I am a professor at the University of Texas who happens to be Latino with a son in Travis Heights Elementary (hereafter THES, Austin, Texas).

In 2017, I enrolled my 9-year old son in kindergarten at THES and without my knowledge, he (who was born in Austin and is a native English speaker), was enrolled as an English Learner. Children born in the USA whose households have more than just English as the language of everyday communication are by default considered inherently deficient all over the USA.


A few months ago, I visited Dr. Melissa Guy, the Benson Librarian. I wanted to chat with her about my vision of the Benson’s Centennial (see my letter published in NEP). After listening to me, Dr. Guy recommended I read A Library for the Americas: The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection (University of Texas Press, 2018). There were a few things I might learn from reading the book, she said.


The Nettie Lee Benson Collection is a library that originated as part of the larger collections of the University of Texas at Austin since the 1890s. The Library began initially as a typical colonial archive, namely, Anglo Hispanists interested in things Iberian in the colonial Southwest (USA).


It is difficult to envision the sheer quantity of pearls dredged up from the New World by sixteenth-century colonists. An average of a 1,000 pounds of pearl per year in tax revenue alone. The social, political, and ecological challenges of producing such richness is the subject of a fascinating book by historian Molly Warsh reviewed here.   


Pirate or privateer? In practice, identical, but in terms of legal and social standing, the designations were considered worlds away in the contested waters of the North Atlantic. How did sanctioned privateering transition over time to being considered lawless pirating? 


After the conquest, Tenochtitlan became Mexico, but the city remained predominantly indigenous. As a viceregal capital and global commercial hub, Mexico City underwent profound changes as ethnic newcomers from Oaxaca to Manila elbowed out the Nahua from their barrios, and Aztec systems of water management survived even as dikes and canals were modified.


In both the Iberian Peninsula and the New World, the archive played a central role in the creation of borders. Through the alchemy of litigation and treaty mediation, the paperwork of fictional claims was transformed into lines on the ground.  


Offering a provocative critique of the unspoken liberal underpinning of historiography on slavery, Herman Bennett's new study is addressed to Europeanists who have ignored the centrality of slavery to early modern political theory.


Maligned in popular conceptions of the history of medicine, Afro-American religious healers in early modern Cartagena played a constructive role in the development of an science that privileged empiricism over dogma in Pablo Gómez's new study, The Experiential Caribbean. 


Toussaint Louverture is celebrated by some as a saint worthy of his namesake. Recent work by historian Philippe Girard paints a less saintly portrait of this seminal figure of the Haitian Revolution. 


Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra's picture
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra is the Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History at the University of Texas Austin. His books include How to Write the History of the New World (2001), Puritan Conquistadors (2006), and Nature, Empire, and Nation (2007).