Sep 022016
 

Sombrero Books is pleased to announce that the Kindle ebook version of Mexican Kaleidoscope: myths, mysteries and mystique has just been released [Click the link to purchase]. The print edition will follow shortly, with an official book launch event in late November, in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. Full details for the book launch in Ajijic will be given here as soon as they are confirmed.

cover-front-onlyIn this new book, author Tony Burton delves into Mexico’s colorful history and culture. He focuses on a fascinating selection of events, discoveries, individuals and intrigues to explore some of the reasons why Mexico has become such an extraordinarily diverse and interesting nation.

The 30 short chapters of Mexican Kaleidoscope span the centuries, from long before the Spanish conquest to the modern day. The topics considered range from the mysteries of Mexican food, Aztec farming and Mayan pyramids to mythical cities, aerial warfare, art, music, local sayings and the true origins of Mexico’s national symbols. Along the way, we encounter many unusual, strange, revealing and wonderful facts about Mexico.

Mexican Kaleidoscope unravels some of the many forces that have helped shape Mexico’s history and culture and helps us understand the appeal and mystique of this engaging country.

The text is enhanced by charming original illustrations by Ajijic artist Enrique Velázquez. This book includes a bibliography. The print version includes a full index.

Dr. Michael Hogan, the best-selling author of The Irish Soldiers of Mexico and the recently released Abraham Lincoln and Mexico, was gracious enough to read an advance copy and commented as follows:

“In this lively interweaving of history, cuisine, culture, tradition and superstition, Tony Burton brings the reader refreshing and often startling insights into the forces that shaped Mexican culture. There is something for everyone in this eclectic collection. Burton’s style is friendly and hospitable to the homebody as well as enlightening to the veteran traveler. It is a book so generous-spirited and worldly-wise that it would make a suitable gift for the novice flying to Mexico for vacation, while at the same time being a cherished companion for the expat already comfortably at home there.”

Mexconnect publisher David McLaughlin, who also read an advance copy, writes that:

Once again, Tony Burton has melded his incredible knowledge of Mexico into a masterful and very entertaining collection of perspectives into Mexico. Mexican Kaleidoscope is exactly what this book is: multiple views into the colorful and dramatic story of Mexico throughout its history.”

We hope you will enjoy this book as much as these advance reviewers did!

Feb 082016
 

Elsie Worthington Clews Parsons (1875-1941) was a woman way ahead of her time. Variously described as a “relentlessly modern woman”, “a pioneering feminist” and “eminent anthropologist”, she was all of these and so much more.

parsons-elsie-clewsParsons, born to a wealthy family in New York City on 27 November 1875, became one of America’s foremost anthropologists, but also made significant contributions as a sociologist and folklorist. She is best known for pioneering work among the Native American tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, including the Tewa and Hopi.

Parsons visited Mexico numerous times, and had spent extended periods in Mexico prior to her visit to Chapala in December 1932. On that occasion, she spent at least 10 days there; it is unclear if she revisited the lake area at any point after that.

She gained her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 1896, and then switched to Columbia University to study history and sociology for her master’s degree (1897) and Ph.D. (1899).

The following year, on 1 September 1900, she married lawyer and future Republican congressman Herbert Parsons, a political ally of President Roosevelt, in Newport, Rhode Island. She lectured in sociology at Barnard from 1902 to 1905, resigning to accompany her husband to Washington.

Her first book, The Family (1906) was a feminist tract founded on sociological research and analysis. Its discussion of trial marriage became both popular and notorious, leading Parsons to adopt the pseudonym “John Main” for her next two books: Religious Chastity (1913) and The Old Fashioned Woman (1913). She reverted to her own name for Fear and Conventionality (1914), Social Freedom (1915) and Social Rule (1916).

parsons-elsie-clews-2In 1919, she helped found The New School for Social Research in New York City and became a lecturer there. In that same year, Mabel Dodge Sterne (later Mabel Luhan), a wealthy American patron of the arts, moved to Taos, with her then husband Maurice, to start a literary colony there. Luhan sponsored D.H. Lawrence‘s initial visit to Taos in 1922-23 and helped Parsons with her research into local Native American culture and beliefs.

For more than 25 years, Parsons conducted methodical fieldwork and collected a vast amount of data from the Caribbean, U.S., Ecuador, Mexico and Peru, much of which she would eventually synthesize into major academic works. These include the widely acclaimed works about Zapotec Indians in Mexico: Mitla: Town of the Souls (1936), Native Americans in Pueblo Indian Religion(2 volumes, 1939), and Andean cultures in Peguche, Canton of Otavalo (1945).

She also published a number of works on West Indian and African American folklore, including Folk-Tales of Andros Island, Bahamas (1918); Folk-Lore from the Cape Verde Islands (1923); Folk-Lore of the Sea Islands, South Carolina (1923); and Folk-Lore of the Antilles, French and English (3 volumes, 1933–43).

Parsons served as associate editor for The Journal of American Folklore (1918-1941), president of the American Folklore Society (1919-1920) and president of the American Ethnological Society (1923-1925). At the time of her death, she had just been elected the first female president of the American Anthropological Association (1941).

Parsons’ visit to Lake Chapala in December 1932 is noteworthy for several reasons.

She was traveling with fellow anthropologist Ralph Beals (1901-1985). They had been working with the Cora and Huichol Indians at Tepic, Nayarit, and were on their way south towards Oaxaca. [Parsons, incidentally, was responsible for introducing Beals, who founded the anthropology and sociology departments at UCLA, to her anthropological fieldwork techniques. He employed similar techniques to great effect when he built on Parsons’ prior work at Mitla, and expanded it into his 1975 work, The Peasant Marketing System of Oaxaca, Mexico.]

Parsons and Beals arrived in Guadalajara by train from Tepic, but Parsons decided that  the city had little to offer ethnologically, so they chartered a car and drove to Chapala.

“There they settled into the inn, where Beals’s room looked out across an arm of the lake to a tree-embowered house where D. H. Lawrence had stayed a few years before.” “I have never been in such an enchanting place in my life,” Beals wrote Dorothy [his wife]. “If I had to pick just one place to go with you I’d certainly pick this.” (quoted in Deacon)

Parsons had heard that the villages around the lake performed an interesting version of the dance called La Conquista (The Conquest) in the multi-day celebrations for 12 December, Guadalupe Day. She and Beals took a boat to Ajijic on 15 December to watch events unfold, discovering that there were so few other spectators that the procession and dances were clearly held for the participants’ own pleasure. Parsons was not favorably impressed by Lake Chapala’s small villages, calling them “unattractive, as squalid as Spanish towns”, and concluding that, “They must have been settled by Spanish fishermen, and god knows what became of the Zacateca population.” [quoted in Deacon]

They spent ten days at Lake Chapala, during which time, according to Zumwalt, Parsons worked on an early draft of Pueblo Indian Religion.

Leaving Chapala, they took a two-hour launch ride to Ocotlán, before catching the train to Mexico City, where they arrived just in time for the social whirlwind of Christmas.

Several years later, Parsons published a short paper entitled “Some Mexican Idolos in Folklore”, in the May 1937 issue of The Scientific Monthly. This article included several mentions of Lake Chapala, with Parsons casting doubt on the authenticity of the stone ídolos (idols) collected there by some previous anthropologists and ethnographers.

Parsons describes how ever since the 1890s, there has been,

“at this little Lakeside resort a traffic in the ídolos which have been washed up from the lake or dug up in the hills back of town, in ancient Indian cemeteries, or faked by the townspeople. An English lady who visited Chapala thirty-nine years ago quotes Mr. Crow as saying that the ídolos sold Lumholtz were faked, information that the somewhat malicious Mr. Crow did not impart to the ethnologist.”

While Parsons is not sure what became of Lumholtz’s collection, she says that the items collected at about the same time by Frederick Starr, and which are now in the Peabody Museum in Cambridge (Harvard University), are definitely genuine and not faked.

The “Mr. Crow” referred to by Parsons is Septimus Crowe (1844-1903). [For more about Septimus Crowe and about the Lumholtz and Starr trips to Lake Chapala in the 1890s, see my Lake Chapala Through The Ages, an Anthology of Travellers’ Tales.]

One real mystery stemming from Parsons’ description above is the identity of the “English lady who visited Chapala thirty-nine years ago”. Just who was she? Clearly, she must have visited Chapala in the period 1895-1898. There seem to be two likely candidates. The first is The Honorable Selina Maud Pauncefote, daughter of the British Ambassador in Washington, who returned from a trip to Mexico in March 1896, coincidentally on the same train as Lumholtz. The only known article by Pauncefote relating to Chapala is “Chapala the Beautiful”, published in Harper’s Bazar (1900). It is very likely that she may met and knew Crowe, since he had been a British Vice Consul in Norway, though she makes no mention of him in her article. The second candidate is Adela Breton, a British artist who visited (and painted) several archaeological sites in Mexico in the years after 1894, though her connection to Septimus Crowe is less clear.

The bulk of Parsons’ paper is devoted to her argument that the Lake Chapala miniatures are prayer-images, similar to those used in Oaxaca and elsewhere:

“All the Chapala offerings are either perforated or of a form to which string could be tied. They may have been hung on a stick, a prayer-stick, just as the Huichol Indians hang their miniature prayer-images to-day.”

Fig 52 of Starr (1897)

Fig 52 of Starr (1897)

Parsons describes how some figurines of a dog (she actually had a faked copy of such a dog on her table at Chapala) had something in their mouth and a container on their back. The container, Parsons argues, was to carry humans across the river after death. Pet-lovers everywhere will rejoice to learn that:

“The dog ferryman belief is that if you treat dogs well a dog will carry you across the big river you have to cross in your journey after death… but if you have maltreated dogs, beating them or refusing them food, you will be left stranded on the river. The river dogs are black for an Indian, and the Zapotecs, and white for a Spaniard; white dogs will not carry an Indian lest they soil their coats – unless you have a piece of soap with you and promise to wash your ferryman on the other side. The burden or carrying basket of the Chapala Lake region, the ancient basket carried in the ancient way, by tumpline, is the exact shape of the object on the back of the dog figurine, narrow and deep and flaring toward the top.”

On 19 December 1941, after an amazingly productive and full life, Elsie Crews Parsons left New York City and was ferried across the river into the after-world.

Sources:

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Jul 272015
 

Dr. George Carpenter Barker  (1912-1958) was an anthropologist, author, editor and translator.

What makes Barker a worthy inclusion in our series of mini-biographies of artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala is his editing and translation of a copy of a manuscript found in Chapala in 1948 after a performance of a nativity play on Christmas morning in the village churchyard. The manuscript was apparently committed to paper, from older oral sources, by Aristeo Flores of El Salto, Jalisco, around 1914.

Barker’s 167-page translation was published as The shepherds’ play of the prodigal son: A folk drama of Old Mexico (University of California Publications: Folklore Studies, No. 2, Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. California Press, 1953).

This work was described in a review by Frank Goodwyn in Western Folklore (1954, p 220):

This is an unusually full and well-written version of the nativity play traditionally given on Christmas morning in Spanish-speaking countries…. Barker has made a close translation of the play and presented it in parallel text, thus making it intelligible to the English-speaking reader without losing the flavor of the original tongue. Barker concludes that “this version is more Mexican than Spanish”. “There is also a description of the play’s presentation on Christmas morning, 1948, at Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico, from the manuscript which Barker subsequently obtained and reproduced.”

It is unclear whether Barker personally visited Chapala in December 1948, or was sent the manuscript by an informant. (As always, we would love to learn more about his connections to Chapala – via our comments function or e-mail.)

Barker’s parents were California artist and art teacher George Barker (1882-1965) and his wife Olive Carpenter. the younger Barker gained a degree in history from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and an MS degree in journalism from Columbia University, before completing his masters and doctorate degrees in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

carpenter-george-cHe received his PhD in 1947 and then worked as a research associate in the Department of Anthropology, at the University of Arizona from 1947 to 1948. From 1950, until his death, he was a research associate in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at UCLA.

At UCLA, his research focused on Mexican-American youths in the Los Angeles area, though he never lost his interests in folklore and the religious ceremonies of various Southwest Indian tribes, including the Yaqui Indians of Sonora, Mexico.

Barker was the author of a number of articles in scholarly journals, and of the short studies entitled Pachuco: An American-Spanish Argot and its Social Functions in Tucson, Arizona (Univ. of Arizona Social Science Bulletin (1950) and Social Functions of Language in a Mexican American Community (Univ. of Arizona Press, 1972).

He was a member of various professional societies in several fields, including the American Anthropological Association and the Asociación Española de Etnología y Folklore (Madrid).

The Papers of George C. Barker now reside in the Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries.

Feb 162010
 

“A giant walked around and the ground cracked” (a Tarahumar legend explaining how the canyons were formed).

Mexico’s Copper Canyon is narrower, deeper and longer than the US Grand Canyon. The train ride from Los Mochis and El Fuerte to Divisadero, Creel and Chihuahua traverses the Western Sierra Madre with its imposing peaks and pine forests. This area is home to Mexico’s Tarahumar Indians, an indigenous group whose distinctive lifestyle has, thankfully, resisted many of the supposed allures of modern living.

This partial bibliography offers a varied selection of reading, both fiction and non-fiction, directly related to the Copper Canyon region and the Tarahumar people.

Alvarado, C.M. (1996) La Tarahumara: una tierra herida. Gobierno del Estado de Chihuahua. Somewhat repetitive academic analysis of the violence of the drug-producing zones in the state of Chihuahua, based in part on interviews with convicted felons.

Bennett, W. and Zingg, R. (1935) The Tarahumara. Univ. of Chicago Press. Reprinted by Rio Grande Press, 1976. Classic anthropological work.

Dunne, P.M. (1948) Early Jesuit Missions in Tarahumara. Univ. Calif. Press.

Fisher, R.D. (1988) National Parks of Northwest Mexico II. Sunracer Publications, Tucson, Arizona. Fisher is the author of numerous well illustrated works about the Canyon region.

Fontana, B.L. (1979) Where night is the day of the moon. Northland Press, Flagstaff, Arizona. Very colorful and interesting.

Gajdusek, D.C. (1953) “The Sierra Tarahumara” in Geographical Review, New York. 43: 15-38

Johnson, P.W. (1965) A Field Guide to the Gems and Minerals of Mexico. Gembooks, Mentone, California.

Kennedy, J.G. (1978) Tarahumara of the Sierra Madre; Beer, Ecology and Social Organization, AHM Publishing Corp, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Republished, as The Tarahumara of the Sierra Madre: Survivors on the Canyon’s Edge in 1996. – interesting account by an anthropologist who lived in one of the more remote Tarahumar areas for several months, accompanied by his wife and infant daughter. Kennedy also co-authored with Raul A. Lopez Semana Santa in the Sierra Tarahumara. A comparitive study in three communities. Museum of Cultural History, UCLA.

Kerr, J.L (1968) Destination Topolobampo: The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad, Golden West Books, San Marino, California. Difficult to find account of the railroad itself.

Lartigue, F. (1970) Indios y bosques. Políticas forestales y comunales en la Sierra Tarahumara. Edicions de la Casa Chata # 19, Mexico.

Lumholtz, C. (1902) Unknown Mexico. 2 volumes. Scribner’s Sons, New York. Republished in both English and Spanish. Fascinating ethnographic account from the last century.

Merrill, W.L. (1988) Raramuri Souls – Knowledge and Social Progress in North Mexico. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Nauman, T. (1997) “Tala ilegal para la siembra de mariguana y opio en Chihuahua” p. 50 in El Financiero, May 12, 1997. Describes the Arareko project.

Norman, James (1976) “The Tarahumaras: Mexico’s Long Distance Runners” in National Geographic, May 1976. pp 702-718

Pennington, C. (1963) The Tarahumar of Mexico, their environment and material culture. Univ. of Utah Press. Reprinted by Editorial Agata, Guadalajara, 1996. Another classic account of Tarahumar life and culture. The reprint has additional color photographs, taken by Luis Verplancken, S.J., who has run the mission in Creel for many years.

Plancarte, F. (1954) El problema indígena tarahumara. INI. Mexico. Spanish language description published by National Indigenous Institute.

Robertson, T.A. (1964) A Southwestern Utopia. An American Colony in Mexico. Ward Ritchie, Los Angeles. This describes the early history of Los Mochis and surrounding area.

Roca, P.M. (1979) Spanish Jesuit Churches in Mexico’s Tarahumara. Univ. of Arizona.

Salopek, Paul (1996) “Sierra Madre – Backbone of the Frontier” in National Geographic, August 1996.

Schmidt, R.H. (1973) A Geographical Survey of Chihuahua, monograph #37 Texas Western Press.

Shepherd, G. (1938) The Silver Magnet. E.P.Dutton, New York. The story of Batopilas mining town.

Shoumatoff, A. (1995) “The Hero of the Sierra Madre” pp 90 – 99 of Utne Reader (July-August, 1995), reprinted from Outside (March 1995). An account of the determined efforts by Edwin Bustillos to prevent further environmental destruction in the Copper Canyon region.

Spicer, E. (1969) “Northwest Mexico: Introduction” in Handbook of Middle American Indians vol.8, Ethnology part II. Univ. of Texas Press.

Vatant, Francoise. La explotación forestal y la producción doméstica tarahumara. Un estudio de caso: Cusárare, 1975-1976. INAH, Mexico.

Villaseñor, Victor (1992) Rain of gold. Delta. A Mexican-American novel based on family tale of dreams, mines and wealth and Revolution.

Feb 042010
 

Cover of The Tarahumar of MexicoThe Tarahumar of Mexico, Their Environment and Material Culture contains a wealth of valuable information about one of Mexico’s most distinctive indigenous groups.

Published by Editorial Agata, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, 1996. Soft Cover. Book Condition: New but appears lightly used with minor shelfwear rubbing. Only a few copies remain; this publisher is no longer in business.

This book has 33 b/w photographs, 12 full-color photographs (found only in this edition), and 4 fold out maps in the back pocket (Two maps show the historical boundaries of the Tarahumar country; one map shows mean annual precipitation, and the fourth map shows physiographic regions; all maps are 1:500,000 scale).

Dimensions (in inches): 8.6 x 5.75 x 0.6.  Price: US $20.00 [plus shipping; contact us for options]

Details:

The Tarahumar (more commonly, but less correctly, the Tarahumara) live in the Copper Canyon region of Northern Mexico. In many ways, their way of life has remained unchanged for centuries. This area has spectacular scenery, and numerous massive canyons. The main canyon – the Urique Canyon – is longer,  deeper and narrower than the US Grand Canyon, so ‘spectacular’ is definitely the right word! The famous Copper Canyon railway, linking Los Mochis and El Fuerte to Divisadero and Creel. passes right through this area.

One subgroup of Tarahumar Indians moves with the seasons from caves near the canyon rim in summer to camps near the canyon floor (at lower altitude where the weather is warmer) during the winter.

The Tarahumar are the subject of several anthropological classics, and this is definitely one of them. This study integrated available archeological data and historical material with extensive field work among the Tarahumar in 1955. The book includes a discussion of agriculture; gardening; tree culture; food preparation; hunting; gathering and fishing; animal husbandry; beverages; ceremonies; games; drug plants; leather, fibers, textiles and personal adornment; and household articles and habitations.

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