Introduction/Home Page by Ira Jacknis
Introduction to Tzintzuntzan by the Anthropologist George Foster/ Map of Tzintzuntzan/ The First Fieldwork: 1944–46
Mariano Cornelio, a Tarascan fisherman/farmer, in his boat
Vicente Rendon and his compadre Salvador Villagomes harvesting maize
Vicente Rendón on the way to market with pottery
Family at the grave on All Saints’ Day
Jesús Peña making candles
Tarascan masked dancers, "owner" and "watcher", at the Octava of Corpus Christi
Highway victim
Changes in Tzintzuntzan: 1945–79 and 1979-88
View towards the northwest side of Lake Pátzcuaro
Yácatas, reconstructed ruins on the east edge of the village
Doña Micaela González, in her small patio
Melecio Hernández, husband of Micaela González, making an ox yoke
Micaela González’s house; in front are her daughter Virginia Pichu, and William Iler, a UC Berkeley graduate student
The new second floor on Micaela González’s house; Mary Foster on the balcony
Dolores (Lola) Pichu and her younger sister Virginia Pichu, daughters of Micaela González and her first husband, Pedro Pichu
Pachita Villagómez and her husband Faustino Peña
Doña Andrea Medina, her daughter-in-law Pachita Villagómez, and her granddaughter Lucía
Lupe Calderon and Eustolio Campos coming out of the parish church after their wedding
Florentina Dominga, a Tarascan woman, with a midwife’s offering
La Soledad chapel
The arrival of fireworks (La Obra) at La Parroquia, the Parish church
Death dancer, Salvador Maturino
Red devil dancer
Female attendants of the king and queen figures, Rosa Lara
Group of spies entering the house of Ambrosio Zaldívar, to pay homage to the district saint (barrio santo) and to be fed; Holy Wednesday
A spy; Holy Wednesday
A penitente, with his assistant (cirineo); Good Friday
Fish dancer and net in the procession of trades; Corpus Christi
Little Old Man Dance (Los Viejitos)
House façade decorated for a posada procession; before breaking the piñatas; Christmas season
Tarascan women making tortillas by hand, cooked on a wood fire
Lola Pichu making tortillas in a press, inside her present old-style kitchen
Amalia Felices making pots, by joining two mold-made halves and smoothing the inside
Doña Andrea Medina at the kiln in her yard
Otilia Zavala, wife of Wenceslado Peña, glazing pottery
Pachita Villagómez painting a fish design on a large platter, before glazing
Salvador Cuirís and his pottery delivery truck
Pottery sellers in the church atrium; Fiesta of Nuestro Señor del Rescate
The store, "La Central," and the plaza on the main highway, looking south
Lola Pichu inside her family’s store; Christmas
Changes in Tzintzuntzan: 1988–2000
George Foster Biography



Photograph by Peter Cahn: George and Mary Foster in the home of Doña Micaela González, Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán; June 2000

George McClelland Foster was born in 1913 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and raised in Iowa. He obtained his bachelor's degree in anthropology under Melville Herskovits at Northwestern University in 1935. After visiting Mexico for the first time as a tourist in 1936, he decided to focus on the country for his professional career. In 1940-41, he conducted research on the economic life of the Sierra Popoluca Indians of Veracruz, for which he earned a doctorate in anthropology from UC Berkeley in 1941. From 1944 to 1946, he taught at the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, while conducting eighteen months of fieldwork in Tzintzuntzan for the Smithsonian's Institute of Social Anthropology (1945-46).

George Foster served as director of the Institute (1946-53) before becoming a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley, where he remained for the rest of his career. During 1949-50, he conducted comparative fieldwork in Spain, researching the cultural background of Latin America. In 1958 he returned to Tzintzuntzan, where he has spent part of every year through the year 2000. During these visits, in which he helped develop the methodology of long-term research in ethnography, he has investigated economic, demographic, and socio-cultural change. In addition to these research interests, Dr. Foster is known for his fundamental contributions to peasant studies, the concept of "the limited good," and of hot-cold theories of disease. He is a founder of the modern subfield of medical anthropology, and made important contributions to the study of pottery technology. As a developer of applied anthropology, he has traveled throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, as well as Latin America.

Professor Foster is a member of the National Academy of Science, the winner of many awards, and has served as president of the American Anthropological Association (1970). He is the author of over twenty-one books and monographs (many translated into Spanish), including two major studies of Tzintzuntzan: Empire's Children: The People of Tzintzuntzan (1948) and Tzintzuntzan: Mexican Peasants in a Changing World (1967; revised editions, 1979, 1988); as well as more than one hundred articles. Since his retirement in 1979, George Foster has remained an active scholar.