Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, by Inga Clendinnen

By Inga Clendinnen

In what's either a selected examine of conversion in a nook of the Spanish Empire and a piece with implications for the knowledge of eu domination and local resistance during the colonial international, Inga Clendinnen explores the intensifying clash among competing and more and more divergent Spanish visions of Yucatan and its damaging results. In Ambivalent Conquests Clendinnen penetrates the considering and feeling of the Mayan Indians in an in depth reconstruction in their overview of the intruders. This new version includes a preface through the writer the place she displays upon the book's contribution some time past fifteen years. Inga Clendinnen is Emeritus student, LaTrobe college, Australia. Her books comprise the acclaimed interpreting the Holocaust (Cambridge, 1999), named a most sensible publication of the 12 months through the recent York occasions e-book evaluate, and Aztec: An Interpretation (Cambridge, 1995), and Tiger's Eye: A Memoir (Scribner, 2001).

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Are we then looking at an example of 'native thought', capable only of reaction and not effective prose­ cution? Was each group of Maya still obstinately parochial, despite their coalitions, and concerned only to see the intruders leave their own territory? Or were they persuaded, on sufficiently 'rational' grounds, given past experience, that the Spaniards were essentially birds of passage who would, if sufficiently discouraged, remove themselves from the peninsula once more and for good? Probably- as far as the relatively opaque sources permit us to see­ something of each of the last two elements shaped Maya response.

As the little bands struggled in from the coasts the men came to discover that the whole northern section of the peninsula had no rivers, no streams, and no drinkable surface water at all, save that little caught in hard rock depressions, man-made or natural, during the rains. The whole peninsula was a great limestone shelf, and permanent water could be found only where the surface crust had broken away to form sinkholes, or 'cenotes' as the Spaniards -prepared in this vital matter to follow Maya usage­ learnt to call them, giving access to the water table beneath (in the south, where soil was deeper and rain heavier, there was too much water, and expeditions struggled and floundered through endless morasses and swamps).

And from tense, excited soldiers guessing at the size of their prize in the lottery of the New World we must expect both conscious and . unconscious exaggeration. 6 They were modest places altogether, with often enough the only stone ,fpaniards 24 building being the pyramid-platform of the temple. The houses of the lords were rarely built of stone, and were distinguished only by size and preferred position from the wattle-and-daub dwellings of the commoners. The Spaniards were aware of the imbalance between the towns of the coasts and of the interior, but they gave little attention to the reasons for it.

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