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La Casa "Angel Palerm"
Angel Palerm was born in Ibiza on Sept. 11, 1917. As a young man he opposed and fought against the Fascist government of Spain during the Civil War of 1936-39. At the end of the war he escaped to France and then emigrated to Mexico in June 1939. He remained politically active against the Franco regime but he was also critical of the communist regime of the U.S.S.R. and any other form of authoritarianism. He married Carmen Viqueira, also a political refugee from Spain who escaped at 15 years of age, and with whom he raised four children. Carmen urged Angel to resume his university studies. He enrolled at the Normal Superior School for a while, and later transferred to the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in the faculty of Philosophy. But his interest in Mexico and Central America gradually increased as he began to take classes in ENAH, the National School of Anthropology and History. He collaborated with Isabel Kelly, as her research assistant on the Tajin Totonac Project, and later co-authored with her: Tajin Totonac. Part I. History, Subsistence, Shelter and Technology, published by Smithsonian Institution in 1952.
Angel Palerm received his licentiate and master's degrees in History and Ethnology. Later he also earned a doctorate in Planning. Palerm accepted a post in Washington, D.C. as an assistant editor of a journal of the Pan American Union. Eventually he became editor of the Bulletin of Social Sciences, also published by the Pan American Union. He remained in the U.S. for thirteen years, during which time he published articles, taught graduate seminars at the American University and the Catholic University of Washington, gave lectures in Princeton and Harvard, and did a study of the teaching of Social Sciences in Latin America. He initiated a scholarship program at the Organization of American States, and was appointed director of the Department of Social Affairs. When the U.S. invaded Santo Domingo, he criticized the action and offered his resignation. Instead, he was sent to Peru, where he continued to write articles on both the history and present condition of Central American civilization.
Angel Palerm viewed history not as chronology but as a social science able to explain social change, and valued anthropology because it allowed us to study society in real life, and as the "other face" of history.
In 1966 he returned to Mexico, where he was appointed professor of ethnology at ENAH. During the 1968 Movement and strikes by University students and professors, Angel Palerm resigned in support of the students and other colleagues. He then took a post at the Iberoamericana University, where he established the Department of Social Anthropology and included a program of graduate studies which emphasized both theory and field work. He opened new fields for the study of social anthropology. Without abandoning the study of the indigenous populations, he developed the study of the peasantry, other “non-indian” ethnic groups, urban formations, the working sector, political anthropology, the bourgeoisie, and the bureaucracy, among others. In 1973 a new institute for advanced studies was established, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social (CISINAH) and Palerm was made its first director. He brought in foreign specialists, encouraged research and publications in a wide variety of fields, and began a tutorial program in research for doctoral candidates. In 1976 after he finished his directorship he returned to teach at the Iberoamericana University, until his death in June, 1980.
Alone he authored fifteen books and was co-author of another five. In addition he published numerous articles in both Spanish and English. He revitalized the study of Marx's theories, which he felt had gone astray under communism, and reworked evolutionary theory, especially regarding the evolution of culture. Palerm believed that the true task of the social sciences was the transforming of society.
Angel Palerm expanded the scope of Mexican anthropology by combining the intellectual traditions of Europe and the United States with those of Mexico. He was able to synthesize seemingly opposing ideas and use them to investigate new areas. Besides being an excellent anthropologist, Palerm was an outstanding teacher. He attracted many young Mexican men and women to the study of anthropology, showed us how to do excellent research in this field and to share it with others. He died in Mexico City on June 10, 1980. We, as students and practitioners of anthropology, will forever be indebted to him.
to write this short biography was taken from Alonso, Jorge
Angel Palerm Vich, Innovador de la Antropologia Mexicana. Mexico,
D.F.: Colegio de Etnólogos y Antropólogos Sociales,
Special thanks to Dr. Vincent Kelly, Juanelle Garcia and Juan Andrade
their help in translating and synthesizing. More information was
collected from Armando Palerm, Teresa Rojas, Virginia García and
Carmen Viqueira. Other recommended references:
and is maintained by Dr. Geoffrey Grimes.