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Indigenous Architecture and the Spanish American Plaza in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean

  • Setha M. LowEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Plazas are often important spatial representations of society and social hierarchy. The grid-plan plazas built in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean under the direction of the Spanish have been interpreted as architectural representations of colonial control and oppression. Underlying these interpretations is the tacit assumption that plaza-centered gridded urban design was of solely European derivation, in spite of considerable evidence of pre-Columbian contributions. This chapter argues that the correspondence between indigenous forms and Spanish reconstruction—both modelled on the grid layout—is so well documented that the denial of its significance is startling. In fact, the ethnohistorical and archaeological evidence suggests that the colonial plaza evolved from both indigenous and Spanish influences and models that created a new urban design form. Consequently, cultural tensions of conquest and resistance are embedded in this urban design and accompanied architecture.

Keywords

Colonial Hispanic culture Indigenous Mexican cultures Urban grid Plaza Heritage studies Politics of historical preservation 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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