Empire's Children: The People of Tzintzuntzan.


[Smithsonian Institution, Institute of Social Anthropology, Publication No. 6.]

(Washington, D. C.: 1949. Pp. 297. 2 maps, 16 plates. Paper.)

This is a study by a social anthropologist of a mestizo community located on the shores of Lake PAtzcuaro, state of MichoacAn, in the volcanic plateau of western central Mexico. This community, Tzintzuntzan I is built over and around the remains of the administrative and ceremonial center of the preconquest Tarascan tribe; nowadays, the, surrounding area is still occupied by some forty thousand Tarascan

speaking Indians. Tzintzuntzan, however, is not today an "Indian community. The language of the village is Spanish; only 156 of slightly more than 1200 inhabitants of the community speak Tarascan. Although there are numerous patterns of Indian origin in the present way of life of Tzintzuntzan, the total picture of their culture is that of a hybrid, Spanish-Indian culture which is typical of so many rural Mexican communities.

As Foster points out (p. 286), "The fact that the people of Tzintzuntzan are rural Mexican, rather than Tarascan (Indian) in their outlook and viewpoint implies that hypotheses and conclusions applicable to this village should also be applicable to many other similar communities (in Mexico)." Thus, as a "case study," so to speak, of widespread mestizo culture patterns of Mexico, this study of Tzintzuntzan has significance of national scope and it should be of interest to political scientists, sociologists, historians, and other specialists interested in Mexico. The relationship of Tzintzuntzan to the national culture of Mexico is shown by its participation in national movements and by the presence of national institutions. Foster's brief description of the Sinarquista movement, for example, in Tzintzuntzan is an illuminating account of the local basis of this militant political movement in Mexico.

The present publication is another contribution of the Tarascan project. This research program was initiated in 1936 when the University of California, the National Polytechnic Institute, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs of Mexico agreed to undertake a Cooperative program in anthropology in the area inhabited by Tarascan speaking Indians.* The program was interrupted during the recent war but in 1945 it was continued under the auspices of the Institute of Social Anthropology of the Smithsonian Institution and of the Escuela Nacional de Antropologla of Mexico. The present publication is a result of a joint field program sponsored by these two institutions. A series of major publications such as: Cheran: A Sierra Tarascan Village, by Ralph Beals (,Smithsonian Institution, Institute of Social Anthropology, Publication No. 2, 1946), and The Cultural Geography of the Modern Tarascan Area, by Robert C. West (Smithsonian Institution, Institute of Social Anthropology, Publication No. 7, 1948), have already been published on the Tarascan area. In addition, a series of shorter papers have appeared and there are manuscripts treating the archaeology, the human geography, the social anthropology, and the culture history of the region in process of preparation. When this body of research is all published, the Tarascan area will be the best studied region of Mexico, or of all of Middle America for that matter. The present study by Foster and his associates is a major contribution to this over-all program.

*See Ralph Beals, de La Borbolla, and Daniel F. Rubin, "The Tarascan Project. A cooperative enterprise of the National Polytechnic Institute, Mexican Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the University of California," American Anaropoiogist, XLII (1940), 708-712.

This work is a clear and full ethnography of Tzintzuntzan. There is an ethnographic sketch of preconquest Tarascan culture as well as a summary of sixteenth-century Spanish contact and subsequent events. The material culture, the diet, the agriculture, the marketing activities, and the folk technology of Tzintzuntzan are well described and documented by the use of statistical tables and charts on work, income, diet, etc. The religious patterns, the ceremonial, and the municipal organization of the village are described and analyzed. The book is enhanced by the section called "From an Ethnographer's Notebook" in which the author relates day by day events in Tzintzuntzan as they were recorded by the field ethnographer. Such details give his study of the life of the people of Tzintzuntzan a dramatic authenticity. Foster's study is a welcome addition to a growing list of studies of modern Mexican communities.

CHARLES WAGLEY. Columbia University.


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