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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Problems of Ethnohistorical Research in Baja California


For a relatively small, isolated, and arid geographical area, sparsely populated by some of the reportedly most marginal peoples in the Americas prior to extinction, and lacking in great part historical continuity, Baja California is extraordinary rich in historical documentation in the form of diaries, descriptive texts, reports, and correspondence. The famous Mexican historian, Miguel Leon-Portilla, has often remarked that "probably there are more historical documents relating to Baja California than there are Baja Californians." This documentation has been put to good use by ethnologists and historians for some years. Nevertheless, most of these writers have relied solely upon eighteenth century documentation, primarily the writings of Jesuit missionaries, while earlier documentation has been overlooked. My purpose here is to call attention to some of these overlooked sources and a few of the evident enigmas and contradictions in these documents.

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