On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado

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On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado
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On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado
Jenks, Kelly L.
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 9:44:43 AM] Home On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic ColoradoOn the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic ColoradoSubmitted by nwharton on 7-31-2012 02:25 PMAuthor: Bonnie J. Clark Publishing: Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press and the Society for Historical Archaeology, 2011. Reviewer: Kelly L. Jenks Reviewer Affiliation: Fort Lewis College Bonnie J. Clark offers a concise, dense, and richly textured account of daily life in the late-nineteenth-century Hispanic settlements of rural southeastern Colorado. In this book, she presents the results of her doctoral research at two Hispanic sites located within the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Area, just west of the Lower Purgatory River. Clark draws on numerous and diverse sources to craft a sense of the people who inhabited these places, and to explore the relationship between their identitiesboth as an ethnic group and as individualsand their lived environment. Historical archaeologists (such as Clark and myself) like to imagine ourselves as democratizing history, offering a voice to those populations who, for various reasons, were unable to speak for themselves. We also pride ourselves on being able to offer things that historians generally cannot: a sense of the lived experience of the textures, tastes, smells, and overall routines of daily life. Clark succeeds on both counts, and in a way that pushes the boundaries of what historical archaeologists can and should do. She focuses on these settlers because of who and where they werepeople who were becoming displaced minorities in what was once, and very recently, their homeland. The rapid expansion of Anglo-Americans into the region during the late nineteenth century turned this portion of the Hispano homeland into a cultural frontier, within which notions of Hispanic and Anglo identity formed and changed. The two Hispanic sites discussed in this book were constructed and abandoned during this time, and their study provided Clark with the opportunity to consider what it meant to be Mexicano in Colorado near the end of the nineteenth century(127). Further, because these were essentially squatter settlements and thus were never recorded in local tax or property records, they are historical sites with no written documentationan unusual challenge for a historical archaeologist. And yet, as Clark rightly points out, if historical archaeologists are serious about telling a more democratic history, then we also need to learn how to do research on sites with little or no documentation (xix). After all, who else can tell their story? Clarks main argument revolves around the relationship between people and places, and some of her most interesting observations are on the competing views held by Hispanic and Anglo-American settlers about this particular land. The Hispanic settlers derived from the New Mexico Territory, where Spanish colonists learned to live on the land by irrigating and farming the river valleys and herding sheep in the highlands. Spanish land tenure practices and property laws supported this way of life, offering large grants of land to EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanThe Ute people have lived in Colorado longer than anyone else.


On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 9:44:43 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us communities who worked together on irrigation projects and shared access to common grazing lands and other natural resources. In contrast, American immigrants came to southeastern Colorado from more lush and better-watered environs in the East, operating within a legal system that encouraged family units to claim and support themselves on individual homesteads, even when these homesteads were not situated near water. While the Americans were forced to adapt some of their property laws and practices to suit this new environment, the imposition of their laws had serious consequences for the Hispanic inhabitants, resulting in a dramatic decline in land ownership and a corresponding increase in wage labor on AngloAmerican ranches. During this period one finds small squatter settlements like those discussed here, in which Hispanic families attempted to maintain their traditional ways while adapting to the necessary changes brought about by dislocation and wage labor. Clark brings these families alive by examining material remnants of their daily lifeshowing how the men, but especially the women and children, adapted to this new and ultimately unsustainable way of life. In sum, Clarks work is well-written, interesting, and accessible to a wide audience. The different chapters utilize pieces published previously in other venues, and my only mild critique is that these different sections are not as well integrated, or as fully developed, as they might be. Nevertheless, this slight dissonance allows readers to approach the subject from various perspectives, gaining new and often surprising insights into this period, people, and place. Speaking of the bigger and more interesting of the two sites, Clark says, I am pretty sure that I find it such a compelling place because its Hispanic inhabitants worked very hard to make it one (117). Her admiration for these settlers translates well in this book, and makes it an equally compelling read. Reviewer Info: Kelly L. Jenks is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Fort Lewis College, and she is affiliated with the colleges Gender and Womens Studies Program. Her research focuses on the archaeology and history of Hispanic settlement in the Southwest.