"Landscapes of Power and Identity" is a groundbreaking comparative
history of two colonies on the frontiers of the Spanish empire--the
Sonora region of northwestern Mexico and the Chiquitos region of
eastern Bolivia's lowlands--from the late colonial period through
the middle of the nineteenth century. An innovative combination of
environmental and cultural history, this book reflects Cynthia
Radding's more than two decades of research on Mexico and Bolivia
and her consideration of the relationships between human societies
and the geographic landscapes they inhabit and create. At first
glance, Sonora and Chiquitos are quite different: one a
scrub-covered desert, the other a tropical rainforest of the
greater Amazonian and Paraguayan river basins. Yet the regions are
similar in many ways. Both were located far from the centers of
colonial authority, organized into Jesuit missions and linked to
the principal mining centers of New Spain and the Andes, and then
absorbed into nation-states in the nineteenth century. In each
area, the indigenous communities encountered European governors,
missionaries, slave hunters, merchants, miners, and ranchers.
Radding's comparative approach illuminates what happened when
similar institutions of imperial governance, commerce, and religion
were planted in different physical and cultural environments. She
draws on archival documents, published reports by missionaries and
travelers, and previous histories as well as ecological studies and
ethnographies. She also considers cultural artifacts, including
archaeological remains, architecture, liturgical music, and
religious dances. Radding demonstrates how colonial encounters were
conditioned by both the local landscape and cultural expectations;
how the colonizers and colonized understood notions of territory
and property; how religion formed the cultural practices and
historical memories of the Sonoran and Chiquitano peoples; and how
the conflict between the indigenous communities and the surrounding
creole societies developed in new directions well into the
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