Early American Places


UNE PressUNE Press

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico

by Jun U. Sunseri

from the University of Nebraska's Historical Archaeology of the American West series

240 pages
3 photogrpahs, 39 graphs, 5 maps, 16 illustrations, 4 tables, index

ISBN: 978-0-8032-9639-8



This case makes a significant contribution to the interdisciplinary study of the Spanish Borderlands, especially in New Mexico and will set the bar for archaeological and anthropological research into genizaro communities like Casitas.
— Bonnie J. Clark, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Denver and author of On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico examines pluralistic communities that navigated between colonial and indigenous practices to negotiate strategic alliances with both sides of generations-old conflicts. The rich history of the southwestern community of Casitas Viejas straddles multiple cultures and identities and is representative of multiple settlements in the region of northern New Mexico that served as a “buffer,” protecting the larger towns of New Spain from Apache, Navajo, Ute, and Comanche raiders. These Genízaro settlements of Indo-Hispano settlers used shrewd cross-cultural skills to survive.

Researching the dynamics of these communities has long been difficult, due in large part to the lack of material records. In this innovative case study, Jun U. Sunseri examines persistent cultural practices among families who lived at Casitas Viejas and explores the complex identities of the region’s communities. Applying theoretical and methodological approaches, Sunseri adds oral histories, performative traditions of contemporary inhabitants, culinary practices, and local culture to traditional archaeology to shed light on the historical identities of these communities that bridged two worlds.

About the Author

Jun U. Sunseri is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

This book is a culmination of several years of innovative research at Casitas that is important because it involves local, descendent communities for whom this site has great personal and historic meaning. The research is comprehensive and integrates multiple lines of evidence in an unusual way, including documentary, landscape/viewshed, architectural, zooarchaeological, and ceramic analyses.
— Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland and coauthor of Mission and Pueblo of Santa Catalina de Guale, St. Catherines Island, Georgia: A Comparative Zooarchaeological Analysis