In the Lands of Fire and Sun


In the Lands of Fire and Sun

Resistance and Accommodation in the Huichol Sierra, 1723–1930

Michele McArdle Stephens

222 pages
4 photographs, 5 illustrations, 5 maps, index


May 2018


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2018


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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May 2018


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About the Book

The Huichols (or Wixárika) of western Mexico are among the most resilient and iconic indigenous groups in Mexico today. In the Lands of Fire and Sun examines the Huichol Indians as they have struggled to maintain their independence over two centuries. From the days of the Aztec Empire, the history of west-central Mesoamerica has been one of isolation and a fiercely independent spirit, and one group that maintained its autonomy into the days of Spanish colonization was the Huichol tribe. Rather than assimilating into the Hispanic fold, as did so many other indigenous peoples, the Huichols sustained their distinct identity even as the Spanish Crown sought to integrate them. In confronting first the Spanish colonial government, then the Mexican state, the Huichols displayed resilience and cunning as they selectively adapted their culture, land, and society to the challenges of multiple new eras.

By incorporating elements of archaeology, anthropology, cultural geography, and history, Michele McArdle Stephens fills the gaps in the historical documentation, teasing out the indigenous voices from travel accounts, Spanish legal sources, and European ethnographic reports. The result is a thorough examination of one of the most vibrant, visible societies in Latin America.

Author Bio

Michele McArdle Stephens is an assistant professor of Latin American history at West Virginia University specializing in Latin American communities. 


"Stephens . . . is among the first scholars to tap Spanish and Mexican archives for primary sources on Huichol history. Using both documentary and published sources, she weaves a concise, accessible narrative of the Huichol from the conquest to the present day, paying particular attention to their resistance to missionizing and continual dogged defense of their lands in times of peace and war. Stephens highlights the paradox of Huichol indigenous identity: the fact that a people perennially fractured by political and local identities might still so successfully maintain their ethnic identity and autonomy. There is no better single introduction to the study of Huichol history."—P.R. Sullivan, Choice

"This is an interesting study for anybody interested in the history of Mexico, Latin America, and the native people around the world, and in particular the Huichol."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Journal

"Fluidly written and accessible."—Zachary Brittsan, American Historical Review

"This is an important addition to the scholarship on interactions between indigenous peoples and the state in peripheral regions."—Leslie S. Offutt, Hispanic American Historical Review

“A much-needed addition to the scholarship on the Huichol and on indigenous peoples in Mexico more generally. Unlike most studies of indigenous peoples, In the Lands of Fire and Sun effectively spans the colonial and modern periods, demonstrating the incredible continuity in Huichol resistance and adaptation. . . . It will be an excellent choice for single-semester surveys of Mexican history as well as upper-division and graduate courses in history, anthropology, and indigenous studies.”—Andrae Marak, dean of the College of Arts and Science at Governors State University


“McArdle Stephens delivers carefully measured arguments in prose that is at once vivid, reflective, and a pleasure to read. . . . In the Lands of Fire and Sun is ethnohistory as it should be: acutely sensitive to local detail while casting a sophisticated gaze on the politics of a changing world.”—Raphael Folsom, associate professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and author of The Yaquis and the Empire: Violence, Spanish Imperial Power, and Native Resilience in Colonial Mexico

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. From Native Neighbors to Spanish Conquerors
2. Facing the Young Nation-State
3. Between Tolerance and Rejection of the Church
4. In Defense of Lands
5. Foreign Scholars as Tools of Resistance
6. A Revolution Comes to the Huichols

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