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Article

The epistemic assumptions, methods, and rhetoric employed by colonial indigenous intellectuals in Latin America were based on preconquest intellectual labor and literacy systems. These practices were deeply impacted by collaborative projects and historical scholarship undertaken in the 16th century, as indigenous elites embraced European literacy and scholarly models. This merging of diverse traditions led to a “golden age” of indigenous intellectual achievements in the 17th century, and to a diversity of genres cultivated by native scholars in late colonial times. Indigenous historical actors were intellectuals not only because they recorded and disseminated historical, religious, or political knowledge, but also because they were inserted in culturally hybrid social networks through which collective knowledge circulated. While the works of Chimalpahin, Guaman Poma, Garcilaso de la Vega, and don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl are relatively well known, this small sample of native and mestizo intellectuals must be expanded considerably to examine works produced through co-authorship arrangements with friars and priests, and to address clandestine works composed exclusively for native audiences by less known, or even anonymous, indigenous scholars.

Article

Anthropometric studies have shown that the evolution of human stature can be helpful to examine human welfare. Adult stature is an indicator of health status and living standards for periods in which there has not been a systematic collection of data of other indicators, such as the price of goods and wages, as is the case in Mexico prior to 1950. Mexican anthropometric history studies have revealed that stature is a good measure to examine the evolution of living standards in the long run and that it has been effective for assessing poverty and inequality. These studies have shown that, for the period 1850–1950, the evolution of living standards was heterogeneous. There were different trajectories depending on the socioeconomic status. People from working-class backgrounds experienced a deterioration and/or stagnation, while people from upper-class backgrounds experienced a sustained increase in average stature. These trends challenged the official history of the post-revolutionary period, which argued that the living standards of the Mexican population deteriorated during the Porfirio Díaz administration (1876–1911) and improved afterwards with the promulgation of social legislation in the post-revolutionary era (post-1910). Additional studies show that, during the post-1950 period, there was a generalized improvement in stature, but it was limited by the challenges of economic downturns and persistent structural inequality.

Article

Stefan Rinke

When news broke of the war in Europe, there was talk of a catastrophe that, as a result of the close-knit global entanglements, would embroil the world in an unprecedented crisis. The world dimensions of the events were in evidence to contemporary Latin American observers from early on. Despite the region’s considerable distance from the battlefields, the First World War was felt more than any other previous event outside Latin America in Brazil, and it was clear that its repercussions would affect the lives of average citizens. The relative isolation from which people in the region had witnessed other conflicts in Europe prior to 1914 came to an end. Many Brazilians took an active interest in the war. They participated in the debates about the end of Western hegemony and the downfall of Europe, which took place around the world and would become emblematic of the 20th century. The perception of the war followed a global logic, as Brazil was entangled in the events because of the new type of economic and propaganda war. Modern historiography largely ignored the impact of the war in Brazil, although a number of treatises appeared immediately after the conflict. It was not until the advent of dependence theory that interest was rekindled in the significance of the First World War. The picture changed in 2014 when several important studies integrated new perspectives of cultural and global history. While the First World War may have long been a marginal concern of Brazilian historiography, it was even more common to find “general” histories of the conflagration devoid of any perspective other than the European and that of the United States. But in the total wars of the 20th century, even a neutral country could not remain passive. As a result of its natural resources and strategic position, Brazil was to become an actor in this conflagration.

Article

The second law banning the African slave trade to Brazil came into force in 1850, and became known as the Eusébio de Queirós Law (de Queirós was then Minister of Justice of the Brazilian Empire). A previous attempt made in 1831 failed and the slave trade continued in the form of smuggling from that date until 1850, although until the mid-1850s there were several illegal landings and, then, traffic to the ports of the Brazil was definitely closed. There were many themes in the political debate before the African slave trade ended, from the end of the 18th century until 1850. During this period, the state, the slaveholders and their representatives in the legislative branch and in the courts of justice maintained pro-slavery arguments but changed the way they were used, under the strong British pressure to end slave trade with diplomatic and military actions since 1807. During the first half of the 19th century and, above all, after the proclamation of Brazilian Independence in 1822, the end of the slave trade became a political question in connection with other important themes regarding the formation of the Brazilian state and nation: the need of a labor force for agriculture, the fear of slave actions, national sovereignty in relation to foreign pressure, the supposed corruption of customs due to slavery, and the formation of a Brazilian people based on the work of slaves, freed people, and the poor. All of these themes would be discussed in public settings, such as Parliament, the press, and books on the defense and propaganda of slavery, for example.

Article

Ian Kisil Marino, Pedro Telles da Silveira, and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

The category of “informal archives” was initially proposed by Adam Auerbach in a case study on the role of informal archives held by social leaders of peripheral communities in India. “Informal archives” imply forms of historical documentation beyond state authority, and preserved in a rough, poor, and ephemeral manner (in the digital realm). They typically involve connections to the past articulated by different social demands, whether regarding the dispute for a national memory in the digital-public realm, or the nostalgic nature of certain connections to the past, or even the social/political activism of civil society organizations. For this reason, informal archives are in unmapped locations, and in order to be accessed they need to be ethnographically reached. An empirical research based on data raised in early 2020 shows that, even with the creation of a theoretical basis for this kind of digital resource, constant updates will remain necessary due to the unstable nature of the subject.

Article

In their so-called “Golden Age,” from the late 1890s to the 1920s, picture postcards probably were the most prominent visual mass medium, worldwide, including South America. Many people collected postcards, which were quite affordable, and pen pals exchanged postcards from all over the world; dates were arranged via postcards, just as happens today via phone, email, text, or instant messaging. Although most South American postcards were published and sold in urban areas, the broad availability combined with their postal function brought postcards a vast social and geographical diffusion. To use a common term, they are “travelling objects.” Postcards of South America could cross the globe many times before becoming part of a private album or an archival collection. For instance, the German entrepreneur and photographer Guillermo Grüter (1871–1947), who had come to Paraguay in 1893, published some of the most popular Paraguayan postcards. The images stemmed from photographs he took there. In his early years in Paraguay, before he imported printing machines and produced postcards on his own, Grüter sent some of his photographs to a manufacturer in Europe who produced postcards. These were shipped back to Grüter in Asunción, where he sold some of them to European immigrants and travelers, who sent them back home to relatives and friends across the Atlantic. Similar stories can be told about postcards published by the German Eduardo Pollack from Lima, Peru, by Austrian Roberto Rosauer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, or by one of the many German publishers in Valparaíso, Valdivia, and other Chilean towns. Picture postcards are interesting objects of study for investigations of global cultural history in transatlantic and other transnational entanglements.

Article

Nicole von Germeten

The European ideas associated with witchcraft came to the Americas as a multipronged weapon of imperialism, a conception of non-Christian beliefs not as separate worldviews but as manifestations of evil and the reigning power of the devil over Indigenous peoples and, slightly later, African slaves and free people of African origins or heritage. To create this imperialist concept, colonizers drew from a late medieval demonological literature that defined witchcraft as ways of influencing one’s fate through a pact with the devil and the ritual of witches’ sabbaths. Through the court structure of the Holy Offices of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, Iberian imperialists set up judicial processes that they designed to elicit confessions from their colonial subjects regarding their involvement in what was labeled witchcraft and witches’ sabbaths, but which was most likely either non-European beliefs and practices, or even popular European ideas of healing. Archival documents from the Holy Office fueled Europeans’ vision of themselves as on the side of cosmic good as well as providing some details regarding popular practices such as divination and love magic. Whatever ethnographic details emerge from this documentation, the use of the terminology of witchcraft always signals an imperialistic lens.

Article

The Digital Gender Collections at the Rosario Castellanos Library in the Center for Research and Study of Gender at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México provides search engines to access digital collections of books, articles, videos, contemporary feminist magazines, and biographies of Mexican feminists. The collection holds hard-to-access materials and provides scholars outside of Mexico with a means to engage in Mexico- and Latin America-based scholarship and historical documents. The biographies of Mexican feminists, while not peer reviewed, provide a starting point to orient users to Mexican women’s history. The library also holds digitalized copies of feminist magazines established in the 1970s, which will be of interest to researchers and may be useful for teaching the history of second-wave feminism. All documents are in Spanish. Many of the resources, though not all, are accessible online.

Article

Vera Lucia Amaral Ferlini

Sugar, besides its economic importance, created the foundations of political power in Brazil, based on the monopoly of land and the enslavement of indigenous and African people. Colonization, structured by the hegemony of the external market, created, over three centuries, a free rural population of whites, free blacks, and mestizos who survived on small plots and subsistence farms dependent on the power of the great landowners. From the centrality of the mills in the sugar world, the patriarchal character of this society, the basis and support of its political power, was forged. Sugar production was responsible for the “geography” of sugar, with territorial occupation by subsidiary activities such as subsistence farming and tobacco in the northeast, and with the expansion of sugar production towards the south in the 18th century.

Article

Michele McArdle Stephens

The Caste Wars of the Yucatán tore apart the peninsula between 1847 and 1901. While the violence was not constant throughout the more than five decades between the start and conclusion of the war itself, the threat of rebel hostilities was ever present. Scholars have debated the origins of the war for many decades, with most recent academic treatments focusing on heavy tax burdens, poor working conditions for Yucatán’s peasantry, and the loss of land that occurred during the second half of the century. Tensions between political leaders exacerbated relations with the Mayas in particular and the peasantry more generally. The emergence of the breakaway state of Chan Santa Cruz, in the southeastern part of Yucatán, allowed rebel forces to coalesce between 1850 and the early 1870s. Here, a “Speaking Cross” oracle gave direction to the rebellious Mayas, who crushed their enemies and exacted revenge against those who would not support their cause. The emergence of Porfirio Díaz as President of Mexico in 1876 led to a gradual “reconquest” of the areas held by the cruzob, or “people of the Cross.” By 1901, the Mexican military ended the Caste Wars, though violent episodes still marred Yucatán until the early 1930s.

Article

Rebekah E. Pite and Ana Ramirez Luhrs

Article

Ian Kisil Marino and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

Historians devoted to telling the story of the COVID-19 pandemic should question the archival conditions involved. In this article, we approach the archival landscape in Latin America in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, which particularly unfolded in the digital environment. First, we suggest a review of archival digitization in Latin America, providing context for the conditions observed during the pandemic. Second, we discuss the emergence of digital memory initiatives that focused on COVID-19, showing typological relations that may arise from transnational analyses. Accordingly, we dive into some Brazilian archival initiatives with major ethnographic rigor since, in addition to closely representing the reality of the region, they provide us with a more accurate immersion into the agents, platforms, and challenges of this pandemic digital undertaking. Lastly, we point out the complex situation of public archives amidst the mass of documents resulting from the pandemic. This way, we pose questions about the increasingly important interface between history, archives, and a policy for transparency of data.

Article

Emily Story

For much of its history, Brazil’s population remained bound along the coastline. Geographic features, such as coastal mountain ranges and a relative lack of navigable rivers, stymied efforts to settle and exploit the vast interior. Because of its inaccessibility to authorities based on the coast, the interior became a place of refuge for Indigenous communities and runaway slaves. During the colonial period (1500–1822) and several decades beyond, waterways and Indigenous footpaths (sometimes widened to allow for ox carts and mule trains) were the main routes for travel into the hinterland. Slavers and mineral prospectors known as bandeirantes founded scattered settlements in Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Mato Grosso. As the Industrial Revolution created new demands and technological possibilities in the late 19th century, efforts to connect the interior to the coast came via the telegraph and railroad. The rubber boom of that era precipitated greater settlement of the Amazon region and relied on riverine transport. Road building has intensified since the mid-20th century. The new capital, Brasília, centerpiece of President Juscelino Kubitschek’s (1956–1961) campaign to achieve “Fifty Years of Progress,” initiated a new network of highways, later expanded by the military regime (1964–1985). Those efforts aimed to promote economic development, redirect internal migration, and extend the territorial control of the central government. Migrants and entrepreneurs, traveling on official highways and illegal roads constructed along the way, set fire to grasslands and forests to convert them into pasture. Roads, both legal and illegal, thus opened the way for transformations of the ecosystems of the Brazilian interior. At the same time, they created conditions for intensified conflict between newcomers and those who had long called the interior home.

Article

Pedro Telles da Silveira and Thiago Lima Nicodemo

Digital resources are an encompassing category that frames distinct digital projects, from the digitization of collections to the presentation and increased accessibility of already-digitized documents. In Brazil, digitization projects have gained momentum from 2006, spurred by the debates related to digital sovereignty, and have peaked around the interval between 2014 and 2016. Since then, the intensity of these debates and the rate of digitization of collections have dwindled. Nonetheless, large projects, such as Biblioteca Brasiliana Digital and the numerous projects led by the Biblioteca Nacional do Rio de Janeiro, have become increasingly relevant in the current landscape of Brazilian historical research. Besides these developments, the scenario of digitization in Brazil has opened up space for different initiatives, among them personal archives. Although personal archives evoke numerous theoretical dilemmas, such as the distinction between private and public spheres and the deliberative agency of their forms of organization, they have been among the many roads to digitization of collections in Brazil. To understand the place that personal archives occupy among the digitization projects in Brazil, it is therefore necessary to understand how the more general category of digital resources has developed in Brazil.

Article

By 2020, it is expected that approximately 70 % of the world’s surface astronomical observation will be located in Chile, considering both optical and infrared telescopes, belonging to international institutions. How did this happen? Can we explain the overwhelming importance of astronomy in this southern country only because of its geography? This process began when scientists from Europe, the United States, and the Soviet Union went to Chile in the 1960s, and each one of them decided to build a massive observatory in the country. The atmospheric conditions certainly had a role in these decisions, but they were also related to Cold War politics and, indirectly, to the previous history of astronomy in Chile. The international dimension of astronomy in Chile had been preset since the mid-19th century, when the first modern astronomy initiative took place. An American expedition built the first observatory, which later became the National Astronomical Observatory. By the early 20th century, another American expedition had arrived in Chile, and this one stayed for more than twenty years. Decades later, the global dimension of astronomy took the decisive step in the southern country and set the milestone for the development in the hands of Europeans, Americans and Soviets. In the process, Chileans became involved with astronomy, trying to promote science, the country’s international relations, and to grasp the attractions of modernity.

Article

Historians have extensively explored the topic of water control in Mexico City. From the relationship between political power and hydraulics to detailed studies of drainage and other large-scale infrastructure projects, the epic story of water in this megalopolis, constructed over a series of ancient lakes, continues to captivate people’s imaginations. Securing potable water for the fast-growing city is also a constant struggle, yet it has received comparatively less attention than drainage in historical research. Moreover, until quite recently scholars have not been especially concerned with water control as a process of representation—that is, a process shaped by, and shaping, visual culture. Yet, potable water brings together many stories about people and places both within and outside of the Basin of Mexico. As such, the history of potable water is communicated through a diverse array of objects and modern infrastructures not limited to the idea of waterworks in the traditional sense of the term. A more expansive view of “infrastructure” incorporates more than the commonplace objects of hydraulic management such as aqueducts, pumps, wells, and pipes: it also involves architecture, photography, and narrative history, official and unofficial. Built in the first decade of the 20th century as a response to acute water shortages, the impressively modern Xochimilco Potable Water Works exemplifies a system that delivered far more than fresh drinking water through its series of modern electric pumps and aqueduct. The system was a result of a larger modernization initiative launched by the administration of Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911). It wove together an official history of water, which included the annexation of Xochimilco’s springs, through its diverse infrastructures, including the engineering of the potable water system as well as the significance of the structures themselves in terms of locations and architectural elaboration in neo-styles (also known as historical styles) typical of the period. Demonstrably clear from the sheer investment in making the Xochimilco waterworks appealing to the public is that infrastructure can possess a rich visual culture of its own.

Article

Mexican History/Historia Mexicana (MH/HM) is a Facebook page dedicated to bringing together the world’s academic and popular masses in their interest of Mexican history. As of 2016, there are over 1300 members of the page, and posts garner one to three hundred views, though some posts or posted links have reached three to five thousand unique views. The Facebook page grew out of the frustration of this author with the slow and censored listserv system that serves as the main forum for scholars of Mexican history. In addition, there was a desire to reach private scholars and members of the public who are generally excluded from the listserv systems. In December 2011, the author and another scholar joined together in creating a Facebook page that would, in the words of the page description, serve as “a forum for the free exchange of information on the history and related culture and events of Mexico.” In late 2012 a third scholar joined them as operators, managers, and editors of the page. Material is selected in Spanish and English (and occasionally indigenous Mexican languages) related to Mexican history or events of historical importance. Generally, the goals of the page are to provide items of interest to the general public, resources to professional researchers that they may not know about, and well-known resources for new researchers. Information is provided on events or presentations related to the preservation of Mexican History, important new research works, and items of curiosity that simply pique theinterest of the operators. There is no systematic approach to content; instead, information is posted as a free-form collective, free of censorship. Members of the community are also welcome to post materials or queries and to comment and discuss topics on history and related items of culture and current events.

Article

Nahuatl is the Latin American indigenous language having the largest number of colonial documents. As with other colonial documents, the study of these manuscripts requires mastery of the language as well as the relevant historical and philological sources. The emergence of digital repositories in Mexico, the United States, France, and other countries has made hundreds of digital images available to scholars who would not have had access to these sources otherwise. Digital repositories also contain additional tools such as morphological parsers and dictionaries. These allow users to upload new images, transcriptions, and translations, turning digital archives into veritable platforms for scholarly exchange. The irruption of digital repositories promises to effect substantial changes in the field of Nahuatl studies.

Article

H-LatAm, short for History-Latin America, is an electronic list that has served the scholarly community since the late 20th century as a forum in which important issues facing Latin American history can be debated. It has served as a means of spreading information about publications, a channel for soliciting research and research collaborations, and an instrument that links historians of Latin America who are spread throughout the world. A review of this resource allows for a look at the history of Latin American studies on the Internet—useful for understanding and researching early threads—and some of the specific contributions of H-LatAm to the profession.

Article

Coffee has played complex and diverse roles in shaping livelihoods and landscapes in Latin America. This tropical understory tree has been profitably cultivated on large estates, on peasant smallholdings, and at many scales in between. Coffee exports have fueled the economies of many parts of Latin America. At first, coffee farmers cleared and burned tropical forests to make way for their farms and increase production. Early farms benefited from the humus accumulated over centuries. In Brazil, farmers treated these tropical soils as nonrenewable resources and abandoned their farms once the soils were exhausted. In smaller coffee farms along the Cordillera—from Peru up to Mexico—coffee farming was not quite as wasteful of forests and soils. In the mid-20th century, scientific innovation in coffee farming became more widespread, especially in established coffee zones that were struggling with decreasing soil fertility, increasing soil erosion, and new diseases and pests. In the 1970s, national and international organizations promoted large-scale programs to “renovate” coffee production. These programs sought to dramatically increase productivity on coffee farms by eliminating shade, cultivating high-yielding coffee cultivars, and using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Renovation brought tremendous gains in productivity over the short term, but at the cost of added economic and environmental vulnerability over the longer term. Since the end of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, the global coffee market has become much more volatile. New coffee pioneer fronts are opening up in Brazil, Peru, and Honduras, while elsewhere coffee production is shrinking. NGOs and coffee farmers have promoted new forms of coffee production, especially Fair Trade and certified organic coffee. Still, most coffee farms in Latin America remain “conventional” farms, using a hybrid of modern and traditional tools. Economic and environmental sustainability remain elusive goals for many coffee farmers, and the threat is likely to increase as they grapple with the effects of climate change.