A Historical Archaeology of Early Spanish Colonial Urbanism in Central America
William R. Fowler
“A monumental testament to the potent role of cities in the genesis of the early modern world. Intimate archaeological and historical detail and sweeping theoretical vistas help us appreciate one of the first and best-preserved cities in Spanish America.”—Kathryn E. Sampeck, coeditor of Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica
“An in-depth consideration of the nature of early Spanish colonial urbanism within the broader constructs of landscape, practice, and power theory. Fowler’s observations will be the grist for those considering continuity and change over the four centuries of the Spanish New World experience. A must-read.”—Russell K. Skowronek, coauthor of Ceramic Production in Early Hispanic California: Craft, Economy, and Trade on the Frontier of New Spain
In this milestone work, William Fowler uses archaeology, history, and social theory to show that the establishment of cities was essential to Spanish colonialism. Fowler draws upon decades of archaeological research on the landscape, built environment, and architecture of Ciudad Vieja, a sixteenth-century site located in present-day El Salvador and the best-preserved Spanish colonial city in Latin America.
Fowler compares Ciudad Vieja to other urban sites in the region and to the tradition of urbanism in early modern Spain to determine how the Spanish grid-plan layout was modified and implemented in the Americas. Using extensive archival material, Fowler describes how this layout reflected and perpetuated power structures that benefited the Spanish although the city’s Indigenous population was greater in number. Fowler analyzes recorded interactions between colonists, Indigenous peoples, and enslaved Africans to demonstrate the ways the cityscape affected the relationships among individuals and cultural groups.
Offering an unparalleled view into a critical moment in Latin American history, this book offers new ways of looking at urbanism and colonialism as intertwined forces in the emergence of the early modern world.
William R. Fowler, associate professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, is the author of The Cultural Evolution of Ancient Nahua Civilizations: The Pipil-Nicarao of Central America and editor of The Formation of Complex Society in Southeastern Mesoamerica.
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