The facts and ideas presented in this paper are the product of a research project called the ‘Jaliscan Institute of Anthropology and History’s (IJAH – The Instituto Jalisciense de Antropología e Historia) Role in Archaeological Research: the history of archaeology in Jalisco’. This project has been ongoing since 2008, involving collaboration between IJAH and the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. Its primary goal has been to contextualize the academic, social, and political conditions that determined archaeological research in the Mexican state of Jalisco during the period between 1959 and 1973. During these years, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) did not have an office in West Mexico and it had to rely on IJAH to ensure that national cultural heritage laws were upheld. Additionally, we were interested in the theoretical positions of the archaeologists working in Western Mexico during this period and in the institutional viewpoints of the organizations, government or otherwise, that were involved in cultural heritage management.
Based on the objectives of our research project, we consider that our work can be best described from a theoretical position, as the ‘anthropology of archaeology’, as set out by Castañeda (2008), who proposed that this position ‘is primarily focused on the political, economic, and social dimensions of how archaeology constructs, produces, disseminates, markets, and even consumes “the past”’ (Castañeda 2008: 33). Furthermore, Castañeda identifies four types of study objectives: discourse and representation, heritage and tourism industry, institution, and science. These are the subjects that we will discuss in this paper. Finally, we approach three series of problems in the ‘anthropology of archaeology’, namely: agency, contexts and interlocutors, and situated action (Castañeda 2008). During the research process, we identified some ways in which the Mexican State builds and negotiates the pre-Columbian past as a foundation of Mexican national identity. On this basis, it is possible to understand how agencies, government or non-government, are involved with archaeological heritage and how they utilize ‘the past’.
The methodology of the project involved at least three stages of work. First, we recovered information in IJAH’s archives and other document collections. Second, we identified and located social actors from this period and carried out ethnographic interviews with them. Third, we confronted the data obtained in the preceding stages and analyzed them. Owing to the historical nature of our work, as part of the first step we revised, digitized, and analyzed the historical portion of IJAH’s archives. Later, we assisted other archives by applying the same procedures. So far, these have included the University of Guadalajara Historical Archive, in Guadalajara, Mexico, and INAH’s Archaeology Council Technical Archive in Mexico City. The information recovered from all these repositories is the raw material for our research.
The twentieth century was a period during which the relationship between the governments of Mexico and the U.S.A. experienced sharp fluctuations. During this time archaeologists from the U.S.A. were always present and working in Mexico. However the dominance of the U.S. in the relationship between the two, caused Mexicans to distrust the actions of both U.S. citizens and government.
The year 1910 marked the ‘true’ beginning of the twentieth century for Mexico, because it was the beginning of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), that changed the country’s social and economic structures. The U.S. government had an active role in this conflict, granting, or withdrawing, recognition of Mexican governments at their convenience, thereby manipulating the sale of arms to warring parties. In 1914, the U.S. Navy invaded the port of Veracruz, recalling the events of the Mexican-American War of 1847 (when Mexico was stripped of more than half of its territory – i.e. of what are now the U.S. states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and half of Colorado) (Aguilar Casas 2013). Nevertheless, academic collaboration, between Mexican and U.S. archaeologists, was never suspended as the result of the Mexican Revolution. In 1911 the ‘Escuela Internacional de Arqueología y Etnología Americanas’ (International School of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Americas) was founded in Mexico City by Franz Boas, Manuel Gamio, and Eduard Seler inter alia, primarily to educate Mexican anthropologists. In the area of archaeological research, the school contributed fundamentally through its introduction of stratigraphical excavations (Bernal 1979).
Despite the end of the Mexican Revolution, the U.S. government continued intervening in Mexico’s politics. Between 1920 and the start of the World War II, the relationship between the two countries remained difficult due to events such as the U.S. government’s lack of recognition of the new Mexican government, emanating from the Mexican Revolution, and the Mexican government’s conflict with U.S. oil companies related to the nationalization and expropriation of oil reserves by President Lázaro Cardenas in 1938. During this period (1920–1940), the Mexican government founded INAH and the ‘Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia’ (ENAH, National School of Anthropology and History), which became responsible for the protection of archaeological heritage and the education of new archaeologists. From then until the 1970s, the Mexican anthropologist, Alfonso Caso, was the most influential academic in Mexican archaeology (Bernal 1979). At the same time, refugees arriving in Mexico from Germany and Spain included prominent anthropologists like Paul Kirchhoff, Juan Comas, Pedro Bosch Gimpera and Pedro Armillas, who became important professors in ENAH (Litvak King 1997). Meanwhile, U.S. archaeologists continued to work in Mexico. In West Mexico the presence of professionals like Isabel Kelly, Robert Lister, and Gordon Ekholm was important because they undertook initial archaeological work in the region (Bernal 1979).
After World War II, a wave of U.S. citizens arrived to study archaeology in Mexico. In words of Jaime Litvak King (1997):
At the end of the war and through the 1950s the G. I. Bill was instrumental in getting many American archaeologists to study in Mexico. Many took anthropology courses at ENAH and at Mexico City College (later known as Universidad de las Américas), where they were trained by Caso’s team and by Armillas and Noguera.
The 1960s was a period of social effervescence in Mexico, with the students’ protests of 1968, one of the most important social movements, taking place in Mexico City. There was a major change in academic archaeology at this time, as Litvak King (1997) describes it:
Some researchers – particularly José Luis Lorenzo in Mexico and Luis Alberto Lumbreras in Peru – felt that much of Latin American archaeology had lost its way. Its subordination to the tourist industry and government monumentalism had deprived it of its will to conduct research. State political pressures required that the social aspects of archaeology be ignored. A new proposition, clearly related to development in Europe rather to the United States, was being developed with archaeology as history – not anthropology – and aspects such the creation and development of the State were becoming important for discussion. This ‘social archaeology’ made a clear impact in theory and in education, although it was not considered important in the way archaeological research was conducted.
In West Mexico, a new group of U.S. archaeologists began to work, among them were Clement W. Meighan, Charles Kelley, Betty Bell, Leonard J. Foote, Peter Furst, Phil C. Weigand, and Joseph B. Mountjoy. Most of them were PhD students who were starting their careers.
In the first half of the 1970s the Mexican government was led by President Luis Echeverría Álvarez, who used leftist rhetoric, and espoused the Third World Movement. He promoted Mexican nationalism, enacted new laws for the protection of archaeological heritage in Mexico, and promoted INAH’s growth so that it became a real national institute. Anthropologists and archaeologists sympathetic to the policies of President Echeverría were also promoted to managerial positions in INAH. During this period there was an increase in nationalist spirit, in being proud of Mexican identity and culture, and also in being proud of Mexican independence, and the security of not needing the protection of foreign countries, and especially, of not needing the protection of the U.S.
For a long time in Mexico, archaeology was considered to be of, and in the public’s interest, was well as being an academic and scientific activity. From the very beginning of the politically independent Mexican Republic in 1821, the state was involved in archaeological research. In 1825, the Mexican government founded the ‘Museo Nacional Mexicano’ (Mexican National Museum), and among its objectives was the promotion of Mexican identity. For that, pre-Columbian artefacts were very important and their collection and display were the basic tasks of the museum (Rico Mansard 2008). However, only near the end of the nineteenth century, in 1885, did the Mexican Government fund the first office to protect and conserve archaeological heritage in the field, creating the position of the ‘Inspector General y Conservador de los Monumentos Arqueológicos de la República Mexicana’ (Archaeological Monuments’ General Inspector and Curator of the Mexican Republic) (Lorenzo 1976).
On February 3rd, 1939 INAH was founded by President Lázaro Cárdenas’ administration, and according to its law of enactment its functions included: 1) the exploration of archaeological zones, 2) archaeological, historical, and artistic monument vigilance, conservation, and restoration, and 3) scientific and artistic research on the archaeology, history, anthropology, and ethnography of Mexico. Initially, INAH had only three departments: the Archaeology, History, and Ethnography National Museum, the Pre-Hispanic Monuments Directorate, and the Colonial Monuments Directorate (Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) 1939). Even though INAH’s authority theoretically covered the whole of Mexican territory, from 1939 until 1973 it did not have any effective presence throughout the whole of the country.
The West Mexican Society for Advanced Study was another interesting institution. Founded on a similar basis to other academic societies such as the American Anthropological Association, or the Society for American Archaeology, its creation was the initiative of archaeologist Betty Bell, and her husband, William W. Winnie Jr. Many distinguished archaeologists, anthropologists, and scholars, both Mexican and American, were members, among them were: Ignacio Bernal, Donald D. Brand, Beatriz Braniff, Pedro Carrasco, Michael D. Coe, George M. Foster, Robert E. Greengo, Wigberto Jiménez Moreno, J. Charles Kelley, José Luis Lorenzo, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, H. B. Nicholson, Otto Schöndube, Stuart D. Scott, and Phil C. Weigand (Martínez Ugarte 1972). Nevertheless, Mexican archaeologists had a low participation rate in the society’s business. Actually, it is only possible to see the presence of Mexican archaeologists in a book published by the society, i.e. in Betty Bell’s book (Bell 1974) to which Otto Schöndube (1974) and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Isabel Kelly (1974) contributed. In this sense, it is clear that the society worked like an American institution in Mexico, and this was recognized by the society’s articles of incorporation, as the excerpt below, from a memorandum of the society detailed:
The West Mexican Society for Advanced Study was founded as a Mexican civil association in Guadalajara, Jalisco in 1971. Its purposes are:
- To promote research on West Mexico, principally in the following fields: (a) Anthropology and related fields; (b) history; (c) the urbanization process; and (d) in the future, other fields which may be designated by the Executive Council.
- To facilitate study by Mexican and foreign institutions or individuals interested in the fields in which the Society is active, and to promote collaboration among them.
- To facilitate post-graduate study by people from this region in universities outside the country and vice versa.
- To serve as liaison and a means of coordination between institutions and researchers working in this region, and those elsewhere who have the same objectives.
- To organize and operate an information center relative to the proposed subject matter and region.
- To create a center for advanced study of West Mexico, with the participation of national and foreign institutions interested in the professional fields proposed by the Society (Sociedad de Estudios Avanzados del Occidente de México (SEAOM) ca. 1972).
The society’s articles of incorporation established that its term would be for fifty years after its foundation. However, after only three or four years, its activities suddenly ceased. However, between 1972 and 1974 the society was very productive in archaeology. With help from the society, in October 9, 1972, the ‘Local Anthropology Museum’ was founded in a building donated by the Jalisco State Government in Ajijic. Projects negotiated and managed by the society included: the Marismas Nacionales Archaeological Project, directed by Scott D. Stuart; the Ahualulco, Jalisco Archaeological Survey, proposed by Joseph B. Mountjoy; the Archaeological Investigations in the States of Durango, Jalisco, and Zacatecas, under the general supervision of J. Charles Kelley; and the Teocaltiche, Jalisco, Archaeological Project and El Grillo, Zapopan Jalisco, Archaeological Salvage, both directed by Betty Bell (SEAOM 1971). In addition, there was a publications program that resulted in two books: El Gran Xalisco. La historia cultural del occidente de México (Bell 1972) and The Archaeology of West Mexico (Bell 1974).
Unfortunately, on July 25, 1974, and without any apparent reasons, INAH ordered the dismantling of the Local Anthropology Museum and the transfer of its archaeological artefacts to INAH’s Centro Regional de Occidente, along with the archaeological material that was not being used in the archaeological projects of Betty Bell, J. Charles Kelley, and Stuart D. Scott, which were to be stored in the same place (INAH 1974). After this date we have not found any more information about the relationship between INAH and the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study.
During the period under study, there were three consecutive laws that governed archaeological research in Mexico. From 1934 to 1970, the Archaeological and Historical Monuments, Typical Towns, and Natural Beauty Places’ Protection and Conservation Law was in place. In the period 1970–1972, the Nation’s Cultural Heritage Federal Law regulated its administration. And since 1972, the Federal Law on Archaeological, Artistic, and Historical Monuments and Zones was enforced. All of these regulations controlled archaeological research, but only two had specific rules that established the administrative mechanism to ensure that the law was upheld.
The 1934 law established the Mexican nation’s control over archaeological possessions. Furthermore, the law mandated authorization from the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP: the Mexican Public Education Ministry) to carry out archaeological explorations. Regulations dictated that archaeology’s only goal should be scientific research. To obtain an authorization, a person or an institution had to prove their economic and technical capacity to support an archaeological project. To carry out field and laboratory investigations, Mexican workers and archaeologists had to be employed. It was highly desirable that the project’s director was a Mexican professional, but in exceptional cases a non-Mexican leader would be permitted. The SEP had the authority to cancel an authorization if an archaeological team did not meet the established criteria. It is interesting that this law permitted the SEP to donate an archaeological object to the concessionaire, who financially sponsored an excavation, when several identical pieces were found (SEP 1934).
The 1970 law classified the preservation of Mexican cultural heritage to be in the public’s interest and endorsed the nation’s archaeological heritage as its property. Therefore, it declared all archaeological studies to be in the public’s interest, and it established the obligatory submission of illustrated and detailed reports. To carry out archaeological research, the authorization of SEP was required, and was granted through INAH. Only institutions with solid scientific bona fides and persons that guaranteed that professional archaeologists were employed during excavations could receive these authorizations and permissions. As for the archaeological artefacts, the law stated that they were not to be traded. However, the law did permit the concessionaire to keep some archaeological pieces if they were not extraordinary specimens (SEP 1970). However, these regulations were not promulgated, and the 1934 rules remained in force until 1975.
The 1972 law, which is currently enforced, has important differences to the 1934 and 1970 laws. First, it declared that Mexican archaeological heritage was of both national and social interest, and required administration under public order legislation. Second, it endorsed the nation’s archaeological heritage as its property, but in an exclusive manner. Third, it established that archaeological research could only be carried out by INAH, and by scientific institutions or others with a great sense of morality, and only with authorization in advance (SEP 1972). With this proclamation, the Mexican State empowered INAH totally. The regulations established that the use of archaeological artefacts could be granted, but not the artefacts themselves, which remained the property of the state. Furthermore, it prohibited the definitive exportation of archaeological artefacts, except in cases of exchange or donation to foreign governments or scientific institutes. These statements were the product of a very acrimonious debate between governmental archaeologists and private archaeological object collectors (Hernández Sánchez 2006). The inclusion of all of the above criteria into heritage law coincided with the growth of INAH, and with the establishment of its Regional Centers in 1973. Consequently INAH became a much more powerful national institute.
The 1972 Law as Seen by U.S. Archaeologists
In spite of the social and legal context outlined above, the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study was experiencing a busy and productive period. The society clearly understood the transition between the two laws, and their different philosophies and consequences. In fact, members of the society met in Ajijic, Jalisco, ‘for the purpose of discussing their work in relation both to the new federal archaeological law […] and to what appear to be emerging new policies in the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia’ (SEAOM, 1972). From their resulting report (refered to as the ‘Ajijic Report’ from now on) the archaeologists who attended were Betty Bell, Robert Greengo, J. Charles Kelley, Ellen Abbott Kelley, Stuart D. Scott, Phil C. Weigand, and Joseph B. Mountjoy. They all signed the ‘Ajijic Report’ of the August 18–19, 1972, which was delivered to INAH sometime at the beginning of February, 1973. Almost simultaneously, William W. Winnie Jr., then the society’s general coordinator and executive, requested authorization from INAH to recruit students to participate in a field school to be held under the Marismas Nacionales Archaeological Project, directed by Stuart Scott (SEAOM 1973). In principle, this was aimed at students of the State University of New York at Buffalo who wanted to earn credits for their school courses. This was because the university gave institutional coverage to the archaeological project.
The request was evaluated by INAH and then the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study was informed of its rejection (INAH 1973). In fact, the society presented INAH with a new request with regard to the Marismas Nacionales Archaeological Project, and the notice about the field school was deleted (Scott and Winnie 1973). Actually, this was the only occasion on which the society had advertised for participation in a field school. Nevertheless, this incident ensured that the issue of field schools became part of the discussion regarding the implementation of the new law.
The Ajijic Report raised several questions about the Mexican government’s guardianship of archaeological heritage. It requested clarification of areas and issues that would be directly affected by the implementation of legislation, such as: 1) several articles of the new federal law; 2) collaboration between Mexican and foreign archaeologists; 3) priorities and project selection; 4) archaeological field schools; 5) financing of archaeological research; 6) the granting of permits; 7) INAH salvage archaeology projects; and 8) the looting and traffic of archaeological objects (SEAOM 1972). All of these points involved technical, operational, and theoretical aspects of conducting archaeology in Mexico. Additionally, we suggest that both implicit political and ideological agenda were involved in the creation and dissemination of the society’s Ajijic Report.
There were three aspects that the society’s archaeologists wanted to clarify with regard to the new heritage law. Article 30 of the law, refered to the capacity of Mexican state, through INAH, to discover or explore archaeological monuments, and also refered to the matter of stabilizing or restoring archaeological monuments, primarily architectural ones. And Article 7 raised the question about the participation of U.S. archaeologists in all of the above activities, but particularly in the conservation and restoration work that would be carried out by the Mexican state and its municipal governments.
The second area concerned collaboration, and specifically the participation of Mexican archaeologists in U.S. funded and directed archaeological projects in Mexico. In view of the shortage of Mexican archaeologists at that time, the U.S. archaeologists proposed the possibility of utilizing advanced students from ENAH.
The third area comprised a question: how would the system of priorities for archaeology projects be established and how would it work? Regardless of the new legal procedures the U.S. archaeologists asked that they ‘have the opportunity to participate in the planning’ (SEAOM 1972) of these priorities. Their reason for this was that they ‘believe(d) that a scientifically valid system of priorities can be established only through consultation with the professional archaeologists who works regularly in a given area’ (SEAOM 1972). With this, they were looking to ‘integrate our own long-range research interest into the official framework of priorities’ (SEAOM 1972).
The fourth issue for discussion involved field schools, which constituted a problem within both Mexican and U.S. archaeology. Actually, the Ajijic Report discussed the ‘kind of archaeological field school which does little more than give some American students a vacation in Mexico in the guise of attending school and earning university credits’ (SEAOM 1972). However, the U.S. archaeologists considered that not all field schools were bad and they suggested that ‘field courses which provide the field training that is essential in the formation of professional archaeologists’ (SEAOM 1972) were essential. For them ‘the continuation of U.S. archaeological field schools in Mexico is a matter of critical importance’ (SEAOM 1972).
The fifth area was linked to the fourth, owing to the fact that a considerable amount of U.S. universities’ financing for archaeological research depended on field schools. Furthermore, U.S. archaeologists argued that ‘incorporating student-training into our existing field projects could result in more effective and systematic continuing field research in the areas in which we now work’ (SEAOM 1972).
The sixth topic dealt with three problems: the first was concerned with the amount of time it would take to approve or deny a permit application; the second was concerned with the delivery of archaeological material to INAH and its impact on the personal field records and research of U.S. archaeologists; and the third defended the local West Mexican communities’ interest in creating museums populated with materials derived from U.S. archaeological projects.
The seventh issue was with regard to salvage archaeology and the U.S. archaeologists’ participation in this effort. The U.S. archaeologists declared to be ready to support INAH in this activity, and offered to do it at no cost to INAH. Unfortunately, they also expressed that ‘… it is possible that some universities may make the release of our time and the payment of our salaries for INAH salvage projects contingent upon receiving in return some archaeological material in the form of study collection of sherds, and perhaps some temporary, short-term, exhibit specimens’ (SEAOM 1972).
As per the eighth item, the illegal trafficking and looting of archaeological objects, the U.S. archaeologists stated that they ‘would like to help reduce the level of vandalism by the dissemination of information, identifying and reporting instances of looting and trafficking and the perpetrators thereof, and by helping in the United States to secure the return of archaeological material stolen from Mexico’ (SEAOM 1972).
The Mexican Government’s Position
On February 7, 1973, Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, then the INAH’s General Director, called the members of the Archaeology Council to a special meeting on February 10, to discuss the ‘Report of a Meeting of U.S. Archaeologists Working in West Mexico. Held at Ajijic, Jalisco, on August 18–19, 1972’. The other goal of such a meeting was to define INAH’s policy on field schools.
At this time the members of the Archaeology Council comprised Ignacio Bernal, as chair, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, as secretary, Ignacio Marquina, José Luis Lorenzo, Román Piña Chán, Jorge R. Acosta, and Arturo Romano, as a physical anthropology representative (Vázquez León 2003). We do not have details about how the meeting developed, but we can imagine that it was very intense, judging by archival documents. A copy of the Ajijic Report had fifty-one notes about the points that its author considered very relevant. These remarks can be divided into three groups: first, projects and staff; second, answers to precise questions; third, detailed discussion of field schools (Anon. 1973). Besides offering a response to the U.S. archaeologists, the conclusions and details generated through these discussions were later used to help frame the regulations of federal law (INAH 1982).
On the first aspect, INAH’s council members discussed: the technical and financial capacity of the foreign projects and the duty to carry out the study of materials in Mexico; the participation of Mexican professionals and students in U.S. projects in Mexico, and the possibility of collaboration of U.S. archaeologists with like professionals or teachers in Mexico, and the use of U.S. science equipment in return; and the way to best co-ordinate the work of INAH with the projects of foreign institutions.
Regarding precise questions, INAH clarified the content of the law’s Article 30. The Institute established that the term ‘descubrir’ (to discover) means ‘actions to find new archaeological sites’ (Anon. 1973). Furthermore, in the document the preparation of a registration routine for these new archaeological sites was proposed. In the matter of the collaboration between state and municipal governments, INAH accepted the U.S. archaeologists’ participation. However, in all cases, all of their activities must be under INAH’s supervision and coordination. The concern to preserve the independence of Mexican institutions, archaeologists, and students, in the face of influence of U.S. archaeologists, and the power of the U.S. economy, was always present during these discussions.
The problem of field schools garnered most of the attention. The Archaeology Council considered field schools to be, in general, bad practice. At best field schools were vacations, and at worst they could destroy an archaeological site. In spite of this statement, the Archaeology Council recognized that field training was essential for the educational development of new archaeologists. For that reason, they proposed to regulate the field activities of students. First, U.S. students could only participate in field training if they were part of projects authorized by INAH. Second, these projects were to be long-term. Third, students had to have passed the same (or equivalent) requirements as Mexican students at ENAH. Fourth, U.S. students, as with any other students, had to receive double supervision, one by the project director and other by INAH (Anon. 1973).
Finally, INAH’s official answer to the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study comprised a two-page document (INAH 1973). In it Guillermo Bonfil Batalla thanked the U.S. archaeologists for their comments. He emphasized INAH’s interest in collaboration with foreign academic institutions, within a legal framework. Furthermore, he elaborated on INAH Archaeology Council’s new rules. However, regarding field schools, INAH stated that they would not authorize them. Only the admission of a reduced number of advanced students into archaeological projects authorized by INAH would be acceptable, according to the rules in preparation. Furthermore, within INAH, the discussion enabled the establishment of a common position with regard to relationships with U.S. institutions and their archaeologists. The controversy surrounding the training of new archaeologists was also addressed, and the conclusions were incorporated into legislation about archaeology (INAH 1982). Regarding the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study, maybe it was perceived as an instrument of U.S. archaeologists to put pressure on the Mexican state regarding archaeological issues. If this was so, then the society became a direct competitor in the management of Mexican archaeological heritage.
Analysis and Conclusions
The events described here certify the existence of opposing views on Mexican archaeology. To understand these views, it is necessary to deal with the deep meaning of pre-Hispanic archaeological heritage in the Mexican imagination, and its political and social impact. Mexico is a nation with a long cultural and historical tradition. Its civilization was born in its territory more than 2,000 years ago, and this fact is recognized by ordinary Mexicans, who are filled with pride about it, and pride in its manifestations, such as, for example, the pyramids. The Aztecs are the greatest symbol within this vision. Even though this perception has an historical basis, it is also true that the Mexican State has used its pre-Hispanic past as an ideological foundation for its national identity. The existence of an archaeological heritage, the magnitude of which is still unknown, is associated with a glorious past.
In popular opinion, which the government sometimes shares, the remains of this glorious past are so important that they should be investigated by both Mexican and foreign researchers. If the researchers are foreigners, then the relationship between the archaeologist and Mexican archaeological remains could be of two kinds: first, the remains have impressed the researchers; or, second, they are trying to steal the remains. If archaeologists abuse materials when they are working on archaeological sites or, still worse, steal materials, then these archaeologists are perceived as damaging the national identity of Mexico.
Such perceptions are the products of history. For INAH and the governmental archaeologists, they were the result of state actions on archaeological heritage since colonial times. Vázquez León (2003) proposed that at the beginning of Spanish settlement the laws of the Spanish crown over ownership of the soil and subsoil created a patrimonial feeling about archaeological heritage. When Mexico became independent, the same process occurred over the pre-Hispanic past. These same feelings became the touchstone of Mexican identity and their archaeological foundations were recognized as a state property. Accordingly, the Mexican government had to protect this archaeological heritage. This position can be also observed in the work of Lorenzo (1976). Here, the author examined the relationship between Mexican archaeology and U.S. archaeologists. For him, the legal basis to protect Mexican archaeological heritage comes from the Spanish Colonial period, when the Spanish crown established the property of the monarchy over the soils of New Spain. Later, with the establishment of INAH, the protection of archaeological heritage grew (Lorenzo 1976). Lorenzo considered that the state’s importance to everyday Mexican life, illustrated the fundamental difference between Mexican and U.S. versions of archaeological practices. Thus: ‘It is because of this that our United States colleagues working in Mexico frequently do not grasp the basic principles of our law in this area which is so different from theirs’ (Lorenzo 1976: 39). As a consequence, after Vázquez León (2003), INAH’s senior officials considered that the state had a monopoly on archaeological heritage exercised by INAH, and in which Mexican archaeologists were privileged to work.
Furthermore, in connection with the role of U.S. archaeologists working in Mexico, Lorenzo considered that in the twentieth century their presence varied from the largest projects funded by museums, to specific projects sponsored by universities. Among these projects, serious research was certainly conducted, but there was also a phenomenon called ‘holiday in Mexico’: i. e. ‘an archaeologist with limited funds would take advantage of the summer months to carry out a small study there to justify a vacation’ (Lorenzo 1976: 48). Additionally, there were field schools, and these were seen as a result of any archaeological project that lacked funds. The Mexican Government considered field schools to be bad practice, owing to their potential to destroy archaeological evidence through the use of poorly trained students. Students also had to pay for their travel, lodging, and contribute to the cost of the archaeological project (Lorenzo 1976). Therefore, these students were exploited economically.
The participation of U.S. archaeologists in Mexican archaeology should be observed with these facts in mind. In particular, Western Mexico was a region where knowledge about its pre-Hispanic past was elucidated primarily by U.S. archaeologists, such as Isabel Kelly, Gordon Ekholm, Robert Lister, Clement W. Meighan, Betty Bell, and currently Joseph B. Mountjoy and Phil C. Weigand have been the principal archaeologists active in this area. Their relationship with the Mexican authorities has not always been the best. In the case of this paper, the proposals of the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study represented, in practice, an attempt to participate in the administration of Mexican archaeological heritage. Maybe their intentions were good, but they were imposing their own interests on those of the Mexican state, and they were encroaching on the powers of the Mexican state at the same time.
The confrontation materialized because of contrasting views regarding field schools. From the U.S. viewpoint, field schools permitted new archaeologists interested in Mesoamerica and West Mexico to be educated. Furthermore, in our opinion, field schools permited Americans to propagate their way of work and their theories, methodologies, and ideological assumptions. From the Mexican viewpoint, field schools could destroy their archaeological heritage. If INAH had authorized field schools after the U.S. proposal, then the Institute would be compromising its defensive power over Mexican archaeological heritage that the law confered on it.
Finally, if the West Mexican Society for Advanced Study was perceived as a direct competitor in the management of the Mexican archaeological heritage, its existence was contrary to the Mexican state’s power over archaeological heritage. For this reason, the legal action to disband the Ajijic Anthropological Museum and to recover the archaeological material from the projects managed by the society is explicable. These actions did not finish the society, but they had paved the way for its extinction, especiaily after Betty Bell died in a car accident in Ajijic, Mexico. Since that time, U.S. archaeologists have continued their archaeological explorations individually, without being seen as a group threatening Mexican archaeological institutions.