Chris Kyle has composed a fine book on the history of an economic region in southern Mexico from the pre-Columbian era down to the present. A cultural anthropologist rather than an historian, the author used both ethnological investigation and archival research in assembling this study. Kyle divides his work into six chapters that deal substantially with different historical periods, plus an introduction and conclusion. Since 1990, he has spent about three years in Chilapa and the greater Atemba River basin for which the town has served as a primary market.

Chilapa served as a regional market throughout the colonial period. Its local economy relied on cacao beans as a standard of exchange into the early national era. In the 1790s, Chilapa’s population numbered around 10,000. In the 1840s, it had risen to 14,000, but by 1860 the population had fallen to 6,500 and would stay at that figure for 90...

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