the struggle of JaCob and esau
Like an intricate rhythm, features of the human past can change in
mysterious ways. In music a new beat sometimes breaks abruptly
from what preceded it, but often a novel rhythm develops itera-
tively, almost imperceptibly, as the percussionist gradually trans-
forms one pattern into the next. So too can historical patterns be
reproduced and transformed through practice, at times doubling
back on themselves, referencing older modes of thought and be-
havior, but instantiating them in new contexts and changing in
the process. Thus, when in 1857 the embattled parish priest of
Iztapalapa parish, Don José María Zárate, asked the government
ministry in charge of religious affairs to tell him what prices
he should charge for spiritual services, his exasperated plea “I
hope you can tell me, which one of these [fee regimes] should
I adopt?” addressed not only a bureaucrat charged with adjudi-
cating a minor squabble between a priest and parishioners, but
also the preceding century of continuity and change in religion
and politics. What practices in the nineteenth century remained
similar to those of the eighteenth century? Many Mexicans, such
as those in Iztapalapa, continued to claim and defend spiritual
capital often with reference to the social category of Indian,
itself one of the fundamental and enduring features of the colo-
nial past. In turn, these disputes surrounding religious practices
and institutions helped to determine the practical meaning of
Indianness, as they had done in the colonial period. But not all
was the same. These same continuities, these apparent signs of
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