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Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Aug., 2001), pp. 459-484 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3653717 Accessed: 24/11/2009 10:38
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J. Lat. Amer. Stud.33, 459-484 ? zoo2 CambridgeUniversity Press DOI: 1o.1oI7/Soo22216Iooioo5983 Printed in the United Kingdom
Social Categories, Ethnicity and the State in Yucatain,Mexico*
Abstract. This article discusses the development of social categories and ethnicity in the peninsula of Yucatain, Mexico, since the Conquest in the sixteenth century. Based on the Yucatec case, it demonstrates that ethnicity is not a ubiquitous form of social organisation, but rather a historical process related to specific techniques of social distinction. It argues that the starting point for the analysis of ethnicity should not be ethnic collectives, but instead the ways in which individuals use ethnic categories in social interaction. (Keywords: Yucatan, Maya, ethnicity, social inequality, state). Introduction The modern nation-state has existed for no more than 200 years, not much compared to the entire history of human society.1 Nonetheless, it has been extremely successful in inculcating the idea that every human being belongs to a cultural community separated from other such communities by clear boundaries. Many scholars of ethnicity subscribe to this view and therefore begin their analyses by looking for such communities (ethnic communities or nations) considered to be the 'natural' form of social organisation.2 Such ideas have clearly influenced discussion of the development of ethnic categories in the peninsula of Yucatan, Mexico.
Wolfgang Gabbert is a Lecturer at the Lateinamerika-Institut, Freie Universitat, Berlin. * Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. 1A nation-state is a centralised form of political organisation where legitimacy is based on the notion of nation, that is, an 'imagined community' which is conceived as bounded, sovereign and comradely. See B. Anderson, ImaginedCommunities:Reflections on the Originand Spreadof Nationalism (London, I 99 I, revised and extended edition), pp. 5-7; E. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford, 1983), pp. 1-7, 53-62; J. Rothschild, Ethnopolitics: A ConceptualFramework (New York, I98i), pp. I -I6. 2 See for example H. Isaacs,' Basic Group Identity: " The Idols of the Tribe "', Ethnicity, vol. I (I974), pp. 5-41; P. Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development (Chicago, 1984), p. 248; S. Grosby, 'The Verdict of History: The inexpungeable Tie of Primordiality - A Response to Eller and Coughlan', Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 17, no. 2 (1994), pp. I64-I71; J. Hutchinson and A. Smith, 'Introduction', in John
The three states (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo) which constitute the peninsula of Yucatan3 in the extreme south-east of the Federal Republic of Mexico are home to no less than 14 per cent of Mexico's speakers of indigenous languages, as the national census shows. Their tongue, Yucatec Maya, is the country's second most widely used indigenous language and is spoken by more than 30 per cent of the peninsula's population.4 It comes as no surprise that government institutions, the press and the public in general, as well as many scholars, have no doubt that the regional population consists of two groups- Spanish-speaking Yucatecs and Indians. Generally, the census data on speakers of indigenous languages are used as indicators of the size of the Yucatec 'Maya Indian people'.5 Many authors consider the Maya-speaking people of Yucatain to be an Indian people or ethnic community with a 'millenarian history', presupposing a continuum of this people since prehistory, resting on an
Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith (eds.), Ethnicity (Oxford and New York, I996), pp.
and Ethnicity. 3-14; R. Jenkins, Rethinking (London, Thousand Arguments Explorations
Oaks, New Delhi, 1997), pp. 46-7, 74, 77; F. Proschan, '"We are all Kmhmu, just the
same": Ethnonyms, Ethnic Identities, and Ethnic Groups', American vol. Ethnologist,
24, no. I (I997), p. Io6. For a recent critique of this mode of thought see A. Gupta and Cultural Anthropology,vol. 7, no. I (I992), pp. 6-23.
J. Ferguson, 'Beyond "Culture": Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference', Unless otherwiseindicated,'Yucatan' is used here to referto the peninsulain general. 'Campeche' and 'Quintana Roo', however, are used for the states. 4 Instituto Nacional de Estadistica,Geograffae Informatica,La poblacidn Mexicoen de
5 See, for instance, M. Bartolom6, La dindmica Pasado socialde los mayasde Yucatdn. y
presentede la situacidncolonial(Mexico, I988), pp. 276-7, 283, 32I-2; Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 'Informe de las actividades realizadas de 1989 a 1994', unpubl. manuscript, National Indigenist Institute (INI), Campeche, n.d., pp. i6-I8. The indigenous
9o90(Aguascalientes, 1992), pp. 31, 33.
language of Yucatanis maya't'an. It has given its name to the Mayanlanguage family which consists of 3 relatedlanguages. Languagesbelonging to this family and their speakers are generally referred to by a compound (e.g. Tzotzil-Maya) or by their specific names (Tzotzil, Mam, Kekchi, etc.). Both indigenous and non-indigenous cultural activists, especially in Guatemala, have recently begun to promote the development of an ethnic consciousness among the speakersof each Mayanlanguage and, at the same time, of an overarchingpan-Mayaidentity encompassingthe whole languagefamily.Cojti Cuxil, for example,considersthe Mayato be a people consisting of different nations. See D. Cojti Cuxil, 'The Politics of Maya Revindication', in EdwardF. Fischerand R. McKennaBrown (eds.), MayaCultural Activismin Guatemala R. Wilson, Maya Resurgence Guatemala. in (Norman and London, Q'eqchi'Experiences vol. 14, no. I Research, InescapableHubris of Authorship', Bulletin Latin American of
(1995), pp. 3I-3, I995); J. Watanabe, 'Unimagining the Maya: Anthropologists, Others, and the 36-9; Fischer and Brown, Maya Resurgence;K. Warren, Indigenous (Austin, I996), p. 21. For pan-Maya cultural activism in Guatemala see, for instance,
Movements their Critics: Pan-MayaActivism in Guatemala and (Princeton, I998). A discussionof these developmentsis, however, beyond the scope of this paper.Here the term Maya refers only to the speakersof Yucatec Maya unless otherwise indicated.
in Social categories Yucatdn,Mexico
unspecified quality of 'being Maya'. Moreover, it is generally assumed that an ethnic consciousness as Maya exists among the Yucatec Maya.6 That these views are misleading will become clear from the following two episodes from the municipality of Hopelchen in the eastern part of Campeche. In 1994, a Brigade of Indian Development and Improvement (Brigada de Desarrolloy Mejoramiento Indigena)entered Chultun,7 a village of about 800 inhabitants, mostly peasants and their families. Almost all of them speak Yucatec Maya. In the streets the government officials saw several
6 See, for instance, B. Alonso Caamal,'Los mayasen la conciencianacional', in Arturo
en Warman and Arturo Argueta (eds.), Movimientos indigenas contempordneos Mexico
(Mexico, 1993), pp. 37, 43, 56; A. Barabas, 'Colonialismo y racismo en Yucatin: Una
aproximaci6n hist6rica y contemporanea', Revista Mexicanade CienciasPoliticasy
Sociales, vol. 25, no. 97 (1979), pp. 105-40; P. Bracamonte y Sosa, La memoria enclaustrada.Historia indigenade Yucatdn, 17o0-19if (M6xico, I994), p. I5; T. Sanders,
'Education, Language, and Culture among the Contemporary Maya', American
Universities Field Staff Reports No. 5o, Hanover, NH, 1979; S. Varese, 'Una dialectica y Sociales, vol. 32, no. 88 (1977), p. 49; P. Nesbitt, 'The Maya of Yucatan', in Edward Moseley and Edward Terry (eds.), Yucatan. A World apart (Alabama, I980), p. 4I; D. (New York, I993); Bartolome, Dindmica social, pp. i6,
Politicas de negada: Notas sobre la multietnicidadmexicana', RevistaMexicana Ciencias Path Years theShaman's on Thousand Three Freidel,L. Scheleand J. Parker,MayaCosmos.
26-7, 29, 34-6, 262, 281.
The language 'groups' shown in the census are merely cultural categories, that is, aggregationsof individualssharingone or more culturaltraitswhose membersdo not necessarilyhave an overarchingethnic consciousness(see below). As Barthhas already shown, there is no direct relationshipbetween sharedculturaltraits (such as language) and and ethnicity,which he definesas a form of social organisation.Culturaldifferences similaritiesare only importantin so far as they are taken into account by the actors themselvesand function as emblemsof difference.F. Barth,'Introduction', in Frederic severalauthorscontinue to suggest objective bases for ethnicity: sharedgenes, cultural samenessor a sharedhabitus. See P. van den Berghe, 'Ethnicity and the Sociobiology Debate', in John Rex and David Mason (eds.), Theories Race and EthnicRelations of pp. 24-55. Nadel, however, has already aptly characterisedthe theory of cultural identity underlying ethnic communities. These exist 'not in virtue of any objective unity or likeness, but in virtue of an ideological unity, and a likeness accepted as a
dogma,' S. Nadel, The Nuba (London, 1947), p. (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 246-63; Grosby, 'The Verdict of History'; G. Bentley, 'Ethnicity and Practice'. ComparativeStudies in Societyand History, vol. 29, no. I (1987), Barth (ed.), Ethnic Groupsand Boundaries (Bergen, 1969), pp. I2- 4; see also M. Weber, und Wirtschaft Gesellschaft (Tiibingen, I980), p. 237. In recent theoretical literature
Emerging Issues in the Analysis of Ethnicity', in Hans Vermeulenand Cora Govers and 'EthnicGroups Boundaries' (Amsterdam, (eds.), TheAnthropology Ethnicity. Beyond of
3; see also F. Barth, 'Enduring and
1994), pp. I4-I5; H. Levine, 'Reconstructing Ethnicity', The Journal of the Royal AnthropologicalInstitute, vol. 5, no. 2 (I999), p. 173. Cultural differences do not simply 'Beyond Culture', pp. I6-17. A similar point has been made by M. Moerman,
preexist but are constructed within a historical process. See Gupta and Ferguson, (Harmondsworth, 'Accomplishing Ethnicity', in Roy Turner (ed.), Ethnomethodology to give some person an ethnic label, he finds some traitswhich that person has that can be used to demonstratethat the label has been applied correctly.' 7 This is a pseudonym.
I974), p. 65. He suggests that ethnic labelling is motivated: 'Once a native decides
women of different ages, dressed in the traditional female costume of rural dwellers in the peninsula, the ipil, a white blouse with colourful a embroidery, and the reboZo, special kind of shawl. Women dressed like this are referred to as 'mestizas' in Yucatan. 'Mestizos', in the Yucatec sense of the word, would mean men dressed in white cotton trousers, a shirt of the same colour and material and sandals.8 Today this type of dress is regarded as a symbol of'Maya Indian' identity by the Spanishspeaking public and by many scholars as well. The government officials established themselves in the village of Chultun and began to carry out several community development projects, including the opening of a joiner's workshop and a school for needlework to help people save money for clothing and other household necessities. The villagers willingly accepted the presence of the 'brigade', but only after one problem was solved. They refused to be identified as Indians and urged the development workers to strike this term from the project's name.9 The second episode happened some two years later in the same region. In March 1996, a meeting was held of delegates of peasant communities. This event was part of the National Consultation on Indigenous Rights and Participation, organised by the government as a reaction to the Chiapas uprising of I994.10 At the meeting, delegates remarked that 'Indian professionals occupy only two per cent of the jobs in question' and demanded 'that Indian professionals should be considered according to their proportion of the total population', which they estimated at more than 50 per cent. Furthermore, they complained that 'we, as Indians, are discriminated against. Civil servants treat us badly when we visit government agencies'.11 These two episodes may seem trivial at first glance but they hint at several fundamental practical as well as theoretical problems in dealing with ethnicity.12 First, they remind us that there is no simple one-to-one
Whereas the term mestizo in Latin America generally refers to the offspring of unions between Spaniards or Whites and Indians, or designates the culturally hispanised part of the population in contrast to the Indian part, in Yucatan it is used for people dressed in the folk costume. I will indicate the Yucatecan usage by adding quotation marks, i.e. 'mestizo'. In Yucatin 'mestizo/a' is also used as self-identification. 9 FN-Chultun, 19099402. The number gives the date and reference number of the entry in my fieldnotes (FN) from the municipality of Hopelchen, Campeche, where I worked some twenty-one months between 1993 and 1998 on the relationship between ethnicity and social inequality. 10 The consultation of 1994 is not to be confused with the consulta referendum on 21 March 1999 organised by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in an effort to build a broader political coalition. 1 FN-Hopelchen, 14039601. 12 Ethnicity is understood here as referring to a phenomenon of social differentiation in which actors use cultural or phenotypical markers or symbols to distinguish themselves from others. It is a method of classifying people into categories which include
Social categories Yucatdn,Mexico in
relationship between ethnic categories and groupings of human individuals.13 As the first episode illustrated, people use certain terms to identify themselves, and they are designated by specific categories by others. However, these perspectives (self-identification and ascription) do not necessarily coincide. Second, the two stories strongly suggest that the starting point for the analysis of ethnicity should not be ethnic collectives per se, but rather the ways in which individuals use ethnic categories in social interaction. The important question, then, is not what a person is (German, Fulbe, Indian, etc.), but in which contexts and under which circumstances he identifies himself or is identified by others with reference to a certain category.14 Third, they remind us that social categorisation (of which ethnic classification is only a part) is not simply an intellectual game. To be classed as belonging to a certain social category means to occupy a specific status position.15 Thus, social categories are not neutral but instead are respected and valued differentially. Who is allowed or obliged to occupy a given social position denoted by a category is frequently as disputed as the evaluation of the category as such. Bourdieu referred to this phenomenon as 'a forgotten dimension of class struggles'.16 Fourth, the state, of course, plays a major role in shaping ethnicity and inter-ethnic relations. The state is not merely
individuals of both sexes and all age groups using (socially constructed)origin as its primary reference. This definition builds on T. Eriksen, Ethnicityand Nationalism. (London and Boulder, 1993), p. 4 and Levine, 'ReconAnthropological Perspectives I68. These boundaryprocesses may result in the development structing Ethnicity', p. of a system of ethnic categories (i.e. classificatory units) or of ethnic communities(i.e. units of action). See W. Gabbert, Creoles Afroamerikaner karibischen von im Tiefland
a typology of ethnic communities. See, for instance, A. Southall, 'The Illusion of Tribe', Journal Asian and African of This perspectivemakes it possible to treat ethnicity not as a pre-existingstructure but as something continuallyproducedand reproducedby individualactors in the context of changing circumstances;that is, as a process. Socialstatusis frequentlydefinedas the prestigeor social worth conferredupon a social position by membersof a society. Thus, a generalconsensuson the evaluationof social positions is presupposed. Here, in contrast, status is understood as the claim of the occupant of a social position to a specifictype of behaviourfrom other persons - e.g. respect, obedience, etc. - and the demandby others for a specific mode of conduct. It is a complex of certainrights and duties. This definition makes it possible to link the system of statuswith relationsof power within a society so as to determinea dominant or hegemonic systemof statuswithout exludingdeviantevaluationsby membersof less powerful groups. sociale p. Bourdieu, La distinction. (Paris, 1979). Critique dujugement
Studies, vol. 5 (I970), pp. 28-50; Proschan, 'We are all Kmhmu', pp. 95, Ioo-o1.
Nicaragua (Miinster, 1992), pp. 8, 33-7 for a more extended discussion of the term and
dealing with already existing social or ethnic categories but, frequently, creating new ones by means of its own administrative regulations. So for example, as widely observed, many 'tribes' of Africa and Asia are not relics of some long-ago past, but rather results of the administrative action of colonial states.17 What is more, the state tends to be a major distributor of resources and the criteria applied for the allocation of resources frequently are of the utmost importance for the expression of ethnicity: Many categories and groups are not even recognized by the census authorities, that is, groups are not even counted in the literal sense of the term and, in such cases, do not 'count' politically in the figurative sense of the term. Some categories and groups are singled out for special protection or privilege by the state, given or denied citizenship, given or denied proportional or extra in representation electoralconstituenciesor governmentbodies or in government service. Some categories and groups are entitled to special protection of their language or religion or personal laws, some are not.18 Government activities and programmes play a major part in shaping the possibilities and constraints of individual actors. They may strengthen existing relations of domination by backing local elites or weaken them by directly or indirectly taking the side of subordinate groups at the local level.19 In addition, the state has much influence on the prevailing discourse on ethnicity in a society. The following discussion will illustrate these points by analysing the historical development of ethnic categories in the Yucatan peninsula.
Yucatdn in Colonial Times When the Spaniards began the conquest of Yucatan ( 527-47), they
encountered a population which was, to a great extent, linguistically and culturally homogeneous, but divided politically into more than 6 federations of states and petty states frequently waging war against one another. This political fragmentation and the traditional enmities between
and R. G. Lienhardt (eds.), Studiesin SocialAnthropology. Essaysin Memory E. E. of
Evans-Pritchard by his former Oxford Colleagues(Oxford, 1975), pp. 346-7; R. Fardon, 'African Ethnogenesis: Limits to the Comparability of Ethnic Phenomena', in Ladislav Holy (ed.), Comparative Anthropology (Oxford, 1987), pp. 177-8, 181-2; T. Ranger, 'The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa', in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds.), The Inventionof Tradition (Cambridge, I984), pp. 247-254; C. Young, 'Ethnicity and the Colonial and Post-Colonial State in Africa', in Paul Brass (ed.), Ethnic Groups and the State (London and Sidney, I985), pp. 73-82; Southall, 'Illusion'; Levine, 'Reconstructing Ethnicity', pp. 172-3 18 P. Brass, Ethnicity and Nationalism (New Delhi, Newbury and London, 1991), p. 271. This differentiating role of the state has also been highlighted by M. Hechter, Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe in British National Development,Is36-1966 (Lododon, 975); Barth, 'Enduring and Emerging Issues', p. 19 and Jenkins, Rethinking Ethnicity, pp. 19 See, for instance, Brass, Ethnicity and Nationalism, pp. 272-4. 68-9.
See, for instance, E. Ardener, 'Language, Ethnicity, and Population', in J. H. Beattie
in Social categories Yucatan, Mexico
indigenous political units played a major part in the success of the Spanish
The imposition of Spanish colonial rule led to the disintegration of the pre-Hispanic federations and states, for each indigenous community was treated as an independent administrative unit. These Indian republics (repiblicas de indios) became the most important focus of interaction beyond the extended family for the indigenous population. In Yucatan even the religious brotherhoods (cofradias)were organisations of these communities.21 The colonial state established a social order which can be characterised as an estate system.22 The fundamental social categories- Spaniards and Indians (indios)- were legally defined. This is also true for (espanoles) the castes (castas), persons of presumed mixed ancestry, such as mestizos or mulattos. Each category held certain specific rights and was subject to certain duties, which pertained not only to the economic sphere of property, labour relations and production, but also included regulations for the use of clothing and jewellery. Indians had to pay tribute and to provide forced labour to Spaniards. They were regarded as minors and wards of the crown, were forbidden to bear arms and ride horses. Mestizos and other castes were freed from the tribute and labour obligations of Indians, but had to pay other types of taxes and to render military service. Only Spaniards were allowed to wear European clothing; Indians and mestizos had to dress in white shirts and trousers, straw hats and sandals. The women's dress was the ipil which was of lesser quality in the case of Indians.23 There was residential segregation, too. In the few
See D. Landa, Relacionde las cosasde Yucatdn(Madrid, I985, written in I566), pp. 63-5; F. D. Cogolludo, Los tres siglos de la dominacion espanolaen Yucatdno sea historia de esta provincia, vol. i (Graz, 1971, original I688), pp. I77-80, book 3, ch. 6; R. Roys, 'Lowland Maya Native Society at Spanish Contact', in Handbook of Middle American Indians,vol. 3 (Austin, I965), pp. 669, 67I; V. Bricker, The Indian Christ, the IndianKing: The Historical Substrateof Maya Myth and Ritual (Austin, 198I), p. I 3; N. Farriss, Maya Society under Colonial Rule (Princeton, 1984), pp. 2 -3; S. Quezada, Pueblosy caciques yucatecos, isjo-I80o (M6xico, 1993), pp. 37-9. 21 See Farriss, Maya Society, pp. 147-5I, 167-8; M. Restall, The Maya World. Yucatec
Culture and Society, Ifjo-i8So
An estate refers to a legally defined segment of the population of a society which has distinctive rights and duties established by law. See G. Lenski, Power and Privilege. A Theoryof Social Stratification(Chapel Hill, I966), p. 77. Some authors call the system of social inequality of colonial Yucatan a caste system. See, for instance, Farriss, Maya Society, p. II 3. However, it is not to be confused with the system in India of rigid, closed social stratification based on notions of ritual purity. See C. Gibson, 'Indian Societies under Spanish Rule', in Leslie Bethell (ed.); Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. II (Cambridge 1984), pp. 399-405; L. McAlister, 'Social Structure and Social Change in New Spain', Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 43 (i963), p. 358; Cogolludo, Los tres siglos, vol. I, p.403, book 5, ch. I9; B. Granado Autonoma de Yucatdn,vol. 4, no. Baeza, 'Los indios de Yucatin', Revista de la Universidad
cities (Merida, Campeche, and Valladolid), Indians had to live in special quarters (barrios).In the towns and villages of some importance, the area around the central plaza was reserved for the Spanish and mestizo
Within the three categories there were important differences in relation to property, income, education and profession. In partial recognition of precolonial social stratification, the Indian category was subdivided into native noblemen who were called hidalgos or, in Maya, almeheno'b, and commoners who were referred to as indios tributarios or masewalo'b.25 Indian hidalgos enjoyed privileges which identified them legally with the lower Spanish nobility. They were exempt from tribute, forced labour and the legal prohibitions imposed on Indian commoners.26 Affiliation to these basic social categories was held to be determined by descent or biological criteria. Yet, in a number of cases, wealth and cultural adaptation permitted mobility into categories of higher status, so that, for example, a number of mestizos or Indians with sufficient property and language skills in Spanish were legally accepted as Spaniards. As Nancy Farriss put it: We know that ethnic identities recorded in colonial censuses were merely legal categoriesbased only in part on biological criteria,and highly flexiblecriteria,at
i68 (I989, written in 8I 3), p. 62; Farriss, Maya Society, p. I 4; R. Redfield, 'Race and Class in Yucatan', in Cooperation in Research, Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication No. 50o (Washington, I938), p. 5 17; Barabas, 'Colonialismo y racismo', p. It is not completely clear to what extent the regulations for the use of clothing, I25. arms and horses were actually enforced. Horses and shotguns appear quite frequently in Indian wills. See, for instance, Restall, Maya World, pp. 103-04. 24 See M. Bartolome, 'La estratificaci6n etnica en Yucatan como antecedente de la guerra de castas', Boletin de la Escuela de CienciasAntropologicasde la Universidad Yucatdn,vol. de I3, no. 76 (I986), p. 7; F. Fernandez Repetto and G. Negroe Sierra, 'Las relaciones interetnicas en la provincia de Yucatan durante el perfodo colonial y su manifestaci6n en la cofradia de Campeche', Revista de la UniversidadAutdnoma de Yucatdn,vol. 4, no. 171 (I989), pp. o0-II; J. Stephens, Incidentsof Travel in Yucatan, vol. I (New York, I963, written in 1843), pp. 154-5. 25 Masewal is a term derived from the Nahuatl which replaced winik (man) as selfidentification. 26 See Bracamonte y Sosa, La memoriaenclaustrada,pp. 26-7; Quezada, Pueblosy caciques, pp. z28-9; Farriss, Maya Society,pp. 98, 174-7, I85, 238; R. Roys, The IndianBackground of Colonial Yucatan (Norman, 1972), pp. I32, 148-60, 171; J. Rubio Mane, Archivo de la Historia de Yucatacn, Campechey Tabasco (Mexico, 1942), p. 2I2. For a discussion of social differentiation stressing the Indians' point of view see P. Thompson, 'Tekanto in the Eighteenth Century', unpubl. Ph.D. diss., Tulane University, 1978, pp. I94-234; Restall, Maya World, pp. 88-97. The Indian and Spanish views of social inequality, were recognised as hidalgosby however, did not completely coincide. Not all almeheno'b the Spanish authorities and granted the privileges mentioned. The term hidalgowas also used in Maya language texts. See, for instance, J. Martinez Hernandez, Cronica de Yaxkukul (M6rida, 1926), pp. 5, Io, 33.
Social categoriesin Yucatan, Mexico
that. Mestizo could signify any genetic mix between pure Spaniardand pure Indian, and in practicethe boundariesmarking off the supposedly pure groups was far from fixed. The significant inequalities of privileges and obligations attached to the various caste identities created a strong incentive for upward percolation.Differencesin wealth, occupation, and way of life, the accidents of legitimate or illegitimate birth, and a variety of other nongenetic criteriacould determinethe differencein the opportunityfor light-skinnedmestizos andpardos to become incorporatedinto the Spanish caste and for pure Indians and pure Africans to pass into the mixed groups.27 Caste defined the Indians' place in colonial society but it provided no basis for group identity and group cohesion.28 As colonial historian Matthew Restall has pointed out, there is no evidence that Indians in Yucatan perceived themselves as a cultural unit threatened by Spanish culture. Indian self-identity in the colonial period was based on the community (cah) and the patronym group (chibal). These groups excluded Spaniards, but they also excluded most other Indians. Beyond community and patronym group, indigenous perception of others was determined by class. What differentiated a Spaniard from an ordinary Indian community resident was 'his class - reflected in titles of address, in wealth, in cultural accoutrements'.29 There were informal contacts between members of different communities and there was also migration, as Farriss rightly points out,30 but apparently there was no consciousness of a kind that embraced the entire Indian population in Yucatan. The term indio,as well as the indigenous word masewal, which Indian commoners used to designate themselves, referred to a social category, not to a self-conscious ethnic grouping. The province of Yucatan played only a marginal role in colonial Mexico. Lacking precious metals, its only source of wealth consisted of the large indigenous population. Beeswax and cotton cloth remained the most important products for export. These articles as well as most of Yucatain's maize production - the staple crop - were obtained from Indian tribute which remained the mainstay of the colonial economy up to the end of the eighteenth century. State coercion ensured that the tribute and repartimientoarrangements worked to the Spaniards' advantage. As Indians retained ownership of the principal means of production, especially land, social stratification and economic inequality
Bartolom6,'Estratifcaci6n etnica', p. 4.
See Farriss, Maya Society, pp. 167-8.
Farriss, Maya Society, p. I08; see also p. 98; Barabas, 'Colonialismo y racismo', p. 126;
30 See Farriss, Maya Society, pp. 156-7.
M. Restall, 'Yucatec Maya Responses to "Modernization": The Colonial Period', in Societies Ruth Gubler and Ueli Hostettler (eds.), TheFragmented Present. Mesoamerican (M6ckmuihl,1995), p. 6i. FacingModernization
were mainly the result of colonialism and less of property relations. The Spaniards' status as the elite did not depend on the exercise of economic power emanating from the ownership of the means of production. Rather, colonists received the benefits of colonialism because the state imposed the rules of economic exchange between Spaniards and Indians.31 In contrast to other regions of Mexico, the presence of Spanish officials in the rural Indian communities was extremely limited up to the Bourbon Reforms at the end of the eighteenth century. The most important agents of Spanish rule in the rural areas were Catholic priests. Economic weakness and the limited presence of colonial administrative representatives shaped a peculiar relationship which resulted in much less cultural penetration of the indigenous population than occurred in Central Mexico. There were few intermediate social positions between Indian commoners and Spanish landowners or bureaucrats. Thus, even at the end of the colonial period the majority of rural mestizos did not differ significantly from Indian peasants in their mode of production, diet and dress. Like them, they generally spoke only the Maya language.32 Consequently, Maya remained the language of widest use. A report to the
Spanish crown stated in 8 I 3:
The language generallyspoken in this province by Indians,mestizos and pardos [people of at least partlyAfricanancestry]... is the Mayalanguage.... The Maya language is the most common in all the villages even among the American and Spaniards much more among the inferiorcastes. What is more, in the city of Merida and the town of Valladolid it is the most widely used language even
among the illustrious people...33
And Nancy Farriss notes: More than a lingua franca, Maya was the primarylanguage of all the colony's native-born inhabitants of every caste... Creole children spent their infancy, literallyfrom birth, and theirearlychildhood in almostthe sole companyof Maya from the villages, rearedby women, suckled by Mayawet nurses commandeered Maya nurses, and surroundedby Maya servants. Mayawas in a very real sense, then, the creoles' mother tongue, the language with which they continued to feel more comfortable as adults and used by preference'not only among the Indiansbut also at home with their own children,
See R. Chamberlain, The Conquestand Colonigationof Yucatan, if/7-izfo (Washington, , 53; R. Patch, Maya and 1948), pp. 333-4; Farriss, Maya Society, pp. 32, 38-9, 5, Spaniardin Yucatan, 1648-1812 (Stanford, 1993), pp. i6, 86-7, 92-3; S. Quezada, Lospies de la reptiblica. Los mayas peninsulares, isjo-i7yo (Mexico, 1997), pp. I89-208. The repartimientoconsisted in the forced sale of certain articles to the Indians. 32 See Farriss, Maya Society, pp. 88, 109, II2; Patch, Maya and Spaniard, pp. 24I-2. 33 Granado Baeza, 'Los indios de Yucatin', pp. 54-5, translation mine.
Social categories Yucatdn,Mexico in
giving as their reason that it is easier to pronounce'. They not only preferredto speak Mayabut, accordingto more than one observer,they often acquireda less than perfect command of Spanish.34 As late as 839, American traveller John L. Stephens noted in a village in the interior of the peninsula: 'Many of the white people could not speak Spanish, and the conversation was almost exclusively in the Maya
To sum up, at least until the end of the nineteenth century (and possibly well into the twentieth) the use of the Maya language was by no means restricted to people classified as Indians but embraced the majority of Yucatan's population including a part of the local elite. Language which today is the preferred criterion for ethnic (or, to be more precise, cultural) classification was of no use for defining the Indian part of the population at least until the second half of the nineteenth century. The social consciousness of the Indian peasantry was determined by kinship and locality and largely confined to their communities and their surroundings. and Independence the Caste War Even after 1821, when Mexico gained political independence from Spain, Yucatan's population remained legally divided. The three-part division of colonial times - Spaniards, castes and Indians - was reduced to a system which differentiated people with complete civil rights, the so-called vecinos, from Indians (indios or indigenas).36 were terms ascribed Indio and indzgena
Farriss,MayaSociety, I 2, citing Archivo del Arzobispado,Merida,Visitas pastorales p. in America, 5, Parishreport, Espita 1784; see also J. Stephens,Incidents Travel Central of
Chiapas and Yucatan,vol. II (New York, 1969, written in 1841), p. 407; R. Redfield, The Folk Culture of Yucatdn(Chicago, I94I), p. 377 note I5. Stephens, Incidents Travelin Yucatan, vol. I, p. 23 1; see also D. Brinton, TheMaya of Chronicles (Philadelphia, I 882), p. 19; J. Solis, 'Memoria del Partido de los Chenes', La Nueva Era (Campeche, I Nov. 1878), pp. 1-4; A. Woeikof, 'Reise durch Yukatan und die siid6stlichen Provinzen von Mexiko 1874', PetermannsMitteilungen,vol. 25 (i879),
p. 204. 23
36 See, for instance, 'Ley de
contribuci6npersonal', in M. Gonzalez Navarro, Razay tierra.La guerra castasyel de
henequen (Mexico, 1970), pp. 299-30I. The shift in social divisions is reflected in the
de noviembre de I833 que arregle el cobro de la
following quotation from i9th century historian Ancona, albeit with a racial interpretation:'In Yucatanthe name White is generallygiven not only to those who preservedpure their Europeanblood in their veins but also to those who mixed it with Indianblood in any quantity.Therefore,... our populationis consideredto be divided into two large sections: the Indiansand the Whites. The firstarethe descendantsof the Mayawho did not mix their blood with any other, and the second are the individuals of all the other races...' E. Ancona, Historiade Yucatdn hasta desde epoca la mdsremota
nuestrosdias, vol. IV (Merida, 1879/80),
note 6; H. Cline, 'Related Studies in Early Nineteenth Century Yucatecan Social History', Microfilm Collection of Manuscripts on Middle American Cultural Anthropology, No. XXXII, University of Chicago Library.Part II: The War of the
Castes and its Consequences, 1950, p. 64.
p. 13 note 3, translation mine; see also p. 37
by others and used as synonyms in official documents, newspapers, novels, etc.37 The republics of Indians survived as special administrative units at least until the end of the i86os.38 The expansion of sugar cultivation into the frontier regions in the interior of the peninsula was an important factor contributing to the
outbreak of the so-called Caste War of Yucatan
commercial sugar cultivation and the production of corn by peasants entered into direct competition for fertile land.39 The Caste War was a rebellion supported mainly by part of the Maya-speaking lower classes. It claimed thousands of victims and was a traumatic event in the region's history. After initial successes in 1847/48, the rebels had to retreat to the isolated south-eastern part of the peninsula where they established independent polities. For several decades a bloody frontier war followed. The rebels made frequent incursions into the area controlled by the government. For their part, they had to face periodic attacks by government forces. Nevertheless, the descendants of the rebels preserved de facto political autonomy up to the first decades of the twentieth century.40 Since the middle of the nineteenth century, economic development has been concentrated more and more in the north-western and western portions of the peninsula. Especially the growth of the henequen plantation economy in the area around Merida led to a massive proletarianisation of Maya-speaking peasants.41
See, for instance, J. Baranda, 'Los indios', El Espiritu Piblico (Campeche, I8 Aug. I867), p. i; J. Hernandez, 'El indio yucateco', Registro Yucateco,vol. 3 (I846), pp. 425-30. 38 The liberal constitution of de 841 formally abolished the reptiblicas indios but in actual fact they continued to operate. In I847 they were re-established. See 'Ley de 27 de agosto de 1847, restableciendo y reglamentando las antiguas leyes para el regimen de los indios', in A. Aznar Perez and R. Pedrera (eds.), Coleccin de leyes, decretosy drdenes o acuerdosde tendencia generaldel poder legislativodel estado librey soberanode Yucatdn, vol. III (Merida, I849-5 I), pp. 146-1 5I. In the state of Yucatan, they remained until i868. See V. Suarez Molina, La evolucidn econdmica Yucatdna traves del siglo XIX, vol. II de (Mexico, i977), p. 292. In Campeche, which had separated from Yucatan in I858, the Indian republics were abolished around 869. Cf. 'Se prohibe exigir servicios gratuitos a los indigenas', 9 April 1869, in F. Alvarez Suarez, Anales histdricosde Campeche,vol. II (Campeche, 1991), pp. 93-5. For a discussion of the republicas de indios after independence see T. Rugeley, Yucatdn'sMaya Peasantry & the Origins of the Caste War (Austin, 1996), pp. 90-116. 39 The Spaniards were never able to control effectively the sparsely settled south-eastern parts of the peninsula, which remained an area of refuge for Indians who had fled from colonial oppression. 40 For the Caste War see, for instance, N. Reed, The Caste War of Yucatdn(Stanford, 1964); G. Jones, 'Revolution and Continuity in Santa Cruz Maya Society', American Ethnologist, vol. I (I974), pp. 659-83; Bricker, Indian Christ, pp. 87-1I8, I85-2I8; Rugeley, Yucatdn'sMaya Peasantry; D. Dumond, The Macheteand the Cross. Campesino Rebellion in Yucatan (Lincoln and London, 1997). 41 See, for instance, Gonzalez Navarro, Ra.ay tierra, pp. 140-225.
Social categories in Yucatan, Mexico
Today, the Caste War is looked upon as a symbol of Indian resistance by many. Bartolome, for example, considers it as a 'war of ethnic liberation', where 'this people [the Maya] ... reacted in such a unified form against its rulers'.42 However, although Maya-speaking peasants did form the social basis of the insurgents, a considerable part of the Indian population in the north-west, the centre of colonial rule, remained passive or even fought jointly with the government forces against the rebels.43 Indians who fought for the government were rewarded with the honorific title of hidalgo, referring to the hierarchy of status in the colonial period. Besides this elevation in status there were other important material incentives to fight the rebels. The government gave no pay for service except booty, but it promised to pay for the debts of those held in debt bondage. The hidalgos would receive the same pensions as other soldiers in case of disability or death. Additionally, 'loyal' Indians fighting to the end of the campaign and the re-establishment of peace in the peninsula would be exempted from the head tax (contribucion personal).44 What is more, as Reed states, '... the servants and workers of the old haciendas in the north-western corner of the peninsula, were not involved in the rebellion, they even looked down on their less civilized eastern
It is easy to imagine that outside the area held by the rebels the already negative connotations of the terms indioor masewalgrew due to the Caste War. They became the quintessence of barbarism. Frequently, the rebels were labelled as 'savages' and 'wild or barbarous Indians' (indios
Bartolome, Dindmica social, pp. 35, I79. For a critique of this interpretation, see W. Gabbert, 'La etnizaci6n de un conflicto politico y econ6mico: La Guerra de Castas de Yucatan, I847-185 5', in Francisco Fernandez, Maria Rovira and Luis Varguez (eds.), Una guerra sin fin: Los cruroobante el umbral del milenio (Mexico, in press). 43 See, for instance, Julian Piste et al. to secretaria general de gobierno, Homun, 23 June 1848, Boletin Oficial del Gobierno de Yucatdn, 6 July 1848, box 8, file 588 and Notificaciones del titulo de hidalgos de los indigenas de Seybaplaya, 31 March I850, box 12, file 937, both in Archivo General del Estado de Campeche, Gobernaci6n, Periodo Yucateco, 8zo20-857; N6mina de indigenas de este pueblo que se han presentado voluntariamente a tomar las armas, Tekanto, 27 May 1848, Archivo General del Estado de Yucatan, Poder Ejecutivo, Justicia, Juzgados de Paz, box 67. 44 See 'Decreto de I4 de enero de i848, se declara hidalgo y exento de la contribuci6n personal a Felipe Cauich'; 'Decreto de 26 de enero de 1848, premios y recompensas en favor de los indigenas que contribuyan a reprimir la sublevacion'; 'Decreto de 3 de abril de I848, concediendo el titulo de hidalgos a los indigenas que concurrieron a la defensa de Tunkas'; 'Decreto de 27 de abril de i848, eximiendo a los que se expresan de la contribuci6n personal'; 'Orden de 27 de mayo, aprobando la organizaci6n de de hidalgos para el servicio de campafia', all in Aznar Perez and Pedrera, Coleccidn leyes, vol. III, pp. 173, 181-, 203-4, 206-9. For a fuller discussion of the motivation of the Indians fighting against the rebels see W. Gabbert, 'Ethnicity and Forms of Resistance: The Caste War of Yucatan in Regional Perspective', in M. Cipolletti (ed.), Resistencia y adaptacionnativas en las tierras bajas latinoamericanas (Quito, 1997), pp. 205-32. 45 Reed, Caste War, p. 64.
salvajes, indios bdrbaros).Sometimes they were referred to as 'cannibals' (antropofagos).46 The following quotations from Spanish-speaking intellectuals from the second half of the nineteenth century will illustrate these attitudes: Which is the cry of alarmwhich resounds everywhere? The Indians!!! The Indians, and with this cry the frontier villages become discouraged. The Indians, whose mere name exercises a dreadfuleffect on the
mind of all peninsulars, to whom it signifies: conflagration,carnage, desolation,
horrors of all kinds which it is neither suitable nor possible to describe. The Indians.- It was twenty years ago ... when in my young ears this cry resounded for the first time... Since then, even though the danger has passed, thanks to the brave soldiers who contained this irruption of barbarianswhich
threatened to destroy our country, we have periodically heard: the Indiansattacked and set fire to this or that place. Always the Indians as a cry of threat, always the
Indians with their machetes over our heads like the sword of Damocles. hanging And the civilised race of Yucatin has not been able to finish off Twenty years! this horde of barbarians...47 Who, observing the present-day Indian, abject, degraded and debased, hypocriticaland mendacious,without surenessin his words, without fidelity in his beliefs, without wants; ungratefuland content with a bread and one or two changes of clothes, who, we repeat,will believe that from this racethere emerged the buildersof Uxmal and Kabah [two famous archaeologicalsites of the Classic Maya culture]?48 The terms indigena,indio and masewalcontinued to be ascribed by others. But the Maya-speaking lower classes tried to evade such categorisation and adopted their negative connotations (see below).49 After the Caste War, the traditional folk costume which characterised Indians and mestizos in colonial times as well as the Maya language have become symbols of the lower class. The earlier differentiation between Indians and mestizos has fallen into disuse.50 During the colonial period the tribute and forced labour of one segment of Yucatan's population categorised as Indians had been the mainstay of the local economy. The colonial state guaranteed the relations
See, for instance, 'Exposici6n de los indigenas de los pueblos de Uci, Muxupip y Kini del partido de Motul, pidiendo marchar a la campafa', Motul, 26 June 1848, in S. de Baqueiro, Ensayo historicosobre las revoluciones Yucatdndesdeel ano de i840 hasta s864, vol. III (Merida, 1990, ist ed. I878-I887), pp. 276-9; R. Pifia, 'Revista de los Chenes', La Discusion(Campeche, 7 March 87 ), p. 3; Ancona, Historia de Yucatdn,vol. IV, pp. 47 Baranda, 'Los indios', italics in the 14, 70. original, translation mine. 48 Solis, 'Memoria del Partido', pp. 3-4, translation mine. 49 The descendants of the rebels, however, refer to themselves with some pride as masewalo'b,whilst rejecting the Spanish equivalent, indio. See A. Villa Rojas, The Maya of East Central Quintana Roo (Washington, 1945), p. 95; P. Sullivan, 'Contemporary Yucatec Maya Apocalyptic Prophecy: The Ethnographic and Historical Context', unpubl. Ph.D. diss. John Hopkins University, 1984, p. 91. 50 See Bracamonte y Sosa, La memoriaenclaustrada, pp. 52- ; A. Hansen, 'Change in the Class System of Merida, Yucatan 1875-935 ', in Moseley and Terry, Yucatrn, p. 123.
Socialcategories Yucatdn, in Mexico 473 of production by enforcing social differentiation on a legal basis, creating an estate system. After independence, this system remained important for almost half a century, mainly as a result of the Caste War. But as henequen plantations consolidated as the new cornerstone of the regional economy and the threat of a coalition between the Maya-speaking lower classes and the rebels of the south-eastern parts of the peninsula declined, the need for legal and administrative segregation ended. In the colonial period the Maya-speaking peasants retained control of the principal means of production and were to some degree protected against encroachments from Spaniards in order to maintain the tribute economy. During the nineteenth century many peasant communities lost their land to the expanding haciendas. Thus, their labour force came to be appropriated not through governmental force but through the ever-expanding system of debt-peonage.51 Redfield summarises the historical process as follows: [At the end of the colonial period] ... differencesin costume between Indian and ... mestizo gradually disappeared....The legal restrictions on the Indians were revoked or fell into disuse after independencefrom Spain. By the middle of the nineteenthcenturythe mixed-bloodswith Spanishnamesand the Indians... with Indian surnameslooked alike, dressedalike, and were treatedsubstantiallyalike. ... A word for a biological hybrid [mestizo] had come to designate the lower of two social classes.52 During the Caste War the development of a socially and culturally homogeneous lower class of Maya-speakers with a localised sense of loyalty increased in the north and west of the peninsula. In the east, however, due to decades of bloody confrontation, the descendants of the rebels developed a social consciousness encompassing different local groups, which set them apart from Spanish and Maya-speakers throughout the rest of the peninsula.53 The Mexican Revolutionin Yucatdnand the 'IndianQuestion' The Mexican Revolution (I 9o-I7) brought important ideological changes affecting inter-ethnic relations. Whereas most politicians in the nineteenth century considered the white, creole race to be the centre of Mexican nationality, revolutionary ideology saw Mexican nationality as residing in the biologically and culturally mixed population-the mestizos. Indian customs, music, dances and traditions were not regarded outright as relics from barbarism but, at least in part, considered to be
51 See, for instance, F. Katz, 'Plantagenwirtschaft auf und Sklaverei.Der Sisalanbau der
Halbinsel Yucatan bis 9 o', Zeitschriftfir Geschichtswissenschaft, 7, no. 5 (i 959), pp. vol. 52 Redfield, 'Race and Class', p. 5 8. 1002-27. 53 See, for instance, Villa Rojas, The Maya, pp. 20-35, 9I-6; M. Bartolome and A. (Mexico, 1977).
en de interetnicas el oriente la peninsula Yucatan de Barabas,La resistencia maya.Relaciones
elements of national folklore worth maintaining.54 The central aim of the official indigenist policies was to integrate and assimilate Indians into the national population. As President Cairdenas(1934-40) put it: 'Our Indian problem does not consist in preserving the "Indian" as an Indian or to indianise Mexico but to mexicanise the Indians.' The regime sought to subsume the Indian to the mass of workers and peasants, stressing class over ethnicity.55 After the Mexican Revolution entered the Yucatan peninsula in 191 5, the land-owning oligarchy lost some of their holdings but retained much of their wealth and power. Their day-labourers benefited from agrarian reform but became dependent on governmental administration and credits. Opportunities for social mobility increased significantly due to the economic boom of the 194os, the establishment of home industries and the expansion of the state bureaucracy. In particular, the development of the public education system and its extension into the rural areas created new mechanisms for social advancement for the children of peasants and peons (day-labourers).56At the same time the Maya language - slowly but steadily - lost much of its importance as primary education in Spanish proliferated. At the end of the I96os, US anthropologist Richard Thompson believed that Yucatain was well on the way to becoming an 'open society' where social status would be exclusively determined by education and economic success and not by descent or cultural criteria, such as language. Like Robert Redfield in the 193os, he was impressed by the extent of social mobility and cultural change, i.e. the proliferation of the Spanish language and modern ways of life, which characterised Yucatan after the Revolution.57 But there are some factors that have prevented the completion of acculturation and assimilation. Firstly, cultural differences still continue to function as important status markers in Yucatan. Although social conflicts and racism are nowhere near as acute as in Chiapas, cultural markers like language or dress and descent (which is hinted at by the surname) are still important factors in
y tierra,pp. 148-9 mentions some of the Igth century precursorsof Mexican indohispanism,as the mestizo-centredideology has been called. 55 The quote is from T. Medin, Ideologiay de (Mexico, 1975), praxispolitica LdaaroCdrdenas p. 176, translationmine. For a discussion of the official indigenismo for example, see, Knight, 'Racism, Revolution'. 56 See, for instance, R. Thompson, Aires de Progreso. Socialen un Pueblo Cambio Mayade
Yucatan (Mexico, 1974), pp. I62-5. 57 See Thompson, Aires, pp. 189-90; Redfield, Folk Culture, pp. 58-9, 83.
See C. Hale, MexicanLiberalismin the Age of Mora, I82I--853 (New Haven and London, I968), p. 223; A. Knight, 'Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo:Mexico, in Thomas E. Skidmore, Aline Helg and Alan Knight (eds.), The Idea of 1910-1940', Race in Latin America, 87o0-I940 (Austin, 1990), pp. 71-I 3. Gonzalez Navarro, RaZa
Social categories Yucatdn,Mexico in
the system of social inequality.58 Stereotypes linked to these status markers frequently continue to determine interpersonal relations. Discrimination has changed to more subtle forms. It ranges from scoffing at a limited knowledge of Spanish and the informal segregation in churches or cinemas to the exclusion from certain social circles of the elite and the disapproval of mixed unions by the upper class.59 Light skin colour, bright eyes and Caucasian features still enjoy higher prestige than an Amerindian phenotype.60 Even many members of the Maya-speaking lower classes prefer persons of lighter skin or with Spanish surnames as spouses.61 Often they consider a Spanish surname as 'pretty' and as 'a name of importance' and sometimes despise people with a Maya surname as indios or masewales.62 Spanish continues to be regarded as the prestige language, symbolising progress and modernity, whereas Maya is frequently considered to be the language of the poor. As several informants have said: 'They think you are of a poor race if you speak Maya.'63 'If you speak Maya you are an Indian [indio], you are not civilised.'64 Whereas the booming tourist industry praises the extraordinary achievements of the ancient Maya in astronomy, architecture, etc., the Yucatec Maya language is still associated with misery, backwardness and the poor life of the peasantry by the Spanish-speaking public. To wear sandals (alpargatas)or the ipil is still a sign of low social status.65 The association between the Maya language, the terms indioor indigena, and low social status is strengthened by several of the government's
58 For a fuller discussion of this relationshipsee W. Gabbert, 'Etnicidad y desigualdad social en la peninsulade Yucatan', in Memorias IV Congreso del Internacional Mayistas, de Antigua, 2-8 August 1998, in press. 59 See interview with director of the INI, Hopelch6n, 24 May 1994; FN-Xcupil, 24099403; FN-Xcupil, 07049501; interview with Alfredo Barcel6 Mendez, INIB. Holmes, 'Women and Yucatec Kinship', unpubl. PhD diss., Tulane University,
1978, p. 44; Sanders, 'Education', p. 6; Thompson, Aires, pp. 35, 40, 83, 99, o12-10, 139, i66-7.
Campeche, 9 May 994; interview with Arturo Solis Lara, Hopelchen, 8 March 996;
See FN-Hopelchen, 24039502; FN-Chultun, 19099402;Redfield, Folk Culture, 75; p.
R. Redfield, A Village that ChoseProgress. Chan Kom Revisited (Chicago, 1950), p. 133;
Thompson, Aires, p. 39. See FN-Xcupil, 24099403; I. Press, Tradition Adaptation. Yucatan and Life in a Modern Maya Village (Westport, I975), pp. 73, 75-7; N. Trujillo, 'Los "mestizos" de vol. Yucatan', in Encyclopedia Yucatense, VI (M6rida, 1946), p. 331. See FN-Xcupil, 24099403; FN-Hopelch6n, IO119503; interview with clerk, Juzgado
Familiar, Campeche, 3 April 1995.
Interview with Jose Chan Chi, PresidenciaMunicipal,Hopelchen, I3 Dec. 1994. See Redfield,'Race and Class', p. 513; Redfield,Folk Culture, 74; Hansen, 'Change', p.
pp. 123-4; Thompson, Aires de Progreso, pp. 27, 144; Press, Tradition, pp. 78-80;
Holmes, 'Women', p. 39; Bartolom6,Dindmica p. social, 3I 3; P. Hervik, 'The Position of Language and Cultures in the Yucatecan Landscape', unpubl. Ph.D. diss.,
University of Copenhagen, Institute of Anthropology, 199I, p. 76.
policies. For example, the target group for the National Indigenist Institute's (INI) department of Indian education is defined as the population of the isolated and marginal villages, where roads, electricity and a modern water supply system are lacking. Bilingual schools of the Indian education system thus tend not to be approved in cabeceras (district towns) in the state of Campeche, and such policies are justified on the basis that these cabeceras are 'not marginal'.66 Secondly, the development of the educational system seemed to foster acculturation and assimilation in the short run, but also induced changes in the social structure that exacerbated the politicisation and accentuation of cultural differences (at least at the symbolic level). It made social mobility possible for a considerable number of children of Maya-speaking peasants and labourers. These people now form an educated middle-class. The results of these structural changes have tended to be contradictory. Many of the social climbers have tried to deny their origins by hispanicising their Maya surnames and denying any knowledge of Yucatec Maya.67Another segment, growing in recent years, has developed an affirmative, and frequently idealised, view of Maya language and culture. Many of them are working in governmental institutions which are directly or indirectly related to cultural questions. They are rural teachers, development workers, employees of the INI, etc. It is among these individuals that the term Maya is most frequently accepted as a selfidentification, whereas people belonging to the lower class prefer mestizo, mayero,campesino, gente delpueblo or otsilmak (see below). Within this part of the middle class the notion of pan-Mayan ethnicity is most developed and a number of people are working to revive Maya language and culture.68 This current was strengthened by the expansion of bilingual
66 Interview with Secundino L6pez Varguez, Jefe de la Zona Escolar Indigena de la
de Secretaria Educaci6nPublica,Hopelchen, 25 May 1994; interview with Te6filo Chi Ord6oiez, Secretariade Cultura y Deportes, Departamentode Educaci6n Indigena,
Campeche, 4 April I995. 67 See FN-Hopelchen, 20039402; FN-Bolonchen, 02049402; FN-Xcupil, 2908940I; FNFN-Chultun, 19099402; interview with Victor Contreras, Hopelch6n, 04099402;
Instituto Nacional de Educaci6nde Adultos, Hopelchen, 7 April 994; interview with Secundino L6pez Varguez, Jefe de la Zona Escolar Indigena de la Secretariade director of the primaryschool 'Josefa Hurtado Trujeque', Hopelchen, 12 May I994; can be found in Warren,Indigenous Movements, 176. p.
Educaci6n Publica, Hopelchen,
May 1994; interview with Victor Narva6z Ku,
Thompson, Aires, p. Ioo; Holmes, 'Women', pp. 41-2; an example from Guatemala
In Tribuna. this respect the results of my own fieldwork in Hopelchen are similarto those obtained by Hervik in Oxcutzcab, a town in the state of Yucatan. See Hervik, 'Position', pp. 82-3 ; P. Hervik, 'Learningto be "Indian": Aspects of new Ethnic and
Cultural Identity of the Yucatec Maya', Folk, vol. 34
See, for instance, the articles of 25 Feb. and 12 March I996 in the Campeche newspaper
pp. 66, 75-7. The pan-
Maya movement in Guatemala also comprises mostly students and intellectuals, community-basedprofessionals (teachers,agronomists, health workers), members of
Socialcategories Yucatdn, in Mexico 477 education, initiated in the 1970S when the official doctrine of Mexican Indian policy changed from 'planned acculturation and integration' to 'participative indigenism'.69 Thus, the jobs of a growing number of people became directly linked to the preservation and reaffirmation of cultural differences, especially the Maya language.70 For them, the knowledge of Maya is not always a marker of low social status but in certain contexts an essential requirement for obtaining jobs. But the interest in cultural revival is not simply a reflection of socioeconomic interests. Many of these individuals have found that assimilation is not always possible, that there are still limits to upward mobility and social acceptance, and that contempt and discrimination persist even against people who have tried to separate themselves from their humble origins.71 Thirdly, a change in development policies is currently fostering the acceptance (or at least the use) of the term Indian as a self-identification by more people than previously. During recent years, international and national development institutions have increasingly channelled financial resources into rural areas, especially targeted at Indian populations.72 This change in discourse has triggered a process which could be called ethnification or indianisation: peasant organisation A changes its name and becomes Indian organisation B. Many people apply the term for selfidentification in a strategic way. In order to go to INI to ask for credit, one dons an Indian identity and wears sandals; women who normally do
nongovernmentalorganisationsand cooperatives. See C. Smith, 'Maya Nationalism',
Warren, Indigenous Movements, II, 22, 36-8, 46, 134, 20I-2; B. Metz, 'Without pp. Nation, Without Community:The Growth of Maya Nationalism among Ch'orti's of Eastern Guatemala', Journalof Anthropological vol. 54 (I998), pp. 337-8, Research, 342-3. As in the YucatanPeninsula,many Indian activists in Guatemalaare employed by the National Programmeof Bilingual Education PRONEBI (E. Fischer, 'Induced Culture Change as a Strategy for Socioeconomic Development: The Pan-Maya Movement in Guatemala',in Fischer and Brown, MayaResurgence, 68, 70. pp. See M. Mejia Piieros and S. SarmientoSilva, La luchaindigena: retoa la ortodoxia un (Mexico, 1987) for an overview of post-revolutionaryindigenist policies. 25 Currentlythere are alreadymore than 800 bilingual teachersin Campeche(Tribuna, Feb. 1996). In the whole peninsula there are about 2,500. See Alonso Caamal,'Los
mayas', p. 50. For similar developments in Guatemala see Wilson, Maya Resurgence,pp. Warren, Indigenous Movements,pp. 5 , 209.
vol. 25, no. 3 (1991), p. 30; Watanabe, 'Unimagining the Maya', pp. 3 -2;
in See, for instance, F. Schryer, Ethnicityand Class Conflict Rural Mexico(Princeton,
I990), pp. 25I-5 and J. Jackson, 'Culture, Genuine and Spurious: The Politics of Indianness in the Vaup6s, Colombia', American Ethnologist, vol. 22, no. I (I995), pp. 3-27.
not do so put on an ipil, etc. As for bilingual teachers, being able to communicate in Maya increasingly becomes 'cultural capital.73 The ongoing insurrection of the EZLN in Chiapas is furthering this trend as the Mexican government attempts to prevent similar rebellions in other parts of the country by distributing money in marginal regions considered to be Indian. What is more, the government is prepared to make certain concessions on the legal, cultural, and political level. Thus, in Campeche a special congressional commission for 'Indian Affairs' has presented a bill concerning the teaching of Maya in regular schools. In the state of Yucatan some Spanish-speaking people have begun to learn Maya, anticipating its becoming a second official language in the not too distant future.74 Nevertheless, the term indigena still mainly a technical one used is by government institutions, INI, intellectuals, etc., and is rarely used by the village populations themselves in everyday speech. Ironically, the affirmative views on Maya culture held by the ethnicised middle class reproduce many of the general stereotypes of the national public. For example, the importance of the Maya culture is accounted for almost exclusively by referring to the great achievements in astronomy, mathematics and architecture of the ancient Maya civilisation. The following quotation will illustrate this type of discourse: We should be proud that not long ago it was proven scientificallyby discoveries
in Belize and Guatemala that the Maya race is the most ancientof the world and not
the Egyptian, as was assumed before. It is well established that all Maya
which shows the superior scientificand astronomicculture of ourMayaancestors we have the historical obligation, scientificallyand culturally, to preserve and ruins, keep alive our valuableMayalanguage,its culture,customs, archaeological the paintings, sculptures,music, dances, rites, traditionalmedicine and all other activities which especially distinguish the Maya race.75 This is to some extent an elitist discourse, since only traits restricted to the upper class of the ancient indigenous society are mentioned as valuable
constructions were made based on mathematicaland astronomicalcalculations.... and ... They used the most precise astronomical solar calendar For all this knowledge
74 See Diario de Yucatan, Merida, 22 March 1996; Tribuna, 12 March I996. 75 F. Zavala Ramos, el desarrollode la modernizaci6nde
Cf. P. Bourdieu,'The Forms of Capital',in John Richardson(ed.), Handbook Theory of andResearch theSociology Education for (New York, 983), pp. 241-5 8. Other examples of are the INI-programme for legal aid for Indian prisoners and the scholarship programmefor Indian youths. 'Estrategia para la educaci6n
unpubl. manuscript, SEP, Direcci6n de Educaci6n Elemental,
Departamentode Educaci6n Indigena, Campeche,I991, pp. 5-6, 6o, emphasisin the original, translationmine. For examplesof this discoursefrom Guatemalasee Wilson, Maya Resurgence, 269-70; Raxche' (Demetrio Rodriguez Guajan), 'Maya Culture pp. and the Politics of Development', in Fischer and Brown, MayaResurgence, 74-6; pp. Warren,Indigenous Movements, 39. p.
Socialcategories Yucatdn, in Mexico 479 achievements of Maya civilisation. What is more, it is backward-looking, with little relationship to the present-day culture of Yucatan's Mayaspeaking peasants and workers. Instead such views favour the preservation of what are supposed to be 'the traditions'. In so doing, they strengthen the established association between Indianness and 'backwardness' and the reduction of the indigenous population's culture to folklore and allegedly timeless and static traditions. Still today, in Yucatan as in other parts of Mexico, to be modern means to share in the Westernised middle-class culture of the country. The activities of INI are working in the same direction. INI's cultural projects are restricted to the preservation of'holy sites', 'traditional' medicine, dances, rites and other practices, the dissemination of myths and legends, etc. Sometimes peasant communities are given money so that they can carry out certain 'traditional' ceremonies.76 The backward orientation of many of Yucatan's Indianists is also shown in relation to language policy. They propagate an idea of Yucatec Maya as a language purified from Spanish influences. The ordinary speech of lower-class Maya-speakers, which contains numerous elements in lexicon and grammar derived from Spanish, is denigrated as polluted, degenerate and of inferior value. Thus, Indianists are themselves contributing to the preservation of the low status of Maya in everyday interaction. Lower-class Maya speakers would be required to laboriously learn the 'real', 'true' Maya created by intellectuals (bach maya). Confronted with the few opportunities the knowledge of Maya still offers for social advancement in the peninsula, it is no wonder that most people prefer to acquire language skills in Spanish. Conclusion The Yucatan material hints at several important methodological issues in relation to the study of ethnicity. Firstly, ethnicity is, pace Jenkins and many others, not a ubiquitous form of social organisation.77 It has to be understood as a historical process related to specifictechniques of social distinction. Ethnicity is strongly related to processes of social classification or categorisation. It is of the utmost importance to keep analytically separate socialcategories present in a specific society, groupsor organisations based on such categories, and the individualsusing categories in daily
This point is arguedfor convincinglyand at length by Fardon,'African Ethnogenesis'; see also R. Astuti, 'The Vezo are not a Kind of People: Identity, Difference, and "Ethnicity" among a Fishing People of Western Madagaskar',American Ethnologist,
vol. 22, no. 3 (1995), pp. 464-82.
See, for instance, Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 'Informe', pp. 170-80.
interaction.78 It would be erroneous to conclude from the existence of a category denoting a certain aggregate of individuals that this necessarily implies social cohesion, solidarity, and group consciousness within that population. There are neither important ethnic organisations within the Maya-speaking population of the Yucatan peninsula, nor is the idea of belonging to a Yucatec Maya people rooted in this group.79 Therefore, the speakers of Yucatec Maya and their descendants should be seen as a cultural category not as an ethnic community. What there is of panYucatec Mayan ethnicity today is still ethnic consciousness in the making. It is a project advanced mainly by members of the ethnicised middle class, institutions such as INI and, last but not least, Mexican and foreign intellectuals.80 Secondly, several categories denoting overlapping aggregates of people may exist, meaning that no such thing as a bounded, separate ethnic community results. No clear-cut term exists to denote Maya-speakers and their descendants. The term mestizo is used for persons who are dressed in folk costume.81 But men wearing this type of attire are rarely seen in
This differs from the distinction between 'group identification' and 'social categorisation' recently proposed by Jenkins. For him the initial process occurs inside the ethnic boundary, while the second takes place outside. See Jenkins, Rethinking Ethnicity, pp. 23, 54-5, 8i. However, this proposition, seems unfortunate since it obscures an important epistemological difference between the term category, which refers only to classes of objects or persons having one or more features in common, and the term group which denotes an aggregate of people with developed social interrelations between its members. Evidently one can identify oneself with either of these types of collective and can be classed by others as belonging to either one or the other. Up to the present the descendants of the rebels of the Caste War in Quintana Roo dissociate themselves from the Spanish-speakers as well as, although less rigidly, from the Maya-speaking population of the states of Yucatin and Campeche. The foundation for this is the historical experience of fighting against the government's troops, in which both Spanish and Maya-speakers took part. See, for instance, Villa Rojas, The Maya, p. 95; Bartolome and Barabas, La resistencia maya, pp. I 7-S8; Sullivan, 'Contemporary Yucatec Maya Apocalyptic Prophecy', pp. 90-2. In other regions of Mexico and Guatemala ethnic mobilisation is more developed and ethnic consciousness at the level of the language category is more rooted even among Indian peasants and workers (see e.g. for Michoacan J. Zirate Hernandez, 'Notas para la interpretaci6n del movimiento 6tnico en Michoacan', in Victor Gabriel Muro and Manuel Canto Chac (eds.), El estudiode los movimientos sociales: teoriay metodo(Zamora, for Oaxaca H. Campbell, 'La COCEI: cultura y etnicidad pp. I I-29; 1991), politizadas en el Istmo de Tehuantepec', Revista Mexicana de Sociologia,vol. 5I, no. 2 Metz, 'Without Nation'; (I989), pp. 247-63; for Guatemala Wilson, Maya Resurgence; Movements.In the case of Guatemala, these differences seem to be Warren, Indigenous related to the experience of civil war, the intensity of the struggle for resources, especially land, the possibilities of social mobility, the extent and structure of migration and other factors. A comparative discussion of these cases is, however, beyond the scope of this paper. It is not a self-identification of an ethnic group (the Maya) as has been suggested by some authors. See, for instance, Hervik, 'Position', pp. 4I, 6o, 65-6, 75.
in Socialcategories Yucatdn, Mexico 481 Yucatan today. People who speak Yucatec Maya are referred to as mayero. But mayeromay be used for any person independent of descent and social status. Maya-speaking peasants in the countryside and inhabitants of smaller towns who do not belong to the local elite refer to themselves as otsilmako'b (poor people) and in Spanish as nosotroslos pobres (we, the poor) or gente del pueblo (common people). They are called gente humilde (ordinary people) by members of the elite, implying the expectation of certain humility and obedience. To refer to the upper class or local elite, people of the lower classes use the terms ts'ulo'b (originally the 'foreigners'), los ricos(the rich) or gentede categoria(people of rank). Social status remains related to geographical space, for in the larger settlements the elite are referred to as los del centroor centrolo'b, that is 'people of the centre' [of the village]. All these terms refer essentially to the social distance between the speaker and the person of whom he is speaking. In contrast, the local elite and upper class see themselves as clase media (middle class).82 Third, the meaning of social categories can only be elucidated by renouncing analogies to organisms and taking as a starting point the use individuals make of certain terms in everyday interaction. In adopting such an approach, it should be remembered that the use and meaning of categories may change in accordance with who is using them and to whom they refer. As Bourdieu has noted, the everyday usage of social categories does not aim at logical coherence, the development of a system of classifications that is free from contradictions but obeys the "'logic" of partisanship'.83 It is itself part of social conflicts. Thus, selfidentification and ascription by others are not indissolubly linked to a person, as the organism analogy and the notion of ethnic identity suggest. Frequently, they do not coincide. Thus, whereas the Spanish-speaking public generally considers Maya-speaking peasants to be Indians and Maya, these labels are frequently rejected by them.84 Even today, for many Maya-speaking peasants in the northern and western parts of Yucatan the Indians (indios, or indioso'bin Maya) are 'those who burned down the
This paragraphis based on the analysisof relevantwritten materialson Yucatanand, especially,on the resultsof my fieldworkin the municipalityof Hopelchen, Campeche. In additionto some formalinterviewing on the use of social categories,the analysisof speech acts in everyday life was of special importance. Although there may be differencesin some of the details, the results by and large seem to be valid for other parts of the states of Campecheand Yucatanas well. But compareRedfield, 'Race and Class'; Thompson, Aires; Holmes, 'Women'; Barabas, 'Colonialismo y racismo'; Hansen, 'Change' and Hervik, 'Position' for earliertreatmentsof social categoriesin
83 Bourdieu, Distinction. Yucatan. One should not forget that many Maya-speakers are indeed mestizos, that is, of mixed descent (as can be deduced from the Spanish surnames) and never identified themselves as Indian.
villages, those who had no compassion'.85 The terms masewaland indioare associated with ignorance, rudeness, bad manners, etc. and used - behind their back - to belittle someone.86 If somebody is poor and ignorant it is said that 'he is very Indian' (es muy masewal or es hach indio). To talk vulgarly is called 'to talk very Indian' (hablarmuymasewal,hachmasewalku t'an).87 Because of the semantic link it has with the term indio, people generally do not refer to themselves as Maya. Maya is used instead for the indigenous language of Yucatan or for the Indians of the past, the builders of the ruins and those who fought in the Caste War.88 Indio, indigenaand Maya do not stand for a more or less precisely defined group, rather their meaning is highly dependent on the changing contexts of their usage (when, where and by whom they are used). The term indiohas come to be what Edwin Ardener called a 'hollow category': Everybody can point out an indio but up to the present (almost) nobody calls himself indio, notwithstanding the current trend towards 'indianisation' mentioned
Fourth, the meaning and content of social categories is by no means static but changes over time.90 The relationship between these categories and people of flesh and blood is very often a highly complex one or, as Edwin Ardener correctly puts it: A biological population... may not coincide in its history with the affiliationsof its language or of its culture... We are concerned with continuities whose processes are only in part biological. Fulbe, Jews, and... Britons are createdby definition as much as by procreation.9l One therefore has to be explicit as to which kind of continuities between people of different historical periods are suggested. It may be possible to show a biological relation between Yucatec Maya speakers of today and the Maya of ancient times but in Yucatan still many (especially older)
Interview with author, Xcupil, 7 May 1995; see also interview with author, Campeche,
86 See, for instance, Redfield, 'Race and Class', pp. 5 5-I6; Trujillo, 'Los "mestizos"', p. 336; Thompson, Aires, p. 26; Barabas, 'Colonialismo y racismo', p. 31; Sullivan, 'Contemporary Yucatec Maya Apocalyptic Prophecy', p. 90. 87 FN-Xcupil, 07049501; FN-Xcupil, 07059503. 88 See FN-Ich Ek, o6049402; FN-Hopelchen, I4099403; FN-Bolonchen, I709940I; FNXcupil, 24099403; FN-Xcupil, 07059503; Interview with Jose Chan Chi, Presidencia Municipal, Hopelchen, 13 Dec. I994; Press, Tradition,p. 72; Hervik, 'Position', pp. 58, 75-6; but cf. A. Re Cruz, The Two Milpas of Chan Kom. Scenariosof a Maya Village Life (Albany, I996), p. 79 note o0. 89 See, for instance, Redfield, 'Race and Class', p. 520; Holmes,' Women', p. 24. It is only lately that some Maya speakers, generally intellectuals with an indianist orientation, have begun to use the term indio to refer to themselves. 90 See, for instance, Fardon, 'African Ethnogenesis', p. 170. ' 91 Ardener, 'Language', p. 35 ; see also M. Mc Donald, We are not French!' Language, Culture, and Identity in Brittany (London and New York, I989), p. o08.
Social categoriesin Yucatdn,Mexico
Maya-speaking peasants do not consider themselves the direct descendants of the builders of the ruins. They do not read the past as history the way Indianists (like all nationalists) do and the way schools teach it.92 For them the ruins were built by the aluxo'b, a mythical people of dwarfs wiped out by a huge flood. The following quotation from an old speaker of Yucatec Maya illustrates this view of the past as well as the negative connotations of the term indio: Then there emerged another race, the race of the Indians [indios]. They did not well. deserve any respectand ranaroundnaked. They did not treatthe Christians were a bad race. They lived in the woods all the time, with a contemptible They appearance,their whole life in the woods. Then the Spaniardsarrived and the Indians were exterminated.... Now, the race of today is a civilised and obedient people, educatedpeople full of understanding,good looking, adequatelydressed and adequatelynourished.93 Fifth, the post-revolutionary state, as elsewhere, has played an important role in the development of ethnicity in Mexico. On the one hand, certain governmental policies encouraged tendencies of acculturation and assimilation by strengthening the association between everything identified as Indian and low social status. On the other hand, by directing resources especially to Indian communities, they have fostered the
in Particularly the case of older people with little education,history only extends back to the time of the fathersof the older men still alive. Before that time 'there are only myths, the stories, moralor merelyfantastic,of the acts and happeningsof supernatural Kom. races,unconnectedwith the Mayaof today'. R. Redfieldand A. Villa Rojas, Chan A Maya Village(Washington, 1934), p. I2. A survey on social categories carriedout in 1994 with sixteen Maya speakersin two villages of the municipalityof Hopelchen showed that for most of the respondentsthe term Maya referredto a people in the distant past with whom they had no connection. See also FN-Xcupil, 24099403;FNXkanha, 26039501; M. Gutierrez Estevez, 'Mayas y "mayeros": Los antepasados como otros', in Miguel Le6n-Portilla,Manuel Gutierrez Estevez, and Gary Gossen vol. I (Madrid, 1992), pp. 424-5. For a (eds.), De palabra obraen el NuevoMundo, y differentinterpretation concerningthe descendantsof the CasteWarrebelsin Quintana Roo see Bartolome and Barabas,La resistencia maya,pp. 60-4; P. Sullivan, Unfinished Conversations. Between Two Wars(Berkeley, 1989), pp. 84-7. MayasandForeigners Recorded in Pustunich in 1984, quoted in F. Asis Ligorred Perram6n,Consideraciones la sobre literatura de los mayas oral modernos (Mexico, 1990), pp. 96-7, I26-7, translation Un mine; see also A. Tozzer, Mayasy lacandones. estudio (Mexico, I982, ist comparativo de oral Literatura delmayayucateco Burns, Unaepoca milagros. (Merida, I995), pp. 60-71. Q'eqchi'-speakersin Guatemala, in contrast, seem to refer to 'ancient Maya' as mythical ancestors. However, this is only one of a multiplicityof interwoven dualist identities ascribed to the mountain spirits (tguultaq'a). These are, for example, also associatedwith beardedEuropeans.In the past, most Q'eqchi' held a low opinion of 'the Maya' and sought to distancethemselvesfrom them. Usually Q'eqchi' referredto them as 'savages'. Recently indianist Catholic catechists have begun to selectively stress the good aspectsof the tguultaq'as to reducetheir multipleand contradictory and identities to an unequivocal identificationwith the, now idealised, ancient Maya. See
Wilson, Maya Resurgence, pp. 53, 57, 6i, 74, 8i, 269-71, 324. English ed. 1907), pp. 179-80; Redfield and Villa Rojas, Chan Kom, pp. 330-I; A.
strategic use of this label by the country's rural dwellers. By treating Indian language categories as ethnic groupings and promoting the establishment of 'supreme councils' of these 'peoples' the state has created the beginnings of forms of organisation which owe more to the romantic nationalism (one language, one nation) of the nineteenth century than to the reality of the indigenous populations, whose social consciousness and feeling of community have generally been much more localised. By propagating these views in public schools and other institutions the state participates in the generalisation of ethnicity. Thus, more and more children of parents who speak an indigenous language are learning to read the past as history,94 to attribute to it the force of an argument with respect to the evaluation of present conditions and to see social organisms (peoples), not individuals, as actors on the historical stage - a further step in the career of the nation-state concept.
94 See Fardon, 'African Ethnogenesis', p. 178.
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