I’m back from a much-too-quick visit to Eugene for the American Society for Ethnohistory meeting. I say much too quick, because I flew into Eugene late afternoon on Wednesday, and back out Friday morning at a very early, foggy, and damp 6am. The result of this compressed trip was too little engagement with either the conference or the town. I did, however, get to catch up with a number of grad school and other academic friends.
Through the diligent organizing work of Karen Powers, we managed to have two separate panels on the north Andes. Our panel centered on issues of race and gender, though really it centered on the law. I gave a paper on adultery, criminal prosecutions, and the flexibility of concepts such as “public,” “notorious,” “scandalous,” and even “marriage” in late colonial Quito. Marc Becker of Truman State presented new work he’s doing on tinterillos from late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century Ecuador. Meri Clark of Western New England College presented on racial tensions in public education in early republican Colombia. And Karen Powers read a paper submitted by Cynthia Milton from the University of Montreal on elite Spanish widows who petitioned the king for pension funds resulting from their husband’s service as high-placed administrators in Quito.
It was, thus, a bit of a disparate panel. But, there were issues beyond the happenstance of geography that tied the papers together. Kimberly Guaderman of the University of New Mexico commented on the papers, and framed her discussion around the uniting question of jurisdictional conflict and judicial strategy that contextualized each of the papers.
I’d say, based on audience response, that tintilleros are very popular, which is ironic given their decidedly unpopular reputation in social and legal commentary in the Andes. Tintilleros were informal, unlicensed legal actors who wrote and submitted petitions for largely rural, illiterate indigenous populations beginning in the late 19th century. Well, that is a bit of an open question, actually. The term appeared around the time of the abolition of the office of the Protector de Indios/Indígenas (1854), but it is very likely that what the tintilleros did was a service that pre-dated that moment. They were not only prepare legal briefs, for a fee, but they also usually had contacts with abogados and procuradores who they would funnel the litigation to/through. Thus, from a certain perspective they were seen as exploitative, as indigenous individuals and communities would likely end up paying twice for legal services– once to the tintillero, and again to the attorney. This role as intermediary led Gauderman to suggest that the position had its roots deep in the colonial, and possibly even pre-colonial Andes, as yanaconas and other hispanized indigenous long played the intermediary between Indian communities and both Inca and Spanish systems of imperial rule. The problem, as with much ethnographic or popular sector archival work, is in substantiating those connections for individuals whose literacy was almost always expressed in the name of their clients. Good stuff.
I didn’t make it to any of the morning panels, and we left directly for ours to a very nice reception at a winery outside of Eugene. Excellent food, tasty Pinot, and a beautiful setting. I’m sure the winery put the reception on with hopes to sell lots of botellas de vino, but this was the American Society of Ethnohistory meeting in the midst of widespread budget contractions nationwide. How many professorates are there in the academy that are paid less, on average, than historians and anthropologists? Add to that airline charges for checked baggage and restrictions for carrying on liquids… I’m guessing far fewer cases of tinto were sold than hoped. Still, it was a lot of fun.
Eugene seems a very cool town. Great coffee- I had an absolutely perfect extra-short double latte at Perugino along with an excellent bowl of oatmeal (a phrase that is rarely written.) Great beer- it is in Oregon, after all. And I hear great weather in the summer time.