Danny Zborover: Before the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Indigenous, Spanish, and Pirates on the Mexican Pacific Coast

During the last week of June of each year, the Chontal Indigenous people of Huamelula on the Pacific Coast of Mexico celebrate their Patron Saint festivity with solemn processions, ceremonial discourses, and theatrical performances. As troops of costumed performers assume the roles of ‘Pirates’, ‘Blacks’, ‘Sea-people’, ‘Turks’, ‘Christians’, ‘Horsemen’ and more, the event transforms from a seemingly parochial celebration into a historical reenactment that encapsulates long-term processes of colonialism and mobility on three interlocked scales: 1) The local: in which entire Indigenous communities forcefully or voluntarily relocated between the Pacific Coast and the highlands, starting in prehispanic times and up to the present; 2) The regional: in which Indigenous, Spanish, and other European powers vied for control over Pacific resources and exchange networks, resulting in a geopolitical flux that defies the traditional ‘colonizer-colonized’ narratives, and 3) The global: in which the region’s Indigenous-Spanish ports first connected Pacific North, Central, and South America, followed by Europe, Asia, and Africa, thus heralding the birth of modern globalization. The circulated manuscript draft will explore these aspects from the lens of Pacific piracy, focusing primarily on its historical role and representation within Indigenous-European interactions spheres from the 16th to the 21st century.

Danny Zborover is a broadly-trained anthropological and historical archaeologist who specializes in the interdisciplinary study of literate societies. He received his PhD from the University of Calgary and his MA from Leiden University, held postdoctoral positions at UC San Diego and Brown University, and taught at UCLA and UCSD. As the Academic Director of Archaeology at the Institute for Field Research, Zborover co-directs field schools in Mexico and Peru and coordinates over 50 other programs around the world. In addition, he conducted archaeological, historical, and ethnographic research in Canada, Ecuador, and Israel. His current research interests include colonialism, territoriality, mobility, and social memory.


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