Scholars have yet to understand well the role of indigenous people in Mexican independence. In her question-provoking new study of several Metepec altepetl in the Toluca Valley, Miriam Melton-Villanueva starts with Eric Van Young’s view that the Nahua kept themselves in a traditional holding pattern, maintaining a local identity, reproducing their culture as though there were no crisis. Van Young found 50–60 percent of independence insurgents were indigenous, but many central Mexican indigenous communities remained royalist.1 Which of the Toluca Valley communities made the choice to join or not join the Mexican insurgency and why? Regardless of the title, The Aztecs at Independence, Melton-Villanueva has other concerns in mind. She works “to glimpse an understanding of the world as lived by people who left us their ideas, instead of comparing them to outside concepts (especially European hierarchies so commonly assumed)”...

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