Soldiers, Saints, and Shamans
Indigenous Communities and the Revolutionary State in Mexico's Gran Nayar, 1910–1940
To make sense of this complex history, Nathaniel Morris offers the first systematic understanding of the participation of the Náayari, Wixárika, O’dam, and Mexicanero peoples in the Mexican Revolution. They are known for being among the least “assimilated” of all Mexico’s Indigenous peoples. It’s often been assumed that they were stuck up in their mountain homeland—“the Gran Nayar”—with no knowledge of the uprisings, civil wars, military coups, and political upheaval that convulsed the rest of Mexico between 1910 and 1940.
Based on extensive archival research and years of fieldwork in the rugged and remote Gran Nayar, Morris shows that the Náayari, Wixárika, O’dam, and Mexicanero peoples were actively involved in the armed phase of the revolution. This participation led to serious clashes between an expansionist, “rationalist” revolutionary state and the highly autonomous communities and heterodox cultural and religious practices of the Gran Nayar’s inhabitants. Morris documents confrontations between practitioners of subsistence agriculture and promoters of capitalist development, between rival Indian generations and political factions, and between opposing visions of the world, of religion, and of daily life. These clashes produced some of the most severe defeats that the government’s state-building programs suffered during the entire revolutionary era, with significant and often counterintuitive consequences both for local people and for the Mexican nation as a whole.
“This book presents a fine example of ethnohistory at its best… An underlying strength of this book emanates from the author’s in-depth knowledge of the region he sets out to elucidate to us…it is heartening to discover that a new generation of historians not only recognizes the vast potential of local history but engages with it in such a way as to maximise its full potential.”—Keith Brewster, Journal of Latin American Studies
“This monumental work shows the resilience of the Indigenous communities of the Gran Nayar during the armed phase of the revolution and the first and second Cristero wars. Morris reveals that Indigenous Mexicans were neither a monolithic band of traditionalists fighting the outside world in a Guerra de Castas nor passive victims of soldiers and teachers. It stands as a significant contribution to the ethnohistory of modern Mexico.”—Ben Fallaw, co-editor of State Formation in the Liberal Era
“This is a crucial book of understanding and appreciating one of the most important Indigenous regions of Mexico and for reevaluating the Mexican Revolution from the perspective of the different Indigenous peoples. It is an outstanding and inspiring achievement that draws on ethnographic research, previously unused archives, and the author’s own conversations with Indigenous veterans and survivors of ‘la revolución.’”—Philip E. Coyle, author of Náyari History, Politics, and Violence
"Nathaniel Morris’s Soldiers, Saints, and Shamans in the Gran Nayar is an important new book that brings into focus both a long-neglected region and the active participation of indigenous peoples in the Mexican Revolution."—Julie Gibbings, H-LatAm