Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
This dissertation examines the socioeconomic relationships between Maya-speaking landowners and laborers at Rancho Kiuic (ca. 1760-1950): a small, privately-owned cattle ranching estate in the Puuc Hills region of Yucatán, Mexico. Owned and worked by generations of indigenous caciques and an indebted laborer population, the complex relationships between landed and laboring community members are inscribed in the community’s household and religious space, and woven throughout the oral history of the rancho. While the site’s architectural remains seem suggestive of a relatively homogeneous rural community, that narrative is complicated by the laborers’ memory of the status of the landowning family. Three lines of evidence—archaeological materials from household and chapel contexts, archival documents related to baptisms of Rancho Kiuic residents, and oral histories from descendants and neighbors of the community—reveal the extent to which inequality and narratives of indebtedness to the Rancho’s indigenous cacique family are evident in the site’s household and chapel assemblages. Archaeological analysis of architectural and artifact remains highlight the differential realms in which status was expressed. Ecclesiastical records, documenting the religious life of the community, also are considered alongside the social memory of labor relations at the Rancho in exploring the role of debt in sustaining ties between landed and laborer community members. These relationships are materialized in households and spaces for religious celebration, which highlight the subtle ways in which the rancho’s owners wielded authority, and laborer families persisted. The enduring memory of the locale’s complex position as a resource-rich refuge, a space for community-building, and an oppressive labor landscape, reveal insights into relationships that continue to shape the attitudes of descendants into the present.