Skip to main content

'The Edge of Enchantment' by Alicia Mar?a Gonz?lez with photos by Roberto Ys?is

WASHINGTON - Indigenous peoples tend to be defined in terms of their heritage, location, language or religion. Along the Pacific coast of southern M?xico lies a lush tropical paradise inhabited by a unique multi-cultural population. The place is called Huatulco and its proud residents defy such pigeon-holed stereotyping.

"The Edge of Enchantment, Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, M?xico" provides an intimate look at the sacred places that the Native speakers of Chontal, Zapotec, Mixtec, Chatino and Huave revere. The book touches on how the modern world has both benefited and endangered the local culture of the Mar del Sur region of Oazaca.

"Edge of Enchantment" was written by Dr. Alicia Mar?a Gonz?lez, Ph.D., senior curator of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and a founding director of the Smithsonian's Center for Latino Initiatives.

According to a press release from Fulcrum Publishing, Gonz?lez and photographer Roberto Ys?is immersed themselves in the region, speaking with and photographing the Indian and Mestizo people for nearly a decade.

In any culture, in any part of the world, identity is tied to the place where the ancestors dwell ?," said Gonz?lez in the book's introduction.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

"I learned that almost every town and hamlet in Huatulco and Huamulela has its encanto, a physical space where a fissure or chasm leads to an unknown, metaphysical world. The origin story of each village is integrally woven into its enchanted place. Most villagers are familiar with their local encanto, but it is the elders of the region who know the stories of others. Tourism, development, emigration, conquests, plagues, and natural disasters have led to the eradication and demystification of a few encantos, bringing them to the edge, to a transformation."

Gonz?lez's evocative prose accompanies frequent interviews with the area's residents to provide a powerful "history told by the conquered," said the local newspaper Huatulcostas.

Nearly every page of the 176-page volume is lavishly illuminated with Roberto Ys?is' photography. Ys?is evokes empathy for his subjects by printing his photographs using unusual methods such as printing on old cloth. While Ys?is has worked as a professional photographer for 25 years, this is the first time his work has been featured in a book.

Gonz?lez describes a microcosm poised on the edge between the modern tourist flash and ancient traditions pre-dating the Spanish Conquistadors and Catholicism. "The Edge of Enchantment" reveals the land as the lifeline to these indigenous people while exploring the threats to their sovereignty. It details the impact of globalization and the struggle to preserve community values.

"The Edge of Enchantment, Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, M?xico" was released in October 2002 by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to accompany an exhibit open throughout the summer at the George Gustav Heye Center in New York. The NMAI is dedicated to working with indigenous peoples to protect and foster the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere. Approximately 30 percent of the museum's collection represents M?xico, Central and Southern American cultures.

For more information about the book, contact Fulcrum Publishing at (800) 992-2908 or visit To learn more about the NMAI visit or e-mail