THE FORGING OF THE COSMIC RACE: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico by Colin M. & Jaime E. Rodriguez O. MacLaehlan

THE FORGING OF THE COSMIC RACE: A Reinterpretation of Colonial Mexico

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In their ""reinterpretation"" of colonial Mexico, MacLachlan (History, Tulane) and Rodriguez O. (History, Univ. of California, Irvine) maintain that New Spain was not an underdeveloped region, but an ""emerging capitalist society"" in which the cultural integration of the native population with newcomers from Spain, Africa, and Asia (hence the title) was accomplished more fully than anywhere else. Strangely enough, not a single footnote supports this revisionist view (the appended survey of literature on Mexico is not a sufficient substitution); and the treatment of the formation of mestizo culture is more satisfactory than the economic and political reevaluation. Looking at pre-conquest civilizations in central Mexico, MacLachlan and Rodriguez O. focus on family life, education, political structure, religion, and social customs in order to show the similarity of values in the Aztec and Spanish societies. This section also illuminates the origin of several persistent Mexican traits--for instance their politeness, fatalism, ability to compromise. Apropos of the 16th and 17th centuries, the authors contend that colonial Mexico had a balanced, vigorous economy (strong on agriculture and mining), virtual political autonomy, and a flexible social structure with no little upward mobility. The evidence, however, is far from convincing: the wealth of several hacendados, the economic success of a few mestizos, and the good intentions of the Spanish crown towards the native population do not disprove the traditional view of the colonial system as rigid and oppressive. MacLachlan and Rodriguez O. also make dubious generalizations, e.g., ""although there were undoubtedly weak and passive women in the colony, the records indicate that most asserted themselves."" Finally, the authors con, clude that the political and economic crisis in the early 19th century led to the rejection of the colony's mestizo culture, and that only the 1910 revolution restored the balance. Some interesting ideas, some insufficiently supported conjectures, few significant insights.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1980
Publisher: Univ. of Calif. Press