Hugo G. Nutini
Hugo G. Nutini and Jean F. Nutini. 2014. Native Evangelism in Central Mexico. Austin. University of Texas Press. Copy courtesy of Angelica Lopez Editorial Assistant University of Texas Press Mail: P.O. Box 7819 Austin, TX 78713-7819 Street: 2100 Comal St. STOP E4800 Austin, TX 78712-1303 Phone: (512) 232-7608 Email:email@example.com
Pgh Bio 50 Years of Latin American Studies
Obituary Post Gazette April 23, 2013
El teléfono de Fortín: 011-52-271-713-0627
Dr. Hugo. G. & Jeannie Nutini Quinta Colorines Calle 11 Sur # 103 Fortín de las Flores, Veracruz 94470 MéXICO
Hugo is so much a part of our life's memories and he was so astounding as a man, a person, an anthropologist and friend that we decided to write some of this up for you and Chris. Hugo was so astounding a person in so many ways... one never forgets him, one always feels fortunate to have known him. So much that was admirable beyond the ordinary best people and such a complex configuration of beings, impulses and points of knowledge and of light.... Hugo was the only intellectual in the Pittsburgh department, and certainly in most American universities. He was an aristocrat by lineage, by birth, by upbringing, by bearing and by aesthetics both intellectual and vis a vis other human beings, and by the ethos of how you behave towards them... a very strong element of being protective and proactive... something including noblesse oblige, but something also beyond that, an appreciation of what poverty has done to limit, and not limit the human heart and potential... kind beyond anyone else we have ever known... generous in his concerns for others, especially the more the struggling of human kind and recognizing the best within such people. We have seen example of his politeness which is the politeness of a man who does not stoop to the level of most men.
We had and have the greatest respect for him in all these dimensions, especially the anthropologist and the human, what the great writer Unamuno called for, "the man of flesh and bone" and it was this deep generosity as well as his curiosity, hard work that again and again impressed us. In that sense he was a man of a better age and era than one is likely to meet again in this modern world of pure surfaces. Hugo was a man of so many parts that is is hard to enumerate them and yet to understand Hugo one needs to remember all the dimensions simultaneously... a man of amazing and dazzling depth and breadth, not only in anthropology, but also in philosophy; that he was a pleasure to be with and learn and sharpen one's own thinking along with. In that regard alone, he was among the best educated and most erudite mind in anthropology, certainly working in America.
His work in Mexico is probably the best ever done, the most precise, detailed and knowledgable, and each work stands as a treasure. A clear reason, one even apart from his great intellect, was his immense curiosity and fascination with detail. He had the capacity and interest to open and unpack a complex of related phenomenon, as especially in ritual, with great clarity and precision. The people of Tlaxcala have been left an amazing repository of information and data on their practices, beliefs, rituals; in great detail and with an equally astounding knowledge of variations across the wider region. His legacy in this regard is a treasure trove, perhaps the best ever assembled in anthropology anywhere in the world.
Some of the reasons for that was his care and precision and ardor at capturing in greatest detail the culture, social organization, hierarchy, and especially religion as beliefs, historical legacy – traced in immense detail; and rituals specific to Tlaxcala. His numerous books and articles are among the most complete and detailed in the anthropological archives. He was fundamentally a great scholar as well as intellectual and a tireless field worker among the best ever in anthropology! But there was also something beyond that... the people of Tlaxcala really loved and respected him. He had enormous compassion for their difficulties and was always ready to help, often in very creative ways. He was a true friend to them and they reciprocated in kind. They really loved him and rightly so also as he has left them with a legacy of information above and beyond any such record one might have anticipated as the work of an anthropologist or historian working largely on his own, but with their help and pleasure in contributing to the work. Among his last works was an emphasis on change in religious patterns, also the product of very careful work, well motivated by a concern with how such changes in religious orientation would affect their lives and social ties and in turn why it was motivated by rational choice as circumstances changed over time. The reults of that body of work produced very dramatic insights. To appreciate Hugo's legacy one needs to read the enormous body of literature that was his life's work and to note over time how carefully he tracked shifts and changes in pattern within Tlaxcalan regional variations. He was also meticulous in not overgeneralizing across time and space, a tendency all to rare in anthropology, but which produced an immaculate and detailed set of insights about culture and population differences within the region he had studied for all of his adult life. His work is a rare example of long term fieldwork’s massive advantages in providing knowledge and insights about the human capacity for adaptation and resistence to change both culturally and historically. If one reads his early work one sees a culture highly resistent to change, and then as we read along in his studies across time we are in store for a great surprize. He focused ultimately in his tracking events, now into the most recent period of Tlaxcalan history, on the rather abrupt rise and spread of evangelicalism! He understood and explored, because he did not underestimate the needs of people, that given their difference in outlook, placement, their potential orientation would change as the world around them changed to differing degrees.
He was in sum unusually atuned to the people who lived around him and whom he wrote about, and to their specific needs and emplacements. He never fell into the trap of essentialisms, or of confounding culture and its possibilities with human nature and its variations. Despite being a meticulous scientist he was also a man of deep humanity. His relations with people were always of the type extolled by Unamuno, the man of flesh and blood talking with men and women of flesh and blood. All of this dimensionality was involved in his interactions and well as his writing and recording of Tlaxcala and its histories and people
His fantastic mental capacity was matched by a love of people, of their humanity and difference, and of their needs. When Scott was an infant it was Hugo who thought of a very poor woman, unmarried and with four young daughters. He asked us to take one of them, Soledad, back with us to America so that she could learn English and help her family, which proved to be a prophecy. Soledad came back with us to take care of little toddler Scottie. Scott loved and adored her and she was his sister... they still love each other today when they meet, although too rarely. Soledad has since married and brought her sister Carmen to America, and Carmen's daughter. Her mother has visited also, and other sisters. They, Soledad and her husband are doing very well: they have three children, and one, a girl, is a student at UCLA where Hugo taught in his youth. Hugo had been worried about Soledad's future, growing up so poor in Mexico... her mother had had to take in washing. But always with Hugo there would be an unusual side to the story. When we tried to bring her to United States (she was 13) the America consulate said she needed permission from her father as well as her mother. But she had no father... no one knew who or where he was, but Hugo took care of it. He said, "we will kill off her father in Panotla" (a small village and where he was so loved that the ayuntamiento wrote a note for the Consulate on her father's death just for him; a fiction, of course, as the biological father was truly unknown to them, to us and perhaps her mother). This is just one example of Hugo's immense kindness and caring for the people in the communities he studied. Another time he wanted Doug to buy some guns to give to a man who worked on the flower plantation in Fortin, who wanted the gun for hunting (Lilyan forbade it, fearing a problem).
When Scott was born Hugo wrote this funny note, "We look forward to your bringing your bundle of joy to this Vale of Tears." Like the rest of us he was impatient with the Pittsburgh department, especially the bullies there. He loved and cared for his students like Dorin Slade, but above all he loved Fortin and we were lucky enough to be invited there when Jeannie's beautiful and gracious mother was alive (Jeannie is so like her) and her very gracious and accomplished father. One day in Fortin I heard Hugo outside the window saying "Lilyan come to the window" and when I did he said “taste this lovely fruit" and when I did it burned hotter than a chile. Jeannie's father chastized him, but there was a lot of playful child in Hugo as well as the extraoridinarily elegent gentleman. As friend his kindness knew no bounds... when we had to return to Pittsburgh he talked to the inmensely kind and gracious Jeannie and Jeannie watched two babies (as Lilyan had to teach), Chris and our Scottie, until a few weeks later we found a trustworthy nurse.