Abandonment Issues? The Indigenous People of the Casas Grandes Valley and the Legacy of Paquimé



Exploring the rich tapestry of Indigenous history in Northwest Mexico, we start in the state of Chihuahua at the archaeological ruins called Paquimé in the Casas Grandes Valley (CGV). Now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1974 Charles Di Peso and the Joint Casas Grandes Expedition (JCGE) created a vivid interpretation of Paquimé based on their trailblazing fieldwork. They imagined a bustling regional center with magnificent buildings and ceremonial structures, producing and trading prized goods, which abruptly fell silent before the arrival of Spanish colonizers.

Di Peso and his team charted Paquimé’s final days and the aftermath. In their scenario, a violent assault wiped out all settlements in the valley, sparing only a handful of distant Paquimé outposts. Colonial documents and excavations at the Mission San Antonio de Padua de Casas Grandes just north of Paquimé (the Convento Site), were used to complete the valley’s Indigenous history. The post-Paquimé Native people of the CGV, labeled the Suma by seventeenth century Spanish administrators, were interpreted by Di Peso as recent immigrants who had stumbled upon the ruins of Paquimé.

But was this agriculturally fertile valley truly abandoned after a single cataclysmic event? Could there be continuities between ancient Paquimé and the Indigenous people whom the Spanish attempted to missionize? Addressing the first question, contemporary researchers increasingly find reason to doubt Di Peso’s apocalyptic vision. The second question fuels this presentation, focusing on the enigmatic Suma and their relationship to Paquimé. The webinar will begin with reconsidering the colonial documentary evidence and then turn to the archaeological record at Mission San Antonio. There, Dr. Douglas explores architecture, burial data, and ceramics, looking for linkages with the ancient past. Join us as we investigate the mysteries of the Casas Grandes Valley and its resilient people.

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