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Of all Spanish colonial possessions in the Americas, Puerto Rico is the only territory that never gained its independence. Internal and geopolitical dynamics during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, nevertheless, brought dramatic political, social, and economic changes to the island, setting the stage for the development of its national institutions and the transformation of its political system as a United States territory during the twentieth century.


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Log in. Log in through your institution. This essay 1 reviews mortuary practices among prehistoric groups of Puerto Rico, 2 proposes a possible sequence of changes through time, and 3 presents explanations that for the observed changes. Aside from evident correlation with broad cultural developments, changes in mortuary practices can be understood best in the context of parallel developments in social, political, and economic complexity. We argue that in Puerto Rico a shift in mortuary practices from burying dead relatives in centralized cemeteries to the disposition of the dead in domestic contexts was strongly related to a shift from largely kin-based societies to the ranked organization of cacicazgos chiefdoms.

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Particularly, we conclude that the shift in social organization from emphasis on extended descent groups that acted as corporate groups to nuclear households reflects a strategy utilized by the emerging elite to dismantle and reorient communal institutions. This shift was accomplished through the monopolization, by the emerging elite, of the tenets surrounding the cult of the ancestors to create a legitimizing ideology. Latin American Antiquity is a quarterly journal devoted to special reports on archaeology, prehistory, and ethnohistory in Mesoamerica, Central America, South America, and culturally related areas.

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Abstract [English] Mortuary practices rank among the best sources of archaeological data from which to infer social organization, ideology, religious beliefs, and to a certain extent, the political structure of past societies. Journal Information Latin American Antiquity is a quarterly journal devoted to special reports on archaeology, prehistory, and ethnohistory in Mesoamerica, Central America, South America, and culturally related areas.

Publisher Information Cambridge University Press www.

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