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Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570 (Cambridge Latin American Studies) 2nd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521527316
ISBN-10: 0521527317
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Clendinnen's elegantly written work describes the devastating effects of Spanish conquest and settlement on the politically fragmented Maya of the Yucatan until 1570.... Her account of the 1562 investigation into Maya religious practices and the political conflicts that accompanied it makes fascinating reading." Choice

"This is a splendid book by a gifted historian. With great subtlety and imagination, Inga Clendinnen draws us into the swirls of missteps, ambitions, deceptions, and fantasies that constituted the conquest drama in Yucatan....Clendinnen has written a remarkably powerful and compelling book....This study ranks among the very best scholarship on the region and will dazzle any serious student of native American peoples, Christian missionaries, and colonial situations." American Historical Review

Book Description

This is both a specific study of conversion in a corner of the Spanish Empire, and a work with implications for the understanding of European domination and native resistance throughout the colonial world. Dr. Clendinnen explores the intensifying conflict between competing and increasingly divergent Spanish visions of Yucatan and its destructive outcomes. She seeks to penetrate the ways of thinking and feeling of the Mayan Indians in a detailed reconstruction of their assessment of the intruders.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Latin American Studies (Book 61)
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (April 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521527317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521527316
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Clendinnen's book is excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in colonial Latin America. The book focuses on the Yucatan peninsula. Clendinnen looks at the Spanish side of things first, then at how the Maya understood--and resisted--their new rulers. A central figure in the book is the Franciscan Diego de Landa. Landa is portayed as both a man dedicated to God, and as a man with a sadistic streak. He strongly suspected that the Maya were continuing to practice idolotry rather than the Catholicism Landa wanted them to adopt. As a result, Landa brought the Spanish Inquisition to Yucatan. Landa also had a strong will to power; Clendinnen covers his battles, mostly victorious, with other Spanish officials. The second section of the book deals with the Mayan response to things Spanish. She attempts to sort out truth from fiction in the "confessions" wrung out of the Maya by the Spanish Inquisitors. One of the more interesting aspects of this is Clendinnen's discussion of how the Maya appear to have adopted certain elements of Christianity while retaining most of their own beliefs. Anyone interested in religious syncretism or retlations between conquerer and conquered would do well to pick up this book.
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By A Customer on October 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Overall, Inga Clendinnen's book serves as a vivid illustration of history. The images from the text stick to memory, and specific events and people (Diego de Landa, Nachi Cocom, Francisco Hernandez, and Fray Francisco de Toral) from almost five hundred years ago, come alive. The book is divided in two parts: the Spaniards and Indians, where what happened in Yucatan between 1517 and 1570 is examined from two different perspectives. It almost seems like there are two books within a book, as there are two beginnings and two epilogues, yet the connection between the two parts is never lost. The structure of the book is not only interesting, but also appropriate to the message the author seeks to convey: it illustrates the idea of "confusion of tongues", the fact that the perceptions of the Maya and the Spaniard were almost irreconcilably different. The book is also thoroughly researched, employing both primary and secondary sources. I enjoyed Clendinnen's discussions of the books of Chilam Bilam, of Landa's Relacion de Las Cosas de Yucatan, and of the confessions that Landa extracted from the Indians in 1562. I also appreciated the fact that where information is unavailable, and deduction from what is known goes a little far, the author is not afraid to acknowledge it. I should also mention that the author makes an implicit assumption that the reader is Christian, and has a good understanding of Christian faith and practices. When explaining Mayan human sacrifice, for example, Clendinnen writes that "we have somehow to detach ourselves from our Christian-drenched notions of sacrifice...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This is really the first book I read in depth on the subject of the Maya. I have read substantial parts of other books, but this author's approach is remarkable in that she is able to delineate at all times between the religious and the historical which can be very much intertwined during this amazing period. It is clear that the histories of the Inca, Maya, and Aztec are very much different. You get from her account an almost novel type of reading experience as it becomes so lifelike. It is truly a remarkable book about a fascinating and extremely resilient and committed people. It was not easy for me to read in the sense that it so dense as far as the knowledge is concerned, and I was hurried. But it is extremely well documented and this helps a great deal in cementing one's understanding to the truth of what actually took place. It is truly a tragic period in human history presented in great clarity and compassion.
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Format: Paperback
The Spanish Conquest of the Americas has primarily been discussed in militaristic terms. Cortes and his small band of Spaniards, along with several thousand disaffected native allies marched on the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and in brilliant (some would say fortuitous) military maneuvering subjugated the New World. However, thanks to the efforts of historians like Dr. Inga Clendinnen, of La Trope University in Australia, zones of proximal development are reshaped. The Aztec were not the only ones conquered. Dr. Clendinnen's awarding winning work, Ambivalent Conquests, Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570, suggests that the Spanish not only went and conquered several New World cultures militarily, but spiritually as well. As the title suggests, the work focuses primarily on the Mayan culture in the Yucatan peninsula in the years following the military conquest. Clendinnen's meticulous research and easy conversational reading successfully argues that the Mayan developed a passive resistant syncretism to the spiritual conquest that was imposed upon them. The New World cultures accepted military defeat, but in an effort to keep some semblance of their former lives (in this case, the Maya) would pay lip service to the Spaniards' religion, but would still practice the hated idolatry in secret. While the conquerors were assimilating the Maya, the Maya were assimilating the conquerors' religion. This in turn necessitated the extension of the inquisition by the Spaniards to the New World in the paradox of Christianity at the time - convert or be killed. Clendinnen shows that the ambivalence was not how the New Worlders would come to know Christianity,rather, how the religious and the Old World settlers in their "competing visions" for what the Yucatan would eventually become. Dr. Inga Clendinnen deftly uses the historical brush to paint a picture of Mayan syncretism. The title is apropos; not only were the Indians of the New World conquered militarily, but spiritually as well.
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