Faculty Affiliate, El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies
Current Research Interests
Latin American and Caribbean History, History of the Spanish Empire, Early Modern Atlantic Slavery, History of Slavery, History of Religion, African Studies, Early Modern History, Colonialism, Imperialism
I grew up in the small Guatemalan town of El Tejar. From an early age I developed an unhealthy interest and passion for history fueled by the great gaps of wealth and education that surrounded me. When I turned 18, I took a bus to El Norte and eventually began attending West LA Community College part-time. After 5 great years at WLACC and with the support of many dedicated faculty and advisers I transferred to UCLA where I majored in history. After graduating from UCLA I had the great good fortune to be able to get a PhD in Latin American History under the wise and kind tutelage of John Womack. During this time I became interested in questions of institutional history and comparative slavery. Along the way I managed to acquire two boys who regularly beat me at video games, basketball and tennis.
My research examines the transmission and establishment of the institution of slavery from medieval Iberia into the expanding Spanish Empire and its subsequent development. This involves unpacking the dynamic interactions between the law, imperial institutions, slave owners, and the enslaved. I embarked upon this subject in response to a lacuna of historical knowledge of the transition and development of slavery as it moved between the Iberian Kingdoms and took root in the expanding Atlantic Empires. From the moment of conquest, enslaved Africans were inextricably intertwined with the creation and endurance of the Spanish Empire in America. However, scholars have only recently begun to examine the many roles that the enslaved performed in Ibero-America. My work analyzes how Spanish colonizers integrated African slaves into the expanding empire and how African slaves, in turn, utilized and molded Spanish institutions to serve their various interests. More than merely pointing out resistance, I seek to arrive at a nuanced and in-depth picture of how the life experiences of slaves were shaped by their interactions with the institutions originating out of the crucible of Spain’s medieval heritage and imperial efforts.