Native Mesoamerican Settlers of Colonial New Mexico: Identity, Memory, Forgetting

Danna Levin Rojo, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Azcapotzalco

Thursday, September 29, 2022 | 02:00 pm

Latin American and Iberian Institute (801 Yale Blvd NE) and via Zoom

801 Yale Blvd NE (campus building #165)


Scholars have long debated the participation of Tlaxcalan Natives in the Spanish conquest and colonization of New Mexico, based on evidence concerning the Barrio de Analco de San Miguel, in Santa Fe, supposedly established by Tlaxcalan allies in 1609-1610. This presentation will discuss the possible presence of Otomís and other Mesoamerican Natives as frontier settlers in 17th to 18th century New Mexico, and the traces they may have left in the cultural heritage of several Indo-Hispano communities located north of Santa Fe. A piece of possibly important evidence for this hypothesis is the set of drawings that decorate the underside of the choir-loft of the chapel of San José de Gracia de las Trampas, which contain designs that resemble closely certain symbols typical of the Otomí syncretic Christian iconography used in 17th and 18th century chapels in the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Querétaro. Because colonial documents rarely recorded the provenance and ethnicities of non-Spanish members of colonizing parties, Otomí presence is very difficult to demonstrate. However, my research has explored other sorts of indirect evidence that I will present, together with a general reflection on what indigenous groups, local or Mexican, are generally considered part of the New Mexico Hispano cultural heritage, why some of them –like the tlaxcallans– are acknowledged and others are not.

Tenured professor-researcher at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Azcapotzalco in Mexico City, Dr. Danna Levin is now developing research as a visiting faculty at the Latin American and Iberian Institute (UNM). She holds a BA degree in History from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of London, U.K.

Since 1993 Dr. Levin has studied the colonial and modern history of the Hispano communities of New Mexico, focusing on traditional culture, interethnic relations, and land grant struggles. Between 2011 and 2014 she chaired the Postgraduate Program on Historiography at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. Dr Levin is a member of the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (Mexico), and since 2013 also a member of the Editorial Board of the academic review Anales del Instituto de Investigciones Estéticas (UNAM, México), and of the Board of Directors of The Americas Research Network (ARENET). This is an international consortium of universities, research centers, museums and cultural centers dedicated to promoting international collaboration between academics, students and institutions through the design and implementation of multidisciplinary projects. Her book Return to Aztlan: Indians, Spaniards, and the Invention of Nuevo México was published by Oklahoma University Press (2014). She has also coedited several books to which she contributed chapters, the most recent, with Cynthia Radding, is The Oxford Handbook of Borderlands of the Iberian World (Oxford University Press 2019).


This event is free and open to the public.