Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, March 4, at 12:15 pm. His talk it entitled “Making a New Spain: The Material Worlds of Colonizers.”

When Spanish colonizers and their slaves arrived in Mexico City in the sixteenth century, they entered a world different from anything they had ever experienced. The variety of temples and houses were different from those in Europe. The clothing that indigenous men wore, mostly loincloths and capes, made them look naked to colonizers, who were more accustomed to seeing men in layers of clothing that covered the entire body. It is difficult to overstate the differences between the material world in Mexico City and the material world that colonizers had left across the Atlantic Ocean. Colonizers who wanted to create a material world that resembled the world they were used to, had one big challenge: how to make a new Spain. They had to figure out how to make the kinds of houses that fit their ideas of proper housing. They had to figure out how to get the kinds of clothes that fit their sense of propriety, decency, and hygiene. Indigenous people at the time also saw things that they had never experienced before, including the clothing and armor of colonizers, their livestock, their steel swords and metal tools, their wooden boxes, and the many other things that colonizers brought with them. There was a new challenge for indigenous people who were interested in making these items: how to make the things that the Spanish brought. In this lecture, Rodríguez-Alegría will present a brief overview of his book manuscript on the material worlds of colonizers in sixteenth century Mexico City. The book is based on his original analysis of the probate inventories of 39 Spanish colonizers who died in Mexico City between 1523 and 1590, and on the houses of colonizers excavated by the Programa de Arqueología Urbana in the historic center of Mexico City. To offer a glimpse of the topics covered in the book, he will provide summaries of the main findings in the chapters on domestic architecture and clothing.

Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of The Archaeology and History of Colonial Central Mexico: Mixing Epistemologies (Cambridge, 2016). He is also co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs (with Deborah L. Nichols, Oxford, 2017), The Menial Art of Cooking (with Sarah R. Graff, University Press of Colorado, 2012), and a special section titled “Breaking and Entering the Ecosystem—Remembering Elizabeth M. Brumfiel” (with Deborah L. Nichols, Ancient Mesoamerica Vol. 27, Issue 01). As part of his efforts to bring anthropology to broad publics, he recently co-edited Xaltocan: arqueología, historia y comunidad (with Christopher Morehart and Kristin De Lucia, 2019). This book is self-published to be distributed free to the community of Xaltocan, where he has run archaeological projects since 2003. He also appears in “The Story of God, with Morgan Freeman” (season 1, episode 1). His current project is titled “The material worlds of colonial Mexico City,” and it has received support from the National Science Foundation, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and the University of Texas at Austin.