Alex Hidalgo, "Trail of Footprints: A History of Indigenous Maps from Viceregal Mexico" (U Texas Press, 2019)


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There is far more to a map than meets the eye. Such is the case in historian Alex Hidalgo’s Trail of Footprints: A History of Indigenous Maps from Viceregal Mexico (University of Texas Press, 2019), which focuses on the complex lives of dozens of Oaxacan maps created by Indigenous mapmakers. Tracing the legal, social, cultural, and political history of these maps, Hidalgo sheds new light on the purpose, production, and preservation of maps as well as the lives of Indigenous peoples and Spaniards alike involved in their production. The result is a vivid re-orientation of Oaxacan history that speaks to the historical power of collaboration, adaptation, and cartography.

Trail of Footprints provides a deep dive into the production and use of maps, focusing specifically on the roles of patrons, painters, and notaries as well as the complex material dimension of mapmaking. Hidalgo lends equal attention to both the broader historical context of mapmaking and the smallest details of each cartographic creation, emphasizing how maps both recorded and created spatial relationships. In tracing the long lives of these maps, Hidalgo demonstrates, among other important interventions, the potency of Indigenous skills, ideas, and ways of knowing in creating and charting Oaxacan history.

Annabel LaBrecque is a PhD student in the Department of History at UC Berkeley. You can find her on Twitter @labrcq.

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