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 The Modern Period of Official Archaeology in Mexico Minimize

As we have seen the Mexican School of Archaeology located the discipline close to federal government decision-making, a location which was advantageous at first but which changed as the larger political picture changed with increasing industrialization after the Second World War. "The world had changed and the discipline with it without Mexican archaeology having noticed…The country had deliberately entered a period of industrialization and massive public works which shifted archaeology to an activity more concerned with salvage than a self-generated research field" (Litvak 1985: 21). On the other hand, the tourism considered by the central government as a potential bonanza required INAH to respond to pressures completely foreign to the orginal spirit for which it had been created. "The commitment with the state derived from the construction of scenic backdrops to attract tourism, an alternative supporting the sustainable development favored by recent governments. The quality of the "restorations" was not always satisfactory, and on repeated occasions Mexico violated international agreements in the field of restoration to which it was a signatory" (Gandara 1992: 36).

Paradoxically, one of the serious problems confronting Mexican archaeology today derives from the enormous confidence which it enjoyed regarding the principles and practice of the Mexican School. This confidence led Mexican archaeologists to shut themselves up in their own universe, a universe with a particular theoretical perspective in addition to the practical one emphasizing monumental reconstruction.Thus broad discussions at the international level regarding archaeological theory in Mexico were seen as topics of interest to the "others", but not to Mexicans. This lack of participation in the international context stemmed from a great confidence in Mexican accomplishments, and therefore a lack of interest in foreign schools which would facilitate communication with the larger world. Students rarely bothered to use texts in other languages, nor did researchers seek to publish outside Mexico. In essence their universe was reduced to production for domestic consumption, which is not to say that this is bad, just that it did not place Mexican experience in a wider context.

Toward the close of the decade of the forties there was some acknowledgement of the formulations of Gordon Childe and the British environmentalists. This meant that during the 1950s the Mexican School would confront—not always respecting scientific etiquette—followers of the environmental school, best represented by Pedro Armillas (Garcia Barcena 1995: 124), and the majority of the followers of historical particularlism complementing reconstruction techniques, whose opponents perjoratively baptized them "pyramid-nuts" (Gandara 1992: 37).

With the emergence of international political movements in 1968 the ENAH opened itself to a marxist theoretical current and also began to include foreign faculty. These, besides bringing their political experiences to Mexico—the majority came from Latin American countries with military regimes—managed to extend the horizons of students not only through the study of historical materialism, but also by opening the possibility of reviewing theoretical positions from countries such as the United States and England, although in many cases these were the object of criticism a priori. At this time there was another significant modification of relations between theory and practice which still affects Mexican archaeology. On the one hand the ENAH participated actively in teaching marxist doctrines and in political criticism of the imperialism of advanced countries and collaborating governments in the Third World. But on the other hand, during the same period the structure of INAH is gradually refined to serve the interest of government, i.e., the creation of more effective infrastructure to facilitate the participation of the country in global economic processes.The priorities of the 1970s had to do with carrying out the salvage archaeology necessary for industrial and tourist expansion, or the construction of new communications links, not with the nation-building of the 1930s.

This expectation generated the possibility of real conflict within archaeology, and in this respect I am in complete agreement with Gandara (1992) that since the 1970s the central policy concern has been to harness archaeology to the needs and priorities of government. Yet in many respects there was a significant discontinuity between the interests of government and the direction of education at the ENAH. My personal experience as a student there during this period was that in reality in the classrooms—and I express this sincerely although my professors perhaps may feel offended—we saw little relationship between marxism and archaeology. Perhaps the little we learned about archaeology we learned from the "traditional" professors, repudiated in the ENAH but who could be found in their cubicles in the basement of the Museum of Anthropology. But I do not deny the experiences in practical collective politics have been of great utility, above all at the moment of labor negotiations between professionals and administrators of the INAH.

In the last semesters of study a large number of students…if not all…were absorbed by the newly-created Department of Salvage Archaeology if the INAH to serve as the work force taking charge of the "protection" and "salvage" of archaeological sites in areas which would be affected by infrastructure projects underway the length and width of the country in the mid-1970s. There were countless salvage archaeology projects related to gas and oil pipelines, highways, dams, subway lines, irrigation canals, and other public works projects. The reality of this crush of work was that in many cases salvage projects were conducted not by experienced archaeologists or by someone with an understanding of what to do. Rather, the norm was to trust the best students as "field supervisors" and the most patient as "laboratory supervisors". What caliber of work could be realized by a handful of highly-politicised students without any idea of archaeological practice?

On the other hand, in spite of a generation of intense field effort by a generation of archaeologists dedicated to salvage archaeology, to this date Mexico does not have even a minimal manual which discusses strategies and techniques for true salvage archaeology, assessing the means to make maximum use of the partial data obtained in such settings, when at the international level since the early 1960s there has been a substantial bibliography (Adams 1968, 1973; Brew 1962; Miller 1957; Wendorf 1962, among others). Here we see the practical consequences of Mexico's version of the "not invented here syndrome" derived from the historical particularism of the Mexican School of Archaeology, i.e, that there is little to be learned from others because circumstances in Mexico are unique and the way we do things is just fine.

The generation of the 1970s and somewhat more recently today are the primary source of INAH personnel for middle and upper echelon positions. In many cases the confusion between theory and practice continues. Worse, in many cases we ignore the utility of coherent political action in the defense of archaeological practice and the conservation of cultural heritage. Sadly we see cases of colleagues who give in to mid-level bureaucrats, forgetting academic work as well as the activist politics they used to believe in order to put themselves completely at the service of government policy. Today this means to give priority to tourism infrastructure and projects which have public visibility. In some cases we see a confusion of pragmatism with servility, believing "…we can satisfy two different loves at the same time: our scientific conscience and our commitments to government and our upward mobility" (Gandara 1992: 165).