November 22, 2002

The Edge of Enchantment: Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, Mexico

First Book to tell story of hidden paradise

WASHINGTON, DC—The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) announced the release of “The Edge of Enchantment: Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, Mexico,” with compelling text by Alicia Gonzalez and captivating photography by Roberto Ysais. This magnificently illustrated book of original research about the indigenous people of coastal Oaxaca represents the first major study ever published of the beautiful, culturally rich region along Mexico’s Mar del Sur.

“The Edge of Enchantment” offers readers a remarkable window into a world seldom truly seen by outsiders. By printing many of his photographs on old cloth and paper to resemble sepia prints, antique postcards, or, in one case, a daguerreotype, Ysais pays homage to traditional forms of Mexican photography reflecting the beauty of the people and landscapes. Gonzalez’s evocative prose-with frequent passages in her subjects’ own words-presents stories of families and communities with great sensitivity. Together, this empathic photography and narrative create a powerful new vocabulary that presents what the local weekly newspaper Huatulcostas has described as “history told by the conquered.”

Since the 1980s, the Mexican government has promoted the development of a tourist economy in the region, expropriating land held by farmers and fishermen since before the Spanish Conquest to make room for luxury hotels. For the last decade, anthropologist and folklorist Alicia Gonzalez and photographer Roberto Ysais have visited the towns and hamlets of the Huatulco-Huamelula region, speaking with and photographing the largely indigenous Indian and mestizo people. Gonzalez describes a world poised on the edge between traditional culture—often embodied in the “enchanted” places of the coast and mountainous inland—and modern economic development. “The Edge of Enchantment” reveals the land as the lifeline to these people while exploring the effects of their threatened sovereignty. It details, in words and images, the impact of globalization and the struggle to preserve community cultural values.

Title: The Edge of Enchantment
Subtitle: Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, Mexico
by Alicia Maria Gonzalez, Photographs by Roberto Ysais
ISBN: 0-9719163-0-6
Price: $29.95, paperback, Specs: 10 x 11, 176 pages
Publication: October 2002
Publisher: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
Distributor: Fulcrum Publishing
To Order: Call 800-992-2908 or visit

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