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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993

11. Miguel LEÓN-PORTILLA. Endangered Cultures. Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990, 265 p. (Translation by Julie Goodson-Lawes of Culturas en peligro. Mexico, Alianza Editorial Mexicana, S.A., 1976.) notes, maps, tables, bibliography, index. Paper: $ 9.95.

Mexican anthropologist and historian Miguel León Portilla is concerned in this work with identifying and typifying certain forms of cultural threats, specifically situations where the processes place the structure of culture in crisis; cases in which damage is done to the values, criteria, and symbols that a culture depends upon to orient both its own internal development and its relationships to other societies. The author feels that the number of endangered cultures has increased markedly in recent years because of the rapid acceleration of the processes of change, with an inability of many cultures to cope with technological development, the global linking of different peoples and cultures through mass communication, the violent confrontation of economic interests, and the “boundless ambitions of various types of hegemonic powers.” He also deals, however, with transformations that have occurred without loss of identity. The essays deal with relations between indigenous groups before and after the Conquest, the impact of the friars, cultural pluralism from pre-Hispanic and colonial periods to the present and point to processes of cultural loss or reaffirmation, situations of risk, contacts between different societies and, forms of imposition by groups or nations. The examples are predominantly from the cultural sphere of indigenous Mexico, but also include the cultures of the Northwest of Mexico and of the Navajo Indians in the southwestern United States. This clearly written and scholarly book is an excellent introduction to the lay reader interested in the study of culture and in understanding the role of culture in world events and of the ethical and intellectual issues surrounding the study of one’s own and other’s cultural histories. Its information and point of view are highly original and although focused on one region, the conclusions are universal in their implications.