This little volume is the result of a one-day symposium held at UCLA on December 4, 1965. There were seven participants, of whom five were from UCLA and two from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. Six of the seven participants were anthropologists and one a geographer. The work contains an introduction by Johannes Wilbert, in which he stresses the value of interdisciplinary research. This seems to be rather conspicuously lacking in this volume, however, since all of the papers are by anthropologists, except one which is by a geographer.
The first paper is called “Man and Nature in Mesoamerica: The Ecologic Base.” It is written by Henry J. Burman and is devoted to the physical and geographic land forms in the area, the climatic and biotic environments, the animal resources, the plant resources, and the methods of food procurement in Mesoamerica.
Chapters follow on archaeology by José L. Lorenzo (“Mesoamerican Beginnings: Economies Based on Hunting, Gathering, and Incipient Agriculture”) and one by H. B. Nichols (“The Efflorescence of Mesoamerican Civilization: A Resume”). The last is concerned with the whole period from the appearance of ceramics to the conquest. Other papers appear on “The Mesoamerican Indian During the Colonial Period” by Pedro Carraso and on “Mesoamerica: Remnant Heritage” by Ralph Beals. This latter is devoted largely to the problem of identifying the Indian because of the mestizaje, both racial and cultural, that has taken place over the years.
The final chapter by Fernando Cámara is called “Contemporary Mexican Indian Cultures: The Problem of Integration.” The author comments on the great diversity in subcultures of Mexico wherein widespread illiteracy, poverty, and lack of sociopolitical participation prevail. He advocates various measures for improving the levels of living, including the immediate doubling of minimum salaries “and then proportionately the salaries of other groups.” He contends that this transformation should be most drastic in the intellectual and social spheres and advocates “a real revolution in teaching materials and in subject matter taught presenting the regional, national, and international problems of the modern world.” He does not indicate how all these things can be done, but feels that “with Anthropology’s help . . . the actual attainment of the long-sought objective of a truly integrated Mexican nation may finally lie within our grasp” (p. 109).
Although the title of this little book is a bit pretentious, it contains useful summaries and has helpful lists of pertinent references following each chapter.