and historical context. With a few exceptions, I largely retained the overall organization, conceptual thrusts, and core chapters of the first edition. I condensed the former first two chapters into a revised introductory chapter that outlines some reasons why an anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean is important, especially for the United States; provides a synopsis of anthropological concepts and methods; explains how Latin America and the Caribbean came into being as a recognizable entity in the nineteenth century; offers an overview of countries and their peoples; and, finally, surveys the region’s major physiographic regions. Chapter 2, considerably rewritten and updated, focuses on the worlds of Latin American and Caribbean peoples thousands of years before and up to their encounter with Europeans. I substantially revised Chapter 3 on the European conquests, and the consolidation and lasting consequences of the 300-year-long colonial period. One important new section centers on the gendered foundations of the colonial experience. Following up on some reviewers’ suggestions, this edition includes a new Chapter 4 on independence and nation-building. Issues of race and ethnicity, the focus of Chapter 5, have been significantly revamped to take into account fresh scholarship on racial identities and boundaries, multiculturalism, and the revival of racialized science.


P reface t o t he sec o n d edi t i o n


Chapter 6 on gender and sexuality includes new sections on alternate femininities and masculinities, and same-sex marriages. In Chapter 7 I added additional perspectives on the interplay of the colonial encounter and Popular Catholicism, and completely revised the text on the rise and spread of Protestantism. Also extensively rewritten is Chapter 8 on food and cultural expression, which ends with a section on the growing appeal of Latino tastes and foods in the United States. My overview of health and illness in Chapter 9 offers readers insights into other diseases and folk illnesses, as well as an original new section comparing the health systems of Cuba and the United States. Heeding the suggestions of several reviewers, in Chapter 10 on violence and memory, I include recent scholarship on transnational gangs and transitional justice. Chapter 11 on neoliberalism, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the immigration debates in the United States is new to this edition. Finally, Chapter 12 on popular culture has been significantly revised and now includes segments on beauty contests, different forms of tourism, and the transnational impacts of the digital revolution. In the new Epilogue, I  reflect on our journey through LAC and the region’s global significance. Terms that appear in the Glossary are boldfaced the first time they appear. Non-English words and phrases are italicized throughout the text, as are titles of books, newspapers, reports, and periodicals. As I take a step back and reflect on this second edition, I cannot help wonder whether I have written a book on the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean, or on Latin American and the Caribbean peoples in the United States. Perhaps this uneasiness stems from my perspective that views boundaries, especially in our contemporary world, as extremely porous, or perhaps it is because of my positioning as a Latino anthropologist well aware of and concerned about Latinos in the United States. Either way, I envision this second edition as appealing to those wishing to learn more about Latin American and the Caribbean anthropology as well as about Latinos and their cultural heritage in the United States. All writing is a collective, social endeavor. My deepest appreciation goes to Katherine Ong, Editor of Anthropology at Routledge, for the opportunity to write this second edition. I commend Marc Stratton, Editorial Assistant, for his stupendous support during the arduous process of turning this text into a book. My heartfelt thanks also go to the six anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and critical reviews; I wish I could have addressed all their suggestions. My daughter Katarina Sophía has been an endless source of joy and companionship, and unwittingly encouraged me to complete this book. Friends, relatives, and significant others have offered their support and cheered me on, and in more than one way this book is theirs as well. I especially wish to acknowledge, in alphabetical order, Harry Bergollo, Kathy Bergollo, Andrea M. Cuéllar, Nancy Glaezner, Gabriele Lübbers, Angel Martínez, Brian Martínez, Modesta Martínez, Frank McGlynn, Karen Redfield, Edwin R. Román, María Román, Henry Sanabria, Luis Felipe Sanabria, Rosalie Velázquez, and Patrick C. Wilson.



Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


n this chapter I make a case for the relevance of studying the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) – why learning about both matter in our everyday lives – and provide an overview of this region. While I write this book with a wide audience in mind, much of this chapter and the ones that follow highlight the importance of LAC to and in the United States (US); I  take up the global significance of LAC in the Epilogue. I begin by drawing our attention to the remarkable demographic, cultural, economic, and political weight of LAC peoples in the US. Even though I draw on a wide range of interdisciplinary scholarship, my perspective is that of a cultural anthropologist. For this reason, I then provide an overview of anthropological theory and methods, and the political-economic perspective that informs this book. The physical and cultural scope of LAC is not as straightforward as many of us might think, and I subsequently examine ways that LAC has been imagined as a geographic and cultural region. After providing a brief sketch of the demographic profile of LAC countries, in the last section I turn to the major landforms emphasized in this book and why they are important.

Why study the anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean? In 1787 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, urging him to “Bestow great attention on Spanish and endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it,” adding that “Our future connections with Spain and Spanish America will render that language of valuable acquisition” (Macías 2014:33). As Jefferson foresaw, the historical and cultural destinies of North American and LAC peoples have been interwoven in many ways for more than 200 years, a trend that shows few signs of tapering off. Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic category in the US, and they are also quite diverse (Chapter 5). (The terms Latino/s and Hispanic/s, both imprecise, are often used interchangeably. I prefer Latino/s to refer to peoples of Latin American descent living in the US). This growth is largely the result of documented and undocumented immigrants fleeing poverty or political violence in their home countries and seeking refuge in the US (Chapter 10). Between 2000 and 2010 the number of Latinos in the US swelled by 43% (more than 15 million), over half of the entire increase of the US’s population. Latinos of Mexican origin accounted for three-fourths of this increase, followed by Puerto Ricans and Cuban-Americans. Not including the millions of undocumented immigrants, over



C hap t er 1

50 million Latinos were living in the US by 2010, 16% of the entire population. More than half live in California, Florida, and Texas, followed by New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Their numbers will more than double between 2014 and 2060, to over 110 million. In 2014 more than half of all under the age of 18 were Latino, as will almost one out of every three in the US by 2060. In school districts, as in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Antonio, Latino students are already a majority. By 2044 more than half of the US population will belong to a “minority” category (Schaefer 2015; US Census Bureau 2011b, 2015c). It is likely that the current backlash against immigration overwhelmingly targeting Latinos (Chapter 11) is driven by a dread of the US becoming a “majority-minority” nation (US Census Bureau 2015d) or fears of a “Fall of the White Majority” (Maas 2012:243). Spatially, the Latino presence in the US is very broad. Many recent immigrants have opted for new gateways in the US, bypassing time-honored destinations such as the northeast (especially New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania); the western states (particularly California, Texas, and Arizona); or southern Florida. Over the past two decades the Latino population has more than doubled in most southern states (e.g., South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi) and has increased considerably in the Midwest. Many immigrants work in the food and agriculture industries, reinvigorating small, rural towns that are losing population and are at the brink of disappearing (Griffith 2008; Maas 2012; Sulzberger 2011; see Chapter 11). The Latinization of the US is not merely demographic but also profoundly cultural (Stephen and Zavella, et al. 2003). Language is a case in point. While not all Latinos are fluent in Spanish and many are bilingual, by 2020 Spanish speakers will represent over 60% of those ages five and over speaking a language other than English. Despite the fact that 20 states have passed laws declaring English their official language, the US has the fourth largest Spanish-speaking population worldwide, and 10% of the world’s Spanish speakers. More people speak Spanish in the US than in Spain, and more in Los Angeles than in Puerto Rico or Uruguay. With more than a dozen varieties, Spanish is the second most important language in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, among other states. And in the past, Spanish has been awarded official status by federal, state, and local governments (Lipski 2008; Macías 2014; Romero 2017; US Census Bureau 2011a). Language retention is the direct result of new immigrant arrivals, for by the second or third generation most immigrant descendants no longer speak Spanish. The saying Si usted no habla inglés puede quedarse rezagado (If you don’t speak English, you might be left behind) illustrates the importance Latino immigrants assign to learning English as a way of “getting ahead” (Schaefer 2015:233). As we shall see in the following chapters, the Latino cultural influence in the US is deep and wide, ranging from popular celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo (Chapter 4) to gender (Chapter 6), food and cuisine (Chapter 8), and digital connections/television programming (Chapter 12), among others. The Latino presence has even had an impact on deeply entrenched notions of race (Roth 2012; see also Chapter 5). Another reason for studying LAC is its economic integration with the US. With $800 billion in trade (imports and exports combined), LAC is the US’s most important trading block and consumer of its goods. After China and Canada, Mexico is the third most significant trading country, with 14% of the total trade with the US and half of all trade between LAC and the US. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed between the US, Mexico, and Canada, renegotiated in 2018 and now called the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), has spurred trade with, and millions

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


of jobs in the US depend on goods sold to, Mexico (Chapter 11). “The United States,” the Pan American Health Organization notes, exports more to LAC than to Europe, twice as much to Mexico as to China, and more to Chile and Colombia than to Russia. It purchases 40% of all LAC exports. In turn, United States investments represent 40% of all foreign investments in LAC. Of the $60 billion that LAC countries receive in the form of remittances, 90% come from the United States. (PAHO 2012:5; US Census Bureau 2015a, 2015b) There are also pressing political reasons for learning about the historical and cultural relationships between LAC and the US. One recent and poignant example of how LAC looms large in domestic US politics are the debates surrounding President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the 2,000-mile US–Mexican border, to be financed by a 20% tariff on Mexican imports – a way of Mexico “paying” for the wall (Chapter 11). He originally proposed this idea during his 2016 presidential campaign, and as I write these lines (January 2019), Congress continues to balk at providing funds for its construction. The wall, he claimed, would safeguard US national security interests by stemming illegal immigration and an inflow of alleged criminals and rapists. According to The New York Times, these claims were part of a “relentless scapegoating of Mexicans during his presidential campaign” (Editorial Board 2017). For a critique and parody of building the wall, see Border Wall: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, available at dCYocuyI& Hayes-Bautista reminds us that scapegoating Mexicans as dangerous undesirables to be kept at bay has a long history: The most sweeping and notorious means intended to limit Latinos’ mining activities was the Foreign Miners’ Tax. At the first legislative session of the new state [of California] in 1850, Senator Thomas Jefferson Greene of Sacramento invoked widespread Atlantic American fears that a wave of violent, dangerous Latinos was inundating California and in response proposed the Foreign Miners’ Tax with the intent of discouraging such immigration – or at least profiting from it. “Tens of thousands have already arrived in our country, and they are the commencement of a vast multitude en route and preparing to come hither of the worst population of the Mexican and South American States. . . . Pass this bill, and the foreign proprietor . . . will have to pay some little tribute for this rich and unprecedented privilege.” (2012:29) The backdrop to the current controversy over the wall are the fierce immigration debates in the US. Whether individual states have the right to enforce immigration policies and arrest undocumented “aliens”; the federal government can or should cut off funding to sanctuary cities; children or youths should be deported alone or with their parents; signature legislation such as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) be overturned; or if undocumented children have a right to a public school education are some examples of the absence of a fair and consistent immigration policy – and of a collective hysteria over alleged hordes of undocumented migrants swarming across the US. I explore some of these debates in Chapter 11.


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We should also remember that since the 1800s the US has repeatedly interfered in LAC’s internal affairs. These military and political interventions – like President Donald Trump’s wall, also couched in the rhetoric of national security – have typically favored the interests of US multinational corporations and their local political and economic allies. The occupation of Nicaragua in the 1930s and the entrenchment of the Somoza dynasty; overthrow of Guatemalan President Arbenz in 1952; invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1916 and the toppling of its president, Juan Bosch, in 1964; coup against Chile’s leftist President Salvador Allende in 1973; involvement in the Central American civil wars of the 1980s; and the 1989 invasion of Panama are some of the better known examples of this long history of interventions (McPherson 2013). In the following chapters I highlight the historical and contemporary movements of peoples, goods, and ideas between the US and LAC. These flows perhaps should prompt us to think of both regions as a single (though far from homogenous) cultural sphere. This is what Appadurai has in mind with his concept of ethnoscape – “the landscape of persons who constitute the shifting world in which we live: tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guestworkers and other moving groups and persons [who] constitute an essential feature of the [contemporary] world, and appear to affect the politics of and between nations to a hitherto unprecedented degree” (1990:297). I also emphasize how LAC peoples forge productive and meaningful lives in their home communities and countries as well as in North America – and how culture is a crucial anchor in their efforts. In reflecting on the anthropology and history of the Caribbean, Mintz writes that “because great events do not become great without the participation of the people, the people themselves are made great by the events they collectively bring into being” (2010:16). Finally, I also hope to convey in the book the creativity, resilience, aspirations, and, yes, grandeur, of LAC peoples and their cultures.

Documenting and explaining everyday life Anthropology is a broad academic discipline comprised of four fields. Physical/biological anthropology concerns itself with the evolution of the human species (homo sapiens sapiens) and the relationship between biology and cultural behavior. Archaeology focuses on social or cultural evolution, that is, the appearance, spread, and disappearance of social groups over time, and the causes and consequences of the transition from small-scale and egalitarian to large, stratified societies. Linguistic anthropology is concerned with learning about social and cultural life from the vantage point of language. Cultural anthropology, the cornerstone of this book, and which studies the culture, history, and social relations of contemporary societies, has two goals. The first is to understand how and why peoples think and behave differently from each other. Its second, equally important goal is to document and understand cultural similarities, or what diverse peoples have in common despite their differences. What daily issues do they face? What aspirations, hopes, fears, and experiences do they share? What makes all peoples worthy of respect and dignity? Cultural anthropologists go about their work by engaging in long-term, personal, face-to-face contact and living with the peoples they study by carrying out participant observation. The result of their research is typically an ethnography – a description or portrait of the culture and everyday life of the people they study.

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


Several key concepts are important in anthropology. Culture stands for the symbolic and material repertoire with which people in specific contexts make sense of the world around them – how the world ought to be, notions of what is right and wrong, proper and improper, just and unjust; claim a certain distinctiveness or sense of identity; and provide them with the symbolic and materials tools with which to adapt to and cope with changing circumstances. Anthropologists acknowledge the importance of intracultural ­variability – the idea that most societies rarely have a homogenous culture. Cultural ­relativism means that other peoples’ beliefs, behaviors, and practices should not be judged from the standards of one’s own culture or prejudices, and that to do so would be to embrace ethnocentrism. Social science concepts are rarely straightforward or unproblematic. If anthropologists (or those who read what anthropologists write) believe that they cannot understand other cultures unless they accept cultural relativism, does this mean that anthropologists should condone any behavior or practice they encounter? Wouldn’t unequivocally believing in cultural relativism lead to relativistic fallacy – the idea that no moral judgements can be made about others’ behaviors or beliefs, that none can be condemned regardless of how repulsive they may seem? Cultural relativism may not have been as tricky when anthropologists worked with small-scale, largely homogenous social groups, but it is very problematic when studying social groups that are part of large, ethnically and class stratified societies where a variety of cultural norms and social practices are contested (Robbins and Dowty 2017; Ulin 2007). How does cultural relativism dovetail with intolerance and subjugation that many experience? And what of human rights? What do we make of cultural relativism and human rights when trying to understand the causes and consequences of genocide and “dirty wars” during the 1970s and 1980s (Sieder 2008; Wilson 2008; Chapter 10)? If, as it appears to be the case, cultural relativism – like culture – is a slippery, situational concept, then how might it be useful? Recognizing the importance of cultural heterogeneity and inequality helps. Miller, for example, distinguishes between cultural relativism and critical cultural relativism, which poses questions about cultural practices, and ideas about who accepts them and why, and who they might be harming or helping. . . . Critical cultural relativism avoids the trap of adopting a homogenized view of complexity. It recognizes internal cultural differences and winners/losers, oppressors/victims. (Miller 2005:19) In describing diverse lifeways, anthropologists do so from the perspective of people’s own thoughts and words – an emic understanding. But anthropologists are also interested in generalizing across cultural boundaries. In other words, they also want to understand how and why culturally specific explanations are similar to or different from others in roughly similar contexts. This effort at interpretation and generalization, also known as an etic explanation, is always informed by theories or analytic frameworks, that is, sets of related ideas or propositions with which anthropologists reach explanations that are related to, but independent from, those provided by the people they study. Known as paradigms (Kuhn 1962), these frameworks filter what themes anthropologists think important and


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what questions they ask, and also provide them with a range of possible answers. In the following chapters I embrace a political economy approach or framework that: 1 Emphasizes the pervasiveness of power, inequality, and conflict in the social, cultural, and material worlds within which people live out, make sense of, and try to change their everyday lives. 2 Claims that distinguishing between the cultural/symbolic and material lives distorts reality, for both mold each other in different ways and with diverse, often unanticipated results. 3 Posits that meanings, symbols, and social relationships are better understood by placing them within larger frames of reference – regional, national, or international. 4 Acknowledges that history matters a great deal, so that a satisfactory interpretation of cultural and social practices requires anchoring them in time and place. 5 Assumes that although all societies are molded by wider events often not of their own choosing (such as conquest, colonialism, or capitalism), their members are not mere pawns to such impersonal forces, but active agents in mediating, interpreting, and shaping their worlds. 6 Postulates that academic explanations and interpretations are always shaped by the worldviews of their practitioners and are therefore never ideologically neutral.

Imagining and inventing Latin America and the Caribbean Dozens of countries and territories with more than 600 million citizens; hundreds of languages; millions living in huge megacities, many others in small communities; and array of ecological niches spread over eight million square miles of land; diverse historical trajectories, some pointing to Africa, others to Europe, and many rooted in the New World; a long history of diasporas within and across national boundaries; hundreds of groups with their own sense of ethnic identity; a multiplicity of racial classifications; widely diverse views on sexuality and gender relations; dozens of religious traditions; different ways of understanding health and illness; hundreds of dissimilar foods and cuisines; numerous musical and dance traditions; a variety of secular and religious popular celebrations with African, European, and New World influences – this is LAC that we will learn about in this book. Given this mélange, it is not surprising that scholars disagree which countries and territories are part of LAC. Some consider LAC that region of the New World colonized by the Spaniards, Portuguese, and French during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and whose peoples share a Latin culture because they speak a Romance language. Yet these criteria would exclude most Caribbean islands, and parts of northern South America, such as Suriname and Guyana. Others claim that if Latin culture and speaking a Romance language are important benchmarks, then LAC should also include most of the southwestern US originally part of Mexico. Heath’s edited volume “limits treatment of Latin America to the mainland, excluding the Caribbean islands that are so varied in terms of their colonial history that most of them share little with the legal, political, and historical traditions of

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


Mexico [and] Central and South America” (Heath 2002:2). Yet Mintz reminds us that there have always been economic, cultural, and social connections between the Caribbean and mainland – flows of peoples, ideas, goods, and labor – especially along the Atlantic coastlines of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America (Mintz 1989, 2010; Mintz and Price 1985). LAC is a cultural, historical, and social construction, a result of the sixteenth century European conquests, entrenchment of colonialism a century later, rise of nation-states in the nineteenth century, and global rivalries. Prior to 1492, the Caribbean, for example, did not exist as a spatial cultural category – which does not mean that the islands were not there (they of course were). What the idea does mean is that the “Caribbean” was not a meaningful category for indigenous societies – nor for anyone else, for conceptually it did not exist (Restall 2011). The adjective Latin (as in “Latin” America) creeps into the political vocabulary, imagination, and maps during the nineteenth century geopolitical struggles between European countries and the US: The idea of “Latin America” that came into view in the second half of the nineteenth century depended  .  .  . on an idea of “Latinidad” – “Latinity,” “Latinitée” – that was being advanced by France. . . . In the Iberian ex-colonies, the “idea” of Latin America emerged as a consequence of conflicts between imperial nations; it was needed by France to justify its civilizing mission in the South and its overt conflict with the US for influence in that area. . . . “Latinidad” was used in France . . . to take the lead in Europe among the configuration of Latin countries involved in the Americas (Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France itself), and allowed it to also confront the United States’ continuing expansion toward the South – its purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon and its appropriation of vast swaths of territory from Mexico. White Creole and Mestizo/a elites . . . after independence from Spain adopted “Latinidad” to create their own . . . identity. (Mignolo 2005:58–59) While not disputing the role of imperial powers in shaping and spreading the idea of a “Latin America,” Gobat reminds us that post-colonial LAC nation builders were also key protagonists in the invention of a Latin America, especially as they faced US’s imperial advances: That “Latin America” became a lasting concept had everything to do with the little-known trigger behind the 1856 protest against U.S. expansion: the decision by U.S. president Franklin Pierce to recognize the “piratical” regime recently established in Nicaragua by William Walker and his band of U.S. filibusters. Pierce’s act shocked foreign governments. On both sides of the Atlantic, it led to talk of war between the United States and the European powers in the Caribbean (Great Britain, Spain, and France). Below the Río Grande, it eventually led governments to forge the largest anti-US alliance in Latin American history. Such an alliance had been demanded by politicians and intellectuals throughout the region immediately after they heard about Pierce’s decision to recognize the Walker regime. And it was their transnational campaign on


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behalf of this alliance that caused the idea of Latin America to spread throughout the continent. The rise of “Latin America” was perhaps the most enduring outcome of one of the first anti-U.S. moments in world history. (2013:1346–1347) LAC is an idea, a range of spaces across which considerable interactions have historically taken place, and a multiplicity of sites in which culture is continuously constructed as well as connected in many ways to other places. In this book I emphasize the historical and power-laden backdrop through which LAC was ideologically and politically conceived, acknowledge the past and present relationships connecting and transforming its peoples across time and place, and stress the cultural variability and specificity played out and constructed in everyday life. The perspective I follow is similar to what Stephen and Zavella et al. have called Las Américas (2003) or what Irazábal refers to as Latin Americas (2014), and includes Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean (“Latin” or not), as well as significant sites of cultural production in the US and Canada.

Countries and peoples The United Nations groups LAC into 49 countries and territories. With eight million square miles, LAC’s land area is 2.5 times the size of the continental US (Table 1.1 and Figure 1.1). TABLE 1.1  Countries and population

Country Anguilla Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Aruba Bahamas Barbados Belize Bermuda Bolivia Brazil British Virgin Islands Caribbean Netherlands Cayman Islands Chile Colombia Costa Rica Cuba Curaçao Dominica Dominican Republic

Population 0.1 0.1 43.4 0.1 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.1 10.7 207.8 0.1 0.1 0.1 17.9 48.2 4.8 11.4 0.2 0.1 10.5

Country Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guyana Haiti Honduras Jamaica Martinique Mexico Montserrat Nicaragua Panama Paraguay Peru Puerto Rico Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Trinidad and Tobago

Population 0.1 0.5 16.3 0.8 10.7 8.1 2.8 0.4 127 < 0.1 6.1 3.9 6.6 31.4 3.7 0.1 0.2 0.1 < 0.1 1.4


Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean



Ecuador El Salvador Falkland Islands French Guiana  


16.1 6.1 0.1 0.3  


Turks and Caicos Islands United States Virgin Islands Uruguay Venezuela TOTAL

0.1 0.1 3.4 31.1 634.8

Source: Adapted from United Nations (2015). Population in millions









VENEZUELA Georgetown A t l a n t i c Paramaribo COLOMBIA Cayenne O c e a n Bogotá FRENCH GUIANA Quito ECUADOR PERU BRAZIL



La Paz

BOLIVIA PARAGUAY CHILE P a c i f i c O c e a n Santiago


A t l a n t i c O c e a n

ARGENTINA URUGUAY Buenos Montevideo Aires

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) Tierra Del Fuego

G u l f o f M e x i c o


THE BAHAMAS Turks and Caicos Is.

La Habana

A t l a n t i c O c e a n

US Virgin Islands British Virgin Cayman Is. Mexico City Puerto Islands GUATEMALA HAITI Rico Kingston Antigua and BELIZE MEXICO Barbuda Port-au- Santo JAMAICA Montserrat Belmopan Prince Domingo Guadeloupe Anguilla Martinique HONDURAS Saint Kitts C a r i b b e a n Saint Lucia Guatemala City Tegucigalpa Netherlandsand Nevis Barbados S e a San Salvador NICARAGUA Aruba Antilles Dominica Managua Saint Vincent Grenada EL SALVADOR and the Grenadines Trinidad San Jose PANAMA P a c i f i c and Tobago


O c e a n

FIGURE 1.1  Latin America and the Caribbean





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The Caribbean archipelago includes the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola [divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti], and Puerto Rico) and the Lesser Antilles (the West Indies or Leeward Islands in some of the older scholarship) – the countries and territories stretching from south/southeast Puerto Rico to northern South America. Central America includes the countries between Mexico and Colombia (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama). South America encompasses all countries south of Panama (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay). In 2015 more than 600 million people were living in LAC, almost 80% in urban areas. By 2025 LAC will have five of the 30 largest cities of the world (Bogotá, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo). Its population, almost equally divided between males and females, is quite young, with more than one-third 19 years or younger. This is also a region beset by vast economic and health inequities (ECLAC 2013; PAHO 2012; World Bank 2015; see also Chapter 9). LAC is one of world’s most linguistically and ethnically diverse regions. Whereas Europe has three language families (clusters of related languages descended from a single ancestral language), the New World (North and South America combined) has about 70. South America also has the highest number of language isolates, that is, languages that cannot be genetically linked to other languages. More than 1,700 languages divided into dozens of language families were present at the moment of the European conquest. Between 700–1,000 languages are still spoken, most in Amazonia, which Heggarty and Renfrew call a “great Babel of tongues” (2014:1328). Many are spoken by only small clusters of people and they will soon disappear – these are endangered languages. Some examples are telling: 70% of Brazil’s indigenous languages (mostly in Amazonia) have less than 1,000 speakers, and by the late 1980s only 30 Tehuelche speakers were alive in southern Argentina. Indigenous language loss has much to do with their lower prestige vis-à-vis Spanish and Portuguese. Other languages are far from disappearing in the foreseeable future. Spoken by millions, Guaraní, Quechua, Maya, and Nahuatl have been designated national languages. There are over six million speakers of Mayan languages and between seven and ten million speakers of Quechua. In some countries a wide assortment of languages is spoken. For instance, in Brazil, there are 218 living languages, including 202 indigenous; in Mexico, 287 languages are spoken, 282 of them indigenous; and Peru has 93 living languages, including 91 indigenous languages (Adelaar and Muysken 2004; Campbell 1997; Dixon and Aikhenvald 1999; Heggarty and Renfrew 2014; Simons and Fennig 2018). LAC’s quite remarkable linguistic panorama has always presented obstacles to the systematic classification of its languages. Some authors refer to language families as “stocks,” some group languages into sub-families, while others write of clusters or macroclusters of languages. Several languages are placed into more than one group or category. Some dialects are considered so different from each other that they are sometimes classed as distinct languages. For instance, Mixtec, spoken in Mexico, has at least 52 different languages or dialects, while Zapotec has 57. Table 1.2 provides a select yet representative overview of some of LAC’s language families and languages. Arawak languages are the most widely dispersed.

South America, Andes Caribbean, Northern South America, Amazonia Central America, Northern South America South America, Amazonia, Brazilian Highlands South America, Amazonia Mesoamerica, Central America


South America, Amazonia

Southwestern US, Mesoamerica

South America, Amazonia




61 (13 in US); 48 in Mesoamerica (Southern Uto-Aztecan)  5


17 178 25 44

4 31





2 56

Number of languages

Yanomami, Yanomamö

Nahuatl, Huichol, Tepehuán, Pima, Pipil

Shuar, Achuar Huastec, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Q’eqchi, Mam, Lancandón, Cholan, Quiché Mixe, Zoque, Popoluca Mixtec, Triqui, Zapotec, Otomí Shipibo, Cashibo, Panoan Central Quechua (Quechua I/ Quechua B), Peripheral Quechua (Quechua II, Quechua A), Quichua, Pacaraos Aché, Guaraní, Tupí, Sirionó

Kuna, Kogi, Paéz, Panzaleo, Bocotá, Tairona, Muisca Xerénte, Kayapó, Canela

Aymara, Tupe/Jaqaru, Kallawaya Carib

Mapuche, Huilliche Taíno, Garifuna, Asháninka, Campa, Piro, Mojo, Amuesha,

Some of the main/better known languages/language groups

Source: Adelaar and Muysken (2004); Campbell (1997); Heggarty and Renfrew (2014); Simons and Fennig (2018)

Mesoamerica, Central America Mesoamerica, Central America South America, Amazonia South America, Andes

Mixe-Zoque Oto-Manguean Pano/Panoan Quechua

Jívaro Mayan




Southern South America South America, Caribbean, Amazonia

Araucanian Arawak/Maipurea

Major language family Core regions

TABLE 1.2  Language families and languages

Venezuela, Brazil

Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, French Guiana, Ecuador, Argentina Mexico, El Salvador

Peru, Ecuador Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras Mexico Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica Peru, Brazil, Bolivia Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia

Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, Colombia Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Nicaragua, Belize Brazil

Chile, Argentina Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Paraguay, Argentina, Belize Bolivia, Peru

Countries where spoken


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Landscapes and physiographic regions LAC peoples have inhabited extraordinarily diverse natural environments, ranging from the high, frigid Andean mountains thousands of feet above sea level (asl) to the low-lying, moist, and hot lowlands of the Amazonian rainforests. Between these two extremes, they have carved out livelihoods from a multitude of landforms – valleys, coastlines, mountains, volcanic basins, plateaus, and hills, for example – with distinct biomes or dominant types of vegetation, such as savannas, tropical or temperate forests, and grasslands. In the course of extracting from their environments the resources with which to make a living and organize their economic systems, LAC peoples have profoundly altered their natural surroundings, as we shall see in the following chapters. There is no such thing, in LAC or elsewhere, of pristine environments free of cultural agency and expression (Balée 2013; Denevan 1992; Hayes and Timms 2012; Whitmore and Turner 2001). Anthropologists, geographers, and historians have long recognized that there is a broad correlation between features of the physical environment, ways of earning a livelihood, and culture. Called cultural ecology or ecological anthropology, this line of work stresses how habitats present opportunities as well as constraints for social and cultural development. This is one reason, as we will see in the next chapter, why some kinds of societies emerged in the high Andes, for example, and rather different ones in lowland Amazonia. At the same time, recognizing potential and limitations is not the same as embracing a belief in environmental determinism. After all, contemporary social groups in the Andes are quite different from those in this region 5,000 years ago. What a cultural ecological, or human adaptability, perspective emphasizes is ongoing synergism – the idea that the physical environment provides a broad backdrop that shapes, and is shaped by, history and culture (Moran 2008). Landscape is a useful concept for appreciating the diverse environments that for millennia provided a lived habitat for LAC peoples. Laden with symbolism and meaning, landscapes are part of natural environs profoundly shaped by culture as well as physical processes. Landscapes are “both material and conceptual, constitute both physical infrastructure and symbolic communication” (Sluyter 2001:413), and they provide meanings through a time-honored connection with origin myths, folklore, legends, and rituals performed to venerate and animate the specialized spiritual forces or powers of such places, keeping their symbolic and metaphorical associations alive, and at the same time adjusting them as cultural histories and identities changed. (Staller 2008:3) From seemingly natural features such as hills and mountains, to clearly cultural creations like irrigation ditches, planted fields, or boundary markers, landscapes evoke belonging. By spurring oral traditions and historical narratives, and conjuring and anchoring memory, landscapes underpin claims to ethnic distinctiveness and territorial rights. For example, markers such as irrigation ditches (zanjas, Spanish) or remains of pre-Columbian terraced fields (gradas, Spanish) remind the Ecuadorian Cumbe of their history, surface in oral and written narratives that justify the defense of their lands against encroaching landowners, and legitimize their claims to an indigenous ethnic identity (Rappaport 1994). For

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


pre-conquest peoples, their landscapes were “sacred geographies” and “ritual landscapes” tightly wedded with religious pilgrimages and ritual offerings (Besom 2009; Palka 2014; Schaan 2011; Toohey 2013). One way to appreciate the diversity of LAC landscapes, and the lived habitats that for millennia have provided LAC peoples the potential to thrive, is by focusing on physiographic regions – sizeable terrains with distinct topographic, climatological, altitudinal, soil, and vegetative features (Clawson 2012; Kent 2016). In the chapters that follow I allude to the following regions in South America (Figure 1.2), and Mexico and Central America (Figure 1.10).

South America Extraordinarily diverse in topography, climate, and biodiversity, South America’s more than six million square miles cover almost one-eighth of world’s dry surface.

Andes.  The Andes (also Andean Cordillera) are towering 5,000-mile-long mountain chains straddling western South America from southern Chile to northern Colombia (Figure 1.3). Barely 200 miles wide except in the Altiplano between Peru and Bolivia (discussed later in more detail), they are the second highest in the world (after the Himalayas), with 20 peaks between 18,000 and 20,000 feet asl. The Andes are divided into northern, central, and southern segments, each peppered with high-altitude valleys and plateaus. In Colombia the northern segment splits into three ranges, merging near Ecuador’s border, punctuating central Ecuador with a string of highaltitude volcanic cones and basins. In southern Peru, the Andes split into eastern and western segments, joining once again in southern Bolivia and then continuing south through Chile and Argentina. To the west, facing the Pacific Ocean and extending from central Chile to northern Peru, lies the Atacama Desert, one of the driest coastlines in the world, dotted by valleys carved by rivers flowing westward from the Andes. Eastward lies the greater part of South America’s land mass, lower in elevation and less rugged in relief. The Andean mountains are the cradle of Andean culture. They may seem a forbidding environment from which to make a living. Yet since temperature, soil properties, vegetation, and land use vary according to altitude, the cordillera has provided Andean peoples with different and complementary ecological niches from which they have been able to harvest a wide variety of crops. These altitudinal life zones range from the tierra caliente (up to about 3,000 feet asl) where tropical and sub-tropical crops are grown, to the puna or páramo between 9,000–13,500 feet asl, where agro-pastoral economies have historically thrived. Above 13,500 feet is the tierra helada, a tier of permanent ice and snow. Most of the 11 million indigenous Quechua and Aymara-speaking peoples of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile live in the Andes’ high-altitude valleys and plateaus (often referred to as the highlands) and, in Peru, the western coastal valleys facing the Pacific Ocean. The Andes were an important hub of incipient plant domestication and, later, intensive agriculture. The ecological complementarity resulting from access to diverse altitudinal life zones favored the rise of large, complex societies. Some of the earliest Andean states and empires, such as the Moche and Chimú, thrived in the coastal valleys facing the


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A t l a n t i c O c e a n Guiana Highlands

Amazon Basin A


n d

Highlands e


P a c i f i c O c e a n P a t a g o n i a

P a m p a s

FIGURE 1.2  Physiographic regions of South America

A t l a n t i c O c e a n

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


FIGURE 1.3  The Andes Source: Rüdiger Meier CC BY-SA 1.0

Pacific Ocean thousands of years before the Spanish conquest, as did regional states in the highlands before the rise of mighty Inca empire that the Spaniards faced in sixteenth century Peru.

Altiplano.  Between the eastern and western segments of the Andes, and almost entirely within Bolivia, lies the Altiplano, a frigid, semi-arid plateau virtually devoid of trees, 400 miles wide at its maximum and 13,000 feet asl (Figure 1.4). At its northern edge is Lake Titicaca, Latin America’s largest and the world’s highest freshwater lake. The Altiplano is the heart of Aymara culture. It is here where Tiwanaku, one of the earliest Andean civilizations, emerged 3,000 years ago. Prior to the European conquest, this plateau was home to Aymara chiefdoms that vigorously resisted Inca encroachment. Their agro-pastoral economies hinged on cultivating potatoes and high-altitude grains, harvesting sub-tropical crops (such as maize) on the lower flanks of the Andes, and herding camelids (llamas and alpacas). Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was born into an Aymara pastoralist household not far from La Paz (Chapter 5). In Bolivia, the Altiplano is also important for its former (and famous) silver mines at Potosí, an important pillar of the Andean colonial economy.


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FIGURE 1.4 Altiplano

Llanos.  Also called campos, the llanos are sparsely populated, gently sloping grasslands and savannas reaching 700 feet asl and marked by distinct dry and rainy seasons. The dry llanos are mainly located in northern Venezuela and southeastern Colombia. During the colonial period cattle ranching evolved as the most economic activity. Extractive industries, such as oil and mining, have become important in recent decades. To the south, largely within Bolivia and between the Amazon and the eastern foothills of the Andes, are the vast grasslands and savannas of the Llanos de Mojos (Figure 1.5). Thinly populated to this day, pre-conquest Amazonian chiefdom societies thrived in this region by turning thousands of miles of seasonally flooded land into highly productive raised fields (Chapter 2). After the Spanish conquest, many indigenous peoples in this part of the Bolivian Amazon became known as Mojos and were grouped into mission settlements (Van Valen 2013). Guiana and Brazilian Highlands.  East of the Andes are weathered, eroded tablelands between 2,000–5,000 feet asl, punctuated by mountain ranges, plateaus, and forested valleys. Their northern segment, the Guiana Highlands (also known as the Guiana Shield), overlaps with the northernmost tip of Brazil, large parts of Venezuela, and segments of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and north-central Colombia (Figure 1.6). During the colonial period, these remote and rugged highlands, along with the northern Atlantic coast,

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


FIGURE 1.5  Llanos de Mojos, Bolivia Source: Sam Beebe CC BY-SA 2.0

provided refuge for runaway slaves, indigenous peoples, and indentured servants, many who forged new group identities. Today, mining is the most important economic activity in this sparsely populated region. Many indigenous peoples are clustered in reservations, and Venezuela and Brazil have established national parks in these highlands as a way of attracting ecotourists. Separated by the Amazon Basin (see next section), to the south/southeast lie the Brazilian Highlands (also called the Brazilian Plateau) that face the Atlantic Ocean. Ranging 2,000–3,000 feet asl, its plateaus, hills, and valleys extend from northern Uruguay and eastern Paraguay to the Amazon River in the north, covering one-third of Brazil’s territory. Before the conquest, these highlands were densely populated by agricultural tribal and chiefdom societies speaking Tupí-Guaraní languages. In the northeastern section of the highlands is the Sertão (Nordeste, Northeast), renowned for its eroded, arid landscape, famine, and the poverty of most of its inhabitants. Facing the Atlantic Ocean lies the Great Escarpment (Serra do Mar), mountain ranges separating western Brazil from its Atlantic coastal plains. Some of Brazil’s largest cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are located on these plains. Stretching for 1,500 miles, they were the focus of early colonial settlement and where Brazil’s historically important sugar cultivation and plantation systems emerged. More than 50 million Brazilians live on the Atlantic coast, 12 million in Rio de Janeiro.


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FIGURE 1.6  Guiana Highlands, Venezuela Source: FEDERICO PARRA/Stringer/Getty Images

Amazon Basin.  With more than two million square miles, the Amazon Basin (also known as Amazonia) contains one-third of the world’s tropical rainforests. Drained primarily by the Amazon River and its more than 1,000 tributaries, Amazonia extends through large segments of north, central, and western Brazil (covering 40% of its territory); eastern sections of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador; the southern and southeastern portions of Venezuela and Colombia; and the southern parts of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (Figure 1.7). South America’s two other major river systems are the Orinoco, centered mainly in Venezuela and Colombia, and the Paraguay-Paraná-Río de la Plata in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Amazonia has two distinct regions: (1) an interior, upland, and slightly elevated terra firme (firm or solid ground; Portuguese) that includes 90% of its land mass and (2) a narrow strip (less than 50 miles at its widest point) of seasonally flooded alluvial plains called the várzea. Terra firme receives heavy rainfall, and has nutrient-poor soils, widely dispersed plant and animal species, lush vegetation, and high humidity. Unlike the nutrientpoor terra firme, várzea soils are extraordinarily fertile because of annual seasonal flooding that deposits thick layers of minerals and nutrients from the Andes. It is along the várzea floodplains where in pre-conquest times large, sedentary, and complex Amazonian societies emerged. As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, Amazonia has always been LAC’s most linguistically and ethnically diverse region.


Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


e g ro

r ive River

R jos

Xin g



r sR




Pu r u

ive r aR

ad eir





arañon Riv e r r



zon River Ama


Equator Belém Teresina



French Guiana r

ti n s




Jari R iv e


Jap ura Rive r

r Rive

Branc oR ive



To c a

inoc o Or

A t l a n t i c O c e a n



Pacific Ocean 0



500 80°








FIGURE 1.7  Amazon Basin Source: Reprinted with permission from Kent (2016)

For decades, scientists and policy makers have been concerned about the ecological and social consequences of the loss of forest cover in LAC. Amazonia, which contains most of LAC’s tropical forests and thousands of plant and animal species, has sustained alarming rates of deforestation, losing 35 million hectares between 1990 and 2000, and another 40 million a decade later. Recent data suggest that the rate of deforestation is decreasing, especially in Brazil, which, with 60% of LAC’s forests (520 million hectares), is the second most forest-rich country in the world (Carr and López, et al. 2009; FAO 2010, 2017; Hecht 2014). Amazonia’s remarkable biodiversity is seen as a rich store of ethnomedical cures and genetic resources for new pharmaceutical drugs, and is a powerful lure for bioprospecting and biopiracy (Davidov 2013; Finley-Brook 2014; Liang 2011; Shiva 2007; Stevens 2014).

Pampas/Patagonia.  The Pampas are almost treeless plains and grasslands with a moderate, Mediterranean-type climate and rich soils (Figure 1.8). Extending for several hundred miles in an arc-like shape around Buenos Aires, about two-thirds of the Pampas lie in Argentina, the remaining in Uruguay and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southern-most state. This region is one of the world’s most productive agricultural and cattle raising regions. Before the European arrival, they were inhabited by nomadic societies whose lifeways centered on the hunting


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FIGURE 1.8  Pampas, Argentina Source: Mushii CC BY-SA 2.0

of South American camelids, especially the guanaco. During colonial times the Pampas quickly became the center of the cattle and agricultural industries of Argentina and Uruguay. The early proliferation of horses led to Argentina’s cowboy (gaucho) culture, a symbol of Argentine national identity memorialized in the epic poem Martín Fierro. In Argentina and Chile the cool, windswept Patagonia is an arid region of steppes, savannas, and grasslands that extends east and southeast from the Pampas to the western Andes and the Pacific coast (Figure 1.9). Like the Pampas, Patagonia was populated by small, mobile groups collectively known as Araucanians who never succumbed to Inca domination and successfully resisted Spanish colonial control. Only in the nineteenth century were the Araucanians in Chile and Argentina subdued and forcibly resettled in reservations (Dillehay 2007; Garavaglia 1999; Padden 1957; Sauer 2015; see also Chapter 5). Since colonial times, the principal economic activity has been sheep grazing, along with pockets of irrigated agriculture near its three major rivers (Colorado, Negro, and Chubut).

Mexico and Central America With the exception of the Central Plateau, Mexico shares with Central America the physiographic regions of the Southern Highlands, Gulf Coastal Plains, Yucatán Peninsula, and the Central Highlands, the latter part of the Central American Volcanic Axis (Figure 1.10).


Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean

FIGURE 1.9  Patagonia, Argentina Source: James Cadwell CC BY-SA 2.0

Gulf of Mexico Central Plateau

Gulf Coastal

Southern Plains Highlands

Yucatan Peninsula Central American Volcanic Axis

Pacific Ocean

FIGURE 1.10  Physiographic regions of Mexico and Central America Source: Author’s reworking of Fig. 2.4 that appeared on p. 40 in the 1st edition


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Central Plateau.  The Central Plateau (also known as the Mexican Plateau) consists of tablelands and volcanic basins between 3,000–8,000 feet asl enclosed by the western and eastern Sierra Madre mountain ranges, whose highest peaks exceed 9,000 feet asl. From north to south it extends 1,800 miles, and from east to west more than 1,200 miles. The Central Plateau is divided into two segments. To the north lies the arid, hot, and thinly populated Mesa del Norte, which makes up two-thirds of the Central Plateau and is historically home to semi-nomadic peoples that the Aztecs were unable to subdue. During the colonial period, its economy centered around mining and cattle ranching. To the south is the humid, cooler, and densely populated Mesa Central (also called the Mexican Highlands), Mexico’s heartland and where two-thirds of its population lives. It is in the Mesa Central’s intermountain basins where some of Mexico’s earliest and best known civilizations emerged. Aztec society and culture flourished in the southern segment of the Mesa Central. Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, was located in the Basin of Mexico (also known as the Valley of Mexico) at the southern-most edge of the Mesa Central (Figure 1.11). Modern-day Mexico City was built over the ruins of Tenochtitlán. Southern Highlands.  The Southern Highlands are a string of high-altitude volcanic ranges, intermontane basins, and forested valleys with rich soils extending south from the southeastern edge of Mexico’s Mesa Central through central Guatemala and southwest Honduras and El Salvador. Along with the Yucatán Peninsula (see later in this chapter), the Southern Highlands were the heart of pre-conquest Maya civilizations that emerged thousands of years before the Spanish arrival. The core of contemporary highland Maya culture is centered in the southern Mexican and southeastern Guatemalan segments of the Southern Highlands (Figure 1.12). Gulf Coastal Plains.  The Gulf Coast Plains are stretches of tropical forest terrain and low-lying coastal plains facing the Gulf of Mexico. The Olmec, one of Mesoamerica’s earliest civilizations, developed in the Gulf Coast region of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Vera Cruz, and had a lasting influence on subsequent Maya and Central Highland Mexican societies. It was in Vera Cruz where Hernán Cortés landed as he set out to conquer the Aztecs. Yucatán Peninsula.  In eastern Mexico, and separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, lies the Yucatán Peninsula. It has two distinct segments. Its northernmost sector, the Northern Lowlands, is a flat, arid plain, with much of its vegetation consisting of scrub forest, punctuated by sinkholes called cenotes. Humidity increases southward, so that less than 100 miles south of Mérida, the state capital, the landscape quickly changes to slightly elevated rolling hills covered mostly by tropical forest vegetation. The Southern Lowlands are vast stretches of mainly humid tropical forests that extend through most of the Mexican states of Quintana Roo and Campeche, and overlap with Guatemala’s northern Petén region and northern segments of Belize and Honduras (Figure 1.13). Maya city states thrived in the Northern and Southern Lowlands thousands of years before the Spanish


Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean

Ciudad Victoria ra er Si

ra er Si



San Luis Potosi






re ad




id e





Poza Rica






Leon Irapuato


O Guadalajara




Culf of Mexico





Jalapa Morelia Mexico City Uruapan Veracruz Valley N e o - Vo of Mex lca ic Puebla o ni c Cordoba Tr Cuernavaca an Tehuacan sv er se R ange

Pacific Ocean Acapulco The Bajio

Oaxaca 0


200 Miles







FIGURE 1.11  Mesa Central, Mexico Source: Reprinted with permission from Kent (2016)

conquest, and along with the Southern Highlands discussed in the previous section, these are the core regions of contemporary Maya culture.

Central American Highlands.  The Central American Highlands are a string of volcanic ranges, plateaus, rolling hills, and valleys 7,000–12,000 feet asl, part of the Central American Volcanic Axis (Figure 1.14). Around 80% to 90% of Central American peoples live in this region, most concentrated in and around the highlands’ fertile volcanic basins. The northeastern part of these highlands overlaps with the historic Maya Southern Lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula. After independence from Spain, this region became the bastion of export agriculture (especially of cotton and coffee), which played a major role in the civil wars of the 1980s (Chapter 10).


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FIGURE 1.12  Chiapas Highlands, Mexico Source: Thelmadatter CC BY-SA 4.0

FIGURE 1.13  Southern Lowlands, Petén, Guatemala Source: Anne Lewis/Alamy Stock Photo


Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean




Motagua River


San Pedro Sula Honduras Nicaragua

El Salvador









Miles 0


Gulf of Fonseca Lake Managua






San Salvador




Mo s quito C oa s

Guatemala Guatemala City


Managua Lake Nicaragua

San Juan River

Costa Rica San José

Panama Canal Limón


Gulf of Nicoya David

Kilometers 90°



Azuero Peninsula

Panama 80°

FIGURE 1.14  Central American Highlands Source: Reprinted with permission from Kent (2016)

Concluding thoughts In a 2011 speech in Santiago, Chile, former President Barack Obama remarked that I know our headlines are often dominated by events in other parts of the world. But let’s never forget: Every day, the future is being forged by the countries and peoples of Latin America. . . . I believe that Latin America is more important to the prosperity and security of the United States than ever before. With no other region does the United States have so many connections. And nowhere do we see that more than in the tens of millions of Hispanic Americans across the United States, who enrich our society, grow our economy and strengthen our nation every single day. . . . We are all Americans. Todos somos Americanos. (Obama 2011) LAC’s extraordinary diversity, which I briefly surveyed in previous pages and explore in greater detail in the chapters that follow, is partly what has made this region so important for the US and the world today. This lushness and vitality has a long history spanning thousands of years, a story to which we now turn.


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FILMS/VIDEOS The Amazon River: Pristine and Unprotected. 2008. Films Media Group. Journey through the Peruvian and Brazilian sectors of the Amazon. The American Dream: Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in New York. 2003. Cinema Guild. Examines the Puerto Rican and Mexican experience in New York City. Battle for the Amazon: The Xingu vs. the Belo Monte Dam. 2011. Films Media Group. Focuses on the environmental and human impact of Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam, the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam. Brazil with Michael Palin: Amazonia. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Surveys the geography, history, and cultures of Brazilian Amazonia. The Caribbean Islands. 2009. Films Media Group. Focuses on geography and culture of St. Lucia, Martinique, and Montserrat. Central America: Costa Rica and Nicaragua. 2012. Films Media Group. Geographic, social, and cultural survey of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Colombia and Venezuela: A South American Journey. 2011. Films Media Group. Geographic, social, and cultural survey of Colombia and Venezuela. Exploring the World Series: South and Central America. 2016. Kanopy Streaming. This seven video collection surveys the geography, history, and culture of Argentina, Chile, Panama, Brazil, and Uruguay. Favelas. 1989. Cinema Guild. Explores the lives of residents of São Paulo’s favelas. Harvest of Empire. 2012. Onyx Films. Overview of how US interventions in Latin America are connected to contemporary immigration trends. The Hispanic/Latino Americans – Empire of Dreams. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Chronicles the changing cultural landscape of south Florida, Los Angeles, and New York as a result of immigration from Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. The Hispanic/Latino Americans – The New Hispanics/Latinos. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Emphasizes the post-World War II immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Hispanic/Latino Language and Dialects in America. 2016. Kanopy Streaming. Highlights the effects of Latin American immigrants on American

English and fears that Spanish will someday overtake English. Introducing Latin America Part One: The Land. 1994. Educational Video Network. Presents a broad overview of the geographical landscapes of Latin America. Latin America. 2004. Schlesinger Media. Calls attention to “the origins, causes and effects of major global issues in the region.” Latin America: Land and Resources. 2002. Insight Media. Explores the landforms, vegetation, and climates of Central and South America. The Latino Americans – Empire of Dreams. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Documents how the US is reshaped by the influx of peoples that began in 1880 and continues into the 1940s, with the arrival of Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans. The Latino Americans – Foreigners in Their Own Land. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Explores the period between 1565–1880, as the first Spanish explorers enter North America, the US expands into territories in the Southwest home to Native Americans, and the Mexican-American War. The Latino Americans – The New Latinos. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic from the post-World War II years into the early 1960s. The Latino Americans – Prejudice and Pride. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on the creation of a “Chicano” identity, as labor leaders organize farm workers in California and activists push for better education opportunities for Latinos and inclusion of Latino studies. Megacities. 2006. Films Media Group. “This program travels to Sao Paulo, the world’s third-largest megacity, to offer a glimpse of what it’s like for the urban poor scraping out a living there.” The New Americans. 2009. Cinema Guild. Overview of immigrant life in the US. South and Central America. 1998. Insight Media. “Introduction to basic geographic landforms and climate zones of South and Central America.” The Whole Enchilada. 2010. Filmmakers Library. Overview of Latino life in the US.

Anthropology, Latin America, and the Caribbean


WEBSITES Abya Yala Net. Resources for Indigenous Cultures around the World. American Library Association. Hispanic/Latino Americans: 500  Years of History. https://apply. Atlas of our Changing Environment: Latin America and the Caribbean. Boston College. Latin American Studies Research Guides. Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers. http:// Cultural Survival. Ethnologue. Languages of the World. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. Languages of the Americas. www.native-languages. org/ Latin America North East Libraries Consortium. Latin American Studies Association. Library of Congress. Handbook of Latin American Studies. National Geographic Society. South America: Human Geography. pedia/south-america-human-geography/ Native Languages of the Americas.


Mexico State University. Latin American Geography. latinamericangeography New York State Library. Hispanic and Latino Web Sites: Internet Bibliographies. www.nysl.nysed. gov/reference/hisref.htm Pew Hispanic Center. Population Reference Bureau. Rutgers University. Hispanic/Latino Studies. Research Guides. Hispanic/Latino Santa Fe College. Latin American Humanities Research Guide. library/library_guides/subject/latinamerican_ humanities/web.html University of California, Berkeley. Center for Latin American Studies. University of Florida, Gainesville. Center for Latin American Studies. University of Pittsburgh. Center for Latin American Studies. University of Texas. Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America. site/welcome.html University of Texas. Latin American Information Network (LANIC). Maps of Latin America http:// University of Texas. Latin American Network Information Center.

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Campbell, Lyle. 1997. American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. Carr, David L. and López, Anna C., et al. 2009. The Population, Agriculture, and Environment Nexus in Latin America: Country-Level Evidence from the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century. Population and Environment 30(6):222–246. Clawson, David L. 2012. Latin America and the Caribbean: Lands and Peoples. (5th Edition). New York: Oxford University Press.


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Davidov, Veronica. 2013. Amazonia as Pharmacopia. Critique of Anthropology 33(3):243–262. Denevan, William M. 1992. The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82(3):369–385. Dillehay, Thomas D. 2007. Monuments, Empires, and Resistance: The Araucanian Polity and Ritual Narratives. New York: Cambridge University Press. Dixon, Robert M. and Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 1999. Introduction. In The Amazonian Languages. Dixon, Robert M. and Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y., eds. Pp. 1–22. New York: Cambridge University Press. ECLAC. 2013. Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean 2013. New York: United Nations, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Editorial Board. 2017. Donald Trump’s Mexico Tantrum. The New York Times. January 26. FAO. 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. Main Report. New York: United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization. ———. 2017. The State of the Forest Sector in the Region. New York: United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization. Finley-Brook, Mary. 2014. Green Neoliberal Space: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. In Indigenous Peoples, National Parks, and Protected Areas: A New Paradigm Linking Conservation, Culture, and Rights. Stevens, Stan, ed. Pp. 172– 196. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Garavaglia, Juan. 1999. The Crises and Transformations of Invaded Societies: The La Plata Basin (1535–1650). In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 2). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 1–58. New York: Cambridge University Press. Gobat, Michel. 2013. The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race. American Historical Review 118(5):1345–1375. Griffith, David. 2008. New Midwesterners, New Southerners: Immigration Experiences in Four Rural American Settings. In New Faces in New Places: The Changing Geography of American

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Macías, Reynaldo F. 2014. Spanish as the Second National Language of the United States: Fact, Future, Fiction, or Hope? Review of Research in Education 38(1):33–57. McPherson, Alan L. 2013. Encyclopedia of US Military Interventions in Latin America. Santa Barbara, CA: Abc-clio. Mignolo, Walter D. 2005. The Idea of Latin America. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Miller, Barbara D. 2005. Cultural Anthropology. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Mintz, Sidney W. 1989. Caribbean Transformations. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 2010. Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Mintz, Sidney W. and Price, Sally, eds. 1985. Caribbean Contours. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Moran, Emilio F. 2008. Human Adaptability: An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology. (3rd Edition). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Obama, Barack H. 2011. Remarks by President Obama on Latin America in Santiago, Chile. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse. remarks-president-obama-latin-america-santiago-chile. Accessed on December 14, 2018. Padden, Robert C. 1957. Cultural Change and Military Resistance in Araucanian Chile, 1550– 1730. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 13:103–121. PAHO. 2012. Health in the Americas 2012 Edition. Washington, DC: Pan American Health Organization. Palka, Joel W. 2014. Maya Pilgrimage to Ritual Landscapes: Insights from Archaeology, History, and Ethnography. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Rappaport, Joanne. 1994. Cumbe Reborn: An Andean Ethnography of History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Restall, Matthew. 2011. Imperial Rivalries. In Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader. Dym, Jordana and Offen, Karl, eds. Pp. 79–83. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Robbins, Richard H. and Dowty, Rachel. 2017. Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based


Approach. (7th Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Romero, Simón. 2017. Spanish Thrives in the US Despite an English-Only Drive. The New York Times. August 23. Roth, Wendy D. 2012. Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Sauer, Jacob J. 2015. The Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Araucanian Resilience. New York: Springer. Schaan, Denise P. 2011. Sacred Geographies of Ancient Amazonia: Historical Ecology of Social Complexity. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Schaefer, Richard T. 2015. Racial and Ethnic Groups. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Shiva, Vandana. 2007. Bioprospecting as Sophisticated Biopiracy. Signs 32(2):307–313. Sieder, Rachel. 2008. Legal Globalization and Human Rights: Constructing the Rule of Law in Postconflict Guatemala? In Human Rights in the Maya Region: Global Politics, Cultural Contentions, and Moral Engagements. Pitarch Ramón, Pedro and Speed, Shannon, et al., eds. Pp. 67–90. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Simons, Gary F. and Fennig, Charles D. 2018. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. (21st Edition). Retrieved from Accessed on April 21, 2018. Sluyter, Andrew. 2001. Colonialism and Landscape in the Americas: Material/Conceptual Transformations and Continuing Consequences. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 91(2):410–428. Staller, John E. 2008. An Introduction to Pre-Columbian Landscapes of Creation and Origin. In Pre-Columbian Landscapes of Creation and Origin. Staller, John E., ed. Pp. 1–9. New York: Springer. Stephen, Lynn and Zavella, Patricia, et al. 2003. Introduction: Understanding the Américas: Insights from Latina/o and Latin American Studies. In Perspectives on Las Américas: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation. Gutmann, Matthew C. and Rodríguez, Félix V., et al., eds. Pp. 1–30. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Stevens, Stan. 2014. Indigenous Peoples, Biocultural Diversity, and Protected Areas. In Indigenous


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Peoples, National Parks, and Protected Areas: A New Paradigm Linking Conservation, Culture, and Rights. Stevens, Stan, ed. Pp. 15–46. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Sulzberger, Arthur G. 2011. Hispanics Reviving Faded Towns on the Plains. The New York Times. November 14. Toohey, Jason L. 2013. Feeding the Mountains: Sacred Landscapes, Mountain Worship, and Sacrifice in the Maya and Inca Worlds. Reviews in Anthropology 42(3):161–178. US Census Bureau. 2011a. Language Projections: 2010 to 2020. Retrieved from www.census. gov/hhes/socdemo/language/data/acs/Ortman_ Shin_ASA2011_paper.pdf. Accessed on September 22, 2015. ———. 2011b. Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010. Retrieved from prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf. Accessed on May 7, 2016. ———. 2015a. Foreign Trade – US Trade with South and Central America. Retrieved from html?cssp=SERP. Accessed on November  20, 2015. ———. 2015b. Foreign Trade: Top Trading Partners. September. Retrieved from www.census. gov/foreign-trade/statistics/highlights/top/ top1509yr.html. Accessed on November 20, 2015. ———. 2015c. New Census Bureau Report Analyzes US Population Projections. Retrieved from

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Before the Europeans


uropeans marveled at the stunning political, economic, and cultural heterogeneity of the peoples they came upon in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and would soon conquer. The societies that instilled awe in the first Europeans were the cumulative result of thousands of years of changes. In this chapter I outline the historical trajectory of LAC societies up to the European conquests. I begin by discussing the concept of social or societal complexity as a way of understanding the economic and political features of the types of societies that Europeans encountered: bands, tribes, chiefdoms, states, and empires. I then turn my attention to the time periods into which the archaeology or “prehistory” of LAC is typically divided: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Formative, and Horizon. For each of these phases I detail the remarkable transformations in subsistence strategies and cultural and political systems that took place.

Perspectives on social complexity Archaeologists have long focused on the rise of social complexity, wherein societies harness ever-greater resources from their landscapes, sustain larger populations and dense settlements, enhance their coercive powers, expand their reach to far-flung territories, and become class and ethnically stratified. This neo-evolutionary approach has typically classified societies into bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states. While many scholars agree with the usefulness of this classification, others are not so sure. Critics correctly emphasize that the typology mistakenly suggests a smooth, linear transition from one kind of society to another. They also note that the boundaries between societal types are not clear-cut, for what we can infer is a subtle continuum and not categorically distinct stages (Routledge 2013). Still, Figure 2.1 provides us with an expedient way of describing the societies that Europeans encountered and how these fared after the conquest. Bands are small, highly mobile groups, typically with no more than several dozen households related through kinship ties. These are egalitarian societies headed by informal political leaders without coercive power. Their livelihood hinges on hunting and gathering undomesticated plants, which is why they are also called foragers or hunter-gatherers. Tribes are larger societies whose members earn their livelihood through animal husbandry and horticulture (a system of cultivation wherein plots lie fallow for lengths of time; sometimes known as shifting cultivation). With the exception of pastoralist groups, tribes are less mobile than bands, and they are comprised of descent groups whose members



C hap t er 2 300,000 Years Ago

12,000 Years Ago

10,000 Years Ago


Political Organization Band



Economic Organization Foraging

Horticulture/ Pastoralism

Agriculture/ Intensive Agriculture

FIGURE 2.1  Band, tribal, chiefdom, and state societies Source: Adapted from Miller (2005:234)

claim a common genealogical link and a distinct territory. Tribes show signs of incipient political and economic inequality, with some descent groups privileged with more resources than others. Although few persons can coerce others to do their bidding, there are formal (if fleeting) political leaders whose main role is to mediate disputes. Chiefdoms number in the hundreds or thousands of households with control over wider areas. These are ranked societies with some descent groups having more prestige and institutionalized access to resources, and it is from these groups that political leaders wielding coercive powers are drawn. Chiefdoms rely on a more intense use of their landscapes, such as a combination of marine/coastal resources, permanent agriculture, animal husbandry, and pastoralism. States are societies with extreme political and economic inequality. Highly stratified, they have huge populations divided into culturally distinct groups and wield control over much larger, far-flung territories. Emerging in contexts of warfare, population growth, and competition for resources, states have permanent bureaucracies, political leaders with enormous coercive powers, and standing armies. These societies typically have imperial religions or state cults, that is, religious beliefs and practices that legitimize political and economic stratification. States rely on intensive agriculture and construct monumental ceremonial centers – a clear sign of elites’ ability to wrench labor from their subordinate populations. Archaeologists specialize in regions (e.g., Mesoamerica, Caribbean) and time periods within which significant regularities occur. While there are “many approaches to archaeology, and few tendencies toward terminological consistency” (Lynch 1999:237), archaeologists typically divide the historical trajectories of LAC societies into four overlapping phases: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Formative, and Horizon (Figure 2.2).

Paleo-Indian The Paleo-Indian phase between 13,000–9,000 years ago marks the initial peopling of the North and South American continents by peoples from Asia who travelled across the


Before the Europeans Thousands of Years Ago 13













1 Present

13,000–9,000 years ago


11,000–3,500 years ago



4,000–1,800 years ago

1,800–500 years ago

FIGURE 2.2  Rise of social complexity Source: From author, 1st edition, p. 53

Bering Strait at the end of the Pleistocene. While this is the most commonly accepted theory for the peopling of the Americas, an alternate hypothesis is that the first settlers entered North America from Asia via the Pacific coastline in what is now British Columbia. Other scholars posit an Atlantic crossing to North America (Dillehay 2000; Moore 2014). Paleo-Indians were roving, unspecialized foragers subsisting on a wide spectrum of marine life, undomesticated plants, and wild game hunting – what is known as broadspectrum foraging. Some of the earliest groups lived along the Pacific coastlines of Ecuador and, in Peru and Chile, at the foothills of narrow valleys carved by rivers flowing west from the Andes. These had a maritime coastal adaptation, a way of life centered on harnessing marine/sea resources using nets, spears, hooks, and harpoons. Research at sites along the arid coast of central Chile has uncovered remains of camelids and extinct horses. Monte Verde in the southern Chilean coastline is a significant archaeological site. Almost 10,000 miles from the Bering Strait and dated ~ 14,000–12,000 years BP, this site provides evidence of an earlier peopling of the Americas than previously thought. Remains of mastodons, projectile points, stone tools, wood artifacts, and bolas indicate that Paleo-Indians at Monte Verde hunted Pleistocene megafauna. Others at Fells Cave, at the southern tip of South America, and elsewhere in the Andes and Mesoamerica, hunted large mammoths, (now extinct) horses, ground sloths, guanacos, vicuñas, and other large mammals. Bones from smaller animals (such as jackrabbits, rats, and gophers) as well as plant remains (e.g., wild avocado and agave) point to a broad subsistence pattern; these foragers essentially ate whatever was edible. Evidence of Paleo-Indian lifeways in the northern and southern Maya lowlands, often restricted to a few discoveries in caves and cenotes, is extremely rare (Moore 2014; Zietilin and Zeitlin 2000). Amazonia’s extraordinary biodiversity provided foragers at least 5,000 plant species for their livelihood (Clement et al. 2015). In Brazil, archaeologists have excavated dozens of Paleo-Indian sites in different environmental niches, most dated ~ 13,000–8,000 years BP. In Monte Alegre, Paleo-Indians inhabited caves and rock shelters several hundred feet


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FIGURE 2.3  Paleo-Indian cave painting, Monte Alegre, Brazil Source: Phil Clarke Hill/Getty Images

asl overlooking the floodplains of the Amazon River. Those at the Cavern of Painted Stone (Caverna de Pedra Pintada), named for the elaborate pictographs found there, periodically lived in the cave for over 1,200 years; fished and hunted game; and produced elaborate rock art depicting astral images such as comets, suns and moons, and of humans dancing and hunting (Roosevelt 2014; see Figure  2.3). Paleo-Indians first settled first along the major rivers and then fanned out into different ecological niches.

Archaic During the 7,500 years of the Archaic period, societies experienced momentous changes that significantly set their worlds apart from their Paleo-Indian predecessors. Their members domesticated plants; adopted a less-mobile lifestyles, living in semi-sedentary settings; and exhibited initial signs of hierarchy and inequality. By the end of this interval, agriculture was the dominant mode of livelihood; large, densely populated, and permanent settlements were common; and political-economic differentiation widely entrenched. Pottery, independently invented in various regions by ~ 6,000 years BP, is significant because it points to conditions ripe for social complexity not usually associated with transient foragers, and also because archaeologists rely on ceramic stylistic similarities (horizon styles) to trace economic and cultural interactions over time and space. These changes did not take place simultaneously across all of LAC.

Before the Europeans


Between ~ 11,000–5,000 years BP Archaic foragers domesticated the important cultigens that sustained LAC societies for millennia – manioc or cassava ( yuca), peanuts, beans, maize, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, yams, cacao, chili peppers, avocado, and coca, among others. They also domesticated animals – alpacas, llamas, and guinea pigs (cuys) by Andeans, and ducks, turkeys, and dogs by Mesoamerican peoples. Plant domestication occurred independently in several South American and Mesoamerican niches. The South American centers of domestication were the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, the eastern flanks of the Andes, Amazonia, and Peru’s coastal valleys. Highland Peruvian and Bolivian Andean peoples domesticated tubers – oca, ullucu, and thousands of varieties of potatoes – as well as nutritious grains such as quinoa and tarwi. They also domesticated llamas and alpacas about the same time, forging agro-pastoral economic systems. Amazonia was also an important center of incipient agriculture. By the European arrival, Amazonian peoples had domesticated 83 native plant species, including tobacco, cacao, manioc, sweet potato, and chili peppers, and were cultivating 55 introduced species. Amazonian groups, domesticating manioc (from the Tupí word maniot) about 9,000 years ago, relied for their livelihood on a mix of horticulture, agroforestry, and foraging, including fishing. Maize was first domesticated in southwestern Mexico by ~ 8,700 years BP, and beans independently in Mesoamerica and South America by ~ 6,500 years BP, as were squash and chili peppers (Love 2014; Pearsall 2008; Roosevelt 2014; Stahl 2008). With maize, beans, and squash, Mesoamerican peoples forged a nutritious and productive agro-ecological system known as the milpa, in which The maize plant supports beans, which in turn fix nitrogen useful for squash and maize; the squash protects the area against insects, with its ground – covering habit and secretion of cucurbitacins, which attracts and poisons them. . . . Maize provides carbohydrates, squashes provide lipids, and beans provide proteins, minerals, and vitamins. (Zizumbo-Villarreal and Flores-Silva, et al. 2012) Foragers spread domesticates widely. For example, domesticated maize appears in the Guatemalan highlands and northern Belize ~ 6,000–5,400 years BP, eventually reaching southeastern Uruguay; some Mesoamerican peoples adopted manioc and at least one species of domesticated squash from Central America; and peanuts, manioc, and sweet potatoes from the southern Amazon Basin appear in the northeastern flanks of the Andes. Far-flung economic and cultural exchanges linked foraging groups over immense areas. The transition to incipient agriculture was a slow process that gradually complemented Paleo-Indian lifeways. In time, foragers became less mobile, residing in settlements for longer periods of time. The emergence of semi-permanent settlements during the midArchaic, and permanent villages during its latter half, points to the ability of Archaic peoples to develop secure, year-round resources – which did not always depend on agriculture. These transformations were also paralleled by the latter appearance of elaborate ceremonial burials for elite persons.

South America Archaeologists have uncovered some of the earliest South American Archaic sites along the Pacific coastlines. One example is Las Vegas in Ecuador’s northern coast, settled between ~ 10,000–6,600 years BP. In this diverse ecological niche of mangrove swamps,


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stretches of tropical forest, estuaries, and beaches, its early dwellers primarily subsisted by hunting small mammals, with fishing increasingly important later. Around 8,000 years BP, they began cultivating root crops and squash, and maize 3,000 years later. The presence of grinding stones indicate that they processed seeds into flour. Often semi-sedentary livelihoods did not initially rely on incipient agriculture but an intensification and specialization of a maritime subsistence adaptation. Along Peru and Chile’s Atacama Desert, foragers at Quebrada Jaguay, accustomed to seasonally moving between the Andean foothills and the Pacific coast, began focusing almost exclusively on coastal resources, especially shellfish, remaining in settlements for extended stays. At other coastal sites Archaic peoples hunted sea birds and harvested an array of marine life – mollusks, crab, sea urchins, and shellfish. Along Brazil’s Atlantic coast enormous shell mounds called sambaquis, some dating to 8,000  years ago, point to foragers specializing in shell fishing. Others in nearby semipermanent settlements gathered and processed plants and seeds, and fashioned ornaments from polished bones and stones (Gaspar et al. 2008; Moore 2014). Ritual burial sites appear during the mid-Archaic. A striking example of ritualized mortuary practices comes from the Pacific coast, where Chinchorro peoples settled ~ 11,000– 10,000 years BP. Taking advantage of a diverse landscape of narrow valleys, streams, and oases to the east, and the abundant resources of the Pacific Ocean (e.g., marine birds, sea mammals, fish, and mollusks) to the west, they soon opted for a sedentary lifestyle. In what may be the earliest evidence of Andean ancestor worship, Chinchorro peoples began mummifying bodies at least 7,000 years ago and continued doing so for another four millennia (Figure 2.4). Elaborate burials, suggesting, like the Chinchorro mummies, the onset of hierarchy, also surface in sambaqui shell mounds. In one southern Brazilian sambaqui some bodies were buried with bone and shell jewelry, laced with red pigment, and accompanied by large quantities of plant and animal remains (Arriaza et al. 2008; Moore 2014). Amazonia offered vast terrestrial and aquatic resources that enabled Archaic peoples to turn to semi-sedentary living. Analyses of ceramic remains suggest that early villages straddled the várzea floodplains by ~ 7,500–6,000 years BP. (Some archaeologists believe that Archaic Amazonians were the first to invent pottery in LAC.) These villages were primarily fishing communities, some which generated enormous shell mounds. In the Brazilian Amazon, some sambaqui sites occupied for over 2,000 years had ritual/ceremonial purposes (Roosevelt 2014). Later, other Brazilian Amazonian groups turned to incipient agriculture to supplement their foraging lifeways, and it seems reasonable to assume that manioc was the main source of carbohydrates for early farming communities, who might have also planted sweet potatoes, beans, squash, and pineapples in addition to managing a variety of palms. Protein would come from small game and fish, and occasionally medium to large animals. . . . Additional nutrients were obtained from fruits and nuts, which were always abundant in the rainforest. At this point, people lived in small villages consisting of two to four houses, or even in isolated houses along the rivers. The population of each village would range from 40 to 300 people. . . . These figures are based on the overall size of sites and the amount and types of remains, as well as ethnographic models. Villages were usually located next to sources of spring water and streams, but not always near navigable rivers. (Schaan 2011:17)

Before the Europeans


FIGURE 2.4  Chinchorro mummy, Peru Source: Pablo Trincado CC BY 2.0

Mesoamerica The term Mesoamerica refers to regions of Mexico and Central America influenced by Maya and Aztec civilizations. The Maya region includes southeastern Mexico (especially Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Chiapas); Guatemala; Belize; and western Honduras and El Salvador. The Aztec-Nahuatl segment of Mesoamerica extends from Mexico’s Mesa Central to the western limits of the Maya region. Like their South American contemporaries, early Mesoamerican Archaic peoples also relied on a broad subsistence strategy. About 10,000 years BP, foragers in Santa Isabel Iztapán, near present-day Mexico City, hunted large mammoths. Excavations at caves and rock shelters (these were probably seasonal settlements) have yielded bones of deer, rabbits, and other small mammals, as well as evidence of maize and squash domestication. Foragers at the Guilá Naquitz cave in the Valley of Oaxaca, occupied by at least 11,000 years BP, relied on an array of plant foods (acorns, pine nuts, maize, and squash, among many others) and hunted deer, rabbits, raccoons, and wild birds. Rock shelters in the Honduran highlands reveal a similar subsistence strategy. Shell mound sites provide some of the earliest evidence of Archaic lifeways along the Pacific coastlines. These, dated to ~ 7,500–3,500 years BP, suggest that groups lived in semi-permanent settlements and had a specialized maritime strategy, perhaps also relying on domesticated plants. Some


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scholars believe that they were horticulturalists who lived in inland locales and periodically visited the coastline to fish and process clams and other maritime resources. Late Archaic sites in the Gulf Coast region and the southern Maya lowlands, and evidence of maize slash-and-burn farming, date to about 7,000–5,500 years BP (Foias 2013; Kennett et al. 2010; Kennett 2016).

Formative The Formative period is a phase of economic, political, and social consolidation in which the changes during the previous Archaic become firmly and widely entrenched. Hallmarks of these ~ 7,500 years include intensive agriculture, populous settlements, stratified societies, an elaborate division of labor, metallurgy, and monumental public structures. These changes unfolded at different times and places. The intensification of production generated surpluses that elites channeled into constructing monumental public works, which in turn served to legitimize their rule. By the mid-to-late Formative, politically and economically complex chiefdoms and state societies were commonplace. Spaniards eventually referred to these as señoríos (from the Spanish señor, sir); curacazgos (from the Quechua curaca, chief or leader); cacicazgos (from the Arawak cacique, chief); or reinos (Spanish, kingdom) (Villamarín and Villamarín 1999).

South America and Caribbean By the late Archaic/early Formative period semi-sedentary foragers began drastically transforming their landscapes by constructing massive earthworks to reap increasing quantities of crops. Raised fields and irrigation systems, both widespread by 7,000 years BP, exemplify this intensification of agriculture. There were two types of raised fields. In the first, beds of soil were stacked over the terrain to reclaim swampy or seasonally flooded lands. These were prevalent across stretches of Amazonia; the Guyana coastlines; and the llanos of Venezuela, Colombia, and Bolivia. The second type of raised fields – as in the Andean Altiplano – was designed to enhance agricultural productivity by protecting crops from frost. Irrigation systems were also of two kinds. Canal irrigation diverted waters from high mountain slopes to nearby crop fields, while terraced agriculture entailed carving fields from mountain sides, which would be rain-fed as well as irrigated. Irrigation systems were especially prominent in the Andean Pacific coastlines and the highlands. Raised fields and irrigated agriculture demonstrated the political organization necessary to coordinate and mobilize huge amounts of labor and reflected the need to generate surpluses to feed growing populations (Moore 2014). Some raised field systems covered enormous areas. In the Río Guayas basin of southwestern Ecuador, over 50,000 hectares of land were reclaimed that could have fed 150,000 people. A striking example of raised field agriculture is from the Llanos de Mojos region in northeastern Bolivia. There, Amazonian societies built raised platforms over 6,000 miles of seasonally inundated lands in which they planted manioc, sweet potato, and maize, among other crops. Societies in the western Venezuelan llanos constructed large raised field mounds connected by causeways and built defensive structures and large ceremonial burials, all suggesting that these too were chiefly societies. Elsewhere, raised fields

Before the Europeans


complemented an intensive exploitation of riverine, coastal, and terrestrial resources. In southwestern and northern Colombia, chiefdoms with hundreds of densely populated settlements flourished 1,500 years before the Spanish conquest. Some of the spectacular achievements of the better-known chiefdoms – e.g., Muisca, Tairona, Tierraadentro, and Alto Magdalena – include massive mounds, sumptuous monumental burial chambers, elaborate stone sculptures depicting anthropomorphic beings, finely decorated pottery, and exquisite gold artifacts (Figure 2.5) (Drennan 2008; Navarrete 2008; Oyuela-Caycedo 2008). In the Caribbean, The study of the chiefdom is at the heart of archaeological research and interpretation of precolonial societies. . . . Upon arrival at the Greater Antilles, Spanish chroniclers documented the sociopolitical networks of the indigenous Taíno peoples as comprised of a series of cacicazgos (or chiefdoms) under the centralized leadership of caciques (or chiefs). Cacicazgos are described by Spanish chroniclers as large territories, comprised of many smaller villages (yucayake), ruled by a paramount cacique (chief or lord) who commanded over social, economic, and ritual life. . . . The notion of the chiefdom is deeply engrained in archaeological perspectives of the Caribbean where the concept was, in part, initially conceived . . . and where it is presently applied to represent the apex of social evolution of precolonial societies of the region. (Torres 2013:348)

FIGURE 2.5  Muisca gold mask, Colombia Source: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz CC BY-SA 3.0


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Spaniards first encountered chiefdoms in the Caribbean. Archaeological and linguistic data confirm that starting ~ 7,000–6,000 years BP the Caribbean islands were settled by Central American and northwestern South American peoples (Granberry 2013; Keegan and Hofman 2017). The Arawak-speaking Taíno peoples from the Orinoco River basin of northern South America reached the Greater Antilles at least 500 years before they “Greeted Columbus” (Rouse 1992). Taíno stems from the Arawak word nitaíno, meaning noble or elite, a linguistic clue suggesting differentiation and inequality. When the Spaniards arrived in the Caribbean, a final migratory stream of a people was making its way north through the Lesser Antilles. These were the Caribs, who infamously were labeled by Columbus as cannibals, a view that became entrenched in the European popular imagination after the 1796 publication of the Oxford English Dictionary (Hulme 1986). The Carib homeland was probably the Guiana Shield. Spanish chroniclers identified 17 matrilineal cacicazgos in Puerto Rico, all but one located in or near well-watered interior river valleys. Taíno settlements typically included stone-lined central plazas and adjoining courts, flanked by residential buildings, features which “served as the primary evidence for centers of political power, communal ceremonies, and corvée labor controlled by chiefly personages” (Torres 2013:350). Although Arawak-speaking Taínos disappeared soon after the conquest, their memory has not been lost. Toponyms have a special ability to evoke memory, to connect the past with the present. This is the case in Puerto Rico where Borínquen, a term that many Puerto Ricans use to refer to their homeland, is Arawak, as are the names of many of Puerto Rico’s municipalities (e.g., Bayamón, Guaynabo, Turabo, Guayama). In Amazonia, chiefdoms, densely populated settlements, mounds, and elite ceremonial centers sprang up along the floodplains by the end of the Archaic and early Formative (~ 3,500–3,000 years BP). As Schaan notes, social hierarchies and social stratification in northern Bolivia, the upper Xingu River, and in the central and lower Amazon regions developed as people began to transform landscapes, managing earth to create new subsistence systems based on a managed ecology. The presence of burials and . . . ceremonial practices related to shamanistic rites as well as possible ancestor worship indicates the spread of religious systems associated with the new landscapes. (2011:23–24) These, then, were not isolated polities, and the presence of Multiethnic societies, regional sociopolitical systems, and interregional interaction underscore the diverse pathways of social complexity in the region. In this context, politically independent, permanent villages . . . joined into larger, regional confederations, for instance around singular leaders and warfare. In other cases, more centralized and hierarchical regional societies were integrated through ritual and elite exchange. (Heckenberger and Góes Neves 2009:254–255) One example of a large regional chiefdom is from the Brazilian island of Marajó, at the mouth of the Amazon River, first occupied by sedentary peoples about 3,500  years

Before the Europeans


ago. Early villages were small, and their inhabitants made pottery and subsisted by fishing, hunting, and gathering. About 2,000 years later Marajó peoples began building residential and ceremonial mounds, some more than 30 feet high. They also started producing finely decorated ceramics. Mortuary practices and burial urns show that Marajó society was stratified. Elite persons, for example, were buried in larger, more elaborate urns containing a richer array of goods, their bodies stripped of flesh and their bones painted red. Residential compounds consisted of long houses, presumably occupied by clusters of kin of perhaps 12–60 people, and some villages had several thousand inhabitants. One important feature of Marajó society was that it was a non-agricultural chiefdom, whose members overwhelmingly relied on aquaculture for a living (Moore 2014). Other chiefdoms emerged elsewhere in Amazonia. Along the floodplains of the Tapajós River, near Manaus, Brazil, the Santarem culture thrived about 2,000 years ago. Their main settlement extended over 80 miles and consisted of neighborhoods with house platforms, plazas, burial pits, and craft centers. By the European conquest Santarem was a hierarchical society engaged in warfare with neighboring groups: Santarem . . . art and technology . . . emphasise images and objects relating to priestly chiefs and warriors: men sitting on stools wearing shamans’ accoutrements, rattles, musical instruments, war clubs, axes and arrow points, predatory animals, such as felines and raptorial birds. Conquest Period records of the region mention active regional warfare carried out by large assemblages of fighters carried in large canoes. The first missionaries also record both men and women town chiefs of elite lineage and community worship of deity images and of chiefs’ mummy bundles. Santarem . . . was headed by an elite woman in the 17th century, according to its missionary. Myths and chronicles of the period of first contact mention women warriors, religious leaders and chiefs. (Roosevelt 2014:1193–1194) It is along the Peruvian coastlines, between the Pacific ocean and the narrow valleys straddling the western flanks of the Andes, where irrigated agriculture and the rise of some of the earliest states and cities went hand in hand. Canal irrigation systems were in place by the mid-Archaic, ~ 7,000 years BP. Some of the earliest urban centers (~ 5,000 years BP) include Caral near the Supe Valley and, further north, Sechín Bajo in the Casma Valley. Caral was a large urban settlement with 32 public buildings, including a 145-acre monumental center with mounds, circular courts, plazas, and a large amphitheater. Sechín Bajo had massive monumental structures, along with sunken circular plazas, enclosed patios, and platforms made from stones and adobe bricks. Sechín peoples attached a great deal of importance to public religious ceremonies. For example, they carved from stone reliefs of decapitated heads and painted murals of human sacrifice and anthropomorphic felines and crocodiles, and some buildings may have been ritual burial chambers (Moore 2014). Other states – the Moche, Chimú, Wari, and Tiwanaku – emerged in the latter half of the Formative and later grew into full-fledged empires during the Horizon period (discussed later in this chapter). Canals irrigating terraced fields meticulously carved from mountain slopes were built in most highland-Andean valleys where complex polities surfaced. Most terraced fields were abandoned soon after the conquest (Guillet 1987).


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The central Andean highlands were also an important nucleus of state development. Between 5,000–3,500 years BP: a varied array of social formations developed in the Central Andes, emergent complex societies that created distinctive types of public architecture focused on religion and ceremonies. While the coast of Peru witnessed the development of monumental centers and . . . cities . . . communities in the Andean highlands created very different places and spaces. In general, these early highland sites contained architecture that was smaller in scale. . . . Rather than the enormous mounds and expansive plazas of the coast, highland communities . . . constructed smaller chambers in which attention focused on the interiors. Initially, these spaces were associated with relatively small social groups, but some became important ceremonial centers for regions or even vast zones of the Central Andes. . . . [These] centers were religious or theocratic in their focus rather than capitals of chiefdoms or states. (Moore 2014:237–238) Chavín de Huántar, occupied by 4,000 years BP, is one of the most famous archaeological sites of the Central Andean Formative, long believed to have been the epicenter of a far-flung religious tradition. Located in the Andes at 10,000 feet asl and with access to the Amazonian lowlands and the eastern coastal valleys, the site covers almost 125 acres, with massive, ceremonial buildings built over terraces constructed 1,000 years after its initial occupation (Figure 2.6). Some structures are made of granite stone decorated with sculpted heads depicting felines and snakes. One of its most distinctive religious artifacts is the 15-foot-tall Lanzón, a granite stela of a fanged anthropomorphic feline representing Chavín’s major religious deity (Moore 2014).

FIGURE 2.6  The Castillo, Chavín de Huántar, Peru Source: Martin St-Amant CC BY 3.0


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Mesoamerica By the mid-Formative (~ 3,900–2,500 years BP) urban settlements, pottery, monumental public works, and craft production (especially metallurgy and textile weaving) were common throughout Mesoamerica. Some of the earliest villages along Mexico’s Pacific coastlines date to ~ 3,700 years BP. Sedentary village life did not materialize in the Maya lowlands well before 3,500 years BP. Pottery appeared in Chiapas and the Guatemalan Pacific coastline by 3,900 years BP, and several hundred years later in Central Mexico. Craft specialization and long-distance trading of prized commodities (e.g., jade and greenstones from Guatemala, iron artifacts from Chiapas and Oaxaca, and obsidian from central Mexico) point to an elaborate division of labor (Pool 2016). The earliest example of societal inequality in Mesoamerica is Paso de la Amada in Guatemala’s Pacific coast (Pool 2016). Yet the best known politically complex early Formative society hails from the Mexican states of Tabasco and Vera Cruz in the Gulf Coast region. According to Aztec narratives gathered by Spanish chroniclers, there lived the Olmec – “people from the east  .  .  . a land of wealth, a land of abundance” (Grove 2014:2). Olmec society flourished ~ 3,200–2,400  years BP, accomplishing spectacular feats in iconography, calendrics, writing, architecture, and sculpture that later influenced Maya, Teotihuacán, and Monte Albán societies (discussed later in this chapter). At La Venta and San Lorenzo, archaeologists have discovered over 200 stone carvings, the most distinctive of which are colossal stone heads, some weighing several tons (Figure 2.7). Settlements were large, and agricultural fields were canal irrigated. Dwellings built over raised platforms associated with fine jewelry and prestige items (e.g., jade) reveal that Olmec society was stratified into elites and commoners. The colossal heads and carvings on other

FIGURE 2.7  Olmec colossal head Source: TomClark18 CC BY-SA 4.0


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stone monuments, such as the multi-ton altar-thrones, likely represented royal personages. Olmec influence was widespread and long-lasting, as they initiated the concept of creating stone sculptures, thus sowing the seeds of a major Mesoamerican art tradition that became widespread and remained highly significant up to the arrival of the Spanish . . . 2700 years later. That is their greatest and most visible legacy. The Olmec heritage is most apparent in the tropical lowlands of southern Mesoamerica in the Classic period Maya use of stone monuments and Long Count dates to commemorate rulership. (Grove 2014:182)

The Maya region.  Archaeologists divide the Maya region into three areas. The Northern Lowlands are centered in the relatively flat and dry Yucatán Peninsula; the Southern Lowlands are a belt of tropical rainforests at the southern edge of the Yucatán, in northern Belize and Honduras, and in Guatemala’s northern Petén region; and the Southern Highlands include the mountainous segments of Chiapas (Mexico), central Guatemala, and southwestern Honduras and El Salvador. Between ~ 3,500–3,000 years BP village life, agriculture, and pottery were entrenched in the Southern Lowlands and Highlands of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. A  thousand years later, stratified societies, agricultural intensification, irrigation canal systems, long-distance trade and cultural connections, large settlements, ceremonial centers, pyramids, ball courts, elite burials, divine kingship, hieroglyphic writing, and stone stelae – all emblematic of widespread Mesoamerican traditions – were firmly in place (Evans 2013; Foias 2013; Pool 2016). In the Northern Lowlands the earliest complex societies date to 2,600 years BP. The Yucatec Maya were active in long-distance trade and shared cultural traits with the Gulf coast Olmec and southern Maya polities. Yet it is in the Southern Lowlands where Maya cultural development reached its apogee, and El Mirador its first full-fledged state. Located in Guatemala’s northern Petén area, the southern-most part of Mexico’s state of Campeche, and eastern Belize, El Mirador developed in a setting of rolling hills, marshes, swamplands, and forests. Its main settlement was over 10 square miles and housed at least 50,000 persons, and its largest temple-pyramid was almost 250 feet high (Foias 2013; Stanton 2016). Hierarchy was clearly present in El Mirador by the mid-Formative, for there is evidence for leadership and status distinctions. . . . The existence of leadership positions is suggested by the control of labor and expenditures for the “public good,” as suggested by the construction of monumental platforms, pyramidal structures, dams, reservoirs, canals, raised fields, and causeways, as well as the construction of specialized ritual structures of consistent form and standardized format. . . . The existence of status distinctions comes from evidence of variations in residence size and architectural sophistication, and the introduction of symbol systems that distinguished groups and differentiated elites from the masses. Differential status also can be seen in the importation and distribution of exotic goods from the Maya highlands (obsidian, jade, basalt, granite) and coasts (shells, coral, parrot fish), stone monuments, and

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other indicators of rank and status such as jade- or hematite-inlaid human incisors . . . and cranial deformation. (Hansen 2016:351–352) Guatemala’s northern Petén lowlands are also significant for the earliest polychrome murals that later became a pervasive trait of Maya art (Figure 2.8). At San Bartolo, these vivid murals depicted paramount rulers and deities, and probably conveyed origin myths, such as the creation of the Maya cosmos, involving the Maize God and Hunahpu (one of the Hero Twins, the central characters of the Quiche origin mythology called the Popol Vuh written in the sixteenth century by Quiche Mayas), bloodletting, and even the coronation of a human ruler or paramount god. . . . The sophistication of the cosmology (and glyphic writing) already present in these murals and their similarity to mythological scenes painted in the Postclassic Maya barkpaper book called the Dresden Codex and to the later Popol Vuh is remarkable: it shows cultural and religious continuity from the Late Preclassic into the Postconquest Colonial period, over almost 2,000 years. (Foias 2013:10–11) By the mid-Formative, at least 12 states or kingdoms were present in the Southern Highlands of Mexico and Guatemala (Clark 2016). In Guatemala, excavations at

FIGURE 2.8  San Bartolo polychrome mural, Guatemala Source: Danita Delimont/Alamy Stock Photo


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Kaminaljuyu, one of the largest city states of the mid-Formative, have unearthed irrigation systems that tapped water from nearby lakes, pyramids, ceramic assemblages with Olmec-like motifs, stone sculptures with hieroglyphic engravings depicting bloodletting and human sacrifice, and elaborate burial urns, one containing 33 trophy heads. Art and iconography provide us with additional clues of how ritual power and political inequality were intertwined: The role of art, especially the representation of rulers, in the construction of an early Maya ideology of rulership has received much attention. The subject matter of the Kaminaljuyu corpus is highly varied, but several themes are represented with great frequency. The first is that of the presentation of subjects to rulers. . . . In these scenes, kneeling individuals are shown before rulers who are enthroned or standing with full regalia. . . . The second theme is deity impersonation, in which rulers are depicted with costumes and/or masks representing divine beings. These latter representations embodied new ideologies of rulership based upon creation mythologies that anticipate some narratives found in the Popol Vuh text. (Love 2016:320)

Mesa Central.  By the late Formative, the Mesa Central became the birthplace of Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlán, possibly the two largest pre-Columbian cities, both more populous than European urban centers of the time. Boosted by irrigation canals, terracing, and raised fields that reclaimed swamps, intensive agriculture fed populations ranging between 100,000–200,000. Chinampas were highly productive raised fields in the Basin of Mexico. In this system, Large straight ditches were dug to drain away excess water. Between the ditches, long narrow artificial islands were built up to form planting surfaces. Mud and muck from the lake bottom were piled up, along with vegetation and other organic matter, and the fields were held together with wooden stakes driven into the lake bottom. Trees were also planted to help stabilize the fields. The resulting plots were very productive. The muck and organic matter served as fertilizers, and the roots of the maize and other crops drew on abundant ground-water from the naturally high water table. The fields were piled high enough to prevent the roots becoming waterlogged, and fertility was maintained by periodically adding more vegetation and rich muck scraped from the canals. Farmers used flat-bottomed canoes to travel on the canals between the fields and bring in their harvest. (Smith 2011:74) Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlán (the latter discussed later in this chapter) were preceded by large settlements, long-distance trade, Olmec-style stone monuments (e.g., altar-thrones), Maya-like stone inscriptions, and pyramidal structures dating to the early Formative. Teotihuacán was a massive urban center that appeared 2,000 years BP, dominated central

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Mexico, interacted with Maya states for six centuries, and collapsed 800 years later. It had enormous mythical significance for the Aztecs who emerged on scene 600 years after its demise. The famed Spanish chronicler Fray Bernardino de Sahagún recounted an Aztec legend that traced their divine origins to Teotihuacán, which in Nahuatl means “Place of the Gods”: How the gods had their beginning . . . that there in Teotihuacan, they say, is the place; the time was when there still was darkness. There all the gods assembled and consulted among themselves who would bear upon his back the burden of rule, who would be the sun. (Evans 2013:257) Teotihuacán is well known for three ceremonial centers – the Sun, Moon, and Feathered Serpent Pyramids – built over several centuries by successive rulers (Figure 2.9). Excavations of elite burials have unearthed war-related artifacts and remains of sacrificial human victims, including a mass grave of captured enemy warriors. Other graves include remains of eagles, jaguars, pumas, wolves, and snakes. A symbol of political and ritual power, the Feathered Serpent Pyramid was a political-religious ceremonial center with

FIGURE 2.9  Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán, Mexico Source: Deror_avi CC BY-SA 4.0


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regional influence. The Feathered Serpent deity, which the Aztecs called Quetzalcoatl, had deep and wide Mesoamerican roots, for it was a patron of rulership, creativity and fertility, as well as being linked with . . . Venus. To the ancient Mesoamericans . . . it was associated with warfare, and cults devoted to it where known among peoples of the Central Highlands, as well as among the Maya and peoples of the Gulf lowlands, and among the Zapotecs of Oaxaca. (Evans 2013:261) An elite burial chamber with Maya-style greenstone adornments symbolizing leadership attests to the wide cultural, political, and economic influence of Teotihuacán. Its rulers had a superb knowledge of astronomy, geometry, and a calendrical system probably in place centuries before Teotihuacán’s initial rise, all interweaved with myths of origin (Sugiyama 2016). State formation was also taking place in the ethnically and linguistically diverse southern highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico, where settled village life dates to ~ 3,900– 3,400 years BP, and at least half a dozen chiefdoms emerged after 2,700 years BP (Elson 2016; Grove 2016). Several centuries later the Zapotec state of Monte Albán, in the Oaxaca Valley and less than 200 miles from Teotihuacán, was expanding into neighboring valleys and the Pacific coast. At its highpoint, Monte Albán had 30,000 inhabitants and its main settlement was ringed by ceremonial buildings (Figure 2.10). Stone iconography depicted familiar Mesoamerican motifs, such as elite rulers, jaguars, and human sacrifice. Monte Albán and Teotihuacán maintained economic and political ties for centuries. Some of the most distinctive features of Maya and Mesoamerican culture developed by the Formative period. The 260-day calendar likely emerged in Oaxaca’s Zapotec

FIGURE 2.10  Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico Source: Selbst fotografiert CC BY-SA 2.0 DE

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region, probably with the rise of Monte Albán. It is also known as the Divinatory Almanac because specific days and intervals were related to omens and echoed the ebb and flow of crucial natural occurrences, such as the passing of agricultural seasons and human gestation. Days were associated with specific features of the natural environment. For instance, the 5th day (called coatl by the Aztecs, zee by the Zapotecs, and chicchan by the lowland Maya) was linked with the serpent. Maya and Mesoamerican peoples also developed a 360-day Long Count calendar in which years (tun) were divided into 18 months, each with 20 days. Twenty tun equaled one katun (7,200 days); 20 katun comprised a baktun; and the full Long Count cycle consisted of 13 baktuns, or approximately 5,000 years (Aveni 2016; Evans 2013). Calendars and mythical narratives were often inscribed with hieroglyphics in stone monuments. The earliest evidence of mid-Formative hieroglyphic writing is from the Olmec site of La Venta. The initial Maya hieroglyphics date to the Late Formative at San Bartolo, in Guatemala’s Petén region. Hieroglyphic writing was based on 1,000 symbols representing either syllables or words, and it was closely tied to the institution of kingship. It had developed in the Late Preclassic [i.e., Formative], contemporary with the rise of the first royal dynasties, and it disappeared almost completely from public monuments after the collapse of Maya kingship in the ninth and tenth centuries AD. . . . Maya writing was regarded to be of divine origin, conveying the words of gods, and also that of kings, the impersonators of gods on earth. (Grube 2016:852)

Horizon The brief Horizon period (~ 1,800–500  years BP, i.e., up to the European conquest) was the period of empire building. In South America, empires arose in Peru’s northern coast, the Central Andes, and the Titicaca basin in the Altiplano. In Mesoamerica they developed in Mexico’s Mesa Central but not in the Maya region. The last 100 years or so witnessed the quick rise and almost sudden (in historical time) demise of the two most powerful empires in the Americas: the Inca and Aztec. The mighty Inca and Aztec empires, and the Maya states, that confronted the European conquerors were the result of a long process of state formation that led to huge, densely populated, and ethnically and class stratified societies. The legacy of this history of state-building spanning thousands of years is still very much alive, as these regions currently have the largest number of indigenous peoples in LAC.

South America and the Incas The Moche state flourished in Peru’s northern coastal valley of the same name between ~ 1,800–1,200 years BP, eventually extending its reach and influence to at least six neighboring valleys. Moche settlements included enormous temples, plazas, mounds, and ceremonial centers and, in the Moche Valley, 18-mile-long canals that irrigated over 30,000 acres of farmland. Moche society, with its distinctive pottery (Figure 2.11), metallurgy, and elaborate textiles, was highly stratified. In the Lambayeque Valley’s Tomb of the Lord


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FIGURE 2.11  Moche warrior Source: Mike Peel CC by-SA 4.0

of Sipán – “the richest burial excavated by archaeologists anywhere in the Americas” – a regal person was entombed with Over a thousand ceramic vessels.  .  .  . The body was in a coffin made with wooden planks (a rare commodity on the desert coast), held together by straps of beaten copper . . . [and] was attired in a knee-length tunic . . . with gilded copper platelets; a necklace with gold and silver beads . . . and another silver necklace that depicted a coil of human heads. The lord had four metal nose ornaments, half-moon sheets of beaten gold. His head was covered with a large sheet of hammered gold, shaped to fit the contours of his face. . . . [He] was buried with several gold crowns. . . . The Lord of Sipán was a warrior-king. This was a royal grave. (Moore 2014:317–318)

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While some archaeologists believe that the Moche was a regional state, others classify it as an empire. There is consensus, though, that the Chimú, which also developed in the Moche Valley, had all trappings of empire. One of the largest South American cities, the Chimú capital of Chan Chan housed 30,000–40,000 people and included 10 massive palaces (ciudadelas, little cities) surrounded by 30-foot-high thick walls. The ciudadelas were flanked by non-elite neighborhoods where craft production (e.g., spinning and weaving, as well as gold- and copperwork) was commonplace. By the 1300s the Chimú began conquering nearby valley polities, building their own compounds over razed enemy structures (as in the Lambayeque Valley), and integrating defeated elites into their administrative system. The cultural and political practice of raising symbolically laden public structures over defeated enemies’ buildings, and of incorporating defeated elites as a way of legitimizing and consolidating imperial rule, was not restricted to the Chimú: the Incas did likewise with their defeated enemies, including the Chimú, and the Spaniards did the same with the Incas and Aztecs. The Chimú empire eventually extended its military and political control over much of Peru’s northern coastline, established governmental centers in conquered valleys, and mobilized labor within and across valleys in an effort to expand the Moche’s previous irrigation system; in one project the Chimú built canals that channeled water over 40 miles between two adjacent valleys. And like other states and empires before and after them, religious ideology served to legitimize elite rule: according to one creation myth, Chimú royals were descendants from one pairs of stars whereas nonelites from a different pair (Moore 2014). The Incas conquered the Chimú several decades before the Spanish arrival. Empires also appeared in the Andes at roughly the same time. Wari, in Peru’s Ayacucho region, extended its reach over large areas of the Peruvian highlands between ~ 1,250–1,000 years BP. Further south, adjacent to Lake Titicaca on Bolivia’s Altiplano, Tiwanaku developed almost simultaneously with Wari, eventually controlling much of the Altiplano and parts of the Peruvian and Chilean coasts (Figure 2.12). Like all expanding empires, Tiwanaku channeled labor into boosting agricultural production, and constructed a vast network of raised fields that could have fed 100,000 people. Unlike the fate of other empires, Tiwanaku’ s demise (~ 1,000–900 years BP) was not due to conquest but to a prolonged and devastating drought (Isbell 2008). In an example of the relevance of symbolically laden archaeological ruins, it was precisely at Tiwanaku where Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, held his initial inauguration in 2006 (Chapter 5). The Inca empire (Tawantinsuyu, Land of the Four Quarters) is legendary, its spectacular accomplishments documented and studied for over five centuries (beginning with the Spanish chroniclers), and publicized in an endless flow of books, websites, travel magazines, tourist brochures, film, and popular media. There are quite good reasons for this fame, for the Incas represent a social and political achievement several orders of magnitude larger than any other pre-contact South American society. At its peak, the Inca Empire extended from what is today northern Ecuador all the way south to central Chile, a distance of more than 4,000 km (2,400 miles). . . . (To put that in perspective, the Aztecs . . . controlled an area of about 1,500 km (900 miles) between central Mexico and central America.). . . . With a population conservatively estimated at between 6 million and 14 million people, the Inca created


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FIGURE 2.12  Tiwanaku, Bolivia

one of the largest states in the Ancient World. . . . The Inca achievement was outstanding for other reasons. Not only was it a large and populous empire, but its expansion remarkably swift, with most of its territory gained in a century or less. Further, the Incas left their distinctive material imprint on these territories, building fortresses, roads, way stations (tambos), and shrines throughout their empire. . . . The Inca Empire built in stone and adobe, architectural traces of its presence. The subjects of Tawantinsuyu built bridges spanning deep rivers canyons . . . sculpted hillsides into terraced fields, and channeled water from mountains springs to farm fields of potatoes, coca and maize. . . . These material achievements were simultaneously political achievements. The Inca . . . mobilized an enormous workforce, organizing households, communities, and regions into a nested hierarchy of administration. This labor force was directed to a vast array of projects – road building, palace construction, weaving or warfare – with a very high percentage of success. (Moore 2014:417–419) The Cusco Valley in the central Peruvian highlands is the Inca homeland (Figure 2.13). Post-conquest chronicles pinpoint the rise and spread of the Incas at around 1300, but their origins lie deeper in the past. The Wari empire founded important colonies in and dominated the Cusco area about 500 years earlier, interacting with its smaller and lesspowerful polities, whose preeminence rose after Wari’s demise. Aymara was spoken in this region long before the emergence of the Incas, and Inca nobility may have also

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FIGURE 2.13  Cusco Valley, Peru Source: McKay Savage CC BY 2.0

spoken Puquina, a language distantly related to Aymara and most likely the language spoken in Tiwanaku. By 1300 the Cusco region was densely populated, large villages and terraced fields dotted the landscape, and at least five major warring ethnic polities (including the Inca) vied for control. It is in this conflictive context that beginning ~ 1400 imperial armies extended Inca control from Colombia to the Maule River in southern Chile, and between the eastern flanks of the Andes to the Pacific coast, in four waves ending in 1525 during the reign of Huayna Capac. As the Incas expanded their reach, so did Quechua languages spread (Bauer 1996; Bauer and Covey 2002; Covey 2006; Heggarty and Renfrew 2014; Moore 2014). The Incas (as the Aztecs; see later in this chapter) relied on various strategies to extend and consolidate their rule. They did not hesitate to use military force against adversaries who refused to surrender. Some polities, such as the Chimú empire on the Peruvian coast, were destroyed in protracted battles while others succumbed after a few skirmishes. Yet military force was only partially effective. For example, the Incas were unable to extend their control much beyond the eastern foothills of the Andes, which may be why the famous fortress of Machu Picchu was built; they could not subdue the mobile Araucanian societies in the Pampas and Patagonian plains; and some northern Colombian chiefdoms, such as the Chibcha, did not succumb to Inca control.


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Forging alliances with and exercising indirect rule over potential adversaries was often more valuable than the use of force. Some states, as in the Chincha and Ica Peruvian coastal valleys, acquiesced to imperial rule, perhaps because ethnic lords opted for enhancing their own interests and standing vis-à-vis their enemies by allying themselves with the seemingly all-powerful Inca. Also strategically advantageous was a divide-and-rule stratagem pitting rival groups against each other. This was the case, for instance, when the Incas turned to the competing Aymara chiefdoms of the Lake Titicaca basin/Altiplano region, such as the Qollas, Lupaqas, Pacajes, and Charca. There Incas took advantage of the rivalry between the Qollas and Lupaqas, allying themselves with the latter. Local elites who accepted Inca rule were rewarded with important administrative roles within the imperial provincial bureaucracy, as well as other spoils of war, such as additional crop lands, labor contingents, and access to prestige goods. Indirect rule also meant that Incas largely respected the territorial and political integrity of polities that succumbed to imperial rule, in turn demanding tribute – primarily crops and labor, including labor drafts to augment Inca armies. (Inca and Aztec armies were largely comprised of members of either defeated polities or those that “voluntarily” agreed to submit.) Marriage was also a key mechanism for incorporating non-Inca polities into the imperial sphere. Andean royal/elite families were polygamous, with “wife-givers” in a subordinate position to “wife takers,” and Inca rulers were not reluctant to marry daughters of potential rivals as a way of extending their political control (Covey 2008; D'Altroy 2015). Just as extending political and military sway relied on a patchwork of strategies, so too did consolidating rule, which was always tenuous, for the Incas constantly faced the task of suppressing rebellions and reconquering territories. Occupied lands were organized into provinces sometimes managed by hereditary local leaders, in turn watched over by Inca regional overseers. Anticipating revolts by conquered groups, Incas often resettled their populations to distant parts of the empire. Religious ideology, ritual, and practice also buttressed Inca rule. Venerating ancestors with elaborate rituals and food offerings, developing a state religious cult centered on worshiping the Sun, constructing a network of regional shrines where Inca religious rituals were performed, and incorporating local deities into Inca rituals, all worked hand in hand to serve imperial needs (Bauer 1996; Bauer and Covey 2002; Urton 1990). Andean peoples had a tradition of human sacrifice that long preceded the Incas and that was part of ritual offerings to the supernatural. (Human sacrifice was also important in Mesoamerica, as we will see later in this chapter.) Andean ancestors and deities (huacas) residing in hills, mountain peaks, and caves demanded to be fed if they were to look out for their devotees, and one prized nourishment was human blood. Preferred sacrificial victims were specially chosen boys and girls, captive enemy warriors, and servants and relatives of deceased rulers. Human sacrifice was politically important in several ways: victims were sometimes sacrificed at the empire’s territorial boundaries, thereby ritually marking the landscapes under Inca control; members of defeated polities sometimes offered their young children as a sign of subservience and as tribute; some were sacrificed in honor of the sun, the Incas’ most important deity; and places of sacrifice were turned into local, non-Inca shrines (Benson and Cook 2001; Besom 2009). Aware that knowledge is power, Incas amassed an incredible store of detailed information by relying on khipus, strings or cords made from cotton or llama wool, a form of record keeping that dated to at least Wari times. Since Andean peoples did not develop

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a writing system, khipu knowledge and use was entrusted to scribes or record keepers (khipukamayuq). Frank Salomon, whose ethnographic and ethnohistorical research has uncovered the contemporary relevance of khipus in a Peruvian village, tells us that Spanish chroniclers . . . say that cords served virtually all the data needs one would expect an imperial state to have. The attested uses include censuses; calendars; inventories of all sorts including weapons, foodstuffs, and clothing; tribute records; royal chronicles . . .; records of sacred places or beings and their sacrifices; successions and perhaps genealogies; postal messages; criminal trials; routes and stations; herd records; and game-keeping records. (2004:11)

Mesoamerica The Mesoamerican Horizon was also characterized by large and sophisticated states in the Maya region and by empires in Mexico’s Mesa Central.

The Maya region.  The Horizon (Classic and Post-Classic in Mesoamerican chronology) was a period of extraordinary changes in the Maya region. Art, iconography, and burial tombs provide us with a glimpse of these politico-religious transformations: While monumental art during the Late Preclassic [Formative] generally depicted different deities that were important in Maya cosmology (e.g., the Sun Jaguar God, the Venus God, and the Principal Bird Deity or Itzamnaaj) as large-scale stucco masks on the facades of temple-pyramids, monumental art in the Early Classic shifted to stelae in which the kings are depicted emblazoned with symbols of supernaturals. These signs of change point to the centralization of the ruler’s power: While his claim to power in the Late Preclassic was drawn entirely from the religious sphere, by the Early Classic, he had gained sufficient power that he could depict himself as the intercessor with these supernatural forces. Also noteworthy is that evidence for royal tombs in the Late Preclassic is rare. . . . There is no scarcity of rich royal tombs during the Early Classic period. The most famous ones are those located deep in the North Acropolis at Tikal and the looted painted tombs of Rio Azul. . . . Both the art and the tomb evidence highlight that there was a change in the institution of Maya kingship from the Late Preclassic to the Early Classic. From that point . . . on, Classic Maya art in the southern lowlands (and to a lesser degree in the northern lowlands) was all about the “doings” of the “rich and famous.” (Foias 2013:11–12) Political and cultural developments proceeded unevenly in the Maya region. Important polities and monumental structures appeared in the Northern Lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula during the early Horizon, but it was only after the southern Maya collapse (see later in this chapter) that some of the most prominent states thrived in the north – such as Uxmal and Chichén Itzá, “the largest and most powerful city in west-central Yucatan”


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(Braswell 2012:19). Both had grandiose pyramids and ceremonial centers almost certainly the domain of the elite (nobles and religious and military leaders), and both declined 400– 600 years before the Spanish conquest (Figure 2.14). It was in the Southern Highlands where Maya culture flourished by the mid-Horizon. This was the Golden Age of pre-Hispanic Maya civilization, with the most dense, most populous, and most complex cities; thousands of artistic masterpieces . . . in stone, clay, bone, stucco, and other materials; and thousands of hieroglyphic texts that have now been deciphered to reveal to us what the Maya world was like through the Mayas’ own words (albeit from a very elite perspective). . . . The institution of kingship developed to its fullest as the Maya rulers of the Early Classic, named ajaw, became k’uhul ajaw (divine lords) in the Late Classic. Monuments and texts glorify these divine rulers and record their births, accessions, and deaths; their descent from gods in mythological time; their rituals of bloodletting, incense burning, and human sacrifice; and their conquests on the battlefield. (Foias 2013:13–14) Copán, Palenque, Caracol, and Tikal were important Maya states, all with economic and cultural connections with Teotihuacán in central Mexico. At Copán (in present-day Honduras), the sumptuous mortuary shrine of Rosalila illustrates the lavishness that ruling dynasties enjoyed in life and death (Figure 2.15). Tikal, in Guatemala’s Petén lowlands, was the center of one of the most influential Maya polities. Like stone inscriptions elsewhere during this period, its Stela 29 (Figure 2.16) related the fortunes of its dynastic ruling class and “bears the earliest Long Count date known from the Maya lowlands” (Evans 2013:301).

FIGURE 2.14  El Castillo Pyramid, Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico Source: Daniel Schwen CC BY-SA 4.0

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FIGURE 2 15  Shrine of Rosalila, Copán, Honduras Source: David Holt CC BY-SA 2.0

Between 600 and 900 years before the Spanish conquest, most southern city states were abandoned, their magnificent structures and vacant hinterlands eventually overrun by dense vegetation. How and why the southern Maya “collapse” occurred has been the subject of research (and speculation) for decades. While climate change, and especially drought, has long been invoked as the fundamental cause of the Maya decline, there were some regions relatively unscathed by drought and yet still deserted. Deforestation, epidemics, unsustainable population growth, and food shortages are also believed to have contributed to the southern Maya decline, although – and as with drought – these did not have an identical impact across the Maya heartlands. Political instability, such as incessant warfare between different polities and commoner uprisings against hereditary dynasties, also contributed to the collapse. It is possible that all these were important in different areas, and that perhaps it makes more sense to think of not one but several “collapses” in diverse areas over the course of several centuries (Demarest 2014; Foias 2013; Iannone 2014).

Mesa Central and the Aztecs.  By the mid-Horizon the Mesa Central witnessed the rise of a plethora of competing chiefdoms and states, mass migrations, widespread trade networks, militarism, and the spread of a religious tradition centered on human sacrifice and


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FIGURE 2.16  Stela 29, Tikal, Guatemala Source: HJPD CC BY 3.0

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the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl, a Teotihuacán deity whose origins can be traced to the Olmecs. In Puebla, Cholula was an important state and a major center of veneration of the Feathered Serpent, and its Great Pyramid, constructed over 1,700 years, was larger than any comparable Egyptian structure of its kind. In the highlands of Hidalgo bordering the Mesa del Norte, the Toltec state of Tula flourished, later declining by the twelfth century. Tula is well known for its enormous stone columns carved as Toltec warriors (Figure 2.17); its pyramids that reflected influence of Teotihuacán and Chichén Itzá; and its deities such as Tlaloc (a successor of Teotihuacán’s Storm God and, later, the Aztec deity of rain and fertility) and, of course, Quetzalcoatl. Economically and culturally, Tula linked large swaths of the Mesa Central, Central America, and the Southern Lowlands. It consolidated trade routes extending from the U.S. Southwest down into Costa Rica, and along this system the Nahua-speaking world . . . expanded far beyond Central Mexico. Belief systems as well as goods . . . spread through this network of interaction, and the Feathered Serpent – deity and culture-hero – [became] part of the ideology of other groups . . . Tula’s dynasty was established as the most prestigious. . . . As long as there were native nobles in Central Mexico . . . descent from Tula’s kings would be the touchstone of legitimacy. (Evans 2013:424)

FIGURE 2.17  Toltec warriors, Tula, Mexico Source: Arian Zwegers CC BY 2.0


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In the ethnically diverse highlands of Oaxaca, at least a dozen Mixtec- and Zapotecspeaking chiefdoms wrestled for dominance. The eastern region of Tlaxcala was ruled by powerful chiefdoms that were bitter enemies of the Aztecs. And in Michoacán to the west, the Tarascan empire – southwestern Mexico’s most powerful state – thrived two centuries before the Spanish conquest, controlled over 30,000 square miles of territory, and was a formidable Aztec foe. Once again, religious ideology served to buttress elite rule, for the emergence of the Tarasco (Purépecha)-speaking empire was accompanied by the establishment of a new ideology that made the Pátzcuaro Basin the center of cosmic power. . . . The patron gods of the nowdominant ethnic elite were elevated to celestial power, while various regional deities and worldviews . . . were elevated, incorporated, or marginalized. The clearest evidence of this process involves the joining of the ethnic Chichimec . . . deity, Curicaueri, with the . . . Purépecha goddess, Xarátanga. (Evans 2013:441) When Spaniards first set foot in Vera Cruz (Chapter  3), they quickly learned of a vast, powerful, and rich kingdom to the west – the Aztec empire. Aztec stems from Aztlan, the mythical northern homeland of the Nahuatl-speaking Mexica who founded Tenochtitlán, which by the fifteenth century became the Aztec imperial capital. (The Mexica did not refer to themselves as Aztec; this is a scholarly invention.) Linguistic evidence supports mythical accounts of waves of northern nomadic Chichimec peoples arriving in the Basin of Mexico by the end of the twelfth century: Nahuatl, unrelated to most Mesoamerican languages, is part of the Uto-Aztecan language family that originated in northern Mexico or the southwestern US (Heggarty and Renfrew 2014; Smith 2011). The Mexica were one of the last Nahuatl groups to settle in the Basin of Mexico, a large, internally drained basin ringed by volcanic mountain ranges, and which at the time included several lakes. Marshes, freshwater swamplands, and nutrient-rich alluvial plains bordered the lakes’ shores. By the time the Mexica established their homeland of Tenochtitlán in the largest island in Lake Texcoco during the thirteenth century (Figure 2.18), the densely populated basin was the center of warring city states. In this context of rampant warfare, the Mexica initially allied themselves with more powerful neighboring polities. Around 1400 the Mexica partnered with the Texcoco, Tlacopan, and Huexotzinco to defeat the powerful Tepanec confederacy. Twenty years later Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan formed the Triple Alliance that under the leadership of six Mexica rulers (tlatoani) eventually ruled over what we now call the Aztec empire. Less than 100 years later, during the reign of Mochtezuma II, the Aztecs extended their reach throughout central and southern Mexico and northern Central America. By the time Cortés arrived in 1519, Tenochtitlán had four times as many people as London and three times more than Seville, and over five million people and 400 city states were directly or indirectly under Aztec rule (Carrasco 2012; Smith 2011). The rise and expansion of the Aztecs bear an uncanny resemblance to the Inca experience. Not only did the Aztec empire reach its zenith in less than a century, but the politically astute Aztecs, like the Incas, followed similar strategies to extend and consolidate their empire. They first tried to sway reluctant polities to submit in exchange for gifts and less onerous tributes. Although those who refused to acknowledge Aztec rule faced

Before the Europeans

FIGURE 2.18  Basin of Mexico and city of Tenochtitlán, 1519 Source: Yavidaxiu, historicair, and Sémhur, CC BY-SA 4.0



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the prospects of outright conquest, the Aztecs were not invincible on the battlefield: they suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Tarascans, the Tlaxcalan kingdoms held their ground, and Aztecs were unable to extend their reach deep into the northern arid Mesa del Norte, populated by semi-nomadic peoples whom they called barbarians (teochichimeca). Aztec society was polygamous, and strategic marriages alliances were one effective way to incorporate reluctant polities into the Aztec realm and of recruiting allies. Acamapichtli, an early Mexica tlatoani, had 21 wives, and his son Huitzilihuitl, who doubled his father’s conquests, married the granddaughter of the lord of a rival state after marrying the princess of yet another contending adversary (Carrasco 2012; Smith 2011). The Aztecs devised a political-economic stratagem to hold together, defend, and extract wealth from their multiethnic empire: The economic strategy involved the conquest of rich areas and the establishment of a program of regular tax payments as well as the encouragement of trade and markets throughout the empire. . . . When their expansion brought them into conflict with other powerful enemies, the Triple Alliance devised a second strategy. This frontier strategy involved the creation of client states along enemy frontiers to shoulder much of the burden of protecting the empire so that taxes and trade could flourish in the inner provinces. . . . These two strategies led to the creation of two distinct types of imperial control in the outer empire. (1) Tax provinces included city-states well under imperial control that could provide regular taxes and trade required by the economic strategy. These provinces tended to comprise the city-states with the longest history of imperial control and those distant from major Aztec enemies such as the Tarascan Empire or Tlaxcala. (2) Client states, on the other hand, were established to help maintain the imperial borders and frontiers without massive investment by the Triple Alliance. (Smith 2011:165–166) As in the Andes, religion was interlocked with empire building – and both with human sacrifice. Through myth-making and ritual, Aztec rulers legitimized their authority by claiming descent from the Toltecs and venerating the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl. Death in battle had enormous religious significance and Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, had a special place in the Aztec supernatural pantheon. The significance of blood and human sacrifice had very deep and widespread roots in Mesoamerica but became especially important in serving Aztec imperial needs. Aztec creation myths asserted that the gods sacrificed themselves and offered their blood to create the world, sun, and human beings. Since mortals and the supernatural deities were engaged in a reciprocal, beneficial relationship, humankind needed to reciprocate in kind by offering its blood: In the Aztec worldview . . . the gods needed nourishment, refreshment, payback, and renewal. They normally became fatigued, and in some myths they created humans who were required to worship them and make sacrificial debt-payments to them as a form of nourishment. Humans realized they were indebted to the gods for having sacrificed themselves so that life on earth could exist and be renewed, a debt that could best be paid by imitating the gods

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through sacrifice. Human labor and the usual offerings of fruit, meats, and ceremonial objects were important to the gods but insufficient to renew their lives. Only human blood was the truly sufficient offering to ensure the continued lives of the gods and their creative powers in the world. This resulted in an elaborate system of offerings and sacrifices designed to please, appease, and win the support of the gods with all their powers. The sun, moon, stars, and all the divine beings in the universe depended on this type of faithfulness and ritual gift-giving. The Aztecs, not having a word like “sacrifice,” called the animals and humans who were ritually killed nextlahualtin, meaning payments or restitutions. These sacrificial entities were basically the “payback” – the prized gifts that would bring balance and renewal to the gods. (Carrasco 2012:59)

Gender and empire Feminist archaeologists have long recognized that gender stratification is one result of the rise of state-level societies (Key and Mackinnon 2000). While parallelism and complementarity had deep roots in Mesoamerican and Andean societies (Chapter 6), and while both may have reflected a long tradition of relative gender equality, the expansion of the Aztec and Inca empires, and the incessant warfare between Mayan city states, tilted parallelism and complementary to less egalitarian ways. By the time the Spaniards appeared on the scene, Aztec elites had already begun imposing a gender hierarchy more tightly wedded to hyper-masculinity, heterosexuality, and warfare, and a corresponding disparagement of femininity: [Gender] relationships among Aztec commoners were mostly based on the principles of gender complementarity and gender equality but . . . Aztec rulers were intent on promoting gender hierarchy. In order to win the loyalty of their male citizen-soldiers, Aztec rulers emphasized the positive qualities of masculine strength and dominance in opposition to feminine weakness and submission; and in order to materialize these redefined gender roles, the state appropriated design motifs from pre-Aztec household implements, such as spindle whorls, and displayed them in ritual contexts, such as ball games and human sacrifices, where male warriors were glorified as defenders against the feminine forces of chaos. (Brumfiel 2012:576) Gender hierarchy was more firmly entrenched and had deeper roots among the Maya. In Classic Maya monumental art, it was men and not women who were typically cast as prized warriors, ritual leaders, and deities. Women’s roles appeared more circumscribed, and their contributions to the welfare of their communities appear less valued. It is possible, though, that contradictory gender trends were at play in Maya societies during the Horizon, for the growth of Maya urban centers, intensifying warfare, and the increasing importance and power of kings and nobles reinforced male dominance as both


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ideology and live experience. On the other, women from the most powerful centers were prized as wives, some women may well have held leadership positions in smaller centers, and the household labor of noble and non-noble women became more valuable for exchange and tribute in the growing and more warlike Maya city-states. (Kellogg 2005:40–41) In the Andes, Inca imperialism also led to deep changes in gender and the religious ideologies and practices of conquered societies, legitimizing and rendering intelligible Inca domination – what Silverblatt (1987) calls the conquest hierarchy. For instance, the Inca claim that they were the direct descendants of the (male) Sun and (female) Moon was important because many leaders of conquered polities soon viewed themselves as descendants of Venus, who in turn was a progeny of the Sun. In this way Incas could claim that they were the “fathers” and “mothers” of subjugated ethnic groups’ leaders, while the curacas themselves were symbolically transformed into the “fathers” and “mothers” of their communities’ members. The Incas also tried to embed imperial deities – such as the female Moon Goddess – onto local religious universes. A hierarchical relationship also emerged between Inca and non-Inca women. The Inca Queen (Coya), for example, played a key role in local women’s religious organizations. Inca expansionism also meant that non-Inca women lost ground to males, for at the same time that the power and prestige of males increased as they engaged in warfare and conquest, the influence, status, and prestige of women declined markedly. One example of women’s decline in status was the ability of Incas to distribute women in marriage with the objective of promoting political alliances. The emergence of a symbolically important class of young, virgin, and holy women (aclla), sacrificed to the (male Inca) Sun deity, illustrates how gender was refashioned to fit the ideological and political needs of Inca state-building (Silverblatt 1987).

Concluding thoughts Over the course of at least 13,000 years, social groups evolved from small, egalitarian, foraging groups to stratified and sedentary tribal, chiefdom, and state societies. A remarkable kaleidoscope of cultures and societies were present in LAC at the eve of the European conquests. This political, economic, and cultural assortment – which we can still appreciate today – sometimes worked in favor of the Europeans invaders, other times not, as we will see in the following chapter.

FILMS/VIDEOS The Amazon – Civilization Lost in the Jungle. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Surveys ancient civilizations in the Bolivian, Peruvian, and Brazilian Amazon. The Aztecs: Part 1 (From Nomads to Empire); Part 2 (The Fall of Tenochtitlán). 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Chronicles the rise and fall of Aztec civilization.

The Chimú: Empire of the Northern Coast. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on “a culture of warrior kings who became conquerors, second in influence only to the Inca.” Cuzco and the Tawantinsuyu Empire. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Studies Cusco’s ancient architecture and temples.

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Empire of the Incas. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Examines Inca cultural achievements. The Khipu – Language Hidden in Knots. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on the Inca khipu system of record keeping. Maya Lords of the Jungle. 2010. Documentary Educational Resources. Survey of key archaeological sites in the Yucatán Peninsula. Mayan Renaissance: The Untold Story of the Maya. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Documents the achievements

65 of the ancient Maya and struggles by contemporary Maya to determine their own future. In Search of the Mayas. 2014. Kanopy Streaming. Provides a broad introduction to the geography and culture of Mesoamerica. The Wari, – Foundations of the Inca Empire? 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on the cultural achievements of the Wari empire.

WEBSITES American Museum of Natural History. South American Archaeology Collection. www.amnh. org/our-research/anthropology/collections/ collections-history/south-american-archaeology/ Archaeological Institute of America. Center for Comparative Archaeology, University of Pittsburgh.

FLAAR Informative Network. Maya Archaeology. Florida Museum of Natural History. Latin American Archaeology. home/ Society for American Archaeology. Texas A&M University. Center for the Study of the First Americans.

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Besom, Thomas. 2009. Of Summits and Sacrifice: An Ethnohistoric Study of Inka Religious Practices. Austin: University of Texas Press. Braswell, Geoffrey E., ed. 2012. The Ancient Maya of Mexico: Reinterpreting the Past of the Northern Maya Lowlands. Bristol, CT: Equinox. Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. 2012. The Archaeology of Gender in Mesoamerica: Moving Beyond Gender Complementarity. In A Companion to Gender Prehistory. Bolger, Diane, ed. Pp. 564–584. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Carrasco, David. 2012. The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. Clark, John E. 2016. Western Kingdoms of the Middle Preclassic. In The Origins of Maya States. Traxler, Loa P. and Sharer, Robert J., eds. Pp. 123–224. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.


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Granberry, Julian. 2013. Indigenous Languages of the Caribbean. In The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Archaeology. Keegan, William F. and Hofman, Corinne L., et al., eds. Pp. 61–69. New York: Oxford University Press. Grove, David C. 2014. Discovering the Olmecs: An Unconventional History. Austin: University of Texas Press. ———. 2016. Preclassic Central Mexico: The Uncertain Pathway from Tlatilco to Teotihuacan. In The Origins of Maya States. Traxler, Loa P. and Sharer, Robert J., eds. Pp. 59–82. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Grube, Nikolai. 2016. Maya Writing. In The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Nichols, Deborah L. and Pool, Christopher A., eds. Pp. 845–854. New York: Oxford University Press. Guillet, David. 1987. Terracing and Irrigation in the Peruvian Highlands. Current Anthropology 28(4):409–430. Hansen, Richard D. 2016. Cultural and Environmental Components of the First Maya States: A Perspective from the Central and Southern Lowlands. In The Origins of Maya States. Traxler, Loa P. and Sharer, Robert J., eds. Pp. 329– 416. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Heckenberger, Michael and Góes Neves, Eduardo. 2009. Amazonian Archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 38:251–266. Heggarty, Paul and Renfrew, Colin. 2014. The Americas: Languages. In The Cambridge World Prehistory. Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul, eds. Pp. 1326–1354. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hulme, Peter. 1986. Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean 1492–1797. London: Methuen & Co. Iannone, Gyles, ed. 2014. The Great Maya Droughts in Cultural Context: Case Studies in Resilience and Vulnerability. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. Isbell, William H. 2008. Wari and Tiwanaku: International Identities in the Central Andean Middle Horizon. In Handbook of South American Archaeology. Silverman, Helaine and Isbell,

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William H., eds. Pp. 731–760. New York: Springer. Keegan, William F. and Hofman, Corinne L. 2017. The Caribbean before Columbus. New York: Oxford University Press. Kellogg, Susan. 2005. Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America’s Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. Kennett, Douglas J. 2016. Archaic-Period Foragers and Farmers in Mesoamerica. In The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Nichols, Deborah L. and Pool, Christopher A., eds. Pp. 141–150. New York: Oxford University Press. Kennett, Douglas J., et al. 2010. Pre-Pottery Farmers on the Pacific Coast of Southern Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science 37(12):3401–3411. Key, Carol J. and Mackinnon, J. Jefferson. 2000. A Feminist Critique of Recent Archaeological Theories and Explanations of the Rise of State-Level Societies. Dialectical Anthropology 25(2):109–121. Love, Michael. 2014. The Archaic and Formative Periods of Mesoamerica. In The Cambridge World Prehistory. Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul, eds. Pp. 955–969. New York: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2016. Early States in the Southern Maya Region. In The Origins of Maya States. Traxler, Loa P. and Sharer, Robert J., eds. Pp. 271–328. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Lynch, Thomas F. 1999. The Earliest South American Lifeways. In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 1). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 188–263. New York: Cambridge University Press. Miller, Barbara D. 2005. Cultural Anthropology. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Moore, Jerry D. 2014. A Prehistory of South America: Ancient Cultural Diversity on the Least Known Continent. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. Navarrete, Rodrigo. 2008. The Prehistory of Venezuela – Not Necessarily an Intermediate Area.

67 In Handbook of South American Archaeology. Silverman, Helaine and Isbell, William H., eds. Pp. 429–458. New York: Springer. Oyuela-Caycedo, Augusto. 2008. Late Pre-Hispanic Chiefdoms of Northern Colombia and the Formation of Anthropogenic Landscapes. In Handbook of South American Archaeology. Silverman, Helaine and Isbell, William H., eds. Pp. 405–428. New York: Springer. Pearsall, Deborah M. 2008. Plant Domestication and the Shift to Agriculture in the Andes. In Handbook of South American Archaeology. Silverman, Helaine and Isbell, William H., eds. Pp. 105–120. New York: Springer. Pool, Christopher A. 2016. The Formation of Complex Societies in Mesoamerica. In The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Nichols, Deborah L. and Pool, Christopher A., eds. Pp. 169–187. New York: Oxford University Press. Roosevelt, Anna. 2014. Prehistory of Amazonia. In The Cambridge World Prehistory. Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul, eds. Pp. 1175–1199. New York: Cambridge University Press. Rouse, Irving. 1992. The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Routledge, Bruce. 2013. Archaeology and State Theory: Subjects and Objects of Power. London: Bloomsbury. Salomon, Frank. 2004. The Cord Keepers: Khipus and Cultural Life in a Peruvian Village. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Schaan, Denise P. 2011. Sacred Geographies of Ancient Amazonia: Historical Ecology of Social Complexity. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Silverblatt, Irene. 1987. Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Smith, Michael E. 2011. The Aztecs. (3rd Edition). Malden, MA: Blackwell. Stahl, Peter W. 2008. Animal Domestication in South America. In Handbook of South American Archaeology. Silverman, Helaine and Isbell, William H., eds. Pp. 121–130. New York: Springer.


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Stanton, Travis W. 2016. The Rise of FormativePeriod Complex Societies in the Northern Maya Lowlands. In The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Nichols, Deborah L. and Pool, Christopher A., eds. Pp. 268–282. New York: Oxford University Press. Sugiyama, Saburo. 2016. Ideology, Polity, and Social History of the Teotihuacan State. In The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. Nichols, Deborah L. and Pool, Christopher A., eds. Pp. 215–229. New York: Oxford University Press. Torres, Joshua M. 2013. Rethinking Chiefdoms in the Caribbean. In The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Archaeology. Keegan, William F. and Hofman, Corinne L., et al., eds. Pp. 347–362. New York: Oxford University Press. Urton, Gary. 1990. The History of a Myth: Pacariqtambo and the Origin of the Inkas. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Villamarín, Juan A. and Villamarín, Judith. 1999. Chiefdoms: The Prevalence and Persistence of ‘Señoríos Naturales’ 1400 to European Conquest. In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 1). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 577–667. New York: Cambridge University Press. Zietilin, Robert N. and Zeitlin, Judith F. 2000. The PaleoIndian and Archaic Cultures of Mesoamerica. In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume II [Mesoamerica], Part 1). Adams, Richard E. and MacLeod, Murdo J., eds. Pp. 45–121. New York: Cambridge University Press. Zizumbo-Villarreal, Daniel and Flores-Silva, Alondra, et al. 2012. The Archaic Diet in Mesoamerica: Incentive for Milpa Development and Species Domestication. Economic Botany 66(4):328–343.



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he contemporary cultures of LAC peoples are partly (some would say largely) the result of the deep and lasting changes brought about by the conquest and the 300 years of colonial rule. This means that to appreciate and understand present-day LAC, we need to delve deeply into the past. This is the goal of this chapter. I first turn to the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of the sixteenth century and explain how so few Europeans rapidly undermined most organized resistance within a few years. I then shift my attention to the colonial period to clarify the mechanisms through which Europeans consolidated their rule, and some of their cultural and social consequences; how indigenous peoples and African slaves vigorously challenged the colonial order through outright rebellions and other forms of engagement; and how, by the very act of resistance, new peoples with new identities came into being. After probing the gendered dimension of the colonial enterprise, I end this chapter by reflecting on how Christopher Columbus is remembered 500 years after arriving in the Americas.

The conquest For Europeans and indigenous peoples alike, the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were momentous milestones in their historical destinies. For the former, these were the crucial periods of exploration and conquest, vital for the Iberian kingdoms that sponsored their expeditions; for the latter, their encounter with and conquest by Europeans meant a radical and unwelcome transformation of their lives.

Voyages and explorations In search of a route from Europe to Asia, on October  12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas and claimed the New World for the Spanish kingdoms of Aragón and Castile. Starting in 1508 more than a dozen Spanish expeditions landed in the Caribbean, the staging ground from which they launched their conquests. While the Spaniards who first arrived in the Caribbean “were met . . . with amazement, hospitality, and suspicion, but not with overt resistance” (Deagan 2011:46), their welcome did not last long. By 1495 they were facing resistance from Taíno-speaking peoples in the Greater Antilles. It took the Spaniards only a few years to overwhelm the Taíno chiefdoms in Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. The Caribs of the Lesser Antilles and originally from South



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America’s Guiana Shield, whom Columbus first encountered in Guadeloupe during his second voyage to the Caribbean, were another matter, raiding Spanish settlements for decades. Demonized by a sixteenth century chronicler as “warlike, enemies of the Christians, and eaters of human flesh,” lingering stereotypes of the Caribs as “restless,” “treacherous,” “cannibals,” and “marauders” enslaving and destroying peoples in their path continued through the early twentieth century (Allaire 2013; Hulme 1986, 2000). After founding the port cities of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), and San Juan (Puerto Rico), Spaniards fanned out in four directions. One route took them through the coastlines of Belize and Guatemala, and then to the Gulf of Mexico after establishing a beachhead in Vera Cruz. From these strategic points, Spaniards subdued the Aztecs and, after decades of protracted struggles, the Maya. A second course led them to Panama, from which smaller groups travelled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Larger expeditions, such as the one spearheaded by Francisco Pizarro who confronted the Incas in 1532, travelled south/southeast, with offshoots reaching southern Chile. A  third wave entered South America through the Orinoco River system, reaching northern Colombia and Venezuela. Spaniards also entered South America through the Atlantic coast after founding Buenos Aires. From there some headed south, rarely venturing deep into the Pampas and Patagonia where they met fierce resistance from southern Araucanian peoples, while other Spaniards travelled north into Paraguay and southeastern Bolivia. Meanwhile, the Portuguese were also busy laying claim to South America. Between 1500 and 1544 expeditions explored the Brazilian coastlines and founded the port towns of Salvador and Río de Janeiro. The Portuguese then moved into Amazonia along the Amazon’s major tributaries. Spain and Portugal eventually claimed most of LAC, but they were not without serious rivals. England, France, and Holland fiercely competed for control over the Caribbean and northern coastlines of Central and South America. For more than two centuries the Caribbean was intensely disputed, particularly after the rise of sugar as a world commodity and the onset of the African slave trade. Not a single European power secured a political or economic monopoly, so that by the end of the eighteenth century the Caribbean islands and the Central and South American Atlantic coastlines were hotly contested by Spaniards, Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch. Important British colonies included Barbados, Jamaica, Belize (formerly British Honduras), and Trinidad and Tobago. France controlled Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana, and Holland secured a foothold in Suriname, Guyana, and some of the Lesser Antilles. This changing kaleidoscope of colonial control eventually resulted in a complex linguistic and cultural mosaic (Mintz 1989, 2010).

How did (and could) it happen? The conquest was an extraordinary feat. While pockets of armed resistance, as in the Lesser Antilles and among some Incas and Maya continued for years, by 1580 Spaniards and Portuguese secured control over vast stretches of the Andes, Mesoamerica, Caribbean, Amazonia (especially along the várzea floodplains), Central American highlands, northern South America, and the southern coastlines of Chile and Argentina – enormous territories inhabited by hundreds of societies, from small foraging bands to huge, stratified empires. How did the tiny Spanish expeditions, often numbering no more than several hundred men, so quickly overwhelm the Incas, Aztecs, and Maya who, if we believe the Spanish

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chroniclers, mustered tens of thousands of warriors against them? And what does this tell us about the peoples who unsuccessfully resisted the invaders?

Incas and Aztecs.  Conventional accounts for the ability of the Spaniards to overwhelm the Incas, Aztecs, and Maya fall in line with the now-familiar perspective that privileges the role of “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (Diamond 1999; Guilmartin 1991). One favorite explanation emphasizes Spanish military advantages. With horses, Spaniards enjoyed the upper hand in striking power and speed. By fighting in open, massed formations, Incas and Aztecs were vulnerable to cavalry charges by armored horsemen. Steel armor and weapons such as long pikes and razor sharp swords gave Spaniards the edge in combat, as did muskets and crossbows, which, however clumsy, had greater striking range than indigenous weapons. Inca and Aztec armies, largely comprised of members of tribute-paying societies whose primary allegiance was to their own ethnic leaders, had less military cohesion, which means that Incas and Aztecs could not count on their allies when ethnic lords died in battle or sided with Spaniards. And since most warriors were farmers, some abandoned the battlefield at the onset of the planting and harvest seasons. Diseases were indispensable European allies. Smallpox, measles, chicken pox, influenza, whooping cough, and typhus ruthlessly killed tens of millions of indigenous peoples and decimated countless societies with astonishing speed. “Smallpox,” Ashburn tells us, was the captain of the men of death . . . typhus fever the first lieutenant, and measles the secondary lieutenant. More terrible than the conquistadores on horseback, more deadly than sword or gunpowder, they made the conquest by the whites a walkover as compared to what it would have been without their aid. They were the forerunners of civilization, the companions of Christianity, the friends of the invader. (Ashburn 1947:98, quoted by Joralemon 1982:112) First recorded in 1520 in Mexico, smallpox was especially dreaded. European medical practices, such as providing bedding and food, and practicing bloodletting (sangrías), were merely palliative, intended to slow the spread of contagion and help those who could still be saved. Clergy, mainly responsible for treating “those who smelled” (apestados, afflicted by smallpox), also turned to religion (prayers, masses, ritual processions) to stem the onslaught of pestilence. Indigenous medical practices, not strikingly different from European ones (these also included bloodletting, caring for the sick and dying, shielding the healthy from the infected, and seeking assistance from the supernatural), were equally ineffective (Few 2015). It was only after the discovery of vaccines and the onset of public health initiatives during the eighteenth century that diseases could be cured and contained (Chapter 4). Previously, to cure (curar) simply meant “to care for or nurse the sick” (McCaa 1995:421). Early accounts by native elites provide dramatic descriptions of how those whose world was turned upside down interpreted and experienced death, terror, and despair: In those days all was good, and they (the gods) were struck down. . . . There was no sin in those days. . . . There was no sickness then, no pains in the bones, there was no fever for them, there was no small-pox, there was no burning in


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the chest . . . there was no wasting away, . . . This is not what the white lords did when they came to our land. They taught fear and they withered the flowers. . . . False are their kings, tyrants upon their thrones. . . . Marauders by day, offenders by night, murderers of the world! . . . this was the beginning of begging, the cause of poverty out of which came secret discord, the beginning of armed banditry, of sins committed, of looting, of enslavement for debt, the beginning of the yoke of debts . . . the beginning of suffering (Wachtel 1977:31–32) It is well known that Europeans embarked on their conquests to amass gold and return to Europe as rich gentlemen. Francisco Pizarro was clear on his goal in his drive against the Incas: “to take away [the Incas’] gold.” And, yet, greed was not the only – nor necessarily the most important – driving force for the conquest. Writing on why he waged war on the Aztecs, Bernal Díaz del Castillo stated that his objective was “to serve God and His Majesty, to give light to those in darkness, and also to get rich” (Burbank and Cooper 2010:163). It would be a mistake, though, to underestimate the crucial importance of religion and culture in the conquest. Spaniards were driven by a powerful ideology forged during the 800 years of the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula (Reconquista), occupied by Muslims in the eighth century, that drove them to convert “pagans” to Christianity and pressed them to go forward. One message conveyed to a recalcitrant Maya king is suggestive of this resolve: You may tell your cacique that our coming [is] salutary for his people because [we bring] tidings of the true God and the Christian Religion, and that these tidings [are] sent by the Pope, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, God, and Man, and the Emperor King of Spain, in order that they might be converted to Christ of their own free will; but if they should not accept the peace offered them, that the death and destruction that may follow will be on their own [heads]. (Lovell 2005:97) That so many Incas, Aztecs, and their allies perished also convinced Spaniards that God was indeed on their side and that they held the moral upper ground. The polytheistic Inca (and Andean) and Aztec (and Mesoamerican) worldviews rested on reciprocity – on a continuous give and take – between mortals and their supernatural deities. (As I elaborate in Chapter 7, this view is a bedrock of contemporary Popular Catholicism.) The Spaniards’ battlefield successes and the massive mortality they inflicted undermined Incas’ and Aztecs’ faith in their gods. For instance, during the siege of Tenochtitlán Aztecs sacrificed captives to the war god Huitzilopochtli, but to no avail. They sought supernatural assistance for the meanings of events – not so much what was happening, but why and what it augured for the future. Their cyclical view of time also proved fateful: possibly one reason why Mochtezuma hesitated in attacking Hernán Cortés when he arrived in Tenochtitlán was because Cortés was viewed as a reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl who, according to Aztec mythology, was expected to return from the east (Todorov 1984). Thinking of Cortés as a reincarnated Quetzalcoatl suggests that some indigenous peoples, unclear what to make of the strange beings in their midst, initially cast Europeans as sympathetic mythical

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ancestors, an understanding that squares with the widespread cultural practice of ancestor worship in Mesoamerica and the Andes. This seemingly paradoxical “inter-cultural alliance” between indigenous peoples and their European conquerors had both religious and political roots and consequences for, in the Andes, disaffected Andean people allied with the Spaniards to defeat the Incas. In the process, they portrayed the Spaniards as primordial ancestors (viracochas) who had returned to restore the sovereignty of local polities that the Incas had overrun. This inter-ethnic collaboration led into a system of indirect rule through indigenous lords (curacas), whose power over their own subjects initially increased under the Spaniards and remained crucial to the colonial order. By allying with the Spaniards and treating them as their ancestors, Andean people rejected Inca colonialism for what eventually became Spanish colonialism but initially resembled provincial sovereignty. (Gose 2008:5) As I mentioned in Chapter 2, the Inca and Aztec empires were politically fragile, their rulers constantly putting down rebellions and trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to subdue powerful adversaries; in other words, Inca and Aztec rulers were unable to instill hegemony – consent, allegiance, and legitimacy – over their territories. This state of affairs proved quite advantageous for the Europeans, as Incas’ and Aztecs’ indigenous enemies sided with the Spaniards in droves. The narrative of a tiny group of superior Europeans miraculously prevailing against hordes of indigenous foes is one of several myths of the conquest (Restall 2003). Just as the Spaniards could not have overwhelmed the Incas, Aztecs, and Maya without the help of guns, germs, and steel, so too they would have been unsuccessful without the indispensable support they received from their “Indian Conquistadors” (Matthew and Oudijk 2007). This point was nicely conveyed by Francisco de Bracamonte who, reflecting on the conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula, wrote that I have fought beside these Indians and I have seen their loyalty and the great service that they have done for Your Majesty. . . . They have fought and suffered along beside us, and many a Spanish soldier owes them his life. I can say in all honesty that without them we would never have conquered this land. (Chuchiak IV 2007:175) For example, Francisco Pizarro arrives in the Andes in 1531 shortly after a bitter civil war between Huáscar and Atahualpa, two contenders of the Inca throne. (Their father, Huayna Capac, had died of smallpox several years earlier.) As he advances towards Cusco, Pizarro recruits allies loyal to the defeated Huáscar and from ethnic groups (such as the Huanca) who had opposed Inca rule, who provide him with supplies and thousands of warriors. The Aztecs too were politically vulnerable. Thousands of Tlaxcalans, their bitter enemies, rallied in support of Hernán Cortés’ siege of Tenochtitlán. Divided, weakened, and facing rebellions by ethnic subjects while also confronting Cortés and his indigenous allies, the Aztecs soon surrendered.


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Maya.  Spanish expeditions reached the Mesoamerican coasts under Aztec and Maya control by 1517. (Some shipwrecked Spaniards had made their way to the Yucatán Peninsula in 1511.) Subduing the Maya proved far more difficult than overwhelming the Incas and Aztecs. For instance, the Spanish invasion of the Guatemalan highlands began in 1524, and only in 1696 were Spaniards able to vanquish Itzá (in the Petén region), the last stronghold of Maya resistance. Political fragmentation and endemic warfare between the Maya worked in their favor, for the Spaniards were incapable of quickly mustering a powerfulenough alliance of city states to their side (Lovell 2005; Restall and Asselbergs 2007). Spaniards took advantage of long-lasting rivalries between Maya kingdoms and, in the southern Guatemalan highlands, especially among the Cakchiquel and K’iché. The initial Spanish invasion force largely consisted of indigenous allies, particularly Tlaxcalans who played an important role in the Aztec conquest, other Nahua-speaking groups, and also Mixtecs and Zapotecs from Oaxaca. Marital alliances were important in consolidating the loyalty of Spaniard’s allies: for example, Pedro de Alvarado, who led the first expedition to Guatemala, married into the Tlaxcalan royal family. A now-familiar divide-and-conquer strategy was eventually successful. At first the Cakchiquel Maya sided with the Spaniards against their K’iché archenemies who, along with other opposing Maya groups, were routed after pitched battles. This alliance did not last long, and it took the Spaniards six years to finally defeat the Cakchiquel. The “native conquistadors,” Restall and Asselbergs write, did not merely play a supportive role in the invasion; they outnumbered Spaniards by at least ten to one, sometimes thirty to one. Not only did they do most of the fighting, routinely softening up the enemy by engaging their warriors at the start and then mopping up the survivors at the end, but there is evidence that some battles were entirely native engagements; some Nahua units set out on their own to conquer Maya communities under the Spanish banner. Furthermore, indigenous conquistadors acted as spies and interpreters, often knowing the roads and the nature of the countryside, as well as the nature and customs of the Maya and Pipil enemy (the Pipils spoke a dialect of Nahuatl, and all groups were fellow Mesoamericans). As such they were able to help the Spaniards plan their strategies and to approach their enemies most effectively. And, finally, the native allies did the dirty work of procuring food and other supplies from local populations, and transported these things when locals were not available to do it. (2007:16) Spaniards were also able to assemble an ethnically and linguistically diverse force during their conquest of the Yucatán, and the allied Indian auxiliaries who gradually came together in the final months of 1540 to accompany Montejo’s third and final entrada [to the Yucatán] were a polyglot and multiethnic group. Although the Nahuatl-speaking allies from central Mexico made up the bulk of the allied Indian soldiers . . . a whole host of other natives served in a support capacity. . . . The army also counted on the support of thousands of porters, servants, and slaves, including Nahua,

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Chontal, and Popoluca speakers from Tabasco; Zoque and Tzeltal Maya speakers from Chiapas; Mixe and Zapotec speakers from Oaxaca; Lenca and Jicaque speakers from Honduras; and Chorti Maya, Xinka, and Pipil speakers from Guatemala and El Salvador. (Chuchiak IV 2007:205)

Entrenching colonialism and technologies of rule It is one thing to militarily conquer a people and quite another to consolidate rule over them. Despite squashing most organized resistance within a few decades, Europeans were nevertheless on decisively weak grounds. Numbering no more than several thousand, they were spread over millions of square miles and living side by side with millions of culturally unfamiliar “Indians.” Huge areas, such as Amazonia, Pampas, Patagonia, and the Lesser Antilles, were inhabited by small, mobile groups who effectively eluded control, and in the densely populated Mesoamerica and Andes Spaniards had less legitimacy than ethnic leaders. The 300 years of Spanish and Portuguese colonial domination was made possible by what Dirks calls cultural technologies of rule. These are interlocking mechanisms – some coercive, others less so; some material, others more symbolic and ideological – through which European rule became intelligible and largely (although unwillingly) accepted and rarely openly challenged. Colonialism was a “cultural project of control” (Dirks 1992) in which indigenous elites, including language interpreters, played important roles (de la Puente Luna 2014). Learning and evangelizing in native languages was one way Europeans instilled their worldviews. The key challenge that Europeans faced was to create a stable-enough social order that would allow them to wrench from indigenous peoples and, later, African slaves, their labor and resources essential to the colonial enterprise. Spaniards achieved this goal through encomiendas, repartimientos, and tribute systems; by clustering dispersed communities into urban settlements; bolstering the state bureaucracy and indirect rule; and by sponsoring religious rituals and ceremonies. Governing millions of indigenous peoples was a daunting challenge that the Spanish crown initially met by awarding encomiendas to notable Spaniards for their service in the conquest. (The Spanish verb encomendar means to entrust.) A spoil of war, encomiendas – first conferred in the Caribbean – were crown grants over indigenous labor whereby “Indians” were assigned to, and required to provide labor and tribute for, an encomendero, who in turn pledged to ensure their conversion to Christianity and (supposedly) well-being. In early colonial society wealth was measured in labor and not land, and in the densely populated Mesoamerican and Andean regions, prominent encomenderos as Hernán Cortés enjoyed the labor and tribute of thousands of indigenous subjects. Occasionally encomiendas, coupled with land grants called mercedes or composiciónes, were awarded over entire ethnic polities which, in a strange twist of fate, helped maintain indigenous identities. Encomiendas were also granted to some indigenous caciques who had allied themselves with the Spaniards during the conquest. The encomienda was a useful strategy of governance, for encomenderos answered directly to the crown for the affairs of their grants. Political and economic spearheads of the early and weak colonial state, Spanish encomenderos


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administered their grants by forging strategic alliances with indigenous leaders, without whom they could not have swayed their vassals to supply them with labor and tribute. By securing favorable treatment, and resources and privilege from European colonials, ethnic lords enhanced their own legitimacy vis-à-vis their communities, gained social and economic mobility, and increased their edge over indigenous rivals (Stern 1982). The mutually beneficial ties between encomenderos and ethnic curacas often resembled indigenous reciprocal obligations prior to the conquest. In Peru, The kuraka who accepted the Spanish encomendero as his local overlord often built up a relationship with him reminiscent of the ties of ceremony, reciprocal gifts and feasting that linked the local ethnic elite to the representatives of the Inca state. The kuraka of Huarochirí, Ninavilca, . . . built up a close relationship with the Spaniards, who praised him as among the most able and acculturated of the kurakas within the jurisdiction of Lima . . . baptized Don Antonio . . . [his] position brought him the title of Regidor de Indios, with power to enforce the orders of the Spaniards and supervise the affairs of the people under his authority. His daughter was brought up in the household of his encomendero – a practice reminiscent of the education of young kurakas in Cuzco. (Spalding 1984:127) Concerned that encomenderos were amassing too much power and wealth, and after a brief civil war between Spanish factions vying for the lion’s share of the spoils of conquest, the Spanish crown moved to reassert and centralize royal authority. One first step was to replace encomiendas with repartimientos, clusters of indigenous communities assigned mandatory labor quotas under direct supervision of crown officials. (Some encomiendas, as in the Yucatán, survived through the eighteenth century, and repartimientos were unnecessary in the Caribbean because indigenous peoples perished soon after the conquest.) Labor drafts were used in many ways: for public works, such as maintaining roads; awarded to prominent colonials who redeployed this labor on their own estates; yet others to the Catholic Church. The best known use of labor drafts was that channeled to the great silver mines of Guanajuato, Mexico, and Potosí in Bolivia (discussed further later in this chapter). In the Andes these labor drafts were called mitas, a term drawn from the Quechua mit’a, or turn, labor obligations between Andean households, and between ethnic polities and the Inca state. Labor tributaries were 18- to 50-year-old male adults bureaucratically classed as Indian. These were either indios originarios (original Indians, presumably members of corporate communities prior to the conquest) or their descendants, as well as indios forasteros (foreign Indians), those living away from but retaining ties with their ancestral communities (Larson 1988; Powers 1995; Stern 1982). One of the most important ways of eluding the dreaded mita (especially to the silver mines) was to avoid being legally classed as Indian, a strategy that indigenous peoples became particularly adept at (discussed later in this chapter). Because of the ravages of conquest and pre-colonial settlement patterns, most indigenous peoples were dispersed throughout the countryside. To further consolidate its rule, the Spanish crown also established a policy of forced resettlement (reducción or congregación, from the Spanish to reduce or congregate) into nucleated villages overseen by town councils, magistrates, parish priests, and a host of other officials, most drawn from indigenous ranks. Indigenous political leaders were the linchpins in the colonial strategy

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of indirect rule. Sometimes unsuccessfully straddling European and indigenous cultures, it was largely through their strategic and ambiguous position that they legitimized colonial rule and mobilized labor for European colonials. And, yet, these indigenous leaders also shielded fellow community members from census takers, thereby enabling them to evade forced labor drafts. As we will see later in this chapter, in their ambiguous and paradoxical position in the colonial social order, these native elites also spearheaded rebellions that often shattered the colonial world. The political reorganization of the colonial state and indigenous communities had lasting consequences still significant today. One example hails from Pisac, Peru, where indigenous leaders wielding silver-adorned, colonial-era staffs of authority march to local district headquarters at the beginning of the New Year and pay their respects to representatives of the Peruvian nation-state (Figure 3.1). And in present-day Colombia, staffs of authority are an effective way through which the Cumbe identify themselves as indigenous and thereby take advantage of the Colombian legal system that awards benefits to colonialera indigenous peoples (Rappaport 1994). Reducciones aimed at enhancing surveillance, social control, and the extraction of labor over “Indians” by bolstering the state’s ability to more effectively gather critical information through censuses and surveys. But they were also a means to acculturate, “civilize,” and convert indigenous peoples to Christianity, for authorities could collect taxes, administer the sacraments, and instruct Indians in the lifeways of “honest and obedient Christians.” Contact with the outside

FIGURE 3.1  Indigenous political leaders, Pisac, Peru Source: Harry Sanabria


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world could be readily monitored in such insular towns, since authorities could restrict the coming and going of Indians and outsiders. And the towns, beacons of Christian civilization, would draw solitary herders and cultivators into their orbit, removing them from their ancient and remote lands . . . imbued with strange, idolatrous spirituality and meaning. (Larson 1988:68) In frontier areas, missionaries played a key role in clustering semi-nomadic peoples into settlements and transforming local cultures, as among the Pueblo in New Mexico: At the missions the friars offered young men livestock, meat, and education in animal husbandry in return for baptism and obedience of God’s laws, just as the hunt chiefs before them had taught young men hunting techniques and hunt magic in return for corn and meat payments . . . effective native hunt magic was always dependent on temporary sexual abstinence. This fact was not lost on the friars, who distributed livestock to men who promised to live monogamously. In precolonial times seniors had enjoyed the most meat because juniors were always indebted until they reached adulthood. Now obedient and pious junior men were the most favored by the friars. Thus in a few years, the introduction of European livestock eroded the hunt chief’s authority, diminished the importance of hunting in Pueblo society, and totally transformed the age hierarchy on which meat distribution and consumption were based. (Gutiérrez 1991:77) “Successful rulers,” Beezley, Martin, et. al. remind us, have understood that their dominion rests on much more than force alone. Persuasion, charisma, habit, and presentations of virtue serve as familiar techniques and exhibitions of authority. . . . [Those] in power have grasped the crucial importance of public ritual in symbolizing and constantly recreating their hegemony. . . . Spaniards legitimated their right to rule through language and ceremony. . . . Holiday celebrations offered . . . the opportunity to organize living tableaux of virtue that served to instruct subordinate peoples. Spanish efforts to acculturate, especially to evangelize, the indigenous peoples focused on dramatic demonstrations such as rituals of government, passion plays, and Amerindian dances revised to carry Christian-European meanings. (1994:xiii–xiv) In Chapter 7 I examine some of the deep transformations of the religious worlds of indigenous peoples during the colonial period. Here I turn to the celebration of Corpus Christi in Peru to illustrate how colonial elites sponsored public religious celebrations in an attempt – one not entirely successful – to tighten their ideological grip over indigenous peoples (Cahill 1996; Harris 2003). Overlapping with the Jewish festival of Passover, Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) is a thirteenth century ritual ensconced by papal decree that symbolized the presence of Christ in the Eucharist bread. In 1264 Pope Urban IV declared that Corpus Christi be observed on the second Thursday after Pentecost (50 days after Easter), which,

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according to Christian belief, was when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. In what was supposed to have been a celebration consisting of a simple mass, Corpus Christi quickly turned into a massive, pilgrimage-like procession through city streets with a lavish display of pageants dramatizing Biblical stories and displaying religious personages. The 1424 celebration of Corpus Christi in Barcelona, for example, included over 100 pageants, several depicting sword fights between angels and devils, and Lucifer and Saint Michael. To this day, that cosmic struggle between angels and devils is reenacted in the annual Diablada dance troupes during Carnaval in Bolivia and elsewhere in the Andes (Chapter 12). Corpus Christi was one of the first large-scale rituals transplanted to LAC after the conquest and actively sponsored by the colonial state. Less than 20 years after the fall of Cusco, Andeans were celebrating Corpus Christi by singing, dancing, and carrying effigies of Christian saints. The famed chronicler Garcilaso de La Vega, recalling its celebration during his youth, emphasized the role of the “Indian nobility” who ceremoniously entered Cusco with “all the decorations, ornaments, and devices that they used in the time of the Inca kings for their great festivals”. It should not surprise us that, only a year after the 1572 execution of Túpac Amaru in Cusco (the last Inca who held out for 40 years in the eastern flanks of the Andes), the Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, in a triumphalist proclamation, declared Corpus Christi to be the city’s “principal festival and procession of the year,” mandated “all the Indians” of its parishes to help with preparations, and required each Spanish trade guild to “bring out its dance or play”. Other local mandates – such as the decision by Cusco’s town council (cabildo) in 1620 commanding indigenous settlements within a 35-mile radius of the city to participate in its celebration – followed. By the end of the seventeenth century Corpus Christi, firmly entrenched in the Andes and celebrated in large cities and rural villages alike, was “a vibrant mix of Spanish Catholic triumphalism, popular devotion, hierarchal display, subordinate dissent, solemn ritual, carnivalesque exuberance, Inca reenactment, ethnic caricature, parish rivalry, civic pride, mercantile opportunity, and heterogeneous crowds” (Harris 2003: 151, 154). State decrees do not explain the swift popularity of Corpus Christi among Andean peoples of all walks of life, but they do suggest, as in Toledo’s proclamation, that Spaniards were acutely aware of the political significance of religious festivals. So too were some Andeans, such as the remnants of Inca nobility, who had much to gain politically and economically by publicly celebrating this festival alongside Spaniards. Spanish and, later, indigenous trade guilds (representing carpenters, textile producers, hat and costume makers, among others) profited as the colonial state and church continued to fund its costly celebration. The spread of Corpus Christi and its transformation into a key exemplar of Popular Catholicism was also due to timing (Chapter 7) for, in the Andes, it coincided with the winter solstice and maize harvest season, and the corresponding Inca festivals of Inti Raymi and Capacocha. (This was an overlap that Spanish clergy soon recognized). By the time Corpus Christi reached the Andes, it was a sumptuous and drawn-out public display of elaborately dressed ceremonial dancers and singers, and ritual intoxication that accompanied the veneration of supernatural beings – not unlike what also occurred during Inca and Andean festivals. And Spaniards and Andeans participated side by side but not, of course, on an equal footing. In his recollection of Corpus Christi in Cusco, Garcilaso de La Vega noted that eighty encomenderos . . . were responsible for adorning the saints’ floats in the procession, which were to be borne by their indigenous vassals and ‘resembled those that in Spain are borne by the confraternities in such fiestas.’ The


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floats themselves were thus pointedly symbolic of the very subjugation of native Andeans to colonial masters. How could it be otherwise, when they were designed by the conquistadors themselves, just twenty years after the Spaniards conquered Cuzco? (Cahill 1996:83)

Pillars of the colonial economy Landed estates, plantations, and mines were at the heart of the colonial economy and profoundly shaped LAC societies. We cannot, for example, fully understand contemporary Mesoamerican or Andean peoples without appreciating how these three pillars of the colonial economy competed with indigenous communities for their land and labor, nor understand present-day Cuba, Jamaica, or Haiti, without recognizing the historical impact of plantations, sugar, and slavery. The hope of European colonials to quickly enrich themselves and return as wealthy gentlemen was quickly dashed once they realized that there was not enough gold or other precious minerals in their conquered lands. As a result, they opted to avail themselves of two resources that would allow them to achieve a grander lifestyle that they could aspire to in Europe: land and labor. The landed estate (hacienda, Spanish; fazenda, Portuguese) early emerged as a key social, cultural, and economic institution. Given the vast heterogeneity in LAC landscapes and cultures, there is not a single explanation for how haciendas developed. Some scholars suggest that their roots lie in the encomienda system while others note that haciendas appeared in areas where encomiendas did not take hold. Most scholars agree, though, that most encomiendas and haciendas emerged and thrived in regions densely populated by indigenous communities. The pinnacle of the hacienda system occurred after independence when liberally minded national elites, wishing to transform indigenous peasants into yeoman-like farmers similar to those in the US, undermined their communal access to land (Bauer 1986; Lockhart 1969; Taylor 1974; Wolf and Mintz 1957). There were different kinds of haciendas: some were small, with no more than several hundred hectares, while others were huge; some specialized in a few key crops (potatoes or coffee, for example), while others had wider productive base; some produced goods for local markets while others for distant ones, such as mines; some haciendas drew their labor from nearby, still-autochthonous communities, while others engulfed entire indigenous villages. Despite these differences, haciendas shared three characteristics. First, they had relatively low levels of technology and capital investments. Second, indigenous communities provided the bulk of their labor needs. This was not a fully proletarian workforce, as tenants had access to their own plots of land, which they enjoyed in return for working the private fields of their landowners (hacendado, Spanish; fazendeiro, Portuguese). Third, in addition to providing agricultural labor, tenants were also forced through a variety of exploitative relationships to furnish tribute payments, such as a percentage of crops harvested on their own land plots, to the hacendado, and they were often indebted and bound to their hacendados through debt peonage and patron-client relationships such as godparenthood (Mintz and Wolf 1950). The profoundly unequal and exploitative hacienda system defined the rural worlds of most LAC peoples until recent times; prompted countless

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rebellions during the colonial period; led to the Mexican and Bolivian Revolutions of 1910 and 1952; and was at the core of grievances, political instability, and massive violence in Central America during the 1980s. Plantations were a special kind of landed estate. The archetype was the sugar plantation that played a decisive role in the history of coastal Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Central American coastal plains (Moreno Franginals 1986; Schwartz 1987; Wolf and Mintz 1957). The sugar plantation differed from the hacienda in three important ways. First, it required larger capital and technological investments, especially for the machinery needed for grinding and processing sugarcane. As Mintz writes, “These technical features . . . introduced more than just an aura of industrial modernity into what were operations which predated, in many cases by whole centuries, the Industrial Revolution” (1996a:295). Second, unlike the hacienda, the plantation’s resident labor force consisted primarily of either slaves or full-time wage laborers. Third, plantations produced commodities, such as semi-refined sugar, molasses, and rum, primarily geared toward European markets. These characteristics mark plantations as quasi-agricultural factories producing for and primarily oriented to the world market. Spaniards were the first to plant sugarcane in the Caribbean, doing so by the early sixteenth century. Yet it was the Portuguese who, taking advantage of their African colonies (particularly Angola), took the lead in launching large-scale plantations staffed by growing numbers of African slaves, especially along the Brazilian coastal areas of Pernambuco and Bahia. By the late eighteenth century most of the Caribbean and Atlantic coastlines were transformed into vast sugar plantations worked overwhelmingly by African slaves who produced sugar and its byproducts for a growing urban proletariat in Britain and other European countries (Mintz 1985). By spurring the African slave trade, sugarcane plantations drew Africans, Europeans, and indigenous peoples into global webs of economic, political, social, and cultural relationships. Between 1551 and 1810, three million Africans were enslaved and transported to the Caribbean and Brazil. Perhaps another million reached the English and French colonies of Jamaica, Saint-Domingue, and Martinique. More African slaves arrived in the tiny island of Martinique – less than one-fourth the size of New York City’s Long Island – than in the US, ten times as many landed in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies than the US, and more than 100 million people of African descent currently live in LAC – three times as in the US (Andrews 2004, 2008; Klein 1986; Trouillot 1995). Legally no more than chattel, African slaves who survived the inhuman slave ships (Rediker 2007) faced extraordinary levels of mortality and unimaginably cruel labor conditions. Sugar “was a murderous commodity” (Brown 2008:117), which is probably why a priest wrote from the Brazilian city of Bahia in 1627 that “A sugar mill is hell and all the masters of them are damned” (Schwartz 1987:67). Yet slaves carved out a degree of freedom in their everyday lives (Mintz 1996b), forging novel and enduring Afro-Latin and Brazilian traditions in religion and ritual, dance and music, and popular celebrations. I survey these lasting contributions in the following chapters. Mining, especially silver mining in Mexico and Bolivia, was the third most important pillar of the colonial economy and crucial for royal coffers (Bakewell 1987; Brading and Cross 1985). The production and export of silver linked vast territories and peoples into complex fields of regional relationships by spurring the supply of agricultural goods and other commodities to mines and miners. Silver, and later tin mining, consolidated Bolivia’s


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position as an exporter of raw commodities, was a powerful symbol of dependency and exploitation, and an important catalyst of the 1952 revolution. Early attempts to supply mines with African slave labor proved unsuccessful because most Africans eventually died off, and it was the mita imposed on indigenous communities that initially furnished mines with most of their labor and, later, with voluntary indigenous workers (mingas). In time, conscripted indigenous miners (mitayos), in a successful drive to resist the mita, progressively shed their identity as “Indians,” and the centuries-long adaptation to mine work ushered in culturally distinctive and oppositional cultures in, for example, Bolivian mining communities (Nash 1979).

Resisting colonialism Cooper and Stoler note that “colonial regimes were neither monolithic nor omnipotent” (1997:6). Colonial rule was always tenuous throughout LAC, its legitimacy continuously challenged along multiple fronts. Resistance to European domination by indigenous and slave communities largely took two forms: (1) outright rebellions and (2) more evasive, “everyday forms” of resistance.

Rebellions The colonial period was strewn with many revolts and rebellions against European rule. Most were localized outbreaks of violence in haciendas or plantations, others at the very centers of state power. Mexico City, for example, saw its fair share of conspiracies, riots, and uprisings by African slaves, indigenous peoples, and casta members (Chapter 5) during the first 100 years after the conquest. Most erupted during symbolically important periods of the Catholic liturgical calendar, such as Lent and Easter, that also coincided with popular religious celebrations (Curcio-Nagy 1994; Martínez 2004). Mass insurrections also shook the colonial world. The late eighteenth century Andean rebellions and Haiti’s slave revolts signaled a breakdown of European rule and legitimacy. These examples also provide us with insights into the social and cultural worlds of indigenous and slave societies as the colonial era was coming to an end.

Andean rebellions.  In the late eighteenth century waves of rebellions shattered the Andean world (Stern 1987; Szeminski 1987; Thompson 2002). Of the 100 revolts between 1720 and 1790, two stand out: the 1742–1752 insurgency in the eastern Andean slopes and the massive 1780–1782 insurrection, which culminated in the 1781 siege of La Paz, Bolivia, broken only after the arrival of royal troops from Buenos Aires. The rebellions bear commonalities that provide a glimpse into Andean and indigenous society by the latecolonial period. Most who rebelled were common Andean peasants from a wide spectrum of ethnic, linguistic, and economic backgrounds. Their leaders, though, were often welloff elite Andeans who profited from the colonial economy and straddled indigenous and Spanish worlds. For example, Juan Santos Atahualpa, leader of the 1742–1752 revolt, was educated by Jesuits; claimed to be a direct descendant of Atahualpa, who was executed by Francisco Pizarro 200 years earlier; and called for a return of a redemptive Inca king, a

Conquest, colonialism, and resistance


goal he believed was shared by the Christian God. Prophecy played an important role in these millenarian movements underpinned by Catholic theology and shared by other rebel leaders. Túpac Katari, who along with Túpac Amaru led the 1781 siege of La Paz, attended mass each day, celebrated by captive clergy. One of these priests claimed that Katari told his followers that “the time had been completed to fulfill the prophecy that the kingdom would return to be theirs” and that “everything will return to its owner, as have predicted first Santa Teresa to San Ignacio de Loyola [that] what belonged to the Inca King would be returned to him” (Robins 2005:75–76). These examples illustrate the deep imprint of Spanish Catholicism on Andean worldviews, how rebel leaders legitimized their cause by mustering and reinventing Catholic ideology, and the role of popular memory. These insurrections were sparked by economic policies that impoverished many Andeans, including their leaders, and were also flamed by colonial attempts to undermine the political position and legitimacy of local leaders and their privileged status. The rebellions failed not only because the colonial state was militarily superior but also because two centuries after the conquest Andeans were deeply segmented by privilege and culture. Equally important, rebel leaders were in an ambiguous, almost paradoxical position, rationalizing their revolt against the colonial order by simultaneously drawing on ideas and concepts from the colonial cultural world. A cohesive military, social, and cultural stand against the Spaniards was difficult indeed.

Haiti’s slave revolution.  In 1804 and after 20 years of extraordinary violence, Haiti, until then the French colony of Saint-Domingue, declared its independence. This is the only example of a successful African slave rebellion and the first independent nation-state in LAC (Garrigus 2010; Geggus 2013; Mintz 2010). Tempting as it may, we should not romanticize this remarkable event as an epic “racial” struggle between blacks or people of color and white French planters. Nor was the Haitian revolution a concerted, unified drive to overthrow colonial rule, or even to abolish slavery. In many ways, Haiti’s independence was an outcome – almost an unintended consequence – of lasting antagonisms, and shifting rivalries and alliances, between members of a heterogeneous colonial society deeply divided by identity, culture, and privilege. Spain ceded to France the western part of the island of Santo Domingo in 1697. Less than a century later, with its economy flourishing with sugar plantations worked by hundreds of thousands of African slaves, French Saint-Domingue became “the single most profitable colony in the history of the New World” (Mintz 2010:89). Aside from the sheer wealth that it provided to French planters, Saint-Domingue differed from English and American slave societies in two important ways, and both were harbingers of revolution. French law (the 1685 Code Noir) gave slaves the opportunity to become freemen (gens de couleur, people of color) and enjoy many rights (but not full citizenship), including the privilege to own property, as well as slaves, who were, after all, considered a form of property. In time, gens de couleur, enjoying French privileges and acculturated into French culture, viewed themselves as quite different from Creole (born in Saint-Domingue) and especially African-born slaves (congos or bossales). At the eve of the revolution, gens de couleur owned one-third of the colony’s plantations and perhaps one-fourth of its slaves – and formed the bulk of the French colonial militia. Second, there was not a rigid color line in Saint-Domingue as in the US or English colonies (see also Chapter 5). Phenotypically


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black gens de couleur could marry whites and bestow upon their mixed offspring the right to inherit property on an equal footing as French citizens. For their part, many French planters legally married black slaves (or subsequently legitimized their consensual unions) and treated their offspring as rightful heirs. Everyday life “at the bottom” was marked by a motley array of shifting and potentially explosive racial, cultural, and class divisions and allegiances. The revolution began with a slave uprising in 1791 that spread through much of the colony and quickly turned into a war “within” a war (Trouillot 1995:37). As Andean rebel leaders mentioned in the previous section, gens de couleur were in an ambiguous and vulnerable position in colonial society: not quite French citizens and legally subordinated to whites, but with a stake in the colony’s plantation economy and slavery, they fought for and against the French planter class, clashed amongst themselves, and recruited African slaves to their cause as well as brutally suppressed them. Some, as the famed Toussaint Louverture, who first fought for the French and then against them, and briefly seized control of much of the colony, had grand plans, declaring himself Governor-for-Life but, significantly, not advocating for outright independence. The war’s turning point was Napoleon Bonaparte’s decision in 1802 to send an army to SaintDomingue with the intent of reasserting French control and reinstituting slavery. (France abolished slavery in 1794 in an attempt to appease rebel slaves.) Various rebel leaders joined the French forces which, some authors claim, were overwhelmingly comprised of non-whites. Other leaders – as Louverture, captured and sent to France, where he died – resisted. Slaves, especially the bossales, rarely sided with the French (sometimes they did), and by 1803 they had forged a powerful-enough alliance with sympathetic gens de couleur to beat the colonial armies. After the French defeat, many plantation owners emigrated to Cuba (La Rosa Corzo 2003).

“Everyday” forms of resistance Resistance to colonial rule was more often less conspicuous than the Andean rebellions or Haiti’s slave revolution. The idea of evasive, everyday forms of resistance stems from the work of Scott (1985, 1990), who suggests that mass, overt challenges to colonial rule have been rare because of the ability of states and elites to ruthlessly suppress them. Far more common have been less frontal oppositions that question the legitimacy of colonial rule, interfere with the mechanisms of exploitation and domination, and leave opponents less vulnerable to repression. One of Scott’s important ideas is that colonial control is never all-encompassing, so that subjugated peoples have some autonomy and space within which they can maneuver, and that resistance is entrenched in daily lives and routines. LAC provides many examples of everyday resistance. One option was to take advantage of the colonial legal system that granted legal rights to indigenous communities (but rarely to slaves). Only a few decades after the conquest, Andean communities in Ayacucho, Peru, began using lawsuits and legal appeals to stall colonial initiatives, sometimes for years. Andean success at evading labor drafts to mining districts is instructive: because only those legally classed as “Indians” could be drafted, Andeans learned ways to avoid being classed as such in colonial censuses. Increasingly the colonial state was unable to muster sufficient mine labor, production waned, royal coffers suffered, and the mita was

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eventually abolished. Another instance of working within the judicial system is from contemporary southern Colombia. There, the Cumbe preserve colonial-era documents that identify them as Indians (indígenas). This is a successful strategy, for the Colombian constitution guarantees rights, especially over communal land, to those who can demonstrate an indigenous identity harking back to the colonial period (Powers 1995; Rappaport 1994; Stern 1982; Wightman 1990). Indigenous peoples also resisted colonial rule by fleeing to remote, difficult-to-reach areas, often beyond the surveillance and effective reach of the colonial state. For example, Guatemala’s forested Petén region provided refuge for Mayan-speaking peoples, many still called “Wild Indians” as late as the eighteenth century. Further south, Cakchiquel Maya fleeing to isolated mountains and ravines to avoid tribute, created dispersed, shifting settlements that Spaniards called pajuides, from the Cakchiquel term pajuyu, which meant “in the hills” (Hill 1992; Schwartz 1990). Fleeing was a crucial strategy for African slaves who, unlike their indigenous counterparts, largely lacked legal rights. And although even under extreme hardship many slaves retained some autonomy over their lives, as in religion (Chapter 7) or food and cuisine (Chapter 8), others opted for an entirely different way of life. Remote, forested areas in the Lesser Antilles, and the Central American and northern South American coastlines of Belize, Honduras, Suriname, and the Guiana Highlands, gave many the chance to escape colonial control and provided a haven from and an alternative to slavery. Flight also led to novel forms of ethnic consciousness, or ethnogenesis.

Ethnogenesis The process whereby peoples of diverse backgrounds come into being as a distinctive group with a new sense of collective identity and consciousness of their past is called ethnogenesis. This construction of “New Peoples and New Kinds of People” (Schwartz and Salomon 1999) was not only the result of the European conquest that forced dissimilar peoples to intermingle, shed their original identities, and creatively generate new ones. For example, by forcibly resettling together different peoples, the Incas too prompted the emergence of new societies, such as the Salasacas of highland Ecuador. And indigenous and African peoples were not the only ones who eventually viewed themselves as a different group; some Spaniards did likewise (Corr and Powers 2012; Haley and Wilcoxon 2005). Most research on ethnogenesis focuses on the extraordinary upheavals set in motion by the European conquest and the entrenchment of colonial rule. Disease, depopulation, intra-ethnic warfare, forced resettlements, migratory labor, the African slave trade, and attempts to elude colonial control generated far-flung diasporas of diverse indigenous and African peoples forced to coexist and collectively survive. Forging new identities – creatively assembling a new sense of social self and awareness, and of their historical destiny – allowed many to do so. Culture and memory were means for group survival. One example of ethnogenesis and of resistance to colonial rule was the maroon society, a creative bricolage of African, indigenous, and sometimes European cultures. The English word maroon comes from the French marronage, borrowed from the Spanish cimarronaje, which alluded to cimarrones, or runaway slaves (Mintz 1996a). Fleeing bondage, maroons formed communities virtually everywhere where African slavery and


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plantations were present – and where they “finally stopped running” (Thompson 2006:7). Across LAC, maroon communities were quite diverse, as they were made up of Indians, Africans, Europeans and Creoles; young, middle-aged and elderly people; enslaved and free people; field workers, domestics, drivers, artisans, messengers and soldiers; adherents to African traditional religions, Christianity and Islam. The enslaved . . . fled from all jurisdictions, regardless of the economic or social circumstances . . . from the highly developed plantation societies of Brazil, Jamaica, Suriname, Haiti, the United States and Mexico, and from less developed plantation or trading economies such as Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, the Bahamas, St Eustatius and Bermuda. (Thompson 2006:13) The diasporic quest for freedom often ushered in new, ethnically conscious groups in which history and popular memory loomed important. In Suriname, for example, “The Ndjuka people (descendants of former Maroons) . . . remember three definitive periods in their history: katibo ten, the period of enslavement; lowe ten, the years of escape into the forests and organization of Maroon settlements; and a fi, the post-treaty period. They still celebrate their freedom today and ritualistically remember it in their visits to each other. The host inquires, according to the old sentry challenge, ‘Wada, wadaa . . . ooo’ (‘Who is there?’). The visitor replies, ‘Friman’ (‘Freeman’)” (Thompson 2006:11). In northeastern Venezuela, the now Spanish-speaking Aripaeño trace their roots to African slaves who escaped from Dutch plantations in Suriname during the eighteenth century. Aripaeño identity is grounded on historical lore that recounts their exodus from Dutch plantations, and a central personage is Pantera Negra, the offspring of an upper-class Dutch white woman and a black slave foreman who worked at the Dutch colonial plantation owned by the father of Pantera Negra’s mother. Upon the couple’s discovery of the pregnancy, they fled in the company of other blacks from the plantation and settled in the Caura region. . . . Pantera Negra was born during this journey to freedom or grand marronnage. Upon the death of her parents, Pantera Negra became the ruler of . . . the maroon community founded by her father. . . . Pantera Negra . . . demarcates and permeates Aripaeño’s ancestral territory with mythic . . . features that are grounded in historical events and that serve as important markers of their heritage and identity. (Pérez 2003:88) Communities formed by runaway slaves were usually called palenques or rancherías in Spanish colonies and quilombos or mocambos in Brazil. In Cuba, palenques survived for almost 300 years after the onset of the slave trade. Cuba, as other Caribbean slave societies, was no stranger to slave revolts. The first took place 1533, and at the height of the sugar plantation economy during the nineteenth century, uprisings by slaves and “Indians” (descendants of indigenous peoples who had intermingled with African slaves and Spaniards) were commonplace. In eastern Cuba, the first palenques appeared in the early 1700s. These were small, mobile settlements located in sparsely populated, hard-to-reach

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forested mountains (as in the Sierra Maestra mountain range), made up by slaves from diverse ethnic backgrounds and sometimes “Indians.” (One 1605 census from Santiago de Cuba, the main administrative center for eastern Cuba, listed slaves from 29 African ethnic groups.) Colonial officials and plantation owners faced enormous difficulties in subduing “vagabond” (i.e., runaway) slaves, not only because they lacked adequate manpower to comb through inaccessible terrain (which they did) but also because of slaves’ guerillastyle tactics. The governor of Santiago de Cuba nicely expressed this point when he wrote that “Unfortunately, the slavehunting militias used in this important service have done nothing more than arrive at the runaway slave settlements and destroy their houses and crops, which is not the main aim, because the blacks . . . abandon everything” (La Rosa Corzo 2003:149). Palenques disappeared as important loci of resistance after the wars of independence and the abolition of slavery. In the Caribbean, the Black Caribs emerged out of the cultural fusion of fugitive African slaves and Carib and some Arawak-speaking peoples. They resisted European encroachments well into the eighteenth century. In 1796, the Black Caribs in St. Vincent and Dominica surrendered to the British, ending the last vestige of armed indigenous resistance to European colonial rule in the Caribbean. They were then deported to Honduras, many making their way to other parts of Central America (Hulme 1986). The Garifuna of Honduras trace their origins to the Black Caribs. Almost 50,000 strong and officially classed as belonging to one of Honduras’ nine ethnic groups, they straddle racial and ethnic identities (as black and indigenous). In the 1990s they were officially represented as an etnía (ethnic group) with a distinctive culture now claimed as part of the national patrimony. In fact, the Garifuna acquired an international reputation as bearers of a traditional culture that merits protection such that, in 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Garifuna language, dance, and music “Masterpieces Of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” (Anderson 2009:24) The Garifuna language is a blend of African, Carib, and Arawak languages (Heggarty and Renfrew 2014).

Gendered colonialism The political-economic, social, and cultural subjugation of one people over another has always been deeply gendered. Instilling dominant gender and sexual mores was key in legitimizing colonial regimes, and diverging from these norms considered dangerous transgressions of colonial moral and political authority. This is why “gender dynamics . . . [have been] fundamental to the securing and maintenance of the imperial enterprise” (McClintock 1995:xx). The LAC colonial encounter was a gendered clash between vastly different worldviews on the attributes and potential, and rights and responsibilities, of men and women in their social, cultural, economic, and religious spheres. This was a struggle over gendered personhood. Spaniards strove to stamp out gendered and sexual mores they viewed abominable and threatening (the malas costumbres, bad customs). They tried to do


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so by first converting the “pagans” to Christianity and, second, by introducing a patriarchal system in which (1) males exert superior power over female sexuality, reproductive roles, and labor power; (2) such dominance confers both specific services and superior status upon males in their relationships with females; (3) authority in family networks is commonly vested in elders and fathers, thereby imparting a generational as well as a sex-based dynamic to social relations; and (4) authority in familial cells serves as a fundamental metaphorical model for social authority more generally. (Stern 1995:21) While neither strategy full achieved its desired results – many gender and sexual ideologies and practices survived the conquest – by the early colonial period these already reflected the influence of Spanish Catholicism and patriarchal ideology.

Sexuality, marriage, and power Colonizers focused a great deal on undermining native sexual mores and marriage arrangements by encouraging chastity, monogamy, and formal Catholic church marriages. Among Mesoamerican, Andean, and other indigenous peoples, sexual intercourse before marriage was encouraged, accepted as a sign of sexual maturity, and viewed as a first step towards a formal marriage. The very idea of (female) sexual abstinence before marriage struck both women and men as very strange; indeed, some indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl, did not have a term that translated into virgin. In Mesoamerican and Andean societies a period of premarital cohabitation, or trial marriages, almost always preceded a formal marriage. This practice gave spouses and their kin (who also had a say and stake in the success of the future marital tie) the opportunity to appraise the long-term viability of the forthcoming marriage, including the ability of the couple to bear offspring. Consider, for example, the following anecdote by a Jesuit priest in seventeenth century Peru: In a town I was passing through and an Indian boy asked me to marry him to his betrothed. One of the young woman’s brothers, however, objected strongly, giving no other reason than that they had never slept together. I know another Indian who refused to see his wife after they married and treated her harshly. He alleged that she was a woman of low condition since no one had ever loved her or had carnal knowledge of her before marriage. (Powers 2005:29) Spanish emphasis on monogamy also collided with indigenous values. While monogamy was preferred by non-elite Mesoamerican and Andean peoples, this was not so among noble families, who historically engaged in polygynous marriages as a way of establishing or deepening political and economic alliances with rival neighbors (Chapter 2). In a clear display of the Janus-faced colonial ideology, some Spaniards also formed simultaneous sexual relationships with indigenous women of noble rank in the first decades after the conquest. Moreover, it was far more difficult for women – but not men – to divorce. The emphasis on monogamy had much to do with concerns about, and implications of,

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illegitimacy and inheritance. Mesoamerican and Andean peoples did not make a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate births, for all offspring were considered full members of their mother’s or father’s kin groups. By contrast, Spanish Catholic doctrine and medieval law emphasized the primacy of legitimate offspring in receiving inheritance from their fathers and viewed the proliferation of illegitimate children as a marker of moral decay. From an elite male perspective, legitimacy determined access to family wealth, prestige, and status, a view that was coupled with laws criminalizing extramarital sexual intercourse, and religious doctrine labelling it a sin. There was, of course, a gendered edge to this outlook, for inheritance privileges were tilted towards male legitimate heirs, and male sexual transgressions were more easily tolerated than female ones. It was the control of female sexuality that was paramount. Colonial and post-colonial (male) gender ideologies were wedded to the ideal of honor, which emphasized premarital (female) chastity, church sanctioned marriages, and the siring of legitimate children. If elite women lost their virginity prior to marriage or engaged in extramarital relationships, they brought shame and dishonor to their families and family names. This view did not apply to men, who were not expected to be virgins prior to marriage and whose masculinity partly rested on public displays of sexual virility, extramarital relationships, and procreating illegitimate children. From an elite male perspective, the transmission, distribution, and legitimation of privilege in colonial society rested partly on the male defense of female chastity and family honor. It was men who earned and maintained [honor] through wartime deeds, occupational success . . . and most importantly protection of their female relatives from “dishonor.” Women, on the other hand, could not earn honor; they could only maintain or lose it, since for women honor was solely based on sexual purity – premarital virginity and post-marital chastity. Men’s honor as well as family honor was tightly tied to the sexual behavior of the women in their lives – their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. (Powers 2005:123) Honor signaled self as well as public esteem and noble ancestry, and Spanish elite men and women were referred to with the honorific titles of Don and Doña. Honor also limited the range of occupations an individual could aspire to, and elite colonials considered slaves and others at the bottom of the social hierarchy, including mixed bloods and casta members (discussed in Chapter 5), as persons without honor. In colonial society an elite “person without honor was worse than dead” (Gutiérrez 1991:179). And, yet, since colonial society was highly stratified along ethnic and class lines, it is likely that what honor meant and how it was defended varied considerably across ethnic, class, and racial boundaries (Boyer 1998; Twinam 1998). Further, while chastity, virginity, and the European notion of honor were contrary to pre-colonial native mores, Spanish ideology quickly entered the worldview of many indigenous peoples. By the end of the sixteenth century, for instance, an indigenous woman from Cuzco was already using elite colonial vocabulary when she alluded to herself as the “honorable wife of a Spaniard” (Kellogg 2005:74). Attempts at controlling and reshaping sexuality, marriage, and womanhood were singularly unsuccessful across the colonial ethnic and class landscapes. Unrelenting elite concerns about rates of illegitimacy attested to the difficulties faced in instilling elite and


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dominant gender, conjugal, and sexual norms among large sectors of the indigenous and popular classes in every corner of LAC. Large numbers of men and women entered into unmarried conjugal relationships (concubinage) and bore children without marrying. Some numbers are telling: seventeenth century baptismal records suggest illegitimacy rates approaching 50%, 80% of mixed blood births in Lima, Peru, and over 50% of illegitimate births in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. By the eighteenth century, more than a quarter of all households in LAC were headed by women, and in some cities (São Paulo, for example), almost half (Powers 2005; Socolow 2015; see also Chapters 4 and 6). Patrilineal descent and inheritance laws, coupled with judicial codes that considered women legal minors, progressively undermined female economic, political, and social autonomy in indigenous communities. To be sure, Mesoamerican and Andean parallel and cognatic descent systems were stubbornly resistant to change (Chapter 6), and well into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries indigenous women continued to control and transmit to their offspring property and other resources. Many female rulers still retained their political titles such as cacicas, curacas, or capullanas. And at least in theory women could legally sign and ratify contracts, appear in court, and make wills. In time, these rights were progressively restricted and the outright (and often illegal) male usurpation of female property – the transformation of gender-parallel systems to male-centered ones – eventually eroded indigenous female power and prestige (Kellogg 2005).

Towards a male and heterosexual-centered cosmology Mesoamerican and Andean parallel and bi-gendered cosmologies and ritual practices (Chapter 6) did not have a place in Spanish medieval theology and quickly became the target of intense persecution, for “Christian conversion implied a shift from native pantheons of multiple deities in which female and male gods wielded equivalent powers to a monotheistic religious system in which there existed only one ‘true god’ and omnipotent male god” (Powers 2005:50). What we know of the sexual practices of indigenous peoples overwhelmingly stems from colonial and elite mestizo (offspring of European and indigenous parents) chroniclers. While the interpretation of their accounts needs to be taken with more than a grain of salt – casting “others” as perverse and “sinful” was, after all, an ideological justification for the Spanish conquest – there are too many examples from abundant sources to seriously question the widespread presence of homoeroticism, maleupon-male sexual intercourse, and ritualized homosexuality prior to the European arrival. The same can be said of third-genders – berdaches – “biological male[s] who dressed, gestured and spoke as . . . ‘effeminate[s]’ ” (Trexler 1995:64). Spaniards documented these sexual mores and practices in many societies at different levels of political-economic complexity (see also Chapter 6). Not all homoeroticism or male-upon-male sexual intercourse was equally respectable. Male sexual dominance, reflected in an aggressively masculine identity linked to warfare and violence, made some practices more acceptable than others. Aztecs, Incas, and Maya routinely feminized captured males from conquered groups – stripping them of their masculine attributes – and young boy captives were emblematic of femininity and passivity. It was the passive recipient of sexual penetration who was looked down on – and the power-wielding insertor who was favored. Mestizo claims that Incas and Aztecs universally condemned and punished all “sodomites” should be questioned because mestizo

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chroniclers tried to portray their native societies in a favorable light vis-à-vis the new imperial overlords. And, yet, even some of these European-biased accounts revealed that “actives and passives were not equal in cultural life . . . [and that] the stiffer punishment and the greater ‘penalty of public shame’ (penas de vergüenza) belonged to ‘the one who served as a woman’ ” (Trexler 1995:161). As with witchcraft, Spaniards had few difficulties discovering “sodomy” and vigorously persecuted it, including the burning of “perverse Indians” in Mexico (Hardin 2002:15). According to some Spaniards, one cause of sodomy was the natives’ propensity to ally themselves with the Devil (diablo), which in turn contributed to the fall of the mighty Inca and Aztec empires. Yet not all “sodomites” were equal. Iberian sexual culture abounded with male-to-male intercourse and berdaches, with young boys especially prized as possessions and objects of lust. There is little doubt that in medieval Spain “sodomites” were harshly castigated. But there is also evidence that the most gruesome punishments were aimed at passives in male sexual relationships. In the hyper-masculine Iberian culture at the eve of the conquest, passivity amounted to femininity and weakness – and both scorned. Sexually dominating a passive partner was an unequivocal sign of power. There is probably some truth to Trexler’s claim that “Iberians did not arrive in the Americas straight” and that “martial Europeans could not tolerate the notion of ‘womanized’ males as an institutional part of successful, even imperial societies” (1995: 62, 155).

Remembering Columbus The writing of history – what to emphasize and what to downplay – is, as Zinn notes, necessarily ideological, and so it is with Christopher Columbus: To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is . . . an ideological choice. It serves – unwittingly – to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress . . . that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly. . . . The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks) – the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress – is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. (2013:9)


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When Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas little did he dream that 500 years later his arrival would be commemorated as well as marred in controversy. Public commemorations are highly public rituals through which historical events are remembered. But they are also channels through which different claims of the “truth” – of what “really happened” – are disputed. “What we often call the ‘legacy of the past,’ ” Trouillot (1995:17) reminds us, “may not be anything bequeathed by the past itself,” but appropriated and reinterpreted by social groups with an interest in claiming and legitimizing their own versions of the past. The now legendary 1836 “Battle of the Alamo” is a case in point, for was it a moment of glory during which freedom-loving Anglos, outnumbered but undaunted, spontaneously chose to fight until death rather than surrender to a corrupt Mexican dictator? Or [was] it a brutal example of U.S. expansionism, the story of a few white predators taking over what was sacred territory and half-willingly providing, with their death, the alibi for a well-planned annexation? (Trouillot 1995:9) Only in the late 1880s did Spain begin planning for the first commemoration of the Discovery. Spain’s quadricentennial celebration of 1892 was popular in the US because it coincided with the nineteenth century migrations of Italians and Irish, and Columbus played a leading role in making citizens out of these immigrants. He provided them with a public example of Catholic devotion and civic virtue, and thus a powerful rejoinder to the cliché that allegiance to Rome preempted the Catholic’s attachment to the United States. (Trouillot 1995:123) During the 1990s, many LAC indigenous groups – as well as Native Americans in the US – publicly denounced Columbus’ arrival in the New World, an event that they viewed more in terms of conquest and enslavement rather than “Discovery.” The quincentennial remembrance of 1492 was especially divisive and hotly contested: During the Quincentenary, teachers, scholars, and activists generally lined up on two sides. . . . One camp blamed Columbus and his European successors for all the deaths and misery of America’s natives (and African slaves) to the present. Indian spokespersons and their non-Indian supporters in this camp tended to speak in broad generalities about greed, racism and ethnocentrism as the root causes of alleged genocide and ecocide and to include virtually all Euro-Americans in their indictments. Their writings sought to short-circuit the expected celebratory character of the Quincentenary . . . less by making disinterested scholarly analyses of the past than by connecting the grim past of their ancestors and their own far-from-satisfactory present with carefully selected, emotionally charged historical vignettes and images and often eloquent expressions of sadness, pain and anger. . . . The other camp sought to complicate the moral and historical issues by distinguishing among Euro-American (and Indian) groups and even individuals, by contextualizing events to avoid anachronism, by emphasizing the impartial role of disease, and

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by seeking understanding before, if not rather than, judgment. A number of articles defended Columbus and “the West” against the historical attacks and “misperceptions” of the counter-camp. (Axtell 1995:690–691) This controversy is very much alive, for some US states and cities have moved to celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day,” while others have vigorously resisted such a move (Guerra 2016). And indigenous peoples, such as the Chilean Mapuche, continue to demonstrate against celebrating the “Discovery” (Figure 3.2). Searching for a middle-ground in this acrimonious debate, some scholars prefer to speak of October 12, 1492, as the Columbian Encounter, for to allude to the “Discovery” betrays an uncritical acceptance of a Eurocentric mode of understanding history, while to refer to Columbus’ arrival in the New World only in terms of invasion, enslavement, or genocide is an equally uncritical, and a no less ideologically narrow, perspective. As Axtell notes: Encounters are mutual, reciprocal  – two-way rather than one-way streets . . . [and] capacious: there are encounters of people but also of ideas, institutions, habits, values, plants, animals, and micro-organisms. Encounters are temporally and spatially fluid: they can occur at any time in any place, before or after 1492, around the globe. And, although natives, critics and activists may not approve the idea, encounters are morally neutral: the term does

FIGURE 3.2  Mapuche demonstrating against Columbus Day, Santiago, Chile, 2015 Source: Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo


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not prejudge the nature of the contact or its outcome. In sum, encounter is a spacious description that jettisons normative baggage to make room for disinterestedness and parity. (1992, quoted in Axtell 1995:695–696)

Concluding thoughts Aided by political and ethnic divisions in indigenous societies, technological superiority, cultural differences, and disease pathogens, Europeans overwhelmed most organized resistance in a few decades. Indigenous peoples and African slaves continuously challenged the colonial order along multiple fronts, and such resistance still runs deep, as when indigenous groups denounce the conquest and reinterpret in their own ways the 1492 events 500 years later. The past weighs heavily in the present, which is why a historical perspective is important. As we will see in the following chapters, a colonial-era Nahuatlor Maya-speaking Mesoamerican peasant attending a present-day celebration of the Day[s] of the Dead (Chapter 7) would find it strikingly similar, in meaning and performance, to how it was practiced in his/her time; Andean Aymara or Quechua villagers would recognize and understand many rituals that punctuate the agricultural cycle today; 200 years ago Quechua peasants in Pisac, Peru, would have understood the rituals of rule performed today at the beginning of the New Year; and indigenous Amazonians centuries ago would comprehend the crucial role of hallucinogens in healing rituals (Chapter 9). After independence, Creole elites viewed these deeply entrenched cultural beliefs and practices as obstacles to developing cohesive nation-states, a theme which I now turn to.

FILMS/VIDEOS 1492 – The Columbian Exchange. 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Investigates the two-way flow of animals and plants after Columbus’ landing in the Americas. 1521 Tenochtitlán – Aztecs vs. Conquistadors. 2014. Kanopy Streaming. Centers on Hernán Cortés’ campaign against the Aztecs. 1532 Cajamarca – Inca vs. Conquistadors. 2014. Kanopy Streaming. Story of the capture of the Inca emperor by Francisco Pizarro. Brazil – An Inconvenient History. 2000. Kanopy Streaming. Surveys the African slave trade to Brazil and the role of slavery in Brazilian history. The Garifuna Journey, – Celebrating the Resiliency of the Indigenous People of Belize. 1998. Kanopy Streaming. Overview of the culture and history of the Garifuna of Belize. Garifunas Holding Ground. 2002. Witness Production. Looks at how the Garifuna in Honduras

are protecting their lands from environmental devastation. Palenque: Un Canto; The African Heritage of a Colombian Village. 2011. New Day Films. Focuses on Palenque de San Basilio, a Columbian village founded by runaway slaves. Rigoberta Menchú: Daughter of the Maya. 2016. Kanopy Streaming. Documents the life history of Rigoberta Menchú, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Spanish Contact – Pizarro Conquers the Inca. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Examines events after the capture of Atahualpa and the ensuing struggle against Spanish rule. When Worlds Collide: The Untold Story of the Americas After Columbus. 2010. PBS Home Video. Explores how the conquest and colonial encounter led to the birth of Latin American culture.

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WEBSITES Bowling Green State University. Internet Sites with Primary Sources for History: Latin America. http:// Fordham University. Colonial Latin America. http:// George Mason University. Colonial Latin America. whm.html Map History/History of Cartography.

National Humanities Center. The Columbian Exchange. Newberry Library. The Aztecs and the Making of Colonial Mexico. Northwestern University. Primary Sources for Colonial Latin America. University of Texas-Austin. Benson Library. Early Maps of Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean. www.

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Conquest of Yucatan, 1526–1550. In Indian Conquistadors: Indigenous Allies in the Conquest of Mesoamerica. Matthew, Laura E. and Oudijk, Michel R., eds. Pp. 175–226. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Cooper, Frederick and Stoler, Ann L. 1997. Between Metropole and Colony. In Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Cooper, Frederick and Stoler, Ann L., eds. Pp. 1–56. Berkeley: University of California Press. Corr, Rachel and Powers, Karen V. 2012. Ethnogenesis, Ethnicity, and ‘Cultural Refusal’: The Case of the Salasacas in Highland Ecuador. Latin American Research Review 47:5–30. Curcio-Nagy, Linda A. 1994. Giants and Gypsies: Corpus Christi in Colonial Mexico City. In Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance: Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico. Beezley, William H. and Martin, Cheryl E., et al., eds. Pp. 1–26. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc. de la Puente Luna, José Carlos. 2014. The Many Tongues of the King: Indigenous Language Interpreters and the Making of the Spanish Empire. Colonial Latin American Review 23(2):143–170. Deagan, Kathleen. 2011. Native American Resistance to Spanish Presence in Hispaniola and La Florida, ca. 1492–1650. In Enduring Conquests: Rethinking the Archaeology of Resistance to Spanish Colonialism in the Americas. Liebmann, Matthew and Murphy, Melissa S., eds. Pp. 41–56. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press. Diamond, Jared M. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton. Dirks, Nicholas B. 1992. Introduction: Colonialism and Culture. In Colonialism and Culture. Dirks, Nicholas B., ed. Pp. 1–26. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Few, Martha. 2015. For all of Humanity: Mesoamerican and Colonial Medicine in Enlightenment Guatemala. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Garrigus, John D. 2010. ‘Thy Coming Fame, Ogé! Is Sure’: New Evidence on Ogé’s! Revolt and the Beginnings of the Haitian Revolution. In Assumed Identities: The Meanings of Race in

the Atlantic World. Garrigus, John D. and Morris, Christopher, et al., eds. Pp. 19–45. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press. Geggus, David. 2013. Haiti and Its Revolution: Four Recent Books. Radical History Review Winter(115):195–202. Gose, Peter. 2008. Invaders as Ancestors: On the Intercultural Making and Unmaking of Spanish Colonialism in the Andes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Guerra, Kristine. 2016. The War Against Columbus Day. Washington Post. October 10. Guilmartin, John F. 1991. The Cutting Edge: An Analysis of the Spanish Invasion and Overthrow of the Inca Empire, 1532–1539. In Transatlantic Encounters: Europeans and Andeans in the Sixteenth Century. Andrien, Kenneth J. and Adorno, Rolena, eds. Pp. 40–72. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gutiérrez, Ramón A. 1991. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Haley, Brian D. and Wilcoxon, Larry R. 2005. How Spaniards Became Chumash and Other Tales of Ethnogenesis. American Anthropologist 107(3):432–445. Hardin, Michael. 2002. Altering Masculinities: The Spanish Conquest and the Evolution of the Latin American Machismo. International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 7(1):1–22. Harris, Max. 2003. Saint Sebastian and the BlueEyed Blacks: Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru. The Drama Review 47(1):149–175. Heggarty, Paul and Renfrew, Colin. 2014. The Americas: Languages. In The Cambridge World Prehistory. Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul, eds. Pp. 1326–1354. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hill, Robert M. II. 1992. Colonial Cakchiquels: Highland Maya Adaptation to Spanish Rule 1600–1700. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Hulme, Peter. 1986. Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean 1492–1797. London: Methuen & Co. ———. 2000. Remnants of Conquest: The Island Caribs and their Visitors, 1877–1998. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Joralemon, Donald. 1982. New World Depopulation and the Case of Disease. Journal of Anthropological Research 38(1):108–127. Kellogg, Susan. 2005. Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America’s Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. Klein, Herbert S. 1986. African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean. New York: Oxford University Press. La Rosa Corzo, Gabino. 2003. Runaway Slave Settlements in Cuba: Resistance and Repression. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Larson, Brooke. 1988. Colonialism and Agrarian Transformation in Bolivia: Cochabamba, 1550–1900. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Lockhart, James. 1969. Encomienda and Hacienda: The Evolution of the Great Estate in the Spanish Indies. Hispanic American Historical Review 49(3):411–429. Lovell, W. George. 2005. Conquest and Survival in Colonial Guatemala: A Historical Geography of the Cuchumatan Highlands, 1500–1821. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Martínez, María E. 2004. The Black Blood of New Spain: Limpieza de Sangre, Racial Violence, and Gendered Power in Early Colonial Mexico. William and Mary Quarterly 61(3):479–520. Matthew, Laura E. and Oudijk, Michel R., eds. 2007. Indian Conquistadors: Indigenous Allies in the Conquest of Mesoamerica. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. McCaa, Robert. 1995. Spanish and Nahuatl Views on Smallpox and Demographic Catastrophe in Mexico. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 25(3):397–431. McClintock, Anne. 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge. Mintz, Sidney W. 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking Penguin. ———. 1989. Caribbean Transformations. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1996a. Enduring Substances, Trying Theories: The Caribbean Region as OIKOUMENE. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 2(2):289–311.

97 ———. 1996b. Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ———. 2010. Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Mintz, Sidney and Wolf, Eric R. 1950. An Analysis of Ritual Co-Parenthood (Compadrazgo). Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 6(4):341–368. Moreno Franginals, Manuel. 1986. Plantation Economies and Societies in the Spanish Caribbean, 1860–1930. In The Cambridge History of Latin America. (Volume 4: c. 1870 to 1930). Bethell, Leslie, ed. Pp. 187–232. New York: Cambridge University Press. Nash, June C. 1979. We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines. New York: Columbia University Press. Pérez, Berta E. 2003. Power Encounters. In Histories and Historicities in Amazonia. Whitehead, Neil L., ed. Pp. 81–105. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Powers, Karen V. 1995. Andean Journeys: Migration, Ethnogenesis, and the State in Colonial Quito. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ———. 2005. Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500–1600. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Rappaport, Joanne. 1994. Cumbe Reborn: An Andean Ethnography of History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Rediker, Marcus. 2007. The Slave Ship: A Human History. New York: Viking Penguin. Restall, Matthew. 2003. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. New York: Oxford University Press. Restall, Matthew and Asselbergs, Florine G. L. 2007. Invading Guatemala: Spanish, Nahua, and Maya Accounts of the Conquest Wars. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Robins, Nicholas A. 2005. Native Insurgencies and the Genocidal Impulse in the Americas. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Schwartz, Norman B. 1990. Forest Society: A Social History of Peten, Guatemala. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Schwartz, Stuart B. 1987. Colonial Brazil, c.1580– c.1750: Plantations and Peripheries. In The


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Cambridge History of Latin America. (Volume 2: Colonial Latin America). Bethell, Leslie, ed. Pp. 67–144. New York: Cambridge University Press. Schwartz, Stuart B. and Salomon, Frank. 1999. New Peoples and New Kinds of People: Adaptation, Readjustment, and Ethnogenesis in South American Indigenous Societies (Colonial Era). In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 2). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 443–501. New York: Cambridge University Press. Scott, James C. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ———. 1990. Domination and the Arts of Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Socolow, Susan M. 2015. The Women of Colonial Latin America. (2nd Edition). New York: Cambridge University Press. Spalding, Karen. 1984. Huarochirí: An Andean Society Under Inca and Spanish Rule. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Stern, Steve J. 1982. Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge to Spanish Conquest: Huamanga to 1640. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. ———. 1987. The Age of Andean Insurrection, 1742–1782: A Reappraisal. In Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 18th to 20th Centuries. Stern, Steve J., ed. Pp. 34–93. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ———. 1995. The Secret History of Gender: Women, Men, & Power in Late Colonial Mexico. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Szeminski, Jan. 1987. Why Kill the Spaniard? New Perspectives on Andean Insurrectionary Ideology in the 18th Century. In Resistance,

Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 18th to 20th Centuries. Stern, Steve J., ed. Pp. 166–192. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Taylor, William B. 1974. Landed Society in New Spain: A View from the South. Hispanic American Historical Review 54(3):387–413. Thompson, Alvin O. 2006. Flight to Freedom: African Runaways and Maroons in the Americas. Kingston, Jamaica: University of West Indies Press. Thompson, Sinclair. 2002. We Alone Will Rule: Native Andean Politics in the Age of Insurgency. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Todorov, Tzvetan. 1984. The Conquest of America. New York: Harper & Row. Trexler, Richard C. 1995. Sex and Conquest: Gendered Violence, Political Order, and the European Conquest of the Americas. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Twinam, Ann. 1998. The Negotiation of Honor. In The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame, and Violence in Colonial Latin America. Johnson, Lyman L. and Lipsett-Rivera, Sonya eds. Pp. 68–102. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Wachtel, Nathan. 1977. The Vision of the Vanquished: The Spanish Conquest of Peru Through Indian Eyes 1530–1570. New York: Harper & Row. Wightman, Ann M. 1990. Indigenous Migration and Social Change: The Forasteros of Cuzco, 1520– 1720. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Wolf, Eric R. and Mintz, Sidney. 1957. Haciendas and Plantations in Middle America and the Antilles. Social and Economic Studies 6(3):380–412. Zinn, Howard. 2013. A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present. (3rd Edition). New York: Routledge.



Independence and nation-building


aiti’s independence from France in 1802 marked the beginning of the end of the colonial period. Post-colonial elites faced the daunting task of forging nationstates, including a sense of national identity, over huge territories inhabited by many distinct peoples. In this chapter I center on how they met that challenge. In the first section I provide a brief sketch of independence from Spain and Portugal and take up the issue of the role of non-elite actors in the wars of liberation. In the next section I turn to how elites went about forging nationhood by emphasizing print culture and public schooling, instilling patriarchal gender conventions, sponsoring cookbooks and national cuisines, and grappling with the racial and ethnic divides in their respective countries. Republican elites also viewed disease as a hindrance to nation-building, a theme I subsequently take up. I conclude this chapter by examining one of the enduring cultural legacies of independence: the invention of Cinco de Mayo in the US.

Independence and nationalisms The wars of Independence began in 1792 when African slaves and free men and women in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) rose up against French rule and achieved sovereignty in 1802 (Chapter 3). By 1810 rebellions had engulfed most Spanish colonies, and with the 1824 defeat of royal troops in Ayacucho, Peru, Spanish crown rule effectively ended in most of LAC. Spain formally recognized Mexico’s independence only in 1836, and it held on to its Caribbean colonies for quite some time. The last Spanish troops left Santo Domingo (as the Dominican Republic was then called) in 1865, and after decades of unsuccessful secessionist wars, Spain lost Cuba, along with Puerto Rico (and, in the Pacific, the ­Philippines), to the US after the 1898 Spanish-American War. While Cuba officially gained its independence from the US in 1902, the Platt Amendment to its ­constitution – written under US rule – severely limited its sovereignty for decades. To the very end, the ­Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico remained powerful symbols of a reconstructed Spanish state identity: Spain made its decisive transition to constitutional government in the 1830s, after decades of civil and colonial wars and resistance to foreign intervention. . . . [Between] the Spanish American revolutions and the War of 1898, the Spanish state was able to articulate a broadly based national project with



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colonialism at its core. Spanish political and cultural leaders undertook the process of defining the new state with the colonies always in mind. They elaborated a fraternal vision of colonial rule in the Americas (though not in the Philippines) that stressed the peculiar effects of Spanish conquest and colonization. In this narrative, Spain had successfully implanted its language, religion, and institutions in the Americas and brought conquered peoples and African slaves into the forward march of Spanish and European civilization. American history, in the metropolitan view, was another chapter in Spain’s national history; the Americas, both colonial and postcolonial, were la España ultramarina. (Schmidt-Nowara 2006:3–4) Elsewhere in the Caribbean, former French, English, and Dutch colonies either achieved their independence much later than in the Spanish-speaking Americas or remained overseas territories with considerable political autonomy (e.g., Jamaica part of the British Commonwealth, Martinique an overseas French department). Brazil’s trajectory was different from the former Spanish colonies. Because of Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the Portuguese monarchy relocated to São Paulo, and although Brazil formally declared independence in 1822, it effectively remained part of the Portuguese monarchy for at least 60 more years (Cunha and Suprinyak 2016). Independence had far-reaching consequences for LAC peoples. The decades following colonial rule witnessed concerted drives by Creole elites to more effectively govern and extract resources from their largely rural populations. These attempts often translated into strategies that further stimulated the expansion of haciendas, plantations, mining, and cattle ranching. These strategies also included policies that undermined the economic autonomy of peasant communities by, for example, attacking the foundations of communally owned lands, or stimulating the growth of economic enclaves geared toward the production of commodities for the world market. Traditional historiography of the independence wars has often focused on the pivotal role of elite protagonists, such as Simón Bolívar or José de San Martín. In and outside of the LAC context, this elite-centered perspective has now been largely replaced by a social historical approach, also known as history from the “bottom-up,” or a “peoples’ history.” It emphasizes the accomplishments of indigenous and non-white peoples, as well as artisans, peasants, “ordinary” folks, and working-class groups at the bottom of the social and economic hierarchies in shaping world-significant events (Stearns 1994; Zinn 2013). This is an attempt to rescue from invisibility the historical agency of “peoples without history” (Wolf 1982). We know that non-whites – such as mulattoes (of black and white ancestry); mestizos; pardos (dark-skinned, also used interchangeably with mulattoes); blacks; “Indians”; and members of other popular classes – played crucial roles during the insurrections against Spanish rule. Lasso tells us that “in Venezuela and Caribbean Colombia, which were central war theaters and important exporters of revolutionary armies, people of African descent were a demographic majority . . . [and] constituted the corps of the patriot army” (Lasso 2007:5). In the protracted war for Mexico’s independence, hostilities began with the Hidalgo rebellion of 1810, an uprising of primarily Indians and mestizos. Even African slaves were drawn into these long, drawn-out hostilities, with thousands enlisting in rebel ranks in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador (Andrews 2004).

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Whether non-elites participated in the independence wars because they shared a national consciousness has been debated for decades. Some scholars believe that the racial, ethnic, economic, and social heterogeneity of LAC societies all but excluded the possibility of non-elites sharing a broad, national identity, whose allegiance and collective identification, the argument goes, remained stubbornly localized. Other scholars disagree, proposing the coexistence of different understandings of nationalism and that, unlike the popular classes, elite views were tied to the goal of building an effective, coercive nation-state to advance their own interests. Non-elites, Mallon argues, did not view nationalism as an “integrated ideology . . . [that] put the interests of the nation – an already defined, integrated community with a territory, language, and accepted set of historical traditions – before the more divisive loyalties of region, class, family, or ethnic group” (1995:33). Peasant and indigenous groups in Mexico and Peru forged their own visions of national identity and citizenship by struggling against landowners and exploitative merchants. In the highlands of Puebla, Mexico, indigenous militias vigorously fought against the 1862 French invasion, which was backed by some Creole conservatives. By resisting the French and siding with liberal political factions, peasant guerillas were conveying “an alternative vision of nationalism in which property rights were tempered by a commitment to solidarity and social justice, while the status of citizen was tied to honorable actions rather than to birth, social class, or education” (Mallon 1995:313). In Peru too there is evidence of alternative, competing visions of nationhood. There, during the War of the Pacific (1879–1884) with Chile, indigenous guerilla bands in Junín, while hardly presenting a united front, resisted the Chilean occupation by siding with liberal elites and landowners. For his part, Platt suggests that In the nineteenth-century Andes, “national projects” were dreamed and fought for by many different social sectors: the hope of independence was not experienced by creoles alone. In Bolivia, it was fought for by many indian guerrillas, and was finally received by them with rejoicing. Indian communities and ethnic groups looked to Republican legislation to ensure the curtailment of colonial abuses, and to provide the guarantees for what they perceived as a “just” social order. (1993:166–167)

Forging nation-states After independence, Creole elites faced the formidable challenge of achieving a shared sense of nationhood and building nation-states in the former colonies riddled with profound ethnic, cultural, and racial differences: By 1824, American patriots had broken the colonial bond in nearly all Spanish America, but the creoles who sought to construct new states and nations faced a daunting task. Hampered by a colonial inheritance which divided people by color and class, setting social group against social group; subjected to regional rivalries and loyalties that transformed the legal fiction of “nations” into the reality of civil wars; restrained by the weaknesses of their fledging states’ fiscal


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and repressive apparata, and by the relatively autarkic provinces; imprisoned by their own racism and social fears – creoles who dared contemplate visionary national projects seemed undercut from every quarter. (Stern 1987:213) As a result, republican elites contended with decades of political anarchy, factional struggles, and civil wars that pitted regional strongmen (caudillos), peasants, landowners, urban elites, patriots, royalists, and indigenous communities against each other. Nicaragua exemplifies this mayhem, for “civil war and rebellion bloodied twenty-five of the thirty-seven years between 1821 and 1857 and  .  .  . twenty-five men jostled for control of the government in the twenty-nine years between 1825 and 1854” (Wolfe 2007:22). As political violence subsided, fledging nation-states began building an infrastructure (railways, roads, bridges, etc.) to unify their huge, rugged, culturally and geographically fragmented territories. (During the colonial period, it took 4 months for a ship from Buenos Aires to reach Acapulco, and the overland journey from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile, lasted 2 months.) In building nation-states, elites faced the task of crafting an “imagined community” with a common sense of nationhood free of cultural, racial, and other kinds of divisions (Anderson 2006). They met this challenge by disseminating print media, establishing national school systems, casting their sight on gender, promulgating national cuisines, promoting racial homogeneity, and establishing national health programs.

Print media and schools Anderson emphasized years ago how “print-languages” were important for the emergence of European nationalism. He stressed that newspapers, periodicals, and gazettes created “unified fields of exchange” through more powerful national languages that transcended language dialects/speech communities. By linking people, events and practices – “this marriage with that ship, this price with that bishop” – print-languages also created a symbolically and emotionally charged geographic space with which the public increasingly identified (2006:62). Anderson’s suggestion that a similar process also occurred in nineteenth century LAC is disputed by others, who claim that more informal means of communication, such as social gatherings in cafés and libraries, and family travels and correspondence, were equally important (Baud 2005). The significance of print culture cannot, however, be shrugged off, even when most peoples of the newly minted LAC nations were illiterate. The first printing press arrived in Buenos Aires in 1780. By 1810 it had printed over 1,000 publications (such as official announcements, textbooks, and letters) and in 1824 was replaced by the state printing press. Print culture was quite important in Argentina and neighboring Uruguay before and after independence: First, writing was employed as a weapon of war, used with aims to convince and condemn, with words of independence driving a veritable printing revolution as well as a revolution in forms of communication. Second, the newly sown emphasis on the importance of the printed word – promoted as a tangible sign of legitimacy – began opening up a new public sphere or meeting place that encouraged greater public interaction between the lettered classes and those (literate or not) who occupied lower positions in the social hierarchy,

Independence and nation-building


such as freed blacks, women, and slaves. Public libraries and patriotic celebrations were part of this new meeting place. Lastly, print culture during the revolutionary moment was critical to the elaboration of new symbolic repertoires to accompany new republics that were evident in poetic military marches, national anthems, coats of arms, and constitutions. Throughout the wars of independence, the letrados (those who could manipulate the technology of writing) were the ones setting the parameters that the budding culture of print would follow. But even . . . the unlettered (so to say) interacted closely with the print media by listening to public readings of wartime newspapers, participating in public celebrations where print was central, and by associating with new symbolic icons disseminated through print. (Acree Jr. 2009:34) In Mexico, print culture in the form of novels and newspapers also disseminated national symbols crucial for the early imaginings of the Mexican nation. Seeking “national models that would unify the linguistic, religious and ethnic differences that marked their country,” Mexican elites turned to serial novels and newspapers. Serial novels were especially interesting and important because they were brief and published in newspapers or separately as pamphlets, as well as inexpensive compared to books. This genre of print communication came on the heels of a vibrant late-colonial print industry that is credited with fostering and supporting the debate surrounding the Mexican struggle for independence. The urgency of the information in these papers – news that spoke directly to the realities of the Mexican people – attracted a public that consisted of readers as well as listeners, for it included the literate as well as the large illiterate populations of Mexico City. . . . [These] newspapers were read aloud regularly in public spaces such as taverns and plazas, as well as in private spaces, such as the evening around the fire or by candlelight before going to bed. (Wright 2009:61–63) The expansion of public education was also an important mechanism of nation-state formation. It is partly through public schooling that national symbols are conveyed, internalized, become dominant, and the nation-state legitimized. Public education contributes to a common bond of national consciousness by transmitting a national culture and identity transcending local and regional linguistic, religious, and ethnic differences – and competing visions of the past. (This is one reason why state public education is usually mandatory.) The ability of public education to widely instill a sense of national identity depends on whether elite factions reach a minimum consensus on state rule; if they fail to do so, then either a national education system is simply out of the question, or its capacity to generate a national consciousness is severely limited. The contradictory experiences of Nicaragua and Costa Rica are a case in point (Alvarez 2006). Because of its factional struggles, a cohesive and effective educational system was all but impossible in Nicaragua. While steps were made to develop a system of public education by the mid-to-late nineteenth century, these were intermittent and largely ineffective. Unlike Costa Rica, which quickly developed a centralized state-supported


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school system, most Nicaraguan schools were poorly funded and with different curriculum and goals, and attempts to develop a unified and ideologically cohesive state school system were largely unsuccessful. By the turn of the twentieth century over 85% of Nicaragua’s population was still illiterate. Ongoing political instability had a direct impact on literacy rates, so that by the 1950s the literacy rate among the predominantly rural population was a mere 18%. All nationalisms partly depend on myth-making, that is, the ability of nascent nationstates to generate and instill agreed-upon historical narratives which, while neither completely “objective” nor entirely fictional, nevertheless make convincing, credible claims to the “truth,” of what “really” happened (Trouillot 1995; Zinn 2013). Nicaragua’s fragmented school system, itself a reflection of a yet-to-become nation-state, failed to generate such a cohesive, positive nationalist account. Narratives were contradictory and on the whole reflected a dark, pessimistic vision of the future. Its inhabitants, especially “Indians” and “blacks,” were portrayed as lazy and incorrigible, reflecting how they were disdained by the Nicaraguan Creole elite. Some narratives suggested that Nicaragua’s “redemption” could only be achieved by foreign (especially US) intervention. Other accounts held that most Nicaraguans were simply incapable of logical, rational thought – one sure way of justifying authoritarian rule. Unlike in Costa Rica, most public school textbooks were written by foreigners and published in Europe, and these competed with the few written by Nicaraguan authors. Further, educational goals such as the teaching of history were often inconsistent and varied according to which political faction was in power, and in periods of political upheaval, previously used textbooks were banned, replaced by others offering different versions of the past. Costa Rica’s historical trajectory was quite different. Because coffee exporting liberal elites reached a compromise on ruling the state – and on a division of state spoils – they largely avoided the factional strife and massive devastation in neighboring Nicaragua. While hardly free of exploitative relations that could have led to massive unrest – the presence of the United Fruit Company banana plantations comes to mind (Bourgois 1989) – liberal rule was largely buttressed by an agrarian capitalism primarily consisting of a class of semi-autonomous, small-scale coffee cultivators similar to those of the interior highlands of Puerto Rico at about the same period (Bergad 1983). By the mid-nineteenth century liberal elites had worked out the basic machinery of state governance. The Ministry of Education was founded in 1885, and a rapid expansion of state-supported national schools followed. Three decades later most of the urban population and over half of the rural dwellers were literate. State education propelled key myths of Costa Rica’s past, such as its racial homogeneity and equality, and a nation of progressive, forward-thinking citizens. Myth-making in Costa Rica was particularly effective in molding the vision of the nationstate as a racially homogenous, white society – one goal of state-published and mandated history and geography textbooks. Mandatory public education aimed at inculcating the values of a democratic society, such as the ideals of equality, liberty, civics, and respect for individual rights and the constitution (Alvarez 2006).

Gendered states of mind Independence did not undercut the colonial-era gender divide and subordination of women; in fact, it may have intensified both. The deepening of male privilege and authority was the

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result of a state of continual warfare and violence; the extension of private property rights, an assault on communal lands, and changes in inheritance laws; and the entrenchment of patriarchal authority bolstered by kinship and family metaphors. The militarization of society was one outcome of the grueling wars against Spain and decades of political chaos and violence. Militarism led to the idealization of hypermasculinity, the entrenchment of male privilege in the public domain, and the curbing of male and female roles into separate spheres: Dominant masculinity came to be identified with the public world of political reconstruction and the feminine with what remained outside. . . . Both men and women might subscribe to liberal and republican citizenship but in separately engendered spheres: the men in public governance (politics), the women as reproducers and as managers (though not the ultimate authority) of private life (the domestic economy). Good masculinity entailed public virtue; good femininity, private morality . . . [women were] increasingly identified as mother[s] or prospective mother[s] of the patria, and the feminine with family values, order and nurturance. Women could play their part in building new societies from within the family, the pillar of the state; they are defined in relation to men, not as free-standing individuals. (Davies and Brewster, et al. 2006:269) Legislation legalizing and extending private property rights and changing inheritance laws had noxious effects on women. Private property during the colonial period was highly constrained, with a great deal of land and resources controlled by the Catholic Church, religious brotherhoods (cofradías), and indigenous communities. Liberally inspired Republican elites strove to expand private property rights, and indirectly break the economic and political control of the Catholic Church by appropriating its landholdings. They also began a full-scale assault on indigenous communal lands over which women often held extensive usufruct rights. Changes in inheritance laws soon followed. Unlike colonial laws that emphasized partible inheritance, new legislation privileged male inheritance, with the result that “parent’s legal obligation upon their death to divide property equally among their legitimate children, or mandatory partible inheritance, was abolished in Mexico, Central America, and other countries” (Dore 2000:19). In the midst of near-anarchy, republican elites viewed the family as the bulwark of a stable society, and well-ordered families and states as mirror images of each other. The ideal political community would reflect and be grounded on a cohesive, patriarchal family ruled by a benevolent, caring – yet firm – father who enforces discipline and morals, and demands and expects obedience. (Such a view was entirely consistent with the era of caudillos.) Patriarchal authority, rooted in family and key in restoring order and republican elites’ capacity to effectively rule, also meant that the male patriarch had the obligation to resolutely circumscribe women to the private, domestic sphere. As one Mexican politician believed, a woman’s autonomy from her husband would “risk the continued mutiny of the population against the established authority, and undermine the stability of the Mexican state” (Dore 2000:19). In Nicaragua and other countries family and kinship metaphors signaled a “patriarchal nationalism” in which all citizens were related to each other as sons


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of the fatherland (patria) and brothers to one another (Wolfe 2007). Colombia’s experience was typical of many others in that Republican leaders wished to overthrow Ferdinand VII of Spain, symbolic father of the Spanish Empire, but they certainly did not want to destroy male authority within the family itself. On the contrary, the male was confirmed as the official head of both the new nation and the individual household. As Colombia’s . . . constitutions proclaimed . . . ‘no one can be a good citizen who is not a good father, good son, good brother . . . and good husband.’ The patriarchal family . . . lay at the center of the new republic, and a man’s public role was modeled on his role within the family. (Earle 2000:140) Further, in spite of the enactment of ‘modern’ civil and criminal codes, as well as the secularisation in the treatment of family relations and domestic disputes, there was more continuity than change in these areas, relative to colonial times. Domestic violence continued to be a common feature of everyday family life, was perceived as an entirely private matter, and elicited a mild response from justice officials. Husbands continued to exert patria potestad over their children or potestad marital over their wives. They proclaimed and enforced their right to reprehend disobedient wives, and mete out ‘moderate’ punishment (whatever this meant). They continued to justify this by citing insolence, attacks against their honour, alleged infidelity, or simply uncontrollable passion or confusion, all regarded as extenuating circumstances under the law. (Uribe-Urán 2013:54) It would be a mistake, though, to think that patriarchal legislation squashed all possibility of female agency or that it equally affected all women across ethnic and class boundaries. From within the (private) female-centered sphere, women exerted considerable authority and were able to influence their husbands’ or spouses’ decisions. The post-colonial judicial system may have been skewed towards males-cum-patriarchs but – and as during the colonial era – women, especially from the working class, actively aired their grievances in court (Stern 1995). Further, a great deal of legislation simply had no discernible impact on daily life, especially among poor, working-class women, in runaway slave groups, or in indigenous communities that managed to thwart the usurpation of their lands. Patriarchal authority also had little grip in cities such as São Paulo, Brazil, where by 1802 almost half of all households were headed by women (Milanich 2008), or in Guatemala City, where between 1796 and 1824 most households were not male-centered, patriarchal families (Komisaruk 2013). Depending on country, region, class, and ethnic group, anywhere between 25% to 50% of households in the nineteenth century were headed by women (Dore 1997; see also Chapter 6).

Cuisine, cookbooks, and nation-building Food and cuisine have a singular capacity to evoke shared feelings of belonging, heritage, and community. Forging nation-states meant undercutting regional, ethnic, and class

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divisions, and one way post-independence elites met these challenges was by disseminating national cuisines. In Mexico, “Connections between cuisine and identity – what people eat and who they are – run deep into Mexican history,” so much so that the prized chili peppers “now form part of the national identity, captured in the popular Mexican refrain: ‘Yo soy como el chile verde, picante pero sabroso’ (I am like the green chile, hot but tasty)” (Pilcher 1998:163). Maize, beans, chilies, and squash were cornerstones of pre-conquest Mesoamerican diets. Five hundred years later, recipes similar to those that Aztec women prepared during festive gatherings appeared at the 1992 “First Annual Week of the Tamal, sponsored by the National Museum of Popular Culture” (Pilcher 1998:1). Food and cuisine have a remarkable tendency to convey diverse meanings in strikingly different historical contexts. The Mexico that Creole, Europeanized-elites assumed control over after independence was a huge country with imposing geographic barriers, meager communications, and hundreds of ethnic groups whose members identified themselves as other than Mexican. Republican elites faced the daunting task of transforming Mexico into a modern nation-state and instilling a Mexican national consciousness. One way to achieve this goal was by disseminating cookbooks featuring national cuisines with which most citizens would eventually identity. The first cookbook, published just a decade after independence, extolled “truly national” dishes laced with chili peppers, and subsequent ones praised “patriotic beans” (frijoles patrióticos). Yet cookbooks were, of course, written and read by the literate middle and upper classes whose members esteemed European culture. As a result, many nineteenth century recipes were combinations of European and Mexican food tastes, reflecting how early cookbook authors straddled European and Mesoamerican cultures. Wittingly or not, cookbook authors also engaged in a selective construction of Mexican cuisines by favoring some regional dishes over others or by promoting, for instance, a few tamale dishes while ignoring dozens of others (Pilcher 2012). Cookbook authors tried to project a national, Mexican cuisine – but one that scorned popular, “lower” class dishes, such as the Pacific coast pozole stew, or those widely eaten by the popular and indigenous classes on streets and marketplaces, such as tamales, enchiladas, and quesadillas. The almost paradoxical attempt to forge a national cuisine while at the same time disparaging popular dishes consumed by the overwhelming part of Mexico’s population reflected the deep ambiguities that elites had on what exactly a Mexican national identity should consist of. The disdain towards the dishes and eating habits of the popular classes also reflected the relationship that modernizing elites made between popular cuisine, inadequate public health, and threats to social order. Reshaping popular diet and cuisine would also lead to “a stable domestic environment” and promote “patriotism within the home.” Popular diet and cuisine was also was perceived as a threat to the social order, for “Even more dreadful to the . . . elite was the threat to public order posed by popular cooking. In the countryside poor diets led to nothing more serious than indolence, but in the cities the lack of adequate nutrition provoked defiant behavior, lawlessness, and alcoholism” (Pilcher 1998:48, 83). Cookbooks may have been written and diffused by elites, but it was in the daily practice of cooking that recipes were continuously reshaped and truly “national” dishes embraced by most of Mexico’s citizens. And it was working-class women who as cooks shouldered the laborious tasks of purchasing ingredients in marketplaces and preparing


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meals. The development of a national cuisine and the forging of a national identity was a profoundly gendered and class undertaking: The formation of a national community in the kitchen grew out of the basic sociability of Mexican women, for housewives carried out a brisk market in recipes as well as gossip. . . . Cookbooks inspired national loyalty less by any didactic content than by fostering a sense of community among women. . . . The transformation of household practices into national symbols encouraged women to take more active roles in the national life. . . . As the rise of nationalism transferred sacred ground from church to state, domestic roles also offered women a voice in this new religion of the people. (Pilcher 1998:148–149) The disparagement of popular cuisines and dishes, and the advent of truly national and popular dishes, came after the mestizo-led 1910 Revolution, for From this social upheaval emerged a new group of leaders who sought to reformulate the sense of national identity and create an ideology with broad appeal to the Indian and mestizo masses. The revolutionaries launched a cultural campaign to legitimize themselves as representatives of the mestizo “cosmic race.” They glorified the pre-Columbian past in murals, museums, and movies and decried the deposed dictator as a toady to foreigners. The culinary expression of this new ideology was stated succinctly by a leading nutritionist, Rafael Ramos Espinosa. He formulated the simple equation that people who ate only corn were Indians, those who ate only wheat were Spaniards, while Mexicans were those people fortunate enough to eat both grains. (Pilcher 2012:130)

Bridging the racial and ethnic divide Ideas of racial difference and inequality, so deeply entrenched after centuries of colonial rule, spilled over into the era of independence. Two closely related aspects of colonial-era race thinking loomed important among the elites of the new nation-states. The first was the continuing belief in the superiority of whiteness and a corresponding debasing of and discrimination towards those they identified as non-white. Second, these beliefs were paralleled by initiatives to “whiten” their countries by promoting European immigration and – almost paradoxically – by also encouraging cultural/biological intermixing (mestizaje). Despite the crucial role of non-white and the popular classes in the wars of independence (see earlier in this chapter), elites in the newly emergent nation-states – like their colonial predecessors – viewed non-whites as a menacing, destabilizing force, and an obstacle to national unity and identity. This was particularly the case when non-whites challenged – as they often did – elite social, political, and economic privileges during the colonial era. This is why in 1854 the governor of Havana, Cuba, wrote of the continuing “ambitious pretensions” of the free blacks and “the propensity of this race to excel the white” in economic and professional achievement. The result, he noted, was widespread “displeasure” and “discontent” among the

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whites, resulting in continued demands that, in the words of two such individuals, the government reinforce “the power that the white race has over the black one” and prevent “the awakening in an inferior and degraded class of the idea of equality.” (Andrews 2004:109) Similar fears surfaced elsewhere, especially when uprisings against elite prerogatives were cast in racial terms, as in Venezuela after “black and mulatto insurgents went to battle crying ‘Death to the whites!,’” and in Mexico, when the Yucatán Caste war led a prominent Mexico City newspaper to alarmingly claim that “the colored race seeks to attack the white race whenever the occasion presents itself” (Gobat 2013:1355). What Mayes calls “Negrophobic” attitudes in the Dominican Republic can be traced to fears of black uprisings stemming from neighboring Haiti’s war of independence, and a history of conflicts between these two countries, including Haiti’s invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1822 and the 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of Haitians, most of them plantation workers (2014). And in 1809 the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, voiced the following concerns about the potential repercussions of the successful Haitian uprising against the French: If we follow the same maxims by which our French neighbors made themselves powerful, won’t we in the end be poor unfortunates like them, and victims of the insatiable fury of the black barbarians? . . . Won’t [the slaves] come to form a multitude that, if not in our days, then in those of future generations, will become an exterminating bolt of lightning? (Andrews 2004:68) Haiti’s successful and excruciatingly bloody conflict that led to its independence fueled widespread fears of slave uprisings throughout much of nineteenth century LAC, especially in Cuba and Puerto Rico (Gibson 2013). The belief in black inferiority – an enduring legacy of the colonial era – also meant that non-whites were supposedly ill-prepared for the full prerogatives of citizenship. In nineteenth century Venezuela, for instance, almost half of the population consisted of pardos and mulattoes and, as elsewhere, they played a decisive role in securing independence from Spain. Yet their contribution to this effort did not prevent elites from “attributing to blacks a number of singularly negative characteristics – namely, stupidity, improvidence, conceit, contentiousness, pretentiousness, ugliness, laziness, dirtiness, sensualness, and slyness” (Wright 1993:44). These were hardly the features of an enlightened citizenry that the new nation-states needed. Despite overturning colonial-era caste laws and decreeing legal racial equality throughout most of the former colonies as a way of forging nationalism and patriotism against Spanish and Portuguese rule, republican leaders also shared the view that non-whites were simply incapable of self-rule. Thus, notwithstanding a professed allegiance to democratic ideals, partly inspired and driven by the influence of the US in the region, many elites justified their attempts to monopolize power by asserting that allowing non-whites and members of the popular classes to fully participate in the democratic process would lead to social and political chaos. This was so in Venezuela, where blacks and pardos faced increasing discrimination at the close of the nineteenth century despite occupying high positions in government and the military (Wright 1993).


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Unfit for republican rule and democratic institutions, the “lower classes” – including the “savage hordes of Africa and America” would, in the opinion of Colombian intellectuals, lead their newly nascent nation “down the road to anarchy . . . and [to] Colombia’s ruin,” even though in 1810 the province of Cartagena granted full citizenship and voting rights to “all parishioners, whites, Indians, mestizos, mulattoes, zambos and blacks” (Lasso 2007:2–4, 46). This “republican racism” was clearly conveyed by a leading Mexican newspaper, which claimed that the “white race” was “destined to rule the earth” (Gobat 2013:1356). While this ideology of whiteness clearly had deep colonial roots, it was “scientifically” boosted by Creole elite acceptance of social Darwinism and scientific racism during the late 1800s that primarily originated from Europe and the US (Larson 1999). Small wonder, then, that republican elites eagerly embraced the view that one way of overcoming the “racial” obstacles to modernity and successful nation-building was to do away with the cultural and political hurdles of black and Indian blood by whitening their countries through European immigration – an eerie reminiscence of the colonial-era notion of blood “purity” (Chapter 5). In what Andrews has called the “War on Blackness,” republican elites were convinced that a crucial step towards transforming their countries into “civilized” and “modern” republics was to whiten their citizenry by encouraging European immigration. Colonial elites would have understood and agreed with a prominent early twentieth century Venezuelan intellectual who claimed that We are two steps from the jungle because of our blacks and Indians; . . . a great part of our country is mulatto, mestizo and zambo, with all the defects which [British philosopher Herbert] Spencer recognized in hybridism; we must transfer regenerating [Caucasian] blood into their veins. Even the famed Cuban intellectual Fernando Ortíz thought likewise. Believing that the “black race” was “more delinquent than the white situated in the identical social position,” he favored white immigration, which, he believed, would “inject in the blood of our people the red blood cells of which tropical anemia robs us, and sow among us seeds of energy, of progress, of life . . . which today seem to be the patrimony of colder climates.” And Brazilian elites were no less eager than their Venezuelan and Cuban counterparts in urging white, European immigration to cleanse the nation’s “blood.” One São Paulo legislator claimed that it is necessary to inject new blood in our veins, because ours is watered down,” while another, despite recognizing that “blacks or colored men” deserved some merit and respect, nevertheless stated that “this fact cannot hinder the knowledge of this truth: that up until the present blacks have not been able to constitute themselves as civilized peoples. (Andrews 2004:118–119) Indigenous peoples in the Andes and Mesoamerica were also thought of as standing in the way of nation-building. There, a key question confronting liberal elites was how to resolve the ‘Indian problem’ – interpreted by Creole discourses as the main impediment to order and progress. . . . The ‘Indian race’ was the

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necessary rhetorical ‘other’ in their search for national identity, ‘whiteness,’ and civic society along European models. . . . The modern ‘Indian race’ – the degenerate, impoverished, solemn descendants of the Inka, trapped as if in a time warp – stood as its stark antithesis. (Larson 1999:563) Encouraging white European immigration was not the only way to dilute the citizenry of its culturally noxious black blood. In a departure from colonial-era thinking, some Republican elites began to view racial/cultural intermingling in a positive light, as a way of racially and culturally homogenizing the body politic. This emphasis on mestizaje would be an important step, elites believed, in forging a sense of nationhood. In Colombia, liberal thinkers and politicians imagined a nation emerging from several generations of biocultural regeneration, or in the parlance of the day, “whitening.” Ultimately they sought to de-Indianize (and de-Africanize) Colombia over several generations through genetic assimilation into a vigorously expanding white population. New theories of evolution in the 1860s offered theoretical comfort to those who pushed the idea of genetic improvement through whitening. It was to be accomplished by both social and natural means. First, the state would import large numbers of European immigrants, attracted perhaps by a generous homesteading policy. Second, as European stock increased, the inferior races would disappear through high mortality rates and intermarriage. The liberals had high hopes for the genetic assimilation of highland Indians in particular. In fact this represented an urgent national priority in the second half of the nineteenth century, because it was believed that only through the intermarriage of Indians and mestizos, and mestizos and whites, would the nation accomplish its genetic integration and counteract the ominous sense that Colombia’s black population was “naturally” more prolific and unruly. (Larson 1999:581) Population censuses have never been neutral, politically free undertakings designed to merely portray the demographic makeup of nation-states. Censuses and other ways of acquiring knowledge are intrinsic to statecraft as they make the social world legible – ways to be “centrally recorded and monitored” and therefore “manipulable – from above and from the center” (Scott 1998:2). Censuses have typically reflected the aspirations and goals of national elites and, during periods of intense political upheavals, of subordinate groups as well. They have also had the potential of generating, legitimizing, and entrenching social and cultural identities. Who to count, how, and for what purpose have always had profound implications (Angosto-Ferrández and Kradolfer 2012). Not surprisingly, post-independence elites strove to institutionalize periodic population censuses, a goal which also echoed colonial-era apprehensions of the racial and cultural makeup of their respective countries. Since political and ideological concerns guided counting and classifying, census officials made choices about which results to report and how to report them. In making such decisions, they negotiated tensions among competing goals: the desire to


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conform to racially deterministic strains of evolutionary science by documenting the regenerative potential of miscegenation; and the overriding desire to produce statistics that documented “national progress” – in part, by presenting the nation in a positive light for the rest of the world to see. (Loveman 2014:169) The demographic portrait that emerged from these ideologically charged and informed censuses was in many ways quite predictable, for Census reports documented the growth of white and mestizo populations, while simultaneously registering the decline or disappearance of indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples. Official statistics told the tale in seemingly irrefutable terms: Latin America’s populations were racially evolving, moving steadily forward on the path to a whiter, more modern, and more civilized future. (Loveman 2014:206)

Health and the diseased nation Syphilis, tuberculosis, and smallpox were among the many Old World diseases that decimated indigenous peoples (Chapter 3). After independence, LAC governments viewed disease as a major stumbling block at developing viable modern nation-states and forcefully turned to its containment through public health measures.

Syphilis During the colonial era diseases were typically not considered matters of state concern but as individual aliments to be treated by physicians or clergy. It was only after syphilis and other diseases were understood as contagious and potentially spreading from one person to another – that is, when their consequences breached the boundary between the private and public spheres  – that they “became the center of debate, fear and anxiety” (González Espitia 2009:248). This change in the social perception of syphilis was in full swing by the latter half of the nineteenth century, when medical research influenced by Charles Darwin’s popularity claimed that it had a genetic basis and could be transmitted to future generations. For LAC nation builders, syphilis’ contagious nature and its horrifying bodily symptoms were projected onto the social realm: just as syphilis could wreak havoc on an individual body, so too it could horribly degrade the body politic and the viability of the future nation-state. Fear of contagion – of any sort – has always been politically dangerous. In nineteenth century Argentina syphilis was already considered a public health threat in need of containment. The root causes of infection and contagion were not, it was assumed, infected men who transmitted the Treponema pallidum bacteria to women, but “infected prostitutes not being duly controlled . . . so they could safely serve their clientele” (González Espitia 2009:250). Public health measures included educational programs, compulsory medical exams, and restricting prostitutes to safe zones. In some extreme cases – as in Colombia – prostitutes

Independence and nation-building


were sent to special penal colonies. Few – if any – public health measures targeted male prostitutes. Syphilis posed other challenges as well. Since husbands could transmit syphilis to their wives, the long-held idyllic view of marriage as a bedrock of a well-functioning society – among other reasons because it infused society with fresh “blood” and was considered an alternative to prostitution – simply did not hold. Interestingly, syphilis was quite democratic, for it was a cosmopolitan disease . . . one that always appeared side by side with what was considered civilized. It was a disease that equalized both hemispheres; it was a degenerative menace that could not be connected to a specific Latin American racial group as a vector of decay. Thus, at the national level, syphilis was a very egalitarian, democratic and republican ghost, and its characteristics did not provide an easy way to structure a discourse of segregation based on race. (González Espitia 2009:265)

Tuberculosis Syphilis may have been democratic – equally affecting all regardless of race, ethnicity, or class  – but not so tuberculosis (TB). Public health officials and journalists in nineteenth century Buenos Aires, Argentina, attributed the onset and spread of TB to a host of social, moral, and economic causes. Some claimed that alcoholism and excessive sexuality (including masturbation) debilitated men and women’s bodies, making them less resistant to disease. For others, poor hygiene in overcrowded tenement housing was the primary reason for the spread of the disease-causing mycobacterium. Still yet others thought that domestic promiscuity facilitated the spread of TB from parents to children. Despite the debate on its causes, public health officials agreed that TB was primarily an urban and working-class affliction. Not all neighborhoods were equally susceptible to TB. Most of the one million immigrants who arrived in Buenos Aires between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries lived in multi-family tenements in specific neighborhoods, such as La Boca or San Telmo. Where and how poor, urban immigrant workers lived became the subject of intense scrutiny, and public health campaigns focused on controlling their physical and moral health. Containing TB meant regulating urban working-class lifestyles which, according to public health officials, posed hurdles to the “physical and moral well being” of the broader community by working against “tight family bonds” and presenting “obstacles to sociability” (Armus 2011:215). Urban decay and poor health boded poorly for a modern, progressive nation-state. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that most immigrants to Argentina were Spaniards and Italians, by the turn of the twentieth century some public health officials were convinced that the state should restrict immigrants from the Iberian Peninsula, who supposedly were genetically predisposed to TB.

Smallpox Like their colonial predecessors, Mesoamerican nation-state builders faced the challenge of preventing and containing deadly and feared outbreaks of smallpox. The predominantly Maya western highlands of Guatemala as well as the Yucatán Peninsula had long experienced


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smallpox epidemics. In both regions, before and after the colonial period, the twin goals of promoting health and thwarting smallpox contributed to, and were the result of, the ability of state agents to reach into the inner lives – including swaying the hearts and minds – of Maya peoples. Modernizing the nation-state required confronting and containing smallpox, and this in turn could not be accomplished without undercutting alleged superstitious beliefs. In Guatemala the Maya medical system included practices such as bleeding and reliance on medicinal mixtures from plant and animal sources, as well as divination, prayers and chants. Healers were often religious specialists with considerable prestige and status in their communities. Health was therefore a contested cultural arena that required negotiation and compromise. Maya and other groups sometimes adopted and modified . . . health policies and medical campaigns, but they also sometimes covertly resisted them by hiding children from inoculators, fleeing from them, or fighting against them to a degree that necessitated the military occupation of some communities and the prosecution, physical punishment, and jailing of indigenous elites who refused to submit to health care programs. . . . In the face of these different forms of resistance, personnel engaged in antiepidemic campaigns had to account for the perceptions of Indigenous peoples, which meant negotiating with Indian agents such as medical specialists, village leaders, heads of households, and parents who had significant influence on local and indigenous health care. (Few 2015:17) Religion was a key pathway for negotiating cultural rationales regarding health and disease. During and after the colonial era, physicians were preciously few, and health care was primarily the responsibility of clergy and religious orders. Village priests, often with superb knowledge of Maya culture and adept in the local language dialects, were frequently at the forefront of health campaigns. Secular health campaigns were sometimes successful if they carried an aura of religious legitimacy. One telling example from the late eighteenth century was the suggestion that inoculation be cast as a religious ritual: During this act [of vaccination], the acolyte or alter boy should light a candle, and the parish priest should dress in his surplice and stole, then bless the child and say a prayer. Then to conclude, the parish’s medical physician, or the person named to be the vaccinator, will vaccinate the child, and the priest will say another prayer. . . . Remind the godparents that they need to bring news when the child recovers from the vaccination, so that his name can be placed in the parish vaccination book. (Few 2015:23) Apparitions were another way that Christian and Maya beliefs and practices intermingled as Maya explained the origins of, and sought remedies for, disease. In a clear display of ritual power, San Pascual Bailón is said to have appeared at the deathbed of a diseased Maya in the late sixteenth century. San Pascual, curious that the “Indians” did not venerate him, told the Maya villager that “he could intercede to free [the Indians] from the contagions that afflicted them, and free them from death.” He even went

Independence and nation-building


further, stating that the villager would die in nine days, but that afterwards the pestilence would end. The dying Maya shared the news with community members and the parish priest, who then officiated a mass in honor of San Pascual. Nine days later the Maya villager indeed passed away – and the epidemic ended (Few 2015:42–43). The Yucatán too was a health and cultural battleground, and a politically important one for post-colonial elites crafting their nation-state. While we should not dismiss the empathy that public health officials had towards those enduring the appalling effects of smallpox and other diseases, inside the programs designed to promote health, the state was also extending its reach far into the private sphere. In . . . Yucatán, with its mostly rural, indigenous Maya population and its small creole elite, public health issues were folded into a larger ideology, pitting “civilization” against “barbarism.” The Yucatán state . . . was intent on redefining and exerting control over public spaces, regulating the system of raising and selling foodstuffs, creating a system of mass vaccinations, eradicating pests, and controlling drinking water; all these projects were carried out in the name of the “welfare” of the people. Yet . . . this state activity was overdetermined by other agendas, most notably that of subjecting a population to the norms of a modern Mexico-in-process. (McCrea 2010:1) Preventing and containing smallpox and other diseases were important for clergy, landowners, power brokers, local caudillos, public health officials, and other elites. Yet these goals and concerns were part of a broader project to assimilate Maya communities into a national culture and, second, to undermine their economic autonomy and facilitate capitalist expansion. Health prevention was a cultural, political, and economic weapon of control. European medicine had already pinpointed ways of halting the spread of smallpox before the English physician Jenner discovered the cowpox vaccine in 1796; all entailed either transferring smallpox pus from one person to another, or from one arm to another of the same person. The tremendous advantage of the cowpox vaccine was that immunization was possible in the absence of a smallpox outbreak. Finally, smallpox could be prevented through vaccination. Public health officials in Yucatán faced many obstacles in securing adequate supplies of the cowpox vaccine (which arrived in 1804), including poor communications and rivalry between different regions for available supplies. As in Guatemala, incompatible ideas of disease causation presented major stumbling blocks. State officials viewed Maya medical beliefs and practices as hurdles to effective vaccinations. Yucatec Maya, unfortunately well acquainted with smallpox (the 1520 plague killed half a million people), alluded to it by various terms, all with the common root for fire, k’ak, which was probably a broad referent for ailments with blistering fevers. And Western, scientific understandings of disease and its cure were at odds with colonial and nineteenth century Maya beliefs regarding the underlying causes of disease, which emphasized, for instance, the active role of evil winds (males de aire, Spanish). Yet the difficulties that vaccinators encountered in the Yucatán  – above all the ambiguities of the Maya towards public health campaigns – probably had less to do with incompatible


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cultural understandings and more with the fact that Maya astutely recognized that public health programs were yet another, if more recent, example of control, for The act of vaccination itself, the piercing of the body followed by the eruption of a mild case of the disease they wished to avoid, held no empirical power for the Maya. The vacunador was thus thrust into the midst of a moral clash, The vaccinator’s position was truly an intermediary position, bearing similarities to a position once occupied, at one time or another in history, by the priest, the tax collector, the surveyor, the teacher, the commissar – all figures that represent either the state or the entitled institutions of the powerful. (McCrea 2010:31)

In the United States: the invention of Cinco de Mayo Each year Mexican-Americans and other Latinos celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) with parades, festivities, and other public commemorative events (Figure 4.1). Many believe it is a Mexican holiday, some perhaps think they are celebrating Mexico’s Independence

FIGURE 4.1  Cinco de Mayo celebration, Washington, D.C. Source: Rob Crandall/Alamy Stock Photo

Independence and nation-building


Day. David Hayes-Bautista also thought that Cinco de Mayo was a traditional Mexican holiday – until he travelled to Guadalajara in the early 1980s: I had happened to be in Guadalajara on May 5, so I had hurried downtown, expecting to find parades, music, dancers, and orators. I thought the center of action would be the cathedral plaza, so I picked out a spot on the sidewalk and waited to see the activities . . . and waited . . . and waited. Hours later, I returned to my cousins’ house, disappointed. Rather than witness the most spectacular Cinco de Mayo festivities of my life, I was witness to the fact that it is not a major celebration in Mexico. (Hayes-Bautista 2012:2) The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is a superb example of public memory – “multiple, diverse, mutable, and competing accounts of past events” (Phillips 2009:2). It is an American tradition and remembrance event first invented by Latinos in California, Oregon, and Nevada to rejoice and recall Mexico’s victory over the French army at the 1862 battle of Puebla. Over time it has served as a symbolic rallying point for a pan-Latino identity and an important venue to channel grievances and demands. While Cinco de Mayo’s first commemoration occurred scarcely two years after the victory at Puebla, its celebration reflected how Latinos were able to forge a shared identity during crucial historical periods leading up to the battle at Puebla: the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, and in which California, New Mexico, and Arizona were ceded to the US; the California Gold Rush of 1849; and the US Civil War. Small clusters of culturally homogenous native Latinos (Californios) were living in California in 1848–1849. The California Gold Rush triggered a mass immigration of tens of thousands of gold prospectors (gambusinos) and fortune-hunters from other regions of the US, including Anglo-Americans from the Atlantic Coast and Latinos from Arizona and New Mexico, as well as from Mexico, Central and South America, and even Spain. Despite this motley mix of regional and national identities and cultures, in a few decades California became a cultural melting pot foreshadowing the emergence of a pan-Latino identity. Even with its regional variants, the use of Spanish as a lingua franca was a crucial cultural unifying force its political and cultural legitimacy bolstered by California’s first constitution, which mandated the publication of all laws in Spanish and English. Other dynamics played important roles in eventually fusing cultural identities and traditions. Spanish-language newspapers proliferated during this period, sharing important news of happenings in scattered Latino communities. These also began envisioning a pan-Latino identity by, for example, alluding to Latinos as “our race,” “children of the same family,” or the “Latin race.” Marriage also served as an important venue for transcending cultural boundaries. Latino immigrants shared important religious beliefs and practices, and participating in community-level religious celebrations, such as the colonial-era celebration of the Day of the Dead (see Chapter 7), also helped forge a common identity. One Los Angeles newspaper wrote the following of its November 1857 celebration: the second day of the present month, the day devoted in the Catholic church to praying for the dead, was observed. . . . In the afternoon, a large crowd left


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the church for the cemetery, where they went in order to offer their prayers for the souls of their parents, siblings, relatives, and friends whose mortal remains rest in that sacred enclosure. Holy Week (Semana Santa) was also an important shared cultural tradition. In 1853 the newspaper Alta California mentioned that The Catholics of several countries, particularly Mexico, have a custom of making an effigy of Judas Iscariot every year, on Good Friday, which they trot about on an ass, with his face turned towards the tail of the animal. They make a great parade of it, after which they hang him. He is then cut down, his pockets and mouth stuffed with fire crackers and all sorts of combustibles, and he is then publicly burnt at the stake. During the process, men, women, and children follow after, beating and calling him all kinds of hard names. (Hayes-Bautista 2012:21) Wedded to the institution of slavery, Anglo-American racial views affected all Latinos regardless of national origin or social class before and after the American Civil War. The political legal and social discrimination against non-whites was deeply contrary to Latino notions of racial difference that, from colonial times, were far more malleable (Chapter 5). Equally important, by 1857, Mexico and most newly emergent LAC nation-states had abolished slavery. Latinos established a common front in the face of discrimination, denial of civil rights, and of being cast as inferior others. This had an enormous, transformative impact in California, for In the decade and a half following the discovery of gold in California, Spanish-speaking immigrants in their thousands came to the state from all over Latin America. Initially they identified themselves by their country of origin, as Chileans, Argentines, Mexicans, Peruvians, Salvadorans, and so on, but the longer they remained in California, the more they came into contact with Latinos from other parts of the Americas and formed social bonds with them. The result was the formation of a uniquely Californian Latino society. (Hayes-Bautista 2012:39) The shared Latino culture and identity in California by the late 1850s was crucial to the first commemoration of the 1862 battle of Puebla. The American Civil War (into which California was dragged as part of the Union) and the ongoing war against French occupation forces triggered the rise of grassroots organizations called Mexican Patriotic Assemblies (Juntas Patrióticas Mexicanas). The juntas had two broad objectives: to help Mexico defeat the French invaders (and their Mexican collaborators) and to defend freedom and democracy from the Confederacy. Cinco de Mayo, first sponsored by these juntas, provided a fertile symbolic ground linking the ideals and goals of Latino communities across Mexico and the US. The first junta patriótica was organized in Los Angeles in September 1862, and it was in Los Angeles, in 1864, that Cinco de Mayo was first formally celebrated. Juntas spread quickly throughout California, Nevada, and Oregon, especially after the Mexican defeat at the second battle of Puebla in 1863. Enrolling thousands of members, they recruited volunteers to join Mexico’s struggle against the French and raised

Independence and nation-building


money and supplies for the Mexican war effort. Juntas in far-flung regions kept abreast of each other’s activities and efforts thanks to the extensive coverage of Spanish-language newspapers, which quickly spread word of events and activities. Although much of the juntas’ popular rhetoric was aimed at the “Mexican brothers” (hermanos Mexicanos), Latinos of all classes and nationalities joined. While their initial desire was to help Mexicans fighting the French, the juntas’ goals broadened through time. Eventually they became venues through which the felt needs of Latino communities were conveyed and addressed. For example, some juntas organized efforts defending civil rights, while others took on characteristics of mutual aid organizations providing poverty relief and, especially important, paying for proper religious burials. Cinco de Mayo was a powerful, condensed symbol that articulated wide-spanning needs and aspirations: The celebration of this new public memory invested the juntas with a degree of summoning power they had not had before. They used this power to excite the energies and channel the resources of Latino communities in the American West to support both political activity – especially the raising of funds to aid the Juarist cause in Mexico – and pragmatic local civic action, such as poor relief and the defense of Latinos’ civil rights. In the latter respect, the juntas served as an early form of the mutualista organizations that became prominent in Latino communities in the first half of the twentieth century. Indeed, the juntas served as a sort of unofficial academy for Latino leadership, providing political and administrative experience for a number of individuals who assumed the leadership of subsequent organizations, including perhaps the largest and most renowned of twentieth century mutualista organizations, the Alianza Hispano-Americana, which operated in California from 1915 to 1955. (Hayes-Bautista 2012:130) The juntas eventually disappeared by the early twentieth century. Yet by celebrating Cinco de Mayo, they institutionalized public memory linking the 1862 battle of Puebla with ongoing issues of Latino identity, culture, and civil rights, demonstrating the deep bonds of solidarity that for so long have linked the peoples of Mexico, LAC, and the US: Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican holiday inexplicably adapted by Latinos in the United States nor, despite its undeniable commercialization in the late twentieth century, a fake holiday recently invented by beverage companies. Rather, it is a genuine American holiday, spontaneously created during the Civil War by ordinary Latinos living in California – soon echoed by others in Nevada and Oregon – as an expression of their support for freedom and democracy throughout the Americas. Far from being foreign or un-American, it originated in a devoted adherence to these basic American political values by the majority of Latinos in the United States, as well as Mexico and other republics in the Western Hemisphere, at a time when those values were under attack from within and without. It should be remembered that from the beginning, Cinco de Mayo parades have flown the United States and Mexican flags


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side by side as symbolic of this fact. That tradition is still followed today, although the reasons are largely forgotten. (Hayes-Bautista 2012:190–191)

Concluding thoughts In some countries, republican elites were unable to overcome their political-economic rivalries and reach a compromise on state rule, and as a result, their countries endured political instability well into the twentieth century (Chapter 10). To a great extent they were able to instill a national consciousness, a sense of national identity, over large parts of their nascent nation-states: eventually most citizens came to view themselves as Mexican, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Peruvian, or Brazilian. However, just as the conquest and hundreds of years of colonial rule failed to completely undermine cultural and ethnic differences, so too with the rise of a national consciousness. Identity operates at different levels and is always situational. People can and often simultaneously accommodate different feelings of belonging, and they sustain these through cultural practice. It is to these facets of culture and identity that we now turn to.

FILMS/VIDEOS 1824 Ayacucho – South American Independence. 2014. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on the independence movements in Central and South America and their three prominent leaders. Simón Bolívar, Liberator. 2000. Films Media Group. Tells “the remarkable life story of Simón

Bolívar, founder of Bolivia and liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru from Spanish colonial rule.”

WEBSITES Colorado State University. Modern Latin American History. modLatinAmerhist.html New Mexico State University. Latin American History. Library Guides. http://nmsu.libguides. com/c.php?g=206261&p=1359434 Rollins College. Latin American and Caribbean Studies: Recommended Websites. http://libguides.

University of California Los Angeles. Latin American Studies. Research Guides. http://guides.library. University of Illinois. World History Connected. edu/7.3/gilbert.html University of Northern British Columbia. Mexican, South and Central American, and Caribbean History. php?g=555334&p=3817659

REFERENCES Acree Jr., William G. 2009. Words, Wars, and Public Celebrations: The Emergence of Rioplatense Print Culture. In Building Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Re-Rooted Cultures, Identities, and Nations. Acree Jr., William G. and González

Espitia, Juan C., eds. Pp. 32–58. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. Alvarez, Rina. 2006. The Relationship Between Processes of National State Consolidation and the Development and Expansion of Systems of

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Public Education during the Nineteenth Century in Central America: Nicaragua and Costa Rica in Comparison. Ph.D., Columbia University. Anderson, Benedict R. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (2nd Edition). New York: Verso. Andrews, George R. 2004. Afro-Latin America: 1800–2000. New York: Oxford University Press. Angosto-Ferrández, Luis F. and Kradolfer, Sabine. 2012. Ethnicity and National Censuses in Latin American States: Comparative Perspectives. In Everlasting Countdowns: Race, Ethnicity and National Censuses in Latin American States. Angosto-Ferrández, Luis F. and Kradolfer, Sabine, eds. Pp. 1–40. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Armus, Diego. 2011. The Ailing City: Health, Tuberculosis, and Culture in Buenos Aires, 1870– 1950. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Baud, Michiel. 2005. Beyond Benedict Anderson: Nation-Building and Popular Democracy in Latin America. International Review of Social History 50(3):485–498. Bergad, Laird W. 1983. Coffee and the Growth of Agrarian Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Bourgois, Philippe I. 1989. Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. Cunha, Alexandre M. and Suprinyak, Carlos E. 2016. Political Economy and Latin American Independence from the Nineteenth to the Twentieth Century. In The Political Economy of Latin American Independence. Cunha, Alexandre M. and Suprinyak, Carlos E., eds. Pp.  7–31. New York: Routledge. Davies, Catherine and Brewster, Claire, et al. 2006. South American Independence: Gender, Politics, Text. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Dore, Elizabeth. 1997. The Holy Family: Imagined Households in Latin American History. In Gender Politics in Latin America. Dore, Elizabeth, ed. Pp. 101–117. New York: Monthly Review Press.

121 ———. 2000. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Gender and the State in the Long Nineteenth Century. In Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America. Dore, Elizabeth and Molyneux, Maxine eds. Pp. 3–32. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Earle, Rebecca. 2000. Rape and the Anxious Republic: Revolutionary Colombia, 1810–1830. In Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America. Dore, Elizabeth and Molyneux, Maxine, eds. Pp. 127–146. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Few, Martha. 2015. For All of Humanity: Mesoamerican and Colonial Medicine in Enlightenment Guatemala. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Gibson, Carrie. 2013. ‘There is No Doubt That We Are under Threat by the Negroes of Santo Domingo’: The Specter of Haiti in the Spanish Caribbean in the 1820s. In Connections after Colonialism: Europe and Latin America in the 1820s. Brown, Matthew and Paquette, Gabriel, eds. Pp. 223–235. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press. Gobat, Michel. 2013. The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race. American Historical Review 118(5):1345–1375. González Espitia, Juan C. 2009. A  Brief Syphilography of Nineteenth-Century Latin America. In Building Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Re-Rooted Cultures, Identities, and Nations. Acree Jr., William G. and González Espitia, Juan C., eds. Pp. 246–270. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. Hayes-Bautista, David E. 2012. El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press. Komisaruk, Catherine. 2013. Labor and Love in Guatemala: The Eve of Independence. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Larson, Brooke. 1999. Andean Highland Peasants and the Trials of Nation Marking During the Nineteenth Century. In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 2). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 558–703. New York: Cambridge University Press.


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Lasso, Marixa. 2007. Myths of Harmony: Race and Republicanism During the Age of Revolution, Colombia 1795–1831. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Loveman, Mara. 2014. National Colors: Racial Classification and the State in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press. Mallon, Florencia. 1995. Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mayes, April J. 2014. The Mulatto Republic: Class, Race, and Dominican National Identity. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. McCrea, Heather L. 2010. Diseased Relations: Epidemics, Public Health, and State-Building in Yucatán, Mexico, 1847–1924. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Milanich, Nara. 2008. Women, Gender, and Family in Latin America, 1820–2000. In A Companion to Latin American History. Holloway, Thomas H., ed. Pp. 461–479. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Phillips, Kendall R. 2009. Introduction. In Framing Public Memory. Phillips, Kendall R. and Browne, Stephen H., et al., eds. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Pilcher, Jeffrey M. 1998. Que Vivan los Tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ———. 2012. Many Chefs in the National Kitchen: Cookbooks and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Mexico. In Latin American Popular Culture: An Introduction. (2nd Edition). Beezley, William H. and Curcio-Nagy, Linda A., eds. Pp. 119– 131. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Platt, Tristan. 1993. Simón Bolívar, the Sun of Justice and the Amerindian Virgin: Andean Conceptions of the Patria in Nineteenth-Century Potosí. Journal of Latin American Studies 25(1):159–185. Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher. 2006. The Conquest of History: Spanish Colonialism and National Histories in the Nineteenth Century. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition

Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Stearns, Peter N. 1994. Social History. In Encyclopedia of Social History. Stearns, Peter N., ed. Pp. 683–688. New York: Routledge. Stern, Steve J. 1987. Introduction to Part III. In Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 18th to 20th Centuries. Stern, Steve J., ed. Pp. 213–218. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ———. 1995. The Secret History of Gender: Women, Men, & Power in Late Colonial Mexico. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Uribe-Urán, Victor M. 2013. Physical Violence Against Wives and the Law in the Spanish American World, 1820s – 2000. In Murder and Violence in Modern Latin America. Johnson, Eric A. and Salvatore, Ricardo Donato, et  al., eds. Pp. 49–80. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. Wolf, Eric R. 1982. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wolfe, Justin. 2007. The Everyday Nation-State: Community & Ethnicity in Nineteenth-Century Nicaragua. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press. Wright, Amy E. 2009. Novels, Newspapers, and the Nation: The Beginnings of Serial Fiction in Nineteenth-Century Mexico. In Building Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Re-Rooted Cultures, Identities, and Nations. Acree Jr., William G. and González Espitia, Juan C., eds. Pp. 59–78. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. Wright, Winthrop R. 1993. Café Con Leche: Race, Class, and National Image in Venezuela. Austin: University of Texas Press. Zinn, Howard. 2013. A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present. (3rd Edition). New York: Routledge.



Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


he conquest and the colonial period drew together Europeans, indigenous peoples, and African slaves with quite different racial and cultural backgrounds. Unlike in North America, where many make rigid distinctions based on skin color and other overt physical traits – what is known as phenotype – these differences are less rigid in LAC, where phenotype alone is not the determining factor in racial or ethnic identities and classifications. This chapter explores the multiple meanings of, and overlap between, race and ethnicity. I begin by first reviewing how anthropologists and other social scientists have theorized race. After explaining the intrinsic ambiguity and elasticity of colonial racial taxonomies, I focus on how questions on race have become less meaningful in national censuses, and how those on ethnicity/ethnic background, increasingly more important. This background is important for understanding, in the subsequent section, the remarkable rise of indigenous movements, as in Chile, Bolivia, and Colombia. Using Mexico and Brazil as examples, I then explore how the “new genetics” has led to a revival of racialized thinking and analyses. I conclude this chapter by probing the construction of the “Hispanic/Latino” category by the US Census Bureau.

Race: biological fallacy, socially constructed – or both? As an idea signifying innate biological attributes and a marker of social distinctions, race is a highly contentious concept that has spurred relentless academic, political, and policy controversies since it became firmly entrenched during the eighteenth century, first in the European scientific literature and, later, in popular culture and imagination. When thinking of race we usually have in mind seemingly “obvious” physical differences between people, such as skin color, body mass, or height – what is known as phenotype. Race invariably conjures images of natural physical variation and steers us to segment people into categories that reflect that seeming variability. After all, who can quibble with the apparently observable fact that some are lighter-skinned, or “white,” and that others are darker-skinned, or “black”? Isn’t this a palpable or “natural” assertion of racial distinctions? Perhaps not. The idea of race as a way of highlighting physical differences and classifying people along some of these attributes – that is, of lumping individuals into races – is a recent invention. Few would dispute that all peoples can perceive physical distinctions between themselves and others. Yet prior to the fifteenth and sixteenth century European expansions, such differences were rarely important in how peoples viewed themselves



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differently from others. They used social and cultural criteria – to classify persons and make claims about their superiority or inferiority. Ethnocentrism, cultural biases, and stereotypical views were far more important in classifying and judging peoples before the entrenchment of the Eurocentric notion of race: If race is recent in human experience, what preceded racial thinking? To be sure, past peoples were ethnocentric. They frequently believed themselves culturally superior to others and sometimes exhibited the nasty habit of painting others as uncultured and brutish or savage, even to the point of justifying enslavement and killing on this basis. Yet . . . ethnocentric and later racial logics differed significantly. . . . Prior to the inception of race, people were much less likely to link cultural practices instinctively and irrevocably to physical differences, which were often attributed to distinct environmental conditions. . . . Nor were people necessarily inclined to believe that phenotypic diversity across groups represented inherent or essential – i.e., unbridgeable – differences in ability or character. Indeed, before race, people more readily saw through phenotypes to find deeper, behavioral similarities if not common ground. Moreover, where they deemed others to be culturally backwards in language, religion, food, adornment, or other behaviors, they tended to view these deficits as correctable. With time . . . [these] could be overwritten through “proper” enculturation, while inherent racial inferiority, by definition, could not. (Goodman and Moses, et al. 2012:11) As a pseudo-scientific way of categorizing others on the basis of presumed physical traits, race science is a birth child of West European imperialism and colonialism. The popularity and legitimacy of race science peaked during the nineteenth century Enlightenment as Europeans sought to understand and thereby classify the immense knowledge of the world they were acquiring and peoples who they subdued. The commonly recognized racial categories (e.g., White, Asian, Caucasian, African/Black) emerged and became firmly entrenched in scientific and popular circles between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (As we will see later in this chapter, during LAC’s early colonial period Europeans rarely relied only on physical distinctions in ranking indigenous peoples.) Hierarchical racial classifications were buttressed by “scientific” analyses and measurements (on, for example, facial angles, cranial capacity, and the like) that “proved” the cognitive, moral, and physical superiority of Europeans – and granted them legitimacy for conquering and enslaving others. Race, conquest, and hierarchy went hand in hand (Goodman and Moses, et al. 2012; Hartigan 2015). The American Anthropological Association’s statement on race ( aspx?ItemNumber=2583) and its Race Project ( Content.aspx?ItemNumber=2062) reflect the current thinking of most anthropologists. Scientific racism provided the ideological and “scientific” scaffolding for ranking peoples on the basis of their presumed physical differences and potential – and wherein Europeans always emerged at the top. With few exceptions, such as the work by American anthropologist Franz Boas during the 1940s, race science largely remained unchallenged through the mid-twentieth century. The end of World War II, the horrors of the Holocaust, and the successful post-colonial wars of independence in Africa and Asia unraveled the

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


moral, intellectual, and political climate that had sustained scientific racism and its underlying biological determinism. Biologists and geneticists also began questioning the idea of human races neatly and categorically bounded by phenotype and genetic markers, emphasizing instead that phenotype and genetic variations were gradual (“clinal”). In other words, most scientists agreed that there were no sharp differences between popularly recognized races, and that most genetic variation occurred within and not between racial groupings. They also concluded that phenotype and genetic traits varied independently, so that white skin color did not necessarily co-vary with, for example, blue eyes. As a result, most biologists and geneticists came to regard racial classifications as social and not scientific exercises. The broader social context was also important. The biological determinism and eugenics that had informed much racial thinking in LAC and elsewhere was increasingly questioned. Important LAC social scientists and policy makers – such as Gilberto Freyre from Brazil and Manuel Gamio from Mexico – were profoundly influenced by the writings of Franz Boas, a fierce critic of biological determinism. The aftermath of World War II and the horror of the Holocaust also spurred a broad shift away from racist and racialized thinking toward a more cultural approach. The 1950 UNESCO report, The Race Question, was pivotal in undermining lingering beliefs of innate racial inferiority, emphasized that thinking of race as a purely biological category was a “social myth,” and questioned the usefulness of race as a way of alluding to ethnic/cultural groups: To most people, a race is any group which they choose to describe as a race. Thus, many national, religious, geographic, linguistic or cultural groups have, in such loose usage, been called “race,” when obviously Americans are not a race, nor are Englishmen, nor are Frenchmen, nor any other national group. Catholics, Protestants, Moslems and Jews are not races. . . . People who live in Iceland or England or India are not races; nor are people who are culturally Turkish or Chinese or the like thereby describable as races. (quoted by Loveman 2014:220–221) Social scientists are not alone in highlighting the vagueness of race as a way of lumping peoples into categorically distinct groups. LAC peoples have long been aware of such ambiguities. Consider, for instance, the following comments by Afro-Trinidadian calypsonian Gypsy Winston Peter: What race you talking about in Trinidad? Trinidad have any race? Half of my family mix up with Indians. And my great grandfather is a White man from Scotland, George Steele. You understand what I am saying? My aunt and uncle dem is Indian too. Who the hell in Trinidad and Tobago could talk about race? When you want to talk about race you have to go to a place where one race can’t even walk where another race lives. All of us does go and eat by one another, so when they point fingers at me it has nothing to do with race. It’s more to do with jealousy than anything else. I am convinced of that. If Trinidad has to do with race, what am I going to do with my little Dougla nieces and nephews? (England 2010:207)


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The view that race is fundamentally a social construct has a long history in LAC thought. In fact, “social race” was coined by a Venezuelan author in the 1890s (Wright 1993). This perspective lies at the heart of the prevalent social constructionist approach in the humanities and social sciences. Thinking of race as a social construction highlights, first, that dominant and commonly accepted racial categories are not biologically natural and that their emergence and entrenchment have been closely linked to power and control. As a result, social constructionists emphasize that the practice of race science is not free of the ideological, political, and economic contexts and biases within which it developed. A third tenet of the constructionist perspective is that while biological differences are real enough, what matters most are the historical contexts that shape the meaning, perception, and importance peoples attach to physical differences. That is, biology and genetics should take a secondary role in understanding the social and cultural implications of racial categories. It is the unnaturalness of race that the social constructionist perspective emphasizes, for There is little consistency to racial classification, either from country to country or across recent human history. This is illustrated by raising the most basic of questions about race: How many races are there? The answer ranges widely, depending on whom you ask and who is keeping track. In the United States, according to the most recent census, we have at least twelve races – with options allowing respondents unsatisfied with those offerings to fill in their own terms – though as recently as 1980 we had only four. . . . Compare that to a country such as Brazil, where there are hundreds of terms to designate a person’s racial identity. Or compare this to France, which officially has no races because they do not ask people to identify racially in their census – even though the country is driven by racial conflict between natives and African immigrants. (Hartigan 2015:59)

Race during the colonial period Europeans struggled to explain the vast cultural differences they discovered in the New World, justify their domination of indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans, and make sense (in socio-cultural terms) of children born through the union of European and indigenous or African peoples. Ideas of and concerns about racial and ethnic difference were crucial to the entrenchment of colonial rule.

Blood and colonial race-like thinking Iberian colonialism, Silverblatt reminds us, “inaugurated the global, racialized categories of humanity with which we are  .  .  . familiar today.” This was because Spaniards and Portuguese brought to the New World a race-like ideology centered on demonstrating purity of blood or bloodline (limpieza de sangre, Spanish) through which they interpreted and categorized the ethnic and cultural diversity they encountered: [Iberians] argued that blood carried stains . . . that . . . could determine character traits, intelligence, political rights, and economic possibilities. The notion of purity of blood was first elaborated in Europe, where it was used to separate

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


Old Christians from Spain’s New Christians – women and men of Jewish and Muslim origin whose ancestors had converted to Christianity. New Christians carried stained blood and consequently were perceived as a danger to official life. Conquistadores brought the curse of New Christians, the concept of stained blood (mancha), to the Americas. Bureaucrats were obliged to indicate the “race” and blood purity of everyone brought before them; their records give us a ringside view of the New Christian dilemma in the New World. Authorities . . . were vexed by such blood-related questions as was the blood stain of Europe’s New Christians the same as the blood stain of Indians and blacks? Were such stains indelible? Could baptism override them? Were all stains equal? When bureaucrats . . . responded to these issues in their daily chores of statecraft, they helped make race into a calculable thing. They were also imbuing “race” with very modern, often state-related confusions  – of nation and religion, culture and genes, color and ability. (Silverblatt 2009:x–xii) The ideology of blood purity surfaced in medieval Spain during the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula and the struggle against Islam, and became one of the earliest markers of social distinctions in colonial LAC. Having, or being able to demonstrate, a clean bloodline was essential to full acceptance in early colonial society. “Indians” were not thought of as carrying stained blood because, although “heretics” prior the conquest, they or their forbearers had later “voluntarily” converted to Catholicism. During the first decades of colonial rule, the term mestizo (ladino in Guatemala) almost exclusively referred to first-generation descendants of Spanish men and indigenous women of royal descent. Because of their noble background, these mestizos, among them indigenous chroniclers, were considered esteemed members of colonial society. A century later, however, mestizos and others with ambiguous identities (such as cholos, a disparaging term for lower-class mestizos) were increasingly identified with negative and socially dubious traits (Mangan 2009). Tarnished bloodlines could, nevertheless, be reversed by the Spanish crown. For example, during the eighteenth century some mulattoes and pardos successfully requested that the Spanish crown re-classify them as white. These petitions, called gracias al sacar, were approved once the crown issued “proof” of clean blood/bloodlines (probanzas de limpieza de sangre). Key attributes of personhood – race, religion, and ancestry, among others – could be changed by the Spanish crown, “for just as someone of Jewish background might be transformed into an Old Christian or an illegitimate into a legitimate, pardos and mulattoes might become white” (Twinam 2009:149). Although colonizers attached a great deal of weight to blood purity, they did not share a strictly biological understanding of race. Blood symbolized ancestry and evoked cultural features, such as religion during the early colonial period, and many others through time. Early seventeenth century remarks of white mulatas in colonial Mexico refute the belief in mutually exclusive color boundaries and illustrate that racial classifications had little to do with biology and phenotype (Martínez 2004). Inquisition records from colonial Mexico City also show how phenotype was not the sole guide to racial taxonomies: Consider the case of Don Francisco Cano Moctezuma, a curandero denounced for fraud and witchcraft. His first accuser . . . said that he “appears to be an indio


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amestizado,” that is, an Indian with Hispanic physical and cultural traits. A second witness . . . pointed to Cano Moctezuma’s “white” features. But Salazar [the prosecutor] was eager to see the curandero prosecuted, and the Inquisition did not have jurisdiction over Indians. He therefore took the trouble to gather information on Cano Moctezuma, including his birthplace, address, and the name of his wife and relatives. But above all, Salazar “made investigations to discover if he was a mestizo and found him to be a mestizo because of his dress and mode of speech.” . . . Inquisitors were not impressed by Salazar’s diligence, dismissing his remarks as having “little substance.” Instead, they focused on yet another criterion for racial classification – the fact that Cano Moctezuma had an Indian name. (Cope 1994:53) Descendants of African slaves, though, faced considerable hurdles in having their bloodlines “cleaned” because colonial elites often regarded “black blood” (sangre negra) as an almost irreversible stain on genealogy and lineage, which in turn justified denying slaves and their descendants rights based on birthplace. Their “black blood” was especially noxious and unfortunate, for not only were slaves and their descendants unable to claim that their forerunners had willingly converted to Catholicism, but also had to face Iberian prejudice, the result of the medieval connection between blackness and Moorish ancestry. In medieval Spain black prejudice was widespread, with black adjectives widely associated with evil, fear, distrust, and lack of cognitive abilities. Prejudice against blackness was especially flagrant when African slaves and their descendants vastly outnumbered European colonials, as in French Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). Elsewhere, as in Brazil, colonial laws allowed descendants of African slaves the possibility of circumventing their “inferior” condition by claiming legitimate birth and honor, entry into professional ranks, and the possibility of accumulating wealth (Dantas 2009). In addition to an official cleansing of bloodlines, marrying someone of equal or higher status (hypergamy) was crucial for economic advancement and improving a person’s social standing and reputation. Elite marriage norms stressed the desirability of class and racial endogamy – such as elite whites marrying their peers. When these norms were not followed, concerned parents would ask authorities to prohibit the union of their presumably elite son or daughter with a non-white partner, emphasizing their family’s blood purity and corresponding elite social status. In Cuba, When parents objected to a marriage they did so because they felt it was a menace to family integrity and status vis-à-vis other families of their group. It is without exception the white candidate’s family that opposes the marriage. Again and again the dissenting parents talk of the “absolute inequality” of the couple, of their own “known purity of blood” and of the “remarkable and transcendental stain” on their reputation, of the “degradation of the offspring” and the “disgrace and discontent” the marriage will bring to the family . . . One son objects to his father’s remarriage to a “light mulatto girl” because he “belongs to a family of pure blood on all sides . . . [and] the marriage would be a stain on all the family which is composed of respectable citizens, farmers and hacendados useful to the public, being white.” (Martínez-Alier 1989:15)

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


Elite, dominant norms notwithstanding, hypergamy by slaves and other non-whites was not only possible but common. In eighteenth century Minas Gerais, Brazil, marriage to the “right” person trumped race and ancestry, even among slave descendants. The marriage record of Luisa Rodrigues da Cruz, a parda (a person of mixed African slave/Indian ancestry), illustrates the point. Before her marriage to a Portuguese colonial, Luisa was unable to escape the public recognition of her former slave status, illegitimate birth, and slave heritage. Thirty-one years later the marriage record of María Josefa, one of her daughters, does not mention her former parda status nor that of her mother Luisa (Dantas 2009). In Mexico City, elite families also did their best to prevent their daughters and sons from marrying into less wealthy and prominent families. Parents based their objections by alluding to honor as a direct reflection of wealth, social position, and race. By the end of the eighteenth century, parental opposition became moot in the face of increasing rates of inter-racial marriages (Seed 1988; see also Chapters 3 and 6).

Castes, the colonial body, and casta paintings The specter of an uncontained spread of black and stained blood, and the negative traits associated with blackness, partly explain why imperial and local elites voiced concerns of the ongoing biological intermingling between Europeans, Indians, and African slaves and their descendants. Their view of peoples in the New World divided into Spaniards or Portuguese, or Indian and African ancestry  – Iberian “primordial categories” (Tavárez 2009:81) – proved grossly inadequate in the face of an increasingly heterogeneous society. Generations of unions between Spanish/Portuguese men and Indian or African women led to a growing number of intermediate categories with different cultures, ancestries, bloodlines, and proportions of “black blood.” The labels pointing to these categories and well as their meanings (e.g., who was to be included in which category and why) were seldom consistently understood, varying considerably across time and space. Race never provided Spanish and Portuguese colonials with an unambiguous, easily agreed-upon framework, and they generated an immense lexicon to describe skin color, whose meanings and referents varied through time and were linked to other attributes. This inconsistency reflected little consensus on the relative importance of phenotype, ancestry, blood, and culture in assigning individuals and their descendants to one category or another. This ambiguity also echoed humoral understanding of the body in which Corporeal identity . . . was inherently mutable. All bodies were understood . . . to comprise a balance of humors that was responsible for an individual’s complexion or temperament, terms that jointly described both appearance and personality. Spanish writers thus attributed the splendid beards and energetic personalities they considered characteristic of the nation’s men to a predominance of yellow bile. People’s complexions were determined in large measure by the qualities they inherited from their parents, but these qualities were neither fixed nor permanent. Changes in behavior, thought patterns, air, water, food, and levels of activity could result in dramatic changes to the individual body and its humors. This transformation, in turn, would produce a change in the person’s overall character and appearance. . . . Even the characteristics that a man passed on to his children might depend on the foods he had recently


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consumed because these could alter the quality of his semen. Similarly, the unruly forces of a pregnant woman’s imagination might imprint themselves firmly on her baby; many writers discussed how a woman could affect the appearance of her child by thinking very hard about a certain thing during pregnancy or conception. . . . Corporeal identity was naturally fluid, both during an individual’s lifetime and across generations. (Earle 2016:437–439) Biological and cultural intermingling quickly led to a proliferation of ethno-racial categories that, in Mesoamerica and the Andes in particular, were often referred to as castes (castas). Colonials typically demarcated casta membership by overlapping criteria, such as proportions of white or black blood, language, genealogical ancestry, social position, honor, and skin color. They believed that members of a casta had a similar nature (naturaleza) – virtues or qualities, and defects or imperfections – in personality, ancestry, upbringing, and social position, all which were transmitted from parents to their children. These character traits reflected a person’s “quality” (calidad, cualidad, Spanish; qualidade, Portuguese). Pardos, mulattoes, and blacks had little or deficient calidad, a marker of inferior social positions. One example is from Cuba when Juan de la Mena, a pardo, requested admission for his son to the University of Havana, which at the time required that applicants provide information on their calidad and clean bloodline (limpieza). The secretary of the university, noting that Juan’s son was a mulatto, suggested that he should not apply given “the notorious defect of his calidad” (Twinam 2009:148). A person’s calidad often depended on reputation, in turn based on hearsay and public commentaries by prominent, elite colonials. For instance, one Chilean court case relates the story of a woman “accepted and held to be Spanish even though her mother was allegedly Indian, which should have prevented her from being classed as ‘Spaniard’.” Reputation was important, not only because of the inherent difficulties in reconstructing accurate family genealogies but, and perhaps more importantly, because “caste was a language for discussing an individual’s place within the networks of power that structured colonial society” (Earle 2016:433–434). Casta membership was negotiable, and the colonial record abounds with examples of individuals transitioning from one category logged at birth to a different one recorded in a marriage, census, or burial record. Baptismal and marriage registers in particular were useful venues through which colonial elites gauged parental ancestry and qualities, and reconsidered an individual’s race designation and casta membership. In 1789, for example, Christóbal Bivián appeared before Mexico City’s ecclesiastical court declaring that his wife’s baptismal record was incorrectly included in the book of mixed bloods (libro de color quebrado) and petitioning that it be logged in the baptismal record book of Spaniards. Christóbal mustered witnesses who attested to his wife’s proper background. One claimed that the parents of Margarita, Christóbal’s wife, were Spaniards without stained lineage (españoles limpios de toda mala raza), that is, without black African, Moorish, or Jewish blood. Another witness stated that both Margarita’s parents were reputed (reputados) to have been Spaniards, a statement substantiated by another who agreed that Margarita’s parents had been Spaniards because they demonstrated their Spaniard-ness in their behavior and background (lo manifestaban en sus personas y circunstancias). Not one witness testifying on Margarita’s behalf cited physical traits (such as skin color), emphasizing instead aspects of her social personhood or calidad. The court eventually decreed that Margarita

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


was indeed a Spaniard and ordered the parish priest to inscribe her baptismal record in baptismal record book of Spaniards (Carrera 2003). How elite colonials classified and explained the increasingly complex racial, social, and cultural heterogeneity they encountered was visually represented in casta paintings (cuadros de castas), an art form that mainly emerged in Mexico in the eighteenth century (Figure 5.1). The enormous variability and inconsistency of caste categories reflected in

FIGURE 5.1  Eighteenth century casta paintings


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casta paintings and terminology reveal the inability of colonial elites to reach a consensus on the relative merits of social and economic standing, cultural baggage, racial traits, and genealogical ancestry in assigning caste membership. Casta paintings also provide a glimpse into race language, the intricate lexicon and labels used to pigeonhole peoples into different categories. Casta paintings reflected “the well-documented flexibility of colonial caste categories and the . . . genealogical nature of caste itself” (Earle 2016:431). For instance, the caption of one painting pointed out that De Mulato y Mestiza, nace Cuateron (From a mulatto and a mestiza is born a quadroon), and another stated that De Español, y Yndia, sale Mestizo (From a Spanish man and an Indian woman, arises a mestizo). These paintings clearly illustrate that, in evaluating a child’s caste membership, cultural criteria complemented genealogical reckoning and racial traits. In one caption an indigenous woman is portrayed as wearing a “beautifully woven huipil, a garment that in casta paintings is worn exclusively by ‘Indias’ or their daughters” (Earle 2016:432–437). Paintings likewise provided commentaries on the social and economic status of non-elite couples and their offspring. One painting depicts a male wolf (lobo, typically referring to the offspring of a black African male and Indian woman); his Indian spouse; and their child, who is a white-spotted boy (albarasado). Both the boy and his father wear ragged and torn clothing, indicative of their lower economic status. The father carries tools, suggesting that he is a cobbler or artisan. The Indian woman, wearing a huipil (traditional garment), has in her arms a basket of fruits and vegetables, indicating that she is a market vendor, a typical occupational niche of non-elite colonial women. Her son carries a basket of fruits, suggesting that he assists his mother selling fruits and vegetables (Carrera 2003). Vocabulary also reveals the striking regional variability of casta categories and their alleged genealogical origins, at least from the vantage point of Mexican colonial elites, some hardly understandable in other parts of the Spanish empire (Table 5.1). By the mideighteenth century at least 50 socio-racial labels were commonly used in the vice-royalties of Peru and Mexico (Cahill 1994). TABLE 5.1  Casta categories and parental genealogies

Casta category

Parental genealogy

chino cambujo coyote lobo albarasado/zambaigo barcino zambaigo chamiso castizo morisco albino coyote mestizo ahí te estás

Black father, Indian mother mestizo/barcino father, Indian mother chino cambujo/Black African father, Indian mother lobo father, Indian mother albarasado father, mestiza mother Indian father, barcina mother Indian father, coyote mother mestizo father, Spanish mother mulatto father, Spanish mother Spanish father, morisca mother Indian father, coyote mother coyote mestizo father, mulata mother

Source: Adapted from Carrera (2003:36–37) and Earle (2016:430)

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


Race and cultural miscegenation at the “bottom” Biological and cultural intermingling occurred more often at the lower tiers of the social and economic hierarchy, where most peoples worked side by side as wage laborers in mines or fields, artisans, domestic servants, or as marketplace peddlers. It was there where ethnic and racial categories overlapped, cultural differences faded, and ethnic and racial identifications became especially malleable and tricky  – and particularly worrisome to colonial elites. In Potosí, Bolivia, the differences between mestizos and “Indians” were already ambiguous by the sixteenth century. Marketplace vendors known as mestizas in Indian custom or dress (mestizas en hábito de india) took on an identity that straddled and challenged the socio-racial colonial categories of mestizo and Indian. These were mestizas who not only dressed like “Indians” but also adopted in their daily living many cultural features associated with Indianness (Mangan 2009). These and other colonial Andeans were, in the words of Schwartz and Salomon, “intra-indigenous mestizos” (1999:463). In Venezuela, the Caribbean, and Brazil, most cultural differences between slaves from different parts of Africa faded, and they and their descendants increasingly embraced aspects of Spanish and Portuguese culture (Mintz 2010; Wright 1993). By the late seventeenth century, Mexico City elites began redefining castas in other ways. In addition to emphasizing blood, ancestry, and genealogy, they started referring to non-elites in a politicized way, such as plebeians or rabble (plebe) or popular classes (gente popular or populachos), and contrasted these common or “vulgar” people (gente vulgar) with respectable, decent persons (personas decentes). The plebe – which included Indians, mestizos, blacks, mulattoes, castizos (offspring of Spanish-mestizo unions), moriscos (children of Spanish and mulatto parents) and even some poor Creoles and Spaniards – were believed to be “badly inclined,” irrational, lacking in cognitive abilities, and suffering from “vile customs, ignorance, and irremediable vices” (Carrera 2003:41–42; Cope 1994:22–23). These views profoundly influenced elite attempts to forge nation-states after independence (Chapter 4).

Pseudo-racial identities Phenotype, culture, ancestry, and social position have played important roles in how LAC peoples view themselves, or are assigned by others, as members of pseudo-racial categories. And just as a multiplicity of, and fluidity between, racial groupings, as well as a wide range of racial terms, were noteworthy characteristics of colonial and post-independence times, so too in contemporary LAC. Pseudo-racial classifications are inherently ambiguous, and the terms that point to these groupings are semantically slippery. For decades scholars have debated whether all languages have terms for universal colors. What is clear, though, is that although all languages have basic (also known as focal) color terms typically arranged along a continuum, they also have an extraordinarily rich color terminologies that fall “in between” these key terms. In other words, the meaning and perception of color and color categories vary a great deal within and between languages. Members of diverse societies perceive the color continuum rather differently, even if they speak the same language or dialect (Ahearn 2017). Skin color terminology is a good example of the malleability of color groupings, and of racial thinking and classifications, in much of LAC. Rather than fixed racial attributes


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or categories or, even less so, stark racial polarities such as black – white in the US, what we often encounter is a range of descriptive terms that show the elasticity of color categories and the permeability of color boundaries. This perception of phenotype plasticity is especially noteworthy in the Caribbean and Brazil, where slavery was such an integral part of their historical trajectories, and racial and cultural miscegenation widespread. In Puerto Rico, for instance, black or blackness is not an inflexible, clear-cut color or domain, as the following anecdote illustrates:

“María!” “Sí, Señor?” “María, dígame, Don Pedro – es negro?” “Don Pedro? Sí, Señor, es negro.” “Pero María, piénsalo bien, Don Pedro – es negro negro?” Ella piensa, y entonces dice, muy cuidadosamente: “Sí, Señor – Don Pedro es negro, negro.” Y él contesta: “Pues, María, escúchame bien – Don Pedro – es negro negro negro?” Y entonces dice ella: “Ah, no, Señor, negro negro negro, no!”

“María!” “Yes, Sir?” “María, tell me, Don Pedro – is he black?” “Don Pedro? Yes, Sir, he is black.” “But María, think very carefully, Don Pedro – is he black black?” She reflects and then says very cautiously: “Yes, Sir – Don Pedro is black, black.” And he responds: “Well, María, hear me very carefully – Don Pedro – is he black black black?” And then she says: “Oh, no, Sir, not black black black!”

Source: Mintz (2010:230). English translation by Harry Sanabria

Other historical and political-economic contexts are also important for understanding racial attitudes and terminology in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic shares much with Puerto Rico, such as similar foods and cuisines; a history of US interventions; a partly overlapping racial terminology; and a predilection for whiteness. But what it does not share with Puerto Rico is an antagonistic relationship with a bordering country – Haiti (Chapter 4). This antagonism has deeply shaped Dominican racial attitudes and the meanings of racial terms. In the Dominican Republic, blackness (negritude) is deeply frowned upon and is understood in contrast to Haiti and Haitians. This is one reason why other, non-white color descriptors – quemado (toasted or burnt), oscuro (dark), or trigueño (wheat-colored) – for example, are often used in lieu of black. These terms are also frequently used in Puerto Rico and Cuba (Roth 2012). In the Dominican Republic, anti-Haitian sentiment spurred on by political and economic elites resulted in a racial ideology fused with Dominican nationalism, which was also partly the result of US imperial advances in the region. Between 1870 and 1940, [A] racist, patriarchal, and authoritarian state emerged . . . as a result of exclusionary governing practices that disenfranchised rural Dominicans, reactions to black labor, and U.S. military intervention. . . . [The] monopolization of political power by a Hispanic-identified group of elites, the conservative reaction against U.S. imperialism, and antiblack policing prepared the groundwork for hispanidad nationalism in two ways. First, the period between 1870 and 1940 witnessed the emergence of a regional, modernizing elite that increasingly defined itself in exclusive, racial terms and governed accordingly. Second, and related to the first, the political significance of race changed as a result of Afro-Antillean immigration and the country’s integration into the U.S. sphere of influence. (Mayes 2014:6)

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


And, among Dominicans and many others in LAC, racial designators are often used alongside others to communicate a multi-faceted identity: [In] the course of a single interview a Spanish monolingual Dominican woman in New York described herself as dominicana (Dominican), blanca (white), hispana (Hispanic), Latina (Latina), ordinaria (ordinary; i.e., black featured), elegante (elegant; i.e., upper class), and mezclada (mixed). Her niece, a fluent bilingual, similarly deployed various referents to locate herself in the ethnoracial landscape: dominicana (Dominican), trigueño (lit., wheat-skinned; fig., brown-skinned), india (Indian), fina (fine featured), hispana (Hispanic), black, light-skinned, and Latina. (Candelario 2007:32) Brazilian racial classifications have long been touted as exemplars of the plasticity of racial thinking and boundaries in LAC. During his research in the 1960s, Harris uncovered dozens of terms alluding to phenotype, ancestry, and social class in just one community (Table  5.2). As we might expect, official Brazilian national censuses rarely come close to capturing the lexical richness of racial types at the local community level (Table 5.3). Racial and cultural mixing in Brazil and the Spanish Caribbean, reflected in the multiplicity of pseudo-racial terms and absence of rigid boundaries between racial categories, have prompted some scholars to describe these societies as racial democracies. According to this view (and debate), compared to the US, in Brazil and the former Spanish Caribbean colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, slavery was more benign, race TABLE 5.2  Some Brazilian racial terms



amarelo branco caboclado branco mulatto cabo verde caboclo caboclo escuro escuro moreno moreno claro caboclado moreno escuro mulatto bem claro mulatto escuro negro pardo preto roxo de cabelo bom sarará sarará escuro

Yellow White with caboclo ancestry White mulatto Very dark-skinned, with white features such as straight hair Copper color(ed) (also mixed African-indigenous or European indigenous ancestry) Dark caboclo Dark Dark/very brown Light dark/brown and of caboclo ancestry Very dark moreno Very light mulatto Dark mulatto Black Grayish dark brown Black/very dark (and non-“white” phenotype) Purple/violet with nice hair Fair/light Dark/black sarará

Source: Adapted from Harris (1964:58). English translations by Harry Sanabria


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TABLE 5.3  Brazilian Census racial categories

Census year


1872 1890 1940 1960 1980 1991

White (branco), Black (preto), Mixed (pardo), Caboclo (mestizo Indian) White (branco), Black (preto), Caboclo (mestizo Indian), Mestiço (mestizo) White (branco), Black (preto), Yellow (amarelo) White (branco), Black (preto), Mixed (pardo), Yellow (amarelo), Indio (Indian) White (branco), Black (preto), Mixed (pardo), Yellow (amarelo) White (branco), Black (preto), Brown (pardo), Yellow (amarelo), Indígena (indigenous)

Source: Adapted from Nobles (2000:1743)

relations less antagonistic, and secular and Church laws more favorable to slaves and their descendants. Critics of the racial democracy thesis have emphasized the diversity of slaves’ experiences within and between societies during different historical periods, and that to describe these societies as racially democratic is to belittle the extreme discrimination, racism, and violence that slaves – and their blackness – were subjected to (de la Fuente 2001; Mayes 2014; Rodríguez-Silva 2012; Wade 2010).

Ethnicity and culture: moving away from race Beginning in 1950, LAC demographic censuses began turning away from recording questions on race, gathering instead detailed data on cultural practices and attributes as markers of ethnic makeup. By 1980 questions on race largely disappeared in most censuses. There were three reasons for this move away from race towards ethnicity and culture – and all with profound implications (Loveman 2014). While accepting race as a biological “fact,” census officials, increasingly influenced by scientific/statistical canons, became progressively wary of the scientific validity and integrity of responses to race-related questions. The alleged reality of race was itself not disputed but, rather, the seeming impossibility of gathering reliable and valid responses to race-related questions. The move away from race also reflected a broad and deep political, policy, and scholarly shift in race thinking (see earlier section entitled “Race: Biological Fallacy, Socially Constructed – or Both?”). The third reason for the shift to culture and ethnicity in national censuses was the surge, beginning in the 1970s, of a broad popular critique and challenge to lingering elite notions and practices of racial superiority and discrimination, which reached its peak in the midto-late 1990s. This was reflected by the increasing political weight of indigenous or indianist social movements and, in the academic world, of the legitimacy of multiculturalism. I explore these in the following section. By 2010 virtually every LAC census included questions on indigenous and/or African ancestry. This shift away from emphasizing race to indexing culture had a dramatic impact on the demographic portrait of LAC countries. While some countries, as Argentina and Uruguay, continued to be overwhelming classed as white with few vestiges of indigenous or African descent, the cultural/ethnic portrait of other countries shifted dramatically. For example, whereas indigenous peoples in the 1980s were statistically prominent in just seven of the 16 countries that carried out a national census, between 2010 and 2013 their

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


statistical visibility rose in 90% of the censuses carried out (17 of 19). In some countries, such as Bolivia, the numerical importance of indigenous peoples was paralleled by an increase in the number of ethnic groups. More striking was the growth of proportions of national populations of African descent. During the 1980s and 1990s only three of 19 countries undertook a national census that gauged African cultural heritage; by 2013 11 of 14 countries had done so. Predictably, the demographic visibility of peoples of African descent also rose dramatically (Loveman 2014).

Indigenous movements and the multicultural turn Social movements are “collective, sustained challenges to state and nonstate systems of political, economic, or cultural governance” (Balsiger 2010:1303). Between the early 1960s and late 1980s these collective struggles primarily focused on redressing economic inequality and stemming threats to livelihoods. In the 1990s, the goals of LAC movements shifted dramatically. Instead of merely focusing on economic grievances and redistribution, they began clamoring for greater cultural rights and recognition; political autonomy grounded on a collective, pan-ethnic identification as nations (naciones, Spanish; nações, Portuguese), or peoples (pueblos, Spanish; povo, Portuguese); constitutional reforms recognizing the plurinational makeup of their respective countries; and territorial rights based on ancestral (i.e., pre-conquest) claims, heritage, and memory (Jackson and Warren 2005; Roper and Perrault, et al. 2003). The remarkable surge of these indigenous or indianist movements over the past 25 years coincided with the 1992 Columbian quincentenary public denunciations by indigenous groups and activists of the atrocious consequences (from their point of view) of Columbus’ “Discovery” (Chapter 3). These collective, ethnically grounded mobilizations represent a rejection of neoliberal economic and political policies that, beginning in the mid-1980s, resulted in massive disenfranchisement, poverty, and marginalization of indigenous and other popular sectors (see also Chapter 11). These movements also reflect an explicit rejection of state ideologies of mestizaje that have downplayed cultural differences in favor of a purported, homogenous, national culture. They have been attempts to rescue the alleged “invisibility” of indigenous peoples in the public policy arena. By coupling political-economic and cultural demands, that is, by explicitly adopting a politicized understanding of ethnic and cultural identification, these movements have also successfully pressed for multicultural citizenship. Constitutional reforms explicitly recognizing the multicultural and ethnic makeup of indigenous peoples have been adopted in Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Nicaragua, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Chile’s Mapuche The Mapuche (People of the Land) are Chile’s largest indigenous group and the third largest in South America. Living primarily in Chile’s southern region, they represent over 90% of its indigenous peoples, and between 4% and 10% of Chile’s population. Because of their nomadic lifestyle, the Mapuche and other Southern Cone indigenous societies (collectively called Araucanians) held their ground against invading Incas, successfully resisted


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the Spanish conquest, and kept Spanish colonizers and the Chilean nation-state at bay for 300 years. The Yaghan, one of the groups living in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern-most tip of South America, labelled the Europeans palala – babblers or barbarians (Heggarty and Renfrew 2014). Incorporated into the Chilean political system and violently forced into reservations (reducciones) only in 1883, the Mapuche have retained a large degree of economic and political autonomy, as well as their ethnic identity (Crow 2012; Funk 2012; Jones 1999; Padden 1957). Similar “pacification” campaigns were carried out in Argentina during the same period. The Mapuche are well known for exhibiting an “ethnic subculture of resistance” (Kowalczyk 2013:125). Mapuche activists and political organizations were already culturally and politically prominent in Chile during the first decades of the twentieth century. During the 1910 centennial celebration of Chile’s independence, for example, the Mapuche Caupolicán Society placed the first stone “of a monument dedicated to the ‘Araucanian Race’ . . . [and] encouraged the public to attend, exclaiming that ‘the good works of the Araucanian Race merit a page in our national history’ ” (Crow 2012:57). By the 1930s, annual Auraucanian Congresses were calling for indigenous land rights and improved educational programs for Mapuche youths, emphasizing the importance for Chilean society of Mapuche cultural traditions. The 1931 Congress even called for the establishment of an “Indigenous Republic” with sovereignty over Mapuche lands prior to the “pacification” campaigns of the late 1880s. One leader of the Araucanian Federation stated that Araucanians should “lead their lives according to their own psychology, customs, and rituals” and rely on their ancestral lands as a space to “create their own progress and culture” (Crow 2012:70–76). Between the 1920s and 1960s Mapuche activists joined ranks with leftist and working-class organizations and supported the brief presidency of socialist President Salvador Allende. In a 1970 speech, Allende stated that his mandate was in good measure the result of “the pain and the hope of the Araucanians in the south of Chile” (Crow 2012:118). The Mapuche were brutally repressed after Salvador Allende was overthrown in 1973 (Chapter 10). As other indigenous groups, the Mapuche began mobilizing against the neoliberal economic and political policies of the 1980s and 1990s (see Chapter 11) that threatened their collective, communal resources, and cultural autonomy. The privatization of water sources, construction of hydroelectric dams, and the spread of logging companies in Mapuche territories (the latter made possible by the replacement of communal by private property rights during the Pinochet dictatorship) are some ways that neoliberalism has threatened their way of life. These policies were resisted by hundreds of Mapuche communities. Mapuche challenges to Chile’s neoliberal policies led to violent confrontations, and some Mapuche who engaged in sabotage against mining and timber companies were jailed under anti-terrorism laws enacted by former dictator Augusto Pinochet (Funk 2012). Mapuche mobilizations have also aimed at safeguarding their collective way of life as a distinct people with their own cultural identity. In 1992, for example, the organization Aukiñ Wallmapu Ngulam called for Mapuche cultural and political self-determination, and by raising the flag of the Mapuche nation in 1992 its public demonstrations, formally and publicly made the link between economic and cultural autonomy. In 2010 the Chilean state “adopted a resolution . . . allowing the Mapuche to raise their flag, which had been outlawed by the Chilean courts, in municipalities and public institutions where there

Cultural politics of race and ethnicity


are Mapuche people” (Kowalczyk 2013:128). As they resist efforts to undermine their economic and cultural autonomy, the Mapuche, as other LAC indigenous groups, have forged alliances with transnational advocacy groups, such as the Mapuche International link (based in England) and the Netherlands-based Mapuche Foundation (Funk 2012).

Evo Morales and Bolivia’s indigenous state In an unprecedented historic event in 2005, Bolivians elected their first indigenous President  – Evo Morales, born into an Aymara-speaking pastoralist household from the Altiplano region near La Paz. Accepting the oath of office in January 2006, his inaugural ceremonies took place in two different settings, both representing his twin visions of a new Bolivia. The first occurred at Tiwanaku, the famous pre-Inca archaeological site near La Paz. After walking barefoot over coca leaves and blessed by Aymara ritual leaders, Morales proclaimed that “A new millennium has arrived for the original peoples (pueblos originarios) of the world.” Alluding to Bolivia, he stated in Aymara “¡Causachun coca! ¡Wañuchun yanquis!” (Long live coca! Death to the Yankees!). Attended by well-known leftist dignitaries, such as the former presidents of Venezuela and Cuba (Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, respectively), and prominent indigenous activists, including Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, Morales’ official inauguration took place the following day in La Paz’s Congress building. He began his speech by calling for a moment of silence for Bolivia’s “martyrs of liberation,” including the well-known Andean colonial rebel Túpac Katari (Chapter 3) and Bolivia’s coca growers (cocaleros). Stressing the urgency for a “cultural democratic revolution” and a “new world of equality,” he alluded to the famous Argentine guerilla fighter Ernesto “Che” Guevara (killed in Bolivia in the 1960s), as well as subcomandante Marcos, of Mexico’s Zapatista movement (Pineo 2016; Postero 2010; Chapter 10). By stressing the need for a “cultural revolution” coupled with “equality,” Evo Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS, Movimiento al Socialismo) advocate for an “indigenous nationalism” (Postero 2010:19) that seeks to transform Bolivia in two fundamental ways. (Both also help us understand Morales’ electoral victory and his continued popularity. Since 2005, Morales has won six consecutive elections.) The first goal – which reflects an “indigenous awakening” (Canessa 2014:156) in LAC – is to overturn the centuries-long legacy of cultural, social, and political subordination and demeaning of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, who represent over 60% of its population. During his speech at Tiwanaku, Morales vilified the “colonial state which has always seen us, the indigenous peoples of the world, as savages, as animals,” and has since sponsored constitutional reforms that now recognize Bolivia as a multicultural and plurinational state. Yet through symbolically laden steps such as promoting the “Aymara New Year” on the June 21st solstice, Morales demonstrates a highland-Andean centered view of indigenous culture, and his vision of Bolivia as a state with a homogenous, indigenous national, culture (Canessa 2014:157– 158). This vision is at odds with non-Andean, Amazonian indigenous peoples in Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, for according to a Guaraní-speaking leader from the lowland Department of Santa Cruz, “They [Morales and his MAS supporters] . . . want to control everything, to do everything according to their culture, the Andean culture” (Postero 2010:27). The second aim of Morales and the MAS is to roll back neoliberal policies that magnified Bolivia’s historically stark historic economic inequalities. During the 1980s


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and 1990s these policies had devastating consequences for most Bolivians. Fiscal austerity, wage freezes, the lifting of state subsidies, privatization of state enterprises, and cutbacks in social programs, coupled with fierce anti-coca eradication programs, vastly increased unemployment and poverty. Between 1997 and 2002 – three years before Morales’ electoral victory – the proportion of the rural population living in extreme poverty rose from 60% to over 75% (Pineo 2016). The historically important mining sector was devastated, and thousands of unemployed miners migrated to the Chapare region of Cochabamba to grow coca. While attempts by peasants and miners to openly challenge the neoliberal state proved futile (Sanabria 1999, 2000), other forms of mass popular protests – such as the water and gas “wars” against the privatization of public potable water service and the sale of gas and oil state-owned firms – continued unabated. Paralleling societal-wide discontent and mass mobilizations against poverty and neoliberalism was the rise in the 1990s of a lowlands indigenous (i.e., non-highland Andean) movement against cattle ranchers, loggers, and highland colonists encroaching on their lands. This movement, while overtly aimed at protecting territories and resources, also began advocating for cultural rights and recognition, demands that eventually led to the Law of Popular Participation, which decentralized the political system and awarded indigenous groups a greater measure of autonomy at the municipal level. It is in this context of mass mobilizations against neoliberalism and for indigenous recognition, conveyed through the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the People (Asamblea por la Soberanía de los Pueblos), that the MAS emerged (Postero 2010). Six months after assuming the Presidency, Morales partially nationalized the natural gas and oil industries, which, formerly under state control, had fallen into the hands of foreign investors. The result has been a boom for state revenues, with gas sales now accounting for over half of state proceeds, up from a prior 7%. This has allowed the government to vastly increase social spending on education, health, and poverty reduction, which rose 45% between 2005 and 2012. The results have been dramatic: since 2005 the poverty rate has fallen by 20%, health standards have improved, and in 2010 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared that Bolivia had eradicated illiteracy. Morales has demonstrated an astute alertness to the overlap between cultural nationalism and political economy. This cultural sensibility and political shrewdness is perhaps best exemplified by the 2013 launching (from China) of Bolivia’s first telecommunications satellite – and naming it Túpac Katari (Pineo 2016).

Ethnic mobilizations in Colombia One of the most striking features of Colombia’s indigenous peoples is the control they exert over the country’s territory relative to their size. While comprising slightly over 3% of the country’s population, its 81 indigenous groups hold sway over one-fourth of its national territory. Most are concentrated in the Departments of Cauca and Guajira. In Cauca, the birthplace of Colombia’s indigenous movement, over 20% of the population is indigenous, and its most important ethnic group is the Nasa, also known as the Paéz. Most indigenous peoples live in communal lands known as resguardos, sixteenth century crown land grants. A 1890 law shielded these resguardos, ruling that they could not be sold or alienated. As elsewhere in LAC, grassroots organizing, the weakness of the central government, and the forging of ties with non-indigenous sectors are some important reasons

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for the rise and political weight of Colombia’s indigenous movement, especially in Cauca. Equally crucial has been the active role that both local elites and the Colombian nationstate have played in encouraging the growth and legitimacy of indigenous organizations over 100 years. Indigenous organizing thrived in the midst of intense power struggles between regional elites and the central state. At times local elites, vying for regional political and economic control against the central state based in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, supported and swayed indigenous organizations to their side. For its part, the central state, in its struggle to achieve rule over regions it only tenuously held control over, also allied itself with and supported indigenous groups. The indigenous uprisings in Cauca between 1910 and 1918, led by Manuel Lame, highlighted the strategic political importance of indigenous groups: The central demands of his movement were the defense of communal land grants (resguardos), strengthening of indigenous government (cabildos/councils), and the annulment of sharecroppers’ labor obligations . . . the local state used . . . Lame’s ethnic-based discourse to legitimize the demands that his movement made. The local state was able to revive old fears of race separation and rebellion. . . . In contrast to the local state, the central state adopted a contradictory approach legitimizing . . . Lame’s agenda by corresponding with him and promising to inquire about his legal matters while ultimately siding with the local state sending military troops. In spite of the central state’s contradictory stance, the indigenous leader expressed steadfast belief that the central state was a just one and that it would intervene on behalf of Colombia’s ‘poor and oppressed’ indigenous peoples. With a discourse based on his interpretation of Colombian indigenista laws . . . Lame imagined a central state that was responsive to ethnic-based claims. (Troyan 2015:2–3) Similar three-way engagements between indigenous groups on the one hand, and local elites and the central state enmeshed in a struggle for political control, repeatedly took place in the following decades. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the central government under Liberal party control sought to strengthen its legitimacy and political clout in Cauca by allying itself with indigenous groups, pushing for agrarian reform, and encouraging indigenous culture and identity through various cultural policies. By the 1960s the Colombian nation-state was visibly present in Cauca through its Division of Indigenous Affairs, encouraging the formation of indigenous councils, and putting into place policies for the protection of communal landholdings. A decade later indigenous grassroots organizations blossomed in Cauca, which also coincided with a decline of the power of local elites caused by an absence of economic development, which tipped the balance of power in favor in indigenous organizations and the central state. In addition, the central state continued to deploy a discourse that legitimized indigenous groups’ ethnic-based claims . . . [and ultimately led to] a clear alliance between the central state and indigenous people of Cauca. (Troyan 2015:4–5)


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Twenty years later, a “massive affirmation of indigenous identity” was solidly entrenched in Cauca, and indigenous organizations and intellectual leaders had made their inedible mark on Colombian society: Regional organizations . . . have played a key role in strengthening local-level indigenous authority, repossessing lands usurped from reservations in previous centuries by nonnative landlords, and impelling the Constitutional Assembly to recognize Colombia as a pluriethnic nation in its 1991 constitution . . . indigenous communities have won the right to supervise their own educational systems, to administer tax funds, to organize their own public health systems, and to devise a culturally sensitive system of justice. . . . They have been successful in introducing culturally sensitive projects in native communities, designed in accordance with innovative ethnographic and linguistic research produced by native scholars. (Rappaport 2003:311–312)

Genetics and the revival of “scientific” racial thinking in Mexico and Brazil The view that race is primarily a social and cultural construction has been firmly entrenched in the social sciences for over 50 years. Yet this perspective has had little impact in genetics and the biomedical sciences, which continue to rely on race and, from the perspective of most anthropologists, dubious racial classifications as valid units of analysis. The mapping of the human genome, spectacular advances in genetic engineering and analytic techniques (such as DNA sequencing), the availability of huge genetic databases, and an outpouring of biomedical research (often funded by pharmaceutical companies) linking disease with genetic markers have led to a revival of race as a seemingly valid biological and social concept and unit of analysis. The “tenacity” and resurgence of racial thinking and classifications in genetics and biomedical research have been paralleled by a widespread fascination with genetics and the alleged role of genetic makeup in explaining cultural and social life (Hunt and Truesdell 2013). This has been made possible by the ability of geneticists to pinpoint and study a wide span of genetic markers (such as genetic variants [alleles], and DNA nucleotides and polymorphisms), all which help us understand genetics’ “mystique” and why “the gene” has become a “cultural icon” (Nelkin and Lindee 1995). This revival of racial thinking has indirectly further entrenched racial taxonomies deeply embedded in European/Western thought and science: In a cyclical fashion, the idea that the human species comprises a handful of biologically distinct racial groups emerges, is challenged, is revised, and then re-emerges in nearly its original form. The concept of biological races has been experiencing a reinvigoration in the sciences as the prodigious wave of genetics research following the Human Genome Project increasingly identifies various patterns of human genetic variation. A profusion of recent research is framed in terms presuming that the complexity of human variation can be meaningfully captured in four or five continental racial groups: Europeans,

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Asians, Africans, and Native Americans. For example, a recent Medline search for genetics research using these racial terms yielded nearly four thousand articles for 2011 alone. (Hunt and Truesdell 2013:84) Morning reminds us that racial and ethnic categories used by geneticists are hardly free of the ideological and historical contexts within which they first emerged. For instance, one study claimed the accuracy of “the classical definition of races based on continental ancestry – namely African, Caucasian (Europe and Middle East), Asian, Pacific Islander . . . and Native American.” This typology is eerily reminiscent of earlier racial typologies and reflects the “lingering influence of eighteenth century conjectures on scientific analyses in the twenty-first” (2014:203). This “lingering influence” suggests that – like all science – genetics is always part of the social and cultural context that shapes which questions scientists ask, what kinds of data they gather, and how geneticists go about interpreting their results. Rather than neutral, “scientific” endeavors, genetics research is thoroughly pervaded by the social, cultural, and political contexts within which it is carried out. The socially conditioned science of genetics is clearly evident in Mexico and Brazil, to which I now turn. The belief that Mexico is a mestizo nation whose citizens are primarily the result of a thorough blend of European and Amerindian physical and cultural characteristics has been around for quite some time. After independence Mexican elites debated the role that mestizos and indigenous groups should play in the fledging nation-state, and by the end of the nineteenth century, a nationalist ideology elevating the mestizo (and the mestizo “race”) as an icon of national identity and unity was firmly entrenched. In the popular, national, and scientific imagination Mexican national identity became wedded to the mestizo “race,” and science and genetics soon followed in the footsteps of this ideology and racialized thinking. By the 1950s one goal of genetics and other scientific research was to provide racial markers of the Mexican mestizo population. Scientific research on the genetic makeup of Mexico stemmed from and reiterated popular racialized views, for when all . . . institutions (the school, the hospital, the political party) were run by and for mestizos, when any random Mexican walking down a city street was almost certainly a mestizo, one would expect scientific scrutiny to confirm the presence of mestizo characteristics in the majority of the population. (López Beltrán and García Deister, et al. 2014:91) The highly publicized launching of the Map of the Mexican Mestizo Genome project in 1994 was in line with this trajectory of pivoting genetic research around the mestizo category that by most accounts was both biological and cultural, largely accepted in the popular imagination, and that nicely squared with the nationalist tradition of Mexican science. In the Mexican context, genetic research is much more than about genes or race. While in the popular imagination genetics is often understood as the scientific inquiry of the genetic makeup of individuals and populations, in Mexico (as well as in Brazil) the “explicit object of attention” was and has been the “genetic character of the nation,” a primarily cultural and political category (Wade et al. 2014:192). Rather than a purely scientific endeavor unencumbered by social, cultural, and political issues and debates, genetic research in Brazil has also been tied to the central idea of a


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mixture of racial and cultural categories. Yet Brazil differs from Mexico in the importance it attaches to the large population of African ancestry, and the political and cultural role of primarily Amazonian native indigenous groups, illustrating an ongoing tension between an emphasis on sameness (important for an ideology of national identity) and the recognition of diversity: In genetic research, indigenous people are seen as distinct and relatively unmixed; mixture turns them into mestizos. . . . Black populations are, by definition African-derived or – descent. By implication, they are mixed, as the genetic data confirm – just as “everyone” is mixed – yet this does not make them fully into mestizos. A separation is made in both cases, but for indigenous people it derives from the perception of them as small groups encysted within national society, culturally and geographically separate, while for black people it derives from a perception of them as more integrated into national society, yet still defined by phenotypical difference. (Wade et al. 2014:189–190) In Brazil and elsewhere there is often a wide divergence between genetic research clustering people into ancestry categories sharing a high percentage of genetic material and individuals’ self-classifications based on their own perceptions of race and color. In fact, genetic research paradoxically validates the social constructionist emphasis on the cultural malleability of racial self-identifications. For example, in a study at a Rio de Janeiro high school, students self-identified as belonging to 18 race/color categories. Researchers then rearranged these into three “perceived ancestry” groups (Whites, Browns, and Blacks) and overlaid these with European, African, and Amerindian “genomic ancestry” types. Not surprisingly, the difference between perceived and genomic ancestry was striking. For instance, while most students classed as white shared a greater percentage of “European” genetic material, many had considerable African genomic ancestry. And while most students classed as black displayed a wide distribution of European, African, and Amerindian genetic markers, many had predominantly “European” ones. Some students “were disconcerted when their genomic tests showed high levels of European ancestry – a result that, in principle, they would not have imagined possible. One student who classified himself as black even commented that there must be some ‘trick’ going on: ‘I’m absolutely certain that it is wrong (the genomic test result). . . . You [the researchers] made everybody white [in other words, with more European genomic ancestry] just to find out what we were really thinking’ ” (Ventura Santos and Fry, et al. 2009:794).

In the United States: race, culture, and the making of “Hispanics” As I mentioned in Chapter 1, Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic category in the US and are playing a decisive role in its cultural, political, and economic life. In the 2016 US elections more than 27 million were eligible to vote, representing over 11% of the US electorate, and 17% more voted than in 2012 (Bell 2016). Latinos are linguistically, culturally, ethnically, and phenotypically quite diverse. For example, many who self-identify as such in US censuses may not speak, or are barely literate in, Spanish. There are, further,

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at least a dozen varieties of Spanish spoken in the US, with often sharp lexical, idiomatic, and phonological differences. Religion too is a poor index of identity. While most are Catholic, many, like their counterparts in LAC, practice various forms of Popular Catholicism and numerous others have converted to Protestantism. And in daily interactions, national or heritage identities (e.g., Puerto Ricans, Cubans) are often more meaningful than the broad category of Latinos (Lipski 2008; Marchi 2013; Martínez 2011; Mora 2014). Census data provide other insights into the heterogeneity of Latinos. In the 2010 census, Hispanic or Latino – used interchangeably by the Census Bureau – was a person of “Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.” The question on Hispanic self-identification made a distinction between ethnicity and race. The Hispanic origin question provided respondents the opportunity to identify their ethnic heritage and allowed them to further self-identify according to national origin (Figure 5.2). Respondents were also asked to select which race they belonged to, options which, not surprisingly, conflated ethnicity with race.

FIGURE 5.2  Hispanic origin and race questions, 2010 Census Source: US Census Bureau (2011)

This attempt at “objectively [identifying] . . . subjective identities” (Kertzer and Arel 2001:20) yielded interesting results. More than half in the Hispanic category self-identified as white, while about a third provided responses to the “Some Other Race” option, many answering Mexican, Puerto Rican, Latino, or other categories that reflected national origins or ethnic heritage. In fact, Latinos comprised 97% of all respondents who identified themselves, or were classified by the Census Bureau, as belonging only to the “Some Other Race” category. Given this heterogeneity what, then, do we make of this category that looms so important in recent US censuses and that, directly or indirectly, influence national politics? Censuses are important tools for effective state governance. Yet population censuses in particular are much more than that, for they play a key role in constructing social reality and in generating and legitimizing new ethnic/national categories to which peoples may identify with; when his happens, census categories become “real” (Kertzer and Arel 2001). The widely touted and extremely significant Latino category – a relatively recent invention – is


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a case in point. Until the 1960s the three major Latino groups (Mexican-Americans, CubanAmericans, and Puerto Ricans) “lived in separate worlds in separate parts of the country,” with a distinct sense of identity, considering themselves members of separate groups, with little real understanding of what a “Hispanic” or “Latino” meant, and with different political and cultural agendas. This separateness was reflected in the decennial federal censuses, in which respondents did not have the opportunity to self-identify as members of a pan-ethnic category. And, unlike today, media organizations also shared the view that these groups had little in common, “for there were no television networks or media firms connecting Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American audiences across the country” (Mora 2014:2–3). The invention of the Hispanic/Latino census category was the result of three intersecting trends. One was the rise of the civil rights movement and, as part of the 1960s War on Poverty, efforts by the federal and state governments to dole out resources targeting specific minority groups. These efforts were paralleled by Census Bureau attempts to create and eventually legitimize the Hispanic/Latino category. The 1970 census was the first to include a question on Hispanic ethnicity. Prior to this census, place of birth, Spanish surnames, and whether Spanish was the “mother tongue” spoken in the household were inconsistently used as surrogates of Hispanic identity/heritage. Ten years later, the 1980 census was the first to ask all persons whether they were of “Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent.” In doing so, it formally adopted the practice of conceptualizing Hispanics in ethnic/cultural terms, separating it from the question about race (López 2005). The second trend was the emergence of pan-ethnic associations and activists embracing the Hispanic category as a way of increasing their political clout so as to procure grants and other resources from federal, state, and private sources. The very ambiguity of the term Hispanic allowed Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and Puerto Ricans (as well as other, less prominent ethno-national groups) to convey a sense of common cultural heritage and downplay their cultural and political differences. Third, television and cable programming helped entrench and legitimize the Hispanic/Latino category. Prior to the 1970s there was no television/cable programming aimed at an audience that included Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and Puerto Ricans. Television networks primarily targeted specific groups (Chapter 12). By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Spanish media networks such as Univisión and Telemundo were transmitting shows and events that went beyond the cultural specificities of each group. The three trends and the different actors involved in the forging of a pan-ethnic identity and category (Census Bureau officials, politicians, community activists, and media executives) worked together to invent and legitimatize the Latino category: A typical Spanish-language television viewer could thus turn on her television set in 1980 and see activists and census officials featured together on news programs about Hispanic panethnicity. One broadcast program even filmed activists, media personalities, and census officials standing together “holding up the 1980 census form, [which had a] big circle around the new ‘Hispanic’ [census] question. . . . and introducing the category to viewers,” recalls one former Univision executive. . . . A group of categorical experts . . . [emerged and used] . . . the same symbols and narratives to reinforce one another’s efforts and legitimate a new category. . . . [Activists] became Hispanic political analysts, census officials became Hispanic data analysts, and media executives became Hispanic marketers. These experts all came to know and help one another, and they created images, symbols and frames about what the Hispanic


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identity meant. And the more they worked together, the louder their messages about panethnicity became. (Mora 2014:5–12)

Concluding thoughts Race has always been important in LAC. Yet like all other concepts, what it has meant and the purposes to which it has been put has varied considerably. Most social scientists (and more than one geneticist), view race as a social construction, and few hold on to the misguided belief that humans can be grouped into phenotypically and genetically distinct categories. For indigenous peoples race was never a meaningful way of either categorizing or structuring relationships with others. Race-like thinking in LAC is an outcome of European colonialism. Yet during and after the colonial period, race meant much more than phenotype and biology, and in many ways LAC peoples – for whom culture, ethnicity, and social class distinctions were always paramount – have been practicing the social construction of race centuries before the concept became fashionable in the social sciences. Race is not the only concept and way of structuring relationships with others that is, and has been, contentious. Gender is another – the subject of the following chapter.

FILMS/VIDEOS Bad Hair (Pelo Malo). 2013. Kanopy Streaming. Relates the story of a boy obsessed with straightening his hair. Black and Cuba. 2015. Kanopy Streaming. Compares Cuban and American perspectives on race, human rights, and the legacies of the Cuban Revolution. Brazil: A Racial Paradise? 2011. PBS. Focuses on the African and slave roots of Carnaval. Coca and the Congressman: Drugs, Farming, and Socialism in Bolivia. 2003. Films on Demand. Emphasizes the role of Evo Morales as leader of Bolivia’s coca growers. Cocalero. 2007. Cinema Guild. Portrays the life history of Evo Morales.

Cuba: The Next Revolution. 2011. Films on Demand. Focuses on the cultural legacies of African slavery. Haiti and Dominican Republic: An Island Divided. 2011. Films on Demand. Explores the social construction of race in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Housemaids. 2012. Icarus Films. Documentary on black housemaids working for upper- and middle-class households in Brazil. Mama Coca’s War: How the War on Drugs Impacts Latin America. 2007. Films on Demand. Focuses on the resistance of coca growers to eradication campaigns. Mexico and Peru: The Black Grandma in the Closet. 2011. Films on Demand. Delves into the history and legacy of African slavery in Mexico and Peru.

WEBSITES American Anthropological Association. Race Project. American Political Science Association. Section on Race, Ethnicity and Politics. Brown University. Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

Critical Media project. Race  & Ethnicity. www. race-ethnicity/ Ithaca College. Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity. Palomar College. Ethnicity and Race: Related Internet Sites. htm


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Kowalczyk, Anna M. 2013. Indigenous Peoples and Modernity: Mapuche Mobilizations in Chile. Latin American Perspectives 40(4):121–135. Lipski, John M. 2008. Varieties of Spanish in the United States. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. López Beltrán, Carlos and García Deister, Vivette, et al. 2014. Negotiating the Mexican Mestizo: On the Possibility of a National Genomics. In Mestizo Genomics: Race Mixture, Nation, and Science in Latin America. Wade, Peter, et al., eds. Pp. 85–108. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. López, Ian H. 2005. Race on the 2010 Census: Hispanics & the Shrinking White Majority. Daedalus 134(1):42–52. Loveman, Mara. 2014. National Colors: Racial Classification and the State in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press. Mangan, Jane E. 2009. A  Market of Identities: Women, Trade, and Ethnic Labels in Colonial Potosí. In Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Fisher, Andrew B. and O’Hara, Matthew D., eds. Pp. 61–80. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Marchi, Regina M. 2013. Hybridity and Authenticity in US Day of the Dead Celebrations. Journal of American Folklore 126(501):272–301. Martínez-Alier, Verena. 1989. Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Martínez, Juan F. 2011. Los Protestantes: An Introduction to Latino Protestantism in the United States. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Martínez, María E. 2004. The Black Blood of New Spain: Limpieza de Sangre, Racial Violence, and Gendered Power in Early Colonial Mexico. William and Mary Quarterly 61(3):479–520. Mayes, April J. 2014. The Mulatto Republic: Class, Race, and Dominican National Identity. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Mintz, Sidney W. 2010. Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Mora, G. Cristina. 2014. Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats, and Media Constructed a New American. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

149 Morning, Ann. 2014. Does Genomics Challenge the Social Construction of Race? Sociological Theory 32(3):189–207. Nelkin, Dorothy and Lindee, M. Susan. 1995. The DNA Mystique: The Gene as Cultural Icon. New York: Freeman. Nobles, Melissa. 2000. History Counts: A Comparative Analysis of Racial/Color Categorization in US and Brazilian Censuses. American Journal of Public Health 90(11):1738–1745. Padden, Robert C. 1957. Cultural Change and Military Resistance in Araucanian Chile, 1550– 1730. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 13:103–121. Pineo, Ronn. 2016. Progress in Bolivia: Declining the United States Influence and the Victories of Evo Morales. Journal of Developing Societies 32:421–453. Postero, Nancy G. 2010. Morales’ MAS Government: Building Indigenous Popular Hegemony in Bolivia. Latin American Perspectives 37(3):18–34. Rappaport, Joanne. 2003. Redrawing the Nation: Indigenous Intellectuals and Ethnic Pluralism in Contemporary Colombia. In After Spanish Rule: Postcolonial Predicaments of the Americas. Thurner, Mark and Guerrero, Andrés eds. Pp. 310–346. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Rodríguez-Silva, Ileana M. 2012. Silencing Race: Disentangling Blackness, Colonialism, and National Identities in Puerto Rico. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Roper, Montgomery J. and Perrault, Thomas, et al. 2003. Introduction to Special Issue: ‘Indigenous Transformational Movements in Contemporary Latin America’. Latin American Perspectives 30(1):5–22. Roth, Wendy D. 2012. Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Sanabria, Harry. 1999. Consolidating States, Restructuring Economies, and Confronting Workers and Peasants: The Antinomies of Bolivian NeoLiberalism. Comparative Studies in Society and History 41(3):535–562. ———. 2000. Resistance and the Arts of Domination: Miners and the Bolivian State. Latin American Perspectives 27(1):56–81.


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Schwartz, Stuart B. and Salomon, Frank. 1999. New Peoples and New Kinds of People: Adaptation, Readjustment, and Ethnogenesis in South American Indigenous Societies (Colonial Era). In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 2). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 443–501. New York: Cambridge University Press. Seed, Patricia. 1988. To Love, Honor, and Obey in Colonial Mexico: Conflicts Over Marriage Choice, 1564–1821. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Silverblatt, Irene. 2009. Foreword. In Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Fisher, Andrew B. and O’Hara, Matthew D., eds. Pp. ix–xii. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Tavárez, David. 2009. Legally Indian: Inquisitorial Readings of Indigenous Identity in New Spain. In Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Fisher, Andrew B. and O’Hara, Matthew D., eds. Pp. 81–100. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Troyan, Brett. 2015. Cauca’s Indigenous Movement in Southwestern Colombia: Land, Violence, and Ethnic Identity. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Twinam, Ann. 2009. Purchasing Whiteness: Conversations on the Essence of Pardo-ness and Mulatto-ness at the End of Empire. In Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Fisher, Andrew B. and O’Hara, Matthew D., eds. Pp. 141–166. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. US Census Bureau. 2011. Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010. Retrieved from Accessed on May 7, 2016. Ventura Santos, Ricardo and Fry, Peter H., et al. 2009. Color, Race, and Genomic Ancestry in Brazil: Dialogues Between Anthropology and Genetics. Current Anthropology 50(6):787–819. Wade, Peter. 2010. Race and Ethnicity in Latin America. London: Pluto. Wade, Peter, et al. 2014. Social Categories and Laboratory Practices in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico: A Comparative Overview In Mestizo Genomics: Race Mixture, Nation, and Science in Latin America. Wade, Peter, et al., eds. Pp. 183–240. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Wright, Winthrop R. 1993. Café Con Leche: Race, Class, and National Image in Venezuela. Austin: University of Texas Press.



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ll societies recognize distinctions in gender and sexuality and perceive these differently in dissimilar historical contexts. In this chapter I provide a synopsis of the shifting meanings and classifications of gender and sexual identities and practices from pre-colonial times to the present. I begin with a discussion of how gender and sexuality are related and yet different from each other. The following section takes us into the gendered and sexual worlds of pre-conquest peoples; here I emphasize the fluidity of gender and sexual identities and probe the importance of gendered parallelism and complementarity in Mesoamerican and Andean societies. The central thrust of the following third and fourth sections is on the multiple expressions and understandings of femininities and masculinities that vie for dominance. I then shift focus to the policing of reproductive behavior of poor Caribbean women and to the cultural politics of same-sex marriages in several LAC countries. I end this chapter by looking at how male migrants to the US are forced to reconcile conflicting expectations of their gender and sexual identities.

Gender and sex It is perhaps ironic that gender has become such a commonplace term, one so deeply pervasive in everyday parlance, that it has become a stand-in for precisely that which it was originally meant to be distinguished from: biological sex. It is impolite – if not worse – to ask about someone’s sex (we should ask instead about his/her gender), and perhaps for methodological reasons, some academics also blur the boundaries between both. For instance, upon a close read, an article titled Cultural Correlates of Gender Integration in Science (Cain and Leahey 2014) is not really about gender but of how biologically sexed females are underrepresented in science fields. The distinction between gender and sex was raised during the 1950s to set biological sex apart from gender roles, or “all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself and herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman.” This key idea – that gender refers to social behavior and identity that may or may not match biological sex – has been a linchpin of gender scholarship ever since. This stance rejects the belief that gender is a natural (in the sense of biologically or genetically innate) fact and that gender is invariant; that there are two and only two genders standing in opposition to each other; that genitals and reproductive capacities form the defining



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aspects of gender; that the male/female dichotomy is a fixed structure that cannot be modified and that determines the kind of lives people can live; and that all individuals can – and, indeed, must – be classified as either masculine or feminine, or else enter into the realm of pathology. (Hoogland 2007:628–629) Feminist scholars have been at the forefront of gender studies since the 1970s. Although informed by different theories, they agree that gender: (1) is culturally diverse even within a same society, and shaped by changing historical contexts; (2) identities are relational, so that femininity can only be understood in relation to a society’s dominant view of masculinity; (3) categories include a span of competing ideals, beliefs and practices; (3) identities (or senses of self) are shaped by class background, race, and ethnic heritage; (4) relations and identities reflect and are the result of unequal power relations, status, and prestige; (5) is continuously recreated, produced in the course of everyday life; and (6) identity is not defined by sexual practices and desires (Butler and Weed 2011; Hoogland 2007; Scott 1986, 1999).

Pre-colonial gender and sexuality It is in Mesoamerica and the Andes where we know more about pre-Columbian gender and sexuality. This is because in these two regions large numbers of indigenous peoples survived the conquest and played a crucial role in the colonial economy, and Spaniards therefore had good reasons to document their lifeways. Iconography – images or symbols appearing in manuscripts or stone carvings – also provide us with relevant insights. We also know that, together with Spanish chroniclers, Aztec, Maya, and Inca elites wrote bilingual ethnohistories that although often inflected by Spanish worldviews shed light on pre- and post-colonial gender and sexuality (Salomon 1999; Sigal 2007). Our knowledge of gender and sexuality elsewhere, as in the Caribbean where indigenous peoples perished soon after the conquest, or in much of Amazonia where many who survived lived at the margins of colonial society, is hampered by the scarcity of reliable sources.

The fluidity of gender and sexual identities In 1517, while exploring the coast of Yucatán, Bernal Díaz del Castillo came across clay figurines that, he believed, depicted images of Indians “engaged in sodomy with one another.” Several years later, while accompanying Hernán Cortés in his march from Vera Cruz to Tenochtitlán, Díaz del Castillo overheard Cortés tell his indigenous allies “You must not commit sodomy or do the other ugly things you are accustomed to do” (Stephen 2002:49). While “ugly things” suggest an ethnocentric understanding of “proper” sexual behavior, there is ample evidence of bisexuality and homoeroticism in Mesoamerica and the Andes before the conquest.

Mesoamerica.  Colonial-era accounts written by Spanish clergy assisted by Maya native elites point to androgyny in the personal, religious, and political spheres. What the

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Spaniards called “sodomy” almost certainly referred to ritualized bisexuality. Male samesex intercourse in ritual contexts was an acceptable means through which men harnessed the powers of other men while simultaneously feminizing them. Men from noble lineages forged apprenticeship-like sexual liaisons with younger males aspiring to noble status. In some healing ceremonies shamans carried out magical cures by invoking the power of their gods and symbolically having intercourse with them, and in rituals associated with warfare, noble warriors partook of ritualistic intercourse with some of their gods. In more than one way, the body and sexual intercourse were crucial venues for harnessing and signaling male power. Maya cosmology also alluded to bisexual, dual-gendered deities who gave birth to the universe. Important deities, such as the bi-erotic Moon Goddess, were believed to have intercourse with both males and females (Sigal 2000). Bisexuality, androgyny, and gendered inversions likewise marked Aztec society. (Interestingly enough, gendered pronouns are absent in Nahuatl.) The Aztec goddess Cihuacoatl was a warrior deity who also played an important role in childbirth rituals. Tlazolteotl, a fertility goddess, was a sexualized deity who constantly waged war with her enemies. An eminently masculine affair, warfare was symbolically tied to sexuality and fertility, so that successful warriors required both feminine and masculine attributes: projected onto the supernatural, supernatural deities were both warriors and harbingers of fertility (Sigal 2010). In everyday life, biologically sexed males who dressed as and performed some of the functions of women had an accepted role in Aztec society, as did samesex ritual intercourse. The fluidity of Aztec sexual and gender identities is nicely captured by their use of metaphors, for The maize, whose life parabola was so closely identified with humans, changed sex in mid-course, with Xilonen, goddess of the young maize when the cob was slender, the kernels milky and the corn-tassel long and silky, becoming Centeotl, Young Lord Maize Cob, as the cob swelled and hardened. (Clendinnen 2014:237)

Andes.  Androgynous fluidity and third-genders surfaced in Inca ritual practices. For example, In the late fifteenth century there was a crisis in the succession of Inca rulers in Tawantinsuyu – a pachacuti (cataclysmic change) that became a liminal moment in the cultural reproduction of the Andean social body. . . . [T]o mediate the tension created during this time of change, the Inca summoned to Cuzco a queer figure, the chuqui chinchay, or the apo de los otorongos, a mountain deity of the jaguars who was the patron of dual-gendered indigenous peoples. While we do not know precisely why the chuqui chinchay was called to Cuzco that day, we can now appreciate that this apo was a revered figure in Andean culture, and its human huacsas, or ritual attendants – third-gendered subjects – were vital actors in Andean ceremonies. These quariwarmi (menwomen) shamans mediated between the symmetrically dualistic spheres of Andean cosmology and daily life by performing rituals that at times required same-sex erotic practices. Their transvested attire served as a visible sign of a


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third space that negotiated between the masculine and the feminine, the present and the past, the living and the dead. Their shamanic presence invoked the androgynous creative force often represented in Andean mythology. (Horswell 2005:1–2) Bisexuality, same-sex intercourse, and ritual power were closely intertwined. Whether the chuqui chinchay were in fact transgendered is uncertain; yet we can assume that they filled an important ritual niche. In myths chronicled by Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui, an Andean mestizo, we learn that the founding dynasty of the Incas, mythically expressed in the relationship between the male progenitor Manco Capac and the female sibling-spouse Mama Ocllo may have relied on a same-sex ritual before consummating their relationship, and later Incas called on the third-gender priests during liminal moments during their reigns. There is ethnographic evidence that third-gender ritual performances, especially in agriculture, were present in some Andean communities well into the twentieth century (Horswell 2005:141–162).

Parallelism and complementarity Mesoamerican and Andean societies structured gender in parallel and complementary ways. Gender parallelism provided a space for men and women to fulfill critical roles in their gender-specific domains, while gender complementarity assured that male and female roles were viewed as equally necessary for the well-functioning of society. Aztec and Maya women and men performed key roles in separate yet intertwined gendered spheres. Women were crucial in key public life-cycle rituals – such as those associated with birth and naming, or marriage and household formation – and also held decisive roles as healers, midwives, spinners, market vendors, and weavers. Gendered parallelism was also conspicuous in the cosmological and ritual spheres. Supernatural deities responsible for fertility and sustenance were female, and women were often temple priestesses or other ritual specialists. Ethnohistorical sources and monumental art point to chains of female and male creator deities and ancestors. Kinship and genealogical reckoning likewise underpinned gender parallelism. Aztec descent was cognatic, in which both men and women were entitled to inheritance rights through their fathers and mothers, which they passed to their offspring. After marriage, women retained control of resources they obtained through dowry and inheritance, and Aztecs acknowledged resources belonging to males and females. In other Mesoamerican societies – the Mixtec, for example – women inherited dynastic titles and enjoyed rank and status comparable to males. Although in Aztec society the highest levels of political power were occupied by males, women held positions of authority at the neighborhood level. On some occasions women became supreme rulers and high-ranking males shared responsibilities with their wives. Bilingual language sources provide us with some clues of the political role of noble women: some were referred to as a woman ruler (tlatocacihuatl), or a woman who governs or leads (cihuatecutli) (Kellogg 2005; Tedlock 2007).

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Parallelism and complementarity were also important in the Andes. In Inca and other Andean polities, parallelism was especially important in the political and religious spheres, with women and men presiding over their gender-specific organizations. Some ethnic chiefdoms in the northern Peruvian coast and Ecuadorian highlands were headed by capullanas who, after their conquest by the Incas, were allowed some degree of political clout. While parallelism did not imply equality in Inca society, where supreme power was reserved for the male Inca, on some occasions his sister/wife (the Inca queen) could assume paramount authority (Powers 2005). Incan cosmology and ritual also echoed parallelism and parallel descent. Men worshipped the Sun, from which all males descended, while women revered the Moon, from whom they originated. (A striking parallel occurred among the Maya, who revered Ixchel, the moon goddess.) Men and women had special ritual roles sanctioned by the supernatural. For example, women were highly prized as midwives, and they received guidance from Pachamama, the Earth Mother and fertility goddess. They presided over rituals on behalf of the Corn Mother (Saramama), one of Pachamama’s daughters, and those in charge of ritual organizations inherited staffs of authority. Parallel descent also meant a transmission of rights and obligations from women to their female offspring and from men to their male offspring, and in which women could claim access to and use of productive resources independent of their male spouses. ­Parallelism and complementarity – the equal importance attached to both g­ enders – also helps us understand why some Andean deities were androgynous. Viracocha, the panAndean mythical creator god, was a decisively bi-gendered being who incorporated the attributes and qualities of both genders, and gave rise to parallel, gender-specific, chains of men and women (Silverblatt 1987).

Femininities Femininity refers to a range of attributes or qualities associated with women, usually framed in contrast to those of men. Yet what exactly qualifies as feminine is highly debatable, varying across social class, ethnicity, and historical contexts. In LAC and elsewhere, competing femininities vie for dominance.

Marianismo The best known cultural stereotype of LAC women is marianismo. Drawing its inspiration from the Virgin Mary, it was first popularized by Stevens (1973) and quickly embraced in and outside of academia to represent the past and contemporary life experiences of all women. This view portrays the LAC woman as self-sacrificing toward her children and family. She is complacent, devoted, submissive, and faithful to her husband and does not enjoy or actively seek sexual intercourse with him. Thoroughly heterosexual, if unmarried she shuns premarital sexual intercourse. Since these are ideals that she willingly accepts and are not imposed on her, our docile marianist woman shuns politics and work outside the home, preferring instead to devote all her attention and energies to caring for her family. Marianismo is hardly representative of the past or present lived experience of most LAC women. As an untypical rendering of women’s lives, this ideology stems from elite


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male views of their idyllic gendered and sexual worlds, as well as an uncritical and mistaken understanding of historical and ethnographic research. It is, though, still an important concept in psychology, marketing, and public health (Cianelli et al. 2013; Hussain et al. 2015), and the reason has to do with the power of academic myths to “[reflect] shared ideas and institutional characteristics that legitimize certain fields of study . . . distance emerging fields from their core disciplines, and establish norms about how to conduct research and what results can be expected” (McKercher and Prideaux 2014:17).

Engaging politics In 2016 the US almost elected Hillary Clinton as its first female president. (Some claim that she “really” won the elections by garnering three million more popular votes than Donald Trump.) Many in LAC were not as dumbfounded by the possibility of electing a female president, for in a region stereotypically cast as thoroughly macho, 11 women in ten LAC countries have become heads of state (Table 6.1). LAC women have always played key roles in politics and public life. In pre-colonial times indigenous women held important political positions, they were vital actors in the wars of Independence (Chapter 4) and actively participated in bloody rebellions, such as by Peru’s Shining Path during the 1980s (Chapter 10). Women have also demonstrated an extraordinary ability and willingness to engage in revolutionary struggles. Revolutions strive for restructuring culture and society and for achieving economic and social equality – but they are not “gender-free” (Kampwirth 2002:1). Nicaragua’s successful revolution in 1979, in which the Sandinistas toppled the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza (Chapter 10), illustrates the difficulties in overturning patriarchal gender systems and the shortcomings of marianismo as a male-centered cultural ideal. The Sandinistas envisioned a future free of class divisions and exploitation, spreading a message of equality and justice. This goal, they believed, could only be achieved with a cultural transformation replacing capitalism’s ethic of greed with a New Man (Nuevo Hombre, an idea attributed to Argentina’s Ernest “Che” Guevara), who would prize solidarity TABLE 6.1  Female heads of state




Isabel Martínez de Perón Cristina Fernández Lidia Gueiler Tejada Dilma Rousseff Michelle Bachelet Laura Chinchilla Lupe Rosalía Arteaga Janet Jagan Ertha Pascal-Trouillot Violeta Chamorro Mireya Moscoso

Argentina Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chile Costa Rica Ecuador Guyana Haiti Nicaragua Panama

1974–1976 2007–2015 1979–1980 2011–2016 2006–2010; 2014 – present 2010–2014 1977 1997–1999 1990 1990–1996 1999–2004

Source: Adapted from Barton (2016). As of April 2017

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instead of competition and generosity in lieu of selfishness. This New Man would also be a different gendered male, willing to forgo masculine behavior (such as drinking and womanizing) and turn into a decent, respectable, family-oriented man. In theory, the overhaul of Nicaraguan society also rested on revamping its patriarchal gender system. Yet Sandinismo retained a thinly veiled patriarchal ideology, and its goal of upending Nicaragua’s malecentered gender system was riddled with ambiguities, including what women’s emancipation meant: Proponents of a feminine interpretation of women’s emancipation argued that the revolution should open opportunities for women to better fulfill their traditional roles. In contrast, feminist revolutionaries argued that women’s emancipation required challenging those traditional gender roles. Proponents of both schools of thought might support, for example, improving women’s access to health care but for somewhat different reasons. Feminine thinkers would support better access to health care because taking care of the family’s health is a woman’s job. In contrast, feminist thinkers would support better access to health care (especially reproductive health care) because it would free women to live better lives, and to challenge the confines of traditional gender relations. (Kampwirth 2011:5) Women may have been at the frontlines fighting Somoza’s National Guard, but that did not prevent the overwhelmingly male Sandinista leadership from casting the revolution, as did nineteenth century nation builders, in a quintessential male way, as when it “exhorted ‘the boys’ (los muchachos) to defend the nation from imperialist aggression as one would defend ‘la más linda novia’ (the most beautiful girlfriend)” (Montoya 2012:89). Presumably because they were the breadwinners, men – but not women – were really the ones who experienced class exploitation and, hence, had greater capacity to develop revolutionary consciousness. In the village of Tule one Sandinista pamphlet declared that Tuleñas were “proud that our sons, fathers and brothers are participating [in the war] and we have to support them by keeping up the spirit, working in production, and preparing ourselves better.” By emphasizing the pre-eminent role of men in the war effort and relegating women to a secondary, supportive role, “The New Man,” writes Montoya, “continued to require the ‘old’ woman in the kitchen” (Montoya 2012:89–90, 129). The Sandinista revolution opened the doors for women to participate in many activities outside the domestic domain – in effect, helping them bridge the house–street divide (discussed in the next section). Roads, schools, health centers, agricultural cooperatives, and other forums encouraged women to actively seek out new forms of social interaction. Yet, revolutionary initiatives and rhetoric notwithstanding, many men in the village of Tule resisted these emerging freedoms and, a result, to remain in good standing . . . women had to, for the most part, continue abiding by traditional prescriptions. These prescriptions . . . were cast within the terms of the classic patriarchal bargain: . . . in return for protection, respect, and economic stability, the wife was to uphold the respectability of the house by working hard and serving her husband graciously; deferring to his authority as the home’s ultimate decision maker; being sexually available to him; and


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bearing children, using contraceptives only with his permission. Most importantly, they held, she was to be sexually faithful and concern herself only with the affairs of her house. By this Tuleños meant both that wives must keep to their houses, stepping out only with proper justification, and that they must not interfere with their husband’s doings outside the home. Through the ideological construction of men as providers, Tuleños sanctioned and naturalized a sexual-moral economy by which men had the right to control women’s sexuality and labor but were themselves free to philander at will. (Montoya 2012:123–124)

Bridging the house–street divide Marianismo assumes that women acquiesce to unequal relationships with their male spouses and embrace a self-sacrificing stance toward their own sexuality. It also posits a gendered house–street divide, whereby women’s roles and behaviors should be confined to the house (casa, Spanish and Portuguese), while males belong in the street (calle, Spanish; rua, Portuguese). The following case studies of a rural Nicaraguan village and Brazilian shantytown (favela) show how sexual and conjugal behavior by women challenge dominant gender ideologies and hierarchies, including the house–street divide. In the Nicaraguan community of Tule, the dominant gender ideology maintains that women simultaneously involved with more than one man, or who have lost their virginity before marrying or entered into a consensual union, are of ill-repute and of the street. This is a social space inhabited by other lewd individuals – male or females – such as sex workers, petty criminals, or homosexuals. These “bad” or “spoiled” women contrast with those who follow (at least publicly) customary gender conventions. Whether married, in a consensual relationship, or simply dating, “good” women, or “women of the house,” have only one sexual/conjugal relationship at any point in time. The prevailing gender ideology also stipulates that once a woman becomes “spoiled,” she cannot later become a “woman of the house.” In this way, her tarnished reputation, closely wedded to her body and sexuality, thwarts the possibility of establishing a future legitimate conjugal union. Because the house is a feminine space, men who spend too much time at home are viewed, like in the Dominican Republic, as not “real” masculine males (de Moya 2004; Montoya 2002). This public/private dichotomy  – the profane, disrespectable street and the sacred, respectable house – is understood and accepted by many men and women. Yet it is a flexible dichotomy, for a “bad” woman can become a “woman of the house,” sometimes with the help of her partner, spouse, or other men. Women deploy “trangressive sexuality” to manipulate the good and bad to their own advantage, and find partners to challenge and bridge the house–street divide. Luisa illustrates how women can be considered a “woman of the house” despite an extramarital affair – a sure sign of a “bad” woman. Married to but in a troubled relationship with Juan, Luisa began a concealed involvement with Ricardo. Since extramarital affairs in a small village are difficult to conceal, Luisa was warned by her father Justino, with whom she lived, that people were talking (i.e., gossiping) about her relationship. Because too much “talk” would eventually publicly confirm this affair and bring about a tarnished reputation, and driven by the need to protect the honor of his daughter and family name, Justino threw his daughter Luisa out of the house. Luisa was

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now quite fearful of her reputation and future, for if she were publicly acknowledged as a “woman of the street” her father would not have her back, but neither would Ricardo, her lover, be willing to publicly accept her. In less than two days Luisa convinced Ricardo to take her into his house, and both went to great lengths to openly display their relationship, allowing neighbors and friends to see that she was now his “wife.” That is, Luisa engaged in an extramarital relationship without losing prestige and was able to move “directly from one position in the house to another” (Montoya 2002:67–79). Goldstein shows how Brazilian shantytown women are constantly engaged at “overturning the gender hierarchy” (2003:242). Women are painfully aware of how male privilege puts them at a considerable disadvantage, but rather than acquiescing, they consistently challenge as well as forge relationships with males to advance their own interests. And women work equally hard against the prevailing sexual double standard that construes male sexuality as animal-like and uncontrollable – and that thereby legitimizes male infidelity – while at the same time expecting women to be loyal partners lest their own sexual affairs tarnish their male partner’s reputation. Glória had a long-term, ongoing relationship with Zezinho, who was married to Lucina. Tired of being beaten by Zezinho, Lucina moved out of the household, leaving Zezinho to care of their six children. Three of the children were taken in by Lucina’s mother, but the remaining three were now Glória’s responsibility, who moved in after Lucina’s abrupt departure and who was pregnant with a son sired by Zezinho. Theirs was an extremely poor household, barely making ends meet with Glória’s income as an intermittent domestic worker and Zezinho’s job as an occasional handyman. Worse, Zezinho drank heavily, brought home little money, and barely provided for Glória and the children. Glória and Zezinho eventually separated. But one night they found themselves next to each other at a bar. When Zezinho was asked what kind of relationship he had with Glória, he responded, “I  am eating her,” a consumption metaphor used to describe an exploitative sexual relationship (Chapter 8). Glória, incensed by Zezinho’s claim and choice of metaphors, seized the opportunity and smacked him hard in the face, bloodying his nose. The use of this eating metaphor was insulting, especially since by that time she considered Zezinho to be a leech – all along “eating” her hard-earned wages without contributing much of his own earnings to their combined household. In this context, his power-invoking claim to be “eating” her was a humiliation and a sign of disrespect beyond what Glória could bear. (Goldstein 2003:239) Soneca, Glória’s daughter, also shows how women capitalize on sexual liaisons to reap advantages for themselves and their children, thereby undermining a gender hierarchy predicated on male privilege. She also demonstrates how women usurp eating metaphors often used by men to call attention to their control over women. Soneca had an affair lasting several months with a married neighbor. In relating this relationship to Goldstein, Soneca emphasized, with pride, how she induced her lover to buy food for her rather than for his own children. Hence, he was not really “eating” her because by enticing him to provide food and other luxury goods for her and her sister, Soneca was inverting the balance of this exploitative relationship to her own advantage. And in the process, she felt “powerful.”


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Turning the tables on dominant gender ideologies are probably far more common and widespread than many stereotypical marianist accounts would have us believe.

Heading households Given the power of stereotypes to convey unfounded portrayals of social life, it may not be surprising that the male-headed, patriarchal household has not been a meaningful dimension of the lived experience of many indigenous and working-class peoples (see also Chapters 3 and 4). Since at least the 1960s anthropologists have documented the widespread presence of female-headed, or matrifocal households, especially in the Caribbean, Brazil, and Central America. Matrifocal was first coined by the anthropologist Raymond T. Smith in 1956 to describe the household structure of black working-class British Guyanese (Prior 2005). The percentages of households headed by women are quite significant. In the 1970s between 14% and 20% of households in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, and Peru were headed by women. As a result of the massive economic upheavals and grinding poverty spurred by free-market reforms, during the 1990s this percentage increased in 15 countries, ranging from 19% in Mexico to 35% in Nicaragua. Even Argentina – often considered a solid bastion of Europeanized middle-class lifestyle – was not spared, as women headed 27% of its households in 1999. There is an inverse relationship between the prevalence of female-headed households, poverty, and class hierarchy, and most ethnographic fieldwork on matrifocal households has been carried out in marginalized and poverty-stricken shantytowns (Chant 2002; De Vos 1987; Esteve and GarcíaRomán, et al. 2012). Focusing on single motherhood (unmarried women with children) provides us with a different way of understanding the prevalence of female-headed households. Censuses between the 1980s and 2000s show that ten countries experienced a decline in the proportions of married women between 20–29 years old. Topping the list were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, with declines between 15% and 25%. While single motherhood was mainly associated with cohabitation (that is, sharing a household with an unmarried spouse), the decline in marriage rates was significantly related to single mothers heading their own households. For example, in Argentina, which experienced a 21% decline in the marriage rate, over 40% of this drop was associated with single, female-headed households (Chant 2002; Esteve and García-Román, et al. 2012). Female-headed or matrifocal households share several characteristics. First, their boundaries are porous, periodically incorporating new members and losing others. Second, they are marked by brittle sexual liaisons and conjugal unions, what Mintz, in his study of Puerto Rican plantation workers, dubbed a “relative instability of marriage” (1956:375). Third, the key social unit consists of mothers and children – and other women. Adult males are only erratically present. Nancy Scheper-Hughes phrased this fleeting male presence in a Brazilian shantytown in the following way: “Shantytown households and families are ‘made up’ through a creative form of bricolage in which we can think of a mother and her children as the stable core and husbands and fathers as detachable and circulating units” (1992:323). Fourth, sexual and conjugal relationships give rise to high rates of illegitimate offspring. Fifth, nuclear family members (such as fathers or siblings) often live in other households.


Gender, sexuality, and reproduction

The Miskitu of the Nicaraguan and Honduran Atlantic coastlines are well known for their matrilocal post-marital residence (wherein husbands or spouses move into their wives’ households), matrilineality (descent and inheritance through the female line), and matrifocal households. The most significant social interactions take place between clusters of women (sisters, cousins, aunts, grandparents) and their children. Matrilineal inheritance assures that women and soon-to-be mothers are economically independent of their often temporary spouses. The Miskitu village studied by Herlihy (2012) overwhelmingly consists of matrifocal households grouped into five neighborhoods, all sharing the following features (Table 6.2): TABLE 6.2  Matrifocality in a Miskitu community, Nicaragua

Mother-centered families

Low male salience

Matrilocality Mothers as household decision makers Senior women as family leaders Inheritance through the female line Women’s important role in healing and ritual activity Emphasis on matrilineal relatives

Male absenteeism Female-headed households Serial monogamy (weak conjugal bond) Illegitimacy Adopted kin on mother’s side Male emigration

Source: Adapted from Herlihy (2012:62–63)

The prevalence of matrifocal households demonstrates that stereotypical views of marianist women almost always clash with what actually occurs “on the ground.” Matrifocality rests on not submitting to male authority and privilege, rejecting female submission and acquiescence, and snubbing dominant/national norms of sexuality and gender-specific roles. Like their Miskitu sisters, Jamaican mothers and household heads have significant control over resources and make many key decisions that affect the survival of their households, despite relying on income and gifts obtained through sexual liaisons with men. Although some endure physical violence, rather than acquiescing, they often fight back. And they have the final say whether a sexual liaison is worth developing into a long-term consensual union and who exercise control over sexual favors and “services” to men. Dominant notions of sexuality bear little resemblance to marianist ideology because the sexual past of women is of little relevance in their ability to establish future relationships. These women have, in Prior’s words, “power” (2005).

Same-sex desires Women who do not conform to dominant gender and sexual scripts are often ostracized and face considerable dangers. In Nicaragua, cochonas (“dykes”) are largely the object of pity, mockery, confusion and often, deeply ignored. . . . But they have not been figured as particularly hate-able. Though marginalized, cochonas are a part of very quotidian social and familial spaces. “Every neighborhood,” urban Nicaraguans will say, “has its cochón (‘fag’) and cochona.” While I have never met a Nicaraguan who has been expelled from her family home for being a cochona, neither is lesbian sexuality a topic for typical


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Nicaraguan dinner conversation. In general, cochona is a derogatory term for masculine-appearing women who have sexual and affective relationships with other women (typically “feminine” women designated as muy mujer or “very womanish”). But it is also a term that has been, at times, quite neutral. For instance, in the Nicaraguan family households where I have lived during my field research, my visitors were often nonchalantly announced in this way: “there is a cochona here to see you.” In other words, there is a measured ambivalence about cochonas in public spaces. (Howe 2009:365) Cochonas may not be a particularly despised, but in February 2000 Aura Rosa Pavón, a cochona well known in her community, was murdered, her body found in a pit latrine. Prior to her death, she was romantically involved with Karla Muñoz who, during her teenage years, was forced by her mother to marry Daniel Tapia, a wealthy coffee farm owner. They continued their secret love affair after Karla’s marriage. Through word of mouth, Karla’s mother and an enraged Tapia (he now had a publicly tarnished reputation as a cuckolded husband) learned of the ongoing affair and filed criminal charges against Aura. Because she was depicted as an aggressive masculine cochona preying on an innocent, fragile, feminine victim, and because she was older and considered the instigator of the relationship, Aura – but not Karla – was charged with sodomy, illegitimate seduction (seducción ilegítima), and abduction (rapto). Convicted, Aura spent only a few months in jail after her attorney convinced the court that Karla had been pressured by her mother to file charges against Aura. Set free, Aura again continued her relationship with Karla, and once more, Tapia discovered the continuing affair through local gossip. Enlisting the support of one of Karla’s cousins, he lured Aura into a forest and fatally shot her. Tapia’s trial attracted a great deal of national attention because it echoed wider concerns and debates. The country’s Commission for the Human Rights of Nicaraguan Lesbians and Homosexuals took an active role in reframing Aura’s tragic ending from a simple murder case to one of human rights and as a hate crime. The Commission also swayed public opinion that Aura was much more than a cochona – she was a lesbian (lesbiana), thereby lending her international recognition. It also emphasized that Aura’s long-term relationship with Karla resonated with key cultural values of Nicaraguan society, for This time-tested and committed relationship . . . underscore[d] something of social value in Nicaragua: a relationship that lasts. In a place where there are high rates of male abandonment of women and children with approximately one third of households headed solely by women, durable relationships are particularly prized. The length of Aura Rosa and Karla’s relationship lent their saga a legitimating effect. It worked to emphasize that this relationship was not solely “sexual” (read: lewd and decadent), but one based on solidly “modern” forms of romantic love. In this case, modern love – understood as romantic, individually chosen and not necessarily procreative – could be readily juxtaposed against Karla’s mother’s attempt to “sell” her daughter to the highest bidder. (Howe 2009:371)

Gender, sexuality, and reproduction


We learn a great deal about gender and sexuality by reflecting on Aura’s unfortunate death and her vindication during and after Tapia’s trial. That Aura displayed masculine attributes shows the futility of drawing sharp boundaries between the feminine and masculine. Since Aura’s masculinity worked against her during the trial, we also learn the difficulties of dislodging societal binary oppositions – females = femininity, males = masculinity. (This is a point I also stress later in this chapter.) The fact that Aura was afterwards recast as a lesbian reveals the power of transnational gender and sexual idioms and allegiances. And, finally, her murder illustrates the dangers that women – heterosexual or not – face when they publicly undermine male reputation and honor.

Masculinities Gutmann writes that masculinity – the attributes, identities, and social practices associated with males – is understood in four ways: The first concept of masculinity holds that it is, by definition, anything that men think and do. The second is that masculinity is anything men think and do to be men. The third is that some men are inherently or by ascription considered “more manly” than other men. The final manner of approaching masculinity emphasizes the . . . importance of male–female relations, so that masculinity is considered anything that women are not. (1997:386) A response to the dearth of attention on males in feminist scholarship, masculinity research emphasizes the ideals and practices that males aspire to and perform as men; that dominance over others is intrinsic to masculinity and public displays of masculine behavior; how procreation and male parenting (fatherhood) shape and are molded by ideas of manhood; ways that the sexualized body shapes how males view themselves as men; and the relationship of masculine identities and behavior with violence and nationalism. It’s time to set aside the stereotype of a homogenous man and recognize the diverse and competing masculinities across LAC (Dudgeon and Inhorn 2009; Gutmann 2009; Inhorn 2009; Viveros Vigoya 2016).

Machismo Machismo, the flipside of marianismo, allegedly reflects male identity and manhood (hombría). The archetype masculine macho is aggressive and fearless in the face of danger. He will safeguard the well-being and honor of his family (over which he exercises unquestioned authority) at all cost. Our ideal macho is utterly and publicly heterosexual, sexually virile, with a natural and uncontrollable sexual drive. Unlike the women whose honor he must defend, he displays his virility through extramarital affairs and siring illegitimate children. His proper place is in the street where, when not working, he socializes and drinks with his male friends. Macho and machismo became commonplace terms in Mexico (with which they have always been associated) and North American academic writings during the 1940s


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and 1950s. Their popularity surfaced in the midst of male and urban elite/mestizo concerns of what they thought was the absence of a uniform Mexican national consciousness and which was attributed to a flawed and insecure male identity. As elites recast a gendered construction of male identity as a nationalist symbol, “Mexico came mean machismo and machismo to mean Mexico” (Gutmann 1996:222–231). By the 1960s machismo appeared as a policy issue in the US during the federal government’s War on Poverty effort. In probably the first reference to machismo in The New York Times, one journalist, writing about “Negro” cultural hurdles that the War on Poverty had to overcome, wrote of a young man who was dismissed from his job after only four days. He lost his job by refusing to give up his conk – an “elaborate anti-curl hair arrangement, plastered with lotion, which is one mark of the American Negro’s effort to change his appearance to conform with the dominant values of the culture.” “Whites,” continued the journalist, likely viewed this display as “unmasculine,” adding that “it is likely all a part of that emphasis on the image of the virile male it is fashionable to call ‘machismo’ ” (Pomfret 1964). Machismo, like marianismo, is a stereotype. For example, the popular image of Mexican men heavily drinking tequila at a cantina does not hold up to ethnographic evidence. During his fieldwork in Mexico City, Gutmann encountered a wide diversity of drinking patterns – some men drank only on weekends; few did so daily; and others, evidently alcoholics, drank regularly and heavily. Many exaggerated how much alcohol they drank, attempting to publicly conform to conventional views of manhood. Gutmann also came across examples in which abstention from drinking was encouraged, as when men claimed they were “jurado”: Estoy jurado means “I’m pledged,” as in “I’m pledged not to drink.” . . . Don Timoteo told me that that he was drunk every day for fifteen years, but that (as of March 1993) he had been jurado for five years and eight months. . . . [He] had pledged to stay sober for a year to prove to his family that he could stop. He said that most people are jurado to the Virgin de Guadalupe, but that he had made his pledge to the lesser-known Virgin de Carmen. . . . The state of being jurado is a clearly and widely recognized cultural category among men in Colonia Santo Domingo that exempts them from drinking, and indeed often brings the respect of others. . . . I never heard anyone try to tempt a man with a drink if it was known that he was jurado. (1996:186–187) Gutmann also questions the popular image of Mexican fathers as irresponsible and distant, far more interested in siring children as a way of publicly displaying their virility. He emphasizes that fathering practices are diverse and shaped by social class. For example, the detached father, rarely involved with his children and who leaves child care responsibilities to his wife, is more common in middle- or upper-class households able to afford full-time nannies (muchachas). By contrast, no households in the neighborhood where Gutmann worked could afford nannies, and many women labored outside their households to make ends meet. In Santiago, Chile, many fathers are shouldering roles and tasks – more childrearing, more housekeeping – that run counter to stereotypical views of the macho father (Olavarría 2003).


Gender, sexuality, and reproduction

Masculinities Machismo is one of many expressions of masculinity that overlap and compete with each other. Desirable, highly valued masculinities are called dominant, normative, or hegemonic, and rival or contradictory masculinities can coexist in a single community, as in the Dominican Republic (Table 6.3). All masculinities require looked-for attitudes that men should validate through public performances. This is what Vázquez-Hernández calls masculine capital, and what is important is “what . . . [men] do at particular times and situations rather than what they are.” In New York City, the public display of machismo – the performance of masculine capital – by Peruvian migrants include (a) rejection of the female world and feminine behavior (acting straight), (b) rejection of (receptive) homosexuality and managing homophobia and homoerotism, (c) (hetero) sexual debut and boasting about sexual performances, (d) risk-taking and gestures of violence and (e) incorporating male moral values. (2005:67–68) TABLE 6.3  The language of masculinities in the Dominican Republic




Hegemonic heterosexual

Heterosexual; sexually potent; powerful at home and in public Fail to display ability to have children and form a family

macho proba’o (proven male); duro (hard); toro (bull); caballo (stud) hombres incompletos (incomplete men): jamón (literally “ham”: singleton); hombre casado sin hijos (married man without children) hombres en apariencia (men in appearance only); medio hombre (half-man); payaso (clown); enano (dwarf); mi’jito (my child) pollo (chicken; chick); señorito (spoiled child/ brat); lindo (pretty); arrima’o (loafer); piojo (louse) ambidiestro (ambidextrous); medio pájaro (half bird); bisexual (bisexual); tapados (closeted) hombre normal or macho (normal man or macho); bugarrón/bugato (butch, hustler); tíguere-rapta-tíguere (tiger who penetrates a tiger) pájaro (bird); maricón (queer); afeminado (effeminate); marigarrón (gay man who practices both sexual roles) Marimacho (butch, tomboy); hombruna (manly looking); cachapera (lesbian)

Subordinate heterosexual

Subordinate bisexual

Behave “like women,” i.e., shy, passive, not aggressive, and of “weak” character Extremely handsome, delicate, or dependent on mother or wife “Closet” homosexuals, but with bisexual partners Has sex with female partners for pleasure and may practice insertive sex to paying male clients

Marginal homosexual

Open identification as homosexual; declarados (out of the closet)


Masculine or masculinized women

Source: Adapted from de Moya (2004)


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Rejecting femininity is a key expression of dominant masculinity. Peruvian men rebuff the feminine sphere by spending little time at home, acting tough, socializing with other men, participating in masculine sports (such as soccer), and carefully monitoring their speech and overall demeanor. Compulsory heterosexuality is the second most important feature of Peruvian migrant masculine ideals. Males who have sexual intercourse with other males endanger their masculinity only if they agree to be the passive recipients of anal intercourse. Sometimes taking on the active (insertor) role is viewed as a stage towards full-blown heterosexuality. Men aspiring to be publicly acknowledged as masculine males must boast about their (hetero)sexuality and frequent sexual encounters with women. Sometimes this recognition needs public validation, as when men vouch for each other’s heterosexuality in brothels. Their willingness to face risks and endure bodily harm and pain is also important in public displays of manhood. Other male, masculine values include defending the honor and welfare of one’ family, demonstrating endurance in the face of adversity, and male bonding.

Gay masculinities Homosexuality is a culturally specific concept that can refer to either or both gender identity and sexual orientation. In LAC, a desire for, or practice of, male same-sex intercourse is not necessarily the same as being a homosexual, nor does it inevitably conflict with dominant views of masculinity. In contrast with North American sexual culture wherein males who have sexual intercourse with other males are typically cast as homosexual, this equivalence does not hold in LAC. Like all cultural idioms, those alluding to erotic and sexual practices, preferences, and identities – such as homosexual, heterosexual, lesbian, or bisexual – have multiple meanings. Writing about Brazil, Parker emphasizes that, despite the widespread acknowledgement of same-sex desires and practices in the Brazilian popular or “folk model of the sexual universe,” terms such as homosexuality “or the system of sexual classifications that is so familiar in Europe and the United States [have] simply failed to play a significant role in Brazilian popular culture or to influence the lives and experiences of the vast majority of Brazilians” (1995:248). Larvie writes that preventive HIV/AIDS public health programs during the 1980s, modeled after the US’s labeling of homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals, did not make sense to most Brazilians because such sexual identities were uncommon among the local population . . . this classification . . . ignored the large number of Brazilian men who were married to women but who nonetheless maintained sexual relations with other men. Such persons were likely to see themselves simply as “men,” not as bisexual, homosexual, or even heterosexual. . . . Brazilians tended to describe their sexual lives in terms of broad social identities such as “man,” “woman,” or even “normal,” rather than in terms that linked social identities to specific forms of sexual desire. (2003:301) Carrillo stresses the gulf between ideals of masculinity and femininity, and sexual desires and practices in Guadalajara, Mexico. He notes that although machismo and manhood are

Gender, sexuality, and reproduction


often defined in contrast to effeminate men (maricones), many do not make this distinction because there is a new and growing sense that manhood in Mexico has to be measured by more than masculinity, machismo, or a man’s sexual attraction to women. It is in this sense that openly homosexual, masculine men force a redefinition of what being a man in Mexico means. (2003:353) His research on masculine men who have sex with other men also reveals the cultural specificity of terms such as homosexual, male, or gay. For example, Eugenio identified himself as homosexual, which to him meant that “I am varón [male], but my sexual preference is for other males, because I feel completely male. I don’t believe I am effeminate, either in my looks or in my demeanor.” Other men who had sex with other men distinguished between being gay and homosexual, for In characterizing what being gay is, they commonly emphasized the fact that they would not marry women or have children – signs of leading a double life. At the same time, however, they did not view their own double lives as necessarily contradicting their sense of being gay and not homosexual. (Carrillo 2003:356–364) Puerto Rican men can claim a masculine gay identity by distinguishing themselves from effeminate gays, whom they call locas (crazy women): Personally, these locas annoy me. They are loud and obnoxious with all those feathers. They act more like women than men. I think, why do you even say you are a man if you don’t act like one? All this, calling themselves by women’s names, it turns me off. I think they make everyone think that is what homosexuals are like and that is not true. We are not like that. We present ourselves more seriously, more like men. . . . I was in this [gay] party for my friend when this loca suddenly shows up “con una gritería” (yelling loudly and dramatically). It was incredible. . . . He did not fit in the group . . . era clase baja (he was lower class). (Asencio 2011:345–346)

Transgender(ed) Those who refuse to conform to normative, socially conventional binary gender and sexual identities, such as heterosexual/homosexual and male/female, are known as transgender(ed). In one of the first widely cited definitions of transgender, Stryker writes that it alludes to people who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain that gender. Some people move away from their birth-assigned gender because they feel strongly that they properly belong to another gender


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in which it would be better for them to live; others want to strike out toward some new location, some space not yet clearly defined or concretely occupied; still others simply feel the need to get away from the conventional expectations bound up with the gender that was initially put upon them. In any case, it is the movement across a socially imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place – rather than any particular destination or mode of transition – that best characterizes the concept of “transgender.” (2008:12) Transgender is a fluid category that includes, among others, intersexed persons, drag queens, male-to-female or female-to-male transsexuals, and bi-gendered persons – or somewhere “in-between.” And like homosexuality decades ago, transgender stirs fierce public debates – witness, for example, the ongoing policy and legal controversy in the US on the use of bathrooms by transgendered school students. Science is not, of course, immune to these ideologically charged controversies. As late as 2000, the psychiatric profession, in the fourth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), pathologized transgendered persons because they allegedly suffered from “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID). In a slight nod to shifting cultural mores, in its fifth edition of the DSM the American Psychiatric Association replaced GID with “Gender Dysphoria,” or the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available. (American Psychiatric Association 2013; Hill and McBride 2007)

Brazilian travestis.  Brazil is often portrayed in the popular media as a mecca of open and unabashed sexuality, especially during Carnaval, with its public displays of eroticism, sexual permissiveness, gender inversions, and the flaunting of conventional sexual mores. Travestis, transgendered persons, are especially visible during this liminal period marked by an intense “carnavalization of desire” (Goldstein 2003:226). They also prominently surface in the popular media such as television shows and soap operas, where their public presence is quite striking: A popular Saturday afternoon television show, for example, includes a spot in which female impersonators, some of whom are clearly travestis, get judged on how beautiful they are and on how well they mime the lyrics to songs sung by female vocalists. Another weekly television show regularly features Valeria, a well-known travesti. Tieta, one of the most popular television novelas in recent years, featured a special guest appearance by Rogéria, another famous travesti. And most telling of the special place reserved for travestis in the Brazilian popular imagination is the fact that the individual widely acclaimed to be most beautiful woman in Brazil in the mid-1980s was a travesti. That travesti,

Gender, sexuality, and reproduction


Roberta Close, became a household name throughout the country. She regularly appeared on national television, starred in a play in Rio, posed nude . . . in Playboy magazine, was continually interviewed and portrayed in virtually every magazine in the country, and had at least three songs written about her by well known composers. (Kulick 1997:575; author’s note: Roberta has a fan following on Facebook at Wishing for their bodies to emulate female physiques, boys who self-identify as travesti ingest female hormones and silicone. Travestis do not wish to be women – they do not want to change their sex – but, rather, aim at being more feminine and attractive to their boyfriends/lovers. Travestis forge sexual liaisons with live-in boyfriends (maridos), who are typically attractive, muscular, tattooed young men with little or no education and no jobs. Although they are not pimps (travestis move them into their rooms because they are impassioned (apaiaonada) with them, and they eject them when the passion wears thin), maridos are supported economically by their travesti girlfriends. All these boyfriends regard themselves, and are regarded by their travesti girlfriends as homens (men) and, therefore, as non-homosexual. (Kulick 1997:577) Social class and race are important in transgender and travesti everyday life. While some transgender identities are associated with white middle- and upper-class sectors of Brazilian society, travestis are typically darker-skinned and hail from poor, rural, and working-class backgrounds. Almost never with the possibility of achieving the fame and respectability of Roberta Close, many are discriminated against and victims of police brutality (Jacobs 2016). Travestis in São Paulo differentiate themselves by aesthetic standards and social class: On the one hand, there were the deusas (goddesses), those with a more feminine look, who were generally younger and with a prettier physical appearance, who appeared in the media and had the opportunity to travel abroad, following the transnational market for sex work. On the other hand, there were the dragões (dragons). . . . The term dragão is used colloquially in Portuguese to designate a person considered ugly and in this case it indicates a less feminine physical appearance that does not correspond to a hegemonic aesthetic standard and/or to those showing signs of getting older due to wrinkles and hair loss. (García 2009:612) The travesti category includes a mix of masculine and feminine identities – a “patchwork” (García 2009). In São Paulo, viado (queer, homosexual) refers to a docile, somewhat feminine travesti who engages in passive homoerotic practices. The puta (whore) is a sex worker. Like a viado, she prefers the passive role in sexual intercourse and scorns potentially feminine clients. The malandro, also a sex worker, differs from the puta in being a cunning scoundrel, and potentially deceitful and violent towards her clients, whom she


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socially places in a submissive role. A bandido (bandit) takes on a socially more masculine identity typically associated with thieves and borderline criminal activities. Many bandidos end up in jail arrested for petty crimes, which is one reason why police often view travestis as thieves and criminals. In some ways the bandido and viado identities stand at the opposite extremes of ideal feminine and masculine qualities and identities “with the virility and violence of the bandido . . . opposed to the supposed passivity and cowardice of the viado” (García 2009:621).

Zapotec muxe.  The Zapotecs live in Mexico’s southwestern state of Oaxaca, famous for the ruins of Monte Albán, a major site of Mesoamerican state formation (Chapter 2). One of Oaxaca’s 15 ethnic groups, the Zapotecs speak four related languages as well as Spanish, and number about 350,000. Muxe, a Zapotec gloss of the Spanish word mujer (woman), is a socially acceptable class of biologically sexed males who in terms of gender attributes are neither fully male nor female (Figure 6.1). This gender category has deep roots in the pre-colonial past where fluid sexual and gender identities were common. Comparable to the North American berdaches, Muxe are perceived as different from other men. Some marry women and have children; others form long-term partnerships with men. A distinguishing characteristic of many muxe is that they may do certain kinds of women’s

FIGURE 6.1  A Zapotec muxe Source: Courtesy of Kirsten Luce/The New York Times/Redux

Gender, sexuality, and reproduction


work such as embroidery or decorating home altars, but others do the male work of making jewelry. Many now have white-collar jobs and are involved in politics. . . . Muxe men are not referred to as “homosexuals” but constitute a separate category based on gender attributes. People perceive them as having the physical bodies of men but different aesthetic, work, and social skills from most men. They may have some attributes of women or combine those of men and women. While muxe do not exhibit all the characteristics associated with masculinity, neither do they necessarily reject them . . . there is no inevitable connection between the way muxe dress and act and “homosexuality.” (Stephen 2002:43) Women often speak fondly of sons and brothers who are muxe, and young unmarried women often have muxe as part of their circle of friends. The loyalty and helpfulness of muxe for female relatives is often contrasted with the laziness and irresponsibility of husbands. (Stephen 2002:44) Muxe do not live up to dominant Zapotec notions of masculinity, such as partaking of physically strenuous tasks. Their sexual partners are typically heterosexual males rather than other muxe or gay men. Most community members believe that being muxe is not a choice but an identity one is born with. Although muxe rarely face overt discrimination or gay-bashing, some are victims of violence (Mirandé 2014). The video Juchitán, Queer Paradise illustrates how muxe are socially accepted. Some are teachers, while others are members of the Juchitán city council. Juchitán’s mayor says that muxe deserve respect (merecen respeto) because they work a great deal “both as men and women.” Others emphasize that muxe uphold and are mindful of local traditions. Many muxe are sponsors (mayordomos) of local ritual celebrations called candles (velas), such as the Day of the Dead, or in honor of the city’s patron saint. Each year the town’s muxe association, the Intrepid Danger Chasers, organizes a community-wide vela, led by a muxe queen (reina). Attended by thousands of Juchiteños from all walks of life, they spend the night dancing, drinking, and engaged in public performances. Mirandé makes clear that muxe are very well integrated into the community. . . . On the eve of the Muxe Vela there was a performance in front of the city municipal building. The event was hosted and organized by the muxes. . . . The muxes are also accepted within the Catholic Church. On the morning of the Vela, there was a mass given in honor of the Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro. The Intrépidas marched in a procession with their standard and they were recognized and blessed by the priest. . . . [The] Muxe Vela is a community event, given that most of the people in attendance were not muxes but friends and family of the members of the organization and represented a cross section of Juchitán society. The Vela was a festival sponsored by the muxes for the community at large. In fact, the Muxe Queen was crowned by the mayor of Juchitán. (2014:259)


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Policing reproduction In a groundbreaking essay written over 25 years ago, Faye Ginsberg and Rayna Rapp (1991) advocated for placing reproduction at the “center of anthropological inquiry.” Drawing on flourishing research in feminist theory, social history, political economy, and demographic and medical anthropology, they emphasized the importance of studying how reproductive ideals, policies, and practices are shaped by poverty, inequality, and differential power relations. Ideas related to motherhood, child-rearing, women’s status, abortion, female infanticide, eugenics, fertility and population control, pro-natalism, new reproductive technologies, and birthing are all central concerns in the study of reproduction. Throughout the Caribbean, elites have often viewed the reproductive behavior of poor women with great concern (Bourbonnais 2016). In Puerto Rico after 1898, US colonial administrators and Puerto Rican elites regarded the sexuality and sexual mores of workingclass women as a social “problem” closely aligned, they claimed, with high rates of prostitution, undisciplined and lurid sexuality, serial sexual relationships, and the unwillingness of many to formally marry. The colonial state tried to remold their reproductive and sexual behavior, whose unchecked sexuality and fertility were seen as the cause of many of the island’s problems, especially widespread poverty. For example, birth control campaigns were put into place, programs created to instill “proper” child-rearing practices and “suitable” forms of motherhood, and laws passed to decriminalize birth control and encourage legal unions. These efforts were on the whole unsuccessful. Puerto Rican working-class women largely refused to internalize dominant gender expectations, and challenged elite patriarchal social codes by, for example, taking advantage of the legalization of divorce to contest and terminate their marriages in court. They were hardly marianist women (Briggs 2002; Suárez Findlay 1999). Family planning programs have been a favorite way to police reproduction. Maternowska shows how gender relations, poverty, and inequality explain Haiti’s “fertility paradox,” i.e., consistently high fertility rates in LAC’s poorest country despite decades of internationally financed family planning programs, low contraceptive use, and the desire of desperately poor women to have fewer children. In a telling vignette, Maternowska tells us that One day, having interviewed for hours, I persisted asking one woman what I had asked countless residents over the years: Why did you stop using family planning? Desermite, a former family planning user, gave me her view in starkly political terms . . . she clenched her fists, crossed her wrists and said: Paske li te esklave m (because it enslaved me). (Maternowska 2006:2) Trying to explain why Desermite and other poor Haitian woman view family planning as enslavement when the stated goal of these programs is to empower women, provided Maternowska with one way of unraveling Haiti’s paradox. Employing a political economy of fertility framework, she dismisses the culturalist explanation for high fertility – the idea that entrenched and seemingly irrational attitudes, preferences, and traditions are barriers to the adoption of family planning. It is not high fertility that contributes to wrenching poverty and insecure lives but just the opposite. Most poor Haitian women are in fleeting conjugal unions not, they told Maternowska, because of love but because

Gender, sexuality, and reproduction


such unions are necessary for their survival. Women deploy sexuality as a form of power to bind males to them and survive in an otherwise dangerous, unpredictable, and lifethreatening environment, for their power in the realm of sexuality is almost always directed toward financial gain. Every woman interviewed told me that they were not in a relationship for love or sexual enjoyment. Rather, unions help women survive. Single women have every right to use their sexuality to acquire material support from their paramours and . . . having children is women’s major source of bargaining power in relationships. (Maternowska 2006:50) In this perilous context, having children is absolutely crucial for survival. Given high infant mortality rates, ill-health, and the perpetual insecurity that women – with or without ­children – face, we can perhaps understand the significance of time-honored Haitian proverbs, such that “children are the wealth of the poor” and that “a person who doesn’t have a child is not a person.” Poor Haitian women claim that bearing children is the only way they can “keep a man” and, at the same time, male masculinity is tied to engendering and supporting children (Maternowska 2006:52–60). As a result, women and their male spouses resist efforts by family planning programs and clinics to restrict their fertility and mold their reproductive practices. By not addressing the structural conditions of poverty and precariousness, including political and social instability, attempts at controlling reproductive ideals and practices are doomed to fail, perhaps because, as Desermite astutely remarked, such efforts would enslave her to a future of wrenching poverty and disempowerment. Morgan and Roberts suggest the usefulness of the concept of reproductive governance, that is, the mechanisms through which different historical configurations of actors – such as state institutions, churches, donor agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – use legislative controls, economic inducements, moral injunctions, direct coercion, and ethical incitements to produce, monitor and control reproductive behaviours and practices. An important ideological justification for reproductive governance is the claim for the moral high ground – “moral regimes” that refer to “the privileged standards of morality that are used to govern intimate behaviours, ethical judgements, and their public manifestations” (2012:242–243). Reproductive governance and competing claims to morality are simultaneously crucial political and cultural debates. While stemming population growth is still an important reproductive concern, the decline of LAC fertility rates have made it less significant. Other issues and concerns have surfaced. Reproductive struggles are often cast in the polemical and ambiguous language of human rights. Same-sex marriages, discussed in the next section, are one prominent example. Narratives and interpretation of rights are contentious, and reproductive governance and surveillance can assume new forms. For example, during the 1990s presidency of Alberto Fujimori, hundreds of thousands of indigenous Peruvian women were clandestinely sterilized. In the aftermath of the public furor, in 2001,


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then-president Alejandro Toledo pushed for the collective rights of indigenous peoples – including their collective right to self-reproduce. At the same time, and trying to appease the Catholic Church, he proposed a legal code that would have required all Peruvian women to register their pregnancies at the time of conception to protect the rights of the unborn. Both of these endeavours declared the sanctity of life from conception and the rights of the unborn . . . this shift in governance between the administrations of Fujimori and Toledo – from the limitations of indigenous women’s fertility through clandestine population control, to the official attempt at the expansion of state surveillance of all Peruvian’s women’s reproduction through the rhetoric of rights – took place while Toledo’s administration cut back access to reproductive health services including condoms, emergency contraception, and post-abortion hospital care. (Morgan and Roberts 2012:246) Other reproductive debates are equally polemical. The international right-to-life movement, strongly allied with conservative elements of the Catholic Church and the strong (and growing) evangelical movement (Chapter 7), has successfully lobbied for pushing legal rights from birth to conception, enshrining the belief in fetal rights. The result has been a raging debate over abortion, and its complete banning in Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Other results have been equally pernicious. In 2008 Chile’s highest court overturned a government law granting free emergency contraception to all women over 14 years old, effectively privileging the rights of fetuses over their mothers. The rights of the unborn against women-as-mothers has been bolstered by prominent symbolic displays of the international right-to-life movement, such as the Day of the Unborn Child, commemorated in at least nine LAC countries. This shift in reproductive thinking and governance has been challenged by feminists, who have sponsored a Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Cross-border migrations have also been cast in the language of reproductive governance. In a striking parallel to colonial-era concerns of the runaway fertility of poor women, pregnant Nicaraguan women migrating to Costa Rica are viewed as a drain on the Costa Rican state (Morgan and Roberts 2012:247–248).

The politics of same-sex marriage: Argentina and Mexico In December 2009 Alex Freyre married José María di Bello in Argentina’s southern-most province of Tierra del Fuego, the first same-sex marriage ever performed in LAC. Less than a year later, Argentina passed historic legislation legally recognizing same-sex marriages throughout its national territory, prompting many gay couples to travel and marry there. In 2010 Mexico City legalized gay marriages. This decision was later upheld by Mexico’s Supreme Court, effectively extending the right to a same-sex marriage to all Mexican citizens, provided that they wed in Mexico City. Other LAC countries have followed this path. Same-sex marriages are legal in Uruguay, Brazil, and Colombia, and same-sex civil unions (i.e., without the full prerogatives of formal marriages) lawful in Ecuador, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, and Chile. While not yet recognizing gay marriages, other countries are moving in

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that direction. Panama decriminalized “sodomy” (i.e., homosexuality) in 2008, as have almost all LAC countries (Archibold and Villegas 2015). So momentous has been this shift in sexual and gender attitudes that These advancements make Latin America among the most advanced regions with respect to gay rights, comparable, in fact, to most parts of the developed West. It is telling that same-sex marriage was introduced at the federal level in Argentina not only ahead of the United States but also of France and the United Kingdom. (Encarnación 2016:2) Still, deep divisions on attitudes toward gay marriages abound. Just over half of all ­Uruguayans and Argentines approve of same-sex marriages, and slightly less in Mexico and Brazil. Resistance to gay marriage is widespread elsewhere. Eighty-five percent of Paraguayans and over two-thirds of Central Americans disapprove of same-sex unions, with approval ratings especially low in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In the Caribbean, only one-fourth of Dominicans and one-third of Puerto Ricans favor gay marriages. Despite an active (yet often closeted) gay scene, Cuba remains a staunchly chauvinistic, anti-gay society (Bejel 2010; Larson 2010; Lipka 2015). Predictably, the progressive turns to gay rights have faced fierce opposition and backslashes. In Argentina, the Catholic Church organized mass demonstrations to derail the historic legislation recognizing gay marriages, with the Archbishop of Buenos Aires calling it a “destructive attack on God’s plan,” and in 2007, former Guatemalan presidential candidate Álvaro Colom, referring to gay marriages, stated that “God said ‘Adan and Eva,’ not ‘Adan and Esteban.’ ” (Barrionuevo 2010). Gay marriages and adoptions have been banned in Honduras, where dozens of gay and transgendered persons have been murdered in recent years. Argentina too has seen its share of violence against gay and transgendered people (Gilbert 2015). Argentina’s legalization of same-sex marriages is especially noteworthy because, after overthrowing the government of Juan Domingo Perón in 1976 (Chapter 10), the military crushed the country’s most prominent gay rights organization. After the return to democracy, a new movement was once again advocating for gay rights. By casting the gay cause within the context of human rights violations during military rule, it was able to shape public opinion: Premised on the idea that “the freedom of sexuality is a basic human right,” the campaign had tremendous local resonance by capitalizing on the dark legacy of human rights abuses left behind by the military dictatorship and the animus toward homosexuality by the political class and the courts that prevailed in the new democracy inaugurated in 1983. Consequently, targeting society and the culture at large, rather than the legislature and the courts, became the early focus of gay activists. The campaign took as its model the activism of Argentina’s large and influential human rights movement, from which gay activists borrowed a well-tested playbook for influencing hearts and minds. Repurposed . . . this playbook included depictions of the Argentine state as “genocidal,” a not-so-subtle inference to Nazi Germany, extensive use


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of escraches, a protest strategy entailing accosting and shaming public figures in order to trigger moral outrage and provoke debate about homosexuality, and media campaigns to influence public opinion that, aside from humanizing homosexuals, linked ending antigay discrimination to Argentina’s human rights and democratic aspirations. By the time the campaign shifted focus to the courts and the legislature, in the early 2000s, the climate for legislating gay rights had vastly improved. (Encarnación 2016:12–13) Gay activists advanced their cause by forging alliances with progressive segments of Argentine society, first centering their efforts in the strategic city and federal district of Buenos Aires – the nation’s most populous and liberal urban area. Activists recast sexual rights as a public health issue by prominently participating in public health campaigns raising public awareness of the deadly consequences of HIV/AIDS. Gay organizations also established close ties with and received support from leftist political movements, such as the Socialist Union party, which during the constitutional reforms of 1994 called for decriminalizing abortion and ending sexual discrimination. By the late 1990s activists were advocating for the repeal of legal codes against homosexuality and recognition of civil unions. Once anti-homosexual codes were overturned, and after receiving support from the Buenos Aires Human Rights Commission, sympathetic legislators and members of the judiciary, and major newspapers, in December 2001 the Buenos Aires city council voted to approve same-sex civil unions. The vote was signed into law by the city’s mayor the following year. Although similar legislation was not initially successful in other provinces, activists turned to publicly documenting hate crimes and securing support from the national minister of Justice and the Inter-American Human Rights Court. By 2008 all but one of Argentina’s provinces had decriminalized homosexuality. The stage was set for the legalization of same-sex marriages several years later (Diez 2015). In Mexico, the lifting of legal impediments to gay marriages progressed in a piecemeal way because family civil codes, which include matters pertaining to marriage, are under the jurisdiction of individual states, including the federal district of Mexico City. As in Argentina, Mexican gay activists first focused their grassroots organizing efforts in the nation’s huge and more liberal capital city. Also like Argentina, gay activism during the 1990s was early on tied to awareness-raising campaigns of the dangers of HIV/AIDS. In 1998 Mexico City took an early lead in advancing the cause of gay rights by organizing a Forum on Sexual Diversity and Human Rights, attended by representatives of 70 gay, lesbian, and human rights organizations. Well publicized in the media, the Forum attracted a great deal of attention and interest, inside and outside of Mexico City. It also served as a venue for strengthening informal networks that had been developing for years between gay organizations and sympathetic Mexico City legislators, academics, and members of the judiciary. One result of these efforts was the rise of broad coalitions that included women’s groups advocating for reproductive rights and against domestic violence. Enlisting the support of important political parties, in 1999 activists secured reforms to Mexico City’s civil codes that entailed first, the derogation of a clause that considered homosexuality to be child molestation, and thus a crime, and; second, the introduction of a penalty, of up

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to three years in jail and one hundred days of community service, for discrimination against vulnerable groups, including sexual minorities. (Diez 2015:156) Like their counterparts in Argentina, gay activists also received support from left-wing political parties, such as the Social Democratic party, which opened legislative debates on legalizing abortion and recognizing same-sex civil unions. In 2001 former President Vicente Fox endorsed a sweeping constitutional reform banning sexual and other forms of discrimination, including those embedded in states’ colonial-era civil codes on “morality” and “good customs.” While the first bill (2003) to legalize same-sex civil unions was unsuccessful, a realignment of political factions after the Mexico City elections in 2006 proved favorable, and with the support of Mexico City’s new mayor, the bill legalizing same-sex civil unions passed in 2006. The struggle for gay marriage rights was later recast within the framework of citizenship rights. Full equality before the law also included decriminalizing abortion, passing of hate crime legislation, and easing restrictions to divorce. While similar efforts were attempted outside of Mexico City, most failed. By 2009 some members of Mexico City’s council were advocating for gay marriage as a citizenship right. One member of the city council stated that Our society is diverse, our society is plural, our society changes every day . . . there exists a multiplicity of family arrangements and we as deputies have the obligation to respond to that reality. . . . Progress in regard to human rights must include the population that forms part of sexual diversity. . . . Mexico City is a city of rights. This is a characteristic which marks the democratic governments of Mexico City, it has been achieved due to the making of public policies with a focus on human rights. The main argument in favor of the reform . . . is the principle of non-discrimination of people with diverse sexual orientation and the recognition that they can exercise all the rights. (Diez 2015:187) As in Argentina, the passing of the same-sex marriage bill in December 2009 was met with considerable opposition, especially by the Catholic Church, which claimed that it was “ ‘immoral,’ an ‘aberration,’ and an ‘onslaught by the evil force . . . against the Church and the family’ ” (Diez 2015:190). Evangelical churches also denounced the law. Opponents then challenged the constitutionality of the law before Mexico’s Supreme Court. In 2010 the Court ruled that Mexico City’s law was constitutional and that all states had to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the capital. Less than three years later similar bills were introduced in the states of Oaxaca, Coahuila, Colima, and Quintana Roo.

In the United States: negotiating cross-border masculinities Machismo may be the single most prominent expression of dominant masculinity, but it means different things to most men. This is because being a “real” man or macho connotes too many ideal expectations that most men cannot live up to. As a hegemonic masculinity, machismo “is an ‘aspirational goal’ rather than a lived reality for ordinary men” (Vázquez del


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Aguila 2014:66). This is the case of Peruvian transnational migrants, who are forced to reconcile dominant masculine expectations they have internalized in their home countries with those they encounter in the US. Some do so without much effort, but for most, negotiating different and sometimes incompatible masculinities is a wrenching process. Some Peruvian and American masculine ideals nicely dovetail, such that men should be good providers for their families, which in turn provide migrants with respect (respeto), a crucial marker of a successful masculine male identity. Yet being a good provider can easily trump other ideals that migrants believe are important in the US. The womanizer (mujeriego), for example, is respected by his male peers because having multiple lovers enhances his public persona as virile and heterosexual, and he is especially respected if he is also a good breadwinner. Other migrants wish to project in Peru and the US an image that they are up-and-coming modern men. The quest for modernity and for a modern male identity is important because it indicates a successful acculturation to US society and lifestyles. Middle- and upper-class migrants are best able to project such an image, and therefore enhance their masculinity, when they travel to Peru carrying high-tech electronic gadgets. As Mario said about his brother: “[He] travels like a modern ekeko (mythical figure of abundance), carrying a laptop, electronic agenda, iPod, digital camera, and all kinds of techy toys . . . people think, ‘oh yes, he is a complete winner, he triumphed there.’ ” Modern males also snub “traditional” macho attitudes and behaviors they associate with working-class Peruvians. Ronny was quite clear that as a modern man he did not have “issues” with his “emotions” when he told Vázquez that It’s funny the recién llegados (newcomers) act like machitos, you can recognize them even by the way they walk. . . . Peruvians in Paterson don’t change, they live like they are in their conos [working-class areas of Lima], when they come to Manhattan you can recognize them immediately . . . you know, ‘men don’t cry,’ or ‘men don’t wash the dishes’ . . . they have issues with their emotions. (Vázquez del Aguila 2014:101–102) Gender and sexual identities are often the most difficult to reconcile. Sometimes the disparity in masculine expectations is quite stark, as when Pablo, living in New York City, comments that In Peru, if you want to destroy someone’s reputation you call him maricón (faggot); this is the worst insult for a man . . . here [in the United States], the worst insult for a man is not to be a maricón, but to be a “loser.” While men who have sex with other men can retain masculine (though not necessarily dominant) identities, such is not the case with cabros – males who not only have sex with other men but who are the recipients of anal intercourse. As a result, cabros fail to completely rid themselves of “feminine” attributes and are likely to be considered by other men and women as weak, lacking courage, and excessively emotional. Openly gay men can reconcile their gender identity with other facets of desired male masculinity. Being responsible (responsable) is one way of doing so, of still being a “man.” Walter understood this point when he expressed that For gay men, being a man is very difficult, you know, people think you are not a man because you are gay. I am a responsible son, a responsible citizen, a responsible brother, so I feel I am fulfilling my family’s expectations of me


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as a man. I can be gay, but still I am responsible. . . . I am a responsible man even though I am gay. (Vázquez del Aguila 2014:111–112) Despite less oppressive sexual mores in the US, some Peruvian gays and bisexuals find it difficult to openly express their gender and sexual identity without alienating homophobic family members and friends. Referred to as caletas, they therefore lead discreet double lives – publicly heterosexual in the context of Peruvian friends and relatives but gay and bisexual in American circles. Living in the US and trying to maneuver through gender and sexual identities often leads some to question their identity. Ricardo first identified himself as heterosexual (he had a girlfriend in Lima), but after three years in the US and sexual encounters with multiple men, he now thinks he “might be bisexual.” Such an identity, while commonly accepted in the US, however, would not be acknowledged in Peru or by his Peruvian friends in New York City. He would still be identified with the disparaging term caleta. Publicly projecting different and often incompatible gender performances is a sure way that that gay and bisexual men retain important facets of masculine behavior and not risk losing the support of family and friends. Jerry exemplifies this performance strategy. For his parents in Peru he is bisexual, but for other family members in Peru, and Peruvian friends in New Jersey, he is heterosexual. He lives, though, a gay life with American gay friends in New York City.

Concluding thoughts In this chapter I have argued against stereotypical (and therefore unfounded) portrayals of the gender and sexuality of LAC peoples. (I do so for other stereotypes throughout this book.) There is no such thing as an archetype LAC male or macho, or woman, for a wide panoply of gender and sexual identities and practices have long been present in LAC. As my probe of same-sex marriages has shown, we also need to set aside any preconceived notions regarding the unwavering “traditionalism” or “conservatism” of LAC. The next chapter on religion also demonstrates the cultural flexibility and creativeness of LAC peoples.

FILMS/VIDEOS Brazil: Priestesses, Samba Dancers, and Mulattos of Brazil. 1992. Films Media Group. Discusses the lives of samba priestesses and dancers of Rio de Janeiro. Forbidden: Gay and Undocumented, Moisés Serrano Fights for Justice. 2016. Kanopy Streaming. Documents the life of a gay, Mexican undocumented migrant in the US. Hummingbird: Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence in Brazil. 2004. Kanopy Streaming. Documentary on how Brazilian women resist domestic violence in their lives. Juchitán, Queer Paradise. 2004. Filmmakers Library. Focuses on the third-gender muxe in Juchitán, Mexico.

A Kiss for Gabriela. 2013. Films Media Group. Story of Gabriela Leite, the first sex worker candidate for the Brazilian Congress. Masks. 2014. Icarus Films. Examines the lives of Cuba’s best known drag queens. Of Men and Gods (Des Hommes et Dieux). 2002. Documentary Educational Resources. Examines the lives of openly gay Haitian men and how homosexuality flourishes within vodou. Mexico: Rebellion of the Weeping Women. 1992. Films on Demand. Story of Mexican women struggling for gender equality and women’s rights. Nicaragua: Turning Away from Violence. 2004. Films Media Group. Documents the struggles against sexual and gender abuse by two women’s organizations.


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WEBSITES Hampton Institute. Latina Feminism: National and Transnational Perspectives. dPLTWy4 Northwestern University. Gender and Sexuality Studies: Recommended Sites.

San Francisco State University. Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality. our-history-2/ University of Vermont. Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. Escaja.php

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Anthropological Perspectives. In Reconceiving the Second Sex: Men, Masculinity, and Reproduction. Inhorn, Marcia C., ed. Pp. 72–102. New York: Berghahn Books. Encarnación, Omar G. 2016. Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press. Esteve, Albert and García-Román, Joan, et al. 2012. The Family Context of Cohabitation and Single Motherhood in Latin America. Population and Development Review 38(4):707–727. García, Marcos R. V. 2009. Identity as a ‘Patchwork’: Aspects of Identity among Low-Income Brazilian Travestis. Culture, Health & Sexuality 11(6):611–623. Gilbert, Jonathan. 2015. Transgender Argentines Confront Continued Murder and Discrimination. The New York Times. November 28. Ginsberg, Faye and Rapp, Rayna. 1991. The Politics of Reproduction. Annual Review of Anthropology 20:311–343. Goldstein, Donna M. 2003. Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gutmann, Matthew C. 1996. The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1997. Trafficking in Men: The Anthropology of Masculinity. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:385–409. ———. 2009. The Missing Gamete? Ten Common Mistakes or Lies about Men’s Sexual Destiny. In Reconceiving the Second Sex: Men, Masculinity, and Reproduction. Inhorn, Marcia C., ed. Pp. 21–44. New York: Berghahn Books. Herlihy, Laura H. 2012. The Mermaid and the Lobster Diver: Gender, Sexuality, and Money on the Miskito Coast. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Hill, Brandon J. and McBride, Kimberly R. 2007. Transgender. In Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender (Vol. 4). Malti-Douglas, Fedwa, ed. Pp. 1474– 1476. Detroit, MI: Palgrave Macmillan. Hoogland, Renee. 2007. Theories of Gender. In Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. Vol. 2. MaltiDouglas, Fedwa, ed. Pp. 628–632. Detroit, MI: Palgrave Macmillan.

181 Horswell, Michael J. 2005. Decolonizing the Sodomite: Queer Tropes of Sexuality in Colonial Andean Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press. Howe, Cymene. 2009. The Legible Lesbian: Crimes of Passion in Nicaragua. Ethnos 74(3):361–378. Hussain, Kiran M., et al. 2015. Unveiling Sexual Identity in the Face of Marianismo. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy 27(2):72–92. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2009. Introduction: The Second Sex in Reproduction? Men, Sexuality, and Masculinity. In Reconceiving the Second Sex: Men, Masculinity, and Reproduction. Inhorn, Marcia C., ed. Pp. 1–20. New York: Berghahn Books. Jacobs, Andrew. 2016. Brazil Is Confronting an Epidemic of Anti-Gay Violence. The New York Times. July 5. Kampwirth, Karen. 2002. Women & Guerilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ———. 2011. Latin America’s New Left and the Politics of Gender: Lessons from Nicaragua. New York: Springer. Kellogg, Susan. 2005. Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America’s Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. Kulick, Don. 1997. The Gender of Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes. American Anthropologist 99(3):574–585. Larson, Scott. 2010. Gay Space in Havana. In The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America: A Reader on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights. Corrales, Javier and Pecheny, Mario, eds. Pp. 334–348. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Larvie, Patrick. 2003. Nation, Science, and Sex: AIDS and the New Brazilian Sexuality. In Disease in the History of Modern Latin America: From Malaria to AIDS. Armus, Diego, ed. Pp. 290–314. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Lipka, Michael. 2015. Same-Sex Marriage Makes Some Legal Gains in Latin America. Retrieved from Accessed on March 28, 2017.


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Maternowska, Catherine M. 2006. Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. McKercher, Bob and Prideaux, Bruce. 2014. Academic Myths of Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research 46:16–28. Mintz, Sidney W. 1956. Cañamelar: The Subculture of a Rural Sugar Plantation Proletariat. In The People of Puerto Rico: A Study in Social Anthropology. Steward, Julian H., ed. Pp. 314– 417. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Mirandé, Alfredo. 2014. Transgender Identity and Acceptance in a Global Era: The Muxes of Juchitán. In Masculinities in a Global Era. Gelfer, Joseph, ed. Pp. 247–263. New York: Springer. Montoya, Rosario. 2002. Women’s Sexuality, Knowledge, and Agency in Rural Nicaragua. In Gender’s Place: Feminist Anthropologies of Latin America. Montoya, Rosario and Frazier, Lessie Jo, et al., eds. Pp. 65–88. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ———. 2012. Gendered Scenarios of Revolution: Making New Men and New Women in Nicaragua. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Morgan, Lynn M. and Roberts, Elizabeth F. 2012. Reproductive Governance in Latin America. Anthropology & Medicine 19(2):241–254. Olavarría, José. 2003. Men at Home? Child Rearing and Housekeeping among Chilean WorkingClass Fathers. In Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America. Gutmann, Matthew C., ed. Pp. 333–350. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Parker, Richard G. 1995. Changing Brazilian Constructions of Homosexuality. In Latin American Male Homosexualities. Murray, Stephen O., ed. Pp. 241–255. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Pomfret, John D. 1964. Retraining Test Reveals Hurdles in Poverty Drive. The New York Times. May 24. Powers, Karen V. 2005. Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500–1600. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Prior, Marsha. 2005. Matrifocality, Power, and Gender Relations in Jamaica. In Gender in CrossCultural Perspective. (4th Edition). Brettell,

Caroline and Sargent, Carolyn, eds. Pp. 372– 380. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Salomon, Frank. 1999. Testimonies: The Making and Reading of Native South American Historical Sources. In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume III [South America], Part 1). Salomon, Frank and Schwartz, Stuart B., eds. Pp. 19–95. New York: Cambridge University Press. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1992. Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press. Scott, Joan W. 1986. Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis. American Historical Review 91(5):1053–1075. ———. 1999. Gender and the Politics of History. New York: Columbia University Press. Sigal, Pete. 2000. From Moon Goddess to Virgins: The Colonization of Yucatecan Maya Sexual Desire. Austin: University of Texas Press. ———. 2007. Queer Nahuatl: Sahagun’s Faggots and Sodomites, Lesbians and Hermaphrodites. Ethnohistory 54(1):9–34. ———. 2010. Imagining Cihuacoatl: Masculine Rituals, Nahua Goddesses and the Texts of the Tlacuilos. Gender & History 22(3):538–563. Silverblatt, Irene. 1987. Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Stephen, Lynn. 2002. Sexualities and Genders in Zapotec Oaxaca. Latin American Perspectives 29(2):41–59. Stevens, Evelyn P.  1973. Marianismo: The Other Face of Machismo in Latin America. In Female and Male in Latin America. Pescatello, Ann, ed. Pp. 89–101. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Stryker, Susan. 2008. Transgender History. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press. Suárez Findlay, Eileen J. 1999. Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico 1870–1920. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Tedlock, Barbara. 2007. Maya. In Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture, Society, History (Vol. 3). Malti-Douglas, Fedwa, ed. Pp. 977–979. Detroit, MI: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Vázquez del Aguila, Ernesto. 2014. Being a Man in a Transnational World: The Masculinity and Sexuality of Migration. New York: Routledge. Vázquez-Hernández, Víctor. 2005. From Pan-Latino Enclaves to a Community: Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia, 1910–2000. In The Puerto Rican

183 Diaspora: Historical Perspectives. Whalen, Carmen Teresa and Vázquez-Hernández, Víctor, eds. Pp. 88–105. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Viveros Vigoya, Mara. 2016. Masculinities in the Continuum of Violence in Latin America. Feminist Theory 17(2):229–237.



Religion and everyday life


eligion is a system of beliefs and rituals centered on supernatural beings above and beyond nature and humankind. It is partly through religious beliefs and practices that social groups try to make sense of the world around them, especially when faced with seemingly senseless or arbitrary events. This chapter focuses on the central role of religious beliefs and practices in everyday life. I begin first with how the colonial encounter between Europeans, indigenous peoples, and African slaves led to the emergence of the syncretic religious system known as Popular Catholicism. In the next section I explore how and why forging ongoing reciprocal relationships with supernatural deities lies at the core of Popular Catholicism and African-derived religions. Religious beliefs and rituals have always been important in foretelling and grappling with health and illness, a topic which I then turn to. I then center my attention on the causes of the massive shift to Protestantism in recent years. This chapter ends with a reflection on the importance of celebrating the Day of the Dead in the US.

The colonial encounter and Popular Catholicism We learned in Chapter 3 that converting “pagans” to Christianity was an ideological justification for the European conquest. While Europeans were politically and militarily victorious, their “spiritual conquest” (Restall 2003:74) was less successful in stripping indigenous peoples of their religious beliefs and practices. What emerged a few decades after the conquest was a fusion of medieval Catholicism, indigenous and, later, African religions. Some of the vague, over-arching creator gods lost their relevance and disappeared. Yet many others closely identified with Catholic saints and other religious personages who were key for daily physical and cultural well-being survived. This cultural and religious overlay was deeply entrenched by the late 1600s in Cusco, when Church-inspired artists began painting images of the Last Supper in which a guinea pig and not bread appeared at the center of the table (Krögel 2012). In this creative remaking of medieval Catholicism there was, to be sure, a “creation of many Catholicisms at the level of ordinary people . . . ad hoc mixtures of belief and even, to a lesser extent, of ritual” (MacLeod 2000:18). Understanding how this religious syncretism occurred so quickly sheds light on the major features of Popular Catholicism, the syncretic religious system that emerged from colonial encounter. The Spanish practice of constructing Catholic churches over the ruins of indigenous temples surely had the effect of demonstrating the superiority of Christian gods


Religion and everyday life


(Chapter 3). It’s also important to note that in the Andes and probably elsewhere a profound transformation in beliefs regarding death and the afterlife took place during the early colonial period in the aftermath of the massive mortality inflicted by the conquest. This “Christianization of death” meant different explanations of why death occurred, how and where to bury the dead, and what happened to the life force or spirit of those who died. This in turn accounted for and reflected the speed of religious conversion and the fusion of Christian and indigenous beliefs and practices (Ramos 2010). Confessional manuals written in native languages only a few decades after the conquest also illustrate how quickly Christianity made its way into indigenous worldviews (Sell 2010). Equally important, Catholic rituals had their indigenous parallels. For example, in Mesoamerica: Both religious traditions had a rite of baptism. In Catholicism the child was baptized and named. . . . The Mexica similarly bathed and named the child in a religious rite, and the Maya celebrated with a ceremony the first time the child was carried astride the hip. Both religious traditions had a kind of confession. The Mexica and the inhabitants of the Gulf coast confessed their sexual transgressions to a priest of the earth goddess Filth-Eater; the Zapotec had annual public confessions; and the Maya confessed themselves either to priests or members of their families in case of illness. Both religious traditions possessed a ritual of communion. The Catholics drank wine and swallowed a wafer . . . the Mexica consumed images of the gods made with amaranth and liberally anointed with sacrificial blood. Both . . . used incense in their churches . . . fasted and did penance . . . went on pilgrimages to holy places; [and] both kept houses of celibate virgins. Both believed in the existence of a supernatural mother . . . [and both] made use of the cross. (Wolf 1959:171–172) Medieval Catholicism was awash in quasi-religious public celebrations, pilgrimages, and other popular festivities. Indigenous peoples eagerly embraced this array of festivals and public celebrations – these too were part of their ritual landscapes – reinterpreting and celebrating them as their own. In colonial Cusco alone, the number of days devoted to these public celebrations may have totaled several months out of the year (Cahill 1996). The timing of ritual celebrations was also important. For example, and as I mentioned in Chapter 3, the colonial sponsorship of Corpus Christi in Peru overlapped with the Inca festivals of Inti Raymi and Capacocha, which celebrated the winter solstice and maize harvest seasons. Elsewhere, Catholic clergy also astutely timed their rituals. Among the New Mexico Pueblo, one of the first functions the friars assumed what that of potent rain chiefs. Because the Pueblo cosmology was not very different from that of the Indians of central Mexico, the friars were well aware of the symbolic power in the Pueblo belief system. Thus the friars tried to time their arrival in New Mexico to coincide with the rainy season. . . . [When] the friars entered San Juan Pueblo, they found the earth parched and the crops wilted for lack of rain. The friars constructed a cross, prayed for rain, and ordered the Indians to do likewise. Then, while the sky was as clear as a diamond, exactly twenty-four


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hours after the outcry had gone up, it rained . . . so abundantly that the crops recovered. San Juan’s inhabitants rejoiced and presented many feathers, corn meal, and other gifts to the crucifix and to the friars. (Gutiérrez 1991:56) Indigenous and African peoples had polytheistic religious systems that stressed incorporation and not exclusion, thereby facilitating their acceptance of European deities, such as Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints, angels, and the Devil into their beliefs and practices. This structural flexibility also overlapped with four important principles. First, intensely pragmatic and centered on everyday, mundane needs, indigenous and African religions emphasized ongoing symbiotic, reciprocal relationships between mortals and supernatural deities, which, although more powerful, had humanlike needs and frailties. As a result, humans in this world could harness the good will and powers of their anthropomorphic divinities through ritual offerings, in effect satisfying their gods’ wants and needs. Christian ritual behavior did not seem strange at all. For instance, in 1674, Antonio Chable, a Yucatec Maya prisoner accused of offering food and drink to “idols,” confessed that [t]he first four images are of the gods of the four corners of the world, to whom they make their petitions for rain, and requests for abundant crops in their fields, and that the other two images are the gods who conserve and protect them, who also ensure very thick stocks of maize, and that the last of the images was a stone which served as the god of beans, squash seeds, and other vegetables that they harvest . . . and all of these idols and images are the ones that give them what is necessary for Human life . . . and when they knew that it would be a bad harvest, they judged that these gods were angry, so they went to their fields and to caves where these idols sit and these and other Indians bleed themselves and offer their blood to these said idols so that their gods will become pleased. (Chuchiak IV 2009:136) Second, many Christian religious personages – as the Virgin Mary, saints, and even the Devil – had strikingly analogous counterparts in indigenous and African religions, thereby enabling their cultural/religious juxtaposition. Third, by mobilizing supernatural powers, indigenous and African peoples could rally Christian deities to their side when challenging the colonial order. (This was probably what Andean rebel leaders, for example, were trying to accomplish by celebrating mass during their eighteenth century uprisings; see Chapter 3.) In other words, Popular Catholicism quickly emerged as a means of critiquing the social order. Fourth, sustaining reciprocal relations with the supernatural went hand in hand with the blurring of boundaries between the living and the dead, this world and the afterlife, and mortals and their gods. This explains the numerous rituals occasions – such as Todos Santos, which I allude to later in this chapter – in which humans and those in the afterlife renew their relationships and share the same social and ritual space.

Living with the supernatural In Popular Catholicism, there are few sharp boundaries between this world and the afterlife, and important Christian deities quickly became vital to indigenous and African religious systems.

Religion and everyday life


The Virgin Mary The Virgin Mary was widely revered in medieval Spain for over 1,000 years before the Spanish conquest. An inspiration for and guardian of Christian warriors, she was an indispensable ally during the reconquest of the Spanish peninsula. Identified with Stella Maris, the North Star essential for navigation, she guided and protected seafarers. Her role in fertility was well known, as were her powers to protect against epidemics and miraculously cure the sick and dying. The Virgin Mary was considered the most important intermediary between mortals and God (Hall and Eckmann 2004). “Toward the middle of the thirteenth century,” Salles-Reese writes, the cult of the Virgin Mary grew significantly throughout Europe. Until then, only the worship of a distant, justice-seeking, fear inspiring God was prevalent. Because she represented a gentler and non threatening figure, many of the faithful were inclined to worship the Virgin; by the thirteenth century, Mary had become an integral part of Christian worship. (1997:158) This European medieval and popular belief in a powerful yet gentle and compassionate feminine deity resonated with indigenous peoples whose supernatural worlds were also inhabited by influential feminine beings associated, above all, with fertility, prosperity, and well-being. This was the case, for instance, of the Andean Pachamama, who is still revered, and the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. African peoples too had their own deities that they identified the Virgin Mary with (discussed further later in this chapter). Early on the Virgin Mary was placed alongside angels and saints – other powerful yet intimate beings who decisively interceded on behalf of their mortal worshippers. The doctrinal view that Mary was a virgin mattered little – as it does today – and was probably incomprehensible to indigenous peoples who had radically different gender and sexual ideologies (Chapter 6).

Mexico.  In Mexico, the cult of the Virgin Mary spread quickly after the conquest through sermons, catechisms, religious festivals and ritual processions (especially during Holy Week and the Corpus Christi celebrations), pictorial aids, paintings, and the translation of prayer books into Nahuatl. It did not take long for the Virgin Mary to make her way into native visions, especially among healers and spiritual leaders, as in a seventeenth century Cuernavaca Nahua village: [Domingo Hernández] had gained a reputation for holiness and healing. His vision occurred when he was stricken with a serious illness and was taken for dead. He believed that two male individuals dressed in white had taken him to visit other sick persons and also to see two roads – the wide road of the damned on one side and, on the other, which was narrow and filled with thorns and tangled bushes, the road of the Redeemer. . . . The angels ordered Domingo to give up pulque, a drink fermented from the sap of the agave plant and associated with the indigenous numinous, on the threat of being returned to this place of death. . . . Only after this warning did they teach him the words of healing. On the same night, he was visited by three women, dressed completely in white, but he could identify only two of them, the “Virgin Our Lady”


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and Veronica. The Virgin of the vision told him that Christ had captured him but that she wanted to save him. Veronica, on her part, waved a veil to move the air toward him. The air, which seems to be a crucial element here, revived him, and he arose healed. (Hall and Eckmann 2004:103) The Virgin of Guadeloupe (affectionately referred to as La Guadalupana), the patron saint of Mexico and a powerful icon of Mexican national identity, made her first apparition to Juan Diego in 1531, a mere ten years after the fall of Tenochtitlán. Her apparition foreshadowed the appeal with which her devotion would take hold among indigenous peoples. She displayed herself to Juan Diego on a hilltop, in a region where mountains and hills were considered sacred and teeming with supernatural deities. This was also a Virgin who was dark-skinned, like many of her future worshippers. In return for Juan Diego’s trip to Mexico City to inform the bishop of her apparition, she cured his uncle from a deadly disease – just as other deities, past and present, would have done so for their worshippers. By the mid-eighteenth century, the Catholic Church proclaimed the Virgin of Guadeloupe as the patroness of the viceroyalty of New Spain (which included all of Mexico and Central America), and parishes were already promoting her cult in popular celebrations (Brading 2001; Taylor 1987). In the following centuries the Virgin of Guadalupe became a protector of the poor and disenfranchised, such as Juan Diego, canonized by Pope John Paul I in 2002 (Beatty 2006) (Figure 7.1).

FIGURE 7.1  Canonization of Juan Diego, Mexico City Source: Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images

Religion and everyday life


Haiti.  Decades ago Herskovits called our attention to the “syncretization of African and Catholic gods” in Haiti (1937:636). While most Haitians are nominally Roman Catholic because of the French colonial past, Haitian popular religion is deeply inflected by Africanderived beliefs and rituals called vodou (also vodoun). (See also the later section entitled “The African heritage.”) One reason for this syncretism has to do with the fact that many West African peoples from Congo and Angola who arrived in Haiti as slaves had been evangelized by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century and practiced a form of KongoleseCatholicism (McAlister 2014). Since colonial times the Virgin Mary has been likened to Ezili, the most important feminine vodou spirit. Devotion to the Virgin Mary is especially important among the poor and destitute – that is, most people in Haiti – who view her, like Rey subtitles his book, as their “Lady of Class Struggle.” As other lwas (vodou spiritual beings) who “reflect the lifestyles, sufferings, joys, and aspirations of the people who serve them,” the Virgin Mary reciprocates with those who are faithful by assisting them with their everyday challenges and struggle for survival (Rey 1999:203). This strategic positioning of the Virgin Mary onto the center stage of the everyday challenge to survive – and the critique of the social order that it represents – is a key attribute of Popular Catholicism in Haiti and elsewhere. The following case study of Guertha illustrates this point. In 1971 François Duvalier, whose dictatorship was one of the longest in LAC history, died. He was replaced by his son Jean-Claude, who ruled until 1986, when JeanBertrand Aristide was elected president. Five years later Aristide was ousted in a coup, prompting the 1992 intervention by US Marines to reinstall him to power. Guertha’s recollections provide a glaring example of how Popular Catholicism and the Virgin Mary are intertwined with personal tragedies in the midst of political turmoil and repression. At the time of Rey’s fieldwork, Guertha was a 34-year-old street vendor who, like most poor Haitians, was devoted to vodou. After paramilitaries raped Guertha, killed her husband, and burned down their home, she fled with her three children to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. There, she found housing with a cousin and entered into various conjugal relationships in order to survive. She eventually mustered enough cash to set up a small-scale street business peddling plastic ware. Six months later, attachés abducted her cousin and ransacked their home. Guertha lost her savings and much of her merchandise in this attack. To make matters worse, the more generous of her two lovers, by whom Guertha was now pregnant, was also arrested. Guertha was now destitute, homeless, pregnant, and taking care of three children. In the face of such tremendous personal calamities, the ‘language’ of Vodou, which might have provided her with some empowerment in the face of less formidable, more familiar adversity, was now unintelligible. . . . Guertha suddenly felt abandoned by the lwa . . . [and the] Virgin would come to eclipse Ezili in Guertha’s religious life. (Rey 1999:254–255) She now believed that it was the Virgin and not the lwa (see the later section entitled “The African heritage”) who saved her and her children when they arrived in Port-au-Prince. After her husband was abducted and murdered, Guertha went every morning to Church


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and prayed to the Virgin, calling her mami cherie (dearest mother). Not unexpectedly, her prayers also had a strong political content: “I pray to you to bring the American soldiers to Haiti to oust the forces of darkness who are crushing the people. Make the Americans come and return Titi [Aristide] to power so that we can live again” (Rey 1999:257). Her prayers to the Virgin were soon answered when US Marines occupied Haiti to put an end to the political chaos and back Aristide’s return to power. One can only imagine what Guertha thought in 2004 when Aristide was ousted from office and forced into exile, with the tacit consent of the US.

Bolivia.  The Andean historical record abounds with apparitions of the Virgin Mary, who during the early colonial period was identified with Pachamama (Platt 1993). In the following example I draw on my fieldwork in Pampa, a peasant community in Bolivia’s Cochabamba region, which until the revolution of 1952 was a hacienda worked by tenants, to illustrate how the Virgin has been intertwined with everyday needs, life contingencies, and resistance. The 1876 rainy season arrived late in Cochabamba, and by early 1877, precipitation had all but ceased, marking the onset of one of the most devastating droughts in Bolivian history. Soon thereafter harvests dwindled, food shortages spread, and starvation, which quickly followed, was worsened by deadly epidemics. Rainfall reached normal levels only three years later, and several more years passed before the effects of disease waned. The Virgin Mary appeared in Pampa in 1879, precisely when so many Pampeños were dying that they were buried mass, makeshift graves. (It is perhaps also not a coincidence that in 1879 Bolivia, allied with Peru, was engaged in the War of the Pacific against Chile.) According to local lore, Santos Rojas was on his way to tend his fields when, crossing a river, he stumbled. As he pulled himself up, he noticed an image of the Virgin Mary inscribed on a nearby rock. When he attempted to lift it, a glowing light emanated from within. Santos quickly kneeled and made the sign of the cross. Seconds later, a soft, serene, feminine voice from the rock told him to take it home, for this would be a sign that her son Jesus would bless the humble of Pampa. Santos dashed to his household compound and alerted others to this miraculous apparition. Accompanied by family members, Santos returned to where he had stumbled and pointed out the rock with the engraved image. Santos and his relatives placed it in a mantle (aguayo) and then headed back home, where they set up a makeshift altar. Word quickly spread that the Virgin Mary – affectionately referred to as la Virgencita (little/dearest Virgin) – had appeared in Pampa. During the next several days, streams of excited Pampeños visited the makeshift altar, propitiated ritual offerings, and drank and danced. The commotion did not go unnoticed by Pampa’s administrator, for many Pampeños, excited and awed by the Virgin’s appearance, began neglecting their chores on hacienda lands. Led by Santos, they requested permission to hold a celebration (fiesta) on the Virgin’s behalf. Given the formidable expenses that they would have to incur, and the effects of the ongoing drought, they also petitioned the administrator to temporarily suspend the tribute payments he customarily demanded from them and pleaded that the hacienda shoulder some of the costs of the fiesta. In a breach of the moral contract and reciprocal relationships that tied tenants and landowners to each other (Langer 1985), the administrator refused their requests. Days later, he was struck by a mysterious illness that blinded him. He quickly convinced himself, as many Pampeños believed, that he was punished by the Virgin for

Religion and everyday life


FIGURE 7.2  Commemorating the Virgin Mary, Pampa, Bolivia Source: Harry Sanabria

having stood in the way of her fiesta and neglecting (by refusing to cease tribute collection) his tenants’ welfare. A day or so later he convened an assembly of tenant household heads (colonos) and announced that he would allow the fiesta to take place, provide potatoes and other goods to defray its costs, and temporarily suspend the collection of tribute. Although it is unclear whether he eventually recovered his eyesight (some Pampeños say he did, while others disagree), the first fiesta in honor of the Virgin of Pampa was celebrated shortly thereafter. The Virgin’s 1879 apparition in Pampa is commemorated each year, drawing thousands of devotees from surrounding rural and urban communities (Figure 7.2).

The Devil The Devil has often been sought after to fulfill human needs and aspirations. Alliances with the Devil have been strategic attempts to redress social, economic, and gender inequities: In rural Latin America devil-pact stories constitute a significant, nearly ubiquitous matrix through which to view relations of power and exploitation and through which to express a variety of socially conditioned anxieties. . . . The “cultural form” of the devil allegory needs to be conceptually broadened to include prerogatives exercised by dominant groups that are not related only


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to economic exploitation, such as the coercion of sexual favors. For subaltern groups . . . the devil is a marvelous metaphor for the conjunction of class and sexual oppression. (Edelman 1994:60) The Devil was an important supernatural being in medieval Catholicism. Revealing himself through visions, hallucinations and revelations, he took on quite different forms, such as a dog, tiger, serpent, fly, worm, or dragon (Cervantes and Redden 2013). Seventeenth century Spanish campaigns against idolatry often focused on eradicating female ritual practices and religious organizations. The Catholic Church regarded idolatry campaigns as especially urgent, for clergy viewed female healers (curanderas) and diviners (adivinas) as practicing witchcraft and, therefore, in league with the Devil. This belief drew on a long tradition of European witch hunting that primarily targeted women. By the fifteenth century Church theologians were convinced that All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable. . . . Wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort with devils . . . it is sufficiently clear that it is no matter for wonder that there are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft. And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from so great a crime. (Silverblatt 1987:160) Too weak to control their sexuality, and easy prey to the temptations of the male Devil, Andean indigenous women were cast in the midst of a holy battle between Good and Evil, God and Satan. Small wonder, then, that Spanish clergy were horrified when they encountered indigenous women carrying out rituals and aided by a host of huacas. This confirmed their belief that indeed the Devil and witchcraft were everywhere – and “the Spanish found the devil under every rock and witches under every bed” (Silverblatt 1987:172). Assisted by the Devil, indigenous female ritualists were more likely to resist Spanish religious indoctrination and political control. Colonial inquisition records reveal a remarkable recasting of Spanish religious ideology, with women associating the Devil with the power of Spanish conquerors: The devil is a Spaniard and the devil is a Spanish saint, the saint associated with the conquest of indios . . . this apparition of the devil is related to the mountains, the home of the Apus and the god Thunder: the indigenous deities who, while responsible for the well-being and maintenance of Andean society, were also associated with conquest. (Silverblatt 1987:182) Not surprisingly, the male and powerful Devil loomed significantly in male–female gender relations and as an important ally of women. As early as the sixteenth century pacts with the Devil were important in Mexico; by the 18th century, they were an integral part of the magical domain of male/female relations. . . . [P]acts with the devil were more extreme than . . . folk remedies . . . looked at earlier for taming and

Religion and everyday life


tying husbands and straying lovers. Women called in the Devil, it seems, as a last resort, when male dominance and the double standard could no longer be reconciled with God and the saints and all the other consolations the Church had to offer. (Behar 1987:43–47) Devil narratives also point to gender and sexual oppression and morally appropriate behavior (Miles 1994). Devil pacts by disenfranchised peoples are not remnants of a superstitious pre-capitalist past, but a way of coping with and critiquing exploitative capitalist relations they view as “an evil and destructive way of ordering economic life” (Taussig 1980:17). Since the seventeenth century, the Devil has been a relentless presence in the lives of the contemporary Guaraní-speaking Toba peoples of northeastern Argentina, when reducciones, mission settlements, and, later, sugar plantations radically transformed their lifeways (Gordillo 2004). Prior to these events, a host of morally amorphous spirits (payák) – potential allies, would-be adversaries – peopled the Toba’s cosmological world. It was only after contact with Anglican missionaries when the Toba began viewing some of their payák as intrinsically evil beings – and when the diablo became part of their everyday lexicon and religious landscape. Drawn to sugar plantations as wage laborers, the Toba experienced disease, hunger, and high mortality. One Toba elder remarked that all the people of about my age were finished off at the San Martín plantation. That’s why you see that we’re very few now. For when we worked at the ingenio, when people returned, all the kids died. They died. Boys, girls, grownups too. (Gordillo 2004:125) Plantations were cradles of despair, terror, and death – and the diablos’ favorite abode. The moral equivalence between evil, diablos, and plantation life became solidly entrenched in Toba worldview. One of the most feared diablos was el Familiar (the relative), originally the name given in medieval Europe to a Devil that lived in the home of a witch. El Familiar resided in the plantation factory that processed sugarcane, and when he appeared, he often took the form of a white man wearing a black suit and tie. Yet diablos were not the only evil beings that the Toba feared. Hovering in nearby mountains were the KiyaGaikpí, or big eaters. These were a racially/ethnically mixed group: some were white, others black, still yet others were mulatto. Yet the Toba agreed that the KiyaGaikpí were cannibals and that they were wealthy. Consumers of human flesh and, presumably, fat, the KiyaGaikpí had much in common with the Andean kharisiris (Chapter 9).

The saints “Every society,” Bilinkoff writes, has its heroes, persons of extraordinary virtue and valor who are held up as models for admiration and emulation. Traditionally for Christians these have been saints, figures whose lives of service and sacrifice have rendered them


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worthy of veneration after their deaths, and efficacious as intercessors between individual believers and the divine. (2015:xiii) The Christian belief in saints – supernatural intermediaries between God and mortals – made sense to indigenous peoples and African slaves (discussed later in this chapter) who also worshipped a host of deities responsible for their well-being. St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus, “was the most popular female saint in sixteenthcentury Spain. She was widely hailed as the patron of the childless, women in childbirth, as well as a universal intercessor capable of intervening during outbreaks of the plague or threatening weather” (Villaseñor Black 2015:4). St. Anne quickly became extraordinarily popular in Mexico. Her powers to intercede on behalf of her worshippers were well known. One priest in early seventeenth century Mexico City claimed that St. Anne had cured 500 infertile women, while another suggested that her healing powers stemmed from the communion wafer, transubstantiated into Christ’s body as well as St. Anne’s. Mexican indigenous peoples also revered St. Anne, whom they juxtaposed with the Aztec deity Toci (Our Grandmother): In 1611 the Dominican friar Martín de León complained that native converts in Tlaxcala continued to worship Toci while feigning devotion to St. Anne. He explained that they came to the Church of Santa Ana to worship “a goddess they called Tocitzin, ‘Our Grandmother,’ and even today they say that they celebrate the fiesta of Toci, or that they’re going to Toci’s temple. . . .” Significantly, St. Anne assumes many of Toci’s guises in Mexico. Both figures are associated with maternality. Like the Aztec earth goddess, Anne is the patroness of midwives, of women in pregnancy and those in childbirth. . . . Toci is represented giving birth, bringing to mind the numerous representations of St. Anne in the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Significantly, the feast of Mary’s Nativity, celebrated September 8, overlaps with celebration of Toci’s feast in the eighth month of Ochpaniztli, which began on August 24 and lasted until September 13. (Villaseñor Black 2015:22–24) In the Portuguese colonies a similar logic took hold. Saint Anthony, credited with many miracles, was especially renown for promoting marriage matches, finding missing people, and recovering lost objects. He was quite popular in medieval Portugal, with more than 300 churches in Lisbon alone displaying his image by the eighteenth century. Portuguese and indigenous peoples alike competed for St. Anthony’s favors: the former were convinced of his powers to resolve everyday difficulties, including helping them track down runaway slaves, while in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Tupí and other indigenous and African peoples likened him with their exus, divine intermediaries. Both colonizers and colonized enlisted his support for their own purposes, and both celebrated his feast on June 13th (Vainfas 2015).

Welcoming the dead One of the most colorful displays of Popular Catholicism in the Andes, Mesoamerica, and Central America (that is, where large numbers of indigenous peoples survived the conquest) is the celebration of All Souls and All Saints Day between October 31st and

Religion and everyday life


November 1st. It is referred to as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Día de las Ánimas (All Souls Day), Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Deceased), or Todos Santos (All Saints Day). This is a ritual festivity with deep European medieval roots. By the eleventh century the Catholic Church required that masses be held on November 1st to pay homage to saints, and on November 2nd to honor the souls in Purgatory. Three centuries later – and in the aftermath of the Black Plague – All Saints Day and All Souls Day were liturgical feasts . . . ranked among the three or four most important occasions in the yearly ritual cycle of Western Christendom. . . . By the beginning of the sixteenth century . . . the combined celebration of All Saints and All Souls Day in Spain was commonly referred to as Todos Santos. (Nutini 1988:42–45) Between October 31st and November 1st the souls or life forces (ánimas) of the deceased return “home” to share time with family members, who greet them with ritual offerings (commonly called la ofrenda, the offering) for their brief stay. (For the distinction between souls [almas] and life forces [ánimas], see Chapter 9.) Todos Santos is about remembering the recently departed, renewing a ritual bond with the afterlife, narrowing the gulf between life and death, and juxtaposing the living and the dead. It is above all a period of liminality (a solemn time when ordinary, everyday expectations and behaviors are temporarily suspended and others undertaken), a time for reflecting on the meanings of life and death. The first set of ritual activities on October 31st and early November 1st centers on preparing for the arrival of, and sharing ritual space with, the ánimas; the second focuses on preparing for their November 2nd departure. In Pampa, Bolivia, Pampeños begin preparing for Todos Santos the morning of October 31st by assembling household altars. Since what they display and offer will determine if the ánimas feel welcome, Pampeños spend a great deal of time, care, pride, and joy into meticulously adorning their altars. They surround these with tree branches, often decorated with flowers or other ornaments, arcs that represent the gateways through which the ánimas enter and leave the mortal world (Figure 7.3). The altar typically consists of a table adorned with candles; flower petals; photographs or other memorabilia of the deceased; and icons of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and saints. What truly converts the table into an altar suited for greeting the ánimas are the foods and beverages that the deceased enjoyed in this world and that the ánimas too will delight in during their short visit. Any slight noise, piercing sound of wind, or startling movement of tree branches is a clear indication that the ánimas have arrived. Dwindling food and beverages on the altar is another sure sign that the ánimas are present. For example, if by the morning of November 1st food appears to have been chewed away then evidently the ánimas have enjoyed eating and not, as nonbelievers might think, that it was picked away by mice. The ánimas’ favorite dishes – and therefore the ceremonial foods placed on the altars – vary regionally. In Mexico, these foods may include tortillas, tamales, or mole (a spicy, chocolatebased sauce) and alcoholic beverages such as pulque (made from the agave cactus plant) or atole (a maize-based beverage). In Pampa the ánimas are typically offered tuber-based dishes and fermented maize beer (chicha, Spanish; aqa, Quechua). Elaborately carved, anthropomorphically shaped wheat-based breads, displayed only during Todos Santos, are one of the


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FIGURE 7.3  Todos Santos altar, Pampa, Bolivia Source: Harry Sanabria

most ubiquitous ceremonial offerings in Mesoamerica and the Andes. In Mexico these are called pan de muertos, bread of the dead. In Pampa these breads resemble babies and therefore are called t’anta wawas (bread babies, Quechua). The ánimas are also offered baked flour doughs called rosquillas in Mexico and rosquetas in Pampa. On November 2nd preparations begin for the ánimas’ departure. In preparing for their farewell – called in Mexico la despedida, and k’acharpaya in Pampa – family members visit the cemetery, wash gravesites, engage in ritual intoxication, and share a large meal. In Pampa an important ritual step involves moving the arc that previously surrounded the indoor altar and placing it on open ground that faces the cemetery: it is through this portal that the ánimas will embark on their return trip to the afterlife. The celebration of Todos Santos is a quintessential colonial reworking that was quickly and eagerly embraced by indigenous peoples. One sixteenth century report from Tlaxcala, Mexico, stated that “on the feast of All Souls in nearly all the Indian towns, many offering are made for the dead. Some offer corn, others blankets, others food, bread, chickens; and in place of wine, they offer chocolate” (Brandes 2006:27). Prior to the conquest, Andean and Mesoamerican peoples had their own mortuary rituals and offerings, including anthropomorphic foods, for the dead (Besom 2009; Palka 2014; Salomon 1995). Yet surely the eager acceptance of Todos Santos – a powerful European symbol of death – also had much to do with the massive mortality during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which may also explain the famous and ubiquitous displays of skulls (calaveras) and skeletons in Mexico (Figure 7.4).

Religion and everyday life


FIGURE 7.4  Calaveras, Days of the Dead, Guanajuato, Mexico Source: Tomas Castelazo CC BY-SA 3.0

Culturally entrenched patterns of taste and cravings emerge in specific political, economic, and historical contexts (Mintz 1985). This perspective is useful for understanding some of Todos Santos’ ritual offerings that probably have their origins in the challenges that Mesoamerican and Andean peoples faced after the conquest. For example, the ritual importance of bread – a European staple symbolically associated with life – can be traced to the episodes of mass death and starvation that came at the heels of the conquest. Brandes notes that in Mexico, and perhaps only in Mexico, does there exist an elaborate, widespread, and world-famous array of molded sugar and sweet breads on the Day of the Dead. . . . Mexico is also the only country in which sugar is the principal substance out of which Day of the Dead figurines are sculpted. (2006:33)

The African heritage During the colonial period millions of African slaves were forcibly transported to the New World, most arriving in the Caribbean and Brazil. Colonialism and slavery did not completely erase their heritage, for slaves and their descendants in plantations, haciendas, and urban centers forged new cultural and religious traditions drawn from African, European, and indigenous elements. African religious beliefs and practices varied a great deal, of course, as they reflected slaves’ diverse cultural backgrounds and geographic origins. But they also had much in common, which facilitated the emergence of a pan-African religious tradition that stresses the importance of communal worship; the cultivation and expectation of intense, pragmatic, physical communion with the representations of the forces


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of the universe (many deities or one supreme deity); the special role of drama, music, and dance in religious culture and expression; . . . rites of healing and purification; and the belief that natural forces can be manipulated by certain individuals to effect a variety of ends. (Harding 2000:22) Historical outcomes of the forced incorporation of West African peoples into wider fields of power and inequality spawned by European colonialism, candomblé, santería (also known as lucumí), and vodou are widely practiced in Brazil, Haiti, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The most important African influence was Yoruba  – not surprising, since Yoruba-speaking peoples formed the last bulk of slaves shipped to Brazil and the Caribbean (Capone 2010; Murrell 2010; Parés 2013). Although devotees of each tradition believe in supreme creator gods, such as candomblé’s Olórum, these are distant, almost inaccessible beings who have little to do with the struggles of daily life. For this reason they are not crucial in the everyday ritual practices of most Brazilians, Cubans, or Haitians. More important are deities who intercede between the distant creator gods and mortals (orishas in candomblé and santería; lwa in vodou). These religious systems rest on humans forging mutually beneficial relationships with the orishas and lwa through worship rituals and offerings. Each religious tradition has its ritual leaders and healers who communicate with the spirit world, such as the hougan in Haitian vodou, or the santo/santa in Cuban santería. Women have historically held important leadership positions: the Brazilian candomblé’s “mother” (mãe, Portuguese; iya, Yoruba) and the Cuban santeras have been far more prominent than their male counterparts. Religion and ritual are important arenas of public life where women can effectively assert themselves. Worship to orishas and lwas requires household altars strikingly similar to those of Todos Santos, along with ceremonies punctuated by chants, prayers, libations, dances, and the use of drums. These take place in sacred temples or houses of worship, as in the Brazilian terreiros or Cuban santería casas. Dance and music are important mediums through which devotees forge a communicative “bridge” with the spirits. In Haiti, Vodou is, first and foremost, a dance, a system of movements which bring people and lwa together in a progressive and mutual relationship of knowledge and growth. . . . It is through the movement of dance that the lwa are able to fully present to the congregation. The ritual orientation of the initiates, the rhythms of the drums, the songs . . . work together to create a kinesthetic medium for the lwa to manifest themselves in dance. (Murphy 1994:17, 27) Humans communicate and sustain relationships with their divine deities through different kinds of ritual offerings. In Cuban santería, there are at least nine types of offerings (ebbos): (1) food offerings made for the nourishment of talismans in which ashe is housed, (2) thanksgiving offerings to orishas for good fortune or a resolution to problems, (3) votive offerings enticing the kindness of a divinity, (4)

Religion and everyday life


propitiatory offerings to appease irate spirits, (5) animal sacrifices as substitution offerings (in place of human victim), (6) preventive offerings that ward off the evil eye, (7) initiatory offerings that also require blood for the orisha in an ordination, (8) offerings offered as groundbreaking rituals for a building, and (9) sanctification offerings that make holy profane items used in ceremonies. (Murrell 2010:127). Offering food is crucial. Orishas and lwa are anthropomorphic beings who have needs like ordinary mortals – they too get hungry, they too crave for delicacies. It is through food offered to them in candomblé rituals (comida de santo, saints’ food) that orishas and lwa “become alive” (Rodrigues de Souza 2015; see Chapter 8). And they require suitable offerings during certain days of the week. Candomblé’s Oxalá, son of Olórum, demands that his devotees sacrifice chickens and doves on Friday, his day to receive homage. The kinds of ritual offerings the spirits insist on are similar to what they enjoy in the mortal world. For example, Danbala, an important lwa, is likened to a snake and therefore insists on foods that appeal to snakes, such as eggs. Feisty, demanding – and hungry – Haitian lwa resent stingy followers. Consuming and sharing food is particularly meaningful in Haitian vodou, and this has to do with the grinding poverty that most Haitians, now and in the past, have faced. This is why the lwa comes to the service to eat. In a country where most people do not have enough to eat, the importance of sharing food cannot be overemphasized. The lwa are fed, and so the serviteurs are fed. The [followers] of the lwa benefit from the lwa’s appetites, and those attending may share in the feast. The lwa are brought into a community of shared food, and thus shared responsibility. Vodou is a society that feeds its serviteurs. (Murphy 1994:28) “Service” to the orishas or lwa is sparked by a “call” set off by a crisis with potentially catastrophic consequences. Like Popular Catholicism, candomblé, santería, and vodou are assemblages of instrumental beliefs and practices centered on the here and now, on the contingencies of everyday life. Believers attach little importance to abstract ideas such as heaven, hell, salvation, or purgatory, and their slave forbearers, for whom the struggle to survive was extraordinarily difficult, probably thought likewise. Dealing with the challenges of daily life – how to get a job, remain healthy, not lose significant relationships, avoid political persecution, and so forth – are the sorts of things one consults the orishas and lwa on. They are worshipped because as powerful beings who understand the human condition, orishas and lwa are able and willing – if their own needs and wishes are met with ritual offerings – to intercede on behalf their devotees. Brazilian candomblé, Voeks writes, is not a religion of celebrates . . . [it] is very much a religion of common folk. Its rank and file are dominated by washerwomen, domestics, street hawkers and rubbish collectors, denizens of the favelas (shantytowns) that represent the Afro-Brazilians’ heritage from slavery. (1997:67)


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And as Rey tells us about Haitian vodou: It is to the religious needs born of enslavement and poverty that the Vodou spirits respond. . . . Vodou is essentially not a religion of high-flung cosmology, but of practical assistance in getting by in this world as best one can. Yet this world is not entirely distinct from that of the spirits, which is precisely what allows the lwa to so routinely intervene in the lives of humans, fortifying them in the struggle to survive. (1999:203–204) The relevance of African deities in the slave context determined their fate. “The spiritual survivors,” Voeks tells us, “were those who empowered the captive population  – who employed their powers to further the cause of their believers, not their oppressors” (1997:55). Ogun, a Yoruba orisha of war representing strength and resistance was wholeheartedly embraced by Brazilian slaves. By contrast, Okó, a Yoruba god of agriculture, fared poorly. For slaves toiling the land in brutally exploitative conditions, devotion to Okó was tantamount to legitimizing their impoverishment and oppression. Popular Catholicism and its powerful beings such as saints and the Virgin Mary seemed strangely familiar and appealing to Africans trying to survive enslavement. The structural similarity between African and Christian deities was one reason why they were eventually identified with each other. In Brazil and the Caribbean the candomblé orisha Oxalá, identified with peace and love, was merged with Jesus Christ. Likewise, “Omolu, the feared Yoruba god of smallpox and contagious disease, became known in many parts of the neo-Yoruba landscape as Saint Lazarus, the disabled Catholic saint honored for his healing ability,” and in some contemporary candomblé rituals, the “white Virgin Mary passes without notice for the maternal African goddess Yemanjá” (Voeks 1997:60–61). In fact, candomblé rituals sometimes begin with Catholic prayers and invocations to saints and the Virgin Mary. Colonial authorities and plantation owners were always fearful that slaves’ attachment to seemingly diabolic practices of witchcraft and sorcery would forebear revolt. Consider, for instance, the following statement by a French traveler in Haiti just prior to the onset of 1781 mass rebellions: In order to quiet the alarms which this mysterious cult of Vandoux causes in the colony, the affect to dance it in public, to the sound of the drums and of rhythmic handclapping . . . nothing is more dangerous . . . than this cult of Vandoux. It can be made into a terrible weapon – this extravagant idea that the ministers of this alleged god know all and can do all. (Murphy 1994:11) It appears that he was on to something, for popular lore has it that the rebellions that led to Haiti’s independence erupted shortly after slaves sacrificed a wild boar to their African gods. Fear and ignorance of vodou has lingered on for centuries – and sometimes with dismal results. In 2010 an earthquake ravaged Haiti, killing over 250,000. As in other historical contexts marked by calamities, Haitians turned to religion to make sense of this seemingly arbitrary and uncalled-for catastrophic event that devastated an already wretchedly poor

Religion and everyday life


country. On US television, the Christian evangelist Pat Robertson claimed that disaster struck because, by professing faith in vodou, Haitians had “made a pact with the devil” and their nation was therefore “cursed” (Payton 2013:238). And The New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that one reason for the massive loss of life was because vodou was a “progress resistant” religious worldview (Hebblethwaite 2015). Both of course were wildly off track.

Religion and healing Religious and healing beliefs and practices overlap in many ways. This is because religious beliefs, especially in indigenous, non-Western societies, entail a broader view of the relationships between mortals and the supernatural, as well as a strong undercurrent of sociality. Concepts of good, evil, and the afterlife are made sense of during the exigencies of daily life, including grappling with illness.

Shamanism and ayahuasca Shamanism is a religious system in which intermediaries (shamans) control and channel supernatural powers by allowing their bodies to be possessed by spirits. Spirit possession is usually marked by feelings of ecstasy, uncontrollable behavior, trances, visions, and dreams. The trance experience is a temporary departure of the shaman’s soul, which embarks on a journey to the spirit world. Shamans play crucial roles as guardians of the social order and mediators of interpersonal conflicts. Above all, they are healers who diagnose and treat illness and misfortune and interpret the causes of death. Illness is often the result of a patient’s body overtaken by malignant spirits, who may also have stolen his soul or life-giving force – that is, the result of witchcraft. A partial loss of consciousness, fever, and disorientation are some of the common symptoms of soul loss. An altered state of consciousness is crucial for spirit possession and shamans’ ability to harness supernatural powers. This is why shamanistic healing practices almost always include the consumption of mind and body altering substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, or hallucinogens (Stutley 2003). In parts of Amazonia, the favorite mind altering substance in shamanistic healing is ayahuasca (otherwise known as yagé), a vine that when boiled and fermented yields a thick brew, also called ayahuasca, with powerful hallucinogenic properties. In Spanish-speaking regions, shamans who use ayahuasca in their healing rituals are called ayahuasqueros, and in Iquitos, Peru, ayahuasca is referred to as “the medicine” (la medicina). Patients do not seek out ayahuasqueros to treat a condition that is clearly the result of natural causes. Most people believe that serious illness is due to witchcraft – the malignant use of supernatural powers – which in turn arises because of envy, jealousy, revenge, grudges, and unresolved quarrels. In other words, serious illness signals disruptions in the social world, and ayahuasqueros are called in to identify and resolve (cure) its underlying social causes. Why illness or misfortune occurs is far more important than how it happens (Chapter 9). A healing ceremony often involves the use of aromatic plants; tobacco; flower scented water (agua de Florida); cane alcohol (aguardiente, Spanish; aguardente, or cachaça in Brazilian Portuguese); and other substances to cleanse the body and provide additional protection


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against malicious spirits. Healers (curanderos) sometimes use magical stones (encantos) that absorb malicious spirits (genios). At times, these ceremonial objects are placed on an altar (mesa, table). Blowing healing energy (soplos, sopladas) onto the patient’s body or sucking away evil spirits (chupada) are also part of the healing ceremony (Fotiou 2012). Ayahuasca is not only important in religion but also in politics. In Brazil’s Amazonian state of Acre, religious groups that Labate calls “Ayahuasca Religions” are negotiating with state and federal agencies hoping to have ayahuasca legalized and declared part of Brazil’s cultural heritage (2012). These multiethnic groups, seeking recognition as “traditional Amazonian religious movements,” have forged important alliances with important political figures, including governors, senators, and mayors. Some groups, as Santo Daime, legitimize their use of ayahuasca by claiming that it is part of local tradition and an important bulwark of their regional identity. They see themselves as “true” Acreans who are “resisting and reacting to invasion and exploitation by colonists, ranchers, rubber bosses, and speculators from the richer, southern Brazilian states” (Labate 2012:92–96). In these religious movements, ayahuasca is also a venue for reinterpreting Christian theology and culturally coping with marginality. For example, Santo Daime was founded in the 1920s by Raimundo Irineu Serra, a poor, dispossessed Afro-Brazilian rubber trapper who, along with many others, lost his livelihood after the collapse of the rubber industry. One day after drinking ayahuasca Serra had a vision in which he encountered a blond, blue-eyed Queen of the Forest dressed in blue. The Queen of the Forest revealed herself to be the Virgin of the Conception and she called ayahuasca “Santo Daime”, literally “Saint Give Me”, as in “Give me strength, give me love, give me light”. In Serra’s visions, the Virgin revealed that Santo Daime was the living Christ incarnate and she gave Serra a collection of hymns that grafted together Christian theology with an Amazonian botanical sensibility. In addition, the Queen of the Forest entrusted Mestre Irineu with the mission to replant the Doctrine of Jesus Christ on Earth. (Madera 2009:85) In other Daime accounts, after Jesus Christ died, his spirit travelled deep into the Amazon forest where, during the European conquest and decimation of Amazonian societies, it hibernated in sacred plants, such as ayahuasca. Some Daime followers believe that Serra was the reincarnation of Jesus. This legend “of the hibernating Christ may have been one of the many aspects of Santo Daime that resonated with the rubber-tappers of Acre and their own particular brutal histories of abuse and disenfranchisement” (Madera 2009:86). Other myths explain how God himself, sympathetic to the plight of Amazonian peoples, created ayahuasca and instilled in it its sacred qualities: With His left hand God plucked a hair from the crown of His head. With His left hand He planted that hair in the rain forest for the Indians only. With His left hand He blessed it. Then the Indians – not God – discovered and realized its miraculous properties and developed the yagé rites. Seeing this, God was incredulous, saying that the Indians were lying. He asked for some yagé brew, and on drinking began to tremble, vomit, weep, and shit. In the morning he

Religion and everyday life


declared that “it is true what these Indians say. The person who takes this suffers. But that person is distinguished. That is how one learns, through suffering.” (Taussig 1987:467)

Competing for healing power In Haiti, Catholicism, vodou, and Protestantism compete for “healing power” (Brodwin 1996). Haitians distinguish between two types of illnesses. The first are those that are effectively treated by doctors in clinics or hospitals; the second are potentially life-threatening aliments “sent” by Satan, that is, other (evil) humans. AIDS is one of these sent illnesses (Chapter 9). The root cause of a Satanic illness (maladi Satan) is social, such as envy, jealousy, a breach of social obligations, or a desire for retribution, and religious healing rituals are primarily intended to cure maladi Satan. Practitioners from each religious tradition claim to have their own distinctively effective healing rituals to rid patients of maladi Satan or deflect malicious sickness attacks. Yet given the grafting of religious systems, most Haitians do not neatly differentiate between Catholic, vodou, and Protestant healing practices – and easily move between them. A Catholic healer, for example, may publicly denounce the lwa as evil beings and seek assistance from saints and angels during his healing session, but for poor Haitians, these are all supernatural beings that can be called upon for assistance. Protestants too believe in and condemn the lwa as evil beings and are convinced that the only effective cure is conversion to Protestantism (see the next section). Since most Haitians believe in vodou, they first seek help from a hougan, whose first task is to identify the cause (i.e., the person) responsible for maladi Satan. The hougan does so by seeking the lwas’ assistance but also relying on Catholic prayer books. In fact, the hougan . . . do not fit the stereotype of an evil, satanic figure, implacably opposed to Christian morality and actively subverting the lives of upstanding Catholic villagers. To the contrary, their practice is overflowing with Christian imagery, Latin prayers, and references to the beneficent power of God.  .  .  . Most hougan . . . draw deeply from the Catholic symbolic and cosmological system. They incorporate its images and vocabulary in their divination practice, and they understand maladi Satan – the disorder they are typically called upon to heal – in ways familiar to any Catholic herbalist. . . . The icons of saints staring down from the walls, the books of devotional prayers which the spirit interprets, and the ritual actions of crossing oneself and reciting Latin prayers all surround the standard divination procedures with elements of village Catholicism familiar to most rural Haitians. (Brodwin 1996:141)

Divine healing Over the past decades Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity have emerged as global phenomena, comprising one-fourth to two-thirds of the world’s two billion Christians (Brown 2011). What critically distinguishes Pentecostals from most other Christians is their belief


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in, and the emphasis they place on, the practice of divine healing. Also known as cura divina, this is a ritual curing of a physical malady through direct or indirect intervention of one of the three persons of the Trinity. Jesus, owing to his evangelical role as a thaumaturge, and the Holy Spirit, charged with miraculous power, are the principal healers in pentecostalism. God the Father is a powerful but less tangible figure. As the biblical Jesus bestowed the gift of healing on his disciples, who cured the sick in his name, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, operating in pentecostal churches, typically use believers, both clergy and laity, as human conductors to restore the health of the infirm. (Chesnut 2011:176) Ultimately the result of God’s love, divine healing is much more than a recovery from physical or emotional afflictions. “For many practitioners,” Brown tells us, divine healing . . . [is] one of many divine gifts included in “full salvation,” alongside forgiveness from sin, deliverance from demonic oppression, and baptism with the Holy Spirit; healing is understood holistically as one component of the kingdom of God, which also includes prosperity, abundance, wholeness, and reconciled relationships with the human and spiritual worlds. (2011:5) At one Brazilian worship house, a flyer was handed out asking those present “What is your problem? Vices, finances, unemployment, illness, nervousness, depression, or family fights?” . . . Pentecostals presume that potential converts want a salvation that is . . . material and spiritual, addressing their practical, day-to-day needs, as well as promising a carefree afterlife. (Chesnut 2011:173) For some Brazilians afflicted by out-of-the-ordinary maladies, such as susto or evil eye (Chapter 9), the goal of divine healing is to exorcize the body of the Catholic Devil or candomblé evil sprits (exús). In emphasizing the decisive role of supernatural deities in the pursuit of well-being, considering illness as the result of evil powers (such as the Devil), and stressing that healing also includes grappling with practical, everyday needs, Pentecostalism shares a great deal in common with Popular Catholicism and Afro-Latin religious traditions. Many poor Brazilians in Belém turn to divine healing when they face a health crisis. Their first step to cope with ill-health is to avail themselves of herbal remedies or perhaps visit an herbal specialist. If that proves unsuccessful, they seek treatment at a local pharmacy or clinic. If their condition continues to worsen, they then opt for supernatural assistance. Sometimes praying to Catholic saints or ritual offerings to candomblé spirits are also unsuccessful, and at this critical juncture, Belenenses opt for divine healing. This is often a public ceremony that mimics a hospital and surgical operating room: In some churches, divine healing so dominates the liturgy that the sanctuary resembles a hospital. The stern obreiras (ushers) who patrol the pews . . . wear


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celestial blue or off-white nurse’s uniforms. As spiritual nurses, the obreiras perform triage on the patients in the pews. An obreira attends to the mildly afflicted with a vice-grip maneuver in which her hands, positioned at the front and back of the patient’s head, force out the demon(s). Those tormented by stronger fiends are sent, sometimes dragged, to the altar where the spiritual medic, the pastor, operates. Dramatizing his role as healer, the head pastor . . . [is] dressed in a bleached doctor’s smock. The crude wooden canes and crutches adorning the back wall of the small foyer add to the medical imagery. Finally, the bare white walls and the harsh electric light recall the aseptic corridors of a hospital. Visitor and believer alike have entered a spiritual emergency ward. (Chesnut 2011:176–177)

The Protestant tide For 500 years LAC was a solid bastion of Catholicism in its different forms. Yet over the past decades millions have shunned Catholicism, rapidly heading “to the altars of [Protestant] conversion” in ever-growing numbers (Christian and Gent, et al. 2015:154). Protestants now make up between 20% and 40% of the total population in at least eight countries (Table 7.1). Mainstream denominations (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists) as well as smaller ones (e.g., Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses Latter-day Saints [Mormons]) have made gains in their conversion quests. But the biggest “winner” has been Pentecostalism, itself comprised of a wide panoply of national, regional, and TABLE 7.1  Percentage of Protestants and Catholics, select countries, 2008

Country El Salvador Nicaragua Guatemala Honduras Brazil Costa Rica Chile Dominican Republic Panama Bolivia Peru Uruguay Colombia Ecuador Paraguay Argentina Mexico Venezuela Source: Stark and Smith (2012:41)



38 37 36 36 24 24 20 20 18 17 16 12 11 11 9 9 9 5

61 61 61 62 71 74 74 69 80 81 82 64 88 87 89 85 86 91


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local congregations. In Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, and El Salvador, for example, 60% to 80% of Protestants are Pentecostal (Christian and Gent, et al. 2015; Gooren 2010). With more than 500 million believers worldwide, Pentecostal denominations share three basic attributes: [First], an emphasis on the achievement of a personalized and self-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ (being “born-again,” an experience that Pentecostals share with many among their Evangelical cousins); second, ritual performance that highlights the ever-present power of the Holy Spirit (“baptism in the Holy Spirit,” a practice given far greater emphasis in Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity than in most other modern varieties of Christianity); and, third, religious enthusiasm centered on the experience of charismata (“gifts of the Holy Spirit”), including prophecy, exorcism, miraculous healing, and speaking in tongues (glossolalia). Put simply, Pentecostalism is an affectively expressive, effervescent Christianity that takes literally the wondrous miracles described in the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles . . . and proclaims their availability and importance for believers today. (Hefner 2013:2) There are several reasons for this continental-wide conversion, or “The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity” (Hartch 2014). One is the sheer commitment to and zeal of missionary work, including the deployment of large numbers of missionaries in every corner of LAC. Also, Protestant, but especially Pentecostalism’s emphasis on faith/divine healing, including miraculous apparitions, echoes many features of Popular Catholicism and Afro-Latin religious traditions. Indeed, divine healing “is the single most important category for understanding the growth of Pentecostalism around the world” (Cartledge 2017:177), and in some Brazilian churches, even exorcism is part of divine healing rituals (Levine 2009). Direct contact with the supernatural, unmediated by Church officials, is yet another reason why Protestantism appeals to so many. This “do-it-yourself theological orientation” (Christian and Gent, et al. 2015:147) provides worshippers with a powerful feeling of personal and collective fulfillment and empowerment. It also overlaps with the key principle of Popular Catholicism and Afro-Latin religious traditions that devotees can and should forge direct personal relationships with supernatural deities. Collective hymns, chants, dancing, trance-like states, and emotional outbursts are also important as these generate a communal sense of camaraderie and catharsis. Not alone in seeking salvation in this world and the afterlife, converts are now members of a moral and spiritual collective body, a communitas (Turner 1969). Further, in Protestant theology, salvation is not only possible, it is much more than a spiritual goal, for it also carries with it deliverance from the hardships of everyday life. “Prosperity gospels” abound in Pentecostal groups, delivering “health and wealth messages” that are especially alluring to the disenfranchised (Gooren 2010). Protestantism also challenges gender inequities, rallying against the culture of machismo. Drinking, gambling, extramarital relationships, and domestic violence are condemned and viewed as standing in the way of salvation (Gooren 2010). This gender-inflected

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message has had great appeal among women. In Pedrano, a Mexican Maya community, conversion to Protestantism has been spearheaded by women reacting against domestic violence and their spouses’ alcoholism. Protestants’ zero-tolerance of alcohol drinking resonates well with these Maya women and their quest for equitable gender relations (Eber 2000). Protestants have also succeeded in their conversion quest because of the cultural content of their messages and deeds. Levine recalls observing in 1968 an evangelical street preacher in a Guatemalan town who was preaching the Gospel in Kalchiquel, the language of the region. Holding a Bible in his hands, he illustrated his sermon by pointing to a hand-painted canvas that depicted heaven, hell, the judgement of the nations, the temptations of this world, and the ways of the righteous and of the sinner. . . . The religious experience was new, as was the leadership; ordinary, often non-white, and barely lettered men using a popular language, who recall the circuit-riding preachers of nineteenth-century North America. (2009:122) In Ecuador, Protestant missionaries have provided religious services and educational programs in, and have translated the Bible into, Quichua, the local Quechua dialect. One response they received from Quichua-speakers reading the Bible in their own language was that “This is our language, God is speaking to us. God actually loves the Indian as well as the Spanish” (Muratorio 1981:515). This emphasis on the intrinsic worth of villagers and their culture, in a context in which Quichua-speakers have historically been identified by white elites as “dirty,” “brutish,” and “ignorant,” has led to a renewed sense of self-pride as “Indians.” This ethnic empowerment has much to do with the speed with which the Protestantism was embraced: a mere decade after Muratorio’s research in Colta, the “Catholic Church . . . [had] in effect disappeared completely” (Gros 1999:184). “Speaking in tongues,” known as glossolalia, is a discernable indication of the divine intervention or presence of the Holy Spirit. Like spirit possession, this too is a cultural medium that many LAC peoples can relate to. Speaking in tongues refers to the utterance of sounds or syntactically incorrect sentences that are virtually unintelligible and, yet, prophetic. In Chile, Lindhardt explains, Glossolalia and prophesy are the types of ritualized speech where divine presence and inspiration is most salient. As prophecies are seen as a direct message from God, they must be given spontaneously as a result of sudden divine inspiration rather than human planning. And the perception of the autonomy of spoken words is reinforced, as persons who are prophesying often seem to be in a state of trance, as if they were not being themselves. After having prophesied, they may not even remember what they said. Glossolalia . . . is seen as a direct communication with the Holy Spirit. People speaking in tongues usually have full awareness, and while they are able to stop if they wish, they cannot control what comes out of their mouth. . . . As the uttered sounds have no semantic (human) meaning, language appears as an autonomous non-human force. (2014:141–142)


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Catholic Pentecostalism Also known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement, Catholic Pentecostalism is both a response to and, as its name suggests, shares a great deal in common with Pentecostalism: Often described as Catholic Pentecostalism, CCR involves intense prayer meetings that often include “speaking in tongues.” And just as Protestant evangelists often fill Latin American soccer stadiums for revival meetings, CCR also fills these same arenas. In 1999, an album of samba-inspired religious music by CCR television star Father Marcelo Rossi outsold all other CDs in Brazil. . . . Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the CCR is it is generally a lay movement. . . . Indeed, were it not for the centrality of the Virgin Mary, it would be difficult to distinguish the CCR from Protestant Pentecostal groups. Both groups experience baptism in the Holy Spirit, both engage in glossolalia, both are deeply committed to faith healing, and both groups originated in the United States – Protestant Pentecostalism in Los Angeles in 1906, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 1967. (Stark and Smith 2012:43) A reinvigoration of formal Catholicism, CCR is a direct response to the Pentecostal tide. In 2000 there were more Charismatic Catholics in LAC (75 million) than Pentecostals (66 million). While the first CCR prayer groups were greeted with deep suspicion, by the late 1980s most Catholic bishops had endorsed CCR, viewing it as a popular alternative to Pentecostalism. And popular it is. In São Paulo, Brazil, the first CCR megachurch, built in 1994, housed 30,000 worshippers. Seven years later it was replaced by a much larger church, attended weekly by 190,000 participants. A description of a prayer meeting in downtown São Paulo provides us with a glimpse of the tone of these prayer meetings: As night falls, the largest Catholic church in downtown Sao Paulo is filled with raucous ‘hallelujahs’ and the beat of drums and electric keyboards. Hundreds of worshippers . . . raise their hands and shout ‘Amen’ as if at a Baptist revival. . . . Services are animated, marked by catchy music, faith healing, and speaking in tongues. (Hartch 2014:113)

Guatemala’s religious turn Catholic Charismatics, Protestantism, official Catholicism, and Maya indigenous revivalist movements are locked in a struggle for the hearts and minds of the Guatemalan people (Althoff 2014). As many as 60% of Guatemalans identify with the Pentecostal-inspired Catholic Charismatic Renewal, or with some Protestant denomination, mainly Pentecostal. Charismatic Catholicism has an active presence in over half of the Catholic Church’s parishes and is especially appealing to rural, non-indigenous peasants as well as Maya. The

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overlap with Maya religious and healing beliefs partly explains the success of Charismatic Catholicism, for in both, sickness can be caused by a biological failure of physical functions of the body, or it may result from curses and witchcraft. It is precisely this last interpretation, the location of disease in the spiritual world, which corresponds with popular beliefs. Charismatics, like adherents of traditional Mayan spirituality and popular religion, tend to view any sort of affliction, not just sickness or disease, as a result of malevolent impact and interventions. Furthermore, these religious perspectives have the same causative understanding of the origin of diseases, namely, that conduct (sin) is responsible, whether that of the affected person, of ancestors, or the sin of someone else. Finally, the techniques and healing procedures, in particular the use of prayers, are remarkably similar. A Mayan ceremony, for instance, always contains the element of prayer. In sum, both the understanding of what causes afflictions and the religious tools to effectively draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and to communicate with God or transcendental powers signal key similarities between popular religion and movements such as the Charismatic Renewal as well as Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal types of Christianity. (Althoff 2014:142) Protestantism, and especially Pentecostal denominations (sometimes referred to by the umbrella term Evangelical), appeal to many Guatemalans, regardless of Guatemala’s ethnic and class divide, for Protestants are equally represented among ladinos and Maya. This interest is in spite of the fact that some Protestant denominations denounce Maya spiritual beliefs and ceremonies as intrinsically evil and the work of Satan. Public rhetoric and doctrine aside, religious boundaries for Maya are fluid, especially in everyday practice: When I asked a Mayan indigenous Pentecostal about Mayan spirituality, he categorically rejected these practices. However, when I asked him if it is possible to protect a child against the evil eye with a necklace of pepper – a method that is common in that area – he agreed that it is possible and added that this is a type of medicine. This indicates that people have a very practice-oriented view of faith, which can be summed up by the motto “whatever works best.” Furthermore, this practice-oriented view is obviously not in contradiction to their Christian belief system. In this case, a pepper necklace is not associated with superstition but with medicine. . . . From the official theological and doctrinal view of Pentecostalism, the pepper necklace is certainly an evil practice, because a pagan superstitious act trumps the power of God through prayer. From the ordinary believer’s perspective, however, evil forces that can cause sickness and suffering surround us, and consequently we should protect ourselves not simply by prayer but by practical methods. . . . [Official] Pentecostal discourse can be a total attack on pagan practices, yet in another context people continue with their traditional customs and obviously do not see a contradiction between the two. (Althoff 2014:260–261)


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Finally, some Protestant denominations, in Guatemala and elsewhere, are currently locked in “spiritual warfare” in which the veneration of saints and the Virgin Mary, for example, are viewed as diabolic practices – in many ways not unlike the campaigns against idolatry during the early colonial period. In this Biblical struggle between good and evil, God and satanic forces, it is demonic evil and sin that explains poverty, everyday violence, ill-health, and a host of other maladies. Sometimes evil and the Devil are literal embodiments of ancestors still worshipped by many Maya as when one preacher believes that We have to reject all our ancestors that have harmed us. . . . But when we break with these ancestors that we have in our families, not only with the Mayans, also with the Incas, the Aztecs, and whoosh, all this stuff that they have done against the will of God, then we will be blessed. (Althoff 2014:300) One way of coping with these dilemmas is often through prayers that resemble exorcistlike practices in which demonic forces are expelled from individual and social bodies. And, yet, this religious ideology and practice is no stranger to a region and people long accustomed to the role of the Devil and demons in everyday life.

Evangelical Venezuela Working-class men and women in the shantytowns of Caracas, Venezuela, face pressing problems on a daily basis – rampant violence, crime, alcoholism, drug use, marital conflicts, unemployment, and poverty, among others. Many turn to Evangelical Protestantism to make sense of and overcome their misfortunes, regain hope, and reclaim control over their sometimes shattered lives. The personal empowerment that Evangelical Protestantism augurs is indeed a powerful “reason to believe” (Smilde 2007). In their fiery sermons, preachers blame life’s difficulties squarely on evil forces, such as the Devil. They therefore deflect personal feelings of guilt and perhaps inadequacy, shift attention away from the political-economic underpinnings of societal malaise, and promise an unwavering ally to help them through life’s difficulties. A sermon in a public plaza in downtown Caracas is instructive: Do you know why there is peace in this plaza? Because when his people are praising him, God is present. He promised in his Word that he would be present when his people praised him. When the People of God praise him what happens? Wonderful things happen! [responded the Evangelicals in the audience.] I’ve realized that in . . . the root of the problem is the family because what did Satan come for? To steal and destroy. Steal what? Your peace. Destroy what? The family itself – Glory to God’s name. Lord, he who has problems in his home, perhaps he has an idol [in his house], or he has a God that has not been able to do anything for him . . . your Word says you never return empty handed. Do you want to continue serving the Gods that have ruined our nation; that have ruined our country? I was victim of a divorce. When I was thinking . . . of this . . . the Lord told me “testify to them about where I rescued you from.” What’s behind all this? I’m going to tell you who is behind all of this [divorce]:

Religion and everyday life


Satan! The Devil that came to kill, steal, and destroy. But my Christ came to undo the work of the Devil. [Shouts of “Alleluia!”] This God has changed many lives. . . . I used to be an alcoholic. I used to consume drugs. But now I don’t do it anymore. We discovered – Glory to the name of Jesus – that we were victimizing ourselves, that we victimized ourselves and our families. . . . But now we realized that Christ is the only escape route. (Smilde 2007:106–109) The root cause of personal and societal problems is cast in supernatural terms, as when one of Smilde’s interviewees told him that It’s the Enemy. If you offer him a space, the Devil will come on in. He grabs a man’s jugular and destroys him. . . . The Devil himself puts all that in your messed-up head so that you’re blinded. And that’s where his demons take over. (Smilde 2007:62) But what if one’s life does not improve after converting to Evangelism, or if one encounters a non-Evangelical whose life has improved? Does this mean that converts begin to doubt the power of faith and conversion? Hardly, for one’s lack of success, or the success of others, is all part of God’s design to test his believers.

In the United States: celebrating the Day of the Dead Together with Cinco de Mayo (Chapter 4), the celebration of the Day of the Dead is one of the better-known LAC popular festivities in the US. Also like Cinco de Mayo, the Day of the Dead is mistakenly believed by many in the US to be a uniquely Mexican tradition. One reason for its popularity is the growing Latino presence in the US (Chapter 1). Largely devoid today of its original religious underpinnings, the Day of the Dead is a public, secular, and cultural event that, held in community centers, museums, and schools, as well as through lectures, films, children’s books, and dance, is a venue for Latinos to reassert their cultural identity, sustain ethnic solidarity, and demonstrate their political presence (Figure 7.5). Tourism, the mass media, movies, commercial ties, art exhibitions, and other cultural venues have transformed the Day of the Dead into one expression of Mexican national identity (Marchi 2009). Although widely celebrated by Latinos of diverse backgrounds, the Day of the Dead in the US is especially associated with Mexican and Mexican-American heritage, particularly in Texas, some of the southwestern states, and California. Some of the earliest documented accounts of its celebration (at that time called Todos Santos) in southern Texas date to the late 1800s when Mexican-American families in small border communities visited cemeteries to clean and decorate gravesites. These were private ceremonies that did not include now-distinctive practices such as pan de muertos or sugar skulls. Elsewhere, especially in urban areas, visits to cemeteries were uncommon. It is in California during the 1960s and 1970s – in the midst of the civil rights movement and labor organizing by Mexican and Mexican-American farmworkers – when Todos Santos was transformed by


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FIGURE 7.5  Celebrating the Day of the Dead, Escuelita Arcoiris, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Source: Harry Sanabria

activists into a public Day of the Dead celebration as a way of proclaiming cultural and ethnic affirmation. As Marchi writes, Rejecting assimilationist theories that claimed ethnic minorities could become real Americans only through accommodating themselves to Anglo norms, Chicanos adopted Day of the Dead as a way to challenge conventional ideas of what it meant to be an American. Given that Mexican Americans had long been marginalized by mainstream U.S. society, Day of the Dead celebrations were “a momentous statement of cultural affirmation.”  .  .  . At the forefront of the movement were Chicano artists who were responding to the political, economic, and social oppression of Mexican Americans through the medium of arte contestatario – art designed to challenge mainstream racist tropes about Latinos. . . . For a marginalized community unaccustomed to seeing positive images of itself in the public sphere, the significance of publicly honoring collective experiences and cultural traditions cannot be overstated. . . . Through public rituals that transmitted narratives of cultural pride, Day of the Dead in the United States became a forum for expressing a community’s collective experience and memory of itself. This was a space to promote and validate unofficial histories or “hidden transcripts” . . . regarding Latino contributions to U.S. society that were long ignored by the mainstream. (2009:37–44)


Religion and everyday life

Activists in Los Angeles and San Francisco were at the forefront of this movement of cultural validation by sponsoring in 1972 the first public celebration of Day of the Dead in both cities. In San Francisco’s overwhelmingly Latino Mission District, a nocturnal Day of the Dead procession dating to 1981 has burgeoned into an exuberant annual manifestation of thousands. It includes Aztec blessing rituals and danza groups, colorful banners, streetside ofrendas, sidewalk chalk art, giant calavera puppets, portable sculptures, Cuban Santería practitioners, candlelight ceremonies, and a Jamaican steel-drum band on wheels. Over the years, individuals walking in honor of deceased family members and friends have been joined by contingents walking to draw public attention to various sociopolitical causes of death, such as US military interventions abroad, gun violence, and AIDS. Each year, the procession has an official theme, honoring a particular group or cause . . . the procession today attracts an estimated twenty thousand participants, spanning all ages, races, and ethnicities – making it the largest Day of the Dead procession in the United States. (Marchi 2009:48)

Concluding thoughts In this chapter I surveyed different expressions of religion. Popular Catholicism emerged from the interplay between of European and indigenous religious systems and has always overlapped with African-derived religious beliefs and practices. All three religious systems are highly adaptable, pragmatic mediums through which LAC peoples convey their aspirations and cope with the contingencies of everyday life. The recent and mass spread of Protestantism does not represent a radical departure in worldviews, intersecting and paralleling the down-to-earth outlook that LAC peoples have imbued Popular Catholicism with for 500 years. This down-to-earth approach to the supernatural and the afterlife is also important in food and cuisine, themes that I turn to in the next chapter.

FILMS/VIDEOS Alabbá. 2013. Icarus Films. An exploration of the world of Cuban santería. Awake Zion. 2005. Cinema Guild. An exploration of the links between reggae culture and Judaism. Calavera: Day of the Dead. 1998. Kanopy Streaming. Documentary on Day of the Dead altars. Canícula. 2012. Cinema Guild. Emphasizes the ritual traditions of the Totonac people of Veracruz, Mexico. The Condor God. 1992. Kanopy Streaming. Documentary of the famous Peruvian Fiesta of the Apu Condor. Days of the Dead: A Living Tradition. 2005. Films Media Group. Historical overview of the Day of the Dead festival.

Fiesta. 1995. Films Media Group. Highlights major activities leading up to and after the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth. 2011. Bull Frog Films. Emphasizes how “Six young Maya present a wholly indigenous perspective, in which all life is sacred and connected, as they resist the destruction of their culture and environment.” Legacy of the Spirits. 1985. Kanopy Streaming. Traces the practice of vodou from Africa to Haiti to New York City. Mexico: Our Lady of Guadalupe. 2004. Films Media Group. Historical overview of the Virgin’s apparition to Juan Diego.


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Michoacán Fiesta. 2015. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on religious celebrations of the indigenous Purepecha people. The Night of San Lázaro. 1998. Icarus Films. Explores the Cuban religious celebrations in honor of Saint Lazarus. Our Lady of Guadalupe. 2011. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on a pilgrimage to Mexico City in honor of the Lady of Guadalupe.

Religion in Mesoamerica. 2006. Cinema Guild. Surveys Mesoamerican religious history and rituals. The Shaman & Ayahuasca. 2011. Michael Wiese Productions. Examines the use of the hallucinogenic ayahuasca in shamanistic rituals. The Trees Have a Mother: Amazonian Cosmologies, Folktales, and Mystery. 2008. Kanopy Streaming. Shows how Amazonian groups in Iquitos, Peru, view their natural surroundings in mythical ways.

WEBSITES Pew Research Center. Religion in Latin America. www. University of Texas. Religion & Theology in Latin America.

Wabash Center. Internet Guide to Religion. www. headings.aspx

REFERENCES Althoff, Andrea. 2014. Divided by Faith and Ethnicity: Religious Pluralism and the Problem of Race in Guatemala. Berlin: De Gruyter. Beatty, Andrew. 2006. The Pope in Mexico: Syncretism in Public Ritual. American Anthropologist 108(2):324–335. Behar, Ruth. 1987. Sex and Sin, Witchcraft and the Devil in Late-Colonial Mexico. American Ethnologist 14(1):34–54. Besom, Thomas. 2009. Of Summits and Sacrifice: An Ethnohistoric Study of Inka Religious Practices. Austin: University of Texas Press. Bilinkoff, Jodi. 2015. Introduction. In Colonial Saints: Discovering the Holy in the Americas. Greer, Allan and Bilinkoff, Jodi, eds. Pp. xiii– xxii. New York: Routledge. Brading, David A. 2001. Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries. New York: Cambridge University Press. Brandes, Stanley H. 2006. Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead: The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Brodwin, Paul. 1996. Medicine and Morality in Haiti: The Contest for Healing Power. New York: Cambridge University Press. Brown, Candy G. 2011. Introduction: Pentecostalism and the Globalization of Illness and Healing.

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Production, Imagery, and Functions of Colonial Yucatec Maya Idols and Effigy Censers, 1540–1700. In Maya Worldviews at Conquest. Cecil, Leslie G. and Pugh, Timothy W., eds. Pp. 135–158. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. Eber, Christine. 2000. Women and Alcohol in a Highland Maya Town: Water of Hope, Water of Sorrow. Austin: University of Texas Press. Edelman, Marc. 1994. Landlords and the Devil: Class, Ethnic, and Gender Dimensions of Central American Peasant Narratives. Cultural Anthropology 9(1):58–93. Fotiou, Evgenia. 2012. Working with ‘La Medicina’: Elements of Healing in Contemporary Ayahuasca Rituals. Anthropology of Consciousness 23(1):6–27. Gooren, Henri. 2010. The Pentecostalization of Religion and Society in Latin America. Exchange 39(4):355–376. Gordillo, Gastón. 2004. Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Gros, Christian. 1999. Evangelical Protestantism and Indigenous Populations. Bulletin of Latin American Research 18(2):175–197. Gutiérrez, Ramón A. 1991. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Hall, Linda B. and Eckmann, Teresa. 2004. Mary, Mother and Warrior: The Virgin in Spain and the Americas. Austin: University of Texas Press. Harding, Rachel E. 2000. A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Hartch, Todd. 2014. The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press. Hebblethwaite, Benjamin. 2015. The Scapegoating of Haitian Vodou Religion: David Brooks’s (2010) Claim that ‘Voodoo’ Is a ‘ProgressResistant’ Cultural Influence. Journal of Black Studies 46(1):3–22. Hefner, Robert W. 2013. The Unexpected Modern – Gender, Piety, and Politics in the Global Pentecostal Surge. In Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century. Hefner, Robert W., ed. Pp. 1–36. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

215 Herskovits, Melville J. 1937. African Gods and Catholic Saints in New World Negro Belief. American Anthropologist 39(4):635–643. Krögel, Alison. 2012. Food, Power, and Resistance in the Andes: Exploring Quechua Verbal and Visual Narratives. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Labate, Beatriz C. 2012. Ayahuasca Religions in Acre: Cultural Heritage in the Brazilian Borderlands. Anthropology of Consciousness 23(1):87–102. Langer, Erick D. 1985. Labor Strikes and Reciprocity on Chuquisaca Haciendas. Hispanic American Historical Review 65(2):255–277. Levine, Daniel H. 2009. The Future of Christianity in Latin America. Journal of Latin American Studies 41(1):121–145. Lindhardt, Martin. 2014. Power in Powerlessness: A Study of Pentecostal Life Worlds in Urban Chile. Boston, MA: Brill. MacLeod, Murdo J. 2000. Mesoamerica Since the Spanish Invasion: An Overview. In The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas (Volume II [Mesoamerica], Part 2). Adams, Richard E. and MacLeod, Murdo J., eds. Pp. 1–43. New York: Cambridge University Press. Madera, Lisa M. 2009. Visions of Christ in the Amazon: The Gospel According to Ayahuasca and Santo Daime. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 3(1):66–98. Marchi, Regina M. 2009. Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. McAlister, Elizabeth. 2014. The Color of Christ in Haiti. Journal of Africana Religions 2(3):409–418. Miles, Ann. 1994. Helping Out at Home: Gender Socialization, Moral Development, and Devil Stories in Cuenca, Ecuador. Ethos 22(2):132–157. Mintz, Sidney W. 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking Penguin. Muratorio, Blanca. 1981. Protestantism, Ethnicity, and Class in Chimborazo. In Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador. Whitten, Norman E., ed. Pp. 506–534. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.


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Murphy, Joseph M. 1994. Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Murrell, Nathaniel S. 2010. Afro-Caribbean Religions: An Introduction to Their Historical, Cultural, and Sacred Traditions. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Nutini, Hugo G. 1988. Todos Santos in Rural Tlaxcala. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Palka, Joel W. 2014. Maya Pilgrimage to Ritual Landscapes: Insights from Archaeology, History, and Ethnography. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Parés, Luis N. 2013. The Formation of Candomblé: Vodun History and Ritual in Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Payton, Claire. 2013. Vodou and Protestantism, Faith and Survival: The Contest Over the Spiritual Meaning of the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. Oral History Review 40(2):231–250. Platt, Tristan. 1993. Simón Bolívar, the Sun of Justice and the Amerindian Virgin: Andean Conceptions of the Patria in Nineteenth-Century Potosí. Journal of Latin American Studies 25(1):159–185. Ramos, Gabriela. 2010. Death and Conversion in the Andes: Lima and Cuzco, 1532–1670. Norte Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Restall, Matthew. 2003. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. New York: Oxford University Press. Rey, Terry. 1999. Our Lady of Class Struggle: The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Haiti. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. Rodrigues de Souza, Patricia. 2015. Food in African Brazilian Candomblé. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 26:264–280. Salles-Reese, Verónica. 1997. From Viracocha to the Virgin of Copacabana: Representation of the Sacred at Lake Titicaca. Austin: University of Texas Press. Salomon, Frank. 1995. The Beautiful Grandparents: Andean Ancestor Shrines and Mortuary Ritual as Seen Through Colonial Records. In Tombs for the Living: Andean Mortuary Practices. Dillehay, Tom D., ed. Pp. 315–354. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Sell, Barry D. 2010. ‘Perhaps our Lord, God, has Forgotten Me’: Intruding into the Colonial Nahua (Aztec) Confessional. In The Conquest All Over Again: Nauhuas and Zapotecs Thinking, Writing and Painting Spanish Colonialism. Schroeder, Susan, ed. Pp. 181–205. Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press. Silverblatt, Irene. 1987. Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Smilde, David. 2007. Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Stark, Rodney and Smith, Buster G. 2012. Pluralism and the Churching of Latin America. Latin American Politics and Society 54(2):35–50. Stutley, Margaret. 2003. Shamanism: An Introduction. New York: Routledge. Taussig, Michael. 1980. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ———. 1987. Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Taylor, William B. 1987. The Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain: An Inquiry into the Social History of Marian Devotion. American Ethnologist 14(1):9–33. Turner, Victor. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago, IL: Aldine. Vainfas, Ronaldo. 2015. St. Anthony in Portuguese America: Saint of the Restoration. In Colonial Saints: Discovering the Holy in the Americas. Greer, Allan and Bilinkoff, Jodi, eds. Pp. 99–112. New York: Routledge. Villaseñor Black, Charlene. 2015. St. Anne Imagery and Maternal Archetypes in Spain and Mexico. In Colonial Saints: Discovering the Holy in the Americas. Greer, Allan and Bilinkoff, Jodi, eds. Pp. 3–30. New York: Routledge. Voeks, Robert S. 1997. Sacred Leaves of Candomblé: African Magic, Medicine, and Religion in Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press. Wolf, Eric R. 1959. Sons of the Shaking Earth: The People of Mexico and Guatemala – Their Land, History, and Culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.



Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


ood and cuisine are some of the most distinctive ways to communicate culture, and we learn a great deal about other people by learning what they eat, how, why, when, and with whom. This chapter explores the history and many-sided meanings of food and cuisine. I start off by highlighting the cultural significance of food and then turn to a historical sketch of some of LAC’s most important foods. After looking into the two-way flow of crops and animals between Europe and LAC after the conquest, I focus on how and why it was important for European colonials to transform indigenous foodways. Afterwards, I shift to how eating and drinking – who eats and drinks what and with whom – is a marker of social distinctions, and cooking an opportunity for those at the bottom of social hierarchies to display agency. As we know when we have dinner with family or friends during holidays, eating together sparks memories and a sense of belonging, a subject that I then turn to. Next, I center on how food is important in religious rituals and for national identity. Eating well and staying healthy are of course related to each other, a relationship that I explore by focusing on the distinction between hot and cold foods. This chapter ends with how Latino food tastes are profoundly shaping cuisines in the US.

Why food and culture? Food is necessary for survival, yet in the very act of cooking and consuming, we culturally transform what we eat and also reveal much about ourselves and our social and cultural milieus. Not only are we “what we eat,” but it is also true that “to eat is to live [and] to live must be to eat.” The rich symbolism and social importance we attach to food and commensality – preparing meals and eating together – provide multiple entry points for understanding cross-cultural similarities and differences (Mintz 1994:103; Mintz and Du Bois 2002). Counihan elegantly tells us that: Food is a many-splendored thing, central to biological and social life. We ingest food over and over again across days, seasons, and years to fill our bellies and satisfy emotional as well as physical hungers. Eating together lies at the heart of social relations; at meals we create family and friendships by sharing food. . . . Similarly, when social relations are bad, eating can be painful and unpleasant. . . . An examination of foodways – behaviors and beliefs surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of food – reveals much



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about power relations and conceptions of sex and gender, for every coherent social group has its own unique foodways. . . . Class, caste, race, and gender hierarchies are maintained, in part, through differential control over and access to food. One’s place in the social system is revealed by what, how much, and with whom one eats. (1999:6–8)

Historical and cultural sketch of LAC foods As we saw in Chapter 2, Mesoamerica, the Andes, and Amazonia were major centers of incipient agriculture during the Archaic period. Pre-Columbian peoples consumed a wide spectrum of abundant and nutritious foods. Evidence from archaeology and physical anthropology on health and nutrition before the European conquest remains spotty and inconclusive. Some scholars suggest that indigenous peoples generally enjoyed good health (Steckel 2005). Yet in the Andes the rise of state societies and social inequality was often accompanied by a differential allocation of food, which may have led to nutritional deficiencies, especially in urban areas. The health and nutrition of Andean peoples considerably worsened during the colonial period (Cuéllar 2013). Maize, beans, squash, chili peppers, and chocolate were some of the most important crops domesticated in Mesoamerica. High in complex carbohydrates and proteins, maize and beans were an especially nutritious combination as they complemented each other’s deficiencies in essential amino acids. Squash and chili peppers were also a nutritional bonanza. Chocolate, mainly consumed as a beverage, was often laced with maize, honey, or chili peppers, and cacao beans functioned as currency throughout much of Mesoamerica. After the conquest, chocolate quickly became part of Spanish colonial palates, a century later in Spain itself, and Nahuatl terms for chocolate beverages were Hispanicized (e.g., atextli became atole) (Norton 2006). The Portuguese too acquired an early liking for chocolate, and by the eighteenth century, large-scale cacao plantations worked primarily by African slaves were in place in Bahia, Brazil (Walker 2007). Few reminds us that chocolate was a sacred food in ancient Maya culture and had many meanings and uses. The Maya, especially members of the elite, consumed chocolate on important ritual occasions such as betrothal and marriage ceremonies, festivals, and warfare, and they also used it in sacrifices to deities. During menopause and childbirth, women drank chocolate to fortify themselves, as did men and women suffering from magical sickness. (2005:675) Still, few foods rivaled the symbolic importance of maize – the centerpiece of the Mesoamerican diet. The word maize, originally chronicled from Arawak-speaking Taíno peoples, meant life-giving seed, and one Maya word for maize is kana, or our mother. Along with chocolate and human blood, maize (in the form of tamales) was a crucial ritual offering to supernatural deities. The Aztecs called babies “maize blossoms,” young girls were “tender green ears,” and warriors represented the “Lord Corn Cob.” In pre- and post-colonial times, maize was the centerpiece of food festivals and ritual celebrations

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(Christenson 2009; Keegan 2000; Pilcher 1998; Staller and Carrasco 2009; Super and Vargas 2000). A Guatemalan Quiché Maya creation myth chronicled in the Popul Vuh, an eighteenth century ethnohistorical account, tells the story of how humankind originated from white and yellow corn: From Paxil, from Cayalá, as they were called, came the yellow ears of corn and the white ears of corn. These are the names of the animals which brought the food: yac (the mountain cat), utiú (the coyote), quel (a small parrot), and hoh (the crow). These four animals gave tidings of the yellow ears of corn and the white ears of corn, they told them that they should go to Paxil and they showed them the road to Paxil. . . . The animals showed them the road. And then grinding the yellow corn and the white corn, Xmucané made nine drinks, and from this food came the strength and the flesh, and with it they created the muscles and the strength of man. This the Forefathers did, Tepeu and Gucumatz, as they were called. After that they began to talk about the creation and the making of our first mother and father; of yellow corn and of white corn they made their flesh; of corn meal dough they made the arms and the legs of man. Only dough of corn meal went into the flesh of our first fathers, the four men, who were created. (Fonseca 2003:16) In the Andes, the food supply was also ample and nutritious. The bulk of the diet consisted of root crops, especially potatoes, and maize, the symbolically most important crop. Corn planting and harvest rituals were one way that Incas legitimized their rule, and in some origin myths, they are said to have appeared along with agriculture and their gods’ gift of corn (Bauer 1996). Andeans also cultivated quinoa and tarwi, two especially nutritious highaltitude grains packed with proteins and oils, both advertised as important health foods on dozens of websites. Peanuts and chili peppers from the eastern slopes of the Andes also made their way into highland cuisines. Chili peppers were highly valued for the spicy sauces that laced potato and other root crop dishes. Llamas and guinea pigs, the main sources of animal protein, were usually consumed during ritual occasions. In the Caribbean, coastal areas of northern South America, and Amazonia, the bulk of the diet consisted of plantains (plátanos, Spanish) and starchy root crops, called viandas in Puerto Rico and Cuba, and víveres in the Dominican Republic. Potatoes; cassava; taro (malanga, Cuba; yautía, Puerto Rico); sweet potatoes (boniato, Cuba; batata, Puerto Rico); and yams (ñames) were some of the most important root crops. Other important cultigens included maize, peanuts, and, of course, the ubiquitous chili peppers (Gade 2000; Keegan 2000; Super 2008; Valdéz 2006). Astute readers may have noticed that we can appreciate the wide variability in Spanish by focusing on the many words for food cultigens. Fermented, mildly alcoholic beverages, as the Mesoamerican atole and pulque, or the Andean chicha, were widely consumed, especially in community and ritual celebrations (Valdéz 2006). These beverages also had mythical and sacred origins. For example, according to an Aztec myth, women and pulque were related. The groups living in the arid areas of the High Plateau relieved their lack of drinking water with aguamiel, the clear


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and refreshing unfermented sap of the maguey. Soon they noticed the sap fermented in a day or two, acquiring a white viscous consistency, a rotten smell, and, more important, intoxicating and nutritional qualities. Mayahuel, the first woman who found out how to get the sap from the plant, became the goddess of aguamiel, the maguey, and fertility. (Toxqui 2014:106)

The Columbian Exchange The conquest linked two continents not merely through the force of arms but also through a two-way flow of plants and animals known as the Columbian Exchange (Crosby 1972). European-introduced plants and animals profoundly altered LAC landscapes and peoples. Sugarcane is a good example. First successfully planted in the Caribbean, it thrived in tropical and semitropical soils. As European, but especially English, demand for sugar spiked in subsequent centuries (Mintz 1985b), sugarcane plantations (ingenios, Spanish; engenhos, Portuguese) relentlessly spread through the Caribbean and Brazil’s coastal plains. Requiring vast amounts of labor, they spurred the enslavement and coerced transport of millions of Africans to these regions, deeply shaping their racial and cultural makeup (Chapter 3). Animals, especially cattle, sheep, and horses, were also important. Cattle and sheep multiplied rapidly in Mexico’s Central Plateau, the Venezuelan and Colombian llanos, the Andean highlands, and Argentina’s Patagonia and Pampas. Horses were especially important, not only because they played such a crucial role in the conquest, but also because they proliferated rapidly in open temperate grasslands, as in the llanos of Colombia and the Pampas and Patagonia of Argentina. In both Colombia and Argentina, horses spurred the development of cowboy, gaucho cultures, and in southern Argentina, they provided Araucanian peoples with greater mobility to evade Spanish colonial control. Native cultigens, such as manioc, tomatoes, beans, maize, potatoes, and chili peppers, made their way to Europe and shaped the historical destinies and diets of countless Europeans. Maize, for example, soon became an important crop in central Europe (as well as in Africa), although initially it was fed primarily to cattle. More important was the potato, which early on became a daily staple in Germany, Russia, and Ireland. In Ireland especially, the potato loomed crucial: landlessness and poverty, coupled with a growing population and the ability of the potato to grow well in marginal soils, led most Irish peasants to depend almost exclusively on it for their everyday subsistence. The overwhelming dependence on the potato was risky: the potato blight and ensuing crop failures between 1846 and 1849 eventually led to the death of at least one million Irish and led to their mass migration to the US at the turn of the nineteenth century. Presently, European countries are the main consumers of potatoes, while China leads the world in its cultivation (Nunn and Qian 2010; Smith 2011).

Food and cuisine as cultural battlegrounds European colonialism was not merely a struggle over resources, and the hearts, minds, and labor of indigenous and, later, African peoples. It was also a contest over taste, diet,

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


and cuisine – one that post-independence elites also engaged in (Chapter 4). Native foods and dishes became cultural battlegrounds as Europeans strove to replace indigenous crops and cuisines with their own. Wheat bread – the European crop and staple with enormous religious importance (wheat was the only grain used for the Holy Eucharist) – was the spearhead in this drive. Europeans were unable to sway indigenous peoples to abandon maize and the potato for wheat. Not only was maize an intrinsic part of ritual celebrations, but there were other good reasons for indigenous resistance to wheat, as a sixteenth century chronicler noted: Maize is . . . a very good thing, and the Indians will not leave it for wheat, from all I know. The reasons given are important, and they are: they are used to this bread, they feel well with it; maize serves them as bread and wine; maize multiplies more than wheat and grows with fewer problems than wheat, not only from water and sun but also from birds and beasts. Maize requires less work: one man alone sows and harvests more maize than one man and two beasts sow and harvest wheat. (Millones Figueroa 2010:314) In the Amazon, where wheat could not be cultivated, manioc remained the unchallenged staple for a wide assortment of alcoholic beverages and meals centuries after the European conquest. Until recently, manioc and not wheat flour was the most important in Brazil, and manioc was called the “bread of Brazil” (Fajans 2012:51). Although wheat did not displace maize, the potato, or manioc, it became symbolically significant. Offerings of maize-based breads were important during ritual celebrations before the conquest. By the early colonial period, wheat “baby breads” became crucial in Mesoamerican and Andean rituals of Todos Santos (Chapter 7). European cattle, pigs, goats, and chickens thrived and easily made their way into local foodways. Of these, cattle became symbolically important. Soon into the colonial period, bullfights became part of popular ritual celebrations. For example, the festivity of Corpus Christi in colonial Mexico City was accompanied by dance troupes, processions, and bullfights, and in some Ecuadorian Quichua-speaking communities, Corpus Christi is also referred to as the “fiesta of the toros [bulls]” (Curcio-Nagy 1994; Gutiérrez 1991; Weismantel 1988). Bananas and plantains were at the core of popular cuisines in the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, pasteles – prepared with a dough from root crops; stuffed with either beef, chicken, or pork (or simply with condiments); wrapped in banana leaves; and either roasted or boiled – were a common meal of peasants and sugar plantation workers. They are still part of Puerto Rico’s national cuisine (Figure 8.1). Cultivated in large plantations under extreme labor exploitation, bananas and plantains had even more far-reaching consequences, for along with coffee they were crucial in Central America’s political economy and underdevelopment (Bourgois 1989; Bulmer-Thomas 1987). Of all European crops, rice had the most success of any of the imported grains among all ethnic and social groups in Middle America. . . . In Mexico, Indians came to depend on rice as a complement to or substitute for maize. . . . Morisqueta . . . became common


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FIGURE 8.1  Puerto Rican pasteles Source: Harry Sanabria

in the rural Mexican diet in the 1940s, and rice achieved even more fame as the basis for a drink known as horchata, prepared with rice, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ice. (Super and Vargas 2000:1250) Spaniards also introduced rice to the Caribbean. As sugarcane cultivation expanded during the nineteenth century, plantation owners imported rice and jerked beef (called carne vieja [old meat] or tasajo in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean) to feed their workers. Caribbean islands have long depended on imported food, for “as early as the 1880s, the small island of St. Pierre had become so dependent on canned food from the United States that an American steamer was called a ‘food ship’ ” (Pilcher 2000:1285). Along the way (the times and places varied, and this story has yet to be fully told), rice met and forged a lasting relationship with beans. As with maize, dishes of beans with rice are nutritionally wholesome as they complement each other’s shortcomings in amino acids and other nutrients. Today both are the centerpiece of the diet and cuisine of most peoples in the Caribbean, Central America, northern South America, and in Brazil, beans and rice are referred to as “the perfect couple” (Fajans 2012:77). Appetizing combinations of rice and beans in the Caribbean are flaunted as typical or traditional cuisine in government publications aimed at the tourist market and dollar – Puerto Rico’s Qué Pasa! magazine is a good example – but in fact this tradition is quite recent. In multiethnic countries with a long history of ethnic and class discrimination, typical, authentic, or traditional dishes have different meanings for the elites, “emphasizing their nation’s cultural heritage . . . [while at the same time standing] for the poor, the ignorant, and the non-white: people with whom the elite, for the most part, do not wish to

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


identify” (Weismantel 1988:122). Puerto Rico again provides a good example: the delicious gazpacho – fresh avocados combined with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and salted cod fish – is portrayed as a typical Puerto Rican dish. Yet, the crucial ingredient in gazpacho – salted cod fish – was originally imported to the Caribbean by colonial elites to primarily feed plantation workers and, as such, disdained by elites themselves. In Barbados, former colonial “slave foods” are now local delicacies flaunted as national, “Barbadian” dishes (Tookes 2015), while in Belize some “authentic” or “traditional” dishes are almost an inversion of colonial stratification of cuisines. Lobster, for example, now highly valued, was “eaten by the poor because it was cheap, by the elite because it was prized in Europe, but shunned by the middle class as ‘trash fish’ ” (Wilk 1999:249). Further, elite and popular cuisines often shaped each other and both molded by wider political and economic networks. Tres leches, a typical Nicaraguan dessert (but also enjoyed in other parts of the Central America and the Caribbean) is one example: Carnation Concentrated Milk Company . . . home economists developed recipes, including one for a three-milk dessert, that appeared on can labels. During the 1920s, Carnation began exporting to Central America, especially Nicaragua, where housewives, wishing to introduce a foreign delicacy to the dinner table, began offering tres leches for dessert. Nicaraguans adopted the popular sweet as the national dessert. Today, chic Miami Caribbean–Central American restaurants offer it as a dessert to elites as Nicaraguan tiramisu. (Beezley and Curcio-Nagy 2000:xiv) What began hundreds of years ago as a struggle over hearts, minds, and palates has turned into a remarkable cultural blend: Elements of the past combine everywhere with those of the present on Mexican tables. Old Mesoamerican foods such as chillies, squash, beans, avocados, and all kinds of maize derivatives are considered necessary in a meal. These are enriched with foods from the Old World such as pork, beef, lettuce, rice, oranges, and coffee. Some of the old foods still have a special place in social gatherings. For instance, a traditional wedding deserves a mole de guajalote just as the typical breakfast on the day of the child’s first communion is unthinkable without hot chocolate and tamales. Families going out at night patronize restaurants specializing in pozole, a stew with grains of corn, meat, and old and new spices. New foods appear continually: Coca-Cola is already a staple; hamburgers and hot dogs are everywhere; new Chinese restaurants and pizza parlors open every day. It is interesting to note that many of these foods become “Mexicanized.” For example, the large hamburger restaurants offer chillies and Mexican sauces, and one can order a pizza poblana with long strands of green chili and mole on it. (Super and Vargas 2000:1253)

Distinctions: race, class, ethnicity Cooking and eating are usually social activities. This means that preparing food and sharing meals communicate a great deal about group identity and social distinctions, such as


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race, class, and ethnicity. Eating together may highlight intimacy and a shared cultural history – Thanksgiving dinner in the US is one example – but it can also accentuate differences between social groups. Food signals as well as entrenches solidarity, distinctiveness, and hierarchy (Klein 2014). Food has always been a marker of ethnic and class affiliations. Before and after Independence, a Mexican “Indian” was someone whose diet largely consisted of maize, beans, and chilies, and as late as 1845, one Mexican cookbook author “questioned the morals of any family that ate tamales – the food of the ‘lower orders’ ” (Pilcher 1998:46). These ethnic, class, and food associations became so deeply entrenched that by the 1970s in Hueyapán, a Nahuatl-speaking community in Morelos, Mexico, “Indian” food meant “ ‘ordinary things,’ such as tortillas, kidney beans, chiles, tamales, calabash squash, pulque and a few fruits such as tejocotes” (Friedlander 2006:96). Also during the 1970s, an Andean peasant who mainly ate potatoes and chili peppers and drank chicha, was pigeonholed as “Indian.” In contemporary Peru, raising and eating cuys also index ethnic and class affiliations. In the southern Peruvian city of Moquegua, there are only a few restaurants and popular eating places (cuyerías) that do not offer a variety of cuy-based dishes, which are considered part of indigenous culture. Cuys are widely consumed on special festive occasions, such as baptisms, birthdays, and national holidays. Those who refuse to eat cuys are usually members of the professional class, including business owners, many born and raised elsewhere. They share a similar aversion of cuys with most residents of the nearby industrial port city of Ilo (DeFrance 2006). In pre-revolutionary Cuba, cookbooks illustrated how food and cuisine reflected class and racial distinctions and antagonisms. Cookbook authors who either identified with, or wanted to stress, the contributions of the African heritage to Cuba’s culture and history emphasized ingredients and recipes that were part of slaves’ cuisines. These included, for example, different variations of fufú, originally a West African dish prepared with cassava and green plantains. Elite authors who downplayed Africa’s heritage included less fufú recipes and stressed European ones, such as truffled quails (codornices trufadas) and hen soufflé (souflés de gallina en cajitas). Images of non-white Cubans rarely appeared in elite cookbooks (Folch 2008). Alcoholic beverages are also markers of social distinctions and cultural identities – and of class and ethnic anxieties (Pierce and Toxqui 2014). In colonial Mexico City, pulque metaphorically represented and conveyed ethnic and class antagonisms. Spaniards and elite Creoles prized white pulque (pulque blanco), among other reasons because they believed it had medicinal properties. By contrast, they loathed mixed pulque (pulque mezclado, with additives), which they considered unhealthy. Elites also despised and feared mixed pulque because it stood for the biologically and culturally mixed masses (plebe) who, congregating at taverns (pulquerías) and drinking heavily, were prone to sedition (Nemser 2011). The widespread role of women as either owners of, or bartenders in, pulquerías always elicited elite concerns of moral decay, and in the Andes, indigenous women and not men have produced chicha and managed drinking establishments (chicherías) (Krögel 2012; Toxqui 2014). In Guatemala, drinking aguardiente fostered similar fears among elites, especially when collective drunkenness led to unruly behavior that bordered on social unrest (Carey 2012). By the turn of the twentieth century, the conflation of Indianness and drunkenness was so complete that the two words became virtually synonymous with one another in official discourse and

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


in the public (urban) imagination. . . . [These] collapsed notions about alcohol and drunkenness also extended to poor ladinos and also to Afro-Guatemalans living on the Atlantic coast. (Garrard-Burnett 2012:161) In Brazil, the dark-skinned and downtrodden were similarly associated with cane alcohol: Cachaça became a relevant factor in the life experiences of those social groups that suffered the major impact of the colonial experience. As a popular verse recognizes, “de primeiro só bebia/negro, caboco e mulato” (“at the beginning, only the negro, caboco and mulatto drank”). In other words, this poem labels slaves, the indigenous, and their descendants, poor, free, mixed-race men, as drinkers. This identification with the “inferior” social strata contributed to making cachaça, in the dominant discourse, a symbol of barbarism and a marker of differentiation between those who drank it (the cachaceiros) and the higher classes in both colonial and post-Independence Brazil. Throughout much of the colonial period, the latter group valued European wine and despised local distilled beverages. In spite of this rejection, or perhaps because of it, cachaça came to represent a symbol of national pride at the beginning of the nineteenth century, in the context of the revolts associated with the political emancipation of Brazil. (Fernandes 2014:46–47)

Food and agency Food is a marker of social distinctions yet also a way for those at the bottom of the social ladder to turn the tables on those who would control them. Especially in plantation regions, what Europeans eventually cherished and ate was profoundly shaped by those at the bottom of the socio-economic and racial hierarchies: [The Caribbean] . . . was an arena for the encounter of different foods, as it was for the encounter of different peoples; over time, new cuisines emerged, now typically Caribbean, though wearing older pedigrees. In food, as in all else, the islands took on their distinctive individual character – part African, part Asian, part Amerindian, part European . . . this manner of crops, tastes, dishes, and cuisines is intimately tied to the growth of peasantries. In this world area, cuisine was not so much a matter of the food of the elite classes percolating downward, but rather of the choicest plates of the poor becoming the quaint and colorful fare of the privileged. Much as happened with other aspects of culture in this region, “refinement” began with imitation, more than with innovation, at the top. (Mintz 1985a:136–137) In other words, food and cuisine provided opportunities to wield agency. Because the economics of plantation agriculture encouraged African slaves to feed themselves by growing subsistence crops on marginal lands, not all of their lives were under the effective


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surveillance of overseers. Despite their enslavement, they enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, especially in preparing and cooking food, for “In the act of creating a cuisine . . . slaves came to enjoy an unanticipated freedom . . . [and] the tasting of freedom was linked to the tasting of food” (Mintz 1996b:36–37). By growing their own crops and cooking meals, slaves decisively influenced the tastes and gastronomies of their masters and forged distinctive cuisines – some of today’s “typical” or “traditional” dishes. One example of the blurring of elite and popular culinary boundaries is the Brazilian dish feijoada, a post – nineteenth century “hearty concoction [consisting] of rice, black beans, dried meats, sausage, and toasted manioc flour, and . . . garnished with kale and orange slices” (Gade 2000:1287). The feijoada, Brazil’s national meal, “is said to have originated during slave times. Traditionally, the feijoada contained inexpensive and less desirable cuts of meat such as tripe and pigs feet, Brazilian slaves having concocted the dish from the leftovers of the master’s table” (Margolis and Bezerra, et al. 2001:291–292). Different combinations of meats and beans reflect regional variations of the feijoada. For example, in São Paulo, the preferred bean is black, while in Bahia the feijoada is cooked with a reddish brown bean called mulatinho, or little mulatto (Fajans 2012). Food and cooking also provide insights into gender, sexuality, and agency. This is because masculinity and femininity are associated with specific foods, and rules often exist to control the consumption of those foods. . . . [M]ale power and female subordination are reproduced through food and body beliefs and practices. . . . Between men and women . . . food is both a means of differentiation and a channel of connection. (Counihan 1999:9–12) In the Ecuadorian Quichua community of Zumbagua, women assert their private and public clout by cooking, as it gives them a feminine sort of political power. In the kitchen, even more than in pasture and field, a woman exerts her control over her subordinates: mother over children, mother-in-law over daughters-in-law. A woman with recently married sons has direct control over the lives and labor of several strong, young adults and is answerable only to her husband, who considers cooking to lie outside his domain. (Weismantel 1988:26) Women have other ways to assert themselves through food. One way is to ignore expected gender obligations, as when a woman has not prepared a meal for her spouse when he returns from work. In one case, a woman’s husband went out drinking and returned late at night quite drunk. Understandably angry, she retaliated by offering (and not denying) food to her husband when he arrived, taking advantage of two central food norms – that serving food is a gift and that food that is served must be consumed when it is offered and how it is cooked: When her husband arrived home many hours later, drunk and sleepy and ready for bed, she informed him that he must be very hungry: as an obedient wife she

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


had prepared a nice dinner for him. Almost unconscious, he forced himself to sit upright long enough to eat two enormous bowls of soup under her reproachful eyes. The meal over, he crept off to bed, but his ordeal had only begun. The next day he found himself in an extremely delicate physical state, such that the three very elaborate meals she had prepared for him, which he dutifully consumed, resulted in several hasty exits from the kitchen to the bushes outside. She appeared to enjoy cooking for him very much that day, smugly playing the virtuous wife in front of her in-laws, who watched with some amusement and did not interfere. (Weismantel 1988:181) In contemporary southern Peru, some Quechua oral traditions link women with the power to thwart the actions of evil beings by preparing and serving food. Often understood as practicing “food magic,” these women are sometimes cast as witches through their malevolent uses of food. And yet food – what to cook and serve and to whom – is also deployed by women to sway family and kin to carry out ritual obligations to each other. In other words, food is used as a mechanism of social control (Krögel 2012). This link between women, witchcraft, and food harks back to the colonial period. As we learned in Chapter 7, during the colonial period, women were often accused of witchcraft and conspiring with the Devil. Witchcraft accusations also linked women with their role in preparing and serving food. The ability to use food to harm, or control the behavior of, others – such as abusive males or spouses – provided women with powers to be feared, and in colonial Peru, indigenous cooks attained a degree of agency in an incredibly repressive society precisely because they adroitly performed a subversive role which colonial officials already suspected or accused them of assuming. Regardless of whether these women believed in the efficacy of their own culinary magic, by establishing themselves as knowledgeable practitioners of witchcraft, many women managed to provide themselves and their families with a degree of socioeconomic security within the confines of an oppressive colonial society. In this way, some women gained a degree of power by offering to perform food magic in exchange for goods or monetary remuneration, while many others kept potentially harmful community members at bay as a result of their reputation as witchcraft practitioners. (Krögel 2012:18g–18h) Chocolate and chocolate beverages prepared by women were widely consumed and important in healing and religious rituals in colonial Guatemala. By the seventeenth century, colonial authorities linked chocolate and chocolate preparations with women’s practice of sexual witchcraft to assert their power over men. Bewitching chocolate and offering it to men were especially feared: Because of its dark color and grainy texture, chocolate provided an ideal cover for items associated with sexual witchcraft. These included various powders and herbs, as well as female body parts and fluids, which women then mixed into a chocolate beverage and fed to men to control their sexuality. Manuela


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Gutiérrez, a twenty-year-old, single mulata servant, consulted a mulata sorcerer named Gerónima de Varaona for sexual witchcraft. Gutierrez described how she was having problems with her lover and wanted something to attract him. De Varaona gave her some powders and told Manuela to wash her partes naturales (genitals) with water, then beat the powders and the water into a hot chocolate drink and give it to the man she desired. Nicolasa de Torres, a single, free mulata servant, wanted to sexually attract her employer. She consulted an Indian woman named Petrona Mungia, who told her to take her pubic hairs and a small worm found under a certain type of stone, and then mix everything together and put it in her employer’s chocolate. (Few 2005:678–679) In a similar vein, contemporary Jamaicans also express sexuality and gender relations through food (Prior 2005; Sobo 1993). They value sharing food because it binds them to others in reciprocal obligations and because refusing food creates suspicion and distrust. Yet eating food prepared by others is potentially unsafe because it is one way that someone can inflict harm. This paradox – the need to share and consume food prepared by others and the likelihood that offering of food is not altruistic – generates considerable tension in daily life. Feeling vulnerable, men are often suspicious of women using food as a way of “tying” them for ulterior purposes. In a context in which common-law, transient unions are the norm, men are concerned about being locked into binding relationships by manipulative lovers. Men also fear menstrual blood, which they consider polluting and dangerous, and worry about lovers combining menstrual blood with food in an attempt to “trick” or “bind” them. The odor, taste, color, or consistency of food prepared and offered by a female lover provide clues as to whether she has ulterior, mischievous motives: The most commonly adulterated food is rice and peas, a reddish-brown dish. A woman can steam herself directly over the pot as she finishes cooking for this. Red pea soup, carrot juice, “stew-peas,” and potato pudding are also known as potential menses carriers. All are the correct color and are commonly eaten. Some men are so frightened of ingesting menses that they refuse even red herring, a dried fish which they say takes its color from having been killed when menstruating. As careful as men are, menstrual blood diluted in food cannot be tasted. As one woman said, laughing about the small amount needed to compel, “Cho – you think that little bit can flavor pot?.” (Sobo 1993:230) In the Brazilian shantytown studied by Goldstein, sexuality, gender and power relations are conveyed through consumption metaphors that signal the type of agency displayed in sexual intercourse and which are mediums through which gender inequality and power struggles are communicated. Brazilian masculine identity partly rests on taking the lead, active sexual role (the inserter), regardless of whether intercourse is with a woman or another man (Chapter 6). This active role is expressed as “eating” the other person. Men who “eat” others solidify their gender identity and status and power over their partners. Yet such a path is not available to women. If women are voracious “eaters” (have many sexual partners), they are “referred to as galinhas (chickens) and piranhas (piranas or meat-eating fish), and

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


both of these animal metaphors have negative connotations” (Goldstein 2003:236). The symbolic importance of food surfaces in other contexts. Statements on who eats what foods convey class-specific commentaries on sexuality and sexual potency. Otherwise wretchedly poor shantytown dwellers pride themselves in enjoying lots of sex, which, unlike many other necessary and desirable things, is available and free. “Good sex” is one of those preciously few domains of life in which favela residents have an edge over the rich (os ricos). Favela women are clear that sexual potency is a class-specific attribute related to the kinds of foods consumed. Consider the following statement by a favela woman: The poor man eats well, a feijão [bean soup] with meat inside, a mocotó [soup made from the hoof of a cow], carne seca [beef dried in the sun] inside the feijão. . . . What I ask is the following, “Is the rich person going to eat all this?” He eats only jelly and cheese. Bread and butter. What strength does that have? For this reason, they lose their potency early. At times, the poor man is feeling weak and he sends me to make mocotó. . . . It makes you strong. I know because I am from Bahia. I make it. The rich person doesn’t eat feijão. The iron is there. The bed [sex] of the poor person is better. Because of the food. (Goldstein 2003:243)

Eating, memory, and remembering home Perhaps because of its sensuality, food has a remarkable ability to ignite memory, or “subjective ways that the past is recalled, memorialized, and used to construct the present” (Holtzman 2006:363). Especially for immigrants, preparing, consuming, and sharing food spur feelings of common heritage; evoke longings of a possibly lost homeland; sometimes idealize the past; and usually sustain sociality, identity, and community. This “taste of place” (Fajans 2012:5) or “gustatory nostalgia” (Holtzman 2006:367) are important for Salvadoran migrants in the US when they share important family meals, as during Christmas: It was the night of the Celebración Navideña, and the Salvadoran community converged at the local public school after hours to . . . claim this city space for their own to celebrate, to praise their children, and to reaffirm their culture and community. . . . [In] the kitchen . . . was the culinary stage of Salvadoran immigrant identity. Where by day ethnic Irish cafeteria ladies served the typical American school lunch fare of frozen pizza and chicken nuggets, this evening Salvadoran women claimed this culinary space. They had heaped the silver steam table pans, which usually held canned vegetables and mashed potatoes, with freshly made carne guisada, arroz con pollo, and arroz curtido. . . . Salvadorans . . . on reprieve from a daytime of hard, low paying labor filled themselves with the conviviality of good food. They chatted in Spanish not only about their children here but also about those they left behind in . . . their homeland – a place distant and imagined because they could not return. Tonight, Salvadorans in Gateway City sat in the starkness of an American school cafeteria, transversing the political boundaries of immigrant status, dreaming and eating El Salvador, together. (Stowers 2003:187–189)


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Unlike these Salvadoran migrants, middle-class Barbadian expatriates in Atlanta, Georgia, can return home. Yet like Salvadorans, these Barbadians also view food as a way to connect with their compatriots and their homeland. They long for traditional Barbadian dishes, which a woman described as “foods we have that came over from Africa, and we have modified it, adapted it from certain ways of cooking” (Tookes 2015:69), and yet other meals from the Caribbean (such as pelau, a Trinidadian rice and meat dish) are also considered “traditional” dishes from Barbados. Sharing traditional meals is important for Barbadians to “never forget” Barbados, to “not to get lost in somebody else’s [culture],” and especially to distinguish themselves from other Caribbean immigrants and from the African-American population. Many immigrants in the US left their homelands decades ago. Some secondgeneration migrants either do not remember or have never visited their parents’ home countries, and many have lived in various US cities and states. Yet not everywhere they have lived is home, which can be different places to them at distinct stages of their lives, each associated with meaningful experiences and memories of food. These memories and life histories can be traced through foodmaps, visual representations of “how people experience the boundaries of local home through food connections” (Marte 2007:262–263). Dominican migrants in New York City are fond of la bandera, a meal consisting of white rice, beans, and a piece of beef on the side. (A similar dish is sometimes called mixta in Puerto Rico.) Yet depending on the kinds of condiments and other ingredients that are available and used, there are various ways to prepare la bandera, each representing a different life-stage and “home.” Migrants can allude to and remember la bandera dishes without pasta (that is, when home was the Dominican Republic) as well as with spaghetti, and with their current home in New York City.

Religion, ritual, and food Food and religion overlap in many ways. All peoples communicate with their gods through rituals, and many of these have to do with giving and eating “sacred food” (Anderson 2014:188) with the promise (or hope) of sustenance, fertility, and well-being. Food, we are told, “is at the heart of religious life . . . [and] nourishes both body and soul” (Finch 2014:xi). It is so important to religious thought and practice that one scholar suggests that “Perhaps religion . . . ought to be defined not as believing but as eating” (Harvey 2015:32). In Chapter 7 we learned that Afro-Latin religious traditions in the Caribbean and Brazil stress the offering of food to, and eating with, deities who help their devotees through life’s hardships. This is partly because, like humans, [The] gods feel. They crave the sight of symbols and gestures; the sounds of oracles and instruments; the scent of breath and cigar smoke. They also want food. Their hunger for it dictates the ceremonial calendar in houses of worship, the division of labor within religious families, and the allocation of monetary funds and other resources. (Pérez 2016:1) Food that is offered needs to be cooked, which means that a great deal of ritual labor takes place in the kitchen. In Chicago, the Afro-Latin santería tradition is literally kept alive through kitchen-work (cooking and talking) that produces culinary delights rich

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


in sights, scents, and tastes evoking an African past that both humans and their orishas are hard pressed to turn down. These meals include the ritual sacrifice of poultry and other animals which, along with their blood and organs, are referred to by different terms that translate as “food for the gods” (Pérez 2016:9). As I have mentioned, cooking and sharing meals evoke memory. So does preparing and offering food to the orishas. Foods need to be seasoned when cooked, and indirect allusions to bygone slave times sometimes surface during “kitchen talk.” Seasoning food and memories of slavery go hand in hand, for The metaphor of seasoning . . . refers not only to the transformation of food by the addition of salt, herbs, spices, and condiments to improve its flavor. It is meant to evoke the cultural process called “seasoning” through which enslaved peoples became accustomed to their new legal condition and social environment in the Americas. African captives were not always forced to toil immediately upon arrival; they spent time recuperating from their ocean voyages and becoming familiar with the climates and customs of their new homelands. While seasoning practices were regionally distinctive and not always pursued systematically, they often involved placing “salt-water” Africans under the apprenticeship of slaves from the same ethnic groups or with a common tongue. Seasoned slaves acclimated “outlandish” ones to the types of communication and labor expected of them. Their seasoning reinforced slaves’ dependence for sustenance and safety on their owners, in order to render attempts to escape a less attractive prospect . . . [and were] were described in advertisements as “sensible,” meaning . . . intelligible, intelligent, skilled in diverse kinds of work, and resigned to their subjugation. (Pérez 2016:108) Food also plays an important role in pilgrimages, that is, “journeys of . . . people who leave their homes to visit ritual landscapes to communicate with spiritual forces through offerings and ceremonies then return to their homes when their religious goals have been achieved” (Palka 2014:11). These journeys and their accompanying ritual food offerings are an intrinsic part of the religious systems of all LAC peoples. In the Maya region and elsewhere, features of the natural environment (such as caves, springs, mountain peaks, hilltops) as well as churches have long been abodes where some of the most important divine beings that ensure good harvests and protect communities reside, and where humans communicate with them through ceremonial offerings that include food, drink, chocolate, candles, and incense. In Mesoamerica and the Andes, ancestors too require homage and food offerings (Besom 2009; Staller 2008; Staller and Carrasco 2009). All societies have food taboos, that is, rules against consuming certain foods, and many of these have religious underpinnings. In India, the Hindi concept of juthaa refers to food that has become polluted – and that therefore should be avoided – because it has come into contact with “unclean,” lower-caste groups. The religious and caste notion of juthaa reached Trinidad, Jamaica, Suriname, Guiana, and other Caribbean coastal areas during the nineteenth century when the British transported Indian indentured laborers to labor in sugarcane plantations. However, juthaa acquired novel meanings in the New World (Khan 1994). In Trinidad, juthaa became detached from caste inequality, which never took hold in the Caribbean. But the idea of food pollution endured, as did the belief that eating


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polluted food is dangerous to health and the belief that ill-health is related to obeah (magic) and maljo (evil eye; najar in Hindi). Trinidadians believe in the importance of sharing food. But how do they reconcile the value they attach to commensality with the ever-lurking danger of pollution? They do so by reconfiguring some of the original meanings of juthaa. For example, pollution can be avoided if food is shared with a trusted person with whom a close bond exists and who, therefore, is “clean.” A  clean person is also a good person, and “living good with people” is quite important. It is the social context recreated in everyday practice that determines the negative or positive outcome of juthaa and not the other way around. Rather than a cultural construct of exclusion, juthaa provides a way through which social relationships can be forged. This is quite important in pluri-religious Trinidad, where among Indo-Trinidadian Muslims and Hindus alike, use of the word juthaa is not associated exclusively with Hinduism or the caste system. IndoTrinidadian Muslims use juthaa as an overt term as often and in the same way as do Hindus. While certainly many are aware of its caste-based origins, both Muslims and Hindus relate . . . to the concept . . . as an index of Indian identity, not as that which definitively denotes any discrete ethnic or religious entity. (Khan 1994:256)

Cooking, eating, and national identity I mentioned in Chapter 4 that inventing and spreading national cuisines was one way post-colonial elites tried to instill a sense of nationhood after the wars of independence. Cooking and eating food, Holtzman reminds us, “is often used explicitly in the invention of national identities” (2006:368). The relationship between food and national identity is especially intriguing in the Caribbean and northern South America because of the cultural influence of the many colonial powers that fought over this region before independence, and because of its neo-colonial experiences during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The result is a region with remarkable racial and ethnic diversity, in turn paralleled by an equally rich assortment of foodways (Alleyne 2005; Garth 2013b; Mintz 1989, 1996a, 2010; Mintz and Price 1985; Premdas 2011). Over 75 years ago, the renown social thinker Fernando Ortíz used a stew called ajiaco (Figure 8.2) to reflect on how the intermingling of different peoples and cultural traditions shaped his native Cuba. He defined the ajiaco as a native dish, a renewable Cuban stew consisting of different ingredients that combined to symbolize the Cuban people. According to Ortiz, the Amerindians supplied the corn, potatoes, taro, sweet potatoes, yams, and peppers. The Spaniards added squash and other tubers, while the Chinese added “Oriental” spices, and enslaved Africans contributed ñame, a tuber similar to a yam, along with their culinary taste. The Cuban ajiaco is made by simmering starchy root vegetables until they soften, then adding meat, usually pork, seasoned with a sofrito – a sauté of onion, garlic, peppers, cilantro, cumin, and oregano. The analogy represents the coming together of natives,


Food, cuisine, and cultural expression

FIGURE 8.2  Ajiaco stew Source: robertharding/Alamy Stock Photo

Africans, and Spanish people, among others, to create Cuban society today. The key to the ajiaco metaphor is that as the ingredients are brought together to make the soup, they do not lose their original identity, but mix together to create something with a new and different flavor; new ingredients can always be added. Ortiz suggested that Cubans are “a mestizaje of kitchens, a mestizaje of races, a mestizaje of cultures, a dense broth of civilization that bubbles on the stove of the Caribbean.” (Garth 2013a:95) As typically the case, Ortíz was not off track. Today in the city of Santiago de Cuba, meals prepared from different foods are linked in varying ways to a national identity that Cubans refer to as Cubanness (Cubanidad). Rice, beans, viandas, and pork are highly desired ingredients in Cuban cooking, followed by pasta, chicken, and beef. From these, Cubans prepare some their favorite meals. They are especially fond of rice with chicken


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(arroz con pollo) and spaghetti with ground beef, usually mixed with soybeans (spaghetti con picadillo). While these meals are prized and commonly eaten, they do not evoke a feeling of Cubanidad, nor are they referred to as “traditionally” Cuban. As an elderly Cuban remarked to Garth, Well if you are studying food in Cuba – Cuban food that is . . . all you need to know about is rice and beans – what we call here congris – and then pork and viandas that’s all we eat because that is our food. What the Cuban people live, our way of living is congris, pork and viandas. (2013a:102) Cuba, as most Caribbean islands, has a long history of importing most of its basic foodstuffs. The US exports to Cuba most of the beef, (Tyson brand) chicken, and pasta that Cubans often eat and, along with Vietnam, almost all of its rice; the soy that is mixed with beef is mainly from Brazil. Many important seasonings, such as sazón, are also imported. The origins of foodstuffs is not what make some meals more or less Cuban. Spaghetti con picadillo is considered by many to be a Cuban meal, but it does not evoke the same feeling of Cubanidad as congris (black beans cooked together with white rice, also known as arroz moro [Moorish rice]) despite the fact that both rice and pasta are mainly imported. Garth suggests that how the meals are prepared is what makes them more or less Cuban, that food preparation is what turns food staples from all over the world into something “Cuban”: Spaghetti con picadillo and arroz con pollo are not dishes that have historically resonated with the national myth of mestizaje, yet their contemporary popularity reveals some important connections between Cuban food and identity. In the case of these meals, it is the particular combination of ingredients that makes them “Cuban” versions of a more generalized cuisine. Cuba’s history of importation and mestizaje is precisely what allows for “new foods” to be readily integrated into Cuban cuisine. In the case of these dishes, the origins of the ingredients are less critical to what makes them a part of Cuban cuisine – rice, pasta, and even meat are imported from across the globe – than the particular way of bringing them together. These dishes are not seen as completely foreign because they have been modified to be “Cuban.” However, such foods do not carry the same sense of Cuban identity as . . . congris, the hallaca, and other dishes thought of as specifically Cuban. (Garth 2013a:105) Mangú is a Dominican staple dish made primarily with green plantains that evokes the history of African slavery (Marte 2013). (An almost identical dish is called mofongo in Puerto Rico.) The word itself is of Azande origins, meaning power or spirit, and during slavery green plantains, primarily feed to slaves, were called bread of blacks (pan de negros). Plantains are important in other ways. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans sometimes refer to their compatriots as having “the stain of the plantain” (la mancha del plátano). Cooking and eating mangú is often accompanied by stories of lives in the Dominican Republic as well as in New York City, of shared struggles and memories. Mangú, along with la bandera (discussed earlier in this chapter), is one of several dishes that keeps alive and indexes national identity, in the Dominican Republic as well as among Dominican migrants in New York City.

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


Northern South America has always been an amalgam of different kinds of peoples. Guyana is sometimes referred to as the “Land of Six Races” to refer to the country’s major ethno-racial-religious-linguistic groupings, i.e., “Africans, Amerindians (First Guyanese), East Indians (South Asians), Europeans (including Portuguese), Chinese, and people of mixed race commonly called ‘Douglas’ ” (Richards-Greaves 2013:77). There is little consensus on what exactly is “Guyanese” food, for each group interprets its own food and cuisine as reflecting national identity. In other words, cooking and eating tends to bind Guyanese to a grouping they identify themselves with, and differentiate them from others, which in turn reflects the deep fissures in Guyanese society. The basic ingredients used in everyday cooking (e.g., pork, poultry, rice, plantains, tubers, beans, condiments) are available to all. Yet how these are combined by different Guyanese, and the symbolic associations that they attach to specific dishes, is what determines ethnic distinctiveness and claims to national cuisines. For example, fufú is a dish of West African origins that Guyanese Africans claim as their own – and “Guyanese.” (Fufú is also eaten in Cuba – see earlier in this chapter.). “European” black pudding, a hearty concoction made from pig intestines, cow’s blood, and rice, may appeal to some, but it is generally frowned upon by Muslims, some Christians, and Rastafarians, for whom blood or pork is considered unclean and their consumption sinful. Guyana’s “segmented nationalism” (Richards-Greaves 2013:90) is reflected in food and cuisine.

Are “hot” and “cold” foods healthy? Anthropologists have long studied how and why LAC peoples classify foods as either hot or cold, a distinction part of the humoral understanding of health and the body (Boster and Weller 1990; Harwood 1998; Messer 1981, 1987; see also Chapter 5). Which foods are classed as hot or cold vary enormously. Some Puerto Ricans in New York City place white and lima beans in the cold category, while viewing kidney beans, evaporated milk, and alcoholic beverages as hot. While for them sugarcane is a cold substance, Mexican Oaxacans believe it is hot. In Mexico, bananas are viewed by some Tlaxcalans as cold and by Oaxacans as hot. Whether some foods are hot or cold has little to do with their thermal temperatures, either in a raw or cooked state, but rather with their perceived effects on overall physical and emotional well-being. One Cuban, commenting on the island government’s adding of soybeans to ground beef rations, remarked that: Soy is very aggressive for the Cuban body, for the stomach, it’s very hot and since the climate here is so hot our bodies are not adjusted to such hot foods. . . . Some people, like from northern climates can eat soy, but not Cubans. (Garth 2013a:104) But is the hot-cold continuum an example of “traditional” beliefs  – quaint (or, worse, irrational) leftovers from the past with little relevance to actual health? Hardly. With deep historical roots, this belief system is part of a broader set of understandings and practices that many rely on in their quest to sustain good health. In Oaxaca, Mexico, foods are classified on a continuum, from very hot, such as chili peppers or mescal (an alcoholic beverage made from the maguey cactus plant), to very


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cold, such as rice, vegetable soup, or water. A healthy body is one that is balanced, and a healthy meal should include different combinations of hot and cold foods so that they offset each other’s harmful effects. Depending on body’s initial well-being, larger quantities of hot or cold foods may be required. For example, in Oaxaca, some persons are thought to be born excessively hot, and since they are therefore susceptible to “cold” illnesses, they require a greater amount of very hot foods, such as onions. A person’s life cycle also determines the need to consume varying quantities of hot/cold foods. Adolescence, for example is considered an especially hot life stage that requires consuming more cold foods, and cold illnesses, such as coughs and swollen stomachs, are often treated with hot mint tea. From a humoral standpoint, typical food combinations, such as serving very spicy mole with black beans (neither too hot or cold) and rice (very cold), make a great deal of sense. Served together, chilies, beans, and rice are also quite healthy as they complement each other’s dearth in amino acids and other nutrients (Mathews 1983; Pilcher 2000). Minerals and other non-botanical substances, such as salt (sodium chloride), also form part of the humoral hot-cold dichotomy and of healing practices. During pre-conquest times salt was a crucial ingredient in the Mesoamerican diet, valued for preserving food and enhancing its flavor but also because of its therapeutic effects. For example, Maya used it as a means of birth control and for reducing the pains of childbirth, while Aztecs used salt, along with maguey syrup (made from agave cactus), to prevent wounds from becoming infected – an effective practice confirmed by subsequent research. Salt also had considerable religious importance, and one of the Aztecs’ deities, Huixtochiuatl, was the Lady of Salt (Barker et al. 2017). As in Mesoamerica, salt is also important in a Latino, primarily Mexican-American, farmworker community in California’s Central Valley (Barker et al. 2017). Farmworkers’ therapeutic uses of salt are also part of their humoral understandings of the body and health. They rely on salt to treat chronic illnesses (such as high blood pressure, anemia, and cardiovascular and respiratory ailments) and to avoid dehydration during the extremely hot summer months. Farmworkers attribute a range of illnesses to exposure to, or wide swings in, hot and cold conditions. One woman said that her asthma was due to sudden exposure to extreme temperature, as when after working all day in a hot tomato cannery she walked outside when it was very cold. Wide fluctuations in daily temperatures (i.e., between day and night) are also causes of other ailments. Farmworkers associate blood pressure with a range of hot emotions – tensions, worries, stress, and feelings of distress. Their therapeutic use of food is also consistent with the hot-cold continuum. For example, and like in other parts of Mexico, dark substances such as black coffee, Coke, or Pepsi and red popsicles are considered hot and therefore useful in treating cold ailments, such as fatigue and dizziness. As with humoral understandings of health, extremes and excesses bode ill-health. Consuming salt is an effective way of grappling with ill-health. Farmworkers believe that adding salt to coffee is an especially potent way of dealing with cold ailments, and it is used in many other healing practices. In addition to treating dehydration, salt is also an important remedy for mosquito bites, indigestion, stomachaches, and to bring down swelling. They are also aware of the biomedical dangers of excessively using salt and that its efficacy also depends on achieving humoral balance, so that: Under-salted food could also lack (humoral) efficacy as it was also believed that too little or too much of a substance could have the opposite effect than the

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one desired and cause further harm. Too little salt could possibly not restore balance or stave off the ill effects of exposure to excess heat, disordered eating patterns and unrelenting everyday stresses. Excess salt could be dangerous, and not just for cardio-vascular health. Salt, then, was both a cause of illness and a therapeutic tool. It all depended on symptoms, body part affected, circumstances, diagnosis, and prior experiences. (Barker et al. 2017:8)

In the United States: the appeal of Latino taste Just as food and cuisine were cultural battlegrounds soon after the conquest, so too they were turned into contested arenas after the Mexican-American War. The annexation by the US of over half of Mexico’s territory brought in its wake a demeaning of Mexican foods – and of Mexicans who ate them: Foods . . . served as a means to project and assert the perceived racial inferiority of the Mexican population. The Anglo population considered Mexican food dirty, unhealthy, and the cause of their degenerate state. Certain types of meats such as menudo (tripe stew), morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, chicharrones (pork rinds), barbacoa de cabeza (cow’s head barbecue), patagordilla (organ meats and blood stew), mollejas (thymus glands) and fajitas (beef skirts) became proof of their lower status. The production of morcilla was even outlawed as unhygienic due to its use of blood. Derogatory terms for the Mexican American population often centered on their diet. They were referred to as “chilis,” “pepper belly,” “taco choker,” “frijole guzzler,” . . . “beaner.” (Gordus 2013:413) Today, many of those foods (but not, as far as I know, barbacoa de cabeza) are served in upscale Latino restaurants. As the fastest growing ethnic category, Latinos’ food preferences are quickly and profoundly shaping foodways in the US. The Mexican influence is unmistakable. Tacos, enchiladas, tamales, fajitas, burritos, chiles rellenos, and quesadillas are so common in everyday culinary vocabulary that they are almost as “American” as old-fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs, and the Mad Mex, Chipotle, and Taco Bell restaurant chains have over 10,000 outlets in the US. Other LAC gastronomic traditions, such as Peruvian raw seafood cured in lime or lemon juice (ceviche) and Caribbean roast pork (lechón), are also rapidly making their way into North American cuisines. Iconic fast food chains – Burger King, McDonalds (which for years had a major stake in the Chipotle chain), Wendy’s, and Pizza Hut among others – are increasing their advertisements in Spanish to reach out to the growing Latino market. They are also changing their menus to appeal to Latino consumers – and in the process also spreading Latino taste to others. Burger King advertises a Whopperito (beef, lettuce, onions, and pickles in a flour tortilla) with a cheesy sauce instead of mayonnaise, while McDonalds promotes salsa burgers with a spicy jalapeño cheese sauce. Concerns that the mass, standardized production and distribution of meals by fast food conglomerates is leading to a disappearance of local and regional dishes – one possible outcome of what some have called the “McDonaldization of culture” – are perhaps premature (Fischler 2013).


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Not to be left behind, food companies are also promoting new product lines, and nowadays supermarket shoppers can choose from a rich array of Latino products. Breyers and Haagen-Dazs now offer caramel (dulce de leche) ice cream, and others promote mango and coconut sorbets; consumers can buy guava, coconut, papaya, and soursop (guanábana) marmalades; soup producers now include tortillas and cilantro in some of their canned products; Anheuser-Busch advertises lime and cactus flavored beers; the century-old Tabasco company offers consumers a broader selection of chili hot pepper sauces, and others, such as guacamole and “Cuban” mojo (the latter originally from the Canary Islands), are also becoming popular. The produce department of many supermarkets typically includes foods such as plantains, avocados, cassava, papaya, and cilantro. And, of course, we should not forget the ubiquitous tortilla, sales which, boasts the Tortilla Industry Association, “exceed all other ethnic and specialty bread sales, including bagels, croissants, muffins and pita bread” ( Founded in 1936 by Spanish immigrants to Puerto Rico who later settled in New York City, Goya Foods has played a crucial role in this Latinization of the US’s food preferences. With $1.5 billion in annual revenues; more than two dozen manufacturing and distribution plants in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and the US; and over 2,000 products from Mexico, Spain, and LAC, Goya Foods is the largest and fastest growing Latino food distributor in the US. It not only reaches out to Latinos but also aggressively markets its products and culinary tastes to non-Latinos. Some recipes advertised in Goya’s website shows how it attempts to reach a wealthy, non-Latino market: lemon-cilantro steamed halibut with herbed jasmine rice, roasted asparagus and carrots with serrano ham, and avocado and grapefruit salad ( Most major supermarkets in the US sell Goya products and advertise its familiar logo (Figure 8.3). Goya reaches out to, promotes brand loyalty, and culturally connects with its Latino consumers in several ways: donating food to Catholic charities, or to Ecuador following the 2016 earthquake; establishing an orphanage in Colombia; raising funds for homeless and neglected children in several LAC countries; publicly honoring the former baseball star Roberto Clemente; and receiving public recognition for supporting former First Lady Michelle Obama’s MyPlate campaign ( How and why foods are consumed are deeply cultural issues, and Goya ingredients and advertising stir memory and feelings of nostalgia, and recreate a pan-Latino ethnic identity: Goya consumers in the USA could feel part of the Goya universe moved by different motives. Some Hispanics/Latinos are familiar with the brand because they used it in their country of origin. That is the case of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Spaniards, just to mention three groups. Therefore, nostalgic consumption would explain their brand preference. Others might recognize it as one of the products used by their mothers when preparing food; as a consequence, they would select the brand because it is something that triggers family memoirs, and food preparation and consumption as spaces for ethnogenesis. A third scenario introduces a Hispanic/Latino, who is not familiar with the brand, but encounters its pervasive presence in Hispanic related events, Hispanic markets, or Spanish-based media. As a result, her/his brand awareness associated with community-based events could positively affect brand perception triggering brand preference. Therefore, Hispanics/Latinos as

Food, cuisine, and cultural expression


FIGURE 8.3  Goya Foods, Miami, Florida Source: Harry Sanabria

translocal consumers exert their Latinidad at different levels and their relationship to Goya as a brand could differ significantly from consumer to consumer. (Fonseca 2003:185–186) Goya reaches out to non-Latino consumers not only by offering “authentic” LAC foods but also by mystification – mystifying tropical Latin America and promoting the consumption of Goya Foods as a cruise-like exotic journey away from home. One ad introducing Goya nectars invites consumers to “taste the Tropics,” while another encourages them to “Allow your palate to experience the Caribbean,” promising them a “Magic Caribbean experience” (Fonseca 2003:224–225). The transformation of foodways in the US has also been influenced by the growing popularity of Nuevo Latino (New Latin) restaurants offering out-of-the-ordinary, “exotic” dishes, similar to the mystification of the tropics mentioned above. These reflect a re-invention of LAC cuisine for upper-class consumers hardly recognizable to the average Latino. In these restaurants Diners could start their virtual trip into the New World of Latin American cuisine with a Peruvian ceviche garnished with Puerto Rican Tostones or with a Sancocho de gallina bringing from Panama new ways for appreciating a chicken soup. A Tamarind Glazed Salmon Spinach Salad including spinach,


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jicama, red onion, crisped sweet potatoes tossed with lemon-cilantro dressing, and served with jalapeño cornbread promises salad lovers an exotic tropical twist. For the main dish, grilled Mahi-Mahi served over a shallot-boniato puree with sweet pea-cilantro sauce and a lobster-fava bean salad introduces daring colors and textures. Finally, dessert time makes difficult choosing between a caramelized Coconut Flan from Cuba or a Nicaraguan Tres Leches. (Fonseca 2003:95–96)

Concluding thoughts Eating and enjoying food may seem a mundane undertaking, but it is culturally and socially important. Pre-conquest peoples enjoyed a wide spectrum of foods and cuisines, all significant in ritual settings and social interactions. After the conquest, some European crops fared well while others did not, and widespread attempts to replace indigenous with European foods and cuisines largely failed. In this chapter I also emphasized how what is eaten signals racial, class and ethnic distinctions, and how what is cooked often epitomizes agency. Food and cuisine also ignite memory and feelings of belonging and are important in religious beliefs and practices, as well as in the construction of national identities. I turn to health and illness in the following chapter and also underscore the cultural malleability and distinctiveness of LAC beliefs and practices.

FILMS/VIDEOS Banana Wars: Global Fury Over a Humble Fruit. 2008. Films on Demand. Explores the conflictive relationships between international corporations and banana producers. Guatemala: The Human Price of Coffee. 2004. Films Media Group. Shows how Guatemalan coffee farmers attempt to obtain better prices for their crop. The Hand That Stirred the Pot: African Foods in America. 2003. Ambrose Video Publishing. An account of the influence of African culture on Latin American cuisine and food habits.

The Seed of Life: The Story of Corn. 2003. Ambrose Video Publishing. Centers on the history of maize in Latin America and its spread to other parts of the globe. Some Like It Hot: The Story of Chili Peppers. 2003. Ambrose Video Publishing. Story of the history of chili peppers, including how they were introduced to parts of Africa. Sugar Babies: Growing Up in the Cane Fields. 2007. Films Media Group. Focuses on Haitian children working as sugarcane laborers in the Dominican Republic.

WEBSITES American Anthropological Association. Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. https:// Association for the Study of Food and Society. www.

University of Texas-Austin. Food and Culture Bibliography. CultureandFood.htm

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Counihan, Carole M. 1999. The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power. New York: Routledge. Crosby, Alfred W. 1972. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Cuéllar, Andrea M. 2013. The Archaeology of Food and Social Inequality in the Andes. Journal of Archaeological Research 21(2):123–174. Curcio-Nagy, Linda A. 1994. Giants and Gypsies: Corpus Christi in Colonial Mexico City. In Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance: Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico. Beezley, William H. and Martin, Cheryl E., et al., eds. Pp. 1–26. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc. DeFrance, Susan D. 2006. The Sixth Toe: The Modern Culinary Role of the Guinea Pig in Southern Peru. Food and Foodways 14(1):3–34. Fajans, Jane. 2012. Brazilian Food: Race, Class and Identity in Regional Cuisines. London: Berg. Fernandes, João A. 2014. Alcohol, Identity, and Social Hierarchy in Colonial Brazil. In Alcohol in Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Pierce, Gretchen and Toxqui, Áurea, eds. Pp. 46–66. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Few, Martha. 2005. Chocolate, Sex, and Disorderly Women in Late-Seventeenth and EarlyEighteenth-Century Guatemala. Ethnohistory 52(4):673–687. Finch, Martha L. 2014. Foreword. In Religion, Food, and Eating in North America. Zeller, Benjamin E. and Neilson, Reid L., et al., eds. Pp. xi–xii. New York: Columbia University Press. Fischler, Claude. 2013. The ‘McDonaldization’ of Culture. In Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present. Flandrin, JeanLouis and Montanari, Massimo, et al., eds. Pp. 472–487. New York: Columbia University Press. Folch, Christine. 2008. Fine Dining: Race in Prerevolution Cuban Cookbooks. Latin American Research Review 43(2):205–223. Fonseca, Vanessa. 2003. Fractal Capitalism and the Latinization of the United States Market. Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin.


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Friedlander, Judith. 2006. Being Indian in Hueyapan: A Study of Forced Identity in Contemporary Mexico. (2nd Edition). New York: St. Martin’s Press. Gade, Daniel W. 2000. South America. In The Cambridge World History of Food (Vol. 2). Kiple, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild C., eds. Pp. 1254–1259. New York: Cambridge University Press. Garrard-Burnett, Virginia. 2012. Conclusion: Community Drunkenness and Control in Guatemala. In Distilling the Influence of Alcohol: Aguardiente in Guatemalan History. Carey, David and Taylor, William B., eds. Pp. 157–180. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Garth, Hanna. 2013a. Cooking Cubanidad: Food Importation and Cuban Identity in Santiago de Cuba. In Food and Identity in the Caribbean. Garth, Hanna, ed. Pp. 95–106. London: Bloomsbury. ———. 2013b. Introduction: Understanding Caribbean Identity through Food. In Food and Identity in the Caribbean. Garth, Hanna, ed. Pp. 1–14. London: Bloomsbury. Goldstein, Donna M. 2003. Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gordus, Andrew. 2013. Feeding a Latino Identity: Latino Foodways and Culture in the United States. In Latinos and American Popular Culture. Montilla, Patricia M., ed. Pp. 409–430. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Gutiérrez, Ramón A. 1991. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Harvey, Graham. 2015. Respectfully Eating or Not Eating: Putting Food at the Center of Religious Studies. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 26:32–46. Harwood, Alan. 1998. The Hot-Cold Theory of Disease: Implications for the Treatment of Puerto Rican Patients. In Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology. Brown, Peter J., ed. Pp. 251–258. London: Mayfield Publishing Company. Holtzman, Jon D. 2006. Food and Memory. Annual Review of Anthropology 35:361–378.

Keegan, William F. 2000. The Caribbean, Including Northern South America. In The Cambridge World History of Food (Vol. 2). Kiple, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild C., eds. Pp. 1260– 1277. New York: Cambridge University Press. Khan, Aisha. 1994. Juthaa in Trinidad: Food, Pollution, and Hierarchy in a Caribbean Diaspora Community. American Ethnologist 21(2):245–269. Klein, Jakob A. 2014. Introduction: Cooking, Cuisine and Class and the Anthropology of Food. In Food Consumption in Global Perspective: Essays in the Anthropology of Food in Honour of Jack Goody. Klein, Jakob A. and Murcott, Anne, eds. Pp. 1–24. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Krögel, Alison. 2012. Food, Power, and Resistance in the Andes: Exploring Quechua Verbal and Visual Narratives. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Margolis, Maxine L. and Bezerra, Maria E., et  al. 2001. Brazil. In Countries and Their Cultures (Vol 1). Ember, Melvin and Ember, Carol R., eds. Pp. 283–301. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Marte, Lidia. 2007. Foodmaps: Tracing Boundaries of ‘Home’ Through Food Relations. Food and Foodways 15(3–4):261–289. ———. 2013. Versions of Dominican Mangú: Intersections of Gender and Nation in Caribbean Self-Making. In Food and Identity in the Caribbean. Garth, Hanna, ed. Pp. 57–74. London: Bloomsbury. Mathews, Holly F. 1983. Context-Specific Variation in Humoral Classification. American Anthropologist 85(4):826–847. Messer, Ellen. 1981. Hot-Cold Classification: Theoretical and Practical Implications of a Mexican Study. Social Science and Medicine 15B:133–145. ———. 1987. The Hot and Cold in Mesoamerican Indigenous and Hispanicized Thought. Social Science and Medicine 25(4):339–346. Millones Figueroa, Luis. 2010. The Staff of Life: Wheat and ‘Indian Bread’ in the New World. Colonial Latin American Review 19(2):310–322. Mintz, Sidney W. 1985a. From Plantation to Peasantries in the Caribbean. In Caribbean Contours. Mintz, Sidney W. and Price, Sally, eds.

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History. Pierce, Gretchen and Toxqui, Áurea, eds. Pp. 104–130. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Valdéz, Lidio M. 2006. Maize Beer Production in Middle Horizon Peru. Journal of Anthropological Research 62(1):53–80. Walker, Timothy. 2007. Slave Labor and Chocolate in Brazil: The Culture of Cacao Plantations in Amazonia and Bahia (17th – 19th Centuries). Food and Foodways 15(1–2):75–106. Weismantel, Mary J. 1988. Food, Gender, and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Wilk, Richard R. 1999. ‘Real Belizean Food’: Building Local Identity in the Transnational Caribbean. American Anthropologist 101(2):244–255.



Striving for health and coping with illness


ll societies strive to keep their members healthy, require explanations for when they become sick, and also need ways to diagnose and treat their ailments. The focus of this chapter is on how LAC peoples understand and cope with health and illness. In the first section I review key concepts in medical anthropology, including the distinction between ethnomedicine and biomedicine, and stress the usefulness of the perspective known as critical medical anthropology. I then turn to indicators of poverty, inequality, and ill-health. In the following two sections I center attention on contrasting ethnomedical and biomedical explanations for diseases, such as tuberculosis (TB), AIDS, and Zika and the folk illnesses of susto, mal de ojo, nervios, and grisi siknis. This is followed by an account of how healthy and unhealthy bodies echo social ties and expectations in the Andes, Amazonia, and the Caribbean. Health or ill-health never takes place in a political-economic vacuum, and in the next segment, I compare and contrast the US and Cuban health care systems. I end this chapter by appraising the health of migrant farmworkers, an important policy issue in the United States.

Medical anthropology Medical anthropology studies health and illness from a cross-cultural perspective. Its premise is that health and illness are more than biological states but also social, cultural, political, and economic. Medical anthropologists focus on how societies face the challenge of ensuring their members’ health, explaining how and why some become sick, and what steps they take to cure the ill. The beliefs, practices, and knowledge with which social groups thwart threats to health and diagnose and treat ailments make up their medical system. Ethnomedicine refers to medical beliefs and practices from the perspective of a society’s culturally specific (emic) understandings and classifications of health and illness. It typically downplays biological explanations of ill-health, privileging instead its social and cultural causes. Ethnomedical practitioners (healers) believe that illness is the result of an imbalance or lack of harmony between humans, or between humans and the supernatural. Their treatment typically centers on minimizing discord and restoring balance and good will, often through religious rituals. Some anthropologists contrast ethnomedicine with biomedicine, the medical system of western, industrial societies. Biomedicine emphasizes the causal role of biological pathogens and physiological and chemical imbalances in individual bodies, largely downplaying the importance of culture, meaning, and social



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relations. Also unlike ethnomedicine, biomedicine makes the distinction – deeply rooted in European/Western thought – between ailments of the mind and body, relegating the former to the category of psychological, emotional, or psychosomatic illnesses, and the latter to disease. For some anthropologists the difference between ethnomedicine and biomedicine has been overstated because all medical systems are a product of their cultural and social contexts. For instance, psychiatry may be an ideologically free, “hard science” to its practitioners, but labelling homosexuality as an aberrant syndrome, only to later drop this designation, or mildly recasting transgender as a less serious “disorder” (Chapter 6) points to how biomedicine is also an ethnomedical, culturally rooted system. “In reality,” Singer and Baer tell us, all medical systems constitute ethnomedicines in that they developed from and are embedded in particular sociocultural systems, regardless of whether they are small-scale or state societies. In this sense, all healers, from shamans to cardiovascular surgeons, are ethnohealers, even though the latter have far transcended the boundaries of any single ethnic group or population because their orientation to healing is rooted in Western culture. (2012:94) Overlapping and complementary medical systems, or medical pluralism, are present in state-level societies typically stratified by class, race, and ethnicity. Medical anthropologists try to understand when, how, and why patients rely on one or more medical systems. Critical medical anthropology (CMA), also known as the political economy of health, is concerned with the role of political-economic inequality and differential access to power in the emergence, spread, and responses to infectious diseases, such as TB, HIV/ AIDS, and Zika. While critical medical anthropologists do not dismiss the importance of culturally specific, emic accounts for ill-health, they broaden their analytic horizons to include how explanations of ethnomedical illnesses and biomedical diseases have emerged in wider, historical contexts marked by unequal power relations and differential access to resources: Explanations that are limited to accounting for health related issues in terms of the influence of human personalities, culturally constituted motivations and understandings, or even local ecological relationships . . . are inadequate because they tend not to include examination of the structures of social relationship that unite (in some, often unequal fashion) and influence far-flung individuals, communities, and even nations. . . . Critical medical anthropology (CMA) [focuses] attention on understanding the origins of dominant cultural constructions in health, including which social class, gender, or ethnic group’s interests particular health concepts express and under what set of historic conditions they arise. Further, CMA emphasizes structures of power and inequality in health care systems and the contributions of health ideas and practices to reinforcing inequalities in the wider society. Moreover, CMA focuses on the social origins of illness, such as the ways in which poverty, discrimination, stigmatization, violence, and fear of violence contribute to poor health. . . . In

Striving for health and coping with illness


other words, people develop their own individual and collective understandings and responses to illness and to other threats to their well-being, but they do so in a world that is not of their own making, a world in which inequality of access to health care, the media, productive resources (e.g., land, water), and valued social statuses play a significant role in their daily options. (Singer and Baer 2012:36–37) Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil is one of the best known ethnographies in CMA (1992). She did her fieldwork in a favela in northeastern Brazil, a region historically battered by recurring droughts, chronic hunger, malnutrition, disease, grinding poverty, and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Most favela residents are desperately poor and have preciously little access to jobs, clean running water, sewage facilities, and health services (Figure 9.1). Scheper-Hughes focused on how a political economy of deprivation, scarcity, hunger, and violence inscribes itself onto the bodies of women; structures their interpersonal

FIGURE 9.1  Favela on the Outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Source: Alicia Nijdam CC BY 2.0


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relationships; and, most importantly, decisively impacts their ability to care for, and how they interpret the deaths of, their children. Half of the mothers’ infants die before their fifth birthday. Her goal was to show that infant and child mortality are not merely the direct result of poverty and malnutrition but also a consequence of indirect infanticide by mothers who neglect some of children so that others might live. In such a context of scarcity and deprivation, many children do not survive, and hence, in the absence of a firm grounding for the expectancy of child survival, maternal thinking and practice are grounded in a set of assumptions (e.g., that infants and babies are easily replaceable or that some infants are born “wanting” to die) that contribute even further to an environment that is dangerous, even antagonistic, to new life. . . . [What] is created is an environment in which death is understood as the most ordinary and most expected outcome for the children of poor families. (1992:20) CMA has furthered our understanding of the wider determinants of health and disease with the concepts of social suffering and structural violence. Social suffering means how “individual experience of pain and distress [is linked] to the wider social events and structural conditions that often are the ultimate sources of human misery. . . . [It] refers to the immediate personal experience of broad human problems caused by the cruel exercise of political and economic power . . . exploitation, and abject poverty” (Singer and Baer 2012:73). The idea of social suffering turns our attention away from an individual (and individualistic) interpretation of illness, i.e., this illness only afflicts this body. Experiences of social suffering are conveyed through illness narratives and idioms of distress, stories and terms with which persons communicate feelings, concerns, and moral statements about their afflictions, often alluding to social injustice through the use of metaphors. These are statements on the social underpinnings of emotional and physical well-being. Among Peruvian Quechua-speaking highland peasants, idioms of distress include worries or worrying thoughts (pinsamientuwan), suffering (ñakary), sorrow or sadness (llaki), or too many thoughts (tutal): It’s ñakaryniku (suffering), when my body feels like this, you see? . . . Umananay, my head hurts, istumaguyki pawaspan, my stomach hurts, and my bones hurt up to the chinila (marrow) with the cold, wirpuypi malukuna (it hurts inside the bones all over my body) to the point I can’t take it any more. . . . Women are different than men . . . when men die, women are left behind, lonely and . . . sad, suffering with llaki. How is she [a woman with llaki] supposed to raise her children? How would she be able to work? How would she plough for sowing or fallow the chacra? . . . In the dry season, how is she going to break the hardened soil? How is she going to protect the harvest from thieves? That is why women cry and have pinsamientuwan. While for men, working [in the chacra] is normal, for a woman [this kind of work] is not achievable and thus it creates pinsamientuwan, feelings of sadness and llaki. (Pedersen and Kienzler, et al. 2010:291–292) Structural violence, a concept coined by Paul Farmer, is an interpretative and politicaleconomic framework – a way of thinking about the causes, spread, and entrenchment of

Striving for health and coping with illness


global diseases such as TB and AIDS. Without losing track of the importance of illness narratives and idioms of distress, this perspective understands the afflictions they point to as direct results of the political economy and history of European colonialism and, more recently, global inequality. This framework draws on the work of Sidney Mintz and others who have linked the interpretive project of modern anthropology to a historical understanding of the large-scale social and economic structures in which affliction is embedded. The emergence and persistence of these epidemics [tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS]  .  .  . is rooted in the enduring effects of European expansion in the New World and in the slavery and racism with which it was associated. . . . [An] anthropology of these and other plagues moves us beyond noting, for example, their strong association with poverty and social inequalities to an understanding of how such inequalities are embodied as differential risk for infection and, among those already infected, for adverse outcomes including death. (Farmer 2004:305)

Poverty, inequality, and ill-health Ethnomedical beliefs and practices are neither the cause of illness, nor do they stand in the way of achieving good health. Vinh-Kim and Peschard echo the view of CMA that poor health and vulnerability to disease are primarily due to the skewing of income and health resources towards those at the top of the social and economic hierarchies. “The relationship between poverty and ill health,” they write, is well established. . . . The mechanisms by which poverty causes disease . . . include weakened immunity and neurophysiological development because of malnutrition, ease of spread of pathogens because of insalubrious living conditions, and the precariousness of social support networks. . . . It is the material deprivation poverty entails that is unhealthy. (2003:449) And Robbins reminds us of the increasing disparities in wealth between core and periphery and the accompanying disparity in susceptibility to disease. More than 98% of deaths from communicable disease (16.3 million a year) occur in the periphery. Worldwide, 32% of all deaths are caused by infectious disease, but in the periphery, infectious disease is responsible for 42% of all deaths, compared with one percent in industrialized countries. (2014:221) Rates of infant and maternal mortality, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS allow us to view the relationship between ill-health, poverty, and inequality. While glossing over vast disparities between rural and urban communities, poor and wealthy, women and men, and ethnicity, these data are useful for appraising overall trends (Table 9.1).

TABLE 9.1  Rates of infant/maternal mortality, tuberculosis (TB), and HIV/AIDS

Country Anguilla Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Aruba Bahamas Barbados Belize Bermuda Bolivia Brazil British Virgin Islands Cayman Islands Chile Colombia Costa Rica Cuba Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador El Salvador French Guiana Guadeloupe Martinique Grenada Guatemala Guyana Haiti Honduras Jamaica Mexico Montserrat Netherlands Antillesc Nicaragua Panama Paraguay Peru Puerto Rico Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Suriname Trinidad and Tobago Turks and Caicos Islands Uruguay Venezuela

Infant mortalitya

Maternal mortalityb

Tuberculosis (TB)c


HIV/AIDS (totals)e

. . . 17.4 12.1 9.3 17.9 10.9 17.9 1.2 50 17.1 6.7 5.1 7.9 20.6 9.5 4.5 13.9 27.8 14.6 16 11.8 7.5 8.8 12.2 34 20.3 57 23 . . . 14.9 23.2 8 29 11.9 15.4 17 8.7 13.6 13.9 16.8 20.3 13.2 . . . 7.7 14.2

. . . . . . 55 . . . . . . 58.4 53.9 . . . 31 72.3 . . . . . . 16.9 72.9 21.1 46.9 . . . 133.4 69.7 55.8 28.2 14.3 13.3 . . . 139.7 92.2 630 74 89 53.2 . . . 13.3 64.7 24.9 125.3 93 4.1 . . . . . . . . . 122.5 16.1 . . . 8.5 62.9

21 7.5 25 12 18 . . . 25 . . . 117 41 . . . 13 16 31 11 7 11 60 52 43 . . . . . . . . . 5.4 25 93 194 43 4.6 21 . . . 3.7 51 50 41 119 1.6 5.1 8.8 7.4 33 17 6.7 30 29

. . . . . . .4 . . . 3.3 .9 1.4 . . . .3 . . . . . . . . . .4 .5 .3 < .1 . . . .7 .6 .6 . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 1.3 2.1 .5 1.7 .2 . . . . . . .3 .7 .3 .4 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1 1.6 . . . .7 .6

. . . . . . 98 . . . 7 1.5 3.1 . . . 16 595f . . . . . . 39 150 9.8 4.7 . . . 45 52 25 . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 7.2 150 26 28 170 . . . . . . 9.6 17 13 76 . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 14 . . . 13 110

Notes: a Per 1,000 Live Births; b Per 1,000 Live Births; c Per 1,000 persons; d Per 1,000 adults, ages 15–49; e In thousands, 2012; f Average between lower and upper estimates. Source: PAHO (2012); UNAIDS (2013); WHO (2016)

Striving for health and coping with illness


Poverty in LAC declined considerably over the past 30 years. Still, between 2010 and 2012, over 30% of its population (more than 175 million persons) lived in poverty, including 12% (70 million) in extreme, abject penury. Country comparisons are useful. In Bolivia, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Nicaragua over 60% were poverty-stricken, while the poverty rate in Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay was less than 20%. In all countries rural regions fared far worse than urban areas. Inequality is also widespread and deeply entrenched. Not only was LAC in 2009 the most inequitable region of the world, but it was also a “lopsided continent” in which the least fortunate were primarily women, indigenous peoples, and those of African descent. Survey data from 2012 on 17 countries show that Guatemala was the most inequitable, followed by Brazil and Honduras (ECLAC 2013; Gootenberg 2010; Hoffman and Centeno 2003; PAHO 2012). Malnutrition is widespread and strongly correlates with class and ethnic inequality. Guatemala has the highest rate of malnutrition in LAC and the fourth highest in the world; almost half of its school-age children were chronically malnourished in 2008. As in Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador, and virtually all other LAC countries, nutritional deficiencies are clustered in the poorest quintile of the population, which includes most rural and indigenous peoples. Survey data indicate a decline in calorie and protein intake between 1984 and 2010 in Mexico, especially in rural areas (PAHO 2012; Valero-Gil and Valero 2013). Infant and maternal mortality rates are routinely used to measure health trends. High mortality rates clustered around the youngest and most vulnerable – infants, children, and women – point to inadequate pre- and post-natal care. Some of the poorest countries with the largest numbers of indigenous peoples, such as Bolivia and Guatemala, have the highest infant mortality rates. Haiti, the most impoverished country in LAC, leads in infant and maternal mortality. Given Cuba’s socialized medical system, its maternal mortality rate is unusually high. Ill-health is not gender blind. In Colombia, for instance, Elevated rates of maternal mortality are persistent, linked to gender and other inequalities that widen the gap between certain subgroups of women. Simultaneously, maternal mortality rates are even higher in the poorest quintile, being 1.72 times higher in the departments with the highest rates of unmet basic needs. Maternal mortality is also 70% higher in remote rural areas, amongst indigenous communities or groups of African descent. Maternal mortality is also linked to gender based violence and unwanted pregnancy. (González Vélez and Diniz 2016:58)

Diseases Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Zika are examples of diseases of poverty that: primarily affect the poor and the disempowered. . . . Malnutrition, dirty water, crowded living conditions, poor education, lack of sanitation and hygiene, and lack of decent health-care provisions all increase chances that those who suffer from poverty will also suffer from infectious disease. . . . Crowded living and working conditions facilitate the spread of disease from person to person. Those who are poorly educated fail to take sufficient disease avoidance measures. And poor communities often lack adequate resources to improve sanitation. (González Vélez and Diniz 2016:59)


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Tuberculosis (TB) TB is caused by the bacterium tubercle bacillus, which typically attacks the lungs. It is a disease of poverty that “remains the world’s leading cause of preventable illness and is now more prevalent than in any previous period of human history.” Poor sanitation and hygiene – conditions widespread in LAC – as well as issues of poverty, gender inequality, disease stigmatization and the adequacy of medical services are central elements in any full explanation of the contemporary resurgence of this disease. . . . The principal motor behind the resurgence of tuberculosis has been the sharp rise in global poverty, which has undermined many of the public health advances of the twentieth century. (Gandy and Zumla 2002:385, 391–393) The three countries with the highest TB rates are Bolivia and Peru, both with large numbers of indigenous peoples, and, of course, Haiti (Table 9.1). Medical anthropologists studying TB privilege either an ethnomedical approach emphasizing culturally specific beliefs in achieving good health, or a critical medical perspective. The work by Bastien in Bolivia; Blaisdell and Ødegaard in Peru; and Menegoni in Chiapas, Mexico, are examples of the first approach. Farmer’s fieldwork in Haiti is an example of the second.

Kharisiris in Bolivia and Peru.  Liquichado (Spanish) is an illness that Bastien identifies as TB, and its major symptom is a relentless loss of weight. Bolivian villagers believe that liquichado is caused by a kharisiri, or a cutter of fat, usually a professional (such as doctor or lawyer) or a priest who preys on peasants by removing the fat from their bodies. Bastien tells the story of Marcelino, a 25-year-old sick with liquichado. Treated with antibiotics, Marcelino stopped taking them once he felt better. After a serious relapse, Marcelino’s mother asked the shaman/healer for help and refused to send Marcelino to a hospital. Marcelino died soon thereafter. Marcelino’s mother opted for keeping her son home because “she didn’t want to put her son in the hands of someone who was associated with the attributed cause of his sickness,” as physicians, and especially surgeons, are often viewed as kharisiris. (Elsewhere in the Andes they are also known as ñak’aqs or pishtacos.) Bastien suggests that one effective option would have been “to have the doctor visit and treat Marcelino with the shaman and members of the family present so that they could observe the treatment” (1992:183–186). When seeking treatment, patients often straddle between ethno- and biomedicine. Andeans in Arequipa, Peru, also believe that evil beings, especially kharisiris allied with the Devil, are the immediate cause of ill-health by rapidly stripping bodies of highly prized fat – a sure sign of a life-threatening illness (Blaisdell and Ødegaard 2014). Kharisiris are associated with strangers – and therefore an absence of beneficial reciprocal ties and sociality. These evil creatures became part of the Andean social world during the colonial period in the midst of ravages brought about by the Spanish conquest and surfaced in Peru during the Shining Path insurgency (Chapter 10). Andeans typically grappled with kharisiri-induced illnesses by either trying to kill the source (i.e., the kharisiri), or engaging in a reciprocal relationship whereby fat that has been appropriated is given back to the ill person in return for another valuable substance.

Striving for health and coping with illness


It would be a mistake to think that the belief in kharisiris is a mere relic of an unchanging past frozen in time, for deeply entrenched ways of viewing the world have a remarkable ability to adapt to changing circumstances. While in the past Andeans believed that kharisiris used knives to cut fat from their victims, some now say that they remove fat by employing more modern techniques, such cameras and tape recorders (favorite methods, by the way, that anthropologists use to gather fieldwork data), or syringes used by medical professionals. This recasting of “traditional” beliefs also spills over into treatment options. Because some Andeans now believe that fat stolen by kharisiris is used to manufacture biomedical pills, these are now seen as a way of replenishing the body with a life-giving substance. Since Andean culture has always associated foreignness with power, many prefer pills manufactured outside their own countries, as in Europe or the US. Pills also allow Andeans to minimize contact with health providers – potential, unsuspecting kharisiris who, once again, are strangers with a great deal of power.

Mexico.  In Chiapas, Mexico, Menegoni focused on ethno- and biomedical approaches to TB, especially “the influence of cultural beliefs on the Indians’ response to TB control programs” (1996:383). In Chiapas, TB (sak obal, white cough) has an incidence rate three times that of Mexico. Because of the Protestant influence (Chapter 7), many Maya no longer view illness as the sole result of actions by supernatural beings. Yet rather than their cultural beliefs being swept away, Maya have reinterpreted biomedical categories through their more familiar ethnomedical concepts. For example, the idea of “strength” or “force” with which Maya interpret the effectiveness of herbal treatment is also used for pharmaceutical medicines. Partly because of high transportation costs Maya rarely use the public health system in the nearby town of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Yet those who did have access to care received inadequate treatment because hospital staff did not follow up with necessary supervision. Cultural beliefs were important, for some patients were unaware of the biological causes of TB, most attributing it to an aggravation of bronchitis or a cough; others to getting wet or inhaling volcanic ashes. Menegoni concludes that, local medical beliefs do not represent an absolute obstacle for tuberculosis interventions. But . . . they can lead to delays in diagnosis and abandonment of treatment. . . . Extensive research with patients . . . has shown that problems of adherence to medical regimes are not solely rooted in the cultural differences existing between lay and professional explanatory models. (1996:396–397).

Haiti.  For Paul Farmer, a critical medical perspective is best suited for understanding the causes, prevalence, and consequences of TB in Haiti. He dismisses a widely held idea that cultural beliefs are an obstacle to effective care, arguing instead that inequality and differential power relations are responsible for the spread of TB and lack of adequate treatment. The poor, he tells us, “have no options but to be at risk for TB, and are thus from the outset victims of ‘structural violence’ ” (1997b:349). In his case study of Robert David, a 19-year-old Haitian who in 1986 came down with TB, Farmer emphasizes the structural impediments – violence – that Robert endured. Robert’s family


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brought him to a hospital, which was, however, two hours away by truck. During the Robert’s first treatment, his family sold more than half of their land to pay for his medications. After one and a half years of treatment, he had still not recovered by 1989, and his condition worsened in 1993. By then he was unable to purchase most of the medicines he needed, and some that he did purchase produced serious side effects. By now he had developed drug-resistant TB, and the drugs that he required were not available in Haiti. Robert died in 1995. This brief sketch suggests the thrust of Farmer’s argument: Far too much research – and probably a biomedical “reading” of Robert David’s death – underscores individual patients while neglecting the wider contexts of inequality and poverty that impede access to basic health resources.

AIDS One of the deadliest diseases to assail humankind, AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, the final and fatal stage of the disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. Worldwide, almost 40 million people were living with HIV by 2015, 65% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2000–2014 new HIV infections in LAC declined by 17%, and from 2005 to 2014, AIDS-related deaths dropped by 29%. Still, in 2014 almost two million persons, about 5% of the global total, were living with HIV. LAC’s prevalence rate (the proportion of adults 15–49  years old living with HIV/AIDS) was second only to Sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS 2013, 2015). In LAC, HIV is primarily spread through sexual intercourse. Men who have sex with other men (MSM) – not to be confused with homosexuality (Chapter 6) – have high infection rates. In Jamaica, almost 40% of the MSM are infected. In Brazil, MSM infection rates range between nine and 16%. HIV infection is also high among transgendered women: in ten LAC countries the infection rate is almost 18%, and in Peru 30% are infected (De Boni and Veloso, et al. 2014). Farmer reminds us that “a thorough understanding of the AIDS pandemic demands a commitment to the concerns of history and political economy: HIV . . . has run along the fault lines of economic structures long in the making. . . . Even ‘interpretive’ questions require a historical approach” (1992:9). This is the case of Brazil and Haiti.

Brazil.  Brazil has been especially hard hit, with more than one-fourth of all LAC peoples living with HIV/AIDS. After years of public denial – HIV and AIDS were considered problems “in a distant world of entertainment, sexual perversion, and scandal far from the day-to-day realities of life for most Brazilians” (Larvie 2003:297) – officials finally recognized the public health threat posed by HIV/AIDS. Initially detected among middle-class, urban, white Brazilians, ten years later HIV was firmly entrenched in the poor favelas: [The] epidemic has rapidly become centered in the poorest and most marginal sectors of Brazilian society. . . . It is in the favelas . . . which are largely abandoned by the police and other authorities, that drug traffic is concentrated, that marginalized and stigmatized populations such as transvestite prostitutes, drug users, or others who are simply down on their luck, can

Striving for health and coping with illness


find places to live. . . . Community health services are at best limited, where they exist at all, and a range of different infirmities (sexually transmitted and otherwise) go undetected or untreated. In short, all of the social and medical “cofactors” associated with high levels of HIV infection are found in abundant quantity, and it is in these areas that the AIDS epidemic has taken hold most firmly. (Parker 1997:63) Residents of Brazilian favelas disproportionally suffer from “slum health” – a host of chronic and infectious diseases spawned by disenfranchisement; insecurity; inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and health facilities; and overcrowding. Residents of Río de Janeiro and Salvador’s favelas have higher morbidity and mortality rates (the latter largely due to homicides) than other, more fortunate residents. They are also at higher risk of TB, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments. HIV infection primarily spreads through intravenous drug use and male-male/male-female sexual intercourse. Travestis and other males with alternative gender and sexual identities are at high risk for contracting HIV. Sexual tourism, a popular industry that feeds on images of open, unrestrained sensuality and sexuality, and where female and male sex workers (michês) abound, is a major venue of HIV transmission (Malta and Magnanini, et al. 2010; Riley et al. 2007; Snyder 2016; see also Chapters 6 and 12).

Haiti.  The stigmatization of marginalized groups is a recurrent theme in the history of infectious diseases (Berger 2004). This was so with the onset of AIDS in the US, marked by fear and misguided “scientific” research attributing its proximate cause to Haitians. “Seduced by the call of the wild,” many biomedical and social scientists depicted Haitians as a distant “other,” closer to untamed beasts than full-fledged humans. Images of diseased and very black Haitians swarming onto the US shores were paralleled by accounts of their allegedly bizarre vodou rituals that supposedly facilitated the spread of the HIV virus. One account asserted that: In frenzied trance, the priest lets blood: mammal’s [sic] throats are cut; typically, chicken’s [sic] heads are torn off their necks. The priest bites out the chicken’s tongue with his teeth and may suck on the bloody stump of the neck. . . . [These offerings are] infected with one of the Type C oncogenic retroviruses, which is closely related to HTLV . . . [and the animals’] blood is directly ingested by priests . . . many [of whom] . . . are homosexual men . . . in a position to satisfy their sexual desires. (Farmer 1992:3) These deeply flawed hyperboles linking sexuality, culture, and “exotic” rituals with HIV/ AIDS ignored “the complex relationships between power, gender, and sexuality” (Farmer 1997a:414). Haiti has as many people as Colombia with HIV/AIDS despite the fact that it has one-fourth less people. Haiti’s prevalence rate is second only to the Bahamas (Table 9.1).


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Heterosexual intercourse is the primary way that HIV/AIDS has spread. The broader context should not be overlooked, for abject poverty and the appalling lack of medical services increases Haitians’ vulnerability to disease. The structural position of poor and destitute women is also important. Guylene’s life history shows how marginality, poverty, gender, inequality and insecurity facilitates the spread of HIV (Farmer 1997a). Born into a poor rural family, she was 15 years old when her father cajoled her into engaging into a plasaj (consensual union) with Occident, a well-off peasant 20 years her senior. After the relationship broke up, Guylene – now with two small children, a girl and a boy – left her daughter with Occident’s wife and spent time at her parents’ house in another village. Guylene entered into a second conjugal relationship, this time with Osner, a frequently unemployed mechanic. They moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, in search of better prospects, leaving Guylene’s infant son in the care of her mother. Her years in Port-au-Prince were also hard. Osner was unable to find work, and Guylene was forced to work intermittently as a maid and street vendor. Personal tragedies soon struck. Her infant son (the one under the care of her mother) suddenly died, and soon thereafter Osner, diagnosed with tuberculosis, also passed away, leaving Guylene a pregnant widow. After a brief stint living with her mother and sister, Guylene moved in with some cousins in a nearby town, working as their servant. She did this until her baby fell severely ill, and then she decided to return to the village where Osner’s mother lived and where more medical facilities were available. Guylene, also very sick by this time, left her baby with Osner’s mother and moved again to Port-au-Prince in an unsuccessful quest for work. Soon after arriving, she learned that her baby had died. Returning to Osner’s mother’s village, Guylene tested HIV positive and thereafter entered into a short-lived conjugal relationship with a soldier. Guylene’s tragic life history highlights the fact that “of all the millions of persons on the losing end of the system, few are more trammeled by punitive constraints than are Haitian women living in poverty. For poor Haitian women, often enough, the structures are more like strictures” (Farmer 1997a:424). Paradoxically, it is poor women’s quest for economic security and control over their lives that makes them so vulnerable to HIV. Gender inequality, poverty, a sense of powerlessness, and the paucity of medical assistance are the most important causes of HIV transmission. These structural conditions underpin marital unions (consensual relationships and serial monogamy) that significantly heighten women’s and men’s risk to HIV (Chapter 6). Largely due to increased international funding, Haiti has made great strides in reducing AIDS- and tuberculosis-related mortality over the past 20 years. Non-governmental organizations working with community health providers have expanded treatment options (such as antiretroviral therapies) to significant numbers of Haitians (Farmer 2013).

Zika Zika is a virus transmitted by Aegypti mosquitoes. It was initially detected in Uganda in 1947, and in subsequent decades small outbreaks surfaced in Africa and Oceania. In the Americas, Zika was first identified in Brazil in May 2015. Four months later reports appeared of infected mothers giving birth to infants with abnormally small heads (microcephaly). The rapid spread of the virus and of microcephaly led the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016 to declare Zika an international public health emergency. The seriousness of WHO’s declaration should not be minimized, for in the past decade it has

Striving for health and coping with illness


issued only three emergency declarations: in 2009 during the H1N1 influenza epidemic, May 2014 when poliomyelitis emerged in Pakistan and Syria, and in August 2014 with the Ebola virus. Several cases of Zika spreading through sexual and blood transfusions have been reported, and although it has been detected in breast milk, Zika has yet to be transmitted through breast feeding. By early 2016, Zika had spread to all but a handful of LAC countries. Brazil accounts for most Zika infections and cases of microcephaly. In October 2015, the Ministry of Health reported a 20-fold increase in microcephaly cases in Brazil’s drought and poverty-ridden Northeast (Sampathkumar and Sánchez 2016). Zika, a Brazilian public health journal declared, is “much more than a mosquito” (Carter 2016:159). In the early stages of the epidemic one explanation – reminiscent of nineteenth century Darwinian thinking – associated its emergence and spread to “overpopulation” in “developing” tropical regions. Another somewhat more convincing narrative links Zika to global climate changes. Still, the most persuasive explanation is poverty and meager public health initiatives on behalf of the poor: In this view, in the favelas . . . Zika takes hold where the urban poor live in squalid conditions that make them vulnerable to many infectious and vectorborne diseases, whether tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, or dengue fever.  .  .  . But poverty, in itself, is insufficient to explain the emergence of Zika in a country like Brazil where even within favelas, modernity, comfort, squalor, and vulnerability mix together in complicated ways. The inability of poor communities to access secure infrastructure and to protect and enhance public goods, not income poverty per se, is what creates perfect conditions for the proliferation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This notoriously fast-breeding species flourishes in the ubiquitous detritus of modern urban life: automobile tires, plastic containers, bottle caps, rooftops, stagnant pools of any kind. Aedes thrives in colonias, favelas, and villas where municipal garbage collection is irregular and environmental conditions are precarious. Due to unreliable and intermittent water supplies, it is customary to fill large barrels with water for household use – again, perfect sites for Aedes aegypti breeding. (Carter 2016:158–159) Zika is also about gender and reproductive health, for its worse consequences affect pregnant women and their future babies. Zika-infected pregnant women wishing to abort their fetuses (most public health officials agree that is their best option) face serious obstacles. In most LAC countries abortion is illegal – a form of gendered violence – and, in the worst scenarios, it is illegal under any circumstances, as in El Salvador. This is why, [t]here is an inextricable link between gender based violence and reproductive health. It is . . . crucial to recognize that women who are currently affected by Zika and other public health crises live within asymmetrical power relationships that frequently make it impossible to freely decide about their lives, their sexuality, their reproduction and, in short, their bodies. . . . Only in this context are we able to understand a recommendation of postponing pregnancy without it seeming like the state is burdening women with the responsibility of avoiding the consequences of the Zika virus on this pregnancy: it is impossible to


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ask women to stop getting pregnant if this is not entirely their choice to make and if they are not in a position to carry out their will. (González Vélez and Diniz 2016:60)

Folk illnesses Susto, mal de ojos (mau-olhado, Portuguese), and nervios (nervos, Portuguese) are three of the better-known ethnomedical, or folk illnesses, in LAC and among Latinos in the US. (These are hardly unique to LAC, as variations of these syndromes occur in other world regions.) Grisi siknis primarily afflicts the Miskitu and Mayangna peoples of Nicaragua and Honduras. These illnesses, often classed together because their symptoms, etiologies, and treatment modalities considerably overlap, are usually diagnosed and treated by ethnomedical healers. Biomedical practitioners, who view these ailments as ill-defined psychosomatic disorders, are rarely sought out for help because few understand the social, cultural, and linguistic contexts within which they surface. For the American Psychiatric Association, nervios, susto, and similar ailments are panic, dissociative, or post-traumatic stress disorders, sometimes accompanied by schizophrenia-like symptoms. Anthropologists have been studying susto, mal de ojos, and nervios in LAC since the 1940s (American Psychiatric Association 2013; Lizardi and Oquendo, et al. 2009; Weller and Baer, et al. 2008).

Susto Susto (fright; also called espanto, from the Spanish verb espantar, to frighten away) is an affliction caused by a wide range of sudden, unexpected, potentially traumatic or lifethreatening events that startle, frighten, or generate extreme stress, anxiety, emotional pain, panic, or hostility. Some of susto’s symptoms include loss of appetite, listlessness, lack of motivation, nervousness, inability to concentrate, apathy, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weakness, withdrawal, or profound sadness. Men and women, young and old, and even infants and children may experience a susto episode. French-Creole speakers in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica call this ailment sésisma (from the French saisissement, shock or sudden chill). They interpret sésisma through a humoral understanding of body physiology. A potentially traumatic, sésismatriggering event wears or damages the body’s nervous system. Since sésisma is a cold ailment, its effects are especially harmful if the ill-person’s blood is already cold. While most events leading up to sésisma are believed to be unfortunate, random happenings (such as an accident or the death of a loved one), sometimes it is caused by witches intent on startling their potential victims. Villagers turn to local healers, primarily herbalists, for diagnosing and treating sésisma. Healers provide their patients with warm herbal teas that “melt” the afflicted person’s “chilled” blood. Exercise is also a favorite treatment option as Dominicans believe that a “good sweat” can “warm out the fright.” Healers also recommend prayers when they believe that witchcraft is responsible for sésisma (Quinlan 2010). In Mesoamerica especially, anthropologists have long stressed that susto episodes are often associated with the actions of supernatural forces. While the immediate events that provoke susto can be as varied as elsewhere in LAC, the fundamental, root cause of susto is

Striving for health and coping with illness


the body’s loss of its vital, like-giving force. Terminology is important. Some scholars link susto with soul loss, but early colonial Church theologians referred to a body’s life-giving force as ánima to distinguish it from the Christian concept of soul (alma). When a person shows symptoms of susto, his/her ánima has been captured by malignant spirits, and the affliction can be cured only if it is returned to the afflicted person’s body. In their research in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans in Texas, Glazer and Baer, et al. (2004) note that almost none of their interviewees recognized or understood soul loss, much less the connection between susto and soul loss. Most of their interviewees were convinced that it was illogical to believe that susto was caused by the soul’s departure since this would inevitably signal death. Ethnomedical diagnoses and treatments are not necessarily inconsistent with biomedicine. Mexican-Americans in Texas believe that susto, and especially the strong emotions that it sparks, makes them more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes. Believing in susto does not mean that they are unaware of modern medicine (or, worse, that they are superstitious), for most understand the relationship between the pancreas, insulin, and body sugar levels. Their belief that stress and anxiety caused by susto increases the body’s vulnerability to Type 2 diabetes appears to be borne out by biomedical research (Poss and Jezewski 2002; Villanueva 2015).

Mal de ojo The ultimate cause of mal de ojo (evil eye; mal olhado, Portuguese), which has symptoms similar to susto, is overwhelmingly social. Jealously, envy, anger, resentment, or illegitimate desires ignite a potential for mal de ojo. Not only does it point to potentially treacherous social relationships but also surfaces in a context of inequality: those who are well-nourished are at risk of mal de ojo from the emaciated; the wealthy dread evil actions from the poor; fertile women fear that those who cannot bear children will envy them; the lucky are apprehensive of the unfortunate who most certainly resent them. Although some anthropologists maintain that mal de ojo was part of the complex system of beliefs that diffused to LAC after the European conquests, it is more likely that – and as with humoral understandings of the body (Chapter 5) – indigenous societies had their own, culturally specific versions of this primarily social ailment. Rebhun provides us with an example of mal olhado from the Brazilian northeast. The case concerns Nezinha, a 35-year-old woman who, when much younger, ran away with and married her boyfriend, with whom she had three children. After her husband abandoned her, Nezinha moved into her parents’ home. But this move shattered the hope that her brother had in moving into his parents’ house after his own marriage. Tensions and resentments began to pile up between Nezinha and her mother (they never got along very well), and her brother and his fiancée. According to Nezinha, the situation worsened and she became ill with mal olhado when her: brother had an affair with a friend of mine. So my mother liked it a lot, because she didn’t like his fiancée and she hoped he would leave her. So she told the fiancée about the affair in hopes they would break up. But he left my friend. So then my mother . . . said to the fiancée that I was the one who arranged . . . the affair . . . but I didn’t, it’s a lie. So the fiancée had a fight with my brother. So


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now my brother is angry at me, thinking that I told his fiancée. . . . The fiancée hates me because she believes my mother’s untrue story. My friend is angry at me . . . because she thinks I told. . . . Everybody is mad at me. . . . And here I am without being able to sleep, with a headache, constantly sick. (Rebhun 1994:372) A comparative study by Weller and Baer, et al. (2015) on mal de ojo in four communities (one each in Guatemala and Mexico, two in the US) illustrates the breadth of proximate causes, symptoms, and treatment options (Table 9.2). Mal de ojo was widely recognized in all four communities, although consensus on its symptoms and treatment options varied considerably. Knowledge of and agreement on mal de ojo was related to cultural and social backgrounds. For example, in Texas, older, less educated women who had more children and were born in Mexico reached a greater degree of consensus than other women. In all four communities, respondents agreed that they would opt for a healer (curandero) to treat mal de ojo, that an elder woman or grandmother would be the best healer, and that an afflicted person could die if not treated on time. Only Guatemalan interviewees said they would seek a midwife for healing, and only Puerto Ricans in Connecticut would choose a witch doctor (brujo). Despite cultural differences within and between communities, Weller and Baer et al. (2015) suggest a “pan-regional” model whereby: [Ojo] can be caused by an envious stare or someone with strong blood. Anyone can get ojo regardless of age or gender; babies, young children, older children, and adults can get mal de ojo. It occurs more often in weaker or very pretty/ handsome people. . . . Ojo has symptoms of weakness, lack of energy, lack of appetite, weight loss, headache, nausea, vomiting, fever and emotional symptoms like irritability, crying, agitation, and sadness/depression. . . . Treatment for mal de ojo is usually sought from a folk healer. Doctors and pharmacists are not believed to be effective for treatment. Instead, a curandero/healer, an herbalist, or a wise old woman would be consulted to treat ojo. . . . Rubbing the afflicted person with an egg, having the person that caused ojo touch the afflicted person, sprinkling holy water on the body in the shape of a cross, prayer, and a barrida or spiritual cleansing of the afflicted person with herbs are thought to be effective in treating ojo. . . . Ojo may be prevented with an ojo de venado (a seed which looks somewhat like a deer’s eye). All four sites reported that ojo will not go away by itself and if left untreated, one can die. (2015:191)

Nervios Irritability, shakiness, amnesia, dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness, crying, convulsions, seizures, trembling, depression, rage, hopelessness, and bouts of violence are the primary symptoms of nerves (nervios, Spanish; nervos, Portuguese), also known as attack of nerves (ataque de nervios, Spanish; ataque de nervos, Portuguese). Along with a loss of emotional and bodily control, it is a combination of these symptoms that distinguishes nervios from susto and mal de ojo. It is the poor, disenfranchised members of society who

Crying, child does not get better after doctor’s visit, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, listlessness

Saying a baby is beautiful without saying “God Bless You,” ill-meaning envious person

Babies and newborns

Appetite loss, gets very sick

Adult places curse


Weight/appetite loss, babies cry, watery eyes, vomiting, tired, weak

Stomach ache, nausea

Person who gives mal de ojo has strong eyes

Staring when you attract attention Envy, jealousy, anger

Adults, someone who stands out

Those who believe in mal de ojo

Everyone, Hispanics, Mexicans


Headaches, fever, body aches

Vomiting Diarrhea Weepy eyes that do not stop, eye problems, fever, nervous, sad, headache

Strong stare Handsome child


Sweaty people

Boils Hot head Vomiting, headache Limp neck Bad smelling head

Drunken men Pregnant women Menstruating women

Those with weak blood

Crying a lot, fever Restlessness, diarrhea

Receives a strong stare People with strong blood

Infants and young children



Who is susceptible

Source: Adapted from Weller and Baer, et al. (2015)






TABLE 9.2  Mal de ojo in Guatemala, Mexico, Texas, and Connecticut

Seek someone who drives out the curse Rub baby’s body with oil and herbs; say prayers to drive out the curse

Rub/sweep with egg; cannot prevent it Person who complimented you must touch you Prevent it with ojo de venado, rub with herbs, prayer

Rub with an egg Doctor or medicine Massage, herbal teas, prayers

Rubbing an egg over the body Herbs/herbal teas; liquor and cigars Allspice Rubbing alcohol Cure at home, midwife/healer Older women Can die without treatment



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typically experience nervios. A class-centered idiom of distress, nervios communicates social tensions, disruptions in family support systems, deprivations, and other stresses. In experiencing nervios, the social body signals personal and shared anguish, and conveys a culturally acceptable venue through which individuals and groups communicate what they believe are the roots of their suffering. Gender is important, for women are more susceptible to nervios than men (Davis and Guarnaccia 1989; Scheper-Hughes 1992). In the US nervios afflicts all Latino groups, but especially Puerto Ricans. Poor women, particularly if they are widowed, separated, or divorced, are more vulnerable to nervios – to experience what Finkler has called “Life’s Lesions” (1994). Puerto Ricans differentiate between the state of being nervous (ser nervioso) and suffering from nerves (padecer de los nervios): In general, “being a nervous person” is viewed as a chronic condition that either one is born with or that occurs as the result of childhood traumas. Although being nervioso is difficult to control, it can be controlled through family support and outside help. However, people who are nervioso are more vulnerable to stressful life events and more likely to break down under the weight of accumulating life problems. It is this enhanced vulnerability that is a critical aspect of “being a nervous person.” . . . Padecer de los nervios is more of an illness than ser nervioso, and was most frequently associated with depression by our respondents. It affects the body and mind and is seen as more debilitating. Whereas “suffering from nerves” is more likely to develop in adulthood as the result of an overburdening series of “life’s lesions,” many respondents felt that the vulnerability to suffering from nerves was hereditary or congenital, much in the same way that people described “being a nervous person.” (Guarnaccia and Lewis-Fernández, et al. 2010:351) Often separated from supportive family and kin networks, and laboring for agribusinesses under oppressive work conditions, Mexican seasonal farmworkers in Ontario, Canada, are also vulnerable to nervios. They rarely seek help from doctors or health professionals, emphasizing instead “the healing power of faith in God . . . rituals such as drinking herbal teas, walking, and cycling. . . . Telephoning their family in Mexico helped them stay connected with a dense social network of instrumental, emotional and informational help” (England and Mysyk, et al. 2007:200). Their illness narratives reveal that personal insecurity, fear of the unknown, loss of emotional control, feeling trapped, and an inability to take charge of their destiny all play a role in why nervios afflicts them: Once, my nerves were so bad that I felt they controlled me. My call [to my family] didn’t go through. I felt as if I were filled with nerves; I even got ill. I suffered cerebral paralysis, facial paralysis. . . . I started to feel nerves, like desperation, like desperation. I wanted to get in touch [with my family], but I couldn’t. One of my coworkers said to me, “Let’s go for a bike ride”, and we went. Then we had an accident. The bicycle got tangled up in my coworker’s and I fell on the highway and I got frightened. I noticed that I had no strength and, the next day at work, I felt as if I had no strength in this hand and, when I tried to spit, I no longer could. My lips fell asleep and I became

Striving for health and coping with illness


more nervous, more nervous. When we went for lunch, I could no longer move this eye, like it froze, and my heart, too, as if it hurt, like a pain here in my chest. . . . Sometimes I’m afraid, afraid that I’m not going to be able to control (my nerves), that one day I’d lose my mind. . . . (If) you don’t do your job well, there’s the possibility that they’ll send you back to Mexico. That’s what I’m most afraid of, destroying other people because of my nervousness, of getting angry and offending people, hurting people, that is, their feelings. . . . I fear becoming ill because I don’t have anyone to look after me, anyone to attend to me because I’m alone. (England and Mysyk, et al. 2007:192–193)

Grisi siknis Grisi siknis is an ailment that afflicts the Miskitu and Mayangna peoples of the Atlantic coastlines of Nicaragua and Honduras. The Miskitu, a result of ethnogenesis during the colonial period, emerged as a distinct ethnic group in the eighteenth century as British pirates, traders, settlers, and soldiers filled the political-economic void along the Atlantic coastlines of northern Central America a century earlier. The word Miskitu originates from the English word musket, one of many weapons provided by the British to indigenous groups. Just as the Miskitu can be viewed as a “colonial tribe,” so too grisi siknis (almost certainly a gloss of “greasy sickness”) is a result of wider, political-economic forces that drastically transformed indigenous peoples (Helms 1969, 1983). One of the first documented eyewitness accounts of grisi siknis dates to the 1850s when an English traveler in Nicaragua wrote that: I have seen a young girl, who was shrieking hysterically in a dreadful manner, carried in a canoe a long distance to consult a celebrated sookia [sukia, a shaman/healer]. All that the sookia did was erect round her painted sticks with charms tied to them, to blow tobacco-smoke over her while muttering strange words, to make a bubbling with a tobacco-pipe in a calabash of water, which she was then made to drink and to tie a knotted string around her neck, on every knot of which was a drop of blood from his tongue. For as many days as there were knots to pass to windward of her, and must not see a woman with child. (Venegas 2016:77) By the late nineteenth century numerous outbreaks of grisi siknis were reported. Not surprisingly, these coincided with mass conversions of the Miskitu by the Moravian Church, as well as the drive by the post-colonial Nicaraguan elites to finally gain effective control of coastal regions and subdue the Miskitu and other indigenous peoples to the nationstate. Narratives of grisi siknis highlighted convulsions, seizure-like behaviors, and loss of consciousness and bodily control. Moravian missionaries interpreted these as a Christian “Great Awakening” (i.e., the mass conversion of the Miskitu), in which the “Holy Spirit” took control of their “sinful” bodies and drove out their “sin” (Venegas 2016:77–79). These are also symptoms of contemporary outbreaks of grisi siknis. Miskitu explanations for grisi siknis have long emphasized the active role of malignant spirits that inhabit their cosmological world and, more recently, to political violence


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and lingering war traumas stemming from the Sandinista revolution (Chapter 10). Spirits responsible for misfortune and illness are collectively known as lasa and are associated with the workings of the Devil. Some lasa, invoked by witch doctors (brujos, practicantes), are known as liwas. Given the close linguistic resemblance between the Miskitu liwa and the Haitian lwa (Chapter 7), liwas are almost certainly spirits of African origins. They appear, intervene, or are invoked when social mores are not observed or when the equilibrium between the natural world and society is disrupted, as when resources are over-exploited. . . . Traditionally, Miskitu shamans or ‘priests’ known as sukia with special knowledge of plants, incantations were consulted to identify and treat the problems and illnesses associated with the lasa and with the spirits of the deceased. (Venegas 2016:86–87) Although men are also seized by grisi siknis, this is an illness that primarily afflicts women. Anthropologists have long debated why women are particularly vulnerable to grisi siknis. Some authors claim that it reflects stresses and ambiguities associated with sexual maturation and that hysterical behavior is a culturally accepted way for Miskitu women to vent their anxieties. Others suggest that grisi siknis reflects conflicting expectations of young women and their marginal, ambiguous position in Miskitu society. Still yet others propose that the grisi siknis experience is one way that young women somatically communicate unequal gender relations and gendered violence.

The expressive and healthy body The body is more than a biological entity. It is also a social and cultural organism that mirrors social relationships and cultural expectations, and is a focal point linking people with their natural and social surroundings. Thinking of “embodied experience[s],” Locke tells us, can further our knowledge of illness and health and how “the body serves as a core metaphor through which to express personal and collective emotional states” (1993:133–137).

Andean bodies, communities, and mountains For the Aymara-speaking Qollahuaya of highland Bolivia, their bodies’ anatomy and physiology mirror the mountain dwellings of the spiritual beings with whom they engage in reciprocal relationships. Their “topographical-hydraulic model” views the body “as a vertical axis with three levels through which blood and fat flow from the center to the peripheral in centripetal and centrifugal motion” (Bastien 1985:596). This belief reflects the three ecological tiers into which the Qollahuaya divide their mountain landscapes, as well as the location of their three communities (ayllus). The highest tier has a head (uma), eyes (ñawi), and a mouth (wayra); the stomach (sixa) and heart (sonco) are in the second tier; the lowest level displays the legs (chaquis) and toenails (sillus). This ethno-physiology of the body echoes the Qollahuayas’ symmetrical view of their social world, landscape, and bodies. Just as their well-being depends on a flow of fluids and substances through the body

Striving for health and coping with illness


(such as blood, semen, urine, and fat), so too does good health depends on forging kinship ties, carrying out community rituals, and exchanging resources in and across the three ecological tiers. This outlook has implications for diagnosing and treating illness. Because the body, landscape, and social relations form an integral whole, major causes of illness include not abiding by culturally appropriate behavior, breaching social conventions, or not carrying out ritual offerings to the mountain spirits. When Qollahuaya become ill, their ritual healers center their therapeutic practices on restoring the circulation of bodily liquids and eliminating noxious ones and by “feeding” the earth at shrines dotting the three tiers by offering coca, blood, and fat (Bastien 1985).

Amazonian body and knowledge Like the Qollahuaya, the Cashinahua of Amazonian Brazil and Peru view body anatomy, physiology and good health in primarily social ways. The Cashinahua body’s development is not merely the result of physiological changes. Rather, their bodies are “made to grow” by interacting with the natural environment, and with kin and spiritual beings with whom the body comes into contact. The Cashinahua attach central importance to the role of knowledge in the body’s proper biological and social development. Learning from others involves “the inscription of knowledge into body parts in a material sense. . . [and] different parts of the body are the loci of different kinds of knowledge.” For instance, the body gains “skin knowledge” by the intervention of one of the spirits that dwell within it, as when certain root plants are rubbed onto a man’s hands, which spawns “hand knowledge” that enables him to be a good hunter. Acquiring “ear knowledge” through speech and song spurs sociality, important for normal development. This perspective informs how the Cashinahua view health and illness. Because “the skin and the body orifices are thought of as organs that ought to allow the passage of beneficial knowledge into the body or else impede the entrance of destructive agents,” diarrhea is interpreted as a sapping of “life forces.” Illness is a socially produced condition, for [I]f health is a combination of accumulated knowledge and the ability to act on it socially, illness can be understood as a disturbance in the body’s capacity to know. . . . When ill, a person runs the double risk of loss of memory of (and desire for) kin, and a surfeit of capacity to know ‘others’ – the dead or spirits. (McCallum 1996:363)

Jamaican bodies: health, fluids, and sociality Poor, rural Jamaican women and men think of their bodies as porous organisms that should remain “equalized” – clean and thermally regulated. Eating is necessary to “build up” the body, especially the vitally important blood. Hearty soups are good at building blood, yet pork is especially prized. A healthy person is one who is fat, happy, and generous; by contrast, unhappiness and a-social behavior drain or “melt” body fat, a condition of thin, emaciated, and unhealthy persons. Good health also depends on a proper balance between the intake of bodily fluids through the “belly” and their discharge through the intestines (“tripe”). A proper discharge (“wash out”) enhances the blood’s vigor and helps keep the


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belly “clean.” Other potential causes of illness include not maintaining an adequate temperature, that is, of being “cold” and not “hot.” One way the body becomes too hot is when a person engages in excessive physical labor, although continuous physical inactivity can turn bodies too “cold” and interrupt the healthy and necessary flow of bodily fluids. A healthy body is also one that is protected from anti-social or evil beings. Ill-health can surface as a result of malicious actions of kin, community members, or evil spirits, who wreak havoc with the body’s balance and its ability to incorporate healthy substances and release them before they rot. This points to the importance of disruptive social relationships and a lack of equilibrium in the wider social world. Those who ‘live good’ cannot, ideally, be caught by socially precipitated sickness: sickness instigated in response to perceived affronts by an animate being (a neighbor, a demon, God, or a duppy [ancestral ghost] sent by a . . . ‘grudgeful’ villager). In an ideal world, a moral, sociable person could never anger anyone enough to attack. . . . When sickness strikes, then, the moral and social well-being of the victim appears to others to be in a questionable state. (Sobo 1993:294)

Health and politics in the United States and Cuba On May 4, 2017, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives narrowly voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA, also known as Obamacare) signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010, and which then-presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to overturn. Not a single Democrat voted for the bill, and 20 Republicans voted against it. Most Republicans have railed against Obamacare since it became law, claiming that repealing it would lower health costs (already the highest among industrialized nations) by stimulating free-market competition and also provide better care. Opponents of the bill argued that dismantling Obamacare would leave millions more Americans uninsured and do little to lower costs. Republicans particularly denounced Obamacare’s mandated coverage as trampling on cherished values of free choice and individual freedom and that – most ominously – it represented a form of socialized medicine. As Republican Doug Collins of Georgia said, “Obamacare has hijacked the free market and has taken some Americans’ liberties with it. . . [and it] replaced our doctors with bureaucrats, because that’s what socialized medicine does” (Kaplan and Pear 2017). Yet how does health care in the US, primarily predicated on a free-market ideology and individual choice, measure up to socialized medicine? A comparison with Cuba’s often lauded health care system provides us with some insights. In a 1960 publication titled On Revolutionary Medicine, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a physician and guerilla combatant, wrote that: The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth . . . far more important than good remuneration is the pride of serving one’s neighbor. Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people. And each doctor, within the circle of his activities, can and must accumulate that valuable treasure, the gratitude of the people. (Andaya 2009:357)

Striving for health and coping with illness


The spirit of that message has been the guiding principle of Cuba’s approach to health care since the 1959 Revolution. All citizens have a right – inscribed in Cuba’s constitution – to free and unrestricted health care. The state’s moral obligation to provide universal health care is (at least officially) guided by an ethos of reciprocity: between doctors and patients, doctors and the state, the state and the population – that [bind] them together in solidarity-enhancing exchange. Having accepted the state’s gift of medical training, new generations of socialist doctors [are] honor bound to reciprocate through their self-sacrificing and unending commitment to the uplift of the masses and their dedication to the ideals of the revolution. In turn, the populace, freed from the tyranny of suffering and disease, [is to] lend their labor to the construction of the new socialist nation. (Andaya 2009:357–363) Table 9.3 highlights some of Cuba’s public health achievements. Its health indicators are some of the best in LAC. Cuba has the lowest infant mortality and HIV rates, and its TB and maternal mortality rates are lower than most LAC countries (Table 9.1). Aggressive public health campaigns have virtually eradicated common diseases such as poliomyelitis, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, measles, pertussis, rubella, and mumps. “If the accomplishments of Cuba could be reproduced across a broad range of poor and middle-income countries,” Cooper and Kennelly, et al. (2006:822) write, “the health of the world’s population would be transformed.” In 2012 Cuba spent 10% of its gross national product (GNP) of $120 billion providing health care to its citizens. By contrast, the US spent 18% of its $16 trillion GNP towards health care. Despite Cuba’s proportionately smaller health costs, some of its health indicators compare favorably to the US. Cuba’s life expectancy is slightly higher than the US, and it has twice as many physicians for each 1,000 citizens. Its rates of infant mortality and HIV are lower, but Cuba’s maternal mortality and TB rates are higher than the US. Infants born with lower-than-average weight (low birth weight, LBW) are significantly at risk for health problems. Cuba’s LBW is lower than in some US states, such as in Alabama, which has a LBW rate twice that of Cuba’s (Cooper and Kennelly, et al. 2006; Dubus and Traylor 2015; Neggers and Crowe 2013; PAHO 2012; WHO 2016). TABLE 9.3  Cuba’s public health accomplishments

• • • • • • • • • • • •

First country to eliminate polio (1962) First country to eliminate measles (1996) Lowest AIDS rate in the Americas Most effective dengue control program in LAC Comprehensive health care: 1 physician per 120–160 families Highest rates of treatment and control of hypertension in the world Reduction in cardiovascular mortality rate by 45% Development and implementation of a comprehensive health plan for LAC Free medical education for students from Africa and LAC Support of 34,000 health professionals in 52 poor countries Creation of a national biomedical internet grid (INFOMED) Biotechnology sector that produced the first human polysaccharide vaccine

Source: Adapted from Cooper and Kennelly, et al. (2006)


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In the United States: migrant farmworkers and their struggle for health Most agricultural farmworkers in the US are Mexican, one million hailing from the state of Oaxaca. Each year thousands enter the US to harvest fruits and vegetables that we buy at the local supermarket. Sometimes travelling alone, but more often with their entire families, they move from state to state, farm to farm, working under perilous conditions, with few benefits, little or no health care, and barely earning the equivalent of federal minimum wages. After years of grueling work, most will be as poor as when they first began their roving lifestyle in the US, and their bodies will be very sick. Their emotional and physical afflictions, hardly visible when we buy, for example, California strawberries, are some of the hidden costs of an industry that relies on, but values so little, transnational migratory labor. In Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, Holmes takes us into the world of some of these Oaxacan laborers as they travel and work in Washington, California, Oregon, and Arizona in search of a better life (2013). The structural position they occupy in the farm’s hierarchically segregated labor system determines their life prospects. Strikingly similar to Central American banana plantations (Bourgois 1989), the farms that hire them are stratified by occupational roles, citizenship, language, and ethnicity. At the top of the hierarchy are Anglo-American administrators and professionals, all English-speaking US citizens, who earn good pay and have health benefits; do less physically onerous work; and enjoy decent housing, respect and high status. Spanish-speaking Latinos and mestizo Mexican workers with legal residency occupy the middle tier. The undocumented indigenous migrants at the bottom of the hierarchy earn the least, are entitled to few benefits, do all the grueling outdoor fieldwork, have the worst housing, receive little respect – and their bodies eventually become “broken.” At this lowest tier, they are further stratified by ethnicity, with Mixtecs enjoying greater status than the more indigenous and “less civilized” Triqui. It is the Triqui farmworkers who bear the brunt of structural violence: Thus where a migrant body falls on the dual ethnic-labor hierarchy shapes how much and what kind of suffering must be endured. The farther down the ladder from Anglo American U.S. citizen to undocumented indigenous Mexican one is positioned, the more degrading the treatment by supervisors, the more physically taxing the work, the more exposure to weather and ­pesticides, the more fear of the government, the less comfortable one’s housing, and the less control over one’s own time. . . . The Triqui people inhabit the bottom rung of the pecking order. . . . They live in the coldest and wettest shacks in the most hidden labor camp with no insulation, no heat, and no wooden ceiling under the tin roof. They hold the most stressful, humiliating, and physically strenuous jobs working seven days a week without breaks while exposed to pesticides and weather. Accordingly, the Triqui pickers bear an unequal share of sickness and pain. . . . [They] are at risk for heart disease and many cancers but worry most about pesticide poisoning, musculoskeletal injury, and chronic pain. (Holmes 2013:95–96)

Striving for health and coping with illness


The structural violence that itinerant farmworkers are subject to explains why they have some of the worst health indicators of any occupational category in the US. Abelino’s life history and illness narratives show how the inequality and powerlessness of structural violence leads to ill-health. Lacking secure employment, Abelino is forced to periodically leave Oaxaca with his wife and children. Crossing the US–Mexican border without official documents is expensive and dangerous. Hired by a farmer, he is offered employment harvesting berries, work that is difficult and painful. As he tells Holmes, You pick with your hands, bent over, kneeling like this [demonstrating with both knees fully bent and his head bowed forward]. Your back hurts; you get knee pains and pain here [touching his hip]. When it rains, you get pretty mad and you have to keep picking. They don’t give lunch breaks. You have to work every day like that to make anything. You suffer a lot in work. (2013:93) One day, while picking berries, Abelino experiences acute pain in his right knee yet continues to work. The following morning he returns to work, still feeling pain in his knee. He tells his supervisor about the pain, but to no avail. Over the next several months Abelino was seen by several doctors, who eventually diagnosed him with inflammation of the kneecap tendons. They recommended “light work” (not picking berries), a request turned down by farm administrators. He continued to travel between California, Oregon, and Arizona with pain and swelling in his knee. Convinced that “Doctors don’t know anything” (los médicos no saben nada), Abelino then turned to a Triqui healer who: shuffled and rearranged a deck of Mexican cards several times in order to understand the source of the pain. He let Abelino know that the spirit of a person Abelino had seen die had attached to him. In order to get rid of the spirit and heal his patient, the Triqui healer covered several raw eggs in rum and rubbed them over Abelino’s body, especially around his knee. The rumcovered eggs might be able to entice the spirit to attach to them instead, he explained. Next, he left the shack and threw the eggs into the distance, luring the spirit away from Abelino’s knee. Over the next few weeks, as Abelino rested, his knee pain subsided somewhat, to 5 out of 10 on the pain scale. (Holmes 2013:118–119)

Concluding thoughts Health and illness are important concerns in all societies. In this chapter I surveyed the field of medical anthropology, drawing our attention to the distinction between ethnomedicine and biomedicine, and afterwards emphasized the relationship between poverty, inequality, and poor health. I then focused on ethnomedical and critical medical understandings of three diseases of poverty – tuberculosis, AIDS, and Zika – followed by a survey of “folk” or ethnomedical illnesses. The anthropology of the body is an important field within cultural anthropology, and I turned to three examples of how healthy bodies are culturally understood. Health and politics are always related, and after comparing and contrasting


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the health systems and accomplishments of the US and Cuba, I ended this chapter by examining the health status of migrant farmworkers in the US. Violence and memory are my major concerns in the following chapter.

FILMS/VIDEOS Altiplano. 2010. Kanopy Streaming. Chronicles how Andean Peruvian villagers respond to deaths caused by mercury poisoning. Brazil Winning Against AIDS. 2002. Bull Frog Films. Focuses on Brazil’s production and free distribution of anti-retroviral drugs and clinical care. The Shaman’s Apprentice. 2001. Bull Frog Films. Focuses on Amazonian shamanistic healing practices.

Voices That Heal. 2011. Kanopy Streaming. Chronicles how a Peruvian Amazonian shaman keeps alive her healing traditions. Waiting to Inhale. 2007. Kanopy Streaming. Examines the controversy over the medical uses of marijuana.

WEBSITES National Institutes of Health. National Research for Health Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean. PMC3995953/ Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). www. United Nations Development Programme.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Latin America and the Caribbean. World Health Organization. Latin America and the Caribbean. latinamerica_carribean/en/

REFERENCES American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. Andaya, Elise. 2009. The Gift of Health: Socialist Medical Practice and Shifting Material and Moral Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 23(4):357–374. Bastien, Joseph W. 1985. Qollahuaya-Andean Body Concepts: A Topographical-Hydraulic Model of Physiology. American Anthropologist 87(3):595–611. ———. 1992. Drum and Stethoscope: Integrating Ethnomedicine and Biomedicine in Bolivia. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. Berger, Michele T. 2004. Workable Sisterhood: The Political Journey of Stigmatized Women with

HIV/AIDS. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Blaisdell, Amy and Ødegaard, Cecilie V. 2014. Losing Fat, Gaining Treatments: The Use of Biomedicine as a Cure for Folk Illnesses in the Andes. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 10(1):1–15. Bourgois, Philippe I. 1989. Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. Carter, Eric D. 2016. Zika Anxieties and a Role for Geography. Journal of Latin American Geography 15(1):157–161. Cooper, Richard S. and Kennelly, Joan F., et al. 2006. Health in Cuba. International Journal of Epidemiology 35(4):817–824.

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Davis, Donna L. and Guarnaccia, Peter J. 1989. Introduction to Health, Culture and the Nature of Nerves. Medical Anthropology 11:1–13. De Boni, Raquel and Veloso, Valdilea G., et al. 2014. Epidemiology of HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS 9(2):192–198. Dubus, Nicole and Traylor, Amy. 2015. Comparative View of Prenatal Care Between the United States and Cuba: Lessons for the United States? Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 25(1):35–42. ECLAC. 2013. Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean 2013. New York: United Nations, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. England, Margaret and Mysyk, Avis, et  al. 2007. An Examination of Nervios Among Mexican Seasonal Farm Workers. Nursing Inquiry 14(3):189–201. Farmer, Paul. 1992. AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1997a. Ethnography, Social Analysis, and the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted HIV Infections Among Poor Women in Haiti. In The Anthropology of Infectious Disease: International Health Perspectives. Inhorn, Marcia C. and Brown, Peter J., eds. Pp. 413– 438. Sydney, Australia: Gordon and Breach Publishers. ———. 1997b. Social Scientists and the New Tuberculosis. Social Science and Medicine 44(3):347–358. ———. 2004. An Anthropology of Structural Violence. Current Anthropology 45(3):305–325. ———. 2013. Chronic Infectious Disease and the Future of Health Care Delivery. New England Journal of Medicine 369(25):2424–2436. Finkler, Kaja. 1994. Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico. Philadelphia, PA: University of Philadelphia Press. Gandy, Matthew and Zumla, Alimuddin. 2002. The Resurgence of Disease: Social and Historical Perspectives on the ‘New’ Tuberculosis. Social Science and Medicine 55:385–396. Glazer, Mark and Baer, Roberta D., et al. 2004. Susto and Soul Loss in Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Cross-Cultural Research 38(3):270–288.

271 González Vélez, Ana C. and Diniz, Simone G. 2016. Inequality, Zika Epidemics, and the Lack of Reproductive Rights in Latin America. Reproductive Health Matters 24(48):57–61. Gootenberg, Paul. 2010. Latin American Inequalities: New Perspectives from History, Politics, and Culture. In Indelible Inequalities in Latin America: Insights from History, Politics, and Culture. Gootenberg, Paul and Reygadas, Luis, eds. Pp. 3–22. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Guarnaccia, Peter J. and Lewis-Fernández, Roberto, et al. 2010. Ataque de Nervios as a Marker of Social and Psychiatric Vulnerability: Results from the NLAAS. The International Journal of Social Psychiatry 56(3):298–309. Helms, Mary W. 1969. The Cultural Ecology of a Colonial Tribe. Ethnology 8(1):76–84. ———. 1983. Miskito Slaving and Culture Contact: Ethnicity and Opportunity in an Expanding Population. Journal of Anthropological Research 39(2):179–197. Hoffman, Kelly and Centeno, Miguel A. 2003. The Lopsided Continent: Inequality in Latin America. Annual Review of Sociology 29:363–390. Holmes, Seth M. 2013. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kaplan, Thomas and Pear, Robert. 2017. House Passes Measure to Repeal and Replace the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times. May 4. Larvie, Patrick. 2003. Nation, Science, and Sex: AIDS and the New Brazilian Sexuality. In Disease in the History of Modern Latin America: From Malaria to AIDS. Armus, Diego, ed. Pp. 290– 314. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Lizardi, Dana and Oquendo, Maria A., et al. 2009. Clinical Pitfalls in the Diagnosis of Ataque de Nervios: A Case Study. Transcultural Psychiatry 43(6):463–486. Locke, Margaret. 1993. Cultivating the Body: Anthropology and Epistemologies of Bodily Practice and Knowledge. Annual Review of Anthropology 22:133–155. Malta, Monica and Magnanini, Monica F., et al. 2010. HIV Prevalence Among Female Sex Workers, Drug Users and Men Who Have Sex with Men in Brazil: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. BMC Public Health 10(1):317–333.


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McCallum, Cecilia. 1996. The Body That Knows: From Cashinahua Epistemology to a Medical Anthropology of Lowland South America. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 10(3):347–372. Menegoni, Lorenza. 1996. Conceptions of Tuberculosis and Therapeutic Choices in Highland Chiapas. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 10(3):381–401. Neggers, Yasmin and Crowe, Kristi. 2013. Low Birth Weight Outcomes: Why Better in Cuba than Alabama? Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 26(3):187–195. PAHO. 2012. Health in the Americas 2012 Edition. Washington, DC: Pan American Health Organization. Parker, Richard G. 1997. Migration, Sexual Subcultures, and HIV/AIDS in Brazil. In Sexual Cultures and Migration in the Era of AIDS: Anthropological and Demographic Perspectives. Herdt, Gilbert, ed. Pp. 55–69. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pedersen, Duncan and Kienzler, Hanna, et al. 2010. Llaki and Ñakary: Idioms of Distress and Suffering Among the Highland Quechua in the Peruvian Andes. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 34(2):279–300. Poss, Jane and Jezewski, Mary A. 2002. The Role and Meaning of Susto in Mexican Americans’ Explanatory Model of Type 2 Diabetes. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 16(3):360–377. Quinlan, Marsha B. 2010. Ethnomedicine and Ethnobotany of Fright, a Caribbean Culture-Bound Psychiatric Syndrome. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 6(9):1–18. Rebhun, Linda A. 1994. Swallowing Frogs: Anger and Illness in Northeast Brazil. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 8(4):360–382. Riley, Lee W., et al. 2007. Slum Health: Diseases of Neglected Populations. BMC International Health and Human Rights 7(1):np. Robbins, Richard H. 2014. Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Sampathkumar, Priya and Sánchez, Joyce L. 2016. Zika Virus in the Americas: A Review for Clinicians. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 91(4):514–521.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1992. Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press. Singer, Merrill and Baer, Hans A. 2012. Introducing Medical Anthropology: A Discipline in Action. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. Snyder, Robert E. 2016. Spectrum of Disease Burden in Urban Informal Settlements of Brazil. Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley. Sobo, Elisa J. 1993. One Blood: The Jamaican Body. Albany: State University of New York Press. UNAIDS. 2013. Global Report: UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic. Retrieved from UNAIDS_Global_Report_2013_en.pdf. Accessed on May 3, 2017. ———. 2015. Fact Sheet 2015. Retrieved from Accessed on December 17, 2015. Valero-Gil, Jorge and Valero, Magali. 2013. Nutritional Intake and Poverty in Mexico: 1984–2010. Journal of Development Studies 49(10):1375–1396. Venegas, María. 2016. Alienated Affliction: The Politics of Grisi Siknis Experience in Nicaragua. Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh. Villanueva, Michael R. 2015. Exploring Folk and Traditional Medicine Practices and Self-Care Among Mexican-Americans with Diabetes. Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Vinh-Kim, Nguyen and Peschard, Karine. 2003. Anthropology, Inequality, and Disease: A Review. Annual Review of Anthropology 32:447–474. Weller, Susan C. and Baer, Roberta D., et al. 2008. Susto and Nervios: Expressions for Stress and Depression. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 32(3):406–420. ———. 2015. Variation and Persistence in Latin American Beliefs about Evil Eye. CrossCultural Research 49(2):174–203. WHO. 2016. Global Tuberculosis Report 2016. Retrieved from ream/10665/250441/1/9789241565394-eng. pdf?ua=1. Accessed on May 3, 2017.



Violence, memory, and justice


he purpose of this chapter is to reflect on the causes and legacies of civil wars, revolutionary movements, mass violence, and state terror during the 1970s and 1980s. I begin by first pondering why violence and memory are important to think about in anthropology and for LAC. (I hasten to add that introductory cultural anthropology textbooks rarely examine these issues.) In the following sections I focus on the Central American civil wars of the 1980s (in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala); the 1971 coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende; state terror in Argentina; the decadeslong cycle of violence in Colombia; the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico; and Peru’s Shining Path insurgency. I then concentrate on the surge in gang-related violence after the signing of the Central American peace accords. All societies need healing after massive trauma caused by exceptional violence and bloodshed. It is for this reason that I subsequently focus on how victims and survivors of violence are attempting to achieve closure in very different ways and how memory is important in their efforts. Massive violence led to a mass diaspora of peoples, many who sought safe haven in the US. In the last section I explore how Guatemalan Maya refugees are trying to preserve their ethnic identities as they forge new lives for themselves and their children in the US.

Why reflect on violence and memory? We are told that “Modern anthropology was built up in the face of colonial genocides, ethnocides, mass killings, population die-outs, and other forms of mass destruction visited on the marginalized peoples whose lives, suffering, and deaths have provided us with a livelihood,” and that “violence is hardly a natural subject for anthropologists” (Scheper-Hughes 2002:348). Other than acknowledging the harsh reality of the past, why read and reflect on violence and death – admittedly gloomy topics? There are, in fact, many reasons for doing so, especially if we can arrive at partial answers to questions such as: How are notions of race, ethnicity, and other social identities essentialized and manipulated by genocidal regimes? What are the processes by which “imagined communities” are constructed to exclude dehumanized victim groups? What political, historical, and socioeconomic circumstances are conducive to genocide? How do genocidal regimes appropriate cultural knowledge to motivate their minions to kill? How might genocides be predicted or prevented? . . .



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What are the mental, physical, and somatic consequences of genocide? How do victims deal with such trauma? How are social networks torn asunder through death, dislocation, and diaspora? How do victims go about reconstructing their social networks and using them as a means of coping with their suffering? (Hinton 2002:33) Memory, as we will see later in this chapter, is also important, for it is imperative not to forget – not to forget the people destroyed by twentieth-century regimes of mass cruelty and violence, not to forget the survivors and their rights to repair in the present, not to forget that the architects of state atrocity compounded the harm through denial and cover-up, not to forget truth and accountability for human rights crimes. Above all, memory matters because regimes of atrocity are also regimes of euphemism and misinformation. Misinformation encourages indifference and forgetting; it undermines accountability. In short, “memory” evokes the moral lesson of human rights and the associated idea of “never again.” . . . The key moral lesson is that human rights are inviolable and their violation unforgettable. . . . Context cannot justify a set-aside of fundamental human rights, not even those of citizens redefined into the alleged internal enemy. (Stern 2016:117–118)

The Central American civil wars Central America’s civil strife during the 1970s and 1980s unfolded against a backdrop of expanding export agriculture, appropriation of peasant land and labor, coalescence of powerful national elites, and increasingly repressive states. Crops destined primarily for export (e.g., cacao, indigo, and cochineal) had long been a feature of Central America’s political economy. Yet it was international demand for coffee that paved the way for social strife. By 1900 coffee was providing Central America with most of its export earnings. Elitecontrolled governments played a key role in expanding coffee cultivation by providing growers with infrastructural and financial support, and governments enhanced their coercive powers by increasing police and army forces financed from taxes on coffee exports. Since access to peasant land and labor was crucial in large-scale coffee cultivation, elites dislodged peasants from their lands and appropriated their labor through vagrancy laws, forced labor drafts, and debt peonage. Unlike coffee, bananas, the second most important export crop by the 1930s and 1940s, were largely cultivated on coastal plains distant from peasant communities and by transnational corporations (e.g., the United Fruit Company) over which states had little control. Cultivated by a handful of elite families, cotton rivaled coffee in importance. For example, by the 1970s one-fourth of the entire Salvadoran cotton crop was controlled by 18 families, and in some Nicaraguan regions large-scale cotton fields had engulfed three-fourths of all cropland. Cotton expansion stimulated deforestation, especially along the coastal plains, and the conversion of land formerly cultivated in subsistence crops (such as maize) into cotton. After cotton came cattle ranching, which also drove peasants off their lands. By the 1970s, poverty and inequality reached startling levels, especially in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala (Bulmer-Thomas and Coatsworth, et al. 2005, 2006; Roseberry and Gudmundson, et al. 1995).

Violence, memory, and justice


Nicaragua In 1979, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN, founded in 1961 and named after Augusto Sandino, who fought US Marines occupying Nicaragua in the 1920s) overthrew the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, whose family dynasty was installed in power by the US four decades earlier. Of the three Central American countries in civil war, only in Nicaragua did a revolutionary movement temporarily seize power. The Sandinistas’ victory was the first successful popular insurrection in LAC since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution. The FSLN, led by Daniel Ortega, prevailed for several reasons. There was, first, a long history of peasant and working-class activism and political consciousness. Socially conscious Catholics contributed to the appeal of revolutionary ideology in an overwhelmingly Catholic country. By organizing community study groups, reading and explaining the Bible in ways that peasants and members of the working-class could understand, and stressing social inequality, activist clergy and lay workers raised political consciousness, laying the groundwork for imagining an alternate future. (The famous song “Misa Campesina” [Peasant Mass] illustrates the fusion of popular aspirations and activist Catholic preaching.) Repression also had unintended consequences. By violently suppressing Catholic activists, Somoza’s National Guard fused the message of social justice with the Sandinista call for revolutionary change and drove many Catholic lay leaders into the FSLN. Further, political favoritism and crony nepotism had turned many elites against the Somoza family. Repression against opposition leaders, such as the 1978 assassination of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor of La Prensa newspaper, further alienated many elite Nicaraguans from the Somoza family. The US viewed the Sandinista victory as an open road to instability and communism. Faced with a possible domino-effect – one country after another “falling” to “communism” – the US sponsored a counter-insurgency campaign, commonly known as the Contra War, which claimed 30,000 lives. With an economy in shambles; the need to be on a constant war footing to fend off contra attacks, especially from neighboring Honduras; and with Nicaraguans weary of war, the deeply divided Sandinistas called for elections in 1990. They lost to Violeta Chamorro, widow of the slain newspaper editor. The Sandinistas were unable to rally many indigenous peoples to their side during the 1990 elections, some who fought against the FSLN during the revolution. The FSLN’s rigid Marxist ideology stressing the primacy of class relations and exploitation, and its unwillingness accept the legitimacy of ethnic claims to cultural and economic autonomy, were fiercely resisted by Miskitu and other indigenous peoples in the ethnically diverse Atlantic coast. While many initially sided with the Sandinistas, by 1981 the Miskitu, who had acquiesced throughout the Somoza years and who had failed to mobilize during the insurrection, mounted a full-scale military rebellion. Unlike the other armed groups opposing the revolutionary state, many of whose leaders were former members of Somoza’s National Guard, the counter-revolutionary content of the Miskitu rebellion focused on its portrayal as a separatist movement that aimed to re-establish the Mosquitia: a project that challenged the very image of the Nicaraguan nation held by mestizos since . . . 1894. (Baracco 2011:121–122) Despite their 1990 electoral loss, the Sandinistas’ social and economic policies in land tenure, housing, education, and health led to greater socio-economic equality. And in abiding


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by the 1987 constitution they drafted, Sandinistas allowed the first peaceful transfer of power in more than 50 years. The Sandinistas’ message of transforming Nicaragua’s patriarchal gender system appealed to many women, who joined the revolution in droves, serving as field commanders and guerilla combatants and assuming top political positions within the Sandinista movement. Embracing the goal of deep societal changes, women’s organizations spread a key gender-inflected motto: Haciendo la patria nueva, hacemos la mujer nueva (“In making the new fatherland, we make the new woman”) (Montoya 2012:6–8). Yet, as I mentioned in Chapter 6, FSLN’s stance on gender equality has been riddled with contradictions. After also losing the 1996–2001 and 2001–2006 elections, Daniel Ortega was again elected president in 2006. During these intervening 16 years Ortega and official Sandinismo changed a great deal. In a bid to win the 2006 elections, Ortega and the Sandinistas reached out for support from the still powerful Catholic Church, and so “what it meant to be a revolutionary was traditional Catholic rather than liberation theology Catholic, antifeminist rather than Feminist . . . [and] Daniel Ortega, the Marxist-Leninist in military uniform, was replaced with Daniel the practicing Catholic in white shirt and jeans” (Kampwirth 2011:11). Under Ortega’s presidency abortion was banned, and violence against women viewed less seriously than other violent crimes. Yet official publications still advocated for equality between men and women – now viewed as a question of human rights. And while Ortega’s government initiated a massive food security program that largely benefitted women, gender continues to be a divisive issue, and the long-term outcomes of Sandinista gender ideology, contradictory (Heumann 2014).

El Salvador The violence that engulfed El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s began decades earlier. Between 1880 and 1930, El Salvador became a major exporter of coffee for the world market; indigenous lands were seized and turned into large-scale coffee plantations; displaced peasants converted into agricultural wage laborers; workers’ organizations, land invasions, and local revolts suppressed; and a handful of elite planter families eventually controlled most fertile lands in the western part of the country. By 1930 a social explosion was imminent for, as the US military attaché at the time noted, “90 percent of the wealth of the Nation is held by about half of 1 per cent of the population . . . [and] thirty or forty families own nearly everything in the country” (Pérez Brignoli 1995:234). A year later a massive peasant uprising in the western coffee-producing region was underway. In a few weeks the armed forces and coffee planters’ henchmen killed between 25,000–40,000 indigenous peasants in a “mass slaughter [that was] one of the largest acts of state-sponsored repression in the twentieth century in the Western Hemisphere” (Almeida 2008:46; DeLugan 2012). This carnage, known as the slaughter (la matanza), cannot be explained by any real threat that rebels posed, because only a fraction of those killed actually rebelled. In February 1932, shortly after the insurrection had been crushed, a coffee plantation owner published in a newspaper his views – no doubt shared by other elites – of El Salvador’s “Indians.” These provide insights into the ethnic, racial, and class fears that fueled the bloodbath: [They are] a horde of wild savages. . . . They, who are crafty by nature, and who come from a race inferior to ours, a conquered race, need little to ignite their deep-felt passions against the Mestizos, because they hate us and always

Violence, memory, and justice


will. Our most serious mistake was to grant them civil rights. This was bad for the country. They were told that they were free, that the nation was also theirs, and that they were entitled to elect their own leaders and act as they saw fit. Of course, they took this to mean that they could steal, destroy property and kill their employers. . . . It is our wish that this race be exterminated. If it is not, it will come back even stronger, more experienced and less stupid, and ready, in future attempts, to do away with all of us. . . . They did the right thing in the United States, getting rid of them, with bullets, rather than letting them stop progress. They killed the Indians first because they were never going to change. Here, we have treated them as if they were part of our family, shown them every consideration, but you should see them in action! Their instincts are savage. (Pérez Brignoli 1995:255) After the 1932 massacre, El Salvador was mainly ruled by military governments that, allied with the planter classes, squashed escalating rural and urban unrest. By the 1970s dozens of left-wing groups, including some linked to the Catholic Church, emerged with the express goal of achieving a just society, and challenging military and elite rule. Two major guerilla organizations appeared at this time. For both insurgents and the armed forces and paramilitaries that opposed them, memory of the 1931 massacre was important: one rebel war front was named “Frente Francisco Sánchez,” after a popular rebel leader executed in 1932, and one paramilitary death squad called itself the “Maximiliano Hernández Martínez Anticommunist Brigade” after the 1930s dictator (Almeida 2008). This was a period of the radicalization of society – including the Catholic Church. Progressive Catholics sponsored rural cooperatives, adult literacy programs, Christian base communities (which recruited tens of thousands of members), newsletters, and community organizing, all which raised awareness of the need – and possibility – of social justice. As one former rebel reflected during an interview, Revolutionary: It was through Christianity that I began to get involved in literacy activities, community building projects in the shantytowns. Interviewer: Organized by your school? Revolutionary: At first by the school, but after I was moved by . . . liberation theology and the JEC [Juventud Estudiantil Católica]. This was in 1969 and 1970. Later . . . the tyranny was passing on to more violent forms of expression. . . . From here my consciousness was awakened to see that charity was not enough; it was necessary to realize deeper changes, a revolution, to be able to aspire to better conditions of life for the people. From my Christian devotion I [committed] myself to the transformation of society. (Almeida 2008:132) The widely publicized killings of Jesuit priests and Catholic nuns, and the astonishing 1980 assassination of Archbishop Arturo Romero as he celebrated mass in the capital’s Cathedral, demonstrate that the Salvadoran elites and their security forces viewed the Catholic Church as a dangerous threat (Franco 2004). The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN, the main guerilla organization, named after Agustín Farabundo Martí, the founder of the Salvadoran Communist party who died in the 1932 revolt) was unable to stem the armed forces’ onslaught, backed by the US military. And in a classic


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divide-and-conquer strategy, the armed forces pitted peasants against each other: one of the worst atrocities took place in El Mozote, where over 1,000 unarmed civilians, including 135 children, were slain (Binford 1996). After a decade of civil war that left 75,000 dead or disappeared, and hundreds of thousands fleeing overseas, in 1992 the FMLN and the Salvadoran government signed the Chapultepec Peace Accords in Mexico City. Seventeen years later, in 2009, Mauricio Funes, representing the FMLN (now a political party) won the country’s presidential elections. The end of civil war and the election of former revolutionaries to positions of power have taken place against a backdrop of a shattered society, and a breakdown of social control and spiraling violence, and a deep divide between the haves and have-nots (DeLugan 2012).

Guatemala Guatemala’s civil strife began in the 1960s and peaked between 1978–1983, when at least 200,000 civilians – mostly Maya – perished, one million Guatemalans internally displaced from their homes, and another 400,000 fled their country, including 200,000 to the US (Brett 2016). This conflict was preceded by a long history of uprisings and deeply entrenched ethnic and class inequality between Maya and the ruling ladino elites (Smith and Moors 1990). Independence from Spain never reversed the racial and ethnic discrimination indigenous peoples faced (Chapter 4). The following two newspaper commentaries, the first from 1892, the second dated 1945, show how ladino elites viewed Guatemala’s “Indians” as barely human and a hindrance to the nation well into the twentieth century (Brett 2016:58): The indian is a pariah, stretched out in his hammock and drunk on chicha (a locally-brewed alcohol), his natural beverage. His house is a pig-sty; a ragged wife and six more children live beneath a ceiling grimy with the smoke of a fire, which burns night and day in the middle of the floor. . . . Yet, in this state, the “indian” is happy and desires nothing more. To strengthen the “indian” culture, is to condemn our country to eternal weakness, a perpetual cultural dualism, to be always a nation of irredeemable indians without a continental personality. Because of this, our indians must be westernised or destroyed; but we should not keep them in their entrenched static state because we will then be only a country for tourism a kind of zoo for the entertainment of tourists; but never a nation. Most hostilities took place in the heavily indigenous western highlands. Fighting began in the 1960s and two decades later the main guerilla organization was carrying out military assaults in 16 of the country’s 22 departments. It was only after Guatemala’s militarized state faced a spreading and escalating threat that it shifted tactics from selective counter-insurgency operations to a broad, unbridled drive to annihilate “subversives,” which it solidly linked with “Indians.” That is, the military’s original objective was not ethnocide against Maya civilians, although that is what it eventually turned into (Figueroa Ibarra 2013). General Lucas García was clear on the military’s goal when in 1981 he declared “[Once] we have exterminated this social stain . . . we will be able to advance more rapidly towards the collective common good” (Brett 2016:127). Unable to openly defeat the insurgents, the military turned on the

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predominantly Maya civilian populace, for “Acting on Mao-Tse-Tung’s famous dictum that guerillas depended on the population like fish on the sea, the army set about draining the sea” (Wilson 1991:40). Hallmarks of the army’s grizzly repression were massacres of unarmed men, women, and children, part of a scorched-earth campaign. While guerillas too committed atrocities, most were carried out by the armed forces and their paramilitary civil patrols. By 1983, after hundreds of villages were razed and hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, missing, or in hiding, Guatemala was finally “pacified.” Maya juxtaposed the past and present in a creative cultural mélange to make sense of the massive violence that engulfed their lives. One Maya woman harked back to popular memory of the conquest when she stated that Lo mismo cuando se mat[ó] a Tecum Uman (It is the same when they killed Tecum Uman), alluding to a Maya culture-hero who died fighting the Spaniards (Green 2004:188). Elsewhere, Tecum Uman was said to have returned with millions of “warriors . . . to bring justice to Guatemala” (Carmack 1988:69). As in Nicaragua and El Salvador, religion was bound up in the conflict. In the late 1960s, Catholic priests and lay activists were advocating liberation theology and establishing grassroots cooperatives and health and literacy programs. Many assumed positions of moral authority in Maya communities by embracing the ideal of an egalitarian social order through the teachings of the Bible. While some Catholic clergy sided with the military, others joined the guerillas – and likewise become targets of the army’s wrath. In 1980, Msg. Gerardi, bishop of El Quiché, closed the diocese after several of his priests were killed. In an exchange with army officials, he told them, “You are the ones who assassinate. You are the enemy of the people. We have to be with the people. Therefore we are on the opposite side from you. As long as you do not change, there can be no agreement between us.” Dodging assassination in 1980, Gerardi was murdered in 1998, two days after presenting in a public mass the results of the Catholic Church’s commissioned report Guatemala: Never Again! (which he helped prepare) that detailed human rights abuses by the military and guerillas (see later in this chapter) (Lovell 2010:154–156). Other Catholics relied on Biblical history to frame an understanding of the present. One Catholic nun told Wilson that: We couldn’t just abandon them up there fleeing in the mountains. . . . We carried out baptisms and masses and helped in the organization of food . . . [and] said that the Q’eqchi’ were like the Israelites in the desert, fleeing the soldiers of Egypt. (Wilson 1991:48) While Protestant missionaries also died shielding civilians, most allied themselves with the military, for in: a Latin America . . . lost in the darkness of folk Catholic idolatry, and now stalked by Communist wolves in the sheep’s clothing of liberation theology, Guatemala was to become a beacon of light. It would serve as a model of biblical righteousness for other countries threatened by the same satanic forces; it was to become a theological ‘New Israel’ of the Americas. (Stoll 1988:91)


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Religion was important in other ways. Some beliefs and rituals could not be retained in the midst of war. For example, the Q’eqchi of Alta Verapaz believe in the tzuultaq’a, bi-gendered, capricious mountain spirits who are intermediaries between God and mortals. If presented with proper offerings, they will assure the well-being of crops, livestock, and health. Further, the tzuultaq’a reside in mountains near the villages that they look after and from which they receive homage, and the Q’eqchi only recognize those living closest to their communities. The effect of war on the devotion to the tzuultaq’a was disastrous: rituals to appease the spirits could not be sustained under a nomadic existence, and materials such as incense and candles were unavailable. This meant that in the absence of these rituals, the tzuultaq’a were no longer bound to protect the villagers against danger. These cultural beliefs were also appropriated by the army, as when it placed a sign at the entrance of one of its bases that read “Cobán Military Base – Home of the Soldier Tzuultaq’a” (Wilson 1991:51).

Chile’s Pinochet In 1970 Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular coalition won the presidential elections, inaugurating the first popularly elected Marxist government in LAC history. Given LAC’s long tradition of elite, authoritarian rule, the real possibility of a Marxist government carrying out profound yet peaceful structural changes was one that few envisioned. Crucial for Allende’s victory was Chile’s democratic tradition and military subordination to civilian control; a long history labor activism and union organizing; political divisions within the political and economic elites; and support from progressive elements of the Catholic Church. Major forces soon undermined Chile’s experiment in non-violent, radical change and laid the groundwork for a military takeover. Although Allende won the presidency in fair elections, he captured only one-third of the popular vote. Facing stiff parliamentary opposition, he turned to technical legalities to justify his policies, thereby reducing his legitimacy vis-à-vis his opponents. The US also undermined Allende by sponsoring economic sabotage and covert CIA operations to foment political dissent. While Allende was popular among his supporters, his program of rapid economic changes led to unpopular scarcities, runaway inflation, rationing, black market profiteering, land invasions, factory takeovers, and work stoppages. By September 1973 many were convinced that Chile was edging toward a deep abyss and that a violent change of course was the only way to avoid the steep plunge (Stern 2004). General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup was exceptionally ferocious, as tanks and fighter planes shelled, and troops stormed, La Moneda presidential quarters after Allende refused to surrender (Figure 10.1). The armed forces hunted down, imprisoned, exiled, abducted, tortured, killed, and secretly murdered and hid the bodies of at least 200,000 and perhaps as many as 400,000 of Allende’s supporters – or, for that matter, anyone suspected of being a threat (Stern 2010:68). The military’s secret police also targeted opponents who fled overseas. For example, former army commander Carlos Prats, who refused to participate the coup, was killed by a car bomb in Buenos Aires, and Orlando Letelier, one of Allende’s cabinet ministers, was assassinated in Washington, D.C., also by a car bomb. State terror led to a culture of fear that was embodied in individualized abductions, political cleansings of key institutions such as schools and universities, and massive sweeps of targeted

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FIGURE 10.1  La Moneda under attack, September 11, 1973, Santiago, Chile Source: Bettmann/Getty Images

neighborhoods to search homes and arrest suspects. Danger and violence would be so pervasive and intimidating that potential critics would presumably be frightened into apathy, a kind of active rejection of political knowledge and concern as legitimate activity. (Stern 2004:32) It is in Chile where the verb to disappear (desaparecer) initially became synonymous with military terror and the category of the disappeared (desaparecidos) first emerged. It is difficult to cope with the death of loved ones and keep their memories alive. Yet not knowing what happened, when, and where – When was she killed? How and by whom? Did she suffer? How can she be remembered and honored if her remains are never found? – is a deeply harrowing experience. It is this heart-breaking quest to find out what happened to and remember the desaparecidos that spurs memory work in Chile and other countries traumatized by state terror. Memory – what of the past we remember or decide to forget and how we understand it – is contentious, for alternate ways of interpreting the past and different types of memories are filtered through individual and socially significant experiences, longings, and fears. Those convinced that Pinochet “saved” Chile from the brink of disaster remember the coup as “salvation”; those who suffered persecution and personal loss, experience


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and remember those events as a traumatic, unresolved “rupture”; Allende’s supporters who did not experience personal loss remember the military period as time of “persecution and awakening”; for those Chileans who would rather “forget” the past – or at least not openly talk about it – memory is a sort of “closed box” that comes with an understanding that “some themes and some remembrances [are] so explosive – conflictive and intractable – that little [can] be gained from a public opening and airing of the contents inside” (Stern 2004:89). Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish religious denominations morally challenged the dictatorship by providing support for the incarcerated and persecuted (Lira 2017).

Argentina’s terror In 1990 Adolfo Scilingo wrote to former General Videla, who headed the military junta that seized power in 1976, providing chilling details about how he and others dealt with “subversives”: In 1977 . . . I participated in two aerial transports, the first with thirteen subversives aboard . . . and the second with seventeen terrorists. . . . The prisoners were told they were being taken to a prison in the south and for that reason had to receive a vaccination. They received an initial dose of anesthetic, which was reinforced by another larger dose during the flight. Finally . . . they were stripped naked and thrown into the waters of the South Atlantic. (Verbitsky 1996:8) In 1982 I returned to La Plata, Argentina, to visit Atilio, whom I had befriended in the 1970s. I greeted his mother, Mama Martínez, as she was affectionately known, and asked for Atilio. Tired and frazzled, she told me se ha ido (he has left). Not quite understanding, I asked her when he would return. Mama Martínez told me again, this time in tears, that Atilio se ha ido, quickly adding that se lo llevaron (they took him away). That afternoon I realized that Atilio was one of the thousands disappeared during the military regime. Later, Mama Martínez asked me to join her at the weekly vigil that she and other mothers of the desaparecidos participated in at Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo demanding to know the fate of their loved ones (Figure 10.2). As we headed to the train station, Mama Martínez placed a revolver in her purse. Quite nervous, I asked what she planned to do with it. Her answer was calm and unambiguous: no me van a llevar como se llevaron a Atilio (they will not take me [away] as they took Atilio). That morning we joined the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, under the watchful eyes of uniformed and undercover police. A few months after returning to Pittsburgh, I received an anonymous letter from Argentina explaining that during his compulsory military service Atilio was accused of being a subversive (subversivo), tortured, and thrown off a helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean. His body was never recovered. Mama Martínez died shortly afterwards, hopefully spared the details of the death of her son, and my friend. In September  1973 Juan Domingo Perón, accompanied by his wife María Estela (“Isabelita”) Martínez de Perón, returned to Argentina after 18  years of exile in Spain to assume the presidency of a deeply divided country. On October 1974 Perón died, and Isabelita – Argentina’s vice-president – was sworn in as president. This interval was beset

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FIGURE 10.2  Mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Source:

by runaway inflation; scarcity; hoarding of basic food staples; general strikes; and  – ominously – guerilla assassinations of policemen, military officers, and businessmen. Unable to contain the mayhem, the government was overthrown by the armed forces in 1976. The military claimed that “the action of the Government will be characterized by the respect of the law within a framework of order and respect for human dignity. The fundamental objective will be to restore the essential values that guide the State” (de Onis 1976:1). Unrelenting terror soon followed. Argentina’s violence was different from that of other countries. The conflict was overwhelmingly centered in cities, and the predominantly middle-class guerillas who took up arms were not part of a social movement with broad support or legitimacy. Most Argentines neither sided with guerillas nor condoned the unrestrained repression that followed. The majority were “uncommitted undecidables” who wanted to “simply to carry on with their lives” (Robben 2004:200–204). Fighting at the margins of a largely unresponsive society, guerillas were quickly routed by the military. And, yet, like cancerous cells that quietly multiply and make their way through the human body until it is too late, the specter of “subversives” and their ideas spreading through Argentine society was unfathomable.


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Military leaders thought themselves as “saviors of the fatherland” (Verbitsky 1996:9) fighting a “Holy War” (Morello 2015:8) on behalf of “Western, Christian civilization” (Feitlowitz 2011:19). The military governor of Buenos Aires voiced the military’s fanatical zeal when he stated that: “First we will kill all the subversives; then we will kill their collaborators; then . . . their sympathizers, then . . . those who remain indifferent; and finally we will kill the timid” (Robben 2004:204). Also different was the role played by Argentina’s Catholic Church. As in Central America, socially conscious Catholics sided with the victims of repression and were themselves assassinated or disappeared, including more than 100 priests and nuns. But unlike Central America, where the Church hierarchies were instrumental in denouncing genocide and investigating and prosecuting those accused of human rights violations, the top echelons of Argentina’s Catholic Church largely remained silent – if not complicit – in state terror, convinced, like the military, of the righteousness of the struggle against “atheism” and “communism” (Morello 2015). As one Archbishop stated, “those who resort to ‘human rights’ have an atheist mentality, have committed criminal acts, and have political ambitions” (Feitlowitz 2011:45). While not as extreme as some of his contemporaries, Pope Francis, a high-ranking member of the Jesuit order during the dictatorship, disapproved of liberation theology and did not openly and energetically criticize the violence perpetuated by the military (Scheper-Hughes and Scheper-Hughes 2016). Military rule collapsed after Argentina’s disastrous war with England over the Falkland Islands in 1982. Shortly after the 1983 return to democracy, the final report of the national truth commission (Nunca Más, Never Again) documented the killing and disappearance of at least 9,000 men, women, and children, not including the thousands whose bodies were never recovered. (Some human rights activists claim that 30,000 died or were disappeared.) Even for a country long accustomed to political violence and military rule, the mass disappearance, death, torture, and imprisonment of tens of thousands was an unparalleled chapter in Argentine history. In its drive to “cleanse” Argentine society, the military cast its net wide, including torturing and carrying out gruesome experiments on the cognitively deficient, “victims of the fascist necro-biopolitics of the Dirty War” (ScheperHughes 2015:196). Fear and silence were so widespread that most who experienced the unfolding tragedy firsthand, including this author, realized the full scope of the atrocities only years later. “With diabolical skill,” Feitlowitz writes, the military deployed language in the service of terror, twisting reality, concealing everyday violence, inflicting confusion and despair, and normalizing brutality through the use of common parlance and euphemisms: the disappeared were “thought to be missing” or “absent forever”; prisoners taken away to be executed were “transferred”; to burn a body was likened to having a “barbecue” (asado); the kidnapped and assassinated were “sucked up” (chupados); torture chambers were “infirmaries” (enfermerías) or “operating rooms” (quirófanos); and those thrown into the Atlantic ocean from aircraft were “fish food” (comida de pescado) (2011). It was during that time of fear that some women, such as Mama Martínez, mustered the courage to publicly demand news of their loved ones. Robben reminds us that “the military had a head start in the politics of memory by obliterating the bodies of the assassinated disappeared, thus attempting to confine the traces of their repression purely to the discursive domain” (2005:131). Yet the Mothers (and now Grandmothers) of the Plaza de Mayo are one of the most highly charged symbolic rallying points around which

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the memories of the desaparecidos have been kept alive (Gatti 2012; Pauchulo 2008). Even those who were infants when their parents were disappeared, such as Paula Mónaco Felipe, who attended the trial of the general who murdered the father and mother she never knew, have not forgotten (Mónaco Felipe 2018). Coupled with the final report of Argentina’s truth commission, and a subsequently nationally televised documentary based on Nunca Más, the Mothers were instrumental in the 1985 trials and convictions of former military leaders for human rights abuses.

Colombia’s violencia For decades Colombia has been engulfed in a seemingly unending cycle of violence (la violencia) that has left tens of thousands dead and millions displaced from their homes. If we think of the state as a cohesive political entity with sufficient legitimacy and organizational capability to negotiate competing claims by different social classes and impose effective rule over a national territory (Migdal 1994), then the Colombian state is fragile indeed. Its lack of hegemony explains why it has been unable to grapple with the historical and structural conditions underpinning mass violence, establish a monopoly over the use of force, and protect its citizens from wanton violence. The result is a “war system” in which the state, police and armed forces, leftist guerillas, paramilitaries, drug trafficking cartels, and criminal gangs are locked in a deadly struggle that presently cannot be won by any (Richani 2013). Unequal land distribution and wealth inequality has been at the root of Colombia’s violence over the past 50 years, and The richest 3 percent now own over 70 percent of the arable land, while 57 percent subsist on less than 3 percent of that land. The richest 1 percent of the population controls 45 percent of the wealth, while half of the farmland is held by thirty-seven large landholders. (Brittain 2005:21) During the 1940s, peasant agrarian movements surfaced with the goal of seeking a more equitable distribution of land. Two decades later, communist guerilla groups, which had emerged out of these peasant movements after facing repression from the army and landowning elites, merged into the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerilla organization. The FARC spearheaded Colombia’s insurgency ever since. Despite an agreement with former Colombian president Andrés Pastrana that left the FARC in control of a large, demilitarized area in the south, hostilities continued. In areas it controlled, the FARC functioned as a quasi-state, operating its own schools, medical facilities, and tax and judicial systems. By 2004, the FARC was active in most of the country’s municipalities, engaged in armed actions along 104 “war fronts,” and with a fighting force estimated at 50,000. It “[had], with the exception of Cuba, become the largest and most powerful revolutionary force – politically and militarily – within the Western Hemisphere” (Brittain 2005:25). After 50 years of armed struggle, and many peace negotiations that proved futile, Colombia’s “Forever War” (Johnson and Jonsson 2013) ended in 2016 when the FARC


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agreed to a peace agreement with the Colombian government, transformed itself into a political party, and began laying down its arms in 2017. Negotiations with Colombia’s second largest rebel group continue to falter. Some former rebels were uncertain the Colombian state would guarantee their safety. After all, in 1985 the FARC created a political party (Patriotic Union), whose members were quickly slaughtered by paramilitary death squads (Casey 2018; Casey and Daniels 2017; Sherman 2015). Whether the peace agreement between the FARC and the government will signal a demobilization by paramilitaries (paras) is questionable. They are hired by cattle ranchers, landowners, drug traffickers, and multinational corporations to force peasants off their land, intimidate union leaders and, until recently, to fight against the FARC. Taussig notes that paramilitaries “grow out of local circumstances and are not necessarily formalized” and that they “drift into an obscure no-man’s-land between the state and civil society” ( 2003:10). In some regions they have taken on the characteristics of a surrogate state. During the 1990s, profits from the cocaine trade and the US’s Plan Colombia of 2000 that provided Colombia’s armed forces with over $1 billion in military aid allowed small regional paramilitary groups to evolve into standing armies. The oil port city Barrancabermeja, in the Middle Magdalena region, serves as an example of the interlocking interests that led to the city’s takeover by paramilitaries between 1998 and 2001. Seizing Barrancabermeja allowed paramilitaries to profit from the illicit sale of gasoline, control cocaine trafficking networks, and score a symbolic victory against FARC supporters (Gill 2009). In Medellín, the collusion between paramilitaries and the police reveals the extreme ambiguity of the Colombian state in so far as “for both the state and the paramilitaries . . . the space of domination is the public sphere, and in it they operate as two realities of the same dialectic relation: now persecuting each other, now working hand-in-hand” (Cívico 2012:78). Long a center, first, of organized street gangs and, later, Arturo Escobar’s drug cartel, Medellín has seen its share of indiscriminate violence of all against all – poor residents organized into self-defense committees, gangs, guerillas, traffickers, police, and paramilitaries – and, yet, sporadically allied with each other. Paramilitaries see themselves as carrying out much needed policing functions usually the responsibility of the state. They are a criminal organization of the mafia kind. In fact, they are not just a parallel organization, but also one that is working hand-in-hand with the state. Like the Sicilian Mafia, the paramilitaries in Colombia have been at the same time against the state and within the state; both a parallel system and a strategic ally; and a vital part of the [effort] to reterritorialize, which is the ultimate goal of policing. (Cívico 2012:89)

Mexico’s Zapatistas As former President Salinas celebrated NAFTA’s signing on January 1, 1994 (Chapter 11), thousands of masked insurgents of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN, known as Zapatistas, after Emiliano Zapata, a popular leader of the Mexican Revolution) seized several towns in the heavily Maya Chiapas state, including the capital city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. From the balcony of San Cristóbal’s government offices,

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a ski-masked rebel announced, first in Tzotzil and then in Spanish, a declaration of war against the Mexican state and army. In 2017, the Zapatistas renounced armed struggle and declared their intent to participate in Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections (Villegas 2017). They sustained the longest insurgency in Mexico in almost a century, retained control of a large swath of Chiapas in the face of overwhelming odds, and with their battle cry ¡Ya Basta! (Enough already!) quickly became global celebrities. Few in LAC or elsewhere are not familiar with the image of EZLN’s charismatic spokesman subcomandante Marcos donning his characteristic ski mask. How did the Zapatistas sustain their uprising for so long? No match for the Mexican army, how did they avoid the fate of rebel groups in Central and South America? Unlike the strife that afflicted other countries discussed in this chapter, the Zapatista uprising and the government’s response were waged primarily through words and symbols and not the gun. The heaviest fighting took place over 12 days, when several hundred were killed. Yet even after encircling the Zapatistas with tens of thousands of soldiers, then-President Salinas resisted pressures to unleash a full-fledged military campaign that would have led to massive casualties. (In a note to Salinas, the Chase Manhattan Bank wrote that there was a “need to eliminate the Zapatistas” [Conant 2010:134].) By February he agreed to begin peace talks. Zapatistas and Mexico avoided the carnage that engulfed neighboring countries. Long gone was the 1970s sable-rattling against “atheist communism” that, in any event, never made much headway in Mexico, which maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba after its 1959 Revolution. Mexico was very susceptible to public opinion. A bloodbath – or, worse, accusations of genocide – on the heels of NAFTA, which catapulted Mexico onto the global stage and political-economic partnership with the US, would have been a public relations disaster. The US public and government would probably not have tolerated genocide in a country with which it shares such a long border. For decades Chiapas had attracted well-linked national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with the poor and rural peasantry and, since the 1930s, scores of anthropologists. And federal and state governments (including Chiapas) had established human rights commissions years before (Collier and Collier 2005). By 2001 the EZLN won the Mexican public to its side. Millions marched across Mexico in support of the Zapatistas’ countrywide initiative called Constitutional Reforms on Indigenous Rights and Culture, which culminated in a huge demonstration in Mexico City’s main plaza (zócalo) attended by one million supporters (Reyes 2015). Zapatistas’ national and international mystique largely rested on a strategy of broad cultural inclusion that relied heavily on the use of poetics, art, symbolism – and the media – to win over public opinion. The Zapatistas are: shockingly inclusive for an armed, revolutionary movement: if you dream of a better world for yourself and your community and everyone else, there is a place for you within the movement. This, of course, is the genius of their strategy: creating a world in which many worlds fit. They prefigure the diversity of ends they are struggling toward, now, by the diversity of means and media they employ to get there: jokes, fables, masks, dolls, songs, radio broadcasts, videos, posters, popular theater, poems, and murals, etc.; they accompany all of these, without doubt, with marches, caravans, road blockades, voter boycotts, civil disturbances, land occupations, encuentros, as well as the construction


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of schools, clinics, bodegas, collectives, autonomous governing councils, etc. Each and all of these serve to reinforce the values and visions that drive the movement. (Conant 2010:14) The Zapatistas convey their messages through a powerful, captivating poetic use of language, which strikes a deep chord in Maya affective understandings of the spoken word. Communiqués that reference the heart are important, as they point to Maya belief that “true language (batzil k’op) issues from the heart” (Nash 1995:178). Several months after capturing San Cristóbal de Las Casas’ radio station, subcomandante Marcos issued a communiqué in which he spoke of a dialogue between hearts in a quest for peace and hope: With old pain and new death our heart speaks to you so that your heart will listen. It was our pain that was, it was hurting. Keeping quiet, our voice was silenced. Our voice was of peace, but not the peace of yesterday, which was death. Our voice was of peace, the peace of tomorrow. (Conant 2010:23) Story telling that brought together personas and memories of culture-heroes from different historical periods into threads with common meanings was also a key cultural strategy. This was so with Votan-Zapata, one of the Zapatistas’ guardian spirits. Votan – “guardian and heart of the people” – is a pre-Columbian Tzeltal and Tzotzil god, and in fusing Votan with Zapata, the EZLN established a historical and symbolic genealogy between ancient Maya and modern revolutionary Mexico: If the Zapatistas are defined both as indígenas and campesinos, the figure of Votan-Zapata is the historical symbol par excellence, combining the features of both groups. As Votan is guardian and heart of the true people, Zapata is the bearer of justice for the peasant farmer, the protector of land and liberty whose integrity was never shaken by temptations of power. In the figure of Zapata, the history of modern Mexico is reiterated, and in the figure of Votan the origins of the indigenous world are called forth. The affirmation is made that the two are one, that Mexico has never existed apart from the gods who created the true people. (Conant 2010:70) Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas have also charmed the international audience by eloquently portraying their struggle as part of the struggle of the world’s downtrodden, as in the following statement: [Subcomandante] Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a gang member in Neza, a rocker in the National University, a Jew in Germany . . . a communist in the post – cold war era, an artist without gallery or portfolio. . . . A pacifist in Bosnia, a housewife alone on Saturday night in any neighborhood in any city in Mexico, a striker in the CTM, a reporter writing filler stories for the

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back pages, a single woman on the subway at 10 p.m., a peasant without land, an unemployed worker . . . an unhappy student, a dissident amid free-market economics, a writer without books or readers, and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains of southeast Mexico. So Marcos is a human being, any human being, in this world. Marcos is all the exploited, marginalized and oppressed minorities, resisting and saying, “Enough!” (Wolfson 2014:40) The Zapatistas were at the forefront of the “Cyber Left” (Wolfson 2014). Before and after the 1996 peace accords words mattered more than bullets. Foreign Minister Gurria himself stated that “Chiapas . . . is a place where there has not been a shot fired in the last fifteen months . . . The shots lasted ten days, and ever since the war has been a war of ink, of written word, a war on the Internet,” which was paralleled by subcomandante Marco’s statement that the uprising was, above all, a matter of communication: “We rose up, not to kill or be killed, but so that they would listen to us” (Wolfson 2014:27). The EZLN believed that communication is a powerful weapon of resistance. Early on it demonstrated a deft capacity to harness modern media to attract the attention of international human rights organizations and indigenous groups outside of Mexico. A plethora of networked activists across Mexico and from Europe and the US descended on Mexico City and Chiapas. The internet provided an unparalleled outlet for communicating news, events, and in making known EZLN’s goals. In 1996, it convened an Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism (el Encuentro), attended by thousands of representatives from 44 countries. In it, the EZLN envisioned global networks of communication through which it could communicate its vision of a new Mexico and spur a global social movement: We will make a network of communication among all our struggles and resistances. An intercontinental network of alternative communication against neoliberalism, an intercontinental network of alternative communication for humanity. This intercontinental network of alternative communication will search to weave the channels so that words may travel all the paths that resist. This intercontinental network of alternative communication will be the medium by which distinct resistances communicate with one another. (Wolfson 2014:37) With pages in Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, German, and Polish, EZLN’s website ( provides a huge international audience with news of current political events as well as a great deal of cultural and historical insights into Chiapas and Maya peoples.

Peru’s Shining Path On the eve of Peru’s 1980 general elections, Sendero Luminoso (SL, Shining Path) gunmen burned ballots in Chuschi, a village in the southern highland region of Ayacucho (“corner of death” in Quechua). This innocuous event hardly captured the attention of most Peruvians, least of all in Lima, Peru’s capital. Yet a decade later Lima was besieged by SL, which


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had mushroomed into a powerful Marxist insurgency that ignited the bloodiest conflict in recent Peruvian history. SL’s aim was to completely destroy capitalist Peruvian society, and the only way to achieve this goal was to wage war mercilessly. “Flor de Retama,” SL’s unofficial anthem, pointed to the necessity – even desirability – of spilling blood: “The blood of the people has a rich perfume\It smells of jasmine, violets, geraniums and daisies\ Of gunpowder and dynamite!\ Carajo!\ Of gunpowder and dynamite!” (Theidon 2013:3). This gruesome conflict claimed 70,000 lives and turned hundreds of thousands of Peruvians into internal refugees. Seventy-five percent of all casualties were Quechua speakers. For years SL had been organizing in the backward, poverty-prone, and ethnically and class stratified southern highlands where, it so happens, anthropologists had carried out ethnographic research for decades. Yet the SL took them by surprise, and like others, they could not predict that self-styled revolutionaries from an extremely impoverished and largely Indian highland region could effectively spread a ruthless war through much of the national territory, sustain it into the 1990s, then provoke a sense of imminent government and social collapse in Lima by 1992. (Stern 1998a:2) Anthropologists’ inability to foresee the rise of SL despite their ethnographic knowledge was the result of a theoretical lens called Andeanism – a regional twist on Edward Said’s famous concept of Orientalism (1979) – which viewed Andean life as almost frozen in time. This essentialized ethnographic gaze privileged stability over than change, cooperation instead of conflict, and continuity with the past in place of rupture of the present (Starn 1994). SL quickly spread through the southern highlands by fear and intimidation, and embarking on strategies that culturally resonated in many villages. One of SL’s earliest tactics was to target local elites. By assassinating merchants, landowners, political officials, and policemen in “popular trials,” SL highlighted the vulnerability of those responsible for peasants’ marginality and poverty. “Moralization” campaigns in which thieves and cattle rustlers were publicly executed, were also popular. SL was also adept at taking sides in and capitalizing on longstanding animosities between neighboring villages. In time, peasant support for SL faded. One reason had to do with its aim at forging a “new” society free of the vestiges of the capitalist past. For example, peasants resisted SL’s efforts at abolishing popular celebrations (and their drinking and dancing), closing marketplaces, and enforcing a strict subsistence livelihood. The very real and dangerous possibility of being accused by the army of collaborating with terrorists (terrucos) was yet another reason to try to break with SL. Most villages endured terror, retaliation, and revenge killings by both the SL and the army. SL’s “glorification of violent suffering” (Stern 1998b:123) backfired and was interpreted through an Andean cultural lens. In some communities, SL members were viewed as ñak’aqs, evil beings who thrive on human body fat. This view of beastly beings who illegitimately appropriate fat runs deep in Andean culture. During the Great Rebellions of 1780–1782, which almost toppled the Spanish colonial order in Bolivia and Peru (Chapter 3), Andean insurrectionaries placed the Spaniards in the Andean category of ñak’aq, a Quechua term for humanoid beings considered criminal, beastly, and demonic.

Violence, memory, and justice


The human status of such beings was ambiguous, for they stood apart from normal humanity . . . [as their] wellbeing was predicated on destroying human life. (Stern 1987:145) In 1990s, SL took its war to Lima, where control of and support from shantytowns was crucial in its strategy to seize power. It took advantage of shantytown dwellers’ view of the state as illegitimate, corrupt, and unable or unwilling to meet their basic needs and of the fear and loathing shantytown residents had of the military and police. The SL also played on quarrels between leftist organizations, who faced the dilemma of how to oppose SL without allying themselves with the state, police, and military, whom they considered the real enemies. SL’s moralizing campaigns garnered much sympathy, as did its active role in popular struggles at the local level – land invasions, land reclamations, acquisition of land titles, provision of local services – which bolstered its legitimacy. As in the highlands, instilling terror was a favorite strategy: in a particularly ghastly example, SL targeted María Elena Moyano, vice-mayor of Villa El Salvador, head of the main women’s organization, and a leading advocate of peace. She paid the consequences of leading a demonstration against SL and, with white flags, calling for peace: on the next day she was murdered, and her body blown up with dynamite in front of her children (Burt 1998). SL’s leader Abimael Guzmán was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006. A decade of unrelenting war left Peruvian society deeply scarred and traumatized. Traumatic memories and long-term psycho-social afflictions – many which resemble posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – plague highland Ayacucho villagers years after the end of the conflict. The onset of the civil war is remembered by the first instances of violent death (muerte violenta), which marks the beginning of the difficult time (sassachacuy tiempu) when people were randomly tortured, kidnapped, or murdered by the army and the night wanderers or travelers (tuta puriqkuna), as nocturnal SL death squads were called. The range of trauma-related disorders that villagers associate with sassachacuy tiempu is very wide: painful feelings of sorrow and grief (llaki), headaches (umananay), body pains (wirpuypi malukuna), weakness (gastado), weeping (waqay), overwhelming worrying thoughts (tutal pinsamientuwan), and fright (susto), among others (Pedersen and Tremblay, et al. 2008). This was a war not only between the SL and Peru’s armed forces, but also between peasants and villages. Relentless war instilled deep and wide distrust among neighbors, family members, and friends, shattering former relationships and turning them into “intimate enemies” of each other (Theidon 2013). Sometimes memory confirms animosities, as when a former SL cadre states that “You know what the big problem in Hualla is? There’s too much memory – way too much memory. . . . With psychological treatment, we could forget everything. That way we could live together again – peacefully.” But, alas, it is difficult to shed traumatic memories, especially if you know that “that your own neighbor killed your papa,” and that “the pueblo will never forgive so much spilled blood” (Theidon 2013: 35, 322, 361). Revenge is an emotion that will take years to go away: There were two groups that most consistently expressed a desire for revenge: women and adolescent boys. In thinking about their motives, it occurs to me that both groups are marginal to the working of power and decision making in their communities. For the women, they can attempt to marshal public opinion


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to their cause, but ultimately it is adult men who administer justice in these pueblos. For the adolescent boys, they are frequently raised listening to family histories that include details about which of the adults played a role in their parent’s murder. The transmission of memories can serve a variety of ends. While memory as a deterrent is part of the human rights logic, memories can be equally vital to transmitting a thirst for revenge. (Theidon 2013:375)

The violent legacy of violence: transnational gangs Violence often begets violence. The signing of the Central American peace accords were important steps towards national reconciliation but did not bring about the much needed and hoped for peace. In fact, much of the region is currently gripped by a killing spree that is the indirect result of decades of political violence. With skyrocketing homicide rates largely attributed to the proliferation of gangs and gang warfare, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and, to a lesser extent, Nicaragua, have the dubious distinction of being among the most dangerous countries on earth. A breakdown in social expectations and control, an undermining of family and community cohesion, a lack of faith in governments to ensure public safety, official corruption, an erosion of collective identities, lack of hope, and perhaps the internalization of a culture of violence have all contributed to the spread of gangs, gang culture, violent crimes, and homicides. A hardline law and order (mano dura) approach, especially deploying the military for internal policing, has had the unintended consequence of bolstering gang membership and criminal activities, and broadening the gangs’ geographic influence (Bruneau 2011; Pérez 2013). Pandillas, street or neighborhood gangs, are different from maras – well-organized, transnational organizations operating in the US and Central America (with the exception of Nicaragua), which are responsible for much of the bloodshed. Organized into cells or chapters called clicas (cliques), maras engage in a variety of criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, extortions, and kidnappings. Bruneau tells us that, The use of violence is probably the most defining characteristic of the maras. Indeed, their unique vocabularies emphasize brutality and criminal activity, while initiation, ascension into leadership positions, and discipline are all based on potentially fatal violence. Researchers estimate that gang members on average do not reach thirty years of age. As part of the ascension process, new members eventually have to kill a person, for no other reason than to show they can. The implication of this is that once a gang member has killed another, be he from a rival clica or some other group, the killer is marked and can never leave the gang. Gang initiation rites, which involve merciless beatings, can be fatal. Women are initiated either through beatings or forced sex with some or all the male members of the clica. The maras fight very frequently, not only against the authorities but also against each other, for control of turf and markets, especially to sell drugs. (2011:3)

Violence, memory, and justice


The word maras refers to local, national, and transnational affiliates of the MS-13 (also known as Mara Salvatrucha) and 18th Street/Barrio 18 gangs. In 2008 Mara Salvatrucha was reported in 48 states (Valdéz 2011). Both gangs emerged in Los Angeles, and their entrenchment in and spread throughout Central America had much to do with US immigration policies. The 18th Street gang was founded by Mexican immigrants during the 1960s, and two decades later, its ranks had swollen with young Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees. Gangs provided young immigrants at the margins of mainstream society with a sense of inclusion, belonging, and security – in short, community – much like neighborhood barrio gangs had done so for decades (Vigil 1988). The Mara Salvatrucha emerged later. “Mara” stands for a ferocious Central American ant, “Salva” for El Salvador, and in Salvadoran slang “trucha” means alert or shrewd. After the US Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996 (Chapter 11), more than 200,000 immigrants were deported, including many former gang members, most to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Once in their “home” countries they barely knew, gangs continued to provide their members with a sense of support, continuity, and community they had experienced in the US (Rodgers and Baird 2015). Some years ago Bourgois wrote that one of the most tragic consequences of El Salvador’s civil war was the enduring normalization of internecine violence in the broader context of political violence, [which] makes sense if the extent of the pain and terror that political repression causes is fully appreciated as a ‘pressure cooker’ generating everyday violence through the systematic distortion of social relations and sensibilities. (2004:431) By the time the war ended, more than 250,000 Salvadorans had fled to the US. In 2010, 1.7 million were living in the US, most in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Cyclical migration and remittances between the US and El Salvador has been a feature of Salvadoran life for decades. US immigration policies – deporting tens of thousands, including gang members – fed into this decade-long pattern of cyclical migration, but this time included gangs and gang culture, which created a transnational space in which Salvadorans and dollars flowed. It also created an area in which ideas, norms, values, and identities circulated, including those that fueled transnational gang formation and the expansion and transformation of gang identities. . . . Salvadorans who had belonged to U.S. gangs, been imprisoned in the United States, and then been deported played a key role in introducing the US gang lifestyle and behavior to El Salvador. A Salvadoran gang member spoke to the point: “Remember that most of us were deported and we come from prisons. And in California, when you are imprisoned, you go with your race: Latino, whatever. We learned to be united there. And the principles and values that we’ve learned in a gang are never forgotten. That’s the school we bring here.” (Cruz 2013:217–220)


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Lingering social dislocations in El Salvador, including ongoing violence, and US immigration policies continue to torment Salvadorans. Fleeing gang violence, ever-greater numbers of families are trying to find refuge in the US. The decision by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 to end the Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 S ­ alvadorans – and parents to 190,000 US-born citizens – will exacerbate conditions in El Salvador conducive to gang violence (Jordan 2018; Semple 2016; Shifter and Raderstorf 2018). It is p­ robably no coincidence that Guatemala, the Central American country most ravaged by civil war, is also the one experiencing the highest rate of gang violence and homicides (Ranum 2011). Memories, experiences, and stories of the brutality of civil war, coupled with a society in ruins, shape how gang members (mareros) view life and death, what Levenson-Estrada calls “necroliving.” The present offers little hope, life is short, death is certain, and life itself is a gloss for death: In the city, the postwar mareros control life through their power to take it away. For many youth in the Maras, threatening to kill and killing have become practices about the scarce daily options for earning a living, and about maintaining order, teaching lessons, and achieving identity and respect, especially for young men for whom the values tied to other male identities – such as the gallant breadwinner – and the possibilities of achieving alternate masculinities have diminished. This does not mean that every marero kills. Rather, I am suggesting that within the mareros’ social imaginary . . . violent death controls the management of life, short as that may be. The average marero is murdered by the time he or she is twenty-two. Perhaps even worse: one’s own early demise is part of the marero imaginary, and the average gang member expects to die by that age. (Levenson-Estrada 2013:6) In their extraordinarily violent lives and worldviews, mareros reclaim their share of power historically denied to the underclass and appropriate a masculinity and prerogatives typically reserved for Guatemala’s elites: The marero has turned into a gendered killer/killed persona, a male warrior, the winner of the contest to decide Guatemalan history who is also a loser, the dead warrior. Gang members routinely call themselves “soldiers” who “fight and die for mibarrio.” The many meanings that masculinity has had have narrowed to one, and all others have atrophied. Masculinity has come to hinge on the capacity to give violence and take it, without limits, including the cap of mortality. This warriors’ work is what the really powerful men, whether generals or members of the economic elite, have had in their back pockets for generations, and they can pull it out and put it back in as need be. In the marero’s life there is only this violent masculinity, without the degrees, titles, money, prestige, social networks, mobility, and other resources that the Guatemalan elites and military men have had in plentitude and that allow for many masculine identities, whether of padre, patrón, or patria. (Levenson-Estrada 2013:96)

Violence, memory, and justice


Nicaragua and Honduras have different gang histories. Nicaragua has many pandillas, but neither the MS-13 nor the 18th Street maras have established a foothold, and it suffers less endemic gang-related violence. Even so, violent crimes – homicides, rapes, assaults – have spiraled over the past 20 years, contributing to a generalized sense of insecurity. While they engage in a variety of illegal activities (robberies, muggings, assaults), pandillas normally do so in other barrios, and they protect their own neighborhoods from external thieves and gangs. Gang warfare is not indiscriminate but highly ritualized, with escalating levels of violence designed to slowly but surely protect a neighborhood against external enemies. As Don Sergio, a Managua resident stated: The pandilla looks after the neighbourhood and screws others; it protects us and allows us to feel a little bit safer, to live our lives a little bit more easily. . . . Gangs are not a good thing, and it’s their fault that we have to live with all this insecurity, but that’s a problem of pandillerismo in general, not of our gang here in the barrio. They protect us, help us – without them, things would be much worse for us. (Rodgers 2006 :277–278)

Seeking closure: transitional justice, truth, and human rights “Massive trauma” Robben suggests, is more than the sum total of individual suffering because it ruptures social bonds, destroys group identities, undermines the sense of community, and entails cultural disorientation when taken-for-granted meanings become obsolete. A social trauma is thus a wound to the social body and its cultural frame. (2005:125) And just as the body needs to recover after an injury, so too individuals and communities maimed by mass violence need healing. The search for justice and the truth is one way the injured try to find closure. Transitional justice refers to the process of “redressing past wrongs committed in states shifting from a violent, authoritarian past toward a more liberal, democratic future,” including human rights violations (Hinton 2010:2). Justice demands accountability and the searching for and finding the “truth,” which is why truth commissions have been an important first step in seeking justice and prosecuting those responsible for human rights violations (Nobles 2010; Sikkink and Kim 2013). Such a search for justice requires acknowledging the long-lasting consequences of historical trauma, emotional and psychological effects triggered by memories of mass violence and calamitous events (Mohatt and Thompson, et al. 2014; Prussing 2014; Yellow Horse Brave Heart and Chase, et al. 2011). The search for truth and justice is anything but clear-cut, for “Whose truth is asserted or denied? Whose voice is heard or silenced? What does justice mean across space and through time?” (Hinton 2010:17). Truth commissions are not neutral, fact-finding inquiries: they aim for much more than merely uncovering the truth, and seeking truth is more


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than finding out what “really” happened. In countries ravaged by dirty wars, the search for the truth is indeed elusive, for even if one sets aside the problem of divided memory about the recent past, is truth-telling possible after a reign of violence so extreme it defies human imagination? Or is truth an illusion? Is it a conceit that merely restores a semblance of normalcy? (Stern 2014:255) Truth commissions have had several goals: to identify and hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations, expose clandestine atrocities and their fallen victims hidden from the public gaze, and reflect on the causes of mass violence so that past nightmares would not repeat themselves. (The ¡Nunca Más! that prefaced some commission reports clearly evoked the horrors of the Holocaust.) These moral, collective memory projects would quench a yearning for justice rooted in fairness and the rule of law, contribute to individual and social healing, and eventually lead their countries down a path of national forgiveness and reconciliation. In order to achieve these goals, the commissions not only had to grapple with “what” happened and “why,” but also how to interpret the past. In other words, they had to come to grips with history. And, yet, how the commissions understood their role and the constraints under which they carried out their work varied considerably (Chávez-Segura 2015; Grandin 2005).

Argentina Argentina’s truth commission was forced to confront the past in order to explain the country’s descent into terror. It did so by downplaying class inequality and social struggles, emphasizing instead the role of social-psychological variables, such as anomie and “insidious cultural patterns” (e.g., “dictatorial minds”), as well as condemning both the military and the leftist guerillas for the ensuing tragedy. In taking a “neutral” middle-ground in an emotionally charged national debate, and by emphasizing individual responsibilities for Argentina’s debacle, the truth commission depoliticized the past and reframed it as a failure of moral responsibilities (Grandin 2005). The commission was also entrusted with gathering information in order to indict members of the military high command responsible for the thousands of disappearances. The country’s judicial and fledging democratic system was unable to carry through its recommendations, and indictments against top military commanders were eventually dropped. If one goal of truth commissions is to achieve national reconciliation, then this has eluded Argentine society, which continues to be scarred by its violent past and the military continues to make its voice heard. In 2010, 25 years after the first trials and convictions of military officers, a military solidarity organization published hundreds of names and addresses of trial witnesses and alleged former guerrillas on the internet, accompanied by the threatening message: ‘Know the names of the terrorists and their addresses: They could be your neighbors and teachers and approach you as friends. . . . They live among us.’ (Robben 2012:313)

Violence, memory, and justice


Despite pardons of top military leaders and fear of the military, human rights activists have continued their quest for justice. In one successful strategy, they appealed the international legality of the amnesties to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which ruled in their favor. Citing the IACHR decision against amnesty laws for crimes against humanity, in 2005 Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled that the pardons were unconstitutional (Sikkink 2008). The search for truth always involves tapping memory of the past, and memory has many unforeseen twists and turns. Victoria Montenegro was raised as María Sol Tetzlaff, never doubting that Hernán Tetzlaff was her father. In 1997, at the age of 20, a court informed Victoria that Hernán and his wife were probably not her biological parents, and asked Victoria for a DNA sample, which she provided three years later. The court later informed Victoria that she was the biological child of Hilda and Roque Montenegro, and that she and her parents had been kidnapped when she was 13 days old. Shortly thereafter, Hernán Tetzlaff confessed to Victoria that he himself headed the military operation in which the Montenegros were tortured and killed, and that he adopted her after falsifying her birth record. Hernán Tetzlaff was convicted and sentenced to prison, where he died (Barrionuevo 2011). One of the most nefarious features of the dictatorship was the kidnapping and subsequent adoption by military officers of children whose parents were murdered. The search for and the genetic identification of these now-adult “living disappeared” can be liberating for some, tortuous for others, and invariably lead to colliding rights for all victims involved. In 1987 the National Bank of Genetic Data was established to store genetic information from families searching for their “living disappeared,” and in 1992, the National Commission for the Right to Identity (CONADI) was made responsible for investigating cases of disappearance and identity alteration. When someone is suspected of being a “living disappeared,” CONADI or the courts order a DNA identity test. This is what happened to Guillermo Prieto, mandated by a court to provide a blood sample so as to determine his genetic identity. After Guillermo refused, police raided his house and seized personal belongings to extract DNA material (called shed-DNA). Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled against obligatory blood tests but maintained the legality of identity tests based on shedDNA. The court recognized that different crimes had been committed (such as the kidnapping and forced disappearance of Guillermo’s biological parents and the alteration of his birth certificate). It also acknowledged that different victims were involved: Guillermo, whose identity was altered; his biological mother, María Peralta, disappeared and presumably murdered; and María’s mother, Guillermo’s biological grandmother. Guillermo claimed that the forced DNA identity test violated his rights to privacy, dignity, human rights, and his personhood. He argued for an identity and personhood that was social and relational, outcomes of his social environment and upbringing, rather than based on DNA testing, which several justices referred to as his “true identity” (verdadera identidad). At stake was not only justice for all involved, but also who has the right to ascertain a person’s identity (the individual or the courts) and, in a classic “nature vs. nurture” debate, whether DNA or the social environment has the upper hand in determining identity and personhood (Vaisman 2014). Perhaps in resisting DNA testing and refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy, Guillermo was trying to shield himself from what Gandsman has called “radical existential doubt,” nicely conveyed in a television commercial that aired in 2000: A young man wakes up, rises out of bed, and heads into the bathroom. As he splashes water onto his face from the sink to stir himself from slumber,


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he glances up at the mirror and is startled to confront someone else’s reflection staring back at him. An off-screen narrator announces: ‘Mariano doesn’t know that Pedro exists. Pedro exists, and his grandmother is searching for him.’ Using the 19th-century image of the double, the message is: Mariano is not the person he thinks he is. (2009:441)

Chile Augusto Pinochet, who after the coup declared himself “Supreme Leader of the Nation,” remained in power until 1990. Chile’s return to democracy was long and tortuous. The country’s first national elections since the 1973 coup, held in 1989, was won by Patricio Aylwin, who assumed the presidency in 1990. Pinochet, however, remained army commander. Days after retiring from the military in 1998, Pinochet, under the guidelines of a constitution written during his rule, became a senator for life and enjoyed legal immunity. That year, while visiting a London clinic, Pinochet was detained by British police following up on an international arrest warrant issued by a Spanish judge charging him with murdering Spanish citizens. (The famed Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón, also issued arrest warrants for Argentine generals.) After much political and legal maneuvering and intrigue, the British government allowed Pinochet to return to Chile in 2000. By that time, Chile’s political and cultural climate had changed enormously. Spurred on by the relentless efforts of national and international human rights activists, President Lagos established in 2000 the National Commission on Political Prison and Torture (the Valech Commission), whose “mandate was to identify persons who suffered imprisonment and torture for political reasons under military rule, and to make recommendations for social repair. Its broader mission was awareness: the truth of torture, irrefutably documented and recognized by the state” (Stern 2010:289–290). The judiciary began demonstrating increasing independence from the legal constraints imposed by the constitution – and from the military. In 2000, a judge strips Pinochet of his immunity, orders his arrest, and charges him with murder and kidnapping. The judge’s decisions were reversed a year later by an appeals court and later ratified by Chile’s Supreme Court. Yet judicial and political wrangling continued, as did the relentless pressure of human rights activists. By 2004 Pinochet again lost his immunity, was under house arrest and, in a strange twist of irony, Chile’s desaparecidos played an unexpected role in this drama: prosecutors argued that unaccounted bodies were those of victims presumably kidnapped, a crime not covered under the amnesty laws promulgated during the last years of military rule (Rohter 2005; Spooner 2011). Pinochet died in 2006 – the same year that Michelle Bachelet, a member of Allende’s Socialist party, and who herself was imprisoned during the military dictatorship, won the presidential elections. By then, Chilean memory of the repression decades earlier had passed a tipping point – into the era of new reckonings and less self-restraint. The fears and sable-rattling of the 1990s became less thinkable and less intuitively understandable, as if from a distant time. . . . The reality, massiveness, and indefensibility of human rights violations turned more irrefutable. (Stern 2010:297)

Violence, memory, and justice


In 1990, Ester Barría testified before Chile’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (also known as the Rettig Commission) about her brother Arturo, who was arrested and disappeared 16 years earlier. But why testify, for what purpose? Her responses to these questions provide insights into the powerful role of memory in defying dehumanization, and how truth was inseparable from justice: I want his name cleared and his memory revindicated, that he be recognized for what he was, he was an excellent teacher, a joyous human being who was the center of the family. . . . I want to know the truth, there cannot be reconciliation without first knowing with whom we are reconciling. . . . We want justice. We do not want vengeance, despite having been vilified, treated as crazy women looking for ‘presumed detained-disappeared ones,’ as they would say. (Stern 2010:66) Given the continued power of the military, which was still under the command of General Pinochet, the Rettig Commission did not attempt to prosecute military leaders for human rights violations. In fact, it lacked the power to issue subpoenas or even to publicly identify perpetrators of war crimes. Whereas other truth commissions aimed for truth and justice partly through indictments and prosecutions, Chile’s commission, in the words of President Aylwin, strove for “truth, and justice as far as possible.” The commission’s report emphasized the importance of ideological extremism from both the right and left, and the loss of faith in democratic institutions for the military coup and ensuing violence. While acknowledging that Chile’s violence had “deep roots of a socioeconomic character,” the commission nevertheless took the position that it was “beyond its mandate to explore them,” and its report veered dangerously close to suggesting that the military coup may have prevented the greater evil of full-fledged civil war (Grandin 2005). On March 4, 1991, President Aylwin addressed the nation in a somber, televised speech in which he stated that When it was agents of the State who caused so much suffering, and the pertinent organs of the State could not or knew not to avoid it and punish it, and there also was not the necessary social response to stop it, the State and the whole society are responsible, whether by action or omission. It is Chilean society that is in debt to the victims of violations of human rights. . . . That is why the suggestions for moral and material reparation that the Report formulates are shared by all sectors. . . . That is why I venture, in my condition as President of the Republic, to assume representation of the entire nation in order, in its name, to apologize . . . to the relatives of the victims. (Stern 2010:87) The military’s response to the Retting Commission Report was quick and predictable. In a speech at the Military Academy, General Pinochet defended the “legitimate use of force” against a looming “revolutionary civil war” that, with Cuba’s help, was about to engulf the nation in 1973. The armed forces, Pinochet insisted, had “saved the liberty and sovereignty of the fatherland” (Stern 2010:91–92).


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Guatemala In 1986 the Guatemalan military allowed the return of electoral democracy, and the brutal civil war officially ended with the signing of the 1996 peace accords. The peace process emboldened the rise of human rights and indigenous activism seeking justice – but with mixed results. In 2013 General Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison by a special tribunal. Yet only days later, under pressure from Guatemala’s powerful economic elites, the country’s Constitutional Court overturned his conviction. In 2015 Montt was once again ordered to stand trial for genocide, and a year later, 18 top former military officers were arrested for human rights violations (Brett 2016; Malkin 2015, 2016). Economic and social justice continues to elude most Guatemalans, the return to political democracy has not made a substantial dent in the vast socio-economic inequalities that led to civil war in the first place, and poverty, malnutrition, and inequality are among the worst in LAC (World Bank 2003). Guatemala had two truth commissions. The first, the Recovery of Historical Memory (Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica [REMHI]), undertaken by the Guatemalan Archdiocese, released its report Guatemala: Never Again in 1998. A year later, the UN-sponsored Commission for Historical Clarification (Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico [CEH]) released its Memory of Silence report. Both accounts delved deep into Guatemala’s past to identify the inequality and racism that had led the country into its violent abyss, and both held the military responsible for most deaths and disappearances. The rightist reaction to REMHI’s final report was swift: Bishop Juan Gerardi was assassinated two days after presiding over its release. Nine months after Memory of Silence was published, the Guatemalan Republican Front, a party founded and led by General Efraín Montt, won the presidential elections (Grandin 2005; Isaacs 2009). The CEH was not empowered to subpoena records or witnesses, nor could it assign individual responsibility (i.e., identify names of torturers or murderers), and much of its work was purposively vague. Yet emboldened by national and international human rights activists, the CEH was the only truth commission in Central or South America that officially charged the military with genocide. And unlike its official counterparts in Argentina and Chile, it carefully looked into the historical and structural conditions that led to civil war, emphasizing how “the landed class” bolstered the “economic subordination” of Maya and poor ladinos. The commission’s report was blunt and to the point when it stressed that State violence has been fundamentally aimed against the excluded, the poor, and the Maya, as well as those who struggled in favor of a just and more equitable society. . . . Thus a vicious circle was created in which social injustice led to protest and subsequently to political instability, to which there were always only two responses: repression or military coups. Confronted with movements demanding “economic, political, social, or cultural change the state increasingly resorted to terror in order to maintain social control. Political violence was thus a direct expression of structural violence.” (Grandin 2005:60) The architects of both REMHI and CEH were convinced that public testimonies – openly acknowledging the truth, and breaking the fear and silence that had gripped so many for so long – would be liberating, individually and collectively. A sort of catharsis would allow victims to

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reach closure and carry on with their lives by setting aside resignation, silence, and anger. Yet healing proved elusive. One widow explained that “It made me remember everything, and even though I was able to get it all out at that moment, it was only for a moment, then I had a terrible headache afterwards because I was thinking about it again.” Other refused to testify, not out of fear but of the pain in remembering: “It hurts too much, I am sick, I am always so tense, all this remembering, it just makes you sick” (Isaacs 2009:123–126). To not be able to bury one’s loved ones in a culturally acceptable way is a major affront to cultural sensibilities and a tragic experience to undergo. Among the Maya it was no different: The disappeared are among what Robert Hertz . . . has called the “unquiet dead,” referring to those who have died violent or unnatural deaths. Hertz has argued that funeral rituals are a way of strengthening the social bond. The Mayas believe that without proper burial souls linger in the liminal space between earth and the afterlife, condemned in time between death and the final obsequies. And yet these wandering souls may act as intermediaries between nature and the living, buffering as well as enhancing memories through the imagery of their violent deaths. (Green 2004:194) This is one reason why discovering and unearthing remains of the disappeared – a form of seeking truth and achieving transnational justice – is one way to reach closure, by both Guatemalans in their home country and the 1.5 million who live in the US, and why memory work by forensic anthropologists is so important (Mazzucelli and Heyden 2015). Forensic anthropologists have played a unique role in forging memory work by painstakingly locating mass hidden graves, identifying victims, bolstering the ability of victims’ relatives to keep alive the memories of their loved ones, and providing evidence to truth commissions investigating war crimes and prosecuting war criminals. In fact, exhumations by forensic anthropologists may be “the most critically significant forms of truth telling and truth finding,” for they permit ritual forms of remembrance, which afford survivors emotional relief . . . Many survivors are confused about where disappeared relatives are and feel guilty for not having found them and reburied their remains. Those who manage to successfully exhume their relatives often speak of being at peace with the knowledge that family members are now resting in a proper cemetery where they can visit them, light candles and incense, and bring them flowers. As one woman expressed it, “Thank God they are doing these exhumations. We want to find our relatives for one last time, we want to bury our – well, even just the bones – no one regrets the moment when we find our families.” (Isaacs 2009:131–132)

In the United States: to be or not be Maya The Central American civil wars led to a massive diaspora of peoples from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. More than one million Guatemalans – many Maya war refugees – have sought haven in the US. Regardless of where they live or the work they do, Maya


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across the US are forced to rethink who they are – their ethnic identity – in a rapidly changing cultural milieu. In Morgantown, South Carolina, distinctions between the Maya Awakatekos and Chalchitekos – ethnic differences crucial in rural Guatemala – seem less important in the collective enterprise to survive (Fink and Dunn 2000), and one Maya asks himself, What will the future of the Maya in Florida be like? There are already many different groups here. In the beginning there was unity, but now factions have divided the community. One faction wants to Americanize, to give up their Maya identity and become more American. . . . Ladinos, on the other hand, pressure us to reach equality not as Maya but in a different, more Guatemalan, way. Given these problems, adaptation to our new home in the United States is not easy for us. What are we going to do? (Camposeco 2000:173) Ethnic identification is situational and works at different levels. In Guatemala, ethnic and cultural distinctions are important at the local, inter-community level, but less meaningful when Maya collectively interact with non-Maya peoples (such as ladinos). The same principle hold in the US as Maya refugees and their children attempt to rebuild their lives in the US. Like other immigrants, undocumented Maya in Los Angeles try to lead hidden lives for fear of deportation. But many also feel discriminated against, not only by “Anglos” but also by other LAC immigrants and their use of derogatory expressions (no seas indio, don’t be an Indian; cara de indio, Indian-face). One of the main difficulties that Maya face is how to preserve – and, for their children, recover – their ethnic indigenous identity while at the same time facing legal marginalization and cultural intolerance. Maya have formed religious institutions, such as the Pastoral Maya, affiliated with the Catholic Church. Other revitalization initiatives have included language courses for youths and the celebration of community patron saints (Batz 2014). Maintaining Maya ethnic identity is especially difficult for the children of immigrants. Some may be aware of their indigenous, Maya ancestry but self-identity as Latino, while others straddle between Maya and Latino identities. Some remember feeling pressured to into self-identifying as Latino. Milton, who arrived in Los Angeles when he was seven recalls that I was treated as a Latino [from] the moment I [set foot] in Los Angeles. When I was in elementary school my complete ethnic identity was nonexistent. . . . I knew my family and I were from Guatemala, but somehow crossing two borders and the fear of being caught by la migra made me automatically want to blend in with the Latino, Mexicano identity. It was easier. . . . People found it easy just to assume [that I was Latino]. (Batz 2014:202) Many adult Maya strongly resist adopting a Latino identity, although this resistance may be far less noticeable among their children. Local, hometown associations across the US – church groups, Maya literacy classes, and the like – all point to a strong effort to retain a Maya identity and resist Latino self-identification. The phonetic similarity between Latino


Violence, memory, and justice

and ladino proved disturbing for some Maya in Canton, Georgia, and reminded them of the ethnic and racial discrimination they faced in Guatemala: One of the men explained that for the Maya, although the Guatemalan term, “Ladino,” carried the connotation of an “enemy,” Latino sounded “softer” and nonthreatening, but he quickly reminded me “we are not Latino.” Conversations revealed, however, that Maya resent Latinos and Mexican immigrants who look down on them for being indigenous, and believed this was commonly the case. In the opinion of one close consultant, “Latinos in the United States are the same as Ladinos in Guatemala, they try to trick people, and they feel superior to the Maya.” Several simply stated they had never thought about Latino identity and made no connection between Latinos and Ladinos; some had not heard of the term Latino, or were not sure of its meaning. (Lebaron 2012:189)

Concluding thoughts Systematic and pervasive violence on a mass scale has been an excruciating part of the life experiences of millions of LAC peoples that anthropologists should not ignore. In this chapter I have illustrated how violence and terror are interpreted and remembered, how violence perpetuates itself, and how those who have directly experience the horrors of terror try to seek closure. These issues are not merely worthy of attention in their own right. Perhaps by understanding how and why mass violence has taken place, underscoring its tragic toll on so many and in so many ways, and how and why “to remember a terrible, traumatic past is to help heal its wounds” (Hale 1997:817), anthropology can help in building a more just and humane future. The peoples who anthropologists have devoted their careers to studying deserve no less.

FILMS/VIDEOS 18 with a Bullet: El Salvador’s American-Style Gangs. 2006. Films on Demand. Tells the story of Los Angeles-based Salvadoran illegals who, once deported to their homeland, formed a transnational gang modeled after the notorious 18th Street Los Angeles gang. Alonso’s Dream. 2000. Icarus Films. Focuses on the impact on the Mayan people of the Zapatista uprising and violence by paramilitaries. Amargos Recuerdos: Bitter Memories. 2000. Latin American Video Archives. Examines the exhumation and identification of Guatemalans killed by the military in 1982. Chile, Obstinate Memory. 1997. Icarus Films. Documentary on the overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973.

Chile: From Drama to Hope. 1992. Films on Demand. Narrates Chilean life under the presidency of Salvador Allende. Colombia’s Guerrilla War: A Sundered Nation. 1999. Films on Demand. Focuses on the terror inflicted on Colombia’s civilians by the military, paramilitaries, and rebels. The Debt of Dictators. 2005. Kanopy Streaming. Explores the lending of money to dictators by multinational banks and international corporations. Denial. 1993. Icarus Films. Narrates the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador and the subsequent US cover-up. Devils Don’t Dream! 1997. Icarus Films. Documentary of the CIA-supported 1954 coup in Guatemala.


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El Salvador: Children of a Rape. 2009. Films Media Group. Documentary on gang warfare in El Salvador. Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. 2011. Kanopy Streaming. Account of the trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity during Guatemala’s civil war. If the Mango Tree Could Speak. 1993. New Day Films. Documentary on ten boys and girls who grew up during the civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. Jesús Tecu Osorio in Guatemala. 1999. Bull Frog Films. Award-winning documentary of Jesús Tecu Osorio, who witnessed the murder of his parents and siblings during Guatemala’s civil war. Justice and the Generals. 2002. Icarus Films. Two Salvadoran generals are tried in an American court for atrocities during El Salvador’s civil war. Justice for My Sister. 2012. New Day Films. A Guatemalan woman embarks on a 3-year quest to hold accountable her sister’s killers. Killer’s Paradise. 2008. Icarus Films. Focuses on the thousands of women murdered in Guatemala since 1999. La Palabra en el Bosque (The Word in the Woods). 2012. Films on Demand. Christian base communities resist El Salvador’s National Guard during the 1980s civil war. La Sierra. 2005. Icarus Films. Traces a year in a Medellín (Colombia) neighborhood riddled by violence. La Sirga. 2012. Kanopy Streaming. Story of a young woman whose life was uprooted by Peru’s armed conflict. Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and the Search for Identity: Children of Argentina’s “Disappeared.” 2012. Films on Demand. Focuses on grandmothers who lost their grandchildren during the violent repression of the 1970s. Lucanamarca. 2008. Icarus Films. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission arrives in Lucanamarca, Peru, to investigate a 20-year-old massacre.

Man We Called Juan Carlos, The. 2000. Bull Frog Films. Documents the life history of Wenceslao Armira, a Maya farmer, teacher, guerilla, and priest murdered by death squads. Monseñor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero. 2010. Kanopy Streaming. Documentary on Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated in El Salvador in 1980. Nicaragua: Turning Away from Violence. 2004. Films Media Group. Documents how two groups, the Xochitl-Acatl Women’s Center and the Association of Men Against Violence, confront gender and sexual abuse. Our Disappeared. 2008. Kanopy Streaming. A  film director searches for the truth of the disappearance of a girlfriend during the 1976–1983 dictatorship in Argentina. A Place Called Chiapas: Eight Months Inside the Zapatista Uprising. 2000. Canada Wild Productions. Documentary on the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico filmed over an 8-month period. The Pinochet Case. 2001. Icarus Films. Tells the story of the legal case against Chile’s Augusto Pinochet before and after his 1998 arrest in London. Sacred Soil. 2008. Icarus Films. Describes the work by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation in exhuming, identifying, and returning to their families, the bodies of those massacred during the civil war. State of Fear. 2005. Kanopy Streaming. Focuses on the human costs of Peru’s war against the Shining Path guerillas. A Time to Fight: HIJOS Speaks Out for the Disappeared of Argentina. 2012. Films on Demand. Narrates the struggle of the children of the disappeared to bring to justice human rights abusers. Zapatista. 2005. Kanopy Streaming. Narrative on the 1994 Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, the day after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

WEBSITES Amnesty International. Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN). Human Rights Watch.

International Center for Transition Justice. Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Project Disappeared: Memory, Truth and Justice.

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Mohatt, Nathaniel V. and Thompson, Azure B., et al. 2014. Historical Trauma as Public Narrative: A Conceptual Review of How History Impacts Present-Day Health. Social Science & Medicine 106:128–136. Mónaco Felipe, Paula. 2018. The Death of a Genocide. The New York Times. March 20. Montoya, Rosario. 2012. Gendered Scenarios of Revolution: Making New Men and New Women in Nicaragua. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Morello, Gustavo. 2015. The Catholic Church and Argentina’s Dirty War. New York: Oxford University Press. Nash, June C. 1995. The New World Dis-Order: A View from Chiapas, Mexico. In Indigenous Perceptions of the Nation-State in Latin America (Studies in Third World Societies, #56). Giordani, Lourdes and Snipes, Marjorie M., eds. Pp. 171– 198. Williamsburg: College of William and Mary. Nobles, Melissa. 2010. The Prosecution of Human Rights Violations. Annual Review of Political Science 13(1):165–182. Pauchulo, Ana L. 2008. Re-Telling the Story of Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina: Lessons on Constructing Democracy and Reconstructing Memory. Canadian Woman Studies 27(1):29–35. Pedersen, Duncan and Tremblay, Jacques, et al. 2008. The Sequelae of Political Violence: Assessing Trauma, Suffering and Dislocation in the Peruvian Highlands. Social Science & Medicine 76(2):205–217. Pérez Brignoli, Héctor. 1995. Indians, Communists, and Peasants: The 1932 Rebellion in El Salvador. In Coffee, Society, and Power in Latin America. Roseberry, William, Gudmundson, Lowell, et al., eds. Pp. 232–261. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University. Pérez, Orlando J. 2013. Gang Violence and Insecurity in Contemporary Central America. Bulletin of Latin American Research 32(1):217–234. Prussing, Erica. 2014. Historical Trauma: Politics of a Conceptual Framework. Transcultural Psychiatry 51(3):436–458. Ranum, Elin C. 2011. Street Gangs of Guatemala. In Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America. Bruneau, Thomas C. and Dammert, Lucía, et al., eds. Pp. 71–86. Austin: University of Texas Press.

307 Reyes, Alvaro. 2015. Zapatismo: Other Geographies Circa ‘The End of the World’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33:408–424. Richani, Nazih. 2013. Systems of Violence: The Political Economy of War and Peace in Colombia. (2nd Edition). Albany: State University of New York Press. Robben, Antonius. 2004. The Fear of Indifference: Combatants’ Anxieties About the Political Identity of Civilians during Argentina’s Dirty War. In Violence in War and Peace. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy and Bourgois, Philippe, eds. Pp. 200– 206. Malden, MA: Blackwell. ———. 2005. How Traumatized Societies Remember: The Aftermath of Argentina’s Dirty War. Cultural Critique 59:120–164. ———. 2012. From Dirty War to Genocide: Argentina’s Resistance to National Reconciliation. Memory Studies 5(3):305–315. Rodgers, Dennis. 2006. Living in the Shadow of Death: Gangs, Violence and Social Order in Urban Nicaragua, 1996–2002. Journal of Latin American Studies 38(2):267–292. Rodgers, Dennis and Baird, Adam. 2015. Understanding Gangs in Contemporary Latin America. In The Handbook of Gangs. Decker, Scott H. and Pyrooz, David, eds. Pp. 31–61. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Rohter, Larry. 2005. Pinochet Under House Arrest. The New York Times. January 6. Roseberry, William and Gudmundson, Lowell, et al., eds. 1995. Coffee, Society, and Power in Latin America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Said, Edward W. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2002. Coming to Our Senses: Anthropology and Genocide. In Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide. Hinton, Alexander L., ed. Pp. 363–381. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2015. The Ghosts of Montes de Oca: Buried Subtext of Argentina’s Dirty War. The Americas 72(2):187–220. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy and Scheper-Hughes, Jennifer. 2016. The Conversion of Francis: The First Latin American Pope and the Women He Needs. In Global Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century. Gutmann, Matthew C.


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and Lesser, Jeffrey, eds. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. Semple, Kirk. 2016. Fleeing Gangs, Central American Families Surge Toward US. The New York Times. November 12. Sherman, John W. 2015. Political Violence in Colombia: Dirty Wars Since 1977. History Compass 13(9):454–465. Shifter, Michael and Raderstorf, Ben. 2018. A Counterproductive Approach to a Broken Immigration System. The New York Times. January 9. Sikkink, Kathryn. 2008. From Pariah State to Global Protagonist: Argentina and the Struggle for International Human Rights. Latin American Politics and Society 50(1):1–29. Sikkink, Kathryn and Kim, Hun J. 2013. The Justice Cascade: The Origins and Effectiveness of Prosecutions of Human Rights Violations. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 9:269–285. Smith, Carol A. and Moors, Marilyn M., eds. 1990. Guatemalan Indians and the State: 1540 to 1988. Austin: University of Texas Press. Spooner, Mary H. 2011. The General’s Slow Retreat: Chile After Pinochet. Berkeley: University of California Press. Starn, Orin. 1994. Rethinking the Politics of Anthropology: The Case of the Andes. Current Anthropology 35(1):13–38. Stern, Steve J. 1987. Introduction to Part II. In Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 18th to 20th Centuries. Stern, Steve J., ed. Pp. 143–147. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ———. 1998a. Beyond Enigma: An Agenda for Interpreting Shining Path and Peru, 1980–1995. In Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995. Stern, Steve J., ed. Pp. 1–9. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 1998b. Introduction to Part Two. In Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995. Stern, Steve J., ed. Pp. 121–127. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2004. Remembering Pinochet’s Chile: On the Eve of London 1998. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2010. Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile, 1989–2006. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2014. Afterword: The Artist’s Truth/The PostAuschwitz Predicament After Latin America’s

Age of Dirty Wars. In Art from a Fractured Past: Memory and Truth Telling in Post Shining Path Peru. Milton, Cynthia E., ed. Pp. 255–276. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2016. The Curious History of a Cultural Code Word. Radical History Review 124:117–128. Stoll, David. 1988. Evangelicals, Guerillas, and the Army: The Ixil Triangle Under Ríos Montt. In Harvest of Violence: The Maya Indians and the Guatemalan Crisis. Carmack, Robert M., ed. Pp. 90–118. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Taussig, Michael. 2003. Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in Colombia. New York: The New Press. Theidon, Kimberly. 2013. Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Vaisman, Noa. 2014. Relational Human Rights: Shed-DNA and the Identification of the ‘Living Disappeared’ in Argentina. Journal of Law and Society 41(3):391–415. Valdéz, Al. 2011. The Origins of Southern California Gangs. In Maras: Gang Violence and Security in Central America. Bruneau, Thomas C. and Dammert, Lucía, et al., eds. Pp. 23–42. Austin: University of Texas Press. Verbitsky, Horacio. 1996. The Flight: Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior. New York: The New Press. Vigil, James D. 1988. Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California. Austin: University of Texas Press. Villegas, Paulina. 2017. In a Mexico ‘Tired of Violence,’ Zapatista Rebels Venture into Politics. The New York Times. August 26. Wilson, Richard A. 1991. Machine Guns and Mountain Spirits: The Cultural Effects of State Repression Among the Q’eqchi of Guatemala. Critique of Anthropology 11(1):33–61. Wolfson, Todd. 2014. Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. World Bank. 2003. Poverty in Guatemala. Washington, DC: World Bank. Yellow Horse Brave Heart, Maria and Chase, Josephine, et al. 2011. Historical Trauma Among Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: Concepts, Research, and Clinical Considerations. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 43(4):282–290.



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stressed in Chapter 1 the tight integration of the US and LAC economies and that immigrants are profoundly shaping US society and culture. These are themes that are not only good to think about; they are also important in the everyday lives of many people and the focus of rancorous debates in the US on the outsourcing of jobs to Mexico and the causes and consequences of illegal immigration. In its Principles of Professional Responsibility, the American Anthropological Association states that “Anthropology . . . is an irreducibly social enterprise. Among our goals are the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems” (American Anthropological Association 2012). It is with this spirit of an engaged anthropology (Beck and Maida 2013; Sillitoe 2016) that in this chapter I focus on the twin and related controversies of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and legal and illegal immigration to the US. In the first section I delve into the ideology and practice of neoliberalism, which has provided the mainstay of free trade policies. I then turn to the promises and some of the consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In the third section I shift to the bitter immigration debates in the US.

What is neoliberalism? Neoliberalism refers to a set of ideas and matching political-economic practices that have profoundly shaped the world over the past 50 years. As an ideology – power-laden ideas legitimizing and naturalizing a worldview – it champions the “invisible hand” (to use Adam Smith’s famous words) of the “free market” as a more competent and efficient regulator of economic, social, and cultural life than the state. Proponents of this “market fundamentalism,” so pervasive that Wacquant (2012) refers to it as the “neoliberal virus,” insist on deregulating the economy and creating optimal conditions for capital accumulation; call for the withdrawal or “retreat” of the state from the social sphere; and advocate an ethos of competition, self-interest, and individual responsibility. A healthy (and profitable) market bodes well for individual and collective well-being. Even socialist Cuba is not completely immune from this “virus” (Centeno and Cohen 2012; Eagleton 1991; Ganti 2014; Harvey 2005; Ritter 2014). Neoliberalism endorses a range of interlocking policies to increase corporate profits. Labor is an important target. By placing hurdles to union organizing (which would lead to demands for higher wages), resisting salary increases, weakening job security (dubbed



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“labor flexibility”), and outsourcing jobs, neoliberal policies not only reduce costs but also undercut working-class solidarity and consciousness. Interestingly enough, these policies have also led to a retreat from class analysis in the academy . . . [which is] one of neoliberalism’s most effective ideological weapons. . . . [It] is no accident that even as the gap between the rich and the poor widens and the middle class erodes . . . the knowledges that can address this reality are being swept into the margins as ‘old-fashioned.’ (Hennessy 2000:12) In addition to regressive tax policies, another way to boost corporate profits is to pursue free trade policies. Neoliberalism encourages these by shredding regulatory restrictions on investment, imports and exports, and the movement of capital goods (e.g., technology, machinery) across national boundaries. Undoing costly environmental regulations is also necessary. One upshot of these related strategies is the ease with which transnational corporations close down manufacturing plants and resurrect them elsewhere at lower costs. The neoliberal state is a two-faced political entity. This is because, while it is crucial for deregulating the economy and supporting the capital interests, the state should ideally back away from many of the obligations it historically has had towards its citizens. This unraveling of the social contract explains the defunding of education and social welfare programs, as well as attempts to curtail the role of the state in health provisioning. Both are quite evident in the US. For example, rising tuition costs at public universities and colleges are largely due to a drastic decline of state funding, and witness attempts at dismantling “Obamacare” (Chapter  9). In a nutshell, citizens should take on more responsibility for their needs. Privatizing social services, such as transportation, utilities, and even the police powers of the state (such as the use of military contractors by the US government), is also a top priority in neoliberal thinking. In reflecting on capitalism’s ideological scaffolding, Max Weber emphasized years ago that “a developed sense of responsibility [was] absolutely indispensable” (1958:62). So too it is with neoliberalism, which attempts to win the hearts and minds of citizens. It does so, first, by emphasizing individual responsibility and claiming that unfortunate life events (e.g., loss of a job, a health crisis) are the results of personal moral failures. This cult of individualism [pervades] daily discourse and political analysis. The sanctity of individual choice [is] elevated to the highest priority; cost-benefit analysis . . . provide guidelines for behavior; and inequalities [are] justified, functional, and inevitable. Political appeals based on collective identities, shared sacrifice, and basic rights [are] deemed naive at best and dangerously totalitarian at worst. (Centeno and Cohen 2012:331) Second, neoliberalism tries to convince citizens that this state of affairs is in fact to their advantage. Scholars usually trace the first neoliberal policies in LAC to Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (Chapter 10). By the early 1980s neoliberalism was in full swing. LAC countries rolled back the historically strong state intervention in their economies. For

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instance, they eagerly sold off thousands of state-owned enterprises in telecommunications, airlines, petroleum, mining, railways, and banking – and international corporations enthusiastically bought them, investing $250 billion. A decade later, inflation, cutbacks in state spending, a drastic fall in real wages, the lifting of price supports, and a precipitous decline in terms of trade led to a massive erosion of living standards and widespread poverty compared to the previous decades of state-driven growth (O’Brien 2007). Hoffman and Centeno not only tell us that a decade after neoliberal reforms LAC had the dubious distinction of being a “lopsided continent . . . [with] the most unequal region of the world,” but also that the collapse in some countries was practically biblical: in Argentina, the percentage of the population living in poverty tripled in a single decade, reaching 29% in 1990 . . . [and in] Lima, average consumption by households declined by 55% during the last half of the 1980s. (2003:365–368) Neoliberalism has not gone unchallenged. Popular mobilizations against neoliberal policies and their consequences have recently surfaced in virtually every LAC country – and with some positive results. For example, key economic sectors have been re-nationalized (e.g., banks and the national airline in Argentina; oil and gas in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela); spending on social programs increased; and new regulations on business and foreign transactions enacted. Yet these attempts at rolling back some of neoliberalism’s most nefarious consequences have had serious setbacks – such as the 2015 collapse of Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy. And more than $100 billion in yearly profits continue to flow to overseas transnational corporations, underscoring the continuing underdevelopment of LAC. Perhaps Eduardo Galeano’s famous thesis on the “open veins” of Latin America – that the region hemorrhaged its resources and wealth to Europe, contributing to its underdevelopment – is still relevant (1973). The “post-neoliberal turn” is far from a complete break with neoliberalism and transnational capital accumulation (Higginbottom 2013; Rénique 2009; Yates and Bakker 2014).

NAFTA The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the US, and Canada is a good example of the promises and repercussions of neoliberal ideology and practice and the centerpiece of fierce debates in the US on free trade and immigration.

Hopes, promises, fallouts Shannon Mulcahy started working as a janitor at the Rexnord Corporation, an Indianapolis factory, when she was 25 years old. Years later, she was on the factory floor as a skilled operator churning out steel bearings. Earning $25 hour plus medical benefits allowed her, a single mother living with a son, daughter, and granddaughter, to eke out a decent, if not extravagant, living. In December 2016 Rexnord’s chief executive announced that the plant would close and operations moved to Monterrey, Mexico, where workers earn onefourth of Shannon’s salary. This, he stated, was a purely “business decision” that would


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save the company millions of dollars and reap higher returns for investors. Union concessions failed to sway management from closing the plant, and neither did slowdowns, sabotage and other actions by Rexnord’s workers – some reminiscent of nineteenth century British working-class resistance (Thompson 1963). Also futile was President Donald Trump’s December 2016 tweet in which he wrote that “Rexnord of Indianapolis is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all its 300 workers. No more!” The plant closed on October 2017. After 17 years on the job and now 43 years old, Shannon was unemployed, without health benefits for her children and disabled granddaughter, felt betrayed, and had lost part of her identity and sense of self-worth. Ironically, as Rexnord and other Indianapolis companies shifted operations and jobs to Mexico, more Mexicans arrived in search of employment. In Marion County, where Indianapolis is located, the number of Mexicans doubled between 2000 and 2015 (Stockman 2017). It is stories like these that fuel the rancorous debates on the future of NAFTA and undocumented immigration. NAFTA created a “seamless web of finance as businesses, bankers, and brokers wheel-and-deal[ed] across borders” (Hing 2010:26). This agreement lowered tariffs on goods and lifted many restrictions on capital flows between the US, Mexico, and Canada. The free market, unencumbered by needless and unprofitable regulations, would spur prosperity for all. For the Mexican state and influential corporate interests, NAFTA promised a host of economic and political benefits. It would lower domestic inflation by providing Mexican consumers with less expensive goods; attract foreign investment; boost capital accumulation; increase Mexico’s manufacturing competitiveness; and, ultimately, lower unemployment. The potential political gains were no less important, for by strengthening powerful corporate interests historically allied to the then-ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), it augured the PRI’s continued dominance of the country’s political system. Although some labor leaders opposed NAFTA, the PRI’s historic control of major labor organizations ensured that most opposition remained muted. Peasant organizations, fearful of a flood of less expensive foodstuffs, especially maize, were unable to muster an effective political opposition to NAFTA. As in Mexico, powerful economic and political interests in the US also viewed NAFTA as an endless source of bounty and prosperity. NAFTA was backed by industrial interests that envisioned an explosive growth of exports and higher profit margins largely due to lower wages in Mexico. Moving production to Mexico was also a sure way to undermine the influence of organized labor and minimize overhead related to workers’ safety, disposal of toxic waste products, and other federal regulations. (Mexico responded in kind.) Agro-industrial corporations with a competitive edge over Mexican peasant farmers also supported NAFTA as it boded a greater share of Mexico’s food market. NAFTA was also politically important because it foreshadowed millions of new jobs, legitimized the ideology of free trade, and by strengthening the Mexican economy it would (allegedly) help curb the flow of illegal immigrants to the US. As in Mexico, there were opponents as well. Labor unions protested the likely hemorrhage of jobs across the border, and some agricultural sectors, such as sugar producers who enjoyed protectionist policies, or fruit and vegetable growers in California and Florida, feared a flood of less-costly imports. While there have been winners and losers on both sides of the border, “a global governing economic class was the true beneficiary of NAFTA – not any particular nation, and certainly not the poor or working class of the nations involved” (Hing 2010:25).

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Trade between Mexico and the US has blossomed since NAFTA’s signing (Chapter 1). Yet this trade increase has not meant more employment for Mexicans. The competitive advantage of US agribusinesses, partly due to mechanization but also because of the tens of billions of dollars they receive in federal subsidies, led to a massive inflow of lesscostly agricultural goods to Mexico and undermined Mexican farming. Ironically, Mexico was an important center of the domestication of maize, but most of the corn that Mexicans now consume comes from the US. Giant conglomerates such as Tyson Foods also control a significant part of Mexico’s poultry industry. Mexico hemorrhaged two million agricultural jobs between 1994 and 2006, increasing the flow of unskilled labor to its cities and across the US–Mexican border. With the exception of the maquiladora industry (discussed in the next section), which preceded NAFTA by almost 30 years, Mexico also lost half a million domestic manufacturing jobs by 2004. Real wages lagged behind gains in productivity and declined compared with US wages, and income inequality also deepened (Blecker 2014; Galbraith 2014; Hing 2010). Lax enforcement of environmental regulations allowed transnational plants to massively contaminate the environment, in what Simon has called “garbage imperialism” (2014:57). Small wonder, then, that working-class Mexico City residents expressed widespread cynicism and resistance to NAFTA by making a “correspondence of transnationalism with rich vendidos (sell-outs) on the one hand, and of the Mexican nation with its poor jodidos (screwed) on the other” (Gutmann 2003:410). For its part, the US lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs (some five  million) between 1998–2009. About 400,000 of these can be attributed to the shift of manufacturing to Mexico; the rest were largely lost because of its huge trade deficits with China. Mexico purchases 50% more products from the US than China, and the US imports almost twice as much from China than Mexico. Almost five million jobs in the US depend on trade with Mexico (Fernández Campbell 2016) and [Since] U.S. trade with China is far more lopsided than U.S. trade with Mexico . . . one could argue that in the absence of NAFTA and increased trade with Mexico, net U.S. employment losses in manufacturing and related activities might have been even larger than they actually were. (Blecker 2014:18–19) As in Mexico, real wages in the US have declined over the past two decades, and income inequality has sharply risen, but, as Gailbraith notes, “There is nothing in the data to suggest that anything major happened to the inequality of U.S. workers’ wages in the aftermath of NAFTA” (2014:68).

Maquiladoras Maquiladoras (also known as maquilas) are manufacturing and assembly plants that appeared in LAC after their successful introduction in Asian free trade zones during the 1960s (Ong 1987). At about the same time, offshore production along the US–Mexican border was spurred by the US’s Border Industrialization Program. Transnational corporations set up these shops to lower costs and boost productivity and profits. There, in the “Third World,” was a seemingly endless supply of workers willing to work for a mere fraction of what their counterparts in the US and Europe were paid, labor laws and unions


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were virtually nonexistent, and environmental legislation practically absent. Corporate interests aggressively sought out female workers who supposedly were intrinsically docile, submissive, easily controlled, and whose “natural” manual dexterity easily lent itself to the kinds of minute, tedious work required. A feminized labor force was to be the bulwark of capitalist discipline and profits. It also turns out that the “free market” needed a great deal of help from the state. Mexico eased legal restrictions on foreign investment and ownership of manufacturing and assembly plants, discouraged independent union organizing, devalued the peso, and lifted tariffs on raw materials and other goods necessary for their operations. The US followed suit, changing its tariff laws and exempting from import duties the value of US components of products manufactured or assembled in Mexico and reintroduced to the US. Two years before NAFTA 2,000 maquiladoras employed over 500,000 workers; less than a decade later there were 3,000 maquilas, clustered in electronics, auto parts, and apparel, with almost one million laborers. Since 2001 hundreds of thousands of maquilas jobs have shifted to China because of its lower wages. Most maquiladoras are in Tijuana. In Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, 400 maquilas are staffed by 250,000 laborers (Figure 11.1). Although the search for female labor was paramount during the early decades of the maquiladora industry, by 1983 corporations began hiring men in greater numbers. This shift had to do with the rapid flow of operations to the border, which led to a temporary

FIGURE 11.1  Working at a maquila, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

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“scarcity” of female labor. The maquiladora labor force is now probably equally distributed between males and females (Hennessy 2013; Hing 2010; Lugo 2008; Tuttle 2012).

Neoliberalism, multiculturalism, resistance One of the most striking trends over the past 40 years is how neoliberalism has been paralleled by an increasing recognition of cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual differences and rights, a shift called multiculturalism, or multicultural citizenship. Throughout LAC, The collective rights gained as a result of multicultural citizenship reforms include: formal recognition of the multicultural nature of national societies and of specific ethnic/racial sub-groups, recognition of indigenous customary law as official public law, collective property rights (especially to land), official status for minority languages in predominantly minority regions, and guarantees of bilingual education. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela have enshrined at least one type, and in many cases all, of these collective rights at the level of statutory or constitutional law. (Hooker 2005:285) The multicultural turn has led to an remarkable mobilization of indigenous peoples seeking to redress their historic subordination. The election of Evo Morales to Bolivia’s presidency is perhaps the most striking example of this trend (Chapter 5). Yet indigenous mobilizing and claims for more inclusive citizenship and cultural rights have taken place in a historical context gripped by neoliberalism. By shifting the terms of debate to the realm of culture and identity politics, state-sponsored “neoliberal multiculturalism” (Hale 2002; Jackson 2009) does little to substantively challenge the basic political-economic tenets of neoliberalism, deflects attention away from the differential power relations that sustain it, and weakens the possibility of a determined and cohesive challenge to the neoliberal state. For example, the Mexican constitutional reforms of 1992 declared the “pluri-cultural character” of Mexican society, but at the same time the government undermined the historic agrarian reform law that shielded communally controlled peasant lands (ejidos). And in Guatemala Maya cultural rights activism . . . may invert dominant relations of representation, while remaining at the margins, resource starved, without the power to influence decisions taken by the state and powerful institutions. Similarly, Mayan communities host myriad development initiatives, which promise (and at times even deliver) improvements in community members’ material wellbeing, yet at the same time reinforce a symbolic order that saps the energy for collective, autonomous Maya empowerment. (Hale 2002:498) In the Mexican state of Baja California a “perverse multiculturalism” prevailed in a transnational agribusiness. There, company and local and state agents highlighted Oaxaca Mixtec’s cultural identity as indigenous and Mixtec children were taught their cultural


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heritage in school. In turn, company officials justified substandard wages and living conditions because as “indios” Mixtecs were used to living with very little; minimal medical services were justified because the Mixtecs had their own “traditional” medicine; and child labor defended because it was part of Mixtec “native” culture (Jackson 2009). And entrenched racial distinctions in Colombia apparently now matter little, because “neoliberal ideolo