Thomas H. Guthrie

Feb 20, 2014

Recognizing Heritage

The Politics of Multiculturalism in New Mexico

University of Nebraska Press 2013

purchase at bookshop.org New Mexico is a cultural borderland, marked by the interaction of Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American peoples over the past four hundred years. The question of how to commemorate this history and promote the traditions that arose from it is the subject of ongoing discussing, disagreement, and activism. In Recognizing Heritage: the Politics of Multiculturalism in New Mexico (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), Thomas H. Guthrie examines the work of scholars, community activists, politicians, and federal officials at several sites in Northern New Mexico - work meant to preserve the region's Indian and Hispanic heritage and the state's "multicultural" character, exemplified by the 2008 creation of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area across the region.

Recognizing Heritage offers a robust critique of the multicultural model at work in New Mexico. While Guthrie notes that both Anglo-Americans and Indian or Hispanic activists are well-meaning in their efforts to make Indian and Hispanic culture more visible, he argues that their tendency to frame these cultures within the past, in terms of "heritage," are socially and politically counterproductive. The emphasis of the "authenticity" of Indian craftsmanship, or the reduction of Hispanic history to the legacy of the Spanish Empire, erases the current diversity and changing nature of Indian and Hispanic lifestyles and identities. The focus on Indian and Hispanic heritage also hides the historically and culturally specific place of Anglo-Americans in New Mexico, including the ongoing effects of American colonization. Guthrie suggests that the advocates of multiculturalism, including anthropologists such as himself, must integrate present social and political realities into their discussion of heritage, a change that would further the goal of justice and real cultural equality in New Mexico.

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