American Anthropologist December 1960 Vol. 62 No. 6, p1080-1081,
Culture and Conquest: America's Spanish Heritage. GEORGE M. FOSTER (Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, Number 27.) New York: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Incorporated, 1960. ix, 272 pp., bibliography, figures, index, 9 plates. $5.00.
Reviewed by JOHN GILLIN University of Pittsburg
Two first-class contributions of value, both to students of Latin American culture and to general anthropologists interested in theory of cultural change, stand out a this work. First, Foster is the only North American anthropologist to my knowledge who has made a systematic attempt to resurrect and examine in detail the diverse Spanish subcultures and their contributions to the new civilization that developed in Spanish America following the Conquest. Second, he has developed and demonstrated the usefulness of two related concepts which he calls "conquest culture" and "cultural crystallization."
For some years now a number of anthropologists, including the present reviewer, interested in the area have been concerned with demonstrating that, despite regional and local and class variations, a series of common patterns underly all of Spanish America, so that it is correct to speak of a Spanish American culture and area and to carry out certain types of studies from this point of view. But none of us has had a comprehensive knowledge of the donor culture from which these patterns were derived, at least in modified form. Furthermore, on the basis of piecemeal knowledge, we have been mystified on occasion as to why certain traits and complexes known to have existed in at least some parts of Spain did not diffuse to the New World. Foster now shows convincingly that both as a matter of State and Church policy, and through informal processes, a selection was made from the great variety of Spanish patterns to produce a "boiled down" or "concentrated" version of Spanish culture for export to the New World. This he calls the "conquest culture." Over the centuries, this form of life received certain contributions from the native Indian cultures, as well as developing certain new forms and configurations of its own in America, a process Foster terms ,:cultural crystallization." It turns out that Andalusia and Extremadura are the two regions of Spain that seem to have contributed most to the crystallization tall partly because their emigrants were most numerous during the early
period of American colonization.
After two preliminary visits in 1948 and 1949, respectively, to make surveys and arrangements, the author spent 12 months in Spain, working with the Spanish ethnographer, Julio Caro Baroja, the Director of the Museo del Pueblo Espanol They made a thorough survey of the pertinent Spanish literature and then visited and made systematic field notes in 32 Spanish provinces. In the present volume, the data are set forth and analyzed for the following cultural features: city, town, and village plans; agricultural practices; domestic animals; fishing techniques; arts, crafts, and costume; transportation and markets; pregnancy, birth, and infancy-, courtship and marriage; rituals of death-, religion; feast days, fiestas, and pilgrimage patterns. Each chapter starts off with a brief summary of the appropriate patterns as found in America, followed by a description of the Spanish analogues, pointing out those patterns which were withheld from the colonies and those modified or recombined in the new setting. All of this adds enormously to our understanding of present-day Spanish American civilization and its development.
The present volume does not, of course, cover all patterns and institutions necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the Latin American type of civilization. I hope that Foster or someone else can follow this up with similar work, for example, on political institutions, systems of social class, economic organization and policy, literature and art, social personalities and roles, and patterns of value. There is a large literature on these matters pertaining to Latin America, but it is not comprehensively organized in the context of a cultural or civilizational whole, nor have the Iberian antecedents been systematically investigated as in this monograph.
In succeeding works along this line, it would also be desirable to make a systematic comparison of all anthropological and other appropriate studies made of the modern Spanish American culture in order to pinpoint and explain variations within it, a task not attempted in this volume. Only a few small points of fact strike me as in need of amplification, e.g., "nor have paid mourners been noted in the New World" (p. 231). I hereby note that I have come in contact with paid lloronas (weepers) at high class funerals in Quito and Lima and have discussed their cash fees with them. All in all, this is a effort, and I hope that Dr. Foster and others will follow through with more of the same.
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